Saturday, July 26, 2008

Position Previews

I have a couple more position previews up on Total Titans, one on the outside linebackers and another on defensive tackles, plus a brief post noting the signing of Chris Johnson. I'll probably have the next position post up in the next day, and will just update this post when I do.

UPDATE (7/31/08 0102 CT): Next day, a couple days, what's the difference. See starting cornerbacks preview. Note: features use of Football Outsiders statistics, since there's not much to say when there are two clearly established incumbent starters, and there's already a nickelback preview.

Miscellanea

PFR blog introduces a similar-player generator. Very crude, but potentially interesting.

SMQ previews VaTech @ Nebraska in his customarily excellent style. See also this post on the Husker defense.

Courtesy of Sports Law Blog, an attempt at a definition of sport. I have a couple mental heuristics I use for deciding whether or not something is a sport: an activity and a test. The activity is competitive bricklaying, which is not a sport. The test is competition-if no human is trying to prevent you from achieving your goal, it can't be a sport. Yes, golf is not a sport. Yes, the pole vault is not a sport. They call it the Olympic Games for a reason, people. N.B. that something is a sport and not a game should not be taken as in any way determinative of its value or worth.

EDSBS wonders if you need a brain to coach college football. I suspect not, though it may help.

Michael Lombardi dismisses Matt Jones-good 40 speed, but who cares, because he has no burst or explosion. This is a major flaw of Titans RB Chris Henry, I suspect Chris Davis doesn't have enough burst either, and a reason I'm very concerned about Chris Johnson, who Lombardi is pretty high on.

Also from Lombardi, a scouting report on the Green Bay offense from last year. Fascinating stuff.

Lombardi on establishing an identity, which the Lions have failed to do.

Lombardi on figuring out unnamed sources, something I should do more often.

A non-Lombardi interlude! Andrew Brandt, too close to the Packers and Favre to comment.

Perhaps the most interesting non-potentially-elite team in college football this year is Michigan, which is going through something of a major transition period. See this post breaking down some of Rich Rodriguez's plays.

The new baseball stadium in Washington, D.C. was supposed to produce lots of new jobs in the area around the ballpark. It hasn't. I'm shocked, shocked, shocked!

Advanced NFL Stats on the likely decline of the Charger defense this fall. The reason: interception luck in 2007, and interception luck is not likely to be repeatable.

Michael Lombardi points out something very important to remember: you have to evaluate your team correctly, or else you're screwed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Total Titans

Two more posts at Total Titans, one on the fullbacks and the second on the recent roster moves, including the release of Bryce Fisher.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Maintenance Note, and Total Titans

Please note the new email address on the sidebar. I'll still be checking the old one, but not as frequently.

I have a couple posts up at Total Titans I haven't bothered to mention here yet. First, I've thus far written new entries in our preview of the Titans by position as we head into training camp: the quarterbacks and the centers. Neither post is particularly interesting, unless you're looking for ruminations on the Titans' #3 QB spot.

I do, however, have one post that's hopefully at least somewhat interesting: a look at which Tennessee-era players might make the Hall of Fame. Excepting Bruce Matthews, who is of course already in the Hall, my answer is that none of them will. With young players, this can change, of course-if Michael Roos makes 10 of the next 12 Pro Bowls and is All-Pro 6 times, it'd be a different conversation.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Linkagery

A little bit of separation-some news/commentary/etc. links, some on strategy.

Strategery
One of the big questions out there is still why NFL teams run the ball so much. See this piece which incorporates a little game theory. See also this follow-up post.

In the same vein, see this post from SMQ on the same issue in the college game. The college game is, to me, less reliable because of the variability in skill of, and general incompetence at, passing the ball. Half the teams in college look like the 2004 Bears or 2005 49ers. See also EDSBS on the same. For more, see this post by the author. I still need to do more reading on this, which may or may not happen.

A massive look at 4-3 defensive theory from DGDB&D, focused on a look at the Eagles' variant thereof. See also the linked-to piece on zone blitzing.

More than you really want to know about the zone stretch, from MGoBlog.

18 million 5,400 words from Smart Football on pass protection, starting with the Super Bowl.

Newsier Stuff and Statgeekery
PFR blog applied the Simple Rating System to see how each 2007 team stacked up. I wouldn't have guessed the Colts would have the league's best defense. Neither would anyone else, I don't think. Somewhat interesting, but more parlor game-y than useful, I think.

This extended look at an inter-blog fight over Karl Dorrell, Rick Neuheisel, and what exactly constitutes reasonable expectations would be useful to think about if everyone else were as geeky and epistemologically-inclined as I, and also if I were significantly less lazy.

Buzz Bissinger shows he doesn't know much about early American history. He should read more, much more about the press wars between Adams and Jefferson starting c. 1795. See also Bissinger's talk with Will Leitch. I guess my biggest problem with Bissinger is he has a very distinct idea of What Constitutes Media, and it's traditional journalism of the sort he practices and what you tend to find in the daily newspaper.

MGoBlog's take on the news that Northwestern easily stole Michigan's signals. The piece about the center's differing hand-placement on run and pass plays emphasizes just how awful the college game could be. "Lloyd Carr thought deception and trickery had their place in football, and that place was Northwestern," may be the line of the year.

Michael Lombardi comments on the release of Falcons DB Jimmy Williams. Homework assignment: pick your favorite NFL team. Figure out who's only there because there's an "agenda" at play. This is the biggest reason I'm concerned about Jeff Fisher's current say in the operation of the Tennessee Titans, and why most combo Coach/GMs fail-nobody's there to solve their "agenda" problem.

One of the blogs I read regularly, but haven't permalinked, is Coaches Hot Seat. This post is a good explanation as to why.

PFR blog took a look at the "worst" QBs of all time. These lists bother me, because the people who end up atop them are guys who aren't really terrible, but who aren't good yet get a lot of attempts. You're better off with a good QB than Joey Harrington, but you're better off with Joey Harrington than, say, Aaron Brooks. See also the best QBs.

Michael Lombardi writes about the importance of the waiver wire. Most surprising part of the post: he worked for the Broncos for nearly 6 months, and never talked to the GM.

Finally, see this excellent column from Rick Gosselin on Hall of Fame chances. Yes, I have a post coming about this over at Total Titans.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Titans Notes

I put up a post on Total Titans with some recent developments in Titans-land. Here, real football, come here boy.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Miscellanea

More links. I'm going to try to do this weekly or so, with the goal of posting only links from that week. That'll change, of course.

Apropos of Frank Wycheck post, the worst player in the Hall of Fame is probably Joe Namath. I'm not quite as down on Namath as Morgan is in the linked post, but he's a guy in the Hall for what he meant at least as much as what he did.

The NFL's labor attorney for the forthcoming negotiations: Robert Batterman of Proskauer Rose. If that name sounds familiar (I doubt it), he was the NHL's lawyer during the 2004-05 lost season. The NFL doesn't have the same structural problems the NHL did, but that's not an encouraging sign.

SMQ previews Ohio State. The most consequential non-conference game of the forthcoming college football season will be played in Los Angeles Sept. 13, when Ohio State visits USC at the Coliseum. Be there, or at least in front of a TV showing the game. See also Statistically Speaking's B10 preview, which predicts a likely 2 losses, 1 non-conference (almost certainly the USC game and 1 conference loss (@Wisky?).

Analyzing the 1997 draft trades through the use of the AV method, from PFR blog. AV is more interesting than definitive, so keep that in mind.

A very interesting point: running backs fumble less now. In the various discussion on FO, particularly w/r/t HoF credentials of running backs, it's been noticed and held as important that many older running backs fumbled a lot. But, as this post shows, so did the running backs not in the HoF discussion. The key questions are, of course, what does this mean, and why did that happen?

Coaches Hot Seat Blog, one of the relatively few football blogs I don't read that's not blogrolled, thinks the SEC should start its own network. Umm, yeah, probably. There are a couple points here. First, the Big Ten Network is so successful because it's really well done. Two aspects here: first, the B10 encompasses a couple major media markets, making it a relatively attractive proposition. The SEC hits the southeast, but doesn't cover any major media markets, except perhaps Atlanta (which is a major media market almost exclusively because of Ted Turner). Second, Jim Delaney basically runs the B10. The SEC had that kind of head when Roy Kramer was commissioner, but I don't know that Mike Slive has that same sort of pull. For an SEC Network to work, Slive absolutely has to be 100% behind it, and able to handle any intransigence on the part of individual schools. This is a harder job, too, because Slive has two more state governments to deal with than Tranghese did. Another point: the SEC may not need a network, because it may have enough bargaining power to extract most all the gains it could out of its own network without having to go through the expense and risk of creating a network of its own. In fact, I think this is a real possibility-if this is in fact the case, creating an SEC Network is not only not a good idea, it's a downright bad one, SEC homerism notwithstanding.

One of the big outstanding questions of the forthcoming college football season is whither Oklahoma. Before the surprise blowout loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, they were a very good team-failing only in the games against Colorado and Texas Tech. The key to those two games was quarterbacking-r-freshman wunderkind Sam Bradford apparently had a non-great game against Colorado and missed most of the TTU game after being injured early in the game. So, what should we expect from Sam Bradford this year? See Statistically Speaking and, of course, SMQ (B12 and recap post). Obviously, there are no definitive answers here, but it's probably reasonable to expect OU to be relatively good this fall.

Ivan Maisel, following a trip to Afghanistan, sat down with Charlie Weis, Tommy Tuberville, and Mark Richt to talk football. Nothing particularly great here, but reasonable. I like Richt's description of how he got into coaching.

From PFR blog, adjusted YPA for QBs, adjusted for strength of schedule for 2007. Yes, VY was pretty bad last year.

One of the things about college football is you have the traditional powers, your Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, USC, Texas, etc., and your never-really-beens. The problem, as a never-really-been, is you see schools like Miami-FL, Florida State, Louisville, West Virginia, etc. that seem to reach some sort of near-parity with some of the traditional powers. So, do you content yourself with being not-too-bad, or do you reach for the stars. If you're Minnesota, you signal some dissatisfaction with "slightly above mediocrity", fire Glen Mason, and go 1-11. The comment "But I’ll trade the usual 7-5 (3-5) / extremely minor Dec 28 bowl game season under Mason for Brewster, 1-11, a top-25 recruiting class – and for once, some damned optimism around here," says it all.

Courtesy of MGoBlog, an update on how Nick Saban is dealing with over-recruiting.

Finally, from The Sports Economist on a post looking at the Seattle Supersonics trial, some thoughts on what sports economists do agree on. Key graf:
Concluding it all, what do we get? 1) Tangible benefits from a franchise are likely to be small or non-existent, possibly even negative. 2) The effects are dispersed over a wide area so changes with regard to sports franchises are likely to provide benefits to some areas in a region while imposing costs on other areas in that region. 3) Intangible benefits are difficult to measure, and there is little consensus on their size. 4) Regional input output models are generally not good tools for determining the net effects of changes in the sports environment.

As the post notes, the dueling experts in that case were arguing over the magnitude of 3), not 1), 2), or 4).

More comment coming this week. Oldest bookmark remaining is June 13, but I'll try to get a substantive post or two up before the next links post.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Titans Re-sign Stewart

This Titans recently re-signed David Stewart. I have a post up on that at Total Titans. Go ahead and read it, if you want. We're also still picking the All-Time Tennessee team, so go vote in that. Now up is the left cornerback spot.

On Devin Hester

I haven't talked about this much here, but living in the Chicago area and being a fan of a team other than the Bears, I'm sick and tired of hearing about Devin Hester, and how good he is. I'm not trying to deny that he's a very good return man, but he's not nearly as good as Bears fans think he is. The latest to-do start when I claimed at lunch that Josh Cribbs was at least as good at returning kicks as Hester was last year. Many electrons have since been spilled on the issue, but here's the original email from the argument, suitably adjusted into a blog post.

On my part, this argument that Cribbs was at least as good as Hester had at its root this recent analysis by PFR blog. From PFR, here are the top 50 individual kickoff returner seasons since the merger. This is the entry at the top of the list:

kr kryd krtd AY/KR LGKR KR_VAL year team
59 1809 2 31.00 22.77 486 2007 cle Josh Cribbs

Quoting PFR:
Josh Cribbs’ 2007 season was truly remarkable. He added 486 more adjusted yards than the league average kickoff returner would have produced, and another 136 adjusted yards above what the league average punt returner would have compiled with the same number of returns.


One of the argument to which I was responding was that this inflates Cribbs' value because he had more kickoff returns than Hester. Yes, it is true that Cribbs had more returns than Hester. But it's harder to be above average with more returns than with fewer returns. That he had fewer TDs, but more yards, is also a sign of consistent goodness-because touchdown returns tend to be non-normally distributed, having a better return average with fewer return TDs is a sign that Cribbs didn't fluctuate between good and bad returns, but was instead more consistently good.

Ah, you say, PFR's system doesn't take into account field position. Very well, then, let's use a system that does. Football Outsiders' DVOA is designed to take field position and game situation into account. They don't break out player ratings, simply because there's not enough good data to do so, but they do have team data on kickoff returns:
CLE Kickoff Return: 31.2 (1st in NFL)
CHI Kickoff Return: 14.1 (4th, also behind HOU and NYJ)

I'd also point out that Cribbs had the misfortune of playing on a team that actually had an offense, so you'd tend to expect the Bears to end up with better field position. Cribbs, alas, made teams pay for their temerity to try to pin the Browns deep.

Oh, and as to judging returners solely or primarily by how many touchdowns they score, I refer you to this post from the baseball context on statistics.

Mind you, the point of this is not necessarily to declare Josh Cribbs a superior kick returner to Hester in 2007; after all, they played on different teams, with different teammates, and in different situations. It is possible that Hester on the Browns would have done well and Cribbs on the Bears wouldn't do well, or vice versa (Hester was not a particularly good returner his last year, especially, at Miami, after all). But, that Devin Hester was the best kickoff returner in the NFL in 2007 is not at all a clear proposition.

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More content coming later.