Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Review: One Knee Equals Two Feet

Hey, by sheer coincidence, I'm managing to do something that's kind of timely, more or less, sort of. Yes, not too long after John Madden retired, and I'm writing a review of One Knee Equals Two Feet (And Everything Else You Need to Know About Football, co-written by the former Raider coach with New York Times columnist Dave Anderson. One Knee was Madden's second book, after Hey, Wait a Minute, and it's structured very much like Dr. Z's New Thinking Man's Guide, beginning with some general thoughts and then going position by position. Not particularly novel, but still useful, and I suspect intentional.

Content-wise, reading Madden's book is like reading Dr. Z's book in another way-it's clear that Madden knows a whole heck of a lot about football-even more than Dr. Z, really. There's more really good football content that shows off Madden's expert status in any given 10 pages than in half the books I've reviewed on here. One Knee is now 23 years old, and in that time about all the rules changes Madden has suggested have come to pass, and generally because they were quite sagacious. Some random examples of football knowledge: talking about the importance of the strength of a defensive lineman's fingers-Bear great Dan Hampton, whose knees were famously ravaged, didn't seem to mind all that much, saying "I'd rather have a knee go than my fingers." As just a casual watcher, I know hand play is important for linemen, but it's not something I notice regularly or pay a great deal of attention to, but reading something like that makes me want to bust out the tapes and compare, say, Haynesworth's precise play in the playoff game against the Steelers his rookie year versus this year. Another thing-Madden's first job as head coach was leading the Raiders. He knew he didn't have enough experience at game management to be successful. He could try game-planning, but it's tough to simulate the same type of rhythm and unpredictability within structure. So, he attended local high school games in the Oakland area and basically called plays as though his team was in that situation-on 3&8 from the 34, how do I attack this team's defense. Simple, but a very effective strategy.

That anecdote is also one of my favorite things about the book-Madden comes off as a very likable guy, which is why he was such a successful broadcaster. Here's this head coach for a pro team and he's sitting in the stands like a regular fan, and he's doing the same thing regular fans do-basically pretending like he's the coach and gets to make his own decisions. Except, because he's John Madden, he's really larger than life. I doubt he's a great writer, so much of the credit for this probably belongs to the co-author, Dave Anderson. If so, kudos to Mr. Anderson for ensuring Madden's personality comes off so enjoyable.

Note that since One Knee came out in the 1980's, all of the player observations, and some of the game-related ones, are dated. Madden also doesn't do quite as good a job as Dr. Z in going into great deal or giving you an overall sense of the game. Still, this is one of the best couple books I've reviewed on this site. I originally read this as a library book, but I'll be ordering both a copy of this one for my library and a copy of Madden's first book as well. Not recommended for getting a sense of the modern game, but enthusiastically recommended for fans looking for an enjoyable book written by an expert and who can stand the dated factor.

UPDATE (4/29/09 0020 CT): Originally posted under the wrong date-deleted and re-posted under the date the review was written, in accordance with normal practice.

UPDATE #2 (5/18/09 1136 CT): Thanks to Chris at Smart Football for linking to this review.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Miscellanea

I'll get to the Titans' draft review tomorrow, hopefully-I haven't yet decided whether that should go here or on Total Titans. I have a couple articles I'm planning to put up there in the next couple days. In the meantime, I have a huge backload of articles. A bunch are draft-related, and few of those are worth that much now. Still, some are valuable.

Take, for instance National Football Post's series on evaluating players. I've linked to a couple of those, but they put up more: tight ends, and centers.

Alabama students did something sensible: elected WR Julio Jones to student senate. What Orson said about him probably being about as qualified as the normal nitwits.

Matt Bowen of NFP wrote about watching film in the offseason, and what players look for.

Worth either a lengthy post of its own or just noting: Matt of DGDB&D, who's recently announced a (hopefully temporary) hiatus, put up a theory of drafting. Note to self: add the good guys at DGDB&D to the sidebar.

Mike Lombardi had a very nice series looking at questions each team needs to answer. The last of the series was on the NFC West, and there are links therein to the pieces on the other divisions.

Offseason project time: Chris at Smart Football is doing an excellent series on the run-and-shoot offense. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Robert Boland of NFP had a good piece on the challenges facing new NFP head DeMaurice Smith. Rich Eisen interviewed he and Goodell together on NFL Network during the draft, and it seems clear there are some deep and serious issues that divide the NFL and the NFLPA. Goodell should also drop the rhetoric that he expects a new labor deal to be done before 2010-that his whole constituency (all 32 member teams) are acting like they expect 2010 to be uncapped is significantly more telling. See also Jack Bechta.

Just how behind am I? The owner's meeting was a month ago, and I'm just getting to linking to Andrew Brandt's reports.

One of the bigger rule changes to come out of those owner meetings was changes in the size of the permitted wedge on kickoffs. Matt Bowen, who made much of his NFL living on special teams, reacted.

Enough with the NFP links for now. Instead, I'll point you to PFR's very interesting series on adjusted quarterback win-loss records: Part 1 and Part 2.

Back to NFP. Ray Gustini, whom I generally find to be quite amusing, wrote a particularly amusing post on the quarterbacks of the 1999 draft. See, particularly, Chris Greisen.

Finally, for now, some SI guy who writes about the Big 10 ranked Iowa's Kirk Ferentz the best coach in the Big 10. The fine Iowa blogger BHGP disagreed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Titans 2009 Draft

I'll probably have a detailed breakdown of the Titans' draft picks in the next couple days. In the meantime, check out the coverage over on Total Titans.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reviewing Past Titans Drafts: 2000

I put up a post yesterday at Total Titans looking back at the Titans' 2003 draft. In writing that post, I linked to my evaluations of how the Titans drafted in 1999, 2001, and 2002, but didn't see that I ever put up my writeup for how the Titans did in the 2000 draft up. This hasn't been updated in the past 3 years, so there are definitely some anachronisms (Erron Kinney), but I have other stuff to do so I'm just going to post it as is:

#1-30 Keith Bulluck, OLB, Syracuse
Previous Pick-Jacksonville-R. Jay Soward, WR, USC
Next Pick-St. Louis-Trung Candidate, RB, Arizona
Previous OLB-1-16-Julian Peterson, OLB, Michigan State (San Francisco)
Next OLB-2-40-Ian Gold, OLB, Michigan (Denver)
I remember being ecstatic when Bulluck fell all the way to the Titans at #30, and I have no reason to feel differently now. One of the top OLBs in the league, and a stalwart of the defense. This was a GREAT pick.

#3-68 Erron Kinney, TE, Miami (FL)
Previous Pick-Atlanta-Mark Simoneau, MLB, Kansas State
Next Pick-Chicago-Dez White, WR, Georgia Tech
Previous TE-1-27-Anthony Becht, TE, West Virginia (New York Jets)
Next TE-3-87-Dustin Lyman, TE, Wake Forest (Chicago)
First the heir apparent, and now the heir, to Frank Wycheck. A little inconsistent early in his career, he's developed into an excellent blocking TE and good, but not great, pass catcher. This was a good selection.

#3-93 Byron Frisch, DE, BYU
Previous Pick-Jacksonville-T.J. Slaughter, ILB, Southern Miss
Next Pick-St. Louis-John St. Clair, T, Virginia
Previous DE-2-56-Michael Boireau, DE, Miami (Minnesota)
Next DE-4-107-Junior Ioane, DE, Arizona State (Oakland)
Well, you can't win 'em all, though it was nice to see the previous DE was drafted over a full round earlier, and had only marginally more impact than did Byron. The next good pick was Green Bay taking LB Na'il Diggs 98th overall.

#4-124 Bobby Myers, FS, Wisconsin
Previous Pick-Jacksonville-Joe Chustz, T, Louisiana Tech
Next Pick-Chicago-Reggie Austin, CB, Wake Forest
Previous S-4-118-Tyrone Carter, SS, Minnesota (Minnesota)
Next S-4-126-Gary Berry, FS, Ohio State (Green Bay)
Nope, you can't win 'em all. Myers tried, I thought, but simply didn't pan out. This one was another miss.

#4-128 Peter Sirmon, OLB, Oregon
Previous Pick-New England-Greg Randall, T, Michigan State
Next Pick-Washington-Michael Moore, G, Troy State
Previous OLB-4-119-Isaiah Kacyvenski, OLB, Harvard (Seattle)
Next OLB-4-137-Clark Haggans, OLB, Colorado State (Pittsburgh)
I'll admit I didn't really notice Sirmon his first couple years in the league, and I was surprised when Kansas City made him an offer as a restricted free agent before 2003, and was even more surprised when the Titans matched it. I shouldn't have been, as he burst onto the scene as a starter that year and helped give the Titans perhaps the best pair of young OLBs in the league. Then he tore his ACL, so 2004 was a loss, and he clearly wasn't at top speed in 2005. I think this pick is a hit no matter what happens with Sirmon in 2006 and beyond, but if he doesn't recover, I think you have to say Haggans would have been a better selection here.

#5-135 Aric Morris, SS, Michigan State
Previous Pick-Atlanta-Anthony Midget, CB, Virginia Tech
Next Pick-Arizona-Mao Tosi, DT, Idaho
Previous S-4-126-Gary Berry, FS, Ohio State (Green Bay)
Next S-5-145-Todd Franz, SS, Tulsa (Detroit)
Floyd Reese learned his lesson between 2000 and 2005: if you really want to upgrade a position with young guys, throw LOTS of bodies at the position, and hope you end up with a couple keepers. Drafting 2 safeties simply wasn't enough when they're both asked to start. As a side note, Miami picked Arturo Freeman as the next safety after Franz, 151st overall.

#5-160 Frank Chamberlin, MLB, Boston College
Previous Pick-Jacksonville-Kiwaukee Thomas, CB, Georgia Southern
Next Pick-New England-Jeff Marriott, G, Missouri
Previous LB-5-149-Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, OLB, San Diego State (Green Bay)
Next LB-5-177-Dhani Jones, OLB, Michigan (NY Giants)
I think the former two names flatter Floyd Reese more than do the latter two. Chamberlin was a decent LB depth player and special teams guy for a couple years, but didn't spend much time on the actual defense, nor did he really deserve to. Still, that's a reasonable value for a fifth round selection.

#6-197 Robaire Smith, DT, Michigan State
Previous Pick-Jacksonville-Emanuel Smith, WR, Arkansas
Next Pick-St. Louis-Matt Bowen, SS, Iowa
Previous DT-6-194-Leif Larsen, DT, UTEP (Buffalo)
Next DT-7-216-Delbert Cowsetta, DT, Maryland (Washington)
And some years you can find good players in the sixth round. Nabbing Robaire here was an excellent value pick. Matt Bowen was a player. Tom Brady was the pick after Matt Bowen. Marc Bulger, Neil Rackers, Paul Edinger, Dhani Jones, Adalius Thomas, and Mike Anderson were all drafted in the sixth round this year. That's more talent than you find in some third rounds.

#7-213 Mike Green, FB, Houston
Previous Pick-San Francisco-Tim Rattay, QB, Louisiana Tech
Next Pick-Denver-Jarious Jackson, QB, Notre Dame
Previous FB-6-189-Mike Anderson, FB, Utah (Denver)
Next FB-7-239-Patrick Pass, FB, Georgia (New England)
Green carried the ball some in college, and tried to become a FB at the next level. The Titans took him to try to be Lorenzo Neal's replacement; didn't work out so well. This was a reasonable gamble for a 7th round selection, even if Anderson and Pass were both better players.

#7-237 Wes Shivers, G, Mississippi State
Previous Pick-Jacksonville-Erik Olson, FS, Colorado State
Next Pick-Indianapolis-Rodregis Brooks, CB, UAB
Previous G-7-220-Andrew Kline, G, San Diego State (St. Louis)
Next G-7-248-Lewis Kelly, G, South Carolina State (Minnesota)
I would have rather had them draft Mark Tauscher with the previous pick (GB, 224th overall) and take Patrick Pass with this pick. Shivers was another in the seemingly long list of OL drafted late in the hopes that a couple of them will pan out. Shivers didn't, and those are the risks you take. A reasonable pick, but that doesn't make it a good one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review: Tales from the Titans Sideline

If you're a fan of an NFL team, there are many different ways you can part with your money and show your support, in some sense or another. Aside from the obvious NFLShop.com, where you could drop the better part of a grand each on a recliner, a sofa, and an area rug. You can also buy knockoff products, read the publications that devote the most/most favorable coverage to your team of choice, and patronize businesses that show their support. Or, if you're a reader like me, you can buy books about the team.

So, that's why you're getting a review of Tales from the Titans Sideline by Jim Wyatt. Wyatt, for those non-Titans fans or those Titans fans who don't read the newspaper, is currently the lead beat writer covering the team for Nashville's Tennessean and has covered the team for that publication since the Super Bowl season of 1999. Wyatt's book is not particularly unique-the now-defunct Sports Publishing LLC did them for a number of markets, and more in the same vein. The linked thread has its share of journalistic caterwauling, but gives you a good idea-Tales is not really a book so much as a bunch of 800 word Tennessean articles grouped into a couple themes. There's no new ground broken here, nor any particular insights-the only reason to buy the book, really, is to show your support for the team or the author. Except, well, SPLLC is kaput, so Wyatt's not getting any more of the back end, not that he ever did in the first place. If you're one of those people who generally likes to buy new books to support authors, no need for any moral qualms here-just buy a used copy. For Titans fans only, and then only for nostalgia purposes.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Book Review Revisit: The Education of a Coach

A brief site note: as anybody could tell you, and as I fully recognize, "Residual Prolixity" is somewhat of an odd name for a football blog. The phrase actually comes from the acknowledgments section of Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear, though I see from a Google Books search he also used it in the previous Secrets and Lies as well. This sense of leftover words was actually why I started ResPro in the first place-to fit posts that for some reason or another I didn't feel fit as well on the site where I was doing my primary blogging at the time, and where I still do my non-sports blogging (primarily link-posting, and no I'm not linking to it-There's No Politics In Football). As I realized that I wanted to do more football blogging, I knew I needed a separate home and had already started using this place a little, so I decided to excise the non-football content that was here and import the football posts I'd put up on the other blog.

Relevantly for this post, this includes the book reviews. On the other site, I got to the point where I'd do a post listing all the books I'd read in a month, giving maybe three sentences on each and not necessarily even that much. If you compare one of my older book reviews, like The Blind Side, it's a little embarrassing to compare it to something with a little more detail like my recent review for The Billion Dollar Game. The "review" I dislike the most is that for Halberstam's The Education of a Coach-while I find both at least somewhat tiresome, Halberstam and Belichick both deserve a more thoughtful treatment than that, and the key role of Ernie Adams in Halberstam's research for the book in particular made me want to revisit it (see also the ESPN piece on Adams if you haven't read it, and HT to Northwestern alum Darren Rovell for the first link).

Now, having re-read the book, I stand by the judgment of my initial review-it's a well done journalistic biography. I'm not big into Belichickiana, but I don't believe there are any deep insights here-given its semi-authorized status, that's a little disappointing, but this was Halberstam's first (and only) book about football. Also, as with many other journalistic biographies, the author's critical faculties are by default set to the "Off" position. Still, there were a couple things I picked up on the re-read that are probably worth mentioning:

  • One of the great questions is whether football games are won or lost. That's a particularly acute question for Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots' first Super Bowl win when they upset the Rams. The "consensus" (endorsed by Jaws) cited by Halberstam is that Belichick put together a brilliant gameplan to shut down the Rams' offense. The flipside of that is that Rams coach Mike Martz's absolute hubris and unwillingness to adapt to the objective conditions of the Patriots' defense. A nice analogy could have been made to Halberstam's own The Best and the Brightest, about the Vietnam-era policymakers' own similar unwillingness to abandon their own failed ideas about how things should be working and react to how things were working.

  • There's a sort of Malcolm Gladwell Outliers sense of Belichick's success. Gladwell's "10,000 hour rule" was something Belichick hit early, simply because his father was a scout who let his son watch games and tape and attend team meetings with him.

  • Another problem with this genre of biography is it's too easy to read the subject's traits as having been formed by past experiences even if there's not necessarily any connection. For example, Belichick was born in Nashville while his father was an assistant coach at Vanderbilt. Despite enjoying a reasonable amount of success (for Vanderbilt), the coaching staff was fired, in part because the lead sports columnist didn't think the coaching staff set the right image for a proper school such as Vanderbilt (including giving said columnist all the scoops instead of talking to both newspapers). Ergo, Belichick distrusts the media and sees them as being on the other side. Halberstam isn't quite so explicit as that, but there doesn't seem to be much point in the anecdote about Steve Belichick's firing unless there's a connection to the son's makeup.

  • Belichick spent a year post-high school graduation at Phillips Andover to improve his college chances. Classmates there included not just the aforementioned Ernie Adams, who we know has been important to Belichick's life, but also Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Lincoln Chaffee, journalist Buzz Bissinger, and I'm sure other offspring of the famous and the powerful. Have any of these people, or other Andover alumni, played a role in Belichick's career? If they did, there's been no sign of it. This was probably an important experience from Belichick's life-going away, and a big change from Annapolis H.S.

  • One of the more celebrated moments of Belichick's media fight has been his feud with ESPN after Tom Jackson declared after 2003's opening 31-0 loss to the Bills that the locker room hated him. As it so happens, Belichick was a low level defensive assistant in Denver in the late 70's when Jackson was a linebacker for the Broncos. I'm sure they at least knew who each other was back then, but what was their relationship like? Was there bad blood between them?

  • One of the things that Belichick exploited in his gameplan for SBXXV for the Giants was that Bills' QB Jim Kelly had trouble reading defenses. Not something I'd heard before, and I thought it was interesting.

  • Halberstam completely buys into the myth about how Drew Henson came along and completely displaced Tom Brady at Michigan. It's quite true that Henson was a VHT (very highly touted prospect), to use Phil Steele's lingo, but Halberstam writes that "some of the coaches" preferred Brady over Henson. It just so happens that Halberstam doesn't disclose that the "some of the coaches" who preferred Brady over Henson happened to include the ones who decided which QB played. Compare Brady's numbers to Henson's. They overlapped for 2 years. In 1998, Brady threw 350 passes while Henson threw 47. 1999, Brady 341, Henson 90. As this Michigan guy points out, Brady started every game those two seasons, and everybody considered him the #1 quarterback. Henson had 1 game where he played a lot, and that was it. Halberstam also claims that Brady first started as a 3rd year sophomore and implies that he come out early because of Henson, but the career statistics make it clear that Brady had played in 1996 and 1997 and was therefore a junior eligibility-wise in 1998 and came out for the NFL Draft after having exhausted his college eligibility. The real Tom Brady at Michigan story is a pretty simple one: he was a two-year starter at Michigan and was drafted in the 6th round because NFL teams didn't think he would be that good an NFL quarterback.


  • One final word of caution, Education lacks an index. I could see that in Billion Dollar Game, but Halberstam generally has pretensions to seriousness, deserved (Best and the Brightest) or not (War in a Time of Peace). He does at least include a list of some of the books he thought were most useful.

    As to whether or not you should read Education, it is reasonably interesting and it's a pretty quick read. It's not a great book, but if you don't know much about Belichick it's reasonably informative. Plus, Halberstam is generally a good journalist, so it's better written than most football books.

    UPDATE (4/20/09 2156 CT): Made some minor revisions and fixed some typo-type stuff I would've fixed earlier if I bothered to actually read my posts before posting them. Yay, blogging.

    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Book Review: The Billion Dollar Game

    Dr. Z once did an internet column reviewing football books in which he commented, citing George Young, every nonfiction book should have an index. I'd take that and go on step further, adding that every nonfiction book not written solely based on personal knowledge should have a list of works cited, or some other way to identify that the author (or his favorite sources) didn't just make the whole thing up. Any book that lacks both starts out well behind the eight ball in my view.

    And so it was with Allen St. John's The Billion Dollar Game: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Day in American Sport - Super Bowl Sunday. It does, however, include the all-important, and never-excluded, Acknowledgments section. This is where, of course, the author thanks all the wonderful people like his agent and the publisher and the people who told him what to write in case you missed their names the 8 times they're mentioned in the book. Billion Dollar Game is St. John's (no relation to Warren St. John of RJYH fame that I know of) attempt to write about all the goings-on that make the Super Bowl a transcendent American experience. The sort of book, writing about a single event from multiple angles has been tried before, most successfully in the football context by Pete Williams in The Draft, and St. John hits the high points, talking with the Fox producer Artie Kempner about television the game, the architect who designed University of Phoenix Stadium, Joe Buck about broadcasting the game, the Budweiser advertising guy about picking the commercials, the architect who designed the stadium, the Playboy people about planning the party, the NFL's event planning guy, and did I mention the architect who designed University of Phoenix Stadium?

    I swear, St. John spends more of the book talking about him (Peter Eisenman, by name) than Jared Diamond did about his New Guinean friends in Guns, Germs, and Steel. It's like St. John can't help it, because he's an architect who really likes football. Bill Bidwill seemed to have hired him in part because he knew the backfield for the 1948 Chicago Cardinals that won the NFL championship. As someone who's never been to University of Phoenix Stadium, and probably never will go there unless that's where the Super Bowl is when the Titans make it again (assuming they do so before I die), I don't really care about the stadium-this isn't baseball with non-uniform dimensions. As a fan, unless I'm at the game, the only thing I care about is whether or not the stadium has a roof or doesn't, and St. John manages to discuss the decision whether or not to have the roof open or closed without mentioning the architect (well, it had to happen once in the book).

    Rant about the architect aside, while these books can be really good when they're done well, the book feels more like an excuse for St. John to hang out with people doing cool stuff as they work. The most interesting stuff comes from the Fox producer Artie Kempner, who really does seem like a guy who tries very hard to get the best possible shots he can, but he does that every danged week and the Super Bowl isn't, can't be for efficiency's sake, that much different from any other game.

    Back to the absence of an index... the reason nonfiction books don't have an index is because the publisher doesn't want to pay the money for one. This lack of devotion to quality shows up in the text of the book-Darren Rovell of CNBC is referred to as being with ESPN at one point (where he once was) and CNBC later on, the Colts-Cowboys game is misidentified as Super Bowl IV (Chiefs over Vikings) instead of SBV, and it's not Larry Csonka, not "Czonka". I tend to be a whole-word reader that reads quickly and thus normally run over typos unless I'm looking for them, so the fact that I found three probably means there are more I missed. In a 259 page book, even the three is at least two too many.

    I also must note that St. John credulously repeats the claims of the "economic boost" the Phoenix area "received" from hosting the Super Bowl. He does at least acknowledge the arguments that economists make about the "economic boost" being grossly overstated, but then dismisses them because cities keep trying to host the Super Bowl and besides his book looks better if he can claim the Super Bowl has a ginormous* economic impact. Because, after all, it's not like people would go to Phoenix in February if not for the Super Bowl, and everybody knows politicians never spend money on prestigious things that make them look good and put them in touch with famous people, even if doing so would not be the wisest use of taxpayer dollars.

    As to whether or not you should read this book, well, I didn't think all that much of it. It does at least have the virtue of being the only book to approach the Super Bowl from the perspective it does, so it's not like I can point you to another book on the same subject you should read instead. It's also not actually bad, just a little tiresome and not that interesting. There's worse stuff out there, but also better ones, too.

    *-I had no idea "ginormous" was a "real" word until it didn't result in a red squiggly line from the Firefox spellchecker and I verified it with M-W. Learn something new every day.

    UPDATE (4/20/09 2202 CT): Fixed a few typos and whatnot.

    Wednesday, April 01, 2009

    Linkagery

    Well, I've yet to be trampled to death by a pack of wild boars. Sorry if any of you are disappointed.

    Were I a less lazy blogger, I'd do more stuff like this roster analysis. Worse, that's their third one of the offseason.

    I didn't actually learn anything from this post on firing coaches and results resulting therefrom (or lack of difference therein), but readers less used to economic thinking may.

    A couple posts on the meaning of NFL positions from PFR blog: first on some players from the late 1950's and 1960's, then comparing Art Monk and Shannon Sharpe.

    Matt Bowen wrote about his experience being signed as a free agent by the Washington Redskins. Not the Haynesworth treatment, but not that awful a day either. Of course, there's also the non-marquee side, which Bowen also experienced.

    Advanced NFL Stats took a look at changes in wins from year-to-year in two posts. Results are exactly what you'd expect: win variance is pretty similar, but team change is greater. Labor mobility makes for quicker changes in team fates.

    Words I never thought I'd write: an important column from Bill Simmons, of all people. Yes, it's about basketball, the only sport he actually knows something about, but it's nice to know the NFL won't be the only league having a labor stoppage in 2011. On a related note, these are the Big 4 sports leagues franchises that have been in bankruptcy. Note the list includes only NHL teams. So far.

    Greg Cosell notes LaDainian Tomlinson is no longer an elite back.

    Quasi-day job related note: the NFL's single entity antitrust defense is potentially headed for the Supreme Court. See also SCOTUSBlog, THE Supreme Court blog. The Supreme Court called for the views of the Solicitor General, but it doesn't look like the SG has responded yet. When it does, the brief will probably be here, and you can also check the docket sheet. Also, the 7th Circuit's habit of taking down old cases is really friggin' annoying, but fortunately it is available online elsewhere. Alas, the three-judge panel did not include Official Brother Frank, aka Advanced Securities Professor Judge Easterbrook, who represented the NCAA when its single entity argument in NCAA v. Board of Regents lost. I could write more about this, and will later, but I've already geeked out enough.

    Another site I'll have to start reading regularly: Trojan Football Analysis, a site I think I've linked to a couple times before, is now a blog. I've resisted delving too much into lots of technical football, just because you can really go into tremendous depth and I'm not that comfortable with/good at it, but there's lots of good stuff there, including on the great Nebraska teams of the 1990's. HT to Smart Football.

    So, ESPN writer and Mississippi native Wright Thompson wrote a long piece about the 1962 Ole Miss football team that got screwed over because most of the population of Mississippi was racist assholes. It reminded me, more than anything else, of a nice little hypothetical on "what would really happen if the South had 'won' the Civil War and become its own country, and I don't mean Harry Turtledove's ridiculous ahistorical bullshit": Mississippi would still be under federal control.

    Over at PFR Blog, JKL has started an interesting series looking at the comparative levels of the AFL and the NFL. See the introduction and the first post, on Super Bowl competitiveness. I snagged copies of Remember the AFL and The Birth of the New NFL recently, so I'll have more to say on this subject when I get around to reading those.

    And now it's time for the spate of National Football Post links. First, Jack Bechta wrote about playing the free agent game, how to approach the market and how visits are (and aren't) handled. Robert Boland wrote about the layoffs and other economic issues-the thing about the layoffs is teams are REQUIRED to spend a certain amount, in cap terms, on player salaries. Other employees are significantly more discretionary in nature.

    Matt Bowen, a month ago, had some comments that seem pretty prescient about the Broncos and Cutler-is the backup plan Matt Sanchez? See also Lombardi's quickie breakdown of the Broncos' early FA signings. One issue that I don't think has gotten the pub it's deserved: Cutler will probably be looking for a new contract as part of a trade. If he stuck around, he might not get another deal for 2 years (my understanding is he has 3 years left on his contract right now), at which point the NFL will be at a labor stoppage. We're looking at 2 more years of NFL football more or less as we know it, and Cutler wants market value for those 2 years.

    Finally, for now, a college note: courtesy of Dr. Saturday, the stock characters of spring practice!