Monday, December 15, 2008

Draft Linkagery

All draft links. I'll have more to say about individual players, but here are some analyses of top prospects.

RealScouts: wideouts (Nov. 6) and offensive tackles (Dec. 11).

National Football Post: falling stock (Nov. 8), offensive linemen (Nov. 15), defensive linemen (Nov. 22), linebackers (Nov. 29), Texas Longhorns (Dec. 9), defensive backs (Dec. 6), and small school prospects (Dec. 13).

Better, Michael Lombardi has been spending a day writing about the draft history and apparent philosophy of one of the teams playing in the Thursday night game. Take a look, for instance, at the Broncos. Lombardi's comments about Walsh's talent evaluation skills being able to make up for the absence of a specific system of procurement ring very true to me. He's also done the Chargers-good piece, but one I have little to say about.

The most recent one was on the Saints, and it's pretty good. Lombardi starts off with a very damning description:
[W]hat is clear is that they do not have a concrete philosophy about how to build a team. They are a Battleship Drafting team, meaning they randomly pick based on need and hope they hit.

They made this clear with how they picked wideouts-they found Colston and Moore in the 7th round and among the undrafted heap, then picked Robert Meachem in the first round. I applauded this pick, but it does speak to picking players they like, not because they fit their foundation. As Lombardi writes, "They don’t use a size/speed chart and clearly pick players randomly. They don’t have an identity with their player procurement methods". This stands in sharp contrast to a team like the Chargers-remember what he said about Butler and now Smith picking players who fit the 3-4 they've run since the Smith/Talley era in Buffalo? What the Saints are doing is the antithesis of consistency. Around the interwebs (and off it), I criticize coaches for masterminding in terms of playcalling and game strategy, but the much more serious problems of masterminding come in the building a team phase and Sean Payton seems equally guilty here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Time for another collection of links. I have a bunch saved up, so I'll be sorting out a number of them for those that aren't outdated. All the draft stuff will probably end up in a separate post.

In my review of The League, one thing I didn't really mention is the NFL's struggles over single-individual ownership (generally) and control (unconditionally) of a franchise. This came up most notably with respect to the Steelers, and Dan Rooney's buyout of his brothers. This is something I'll probably be mentioning again soon.

Jeff Fisher, in a nutshell: Don't ask a player to do anything he can't do well. There's a lot I can write about this, so I won't write anything more.

Andrew Brandt puts the Raiders in the Hall of Shame for cutting DeAngelo Hall after signing him and giving him a big contract. Actually a smart move, showing a recognition of the endowment effect. Brandt also points out something I should have remembered-cap acceleration in 2009 works differently, because 2010 is uncapped so you can't forward money there.

Something I really should have written about: back when the SI article on Haynesworth came out, Brian Goff of The Sports Economist did a very interesting post using that as a jumping-off point on looking at positional value.

Neat little insight into Chester Pitts, the oboe-playing grocery store worker from last year's NFL Network Super Bowl commercial, from his agent, Jack Bechta, writing at National Football Post.

Some general advice from Robert Boland on college coaching searches, and the way to and not to do them. He's critical of Michigan for hiring RichRod as being inconsistent with its tradition.

Something I hadn't known about Fisher: he almost ended up selling software instead of becoming an NFL coach. Just doesn't seem right.

Smart Football on luck and noise in football. That whole "dynamic equilibria" point seems to be really hard to get across, or maybe I just speak to much in probabilistic terms for most people.

Scouts Inc on ways to attack the Titans D. Run at Jevon Kearse is reasonably obvious-I really need to do Player Game Analysis so I can write about how much of a liability he is. Also notes that the Titans are really good, which somewhat minimizes what you can do strategy-wise.

A look at the pregame routines of some of the Colts. Better than the usual "breakfast and what's on the ipod" fluff.

SB Nation got a potful of money. Editorial commentary preemptively deleted.

Interesting data dump from new blogroll member Advanced NFL Stats, particularly average net punt distance by starting field position.

The top colleges by NFL value, from PFR blog. See also part 2.

Finally, for now, fellow FO-ite Travis's awesome page on the history of the fair catch kick. Note particularly all the amazed comments by people coming to the page after the Rackers kick.

Blogroll Update

Welcome to Titans Gab and Advanced NFL Stats, each of which should not be listed under that sidebar on the left. If you have a blog that's primarily about the Tennessee Titans and is updated at least semi-regularly during the regular season and want a link, let me know. If you have a good blog on general football matters you want listed on the sidebar, feel free to plug that, too, but you need me to agree that it's good enough to post a link to, which is a higher threshold than "Tom is willing to put it in his RSS reader."

Book Review: The League

About six weeks ago, I reviewed the new Bill Walsh bio The Genius, and noted it was his second book, after The League, which I had but had not yet read. Well, having now read it, I guess I should say something about it.

The League is a pretty detailed look at the business history of the NFL from the late 1960's and primarily the early 1970's to the early to mid 1980's. Published in 1986, it covers the turmoil of the battle against the rival USFL and Al Davis's fight to move the Raiders to Los Angeles against the wishes of Pete Rozelle and the rest of the league in a far more comprehensive manner than did MacCambridge's America's Game. Note, though, that this is overwhelmingly a look at the NFL's business, not its on-field activity. This means it's not a general history of the NFL, but is instead largely a view of the feuds of the owners. Harris also misses some aspects of the NFL's business story that might have made for interesting reading but may have detracted from his narrative of doom and gloom might suggest. For instance, the liberalization of passing rules in 1978, and how much that change was driven by commercial interests. There's also the complete economic idiocy of cities bribing teams to move, though to be fair to Harris I'm not sure how robust that literature was when he was writing the book. With his publication date, and ending the story pretty much with the Colts' 1984 move to Indianapolis, Harris also doesn't get into the conclusion of the sagas he's telling. Some franchises, most notably to me also the Titans, have moved cities, but it hasn't led to the sort of wholesale shifting that Harris's book implies could have resulted. His timeline also misses the USFL shooting itself in the foot, and the NFL "losing" its antitrust suit, at a cost of $3. There's another book to be written on those issues, and one that also covers the 1987 player strike that led to the current world of free agency.

The question I try to keep in mind when I write these reviews, and the one I try to end on, is who should read the book. Harris did a very reasonable job of covering the time he was covering, and learning more about Rozelle and the owners is fairly interesting, but, well, few of these people are involved anymore. Tex Schramm and Hugh Culverhouse are out of the NFL, not the Commissioner's right-hand men. Lamar Hunt has passed away. Ditto Georgia Frontiere, even. There are a few people mentioned still around-Ralph Wilson, for one, but the power brokers have all changed over the last quarter century. Given that, and how different the NFL's business is with the changes over the past quarter century, I'd say The League is for diehards only.

Total Titans

Well, it was finally my time for another Q&A session, with the good guys over at DGDB&D. They were kind enough to leave out the profanity, probably because I asked them to and they really are good guys. Anyway, see their responses to my questions and my responses to their questions. The latter gets into a couple common questions you may have already seen the answers to, but that's the way these work. Earlier this week, I also did an updated look at the Titans' playoff scenarios. Bottom line: no worse than #2, and an excellent shot at #1.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Fourteen

As I just noted, I skipped Weeks 12 and 13. I'd say sorry, but I'm not. I'm picking up the torch, though, with Week 14.

Texas 49 - Texas A&M 9
I believe this game was 21-3 before I checked it after getting home from Detroit and checking the Arizona-Philadelphia score first. No reason to watch it.

Pittsburgh 19 - West Virginia 15
If bad clock management was punishable by summary execution, Mountaineer coach Bill Stewart would be dead by now.

Nebraska 40 - Colorado 31
A wonderfully misleading final score, as the Huskers took a 33-31 lead on a last-minute FG from 57 yards and then got a random defensive score at the end, a la Florida-Auburn in 2006. The play of the game was, of course, Nebraska fake FG flip, which Colorado was kind enough to intercept and run back for a touchdown.

Boise State 61 - Fresno State 10
How to run up the score in the second half, by the Boise State Broncos. This game was 13-10 at the half.

Arizona State 34 - UCLA 9
Arziona State's scoring "drives" total 28 yards. Yes, that's 28 as in "twenty-eight". How do you score 34 points on 28 yards, you ask? 4 defensive touchdowns is the answer, thanks to some grossly incompetent play by UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft. Remember how bad UCLA was in the first half against an awful Tennessee team at the beginning of the year? I'm pretty sure they weren't any better this game. Thankfully their offensive geniuses Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow are around to fix this problem.

Virginia Tech 17 - Virginia 14
ACC football: it's crap-tastic! Mostly noting this game, which produced a BCS championship game team, which was too awful to actually watch.

Georgia Tech 45 - Georgia 42
I spent much more of my time watching this game. Matthew Stafford is still who I thought he is-a QB who will make 3-5 throws a game that absolutely wow you. He was, I believe, 17 of 24 for 270 yards and 4 TDs in the first half of this game. The most impressive throw as a skinny post about 25 yards downfield that was just perfectly placed. Peyton couldn't have done it any better. Of course, I believe he was under 50% accuracy in the second half, which is why he'll probably be a bust. Comp I came up with: Derek Anderson last year.

Kansas 40 - Mizzou 37
When I wasn't watching the battle of the 5th state I lived in, I was watching the Border War between the two previous states I lived in. I still love Todd Reesing, the best quarterback in the country if you were banned from throwing more than 10 yards downfield. Gotta give him credit, though-the winning pass to Kerry Meier (backup QB/TE) was more than 10 yards downfield, a simple seam route that was thrown up on faith against a blitz. The epitome of that play, for me, is Florida's in its upset of eventual BCS champ LSU in 2003.

Texas Tech 35 - Baylor 28
Our Sooner coronation nearly ran off the rails before it began, as the Bears held a 4th quarter lead on the Red Raiders, who played much of the game without Michael Crabtree, before finally failing because they're really not very good. Scary thought: Baylor QB Robert Griffin may be no more than the 7th best QB in the conference. He'd be no worse than 4th in the SEC.

Florida 45 - Florida State 15
I'd hoped against hope the Noles would make a game of this one at home, as it seemed like the last, best hope for chaos, but alas such was not to be.

Alabama 36 - Auburn 0
I didn't even have hope against hope this game would add a single element of chaos, and of course it did not. For the record, the 3 QBs in the SEC I'd take above Griffin are Tebow, Stafford, and probably Snead.

Oregon 65 - Oregon State 38
It seemed like every time I flipped to this game Oregon was scoring again. That's because they were. A Beavers defense that had previously been mostly respectable outside of the first 20 or so minutes against Penn State suddenly looked ridiculously awful, and the Rose Bowl dream died.

USC 38 - Notre Dame 3
The real number for Notre Dame this game is 0, as in how many first downs they put up in the first 44 minutes of the game. Somehow, Charlie Weis is still employed as of when I last checked. Nice contract.

Oklahoma 61 - Oklahoma State 41
Boomer Sooner. This team can put up points with anybody, and I do mean absolutely anybody. The Cowboys' most productive offensive weapon was Zac Robinson scrambling, something I'm sure Urban Meyer will be salivating over if the Gators get past Alabama in the SEC championship game, which I'm inclined to think they will. Gators DC Charlie Strong, on the other hand, is probably shaking in his boots. It's been a while since the Gators have given up 60+ in a bowl game, but they might this year. For the record, again, I don't see Mizzou stopping the Sooner express.

And such is the week that was in college football in my book.

Total Titans

I've fallen behind with posting over here, so it's time for an update.

I had a post up at Total Titans look at the playoff picture for the Titans, another on my trip to Ford Field, I did a live chat for the Jets game, and another live chat for the Jaguars game. I'll probably get up a post tomorrow evening, as well, on a subject still TBD.

I've also slacked off on weekly college football recaps-I think I did three weeks total last week, and made it up to 11 this year. A 12th will follow after I do this post, on Week 14. I may even do Week 15. The key, I've found, is to start them during the last game I watch on Saturday night, otherwise I won't want to do it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Eleven

Yes, it's Friday and I'm just getting to last week's college football action.

Buffalo 37 - Miami(OH) 17
A fine alternative to watching election returns. This game also reminded me of what I don't particularly enjoy about non-great non-BCS teams-the dependence on a low percentage deep pass plays as a key component of the offense. Buffalo was somewhat better at that, and clearly better at the parts of the game better than that, so them winning decisively was a fitting result.

Utah 13 - TCU 10
I ended up watching not too much of this time, concentrating instead on the DEN-CLE NFL game going on at the same time. I will point out, however, that TCU scored 10 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, then did hardly a single thing the rest of the game. The defense didn't do a bad job, but it's hard to overcome that much lack of offense.

Nevada 41 - Fresno State 28
Does Pat Hill hurt his team by aggressive non-conference scheduling? Or is his team not really that good, and get an inflated rep by playing teams that may not be operating at peak performance early in the year? I mean, Hill seems to have a really good rep and he hasn't sniffed a conference title this decade.

Ohio State 45 - Northwestern 10
Northwestern: not a good 7-2 team. Ohio State: a much better 7-2 team. The Buckeyes pumped the score up a little this game, throwing deep after the game was well in hand in the fourth quarter, but they dominated this whole game.

Michigan State 21 - Purdue 7
Purdue sucks. We knew this.

Michigan 29 - Minnesota 6
Minnesota: also not a great team with fewer losses. This is probably the only game ever where MGoBlog predicts a Michigan loss and I'm absolutely confidence Michigan will win.

Texas 45 - Baylor 21
Woo, pretty deep pass. I wonder if the Bears' defensive backs are tired of seeing that completed against them? Another "who we thought they were" game.

Iowa 24 - Penn State 23
I admit it, I thought Penn State had this game in hand until relatively late in the 4th. 23-14 is normally a clinched game for a top 5 team, even on the road. There's no accounting for bad QB play, though, as Nittany Lion QB Daryll Clark was 9 of 23 for 86 yards and a costly 4th quarter interception. See my comments earlier in the year about quality QB play determining college football's hierarchy.

Alabama 27 - LSU 21 (OT)
At one point during this game, Gary Danielson remarked that LSU QB Jarrett Lee would be a 50% completions on the day if he completed HIS NEXT 10 PASSES. Yes, Alabama has a defense, but most of the putridity (4-18) was Lee's gross incompetence. It says really little of Alabama that they were only able to score 21 in regulation-Georgia and Florida both put up 50+ on the same Tiger defense. Remember, the Tide have a worse passing offense than the famously mediocre Buckeyes of 2002 that upset Miami.

Oregon State 34 - UCLA 6
Remember those signs of competence UCLA showed in the second half of the Tennessee game? Yeah, that seems like a long time ago.

Cincinnati 26 - West Virginia 23 (OT)
Bill Stewart still has a job.

Texas Tech 56 - Oklahoma State 20
Tech's offensive possessions: fumble, TD x8, fumble. Day-umn. The defense didn't put up a bad showing, either, but it's really, really hard to lose games with that sort of offensive efficiency. It's also really, really hard to put up that kind of offensive efficiency against anybody this side of Washington State, and the Cowboys aren't that bad. Also, I can't help but share this shot of coach Mike Gundy when Oklahoma State was on defense.

Florida 42 - Vanderbilt 14
Yes, Florida put up a pretty good offensive performance of its own.

Boston College 17 - Notre Dammit 0
Most notable for Todd Blackledge's Taste of the Town segment. As I predicted, it was Italian food this week. What I didn't predict, though, was this monstrosity of an outfit.

And such was the week that was in my eyes.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Total Titans

A couple posts on Total Titans I haven't mentioned: one midseason review, I asked some questions about the Bears that MVN's Bears writer answered, and did the same for his questions about the Titans.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


More links... must post more links...

If I did more screen-cap/video work, I'd be doing more on things like looking at pursuit angles.

Fluff on LenDale White, from Paul Kuharsky. Praise for his feet (eh), production (thanks, OL), and vision (eh). Better at going forward and not trying to take everything outside now, but that doesn't make him good. Ron Dayne still looks like a really good comp.

Lombardi on Singletary, among other topics. Another great player who failed to have an understanding or even acceptance of players who didn't play the way he did is Michael Jordan, who apparently delighted in humiliating Kwame Brown in practice during his comeback with the Wizards.

How valuable exactly is the statistic punts inside the 20? Not quite as worthless as you might think. Unfortunately, it's pretty much impossible to divorce punters and their statistics from their coverage units.

18 to 88 took a look at the tape of Titans-Colts, and came away somewhat optimistic.

Surprising draft prospects from NFP.

Roos, Haynesworth, Finnegan, and Fish made Pro Football Weekly's first-half All-Pro team.

Courtesy of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, a look at Phil Fulmer's contract (PDF). If you haven't read a college contract before (I think the only other one I've linked to is WVU coach Bill Stewart's), it's worth a gander. Note how much of the income comes from actual coaching, and how much from other activities. And, yes, the reported $6 mil to buyout Fulmer's contract is legit. Sports Economist properly notes these buyouts are market-driven, silly as they seem. Note, though, that four agents represent almost all coaches, an interesting marketability and market power point.

Ok, the deepest foray into politics. For ESPN, Lester Munson looked at the sports impact of the Obama election. The key point, and one of local interest, is Obama's election likely increases the likelihood Chicago will throw a bunch of money down the drain on boondoggle public projects host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Note also that McCain (as with Romney) were among the more aggressive people in exposing the bribery relating to SLC's hosting of the 2002 Winter Olympics. If you're a single issue sports-subsidy voter (and I don't recommend you are), you were probably much better off with McCain instead of Obama. Sorry. (For the record, I didn't vote this year, partly because I didn't support either McCain or Obama.)

Finally, so as not to end on a political note, Smart Football breaks down last weekend's Texas-Texas Tech game. More love for Mike Leach's awesomeness, and do read the Michael Lewis profile if you haven't already.

And, if you believe it, I'm actually caught up through Tuesday's reading. Amazing, I know.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


More link dump content.

The BCS as an exercise in matching. For all its flaws, it's definitely better than what came before it.

Love for Cortland Finnegan.

A list of the Mormons in the NFL. No Titans.

More awesomeness from Smart Football: on line splits.

More on the value of a touchdown and the value of a passing touchdown. I've been meaning to muck around with the "true" value of the various elements to quarterback ratings, but that's probably an offseason project.

More defensive dorkery from DGDB&D.

Draft geekery: National Football Post's top 10 RBs. See also RealScouts on the top senior running backs.

Dr. Z and Mike Giddings on the NFL team of the 1990's.

LenDale White talked to The Sporting News before the Colts game. Fluff, of course.

Breaking down Ohio State's spread attack.

Love for Kerry Collins after the Colts game, from RealScouts. You mean you can pass against a 4-4 on regular downs? See also Ted Sundquist's review.

The big thing about this year's Titans team that makes them better: they're winning games by more than one score.

Michael Lombardi breaks down how the Giants have drafted. A similar post may be forthcoming on the Titans, or at least where the starters came from. See also Rick Gosselin on where the Giants' starters came from.

UPDATE (11/5/08 2215 CT): Added the Gosselin link to the last item.

Thoughts on College Football: Week Ten

Company this weekend, so this post is a little delayed.

Cincinnati 24 - South Florida 10
How the mighty have fallen-a year ago the Bulls were #2 in the country, and unbeaten. A collapse at the end of last year, though, and the bloom was really off the rose. The initial optimism after a victory over Kansas is over, as the defense didn't do its job and Graunke didn't make the plays again.

Michigan State 25 - Wisconsin 24
This really felt like a Life on the Margins game-Sparty really outplayed Wisconsin, but almost didn't win.

Purdue 48 - Michigan 42
Yes, Michigan doesn't have a very good defense. Pat, don't use putting up lots of points against Michigan as a justification for claiming Penn State has a good offense. Also, cool winning TD on a hook-and-ladder play.

Pitt 36 - Notre Dame 33 (4 OT)
This has to be the most boring 4 OT game in which every OT had a score. Ineffective offense-Pitt should never pass, ND should never run, and ND's offense features too many stupid low percentage deep fades. I spent too much time watching this game.

Florida 49 - Georgia 10
Of course, this game was so awfully uncompetitive that watching Pitt-ND wasn't the worst alternative. Georgia really got stomped-UF is playing much better than they were earlier in the year. That, or Georgia really isn't that good. I've suspected that for quite a while now, and I can't tell how much of this game was UF and how much was UGA.

Oklahoma 62 - Nebraska 28
OU is back to its normal ways, putting up a huge early lead and then taking the rest of the game off. Doesn't do much to support great defense.

Texas Tech 39 - Texas 33
Ah, what a great game. Exciting, back and forth, surprising results, dramatic ending. Texas Tech really impressed me on both the offensive and defensive lines-they won both matchups, the same way Oregon State did when they upset USC. The challenge for the Red Raiders will be going undefeated-I think they'll hold off Oklahoma State this week, but lose in Norman to Boomer Sooner.

Oregon State 27 - Arizona State 25
Close game, not great teams. I'd still love to see Oregon State win the Pac-10.

And such is the week that was from my more distracted-than-normal view.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


More links... must post more links...

The best draft classes? Again, I'm not sure I like the methodology, but it's interesting enough.

National Football Post draft analysis: the top 100 prospects, ranking the various position classes, the top 30 underclassmen, draft prospects of Ohio State, top 10 quarterbacks, and there are more I'm missing. See also RealScout's top "5" (actually 7) picks. If those are the actual top 5 picks, I'll eat my VY jersey.

Left tackles don't really make that much more than other players, even other offensive linemen.

Forbes' NFL team valuations. As the Steelers saga shows, mileage really varies.

Albert Haynesworth beat the heck out of the Vikings. See also RealScouts re same. See also Baltimore's offensive performance, with Albert in and out.

Ryan Fowler, not happy Tulloch is starting at MLB. Yes, Player Game Analysis on Tulloch is STILL coming. In the meantime, Rick Gosselin had some nice words for #55.

Another Smart Football post, a couple vignettes. The most important one is "the rise of the terrible spread team." This is often paired with a poor quarterback, but not always so. See also why Auburn's offense isn't (wasn't) Tony Franklin's spread.

A wonderful breakdown of Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno's TD run against Arizona State. If only I weren't so lazy...

Baseball columnist Tom Boswell on why the NFL has a better postseason. Yes, this is undeniably true.

Yes, I praised Dan Hawkins in my last post, but Mike Leach still beats him. I wonder if he pulled his D&D typology from Cryptonomicon.

Jerry Jones: dealmaker. Another nice piece by Andrew Brandt.

Finally, ESPN's Big 10 reporter Adam Rittenberg followed around a couple Northwestern students as they prepared for the Michigan State game. For those of us who never played beyond the backyard level, it's somewhat revealing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Time for another collection of none-too-timely link dumps of various things that caught my eye.

Dan Hawkins may not have had a great deal of success at Colorado, but as this profile shows that doesn't prevent him from being awesome.

Todd Reesing Awesomeness Watch: local reporter asking people on the street about Kansas football doesn't recognize the person he's talking to is the quarterback.

Paul Kuharsky took a look at the Titans-Texans 2004 draft-day trade that resulted in the Texans drafting Jason Babin. My immediate reaction that this was a clear Titans win is at least partially vindicated.

I should have posted this last night, but Matt Bowen wrote about the pluses and minuses of playing on Monday night from a player's perspective. Also from Bowen, the experience of playing on a team vastly better on one side of the ball than another.

Other people validating my opinion: Michael Lombardi writes: "I really feel that the LenDale White era is over in Tennessee. He is so slow and takes too long to hit the hole."

Andrew Brandt did a good little breakdown of the players involved in the potential Steelers sale. This info is a little dated, both because Druckenmiller's effort seems over and because he probably wouldn't get credit for the purchase now, but it's still a good look at the issues involved.

Interesting thing about the Titans this year: they went from a very young team last year to one of the older ones this year. A year of experience is part of this, as is bringing in retreads like Alge Crumpler and Jevon Kearse.

If Joey Harrington is indeed the worst QB ever, then when should the Lions have given up on him? I'll just say I'm really unconvinced by this.

The value of a safety: 2 points plus the ball. More, really, than a field goal, which is worth 3 points less giving up the ball.

People it's good to be: West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart, whose entire contract is virtually guaranteed. For lots of fun, read the contract for yourself.

Rick Gosselin points out the decline of LaDainian Tomlinson. It's arrested itself slightly the last couple weeks, but it's still happening. A truly bold, to the point of possibly crazy, team would have re-signed Michael Turner and traded Tomlinson. I know, only in Madden.

Finally, football geekery: the evolution of the zone blitz by Greg Cosell.

Book Review: The Genius

"A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein." Or so saith Joe Theismann, supposedly. Alas, David Harris's The Genius is a biography not of Norman Einstein, not even Albert Einstein, nor Mr. Theismann himself, but instead of the man of whom I believe Joe was speaking: Bill Walsh. "The Genius" was, of course, the sobriquet Walsh earned by virtue of his success with the 49ers, a previously sad-sack franchise he and new owner Eddie DeBartolo turned into a juggernaught for a decade and a half.

As far as biographies go, this is one. One of the heuristics I use for evaluating biographies, especially when I don't have really strong feelings about the book, is a look at sources and methods. Who wrote the book, and how did he write it? I wasn't too complimentary in my recent review of Cantor's Paul Brown bio because I have no idea how he wrote it. This seems to be Harris's second football book, after The League, which is currently sitting on my bar counter unread. No help there. So, how did he write The Genius? The most important resource is clearly Bill Walsh. Walsh let Harris use his personal collection of videos of him talking, including installing gameplans and speeches and talks he gave. Harris also conducted a number of interviews, the most important of which were with Walsh. If you're looking for context, then, The Genius is in the same semi-authorized genre also occuped by the new Warren Buffet bio, The Snowball. Harris also interviewed a number of other people-the ubiquitous Dick Vermeil, Sam Wyche, and a number of former 49er players and coaches, though Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott appear through their books and other media accounts, and other players, including Jerry Rice and Steve Young, and key figures Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. and Carmen Policy don't seem to have cooperated at all. The primary player sources seem to be Dwight Clark, Randy Cross, Brent Jones, and Keena Turner.

What does that list of people mean? You're getting a pretty good look, but not a complete one. Note the player sources are white guys, plus a Walsh crony (see Turner's bio, Stanford experience). This is actually a bit of a lead-in for one of the things I thought most interesting about Walsh. Like all head coaches then and still most of them now, Walsh was white. He'd grown up in a white neighborhood, and spent time in the lily-white profession of football coaching. For most people, that creates some sort of insuperable divide, and Walsh was one of the first, if not the very first, coaches to recognize that. To solve it, he brought in Berkeley sociology professor Harry Edwards as a sort of meta-counselor to help players adapt to a new life of wealth and celebrity in an autocratic regime.

Enough screwing around/meandering through this review... so, how was the book? Harris competently gives a description of Walsh's career, sometimes giving a blow-by-blow description of games and sometimes glossing over entire weeks (reading 10 years worth of "dramatic" game-by-game descriptions gets tedious, something Harris rightly recognizes). After finishing the book, and including the description of Walsh's open and notorious adultery (see Buffett above) and general neglect of his family, I'm starting to firm up my belief being a great football coach is incompatible with the rest of humanity is about. Walsh was, comparatively at least, acclaimed for his interest in stuff other than football, but his obsession with the game and its tumults is at odds with that reputation of his. That's something I would have like Harris to do a better job of addressing, and it's a good contrast to the Lombardi bio, where Maraniss writes about how Vince Lombardi liked to come home and veg out in front of the TV for an hour or so every night before going back to work. That's the sort of perfect anecdote, simultaneously humanizing and de-humanizing the revered figure.

Another nit: Harris's other primary source is the daily newspaper. This is fine for news, but the vicissitudes of the columnists with inches to fill blathering heated words about stuff they don't understand and have no insight into detracts from the book. This is particularly true with respect to the quarterback "controversy" between Walsh and Young that started about 1987 and didn't end until Montana was traded to the Chiefs (parentheses not meant to deny the existence of a genuine controversey for at least some of that time). But, Harris is a journalist, and they do tend to think of journalism as "the first draft of history" or somesuch. It is in some cases, of course, but I strongly doubt anybody will be citing my Vince Young posts in their book twenty years hence, nor should they, but I submit the big one was about as insightful as pretty much any newspaper column on the subject (i.e., hardly at all).

Anyway, if you want to know more about Bill Walsh, go ahead and read The Genius. There are certainly worse ways to spend your time, and some of them appear in the sidebar under "Book Reviews." Not un-recommended to NFL fans, but also not particularly recommended to non-NFL fans.

For another take, see the New York Times review.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Total Titans

I did a Q&A with a Colts blogger, which I posted last night over at Total Titans. I will also be liveblogging tomorrow night's Monday Night Football game between the Titans and Colts over at MVN. It'll probably be at MVN Outsider, but check Total Titans or the main page, and I'm sure there will be a link up.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Nine

Another Saturday, another week of games:

West Virginia 34 - Auburn 17
Auburn's offense was bad, is bad. They scored their 2 TD's, looked pretty decent early, then reverted to their normal suckiness. Meanwhile, Noel Devine had his first really good game of the year, ripping off big chunks of yardage off a crappy SEC defense. No, I don't think any more of Bill Stewart after watching this game.

Boise State 33 - San Jose State 16
Dull game, didn't get much of out it. Boise is a better team. The game was close for a while while I was watching, but Boise still looked better and eventually proved it.

Texas Tech 63 - Kansas 21
Alas, other commitments caused me to miss the first half of this game. TTU looked really impressive from what I did see, which wasn't much considering other games on and the non-close score. Reesing kept throwing INTs, which is the thing that happens when he has to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. Oh, his arms also are larger than mine, though not that much.

Indiana 21 - Northwestern 19
Noting this result, primarily. Northwestern's backup QB is pretty bad. I thought the Wildcats would win this game handily; I was wrong.

Wisconsin 27 - Illinois 17
This game's result, however, did not surprise me. Playing at home, Wisconsin is a better team. Illinois is also not that great, as losing at home to Minnesota would indicate.

Nebraska 32 - Baylor 20
Baylor still has moments of competence, but they're still a little bit from a good program. I like Art Briles, he can probably get them to that level, but even a lower Nebraska team is more talented and better right now.

Texas 28 - Oklahoma State 24
Can we please get the ACC off the ESPN2 mirror game and the B12 on? I really would have enjoyed watching this game, but instead got Florida State-Virginia Tech, which I didn't really bother to watch.

Michigan State 35 - Michigan 21
I have no idea how Michigan scored 21 points, because when I watched this game (admittedly, not that much), they didn't look like they'd score 21 points if they played UM 3 times.

Georgia 52 - LSU 38
Most college announcers are annoying yappers, blathering on about heart, intensity, desire, etc. Then there's Gary Danielson, Jedi Master. He was almost completely ON this game. He called a play about 8 times, including two Georgia TD's, and was right every single time. He points out good blocks after the first look, bad angles taken by defensive players. Frankly, he made almost every other announcer, NFL and college, look like the abject idiot schlub they are. After he called the second TD, Verne Lundquist asked him something along the lines of if he was tired of showing up other announcers.

Oh, I suppose I should say something about the actual game. Danielson's love for QBs rivals Jaworski's at times, but Stafford looked pretty good. Moreno reminded me why I love him so. LSU doesn't have much of a QB, and their pass D really isn't that good-they do miss both CBs a lot, but I like their rushing game, particularly Charles Scott.

Missouri 58 - Colorado 0
Ha ha, Colorado is bad. Daniel started by completing his first 13 passes, by which point it was 21-0 and the game was over.

Alabama 29 - Tennessee 9
The Vols suddenly did not morph into a decent team for this game. Alabama did not suddenly start being Tennessee-type terrible. Didn't see much of this game, because there wasn't much worth paying attention to.

Penn State 13 - Ohio State 6
I did see a lot of this game, which wasn't too dissimilar from what I thought. I thought both teams would have a little more success offensively, but not a lot more. tOSU found it really hard to move the ball-they simply don't have WRs like Holmes and Ginn who could stretch the defenses, and Pryor's not good enough at throwing the ball to do it without that. The offensive line also wasn't able to do a lot to create holes for Wells. PSU's overall team speed also caught Pryor much faster than did MSU's when he tried to run with the ball on his own. PSU-eh, didn't pay a huge amount of attention. The TD came off a Pryor fumble, but that still counts. PSU also made it into FG territory three times, more than the Buckeyes did. This was my first extended look at Nittany Lion QB Daryl Clark, and I wasn't particularly impressed with him. Sure, he's better than Morelli, but the offense is driven by the running game, same as the Buckeyes.

USC 17 - Arizona 10 (in progress, 4Q 15:00)
I don't understand why USC isn't dominating this game, given how laughably bad Arizona is, particularly when they try to pass. I blame QB Mark Sanchez, mostly.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Total Titans; Advance the Cause of Science

I have a new post up on Total Titans, with the Friday injury report. Good news: MVN appears to be posting properly, and publishing an entry doesn't result in a timeout or error message. Bad: my entries are on GMT for no apparent reason, and it doesn't look like I can change this. Really screws up my "getting a post up every day" check, given I post at times like this and Drexel posts in the morning.

Oh, advancing the cause of science? Got an email from John Spinda, who's working on his Ph.D. dissertation on sports fans, their perception of other fans, and the effect of winning on fan behavior. He's asked NFL fans to fill out a brief online survey, which can be found here. I've taken it, and you should, too.

Book Review: The Maisel Report

Given how terrible The Paolantonio Report was, it was with trepidation I elected to read the college football counterpart thereto, Ivan Maisel's The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated & Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, and Traditions (both takeoffs, apparently, of The Stark Truth, which I haven't read). It's definitely made in the same model as Paolantonio's book, but, befitting Maisel's status as perhaps the preeminent national college football reporter as opposed to Paolantonio being a talking head studio host, substantially better. Maisel's opinions are generally reasonably thought-out and well-considered, and there's nothing as aggressively dumb as Paolantonio's argument as to why the 1985 Chicago Bears are overrated I outlined in my review of that book.

That is, until you get to Maisel's listing of underrated and overrated players. The most egregious example of the phenomenon is Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech's most underrated player is Clint Castleberry, who played for one year in 1942. Bobby Dodd dubbed him in his (Dodd's) autobiography a future multiple All-American and best RB in Tech history. Now, though, he's lost to the sands of time, a theme common to many of Maisel's underrated players. The Yellow Jackets' "most overrated" player, though, is Reggie Ball. Yes, the very same Reggie Ball widely known as the worst four year starter in college football history. It's difficult for me to see Ball as possibly overrated, and Maisel makes no argument to the contrary, only that Ball wasn't very good. Penn State's most overrated player is another good example of the same-Anthony Morelli. He was, in a great triumph of optimism over reality, the great hope of PSU fans, that is, until he started actually playing, when Nittany Lion fans quickly realized he wasn't actually any good, a fact now recognized by all and sundry. The underrated people are in some cases a useful reminder or introduction to previously notable players, but overall the section is clearly the weakest of the book.

So, is it worth a read? Like many ESPN projects, it's a little gimmicky-argumentative books like these are a little dumb, don't do much to provoke good conversation, and are too related to a sports radio-type dumb environment for my purposes, even if, like this one, they're generally well done. I'm glad I didn't spend any money on it, but it didn't take me long to read and wasn't an egregious waste of my time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Review: Paul Brown (Cantor)

For a while, for anybody interested in learning more about Paul Brown, your only option was Brown's autobiography. In the past couple months, though, two new biographies of the man were published. I'll get around to the other at some point, eventually, but the first of those I read was Paul Brown: The Man Who Invented Modern Football by George Cantor.

Confession: for somebody who reads a reasonable amount of history, I'm not much of a fan of biography as a genre. Biographies, as a general rule, tend to two extremes: first, a straight narrative of a person's life, which may work reasonably well, but doesn't provide for the sort of insight into a person that a biography needs to succeed. The opposite end of the spectrum, alas, is the biographer falls in love with his subject, to the point where every single thing the subject does is worth of reporting, even the humdrum and the dull (The Last Lion: Alone is perhaps the ultimate example of this). With these twin pratfalls, it's no surprise to me that biographies are frequently dull.

And, I'm sad to say that Cantor's Brown bio falls firmly into the first camp. The book is a competent, but not particularly detailed, timeline of Brown's coaching career. It provides approximately no insight into Brown as a person, his philosophy of coaching, or what spurred him to do what he did. Frankly, the most useful part of the book may be the list at the back of Brown's records at each stop in his coaching career. Worse, for a nonfiction book, it provides absolutely no sources. Did Cantor make up everything in the book up? I don't think so, but I really don't know. I have no idea if Cantor, a veteran sportswriter, wrote this entire book from memory, consulted his personal notebooks, perused newspaper archives, interviewed a lot of people, read other books, or what. I don't know if he read Brown's autobiography, even. Paul Brown isn't particularly bad, but it's, well, bad in a dull way-not particularly interesting to read, nor insightful, nor informative. Hopefully Paul Brown: The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Football's Most Innovative Coach will be better.

Total Titans

I may or may not have a new post up at Total Titans asking for questions about the Colts for our Q&A this week. The observant may realize that I don't mention who the Q&A will be with. That's because I don't know. If the post isn't there, it's because clicking "Publish" on MVN results in a post vanishing into the ether instead of the post being published.

This post brought to you by the pass targets post I wanted to write tonight but couldn't because Total Titans' archives seem to have disappeared.

UPDATE: Well, the post isn't showing up on Total Titans, or via the direct link, but is available under my name. Have I mentioned before that new returns to me on the redesign are deeply, deeply negative? Because, well, they are. I'll have to check traffic numbers-it wouldn't surprise me to see us down 50% from the month before the redesign to after, and early returns on comment traffic are even worse. If only they'd done the redesign in like February, I could cheerfully ignore the site for a month, but, no, they had to do it in a month I'd like to actually write posts. Ok, enough whining for now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Eight

Another fall Saturday, another week of college football pretty much over.

TCU 32 - BYU 7
Well, this result came as a surprise to me. I didn't think BYU was great-the game against UW wasn't as close as the 28-27 score made it seem, but was still closer than a great team would have been. Still, I thought they'd win this game. TCU really got great pressure on Max Hall pretty consistently, and he wasn't able to (i) do what Sam Bradford did by going over the top or (ii) find the underneath guy consistently. I was also hugely impressed by TCU's offense. Watching them against Oklahoma, I didn't think much of them; against BYU, a whole different story, as they took advantage of the defensive pressure and Cougar turnovers.

Florida State 26 - N.C. State 17
Well, I paid a little bit of attention to this game, so I feel obligated to mention it. Uh, I don't really like Tom O'Brien, and maybe FSU now is half-decent?

Boise State 27 - Hawaii 7
Not as close as the score indicates, as Boise State really dominated from beginning to end. Hawaii's much worse this year than they were last year, and they weren't that great last year.

Texas Tech 43 - Texas A&M 25
I like watching the Red Raiders on offense, but less than I used to-less unique now. The defense still seems pretty mediocre, though-a couple losses appears likely.

Northwestern 48 - Purdue 26
I really should have realized before now Purdue is pretty bad this year. I knew Curtis Painter wasn't much, but I figured they'd muddle their way through to 7 wins like they seem to do lately. Right now, that doesn't look like it'll be the case. Maybe I'll also have to re-evaluate Northwestern as well, since I was ready to write them off as a total fluke after they lost to Michigan State last week.

Georgia Tech 21 - Clemson 17
Looking at this score, you might think these teams had offenses. You'd be wrong-each team got a score at least gifted to them by defense. This game is more like a net 7-3 game than 21-17. I still need to sit down and watch GaTech for an extended look, to see how Paul Johnson's option attack is faring, but that won't happen for a while.

Virginia 16 - North Carolina 13 (OT)
This was the lowest priority of the 2:30 CT games for me, but just goes to show how weird of a team UVA is. Losing 31-3 to Duke, then upsetting a pretty decent Tar Heel team?

Ohio State 45 - Michigan State 7
Then again, you think you know something about a team, then something totally weird happens. A previously moribund Buckeye offense, who put up 9 points against Purdue the previous week, looks absolutely awesome in East Lansing and just kills the Spartans. The Buckeyes put up 21 in the first quarter, and the game was completely over.

Alabama 24 - Ole Miss 20
Alabama, aside from the 31-0 half against Georgia, continues to leave me non-plussed. They were fairly dominating after a sluggish start, then get outscored 17-0 in the second half. Wilson's not a bad QB, Coffee's not a bad RB, but this team to me looks vulnerable. The trip to Red Stick in November feels like a pretty sure loss to me right now, and it wouldn't surprise me to see them drop another game-maybe the Iron Bowl again. I wonder if those two would be enough to put the Nicktator on the hot seat, particularly if that latter hypothetical defeat costs them the SEC West.

Penn State 46 - Michigan 17
Ah, finally a score that is deceptively not-close, as the Wolverines took a 17-7 first half lead and were tied in the third quarter before the wheels came off. And come off they did, as PSU's offense found the holes in Michigan's defense, and Brandon Minor started carrying more like he was Brandon Minor instead of "not-Brandon-Minor-but-good" like he was in the first half.

Oregon State 34 - Washington 13
A little bit of an interlude game-Washington's QB, Not Jake Locker, made a couple decent downfield throws, but overall the Huskies really aren't that good, especially on defense.

Texas 56 - Missouri 31
Four minutes into the game, I said I'd take Texas -16.5. They actually went up 35-0 before Mizzou kicked a FG to end the first half, and the Tigers pointlessly won the second half. This was a really, really impressive performance by the Longhorns on both offense and defense. McCoy did pretty much whatever he wanted, and the defensive line pressured Chase Daniel into oblivion. I knew by beating OU Texas was pretty good, and this was a #1-type performance.

LSU 24 - South Carolina 17
Why isn't LSU better? I know, they have inexperienced rotating quarterbacks, but there's enough overall talent on the field this game shouldn't have been that close. A couple costly drops hurt, but I can't help but think that my "Les Miles sucks" theory is the reason.

I saw a little bit of a couple other games, but not enough to say anything on them. Too bad, so sad.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Review: The Fifty-Year Seduction

In my review of The Missing Ring by Keith Dunnavant, I said that it wouldn't let it dissuade me from acquiring and reading the same author's The Fifty-Year Seduction: How Television Manipulated College Football, from the Birth of the Modern NCAA to the Creation of the BCS. Well, I have now so acquired and read The Fifty-Year Seduction, and am pleased to say that I made the correct decision in not letting my opinion of The Missing Ring and its premise dissuade me. As I hoped, the subtitle is somewhat overwrought-what Dunnavant produced is instead an excellent journalistic history of college football's relationship with television, from the earliest days of the medium through the book's 2004 publication. I felt like I had a good idea of college football's history from the mid-1980's to the present, but after reading this book, that grasp really only extended back about 15 years. I learned a tremendous deal about the environment that led to the seminal Board of Regents v. NCAA court case, and it's effect on television contracts, conferences, and athletic departments in general. If I wanted to (and I both do and don't), I'd now write some extended commentary on the practical antitrust implications of Board of Regents, but I'll spare you. Instead, I will simply recommend The Fifty-Year Seduction to anyone who thinks they might be interested in reading it.

Total Titans

The MVN redesign has been completed. Naturally, as is seemingly a requirement of all redesigns, links were broken. At least in this case it's only links to all old posts, and the site itself, which you can now find at All posts since Tuesday have also apparently disappeared into the ether, which makes me glad I didn't bother writing what I planned on.

Since we won't be using this place as a backup, I'll be posting some of my own original content. I have a couple book reviews written, plus I've been putting off a linkage post because of the potential takeover.

UPDATE (10/17/08 2152 CT): Updated Total Titans link, since I had it wrong earlier. Editorial commentary deleted.

UPDATE #2 (10/17/08 2209 CT): Injury report posted. If the post looks ugly, that's because MVN's new software is a fucking piece of crap that won't display my post properly. If there's no actual post there, it's because MVN's new software is a fucking piece of crap. If I'm swearing a lot this post, it's because my early review of MVN's new software is that it's a fucking piece of crap and I'm frustrated.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Temporary Home of Total Titans?

MVN's previously scheduled maintenance may (or may not) be happening in the next couple days. If so, that may mean outages over at Total Titans. In that case, content that would normally appear over at Total Titans will be appearing here.

Thoughts on College Football: Week Seven

Another week of college football is almost over, so it's time to talk about what I've seen.

Wake Forest 12 - Clemson 7
There are these games where I watch them, I don't pay much attention to what I'm seeing, and, the game having ended, I have little idea of what I've seen. And so it was with this game. Clemson QB Cullen Harper played poorly, that much I remember for sure. Wake sputtered offensively most of the game. Games like this are part of why I started doing this little project, so I had more of a record and an idea of what I'd seen, but it doesn't solve this problem.

Texas 45 - Oklahoma 35
I admit it, I was wrong. Boomer Sooner let me down. Bradford, I thought, played pretty well, but was betrayed by his teammates. Phil Loadholt absolutely doesn't have the feet to play LT at the NFL level, and probably not RT either-he looks like a guard to me. Oklahoma's defense didn't make enough plays. I wonder if Bob Stoops is overrated as a coach, or at least falls into the Tressel/Carr category of a great/good recruiter who actually isn't that great at football coaching. Texas... I still don't trust Mack Brown, Colt McCoy didn't have a great game, they don't have a running game, but they still did enough to win this game. Still, it wouldn't surprise me to see Boomer Sooner finish the rest of the year without any more wins and make the B12 championship game over UT.

Toledo 13 - Michigan 10
Didn't see much of this game, as I concentrated my attention on UT-OU described above, but what I saw was Toledo throwing short passes and UM's offense being non-productive. Looking at the box score, that was an accurate representation of the game as a whole.

Minnesota 27 - Illinois 20
I saw even less of this than of Michigan-Toledo, so I have nothing insightful to say, only noting that, pre-season, this is a shocking result. Last year's Rose Bowl participant losing to a 1-11 team. Note Minnesota is now bowl-eligible; that has to be this week's sign of the apocalypse.

Kansas 30 - Colorado 14
As a sign of how concentrated on OU-UT/lazy I was, I saw only about three plays from this game despite it featuring Todd Reesing.

Ohio State 16 - Purdue 3
Ohio State: defense yes, offense still doubtful. The Buckeyes' sole TD came off a blocked punt, and such drives as there were bogged down in the red zone. The game against PSU should be a good chance for the Nittany Lions to end their losing streak in Columbus as they appear to have both an offense and a defense.

North Carolina 29 - Notre Dame 24
In Jimmah we trusted, with Jimmah we busted. Two reasonably well-matched teams, though I can't help but think with a healthy T.J. Yates this game isn't as close as it was.

Georgia 24 - Tennessee 14
I don't know what it is, but Georgia this year bores me. They're good, but last year I enjoyed watching them play, but don't this year. They remind me of an NBA team-good at times, but too often seemingly disinterested.

Penn State 48 - Wisconsin 7
This game was almost as close as the score indicated. Wisconsin may still make the Outback Bowl, but they looked a long, long way from the Nittany Lions tonight in all phases of the game.

Oklahoma State 28 - Missouri 23
A game that was surprisingly close throughout, and surprisingly low-scoring in the first half. Chase Daniel ruined his Heisman campaign with a couple poor interceptions, and Zac Robinson actually looked like a legit quarterback. I'm not sure Mizzou has a very good defense, so I still doubt Robinson, but he made all the plays, and didn't make the bad plays, tonight.

Florida 51 - LSU 21
Remember when we thought LSU had a defense? Like 6 hours ago? Giving up 20 points to Auburn was somewhat of a warning sign, but credit for that could be given to Tuberville and a rivalry game closer than expected is not a surprise (except when it is, of course). Nevertheless, LSU this game looked like a team with three new starters in the secondary, including particularly both of its cornerbacks.

Oregon 14 - UCLA 0 (in progress, halftime)
A late night treat for fans of poor quarterback play, if that's your thing.


Time for another collection of miscellaneous links, something on which I remain way the heck behind.

Something from the rest of my life: a disquisition on personal seat licenses, from Saul Levmore, Dean of the University of Chicago Law School.

The Titans now have a Ring of Honor, which I saw on my visit to LP Field.

National Football Post is a great site because of the legit info on insiders who matter, like Andrew Brandt's description of working with Drew Rosenhaus.

Michael Oriard on whether or not you should care about NFL injuries. Slate article, so be noted.

Goodell interview. With Rovell, so be noted. See also this W$J interview with Roger Rex, which has more actual content.

Matt Bowen on safety play in man coverage. Nothing real special, but useful as a primer for the unfamiliar. See also his piece on fire zones, which is one of the easiest ways to distinguish between somebody who knows what they're doing and somebody like me who doesn't know anything.

More awesomeness from Smart Football, on late game clock management.

Matt Bowen breaks down what an NFL work week looks like for a player.

Darren Rovell points out something fairly obvious: especially in the current economic climate, NFL franchises really aren't worth what Forbes says they are.

Love for Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing, one of my favorite players in college football this year.

Finally, for this little post, statistical quirkiness: college teams with 0 completions, including the Army Black Knights in their 17-13 win today.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Total Titans

I have another post up, re-examining my previous post on how the Titans wouldn't win 10 games in 2008. I'm reminded of the line "Predictions are hard, especially about the future."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Six

Six weeks of college football in the books, and we're starting to get a decent read on teams.

Pittsburgh 26 - South Florida 21
I refuse to believe that a team coached by Dave Wannstedt, whom I almost always refer to by his wonderful nickname of Wannstache, can possibly be good. But, this Panthers team is a blown lead against Bowling Green short of undefeated after knocking off the Bulls. The Bulls, in this game, lived up to a friend's description of them as "the dumbest team in the country," with any number of boneless plays, and, unlike the Jayhawks, the Panthers took advantage of USF QB Matt Grothe's attempts to give them the football.

Utah 31 - Oregon State 28
The Utes looked much better than USC did last Thursday, not really getting blown off the ball on either offense or defense. This game, these two teams looked like they were about the same level. Ute QB Bryan Johnson was like he was the Michigan game-stretches of reasonably competent play, but also looking awful for stretches, and his team's offensive performance was the same.

Penn State 20 - Purdue 6
Snore. The Lions are clearly better than Purdue. This game looks almost close, but the Boilermakers were never in any real danger of winning this game.

Michigan State 16 - Iowa 13
The Hawkeyes got a late TD, to make things interesting, but only appeared to have slightly more than a non-zero chance of winning for most of the game. Iowa-Purdue should be an epic borefest.

Kansas 35 - Iowa State 33
The biggest WTF early result of the day was Iowa State up 20-0 at the half, and that score was not undeserved. A sign of the crazy momentum involved in CFB, though, is that Kansas had erased that deficit by the time the third quarter turned into the fourth, took a lead, then survived when the Cyclones missed a 2-pt conversion. The Cyclones were less able to take advantage of the Jayhawks' weakness at OT, but the lack of general ability on defense was again apparent, as is the lack of a reliable target on offense other than backup QB Kerry Meier. KU should still make a bowl, but they're a far cry from the top 4 teams in the B12.

Oklahoma 49 - Baylor 17
Boomer Sooner rolled on, taking a 28-0 lead in the first 15 minutes and rendering the last 3 quarters boring stat-padding and glorified practice. Next week's Red River Shootout will be the Sooners' first (and possibly only) real test of the regular season.

Notre Dame 28 - Stanford 21
I hate Notre Dame, but there's no way they're not making another bowl game they're going to get crushed in, so there is that, at least.

Illinois 45 - Michigan 20
Michigan really isn't that good this year. Their defense, in particular, is one you can make big plays against. The only problem with this game is the Illini's dependence on high-risk passes, which worked this game and against Mizzou, but didn't get completed against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Florida State 41 - Miami(FL) 39
I don't really have anything interesting to say about this game, just wanted to note how the mighty have fallen.

Alabama 17 - Kentucky 14
Ah, the vagaries of quarterback play in college football. John Parker Wilson was very good last week in the Tide's big win against Georgia, but couldn't hit the broad side of barn for most of this game (unless that barn was located about 8 feet over his receiver's head). If Kentucky was any good, they'd have won this game.

Vanderbilt 14 - Auburn 13
If Auburn had an offense, they'd have won this game. If Auburn had an offense, they wouldn't be Auburn c. 2008. The winning margin came on a missed extra point. Vandy will get killed by a complete team, but this year, who the hell knows who that is. I'm penciling in 4 losses for them, but they may catch lightning in a bottle c. 1995 Northwestern.

North Carolina 38 - UConn 12
UConn's backup QB <<<< UNC's backup QB. Also, YouCon needs to learn how to not get punts blocked. In my picks this weekend (all ATS), this was the only game I missed.

Texas 38 - Colorado 14
This game was, at least, marginally more interesting than the Oklahoma-Baylor game earlier in the day. Marginally. I'll be watching the Red River Shootout with great attention next week, but this game was largely overtaken by the much more interesting games taking place at the same time.

Arizona 48 - Washington 14
Washington, particularly UW without Jake Locker, is really, really, really, really awful. UA -21.5 was an easy call.

Ohio State 20 - Wisconsin 17
Man, I wish Ohio State didn't keep screwing the pooch in big games, because they've actually been pretty good. They weren't elite last year, and laid an enormous egg against USC, but they're pretty good again this year. I had them, in my informal and unofficial rankings, in the 15-18 range along with Kansas, before this game, but after this I'm more inclined to move them up to 9-12. I really should start doing rankings of my own.

Missouri 52 - Nebraska 17
It was Thanksgiving weekend of 2001. The Huskers were undefeated, ranked #2, and playing in Boulder against the home Buffaloes. The Buffs took an early lead, then kept scoring. And scoring. And scoring. But, though they were up 35-7 early in the second quarter, to me watching the game from several states away, they looked incredibly vulnerable, as though they were waiting for the Huskers to make a play. That never happened, though, and the Huskers haven't been the same program since. In particular, that feared defense, the Blackshirts have been sloppy. The nadir was probably last year's game against Kansas, giving up 76 points to them being more than the Huskers ever scored against the Jayhawks. This time, though, Mizzou just killed them, and TD at the end of the game doesn't change the fact that the Tigers could have pretty much named their margin.

And, such is the week that was in college football from my perch.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Five

Still better late than never, thoughts on what I watched of the fifth week of the 2008 college football season.

Oregon State 27 - USC 21
A couple surprises for this game. First, I thought there was no way Pete Carroll wouldn't have has team ready for another trip to Corvallis, after losing their in their last visit two years ago. Second, OrSU's offensive and defensive lines held their own, at least, for the entire game against those same USC units that had dominated Ohio State in that blowout. Not a surprise: Mark Sanchez isn't a great quarterback.

UConn 26 - Louisville 21
I'm a Georgetown alum and fan. I hate UConn's basketball team, and Jim Calhoun. But, that hate doesn't carry over to UConn's football team. In this game, UConn seemed absolutely sunk after Tyler Lorenzen went out with an injury, and after Louisville went up 21-10 in the 3rd quarter, I assumed there was no way the Huskies could come back. Naturally, I once again underestimated Steve Kragthorpe's team-destroying ability, and the Cardinals' slide continued as they blew the lead.

Ohio State 34 - Minnesota 21
I spent a decent amount of time watching this game, and learned approximately nothing about each team. The final margin is . . . deceptively close, as the Buckeyes dominated this game. Pryor looked ok, Beanie Wells looked reasonably healthy, and a bunch of blah.

North Carolina 28 - Miami(FL) 24
A better game than expected-I thought UNC, another school I hate in basketball but not in football, was sunk when QB T.J. Yates went down, but they benched Paulus and Cameron Sexton threw 2 4th quarter TD passes to rally the Heels. This game also featured perhaps the week's most dramatic ending, as UNC turned a potential game-winning TD into a game-saving INT with :05 left.

Michigan State 42 - Indiana 29
A defensive optional first half, particularly the end of the second quarter, with two scores in the last two minutes. MSU's a better team than the Hoosiers. This game also featured, though I wasn't watching when it happened, a 97 yard TD pass turned into 2 points for the Spartans as IU was flagged for holding in the end zone. In a game that the Spartans led by 5, that's a pretty big turnaround.

Michigan 27 - Wisconsin 25
Ah, the joy/aggravation of college football. The Badgers DOMINATED the first half, forcing 5 Wolverine turnovers, and going in with a 19-0 halftime lead. And, then, kerphlut, for most of the second half-the previously moribund Michigan offense suddenly started gaining yards, Wisconsin stopped gaining yards, and a pick-6 provided the go-ahead score. The Badgers did recover to tie the game, with an apparent 2-point conversion, but were flagged for an awful illegal formation penalty and were unsuccessful from 5 yards further out.

Florida State 39 - Colorado 21
I haven't noted it yet, but I had a horrible week picking games. This was one of those I missed. I finally start doubting the Seminoles, and they beat decisively a less talented opponent. Sigh.

Auburn 14 - Tennessee 12
I'd like to nominate Auburn as the most overrated BCS team in the top 25. They had a surprisingly strong showing against LSU, but have otherwise shown almost no signs of competence, particularly on offense. So it was again this game-one good drive, and they sputtered around. A quality team would've beaten the Vols by 30.

Oklahoma 35 - TCU 10
If I did a poll, the Sooners would be my #1 team-they have stretches where they look so incredibly dominant on offense and defense. TCU did a good job to bottle up the run game, so Sam Bradford threw deep, and successfully-Oklahoma looked for a while like my Madden team, it was that ugly. They seemed to have a lot of problem covering for delayed blitzes, though, and Sam Bradford ate dirt for the first times this year. They're not unbeatable (they might go out and lay an egg like USC did-they've done it in the past), but they look it at times.

LSU 34 - Mississippi State 24
WTF? Seriously, WTF? How does a team as talented as LSU give up 24 points to a team as offensively challenged as Mississippi State? I know, the Tigers had some defensive line injuries, but give me a break. For the record, I'm not nearly as sold on Jarret Lee as many people seem to be-for LSU to be really successful, I think they need a QB at least as good as Matt Flynn was last year, and I see Lee being at most 75% of the way there.

Alabama 41 - Georgia 30
Ignore the final score-this game was Tide 31 - Dawgs 0 at the half. I suspected Georgia was overrated, despite having them #1 in my head six weeks ago, and this game proved it. I'm now on the Crimson Tide bandwagon, at least for a while-I don't know what Saban does, aside from work all the time, and I still don't like his overrecruitment, but the man can coach college football. The game where he goes back to LSU is going to be absolutely epic.

Penn State 38 - Illinois 24
Another game where I don't really feel like I learned anything. Illinois looks to me like a Glen Mason-era Minnesota team-4-4 or 5-3 in the conference, beats the bad teams, loses not particularly close to the heavyweights, and goes off to the Music City Bowl. This isn't a bad outcome for Illini fans, compared to the doom of recent years. As for the Nittany Lions, I still don't feel confident in how good they are.

And that was the week that was in college football in my eyes.

Total Titans

I have a new post up on Total Titans, looking at White, Johnson, and running back success rate in the context of usage. This is the post I mentioned when I posted RB Success Rate.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Regular Season Rushing Success

As I did for the preseason, and as prep work for a post on Total Titans that will be going up tomorrow (Tuesday), it's time to run rushing success numbers for the Titans:

BackWeekCarriesYardsSuccess Rate

Analysis will come in the Total Titans piece when it goes up. The most interesting pieces are the situational information. Preview for that: Johnson's numbers suggest he's worse than he is because he gets a lot of the bad situations.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Total Titans

My first post in what I hope to be a weekly series, Player Game Analysis, is now up over at Total Titans. It's a detailed look at LT Michael Roos's game against the Texans, hopefully in the model of the Football Outsiders column Cover-3, formerly Every Play Counts. The first entry certainly isn't up to that level, but I'll see what I can do in the future. Feedback is appreciated.

UPDATE (9/28/08 1946 CT): Woo, I groveled my way into a FO Extra Point. Thanks, Bill!

Friday, September 26, 2008


Been a while since I've done this, and I have a ton of links. I'll spread these out into a couple posts.

Bob Daive, of all people, with a useful piece on what is zone blocking.

Roger Rex's plan for a longer regular season: just another example of being in bed with the deep pocketed owners? Per Roger Rex, it could happen as soon as 2010. I have a really bad feeling about the future of the NFL, starting in 2010.

The best players by team since 1950, AFC edition, using PFR's AV statistic. Eddie George ranks ahead of Earl Campbell. See also the NFC.

Stuff that would never happen today: the Texas coaching staff taught Oklahoma the wishbone.

Fun story from Andrew Brandt of Ahman Green and how he ended up a Texan. Green Bay definitely has the college style of love for players that I just criticized Nashville for.

How the Redskins hired their defensive coordinator, from Mike Wise of the WaPo. Excellent reporting, assuming it's, y'know, true.

Biz of Football interviewed Andrew Brandt about National Football Post and some of the financial issues in the NFL these days.

Draft yapping: a preseason look at top prospects on offense and defense.

More hatred for Roger Rex: bad timing on a suspension.

Credit where credit is due: Music City Miracles scored an interview with Jeff Diamond.

Finally, since I can't leave a competitor the last word, thoughts on the passing of Gene Upshaw from Andrew Brandt.