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.