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

Miscellanea

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 I have a bunch saved up, so I'll be sorting out a number of them for those that aren't outdated.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.