Thursday, December 31, 2009

Football Outsiders

Scramble for the Ball is now available for your reading pleasure.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Total Titans

Total Titans will have a temporary home on WordPress which can be found here. I'll have a future post on when the MVN site will be shutting down and that site will be taking the then-current home. Also plan to put up a post tomorrow or Friday or Saturday on just how bad the Seahawks have been lately and also on how VY played against San Diego.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Total Titans

I asked questions of a Chargers blogger, who answered them, and those answered are now posted at Total Titans.

I don't think I've mentioned it on here yet, but Total Titans will remain alive despite MVN's impending shutdown. I'll post more details here when I know our new URL and all the details.

Football Outsiders

The once again a day late, though not because I was sick this time edition of Scramble for the Ball is now available for your reading pleasure and features actual discussion in the comments about points made in the article.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book Review: One Size Doesn't Fit All

One Size Doesn't Fit All (And Other Thoughts from the Road) was John Madden's third book with Dave Anderson, after the previously-reviewed Hey, Wait a Minute and One Knee Equals Two Feet. After the relatively hard core football knowledge drop that was One Knee, One Size represents a return to the "John Madden as Football Personality" that was present in Hey, Wait and his commercial presence beyond football.

In that, I'm reminded of this post I linked to back in May, that much of what we consume as sports media is not about the sport itself but instead the sideshow related to sports. One Size is in that mold, and, unlike One Knee, while the book talks constantly about sports, very little of the book has any insight onto football. John Madden remains an interesting and enjoyable guy, of the kind that enabled him to have the success he did as a commentator and commercial pitchman, and One Size is, like his two previous books, an enjoyable read. But, I didn't really get anything out of it, and I'm not sure you would either. When it first came out in 1988, I could say, sure, go ahead and read this book about the modern NFL scene. Now, though, you don't even get that. It's not a bad book, and I don't regret having read it, but, honestly, there's not much reason to read One Size Doesn't Fit All.

Conference Records

Using the up to date standings, and including today's games, the AFC has now won 34 of the 59 matchups with the NFC and has clinched a non-losing record in interconference games for the 14th straight season.

Book Review: Football Outsiders Almanac 2009

As I just mentioned, I'm not going to do a real review of this book, but Football Outsiders Almanac 2009 is the latest edition of the annual book from the folks at Football Outsiders, a number that now includes yours truly. I wasn't involved in the writing of FOA 2009, though I was once again thanked in the Acknowledgments section for my work in the game charting project.

As to what's in the book, it's much the same as the previous edition under the previous name, Pro Football Prospectus 2008: a description of FO's methods and work, 32 team preview chapters, some essays on various research topics, statistical projections, and 25 top prospects. FOA 2009 also includes expanded college football content, with brief previews of the BCS teams and projections based on FEI, about which I will not say more. Along with the name change came that FOA 09, unlike PFP 08 and its prior editions, was self-published, available both at Amazon and on FO's site as a PDF download.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Book Review: Blown Coverage

Yes, it's the sequel to Monday Night Jihad: Blown Coverage by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn. Though a sequel, it's probably not too hard to pick up the plot if you avoid MNJ even though Elam and Yohn do tend to avoid most of the tiresome brief prequel exposition that mars other books (see, e.g., Harry Potter-by Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, the first 100 pages were tiresome if you'd read the previous books). Consider that, if you will, a judgment on the intellectual challenge involved in reading the book.

So, how is Blown Coverage? Well, if you read MNJ because of the football hook, that won't get you into this one, as Elam seems to have dropped all of his inside football jokes in the first book. There is a little bit of football-related involvement, but it's on the periphery and not part of the plot. Blown Coverage is, rather than a football thriller, simply a thriller novel. It maintains MNJ basic quirks-hardly a damn or blasphemy in site, plus characters talk more about their relationship with Jesus and praying than most thriller characters. But, those are relatively easy to ignore, and you're instead left with Blown Coverage as a thriller. A thriller that, while better than MNJ, has cookie-cutter characters, hardly any character development, and not particularly interesting of a plot. There's apparently a third book coming out in the series; I'm at a loss to explain why, as the loose ends from the previous book are mostly wrapped up and nothing worthy of a third Riley Covington novel seems to need wrapping up. But, nevertheless, there is. When it comes out, you'll have to let me know how it is. Lacking Elam's football insights, Blown Coverage is judged as a thriller, and while I've read plenty of bad and mediocre thrillers over the past decade and a half-plus, I do now try to avoid the mediocre to bad ones, and this certainly qualifies. Not particularly recommended, aside from people willing to read any thriller, preferably one with a library that, like mine, has this one.

Miscellanea

It's been a fantastically long time since I've done one of these, so I'll be doing a lot of culling and links will not necessarily be in straight chron order. I'm also behind a couple book review posts. I aspire to being fully caught up by the time I head out of town for the holidays. That's an aspiration, but may not be a realistic goal. Final housekeeping note before I begin: I won't be writing a real review of Football Outsiders Almanac 2009, since I'm now on staff, though I may still do a post on it so I can list it on the sidebar.

Courtesy of The Sports Economist, an expose of income inequality in the NFL! Shocking! If only the author knew anything about caponomics, this would be an interesting article.

Who are the UFL owners? One of them was Paul Pelosi, husband of Nancy. This is not an invitation to discuss Ms. Pelosi's politics.

How long has it been since I've done this? I had in my bookmarks, for reasons I can't explain, this post on FSU's first down offense in their game against Miami back Labor Day weekend.

How much have the Packers made? Visit this website to see their financials.

I don't believe I ever linked to PFR's two part look at running back "personality types."

If I actually knew something about statistics, I'd say something about this article on ranking NCAA football teams. Instead, I'll simply point it out, and also note their blog.

A useful list of some of the (old) football books available on Google Books. Gakked from this thread on learning about football history.

Enough for now, since I have bookmarks stored in multiple places and this exhausts one source.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Football Outsiders

After a delay due to illness, the latest edition of your normal Scramble for the Ball-type nonsense is now available for your perusal at Football Outsiders.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Heisman Trophy

A generally uninteresting award, given to somebody who touches the ball a lot on a top 5 team. The last time I actually paid attention to the televised broadcast of the ceremony was in 1999, when my Wisconsin native housemate was fervently rooting for (actual winner) Ron Dayne (I kept my thoughts Dayne would be an NFL bust if drafted high to myself). Now, though, just tune in at 5 or 7 til and you'll see the important part. That's what I did, and found what I expected: while Ndamukong Suh should have won (and got my vote), Mark Ingram did. I was actually hoping he could pull it off when it was mentioned this was the closest vote ever, but alas it was Toby Gerhart that finished in second place and Colt McCoy somehow finished in 3rd. The Southwest was the only intelligent region, voting for Suh tops, but the unaffiliated regions of the Midwest and Northeast ruined it by going RB-RB. Perhaps it's time to stop caring even more. Well, I guess it's time to completely stop caring about the award, since we missed out on our best chance in recent memory for an actually interesting winner (no, Larry Fitzgerald would not have counted as such).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Football Outsiders

A special, commercial-free edition of Scramble for the Ball is now available for your reading pleasure.

Thoughts from the Luke: Second Half

See also the first half, but here are the notes from the rest of the game.

33. Western Kentucky's marching band did the halftime show, which seemed like a distant selection.
34. Their song selection included movie themes. The Incredibles and Batman. Lame.
35. Tony Brown was among the first players out after halftime, which is unusual.
36. Brett Kern seems to practice a lot. Rob Bironas mostly stands on the sideline watching the game, talking to Collins or Hentrich or somebody. Kern, on the other hand, was kicking into the net pretty much every time the Titans had the ball.
37. Alge looked incredibly slow on the pass with 12:55 in the 3rd quarter. Raheem Brock, normally a DE, was in coverage on the play-I thought this might be a zone blitz, but the Colts seemed to be moving Brock around a little-standing up him some-to confuse VY.
38. Ryan Mouton got blocked in the back right before the fair catch at the conclusion of that series.
39. The Titans TO at 3:02 of the 3rd quarter came because they only had 10 men in the huddle. Crumpler came on, while both Britt and Washington came off the field. White was hanging around the periphery of the sideline, seemingly unsure if he should go in the game or not. Fisher was Not Happy about this.
40. I hated the 4th and goal fade call at 3Q 1:04. I mentioned it in the podcast, but the fade is a low percentage play.
41. Awesome play by Kenny Britt to break a couple tackles and convert that third down at 4Q 13:25.
42. Bo Scaife was in the backfield the next play. Normally it's been Crumpler lined up at offset FB when it hasn't been Hall, but Bo did it, too.
43. Antonio Johnson destroyed CJ, who was the intended reciver on the middle screen at 4Q 11:20.
44. I thought Hawkins was open on the 4&5 with 10:37 left and VY missed him.
45. After this, the Colts scoreboard mentioned the Fan Code of Conduct. I think this was the first mention all game, aside from maybe one during the pregame. Very odd.
46. Following Griffin's injury, Kaesviharn played safety in the nickel, while Fuller played when the Titans were in base.
47. Ford limped off at 4Q 5:45 and returned after the TO with 3:19 left.
48. I think the onside kick formation the Titans used was illegal. The relevant rule is 6-1-3(b): "At least four players of the kicking team must be on each side of the kicker. At
least three players must be lined up outside each inbounds line, one of whom
must be outside the yard line number." Two of the five guys on the right side, I believe, were to Bironas's left when he made the kick.
49. After his injury, Griffin sat on the bench with his head down next to Craig Stevens. Not sure if there's any connection there. When the Titans were on offense, Stevens did get up and go over by the other offensive subs.
50. In the grand tradition of over-reading VY's sideline body language etc., he tended to stand on his own, or at least not near any of his teammates. Read into that what you want.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Book Review: Monday Night Jihad

Did you know NFL kicker Jason Elam is also a novelist. It's true, I swear. As readers of A Few Seconds of Panic (a book I didn't quite finish and thus didn't review) know, Elam was working on a novel with his pastor. A Christian novel. A thriller about terrorism. Well, he finished it, and it was published. And my local library actually had it, so I went ahead and read Monday Night Jihad by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn. Ok, I only actually bothered to read it because Mike Tanier wrote a column about it. I wasn't subject to the same bet Mike (conflict notice: fellow FO staffer) was, so I'm not going to do a full review. I'll simply note that, take it from someone who's read a lot of thriller-type novels, this is one of the worse ones. It's better than Grisham's dreadful The Broker and also Dan Brown's Digital Fortress, but I still wouldn't have finished it. The only worthwhile parts are the football-related in-jokes, like Hawaii (Elam's alma mater) upsetting Notre Dame, making fun of the Not Raiders, and mocking ESPN's idiotic studio analysts. Ignore the Amazon reviews; Monday Night Jihad is not worth your time if you have anything else to read, and even then it's not worth it.

Thoughts from the Luke: First Half

Emptying the little notebook from what I saw from the 12th row of Lucas Oil Stadium in the Titans' 27-17 loss to the Colts. Since I took so many notes, I'm only posting the first half tonight, but will add the second half tomorrow. Notes are mostly as taken and in chron order...

1. P Brett Kern was the only holder who practiced. In the past, S Donnie Nickey had also done work practicing as the holder.
2. Mike Otto played left guard, while Eugene Amano was playing TE on the right side on kick practice. I forgot to look for it during the game, and don't always pay enough attention on kick snaps to notice if this was different than usual.
3. Collins, KVB, Nick Harper, and Nickey were the captains who went out for the coin toss.
4. I mentioned this when I called in, but Thornton and Bulluck were the linebackers in nickel all day. Stephen Tulloch probably only played about 10-15 snaps in total. The Titans tried matching up early on, going nickel against 3 WR and base against 1 RB/2 TE, but abandoned that after getting caught in base against 3 WR on I believe the Colts' second drive for a play or two.
5. Depressing start with the fluky completion to Garcon after a deflection, and Fuller shaken up. Mouton came in at nickel initially but the Titans were in base set the next couple plays and Fuller returned quickly.
6. 40 yard line, 12th row is pretty much the same seat I had when I went to Green Bay for the preseason game last year, and I felt like I had a better view there. Lucas Oil's seats go back more than they go up, and the lack of incline makes it harder to get perspective on things like rush lanes.
7. Ahmard Hall was in an awful lot the first drive and really most of the game before disappearing after his fumble. Also of note was that he was in an offset position-I don't think the Titans lined up in a straight I-formation once the entire game.
8. I don't know how it looked on TV, but the chain stretch the Titans' first drive was very, very close. From the video board shot, it looked short to me. The Colts fans didn't like this, and also expressed their displeasure clearly when a similar Colts shot later in the game was ruled short.
9. CJ's quickness and burst really stood out to me-on the run down to the Colts' 25 on the first drive, he went off left and and picked up about 7-a normal fast back gets maybe 2, but he just has an unbelievable extra gear.
10. The Titans went to a full house backfield on 1&G from the 9, with Crumpler motioning in parallel to Hall. This isn't much of a change from the normal H-back position, but it is a (new?) wrinkle.
11. An awful lot of the runs, especially early, looked like cutback runs against zone blocking. White's carry with 2:45 left in the first quarter stood out to me because it looked like the first time the Titans man-blocked.
12. Fish mentioned it in today's presser and I mentioned it in the podcast, so you already know Washington was bumped on his route on 3&G from the 2 the first drive. Could've drawn a flag, but I think it was a legit no-call.
13. Somebody I was sitting near said the counter option the Titans ran their second drive was an old UT play, which I didn't think was right.
14. I love me some Michael Roos, but Freeney destroyed him on that sack to kill the drive.
15. Titans ran a DT stunt on the play after Diem's false start, but Tony Brown took a long looping route across LDE and Garcon just ran past Harper on a fly pattern.
16. I thought the horse collar call on Fuller was a cheap one.
17. Was the first play of the second quarter a zone blitz? I thought it might have been.
18. McRath really got run over by Addai on the TD to make it 14-3.
17. Hall's fumble was (obviously) the result of him trying to do too much. He needs to do a better job of playing within himself.
18. Peyton's boot at 2Q 10:40 looked like something out of the Titans' playbook.
19. Griffin had a nice series after Hall's fumble, with 2 pass breakups. That was a big series for the defense.
20. Washington walked off at 2Q 8:18 and returned 3 plays later. Hawkins came in for him at wideout-I thought the Titans might go 2RB/2TE until Washington was ready, but that didn't happen.
21. I don't think VY saw Lacey on the pick. That play was created by pressure up the middle. If CJ was better at blitz pickup, VY doesn't have to scramble here.
22. VY really gave him a pop after the pick, but may have been shaken up on the play-he was clearly limping on the sideline and Collins started warming up.
23. I'm avoiding typing in all the missed tackle notes, just because it's too depressing. Ex: 2Q 4:45 Brown misses tackle, then Thornton faked out of his jock the next play.
24. The Colts were keeping the same players in, trying to keep the same defenders on the field, but the Titans were still rotating their defensive linemen. It seemed like they were good at keeping the guy with the ball down and covered to create extra time to make the subs-very creative.
25. Nick Harper looks mostly done.
26. The Titans were playing a lot of 3 DE on 3rd downs. Makes sense, since they deactivated DTs Jones and Marks.
27. Brett Kern really looks young.
28. Nate Washington looks really small.
29. I have no idea what happened on the incompletion to nobody with about :30 to go in the first half.
30. Scaife doesn't seem to be the first read nearly as often as he used to be, which I can only regard as a positive change.
31. The pooch kickoff with :20 left and 2 TO was a bad idea-too much time. Yes, I wrote that as it happened.
32. DeVan may have pushed him late and over Peyton trying to draw a flag, but Brown absolutely has to be smarter than he was there.

That was it for the first half, I'll post halftime, second half, and some other nonsense tomorrow.

Quote of the Day

Here’s a bit of free advice for Tim [Tebow]: When you’re in the NFL, don’t gather the defense around you and give them a pep talk. When I saw that, I immediately thought to myself, “Greg Lloyd would’ve killed him.”

Jaguars.com writer Vic Ketchman in today's reader mailbag.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Voice

Bored while watching SNF, so I called in to MCM Radio. I admit part of why is I was curious to hear my own voice-it always sounds different, and worse, than I think it does. Given the number of "ums" and hesitation, clearly radio is not my profession. But, if you're bored and need listening material, it can be found here. I think I start around the 12:00 minute mark.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Total Titans

I did a Q&A this week with Deshawn Zombie of 18 to 88. See here for his responses to my questions and my answers to his queries.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Football Outsiders

The latest edition of Scramble for the Ball has been posted, and includes a discussion of Ray Guy launching off my post on the Hall of Fame semifinalists.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hall of Fame Semifinalists

Blah, ridiculously behind on everything. Distracted while "watching" SNF, so it's time for a post.

The Hall of Fame recently announced the list of 25 semifinalists for the Class of 2010. The following are my current quick takes on each of the 25 candidates:

Cliff Branch, WR – 1972-1985 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
No strong opinion. Wideouts are generally overrepresented. His career comps on PFR are a bunch of non-Hall of Famers, though #1 is Gary Clark, who probably deserves to be in the Hall more than his teammate Art Monk. No.

Tim Brown, WR/KR – 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cris Carter, WR – 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
Andre Reed, WR – 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
Treating these guys together because it's extraordinarily difficult to separate all the highly productive wideouts of the same general timeframe. My order of preference would be Carter, Reed, and Brown, with Reed and Brown virtually interchangeable. None of the three would be a poor selection, in my view.

Don Coryell, Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
I don't really like pairing in coaches/contributors in with players. Coryell deserves it as much or more for his influence as an offensive coordinator while as head coach of San Diego State in the early AFL days as for his service as a head coach. Playoff success as a head coach would've improved his chances.

Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings
Very good player on great teams. Not a serious candidate if he'd been on lesser teams. Like wideouts, RBs are probably overrepresented.

Terrell Davis, RB – 1995-2001 Denver Broncos
Ridiculously dominant in a way that Craig wasn't, but he just didn't have enough career longevity for me to justify his selection.

Dermontti Dawson, C – 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Hall of Fame HATES centers. Six times an All-Pro, and he's not in? Yes, OL voting tends to be more static than voting for "skill positions", but Dawson was a great player on a very good team and deserves enshrinement.

Richard Dent, DE – 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
Chris Doleman, DE/LB – 1985-1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers
Kevin Greene, LB/DE – 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers
Ah, the pass rushers. Dent was somebody whose candidacy I used to be strong on, but then I learned more about his career and soured somewhat. SB XX MVP helps him, but Doleman was the biggest game-changer of these guys. Greene is helped by his career longevity, which probably gives him the edge over Dent in my book. EDIT: By that last, I mean that Dent wasn't a very good player after about 1991, except for SF in '94 as a nickel rush end, while Greene remained a very good player later in his career.

Russ Grimm, G – 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
No strong opinion. More OL should make it, and Grimm would be a good way to honor Washington's excellent OL of the Gibbs Era v.1.

Ray Guy, P – 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Hype, both in his day and more recently, surpasses his thoroughly average statistics. Don't buy into it.

Charles Haley, DE/LB – 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
Interesting candidate. The Super Bowl wins are impressive. Probably a better player than most people thought he was. I'm not sure where I put him compared to Greene/Dent, but probably ahead of both while still behind Doleman. More of a 3-4 OLB in my mind, though I'm not sure how much that can/should make a difference. Not a problem seeing him enshrined, though the SF/DAL pedigree makes my "BS hype" detector start flashing.

Lester Hayes, CB – 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Before my time. Apparently well-deserving of enshrinement and stuck by the HOF's anti-CB bias. Interceptions tend to be overrated, but holds modern NFL record with 13 in 1980, which garnered him DPoY. Apparently played at a ridiculously high level that season and in playoffs for Super Bowl winner, which does matter.

Rickey Jackson, LB – 1981-1993 New Orleans Saints, 1994-95 San Francisco 49ers
Another guy I should pair with the 4 edge rushers I've previously mentioned. The Saints LB corps of the late 80's/early 90's is one of the best ever, though it's tough for me to say whether Jackson or Pat Swilling was the better player. It wouldn't bother me to see him out or in. Tentatively, put him behind Greene and ahead of Dent.

Cortez Kennedy, DT – 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
8 Pro Bowls, 3 All Pro, DPoY for a 2-14 team. Dominant inside pass rusher who could also play the run. If he was a wideout, this'd be a no-brainer.

Art Modell, Owner – 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens
Important from a business sense, in that he really helped Pete Rozelle expand the NFL. I don't think much of him as an owner-Paul Brown considered him a jock-sniffer, which seems accurate. Cleveland hates him, but I don't care what Cleveland thinks. Fine as a contributor, but doesn't deserve to get in over a player.

John Randle, DT – 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks
Dominant inside pass rusher who thought playing the run was optional. Not in my Hall of Fame.

Jerry Rice, WR – 1985-2000 San Francisco 49ers, 2001-04 Oakland Raiders, 2004 Seattle Seahawks
In the Hall of Fame if it's only 20 people and you have to kick somebody out for each new enshrinee. Probably still in if it's 15 people or 10, though probably not at 5. That'd be an interesting exercise.

Shannon Sharpe, TE – 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens
It's almost impossible to make the Hall of Fame as a TE, and of his PFR comps, 7 are in the Hall of Fame and the 8th is Tony Gonzalez. Yes, he's in.

Emmitt Smith, RB – 1990-2002 Dallas Cowboys, 2003-04 Arizona Cardinals
Set the NFL career rushing record and won three Super Bowls, so he's definitely making it. Hung on longer than he should have, which bothers me aesthetically but in no other fashion. If he's on a worse team, he's a more interesting candidate.

Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner – 1989-2006 National Football League
The media won't elect him, because the media are a bunch of idiots. For me, the second-easiest inductee on this list, after Rice. 18 years of labor peace, successfully ushering in the era of free agency; compare him to MLB (2nd half of 1994 season lost), NHL (1994-95 half-season lost, 2004-05 season entirely lost), NBA (1999 half-season lost). He saved the NFL from its current labor difficulties in 2006, and anybody who thinks the NFL should've had a labor stoppage in 2006 to avert the current problems is too stupid to live. Only valid criticism against him is for not being omnipotent.

Steve Tasker, Special Teams/WR – 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills
Probably a worse inductee than Ray Guy. People who say he'd have been a decent wideout who was kept playing special teams because he was great at special teams ignore that if the Bills thought he'd have been a great wideout he'd have been playing wideout without a second thought. Put in a wing where they talk about great special teams players and mention him.

Aeneas Williams, CB/S – 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 2001-04 St. Louis Rams
Along with Deion and Rod Woodson, the best corner of the 1990's, plus like Woodson he made a successful transition to safety late in his career. Yes, he deserves to be in.

Flame away.

EDIT (12/1/09 1928 CT): Screwed up Coryell's background, so that's fixed. PFR Blog is also looking at the semifinalists through their metrics; see Roger Craig and John Randle. Chase (thanks for commenting) is higher on Randle than I am and is similarly low on Craig's candidacy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Football Outsiders

What kind of day is today? It's a very Scramble-rrific day, apparently.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Total Titans

Two posts on Total Titans tonight, the first a liveblog, sparsely attended, of tonight's MNF game and the second a post-game recap.

Scramble will be written this week like normal, which reminds me I need to post the Q&A on FO. Go here and post your fantasy question.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Review: Monday Morning Quarterback

I read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column every week, and have since 2000, and consider it absolutely required reading for any NFL fan. PK, for his faults and foibles, has his pulse on the NFL like pretty much nobody else and there's a nugget or interview in MMQB you won't find elsewhere. Like most every other columnist, he realizes he could sell a collection of columns. Thus, Monday Morning Quarterback: A Fully Caffeinated Guide to Everything You Need to Know about the NFL. The primary content of MMQB the Book is a collection of the main essays of MMQBs from the early years up to late 2008, with a little more content. The little more content consists of "Ten Things I Think I Think" gimmick from MMQB on various subjects, including things like if he were commissioner for a day. The page margins also have items from the other MMQB gimmicks, like travel notes. Beyond this content, there's also a couple page travel vignettes, plus some back stories from PK's SI magazine cover stories.

Re-reading the MMQB opening essays, I'm reminded that, if you haven't read MMQB by Thursday, there's no need to do so. I remembered, at some vague level, a few of the pieces, and had no need to re-read them. While I'm sure PK worked hard on the other pieces, none is particularly good, and they mostly read like what they are-filler to say there's actual new content in the book and it's not just a collection of ephemeral essays. That sort of thing doesn't really work. PK is a reporter and his columns aren't interesting or broad enough to really be worth reading after the fact. Monday Morning Quarterback the book is just another example of a columnist trying to sell a book without bothering to actually write a book, and like virtually all examples of the genre, it's not worth a reader's time. I'll still be reading MMQB in 36 hours, though.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Football Outsiders

Scramble? Thou art very Scramble indeed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Total Titans

I asked the Bills website Bills Daily some questions about the Bills and they answered them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Football Outsiders

This week's edition of your Scramble for the Ball-type nonsense is now up at FO.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Total Titans

Oh, I suppose I should mention I did an inactives/gameday post for Total Titans, which unfortunately has comprised all of my writing for that lately. Must ... get ... off ... lazy ... duff ...

Linkagery

Wow, it's been a long time since I've done one of these. Massive weeding of links contained herein.

From Smart Football, a useful mental checklist for quarterback decision-making. See also this post on "reading the square."

Forbes released their list of 2009 NFL team valuations. Yes, this link is 2 months old.

More on PFR Blog's series on AFL v NFL: 1964-66 trends, exhibition games, and, well, I just noticed there's a category marker for this series, so I'll stop linking to individual posts.

Also in the annual doing's list, Michael Silver ranked the NFL owners (link to second column, 1-16, 17-32).

Year of Sports Death: Jerry Jones doesn't like revenue sharing with Minnesota. Robert Boland wrote about De Smith's initial moves getting to know his people. Andrew Brandt gave a status update (with a bonus note on LenDale White being an agent's pain in the ass). Smith talked to Sporting News Today, saying things like the NFL has spent more time preparing for a lockout than for a negotiation. The NFL is fighting back in the PR war, for example by making nice about retired players.

Stuff I generally won't link to because it's overtaken by events: cool preview stuff like this post from Trojan Football Analysis leading up to the USC-Ohio State game.

Post that didn't get written: launching off this bit by Michael Lombardi on Todd Haley's inability to control his temper to talk about Titans DC Chuck Cecil and how exercised he appeared on the sidelines in my visit to Nashville for the game against the Texans. Also, a look at QB rate stat changes after QB switches, when the Titans made the change to VY.

Mostly overtaken by events but still reasonable reading: Smart Football on what Tennessee did against Tebow, a game that helped reinforce my belief Tebow is not an NFL QB.

I know, I cite NFP stuff too much in here, but they really have some good stuff, or at least much better than the competition. Jack Bechta's writings about being an agent, like how to get in touch with college players is a peek inside the life, as is his post on how agents manipulate trades.

Useful clarifications, from Chris Johnson's twitter: "Everybody when I say kill me I'm not sayin for people to kill me for real."

Concussion tests: Matt Bowen tanked his, because he knew if he failed one during the season, he could get cut. More concussion fun: Andrew Brandt with a front office perspective,

The rare WSJ sports article that didn't make me want to throw something: interview with Peter King. Nothing particularly revelatory. I should have a review of MMQB book up in the next couple days.

Ok, I didn't want to throw anything after reading this article on where NFL players came from, either, mostly because it's just a worthless data dump.

NFP top 30 NFL prospects: Oct. 7. See also senior position rankings Oct. 14.

This detailed article by Mike Silver from his interview with Randy Hanson about his altercation with Cable is interesting.

NFL 2-pt conversion rates: 02: .51, 03: .47, 04: .5, 05: .54, 06: .6, 07: .53, 08: .45. .473 from 98-08, from FO's twitter.

Enjoy Jon Gruden's extended job interview that is his commenting job on Monday Night Football. I actually think this is the best extended run of a 3-man booth maybe ever, but I wish Gruden wasn't pulling his punches.

Obvious, but still worth saying: gasbaggery aside, players had no problems with Rush Limbaugh as an NFL (part-)owner. But, the NFL did from a PR perspective, and so the gasbaggery was free to be emitted to make the people saying it sound good. Contra what Rush wrote in one of his books, words don't always have consequences.

Useful information from Smart Football: a basic primer on inside zone and outside zone runs, along with one on the power run play.

Enough of a spew for now. I'm behind on book reviews, I want to get back to doing thoughts on college football, and I have too much stuff to read, though, contra this week's Scramble, Monday Night Jihad and Broken Coverage are on hold because of other stuff to read that's a library hold and thus has to be returned sooner.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Football Outsiders

The latest edition of Scramble for the Ball is now posted. And there was much rejoicing. Or not, but whatever.

Those of you who are inordinately fascinated in everything I write may be interested to read this post on Greg Monroe from Hoya Prospectus, the Georgetown basketball stat blog I contribute to (very occasionally). Thanks to B. Lerner, aka CO_Hoya on HoyaTalk, for adding some useful statistics and generally making the post much nicer to look at than most of the stat-wankery I do.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Total Titans

Our technical difficulties are kind of fixed, so I put up a post about Titans who will/may be facing free agency this offseason.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Football Outsiders

New Scramble for the Ball now available at Football Outsiders. For the record, I did indeed make the brownies, though from a box mix, and there were no special added ingredients.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thoughts on College Football: Week Eight, 2009

Yup, I missed the last two weeks of college football watching. Too bad. I'll see if I can't keep these up a little better, though.

UTEP 28 - Tulsa 24
I'm proud of myself for not watching all, most, or even a great deal of this game. Tulsa's last-minute comeback drive after a late UTEP score was particularly not pretty.

Florida State 30 - North Carolina 27
Another game I saw very little of. North Carolina has greatly underachieved compared to where I thought they'd be this year as of two years ago. I blame T.J. Yates, because the quarterback is always the problem.

Ohio State 38 - Minnesota 7
A simple yet somewhat efficient beatdown of a much lesser team. Pryor is still a very mediocre quarterback at passing the football, and he's not nearly in the VY/Vick class as a dynamic runner.

West Virginia 28 - Connecticut 24
Noel Devine is good and fast, in case you haven't noticed it yet.

Ole Miss 30 - Arkansas 17
You don't have to crown Ryan Mallett quite yet. He had a couple extraordinarily impressive drives, but also a bunch of eh ones. In a way, that's kind of like how Matthew Stafford was.

Iowa State 9 - Nebraska 7
Nebraska turnovers > Nebraska points. All you need to know about this game, really.

Clemson 40 - Miami 37 (OT)
I mostly ignored this game until late, which was probably a mistake. This result, in south Florida, suggests that my mental model of Clemson had them greatly underrated and/or my mental model of Miami had them greatly overrated. I'm sure I had Miami at least a little overrated, but not this much. Coming off a beatdown of Wake suggests I need to take another look at Clemson-not this week against Coastal, but maybe the week after against Florida State.

Notre Dame 20 - Boston College 16
Fuck Notre Dame for winning another game they could have easily lost if the other team didn't screw up at the end of the game. There's no way this team should be 5-2 right now, and now they get Wazzu and Navy. Well, at least they should get slaughtered in another bowl game.

Alabama 12 - Tennessee 10
Alabama's offense consists of Mark Ingram, and Julio Jones against the vastly incompetent. That's not good enough.

Iowa 15 - Michigan State 13
Iowa is kind of like Iowa from 2002. They suck, but they keep winning and will get destroyed by USC in a bowl game. This might be an acceptable outcome if not because it's another reason people will whine about the Big 10 all out of proportion to how good it is.

LSU 31 - Auburn 10
Ok, so Auburn really isn't that good. Not a surprise considering Chris Todd and the overall talent level as I perceive it.

Florida 29 - Mississippi State 19
Don't listen to the whining about UF and a curse about playing in Starkville, UF simply isn't that good. They can't attack teams defensively down the field and are much easier to play against than they were last year. If you want to compare differing levels of eliteness, they're maaaaaybe 60% as elite this year as they were last year. Last year's team would've destroyed this year's Iowa; this year, the line should be under 7 and Iowa's chance of winning is at least 20%.

Texas 41 - Missouri 7
Wow, Texas actually looked like a decent team for the first time this year. Like many a game involving last year's Sooners or the same matchup last year, this one was effectively over after three drives and really over at the end of the first half, when it was 35-7. Colt McCoy still isn't an NFL QB, though.

USC 42 - Oregon State 36
The early 4th quarter score of 42-23 more accurately captures how this game felt to me, but that doesn't mean the Trojan D has been good for the last 5 quarters (ok, I'm not sure about the first 2.5 quarters of this game). Mark Barkley's two picks also didn't hurt, and those suggest USC is becoming a more "normal" team that needs good QB play to win and will lose if they get bad QB play (the UW game is also an example of this).

And such is the week that was in college football in my (angry) eyes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Site News

Greg Cosell is posting at the FantasyGuru.com blog. I updated the link on the sideline, and just because he does good stuff, put up an XP at FO about it as well.

FYI, the technical issues associated with the recent MVN "upgrade" continue, and I'm not going to post anything at Total Titans until they're resolved. Andrew's post on how players are performing compared to last year is quite good, and I largely second it, but unfortunately the only way you can read it right now is going to the main page (first link in this paragraph) and scrolling down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Football Outsiders

The latest edition of Scramble for the Ball is now up, and includes an explanation of how Vince Young's interception last week actually happened. I was also mentioned on FO's twitter feed, providing useful information during the Sunday night game. Thanks, Bill.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Total Titans

If anybody's looking for anything on Total Titans, it won't be posted until they resolve the technical issue associated with the transition that results in post showing up as published on the Dashboard page and not showing up on the blog.

Book Review: Hey, Wait a Minute

Hey, Wait a Minute (I wrote a book!) was John Madden's first book with his co-author, longtime NYT scribe Dave Anderson. I previously read and favorably reviewed Madden and Anderson's second book, One Knee Equals Two Feet, and Hey, Wait a Minute definitely sounds like the same book. Same Madden tone that's both enjoyable and informative. The problem, though, is that One Knee Equals Two Feet is about football and Hey, Wait a Minute is John Madden's autobiography. And, while I found Madden an often informative and entertaining commentator (at least when he was paying attention), I really didn't care that much about him. Reading the books in the order I did and having read Madden's Wikipedia entry, I didn't get much out of Hey, Wait a Minute. It's not bad, and I'm sure I would have enjoyed it 25 years ago when it first came out. Now, though, it's been superseded by events. Read One Knee, and feel free to skip Hey, Wait a Minute unless you're intensely interested in John Madden's career until 1984.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Football Outsiders

The latest edition of Scramble for the Ball is available online for your reading pleasure.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Total Titans

I did a liveblog and recap post on the Titans' recent game with the Colts.

I've also updated the Titans Links section to add Stuart's Titans Blog (aka You Can't Teach Coordination) and T-Rac's Posse. If I'm missing any sites about the Titans, let me know, as I'd like for that list to be comprehensive. The only rule I have is the majority of the content must be Titans-related-the only exception there is Kuharsky's AFC South blog.

Actual content-like stuff hopefully coming in the next couple days.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Total Titans

I posted the second half of the Q&A I did with DZ of 18 To 88 over at Total Titans. You can also go to the post on his site to compare my answers with those from Titans Tracker. I was ... slightly more prolix.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Total Titans

I asked questions about the Colts, which were answered by Deshawn Zombie of 18 To 88, so it's kind of pointless to also link to the post where I asked if you wanted to ask Deshawn any questions. I also did a gameday post for the Jaguars game, another timely link for you.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Football Outsiders

This week's Scramble for the Ball is now up. Warning: features unavoidable autoplaying video, so mute your computer if necessary. Want to complain about that? Email us at UploadThatVideo at ToYouTube dot KThankxBai.

Thoughts on College Football: Week Five, 2009

Louisiana Tech 27 - Hawaii 6
2007 sure seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? LaTech ran the ball down Hawaii's throat all night, and there was nothing the Rainbow Warriors (or whatever they're called now) could do to stop it. This is a really bad team.

West Virginia 35 - Colorado 24
It's a crime by Bill Stewart that this game is anywhere near this close. The 'Eers kept shooting themselves in the foot in this game and stalling out for inexplicable reasons. CU scored a last-second TD to cover, too, but it's WVU's fault this wasn't 63-24.

UAB 30 - Southern Miss 17
USM was missing a couple key players, but not so much on defense. I hope Kansas is better than it looked that game.

Pitt 35 - Louisville 10
2006 sure seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Steve Kragthorpe is SO gone at the end of this year.

Northwestern 27 - Purdue 21
I saw a little of this game early, the Boilers were dominant, and completely ignored it. I didn't even realize Northwestern won this game until this evening. -5 in turnovers will do that, I guess.

Michigan State 26 - Michigan 20 (OT)
I'm waiting for Brian to tell me how Michigan wasn't able to run the ball AT ALL against Sparty-frankly, that shocked me. This looked like Parker against the Titans. With that, Forcier had to win the game throwing the football, and he can't do that. Heck, he can't even throw the ball away properly. Seriously, Tate, just throw the ball far and get it out of bounds.

Iowa 24 - Arkansas State 21
Seriously, you figure out the Hawkeyes. Dominate Penn State, an apparently pretty decent BCS team that had unimpressive yet still dominant wins over mediocre BCS schools, but almost lose to Northern Iowa and then have to sneak by the Red Wolves? Schizoid!

Alabama 38 - Kentucky 20
This game was actually competitive into the second quarter, but then it wasn't. I'll have to pay attention to Alabama in a game later this year against a decent team.

Navy 16 - Air Force 13 (OT)
I saw a little bit of this game, but have nothing to say about it.

Notre Dame 37 - Washington 30
Jake Locker: betrayed by his teammates. Betrayed, I tell you, betrayed!

Penn State 35 - Illinois 17
Ok, I was wrong about Illinois, they really do suck.

LSU 20 - Georgia 13
Not having watched the South Carolina game, but working hypothesis is that Georgia mostly sucks, and LSU beating them only allows them to continue to be ridiculously overhyped compared to how good they are. I wish Washington had beaten them.

Ohio State 33 - Indiana 14
The expected snorer, though the Hoosiers did get a late TD to make the score somewhat more respectable. Brandon Saine continued to look good.

Arkansas 47 - Texas A&M 19
How frequently have the Aggies been overrated since Bear Bryant left-75% of the time? 85%? Higher? A quick 10-0 lead proved to be the mirage I expected it to be.

TCU 39 - SMU 14
Another game competitive much longer than I expected it to be, as the Mustangs were actually up 7-6 in the second quarter. Like the Alabama game, this also became uncompetitive by halftime.

Miami (FL) 21 - Oklahoma 20
The Sooners are significantly worse than they were last year-the OL is worse, Jones isn't as good, and the WRs aren't good enough to compensate. They did well early, but it always felt like Miami would come back, and they did. If the Canes had to make a late season trip to, say, Columbus, life could get unpleasant, but going through a rough 4 games at 3-1 suggests to me they're headed back to the BCS.

UTEP 58 - Houston 41
Houston had some, uh, defensive problems this game. As in an awful lot of them.

And such is the week that was in college football in my eyes. Yes, I may actually get this up before the next Wednesday at some point, eventually.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Site News

Since all the cool kids are doing it, I will pay attention to the FTC's new rule and disclose that the books I review fall into three categories: books I acquire new, books I acquire used, and books I borrow from the local public lending library. If a publisher desperate enough for reviews decides they want to send me a copy of their review book, and I do review it, I will mention it in my review.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Total Titans

New post up at Total Titans, about how you fail on 15 straight pass plays, looking at the Titans' performance against the Jets. Woo, PBP breakdowns.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thoughts on College Football: Week Four, 2009

Yes, I really should start doing these Saturday night, when the action is fresher in my mind. Oh well. Anyway, here's what Week 4 looked like to me.

South Carolina 16 - Ole Miss 10
Ole Miss is finally knocked off from its perch of the nation's most overrated team. Jevan Snead was lousy again, "surprising" people who should have known better.

Missouri 31 - Nevada 21
A much more competitive game earlier than it should have been, even considering that it was played in the Silver State. Mizzou was able to expand on their 12-7 halftime lead, but it was still a lackluster performance by the Tigers. Oh, and since I mentioned it during the game, Nevada's school promo reminded me of something colleges should remember: people like me will assume a promo that focuses around a single coed features one of the more attractive coeds at your school. If said coed is not particularly effective, your school will be reduced in esteem accordingly.

Wisconsin 38 - Michigan State 30
Wisconsin was up 38-17 in the 4th quarter, which accurately reflects how close this game was in my eyes. I had my eye more on other games.

Kansas 35 - Southern Miss 28
Like, for instance, this one. I still enjoy watching Kansas QB Todd Reesing, so long as he doesn't have to throw more than 15 yards downfield, which he simply doesn't have the arm to do effectively. He cost his team the ball attempting that in potential scoring territory this game. I thought Kansas would win this game by a broader margin, but they (again) didn't have the defense to do so.

South Florida 17 - Florida State 7
I have no idea what to make of the Seminoles, particularly since I missed the BYU game. Fumbles hurt them this game, and USF recovered from the Matt Grothe injury better than I thought they might with Daniels, but the Seminoles still should have won this game.

LSU 30 - Mississippi State 26
About all I saw of this game was the goalline stand by the Tigers at the end. I generally refuse to watch the Bulldogs at home on principle against cowbells. LSU feels like the next team headed for a fall, though like Jack Del Rio, Les Miles occasionally does well even though I think he's an idiot.

Ohio State 30 - Illinois 0
I spent more time than I should have on this game, which was a reasonably thorough and efficient grinding into the ground by the Buckeyes. I thought RB Brandon Saine was mostly overrated as a 5-star recruit, but he looked hugely impressive this game-maybe there was something to those injuries after all.

Virginia Tech 31 - Miami (FL) 7
I wonder what this game would have looked like if not played in the driving rain that hit much of the east coast this past weekend-Miami looked as discombobulated as Florida State had in the Canes' 22-0 win in Tallahassee in similar conditions in 2003. Jacory Harris was frequently inaccurate, and his receivers didn't do him many favors when he did actually get the ball near them. Actually, what most impressed me this game was how effective the Hokies were moving the ball-I didn't think they'd hit even the single deep pass they did, and they successfully pounded the ball on the ground.

Florida 41 - Kentucky 7
31-0 at the end of the first quarter, and this game was over. I have no comment on the Tebow injury, or whether or not he should have been in the game at that point.

Georgia 20 - Arizona State 17
It's tough to win road games against a half-way decent team when your quarterback completes 10 of 32 passes for 116 yards, even if you do get a pick-6.

Notre Dame 24 - Purdue 21
The most interesting part of this game may have been the timeout discussed in this Smart Football post.

Iowa 21 - Penn State 10
Penn State's bad OL came back to bite them earlier than I thought it would. They couldn't run the ball effectively, and Daryll Clark couldn't do what Michael Robinson did in their 12-1 season in 2005 and make the play on his own. Of course, the D also isn't nearly as good as it was that year, or else the 10 points might have been enough.

Stanford 34 - Washington 14
It really helps to have a quarterback who can throw the ball to help the running game-USC faced a stacked defense and couldn't run the ball effectively against UW, but Stanford's Toby Gerhart could. It was still refreshing, though, to see a game where both quarterbacks had a realistic chance of completing a pass more than 10 yards downfield successfully. I'm not sure what to make yet of Andrew Luck, Stanford QB-he seems to lock in on a single receiver far too often.

Houston 29 - Texas Tech 28
This game is dissected effectively in the Smart Football post linked in the Notre Dame-Purdue recap above (NewsToTom is my contribution)-the Red Raiders (counterintuitively?) should have run the ball more often than they did. I was disappointed in how low scoring this game was compared to the overall level of offensive performance, for which I blame the lack of big plays.

USC 27 - Washington State 6
This game was over at 20-0 less than 12 minutes in, but USC's offense sputtered after that and Wazzu disappointingly and surprisingly displayed minor signs of offensive competence in addition to the lack of complete defensive incompetence. Pity, as 2-10-level badness isn't nearly as attractive as last year's utter awfulness.

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

Football Outsiders

The latest edition of Scramble for the Ball is now up.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Football Outsiders

Scramble? Scramble.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Miscellanea

Yes, I'm behind and trying to catch up. Time to dump some more links.

Since I'm tired of looking at it in the bookmarks list, I'll link to part one of PFR's team of the decade for the 1980's. Part two is not up yet.

Also from PFR, another iteration of their method of evaluating quarterbacks. See also the rankings.

I know, I know, a spate of PFR links. But, that's what the bookmarks are giving me. This time, it's the intriguing series on passer personality types.

There's always a balance between theory and local knowledge in thinking about the evolution of rules. This post reflects an overemphasis of the former, and shows the detriments of lack of local knowledge. Not to toot my own horn too much, but the recent muff rule post is much better.

Year of Sports Death update: More fodder for my belief the league is out to break the players.

I know I just wrote non-positive things about Colt McCoy, but this breakdown of Texas's passing offense from Chris of Smart Football is still useful.

Gimmick alert: best players never to win appear in the Super Bowl, by position. It seems odd for me to think Mawae should be on this list, considering he's in my mind the poster child of "overrated because he plays in New York."

I approve: SI will be using FOIA to obtain CFB coaches' poll ballots.

Jack Bechta of NFP wrote about his client Curtis Buckley and the hit that helped keep him in the league. Dr. Z writes about this phenomenon in New Thinking Man's Guide, that coaches can be so enamored by one play they see the possibilities. This sort of confidence in a coach's own ability seems to be vital to success, but it too easily turns into this sort of team-harming hubris I talked about in Week 1 Audibles re Richie Incognito.

Also from Mr. Bechta, a look at what he as an agent goes through before cutdown day.

Finally, for now, Jason at PFR continued his AFL v. NFL series with 1964-66 Trends.

More catchup to do, but other things take priority-one post at Total Titans up tomorrow, I think, though.

UPDATE (9/23/09 1854 CT): Updated re Super Bowl players list.

Book Review: Bringing the Heat

In my circles, at least, I'd guess most people probably know Mark Bowden from his "security" books-most notably Black Hawk Down, but also Killing Pablo and Guests of the Ayatollah. It wasn't until he came out with The Best Game Ever, on the Giants-Colts championship (I'll get to it eventually), that I became aware he had previously covered the Philadelphia Eagles and written a book about the team's tumultuous 1992 season entitled Bringing the Heat: A Pro Football Team's Quest for Glory, Fame, Immortality, and a Bigger Piece of the Action.

Bringing the Heat came as a little bit of a shock to the system after reading Bowden's other books. The sober tone I was used to isn't quite here-instead, it's more what you might expect from the (exaggerated) subtitle-the Eagles of that era were an interesting team. Buddy Ryan was gone as head coach, but the defense still bore his imprint and personality and was under the tutelage of the legendary Bud Carson, architect of the Steelers Steel Curtain defenses of the 1970's. The head coach, and former offensive coordinator, was Richie Kotite, who was extraordinarily beloved by the defense, for a definition of extraordinarily beloved that included "tolerated, at best, but more held in contempt along with his quarterback in Randall Cunningham." The Eagles were also discombobulated that season by the death in a car crash in the offseason of All-Pro defensive tackle Jerome Brown, but once again their season fizzled out in the early rounds of the playoffs-in this case, the divisional round in Dallas. If you were a writer like Bowden, you couldn't have asked for a better script.

And, befitting my view of him as a fine reporter, Bowden uses the access he had to the team to build a compelling portrait of just what a nutty team this Eagles squad was. Seth Joyner, whose intensity had previously been balanced by Brown's jocularity and ability to bring people together, comes across like just as much of an arrogant asshole as I thought he was as a player. Kotite sounds like a guy sitting on top of a powder keg, trying not to get blown up. We don't get great inner portraits of Kotite or Bud Carson or QB Randall Cunningham, which is a little disappointing, but we do get a good view of pretty much everything else that happens. Bringing the Heat even includes detailed play descriptions(!), undoubtedly derived from having a coach (assistant coaches Peter Guinta and Zeke Bratkowski are credited) break down the film and show exactly what happened and why, for key moments of various games. That's something you don't really see in any of the other books listed on the sidebar.

I don't know quite how Bowden's book compares to the best single-season books of a team, like Halberstam's legendary Breaks of the Game, but it sure beats the heck out of Next Man Up. The only question really, is how important is a book about a team over a decade and a half ago, before the NFL starter free agency. For me, the Eagles of that era were an intensely interesting team I didn't know much about, so Bringing the Heat was hugely interesting. For others who don't care as much about that team or who are looking for insights into the current game, I can't recommend Bringing the Heat quite as strongly aside from its general excellence at what it is.

Pet peeves: I'm not really sure Bowden knows much about football, but he uses his access ruthlessly, so that's not really important. As a book by a beat writer about a team during the time he covered it, you wouldn't expect a bibliography, and there isn't one. An index would have been hugely valuable, and I definitely would have referred to it even while reading the book, but of course there isn't one.

Thoughts on College Football: Week Three, 2009

Another edition of the week that was in college football in Tom's eyes. Despite my prediction, CFB viewing wasn't really much lighter than normal outside of the lackluster Saturday early games.

Miami 33 - Georgia Tech 17
This score flatters the Yellow Jackets a little-the Hurricanes had field goal difficulty in the red zone, but were still up 33-10 entering the fourth quarter, and that tally accurate reflects the level of play. Miami has had a lot of talent even during most of their recent down years, but now they definitely do and OC Mark Whipple has made a big difference-the mix of talent and coaching in CFB is pretty close to unstoppable. We'll have to see how QB Jacory Harris does when he doesn't have 5+ seconds to throw sooner or later, though.

Boise State 51 - Fresno State 34
Defense mostly optional, though Fresno's TDs generally came on big plays and not because of sustained work. Still, it was surprising to see how well the Bulldog OL stood up in comparison to Oregon's. It'd also be nice to see Fresno win a darned game they're competitive in against a good team-they haven't in the past 6 years.

Alabama 53 - North Texas 7
I didn't actually see any of this game, but while in an adult establishment, I saw three different TDs from this game on the three different halftime highlight shows. A good game for fans of the Crimson Tide but otherwise lame.

Washington 16 - USC 13
One of the things that's either incredibly frustrating or quite enjoyable about college football is the extreme importance of quarterbacking-Jake Locker is an outstanding college quarterback, and looks to my eyes much improved from 2007 after missing much of 2008, while USC backup QB Aaron Corp wasn't very good. I expected the Trojans to still be able to overwhelm UW with a running game and defense, but missing Joe McKnight and Taylor Mays hurt them on those fronts, and I'm still not sure Pete Carroll has the temperament to grind out Tressel-style wins.

Notre Dame 33 - Michigan State 30
I have a severe mental block that prevents me from thinking of Notre Dame as actually being good. Clausen is better protected and looks less like a scared emu than he did as a freshman, but I still don't think much of him as an actual skilled QB, and now he's down a wideout. Despite John Tenuta, I still think the defense is underachieving. MSU QB Cousins lost this game for his team by throwing an atrocious interception while driving for an OT-forcing FG or game-winning TD; see the comments re Locker immediately above.

Florida 23 - Tennessee 13
Florida had no deep threat, and Tim Tebow isn't a real QB. Jonathan Crompton still sucks, but you already knew that. Monterrio Hardesty looks like a real running back for the Vols.

Mississippi State 15 - Vanderbilt 3
Vanderbilt sucks, for reasons Chris Brown could tell you about. Mississippi State is hardly any better, but their QB at least didn't throw a costly red zone interception.

Auburn 41 - West Virginia 30
I don't really understand how Auburn scored 41 points this game, as their offense still looked pretty mediocre to me, and Chris Todd barely completed more than half his passes. West Virginia looks better than they were, as they went up 21-10 after 15 minutes and were pretty lame for most of the rest of the game.

Georgia 52 - Arkansas 41
Kind of like Arkansas this game, who faded late. Ryan Mallett needs more help from his teammates-if he had more mobility, he could be my favorite player after Jake Locker leads. Unfortunately, he made too many mistakes for his team to survive. Pity. I still refuse to believe Georgia is any good-believing bad things about the Razorbacks defense is too easy.

Texas 34 - Texas Tech 24
Last year, this was one of the most exciting games of the year. This year, it was laaame. Texas led for pretty much the entire game after Jordan Shipley's punt return TD midway through the first quarter, and it never felt like Texas Tech was going to make it that interesting. Alas, nor was Texas ever able to lay the beatdown I was expecting. Colt McCoy looks disappointing-maybe it was just the flu, but he seems to lack the fine edge of accuracy he had last year.

Back to the normal viewing schedule this week, I think.

Total Titans

I put up a post last night on the muff rule on fair catches, since the situation came up in this weekend's Texans-Titans game and I hadn't seen the actual text of the rule quoted anywhere.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Total Titans

New post up at Total Titans, this one a Q&A with Matt of DGDB&D as he answers our questions about the Texans. For those who don't mind foul language and who don't live in Mississippi, I also commend to you this post of Matt's about the Texans' game against the Jets.

Headed to Cash-vegas for this weekend's game, so a second half of the Q&A is doubtful and CFB viewing will be lighter than normal.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Football Outsiders

The latest edition of Scramble for the Ball has been posted. This is much more like what Scramble will look like going forward than the O/U plus fantasy extravaganzas of the previous two weeks, and thank goodness for that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Future All-Pros: How Hard Is It?

In September 1989, Sports Illustrated published an article by Dr. Z predicting the 1995 NFL All-Pro team. So, what I'm doing is pretty simple: looking at how good his picks were, and seeing how hard it would have been to predict the actual 1995 All-Pros.

DEFENSE
Predicted DEs: Bruce Smith, BUF; Reggie White, PHI
Actual DEs: Bruce Smith, BUF; Reggie White, GB
Pretty easy, apparently, at least if you judge him only by the defensive ends. Both White and Smith were NFL stars in 1989 and Z expected they'd have enough in the tank at 34 and 32 to still be on top, and they did.

Predicted DTs: Jerome Brown, PHI; Marc Spindler, jr. at Pitt
Actual DTs: Chester McGlockton, OAK; John Randle, MIN
RIP, Jerome Brown, who was an outstanding DT for the Eagles before losing his life in a car accident in 1992. Spindler, predicted by Z at the first DT taken in '91, ended up a 3rd round pick in the 1990 draft, and played 10 games, 4 starts, for the Jets in 1995.

In September 1989, John Randle was entering his final year at Texas A&M-Kingsville, but would go undrafted in 1990. The Vikings signed him as an undrafted free agent, he made the team, had 9.5 sacks in 1991, and spent the decade as a disruptive, though unsound pass rusher from the DT position. The college player he should have taken was Chester McGlockton, then at Clemson, who would be a first round draft pick by the Raiders and have 7.5 sacks in 1995.

Predicted OLBs: Tim Harris, GB; Cornelius Bennett, BUF
Actual OLBs: Bryce Paup, BUF; Greg Lloyd, PIT
Lame, 3-4 OLBs. Harris must have looked like a comer, with 13.5 sacks in 1988 and another 19.5 in 1989, but dropped off. He did have 17 for the 49ers in 1992, but left for the Eagles the next year before returning to the 49ers. He had 4 sacks in 10 games in 1995, his last year. Bennett had been an All-Pro in 1988, but, while he had a number of good years, would never again reach that honor.

In 1989, Paup was entering his final year at Northern Iowa, after which he would be a 6th round pick by the Packers. He joined the Bills as a free agent before 1995 and led the NFL in sacks with 17.5. Greg Lloyd was already in the NFL in 1989, entering his 3rd year with the Steelers and would have 7 sacks in his first year as a starter. 1995 would be his third straight year as an All-Pro and member of one of the league's best defenses.

Predicted MLB: Percy Snow, sr. at Michigan State
Actual MLB: Ken Norton, SF
Snow would be a first round pick by the Chiefs in 1990, but per Wiki, wrecked his knee riding a moped in training camp in 1991 and was out of the NFL after 1993.

In 1989, Ken Norton Jr. was entering his second year in the NFL and first year as a starter after being a second round pick of the Cowboys in 1988.

Predicted CBs: Rod Woodson, PIT; Eric Thomas, CIN
Actual CBs: Eric Davis, SF; Aeneas Williams, ARI
Woodson ended up tearing his ACL in the first game of the 1995 season and missed the rest of the regular season, though he did return for the Super Bowl. He'd been an All-Pro in each of 1992-94, so it's not unreasonable to give it Z credit for this pick. He'd never make an All-Pro again as a CB, though he would at FS as a Raider in 2002. Thomas had made the Pro Bowl after 1988 thanks to 7 interceptions, but would never earn any postseason honors again. He appeared in 14 games for the Broncos in 1995 in his final NFL season.

Eric Davis fits the profile of guys Z missed-guys still in college at small schools. In this case, it was Jacksonville State, after which he'd be a 2nd round pick of the 49ers in 1990. Similarly, Aeneas Williams was at Southern, and would be a 3rd round pick of the Cardinals in 1991.

Predicted Ss: Bennie Blades, DET (SS); Mark Carrier, sr. at USC (FS)
Actuals Ss: Darren Woodson, DAL (SS); Merton Hanks, SF (FS)
Bennie Blades would start 16 games for the Lions in 1995, but never quite lived up to the promise he'd showed that led the Lions to make him the 3rd overall pick in the 1988 NFL draft out of Miami, only making 1 Pro Bowl. Carrier would be an instant splash, leading the NFL with 10 interceptions after being the 6th overall pick by the Bears in 1990, but again never reached the elite level of excellence.

One of the issues with picking All-Pro members six years out is that many of the picks, particularly in the second, are younger players. For instance, Darren Woodson would spend three more years at Arizona State before the Cowboys took him in the second round of the 1992 NFL draft. Similarly, Merton Hanks had two more years at Iowa before he was a 5th round pick by the 49ers in 1991.

OFFENSE
Predicted WRs: Michael Irvin, DAL; Andre Hastings, sr. in high school
Actual WRs: Herman Moore, DET; Jerry Rice, SF
Irvin would be an All-Pro just once in his career, after leading the NFL in yards in 1991. He had an excellent year in 1995, setting career highs with 111 receptions, 1603 yards, and 10 TDs, but didn't make All-Pro. Andre Hastings would attend Georgia and be a 3rd round pick by the Steelers in 1993. He stepped into Rod Woodson's shoes as a punt returner in '95, and also had 48 receptions despite not starting any games.

For those of you who don't remember, Jerry Rice was an All-Pro in 1988 and would be in 1989, as well as every other year from 1986 to 1996 except 1991. In the fall of 1989, Moore would be at the University of Virginia, out of which he was the 10th pick in the 1991 draft by the Lions. He set an NFL record with 123 receptions in 1995 in the Lions' run-and-shoot attack, in case you're wondering how he beat out Irvin for All-Pro honors.

Predicted TE: Derek Brown, soph. at Notre Dame
Actual TE: Ben Coates, NE
Brown would end up a first round draft pick by the Giants in 1992, but never started for them and missed the entire 1995 season with a preseason injury. His only year as a starter would be 1996 for the Jaguars, during which he would have 17 of his 43 career receptions.

As to Coates, see what I said about the safeties and small colleges. Bledsoe's favorite target was a 5th round draft pick out of Livingstone in 1991. There are, in fact, two other players out of Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC.

Predicted OTs: Bruce Armstrong, NE; Paul Gruber, TB
Actual OTs: Willie Roaf, NO; Lomas Brown, DET
Armstrong really wasn't a bad choice; he'd earn one of his six Pro Bowl berths in 1995 and be named 1st team all-conference by Pro Football Weekly. Gruber was the 4th overall selection in the 1988 draft and would go on to start 183 games for Tampa before retiring after 1999, but never earned any real post-season honors.

In 1989, Lomas Brown was entering his 5th straight year as the Lions' left tackle. 1995 was his only year as an All-Pro, but he did make 7 straight Pro Bowls from 1990-96 blocking for Barry Sanders. Willie Roaf wouldn't be drafted until 1993 out of Louisiana Tech by the local Saints, but would quickly be recognized as among the league's best and 1995 would be his second All-Pro nod.

Predicted OGs: Tom Newberry, LARM; Ed King, soph. at Auburn
Acutal OGs: Randall McDaniel, MIN; Nate Newton, DAL
Newberry was entering his fourth year and was coming off being an All-Pro. He'd start 15 games as a Steeler in 1995, but he was 33 and it was his final year in the NFL. Ed King was a 2nd round pick by the Browns in 1991 and started 15 games each of his first two years, but only 2 in 1993, didn't play in 1994, and appeared in only a single game for the Saints in 1995.

In 1989, Newton, a former undrafted free agent, was entering his 4th year with the Cowboys, but wouldn't earn any leaguewide recognition until 1992. In retrospect, McDaniel seems like an obvious choice. A 1988 first round draft choice who started 14 games as a rookie, he'd make his first Pro Bowl following the 1989 season and his first All-Pro team after the 1990 season, and regular appearances thereafter.

Predicted C: Bob Whitfield, fr. at Stanford
Actual C: Dermontti Dawson, PIT
In his description of Whitfield, Z refers to him as a "converted tackle." Well, that proved to be his NFL position, and he started 16 games for the Falcons in 1995 as their left tackle. His sole postseason recognition came in the form of a Pro Bowl nod after the Falcons went 14-2 in 1998.

In 1989, Dawson (who would have a great shot at making the Hall of Fame if he wasn't a center) was another guy who fit the McDaniel-style profile. He was a second round pick in 1988, and 1989 was his first season as a starter. It took a while to earn any nods, but he did end up making 7 Pro Bowls and 6 All-Pro teams.

Predicted QB: Randall Cunningham, PHI
Actual QB: Brett Favre, GB
Ah, Randall, Randall, Randall. The "Ultimate Weapon" who never quite highlighted his talent. I'll probably be writing more about him in a week or two, so I won't say too much, only that his sole All-Pro nod came after he led the 1998 Vikings in a return from NFL oblivion.

I don't want to say much about Favre, so I'll note that he was a junior at Southern Miss and would be drafted by the Falcons in 1991.

Predicted RBs: Barry Sanders, DET; Rodney Hampton, jr. at Georgia
Actual RBs: Barry Sanders, DET; Emmitt Smith, DAL
Yay on Sanders; on Hampton v Smith, wrong SEC back who'd be a #1 pick in 1990.

Predicted K/P: Chris Gardocki, soph. at Clemson
Actual K/P: Morten Andersen, ATL (K); Darren Bennett, SD (P)
Well, a year off on Gardocki, who would be All-Pro as a punter in 1996. Minus the brief period of Michael Koenen, nobody has really tried a combined K/P since the Saints wasted a first round pick on Russell Erxleben. Andersen had made All-Pro teams in 1986 and '87. Had he called it, Darren Bennett would have been Z's greatest success, seeing as how he was an Australian who made his NFL debut as a 30 year old in 1995.

COMMENTARY
I don't really have much to say about this-Z's methodology was for the most part fairly reasonable, with the exceptions noted above. It would be an interesting exercise to pick the 2015 NFL All-Pro team, and I'm sure I'd make many of the same errors Z made. It's one of those tasks you could spend an awful lot of time on, or just pump and dump from looking at lists of recent high draft picks, All-Pro teams, and highly-rated college prospects. I'll have to consider it, but until then, I hope you enjoyed this little comparative retrospective.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thoughts on College Football: Week Two, 2009

It's time for another edition of the week that was in college football in Tom's eyes, this time for Week 2.

Georgia Tech 30 - Clemson 27
There are two groups of people. The first are those who watched all of this game. These people saw a fairly close and competitive game The second consists of those who watched the first bit of this game, then started watching NFL football. These people saw Georgia Tech dominate and are extraordinarily confused about how Clemson actually scored points, let alone recovered from an early deficit. As you might guess from what I wrote Thursday night, I fall into the latter group of people.

Toledo 54 - Colorado 38
I continued my stretch of watching only the second half of ESPN's Friday night game with this contest, so I missed Buffaloes RB Scott's great first half. What I did see was the Rockets go up and down the field with the greatest of ease against a ghastly defense, the nadir of which was a simple QB keeper up the middle for 61 yards. It looked like Forcier's TD run the next day, minus the juke move that made it impressive.

Penn State 28 - Syracuse 7
Didn't see much of this game, but from what I did the scoreline doesn't accurately reflect the Nittany Lions' level of dominance. Not a surprise here.

Central Michigan 29 - Michigan State 27
I missed the 4th quarter of this game, so as with GaTech-Clemson, my impression is skewed by the partial viewing. What I did see tells me Michigan State was a better team with an inferior quarterback. I'll have to pay more attention to MSU some later week.

North Carolina 12 - UConn 10
Another game where I missed the 4th quarter, so I missed UNC's actual offense. As was the case with Jevan Snead last week, I looked for signs from NC QB T.J. Yates of the passer I enjoyed watching and thought was good last season, and they were few and far between. I also tried paying attention to UNC DT Marvin Austin, but didn't see much from him, not that I'm any good at evaluating DT play.

Florida 56 - Troy 6
This was actually a pretty competitive game for a quarter and a half, thanks in part to some Gator turnovers, but there was no way the Trojans could stand up for very long to a team as good as the Gators.

Houston 45 - Oklahoma State 35
Ha hah, Coog Morning Zoo beat you! Some luck involved on a 4&G pass deflected to a WR, but this was a legitimately close game. The one thing I was surprised the most about was Oklahoma State's long periods of offensive mediocrity-Houston was up 24-7 at halftime and doing a pretty good job defensively against a Cowboy offense I thought would be better than that.

Michigan 38 - Notre Dame 34
This seems to have been a good weekend for me when it comes to missing important parts of games. I turned this game off at 31-20 Michigan, thinking it was over, and was surprised to later see that the score was ND 34 - Michigan 31. I saw a little bit of this game, but really don't have much to say about it.

UCLA 19 - Tennessee 15
Jonathan Crompton is a terrible, terrible quarterback. Not exactly news, but still important. I'm not sure UCLA is any good, but that's fine.

LSU 23 - Vanderbilt 9
I only saw a little of this game, but LSU is still a better team than Vanderbilt. This is not news.

Georgia 41 - South Carolina 37
There's something very odd and in some way deeply disconcerting about 78 points being scored in a Georgia-South Carolina game. This is the sort of game that's supposed to end up 16-12 with two missed XPs and 4 missed FGs if there's a lot of offensive success. Very weird game early on, as Georgia hardly had any offensive possessions between a kickoff return for a score and fumbling a kickoff return.

USC 18 - Ohio State 15
This game will be included in Football Outsiders' Audibles tomorrow. I'll add a link to that Monday evening.

Oregon 38 - Purdue 36
The Boilermakers +12 was the easiest line of the weekend for those who spend money on gambling, a number that does not include yours truly. The Boilermakers really outplayed the Ducks the first two plus quarters, but Oregon had two defensive touchdowns to keep them in the game and got their offense on track late. Purdue's problem is at the quarterback position-too many to the other team, and not enough to his own team.

Oregon State 23 - UNLV 21
One of these teams is a Pac-10 team, and one of these teams is not. Yet, the game was about as even as the Oregon-Purdue game. I'm beginning to think that, sans Cal, this could be a very down year for the Pac-10.

Yes, I know this probably isn't as long as most recaps, and it seems thin to me for as much CFB as I watched this weekend, but that is the week that was in college football in my eyes.