Monday, October 24, 2011

Play Notes: 2011 Week 07 vs Houston-Run Defense

Data dump for another Total Titans post, this one on the rushing defense against the Texans in Week 7. Per normal practice, full details after the break.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: America's Quarterback

America's Quarterback: Bart Starr and the Rise of the National Football League is the third book by Keith Dunnavant I've reviewed on here, after The Fifty-Year Seduction and The Missing Ring.

As you might guess from the subtitle, America's Quarterback is a biography of Bart Starr. It's a well-done straightforward narrative of Starr's life from growing up, Alabama, Green Bay, and afterward, with the bulk of the time spent on his time as quarterback for the Packer dynasty under Vince Lombardi. Starr comes across, as he has in anything else I've ever read about him, as a consummate professional and very high-character guy.

Ultimately, though, and this speaks more to me than it does to America's Quarterback, it's well done, I appreciate it, but I just don't actually care. I had this same feeling about Missing Ring or for that matter about When Pride Still Mattered. I mentioned this on twitter earlier, but America's Quarterback and the other books about football I've been reading lately feel, well, small. Hypothetical Tyler Cowen who reads about football would probably dismiss all of them as insufficiently theoretical or conceptual, or at least that's the way I'm feeling right now.

That's probably a sign I need to start reading something else, which will likely mean few or no book reviews here coming soon. I do have out from the library Roger L. Martin's Fixing the Game, though I'm not sure I'll end up writing a review here about it. Perhaps I shall finally get around to Finding the Winning Edge.

America's Quarterback contains an index, source notes, and some bibliographic notes in the Acknowledgments section, which all nonfiction books should have and too many of them don't. I noticed a couple typos, none major. I should probably buy a copy of The League by David Harris. Recommended for what it is.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: Lombardi and Landry

Longtime New York Giants beatwriter Ernie Palladino's Lombardi and Landry: How Two of Pro Football's Greatest Coaches Launched Their Legends and Changed the Game Forever tells the story of one of those remarkable times in NFL coaching history: when Vince Lombardi was offensive coordinator of the New York Giants in the 1950's while Tom Landry was simultaneously serving as the Giants' defensive coordinator, and head coach Jim Lee Howell just got out of their way and let them run their units.

As subtitles are wont to do, Lombardi and Landry's overpromises something the book doesn't really try to deliver. Rather than a real explanation of how Lombardi and Landry changed the game, Palladino tells the straightforward narrative story of their time as Giants coordinators. I didn't see anything groundbreaking in the book, but the story is told well and flows quickly.

Lombardi and Landry isn't a special book, and it isn't one I see myself returning to in the future, but is a very solid book and one that was a quiet pleasure to read. Recommended for what it is.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Review: Year of Pain

Some books I feel like deserve a long review. Kenny Hand's Year of Pain: The 1989 Houston Oilers Season is not one of those. Hand, a longtime Houston Post scribe, as the subtitle suggests, put together a book chronicling the 1989 Houston Oilers season [N.B. Year of Pain was published in 1990]. Now, this is an old and much-imitated form of doing a book, and the results can be very good or, well, not so much.

My primary problem with Year of Pain is that beyond seeming a larger degree of access to Oilers coach Jerry Glanville than most journalists, I don't get the feeling that there's anything in the book that any other reporter covering the team, or now any other person, couldn't have written. It's better edited than a collection of my long-form game recaps when I wrote those every Sunday, but it doesn't feel fundamentally that much different. For one, there doesn't feel like much of an overarching narrative to the book. This isn't a fiction book; the outcome is known when the book is published, but the chapter on any individual game week could have been (and well may have been) written the week after that game, depriving you of any sort of bigger picture. Whatever its other faults, even Next Man Up was able to tell the story of a season, not just the story of individual weeks. Of course, as somebody who doesn't necessarily care about the normal narrative, reading Hand's normal columnist gloss on the game isn't necessarily helpful in getting a feel for what happened and why and how each game turned out the way it did; that's definitely a YMMV point, though.

Hand did at least have pretty decent material to work with. The Oilers were in the early days of their fun but ultimately deep unsatisfying run of seven straight years in the playoffs without making even a single conference championship game, and Jerry Glanville was under pressure to improve on the two previous wild card appearances. The AFC Central in those years was a good example of why the AFC was better than the conventional wisdom created by NFC Super Bowl triumphs would have you believe (that said, 1989 was the first year of the stretch where you could plausibly argue the NFC actually was better, though the AFC Central did go 11-5 against the NFC Central)-none of the Bengals, Browns, Steelers, or Oilers was a great team, but three of the four were coming off 10-plus wins in 1988 and each would end the 1989 season with 8 or 9 wins.

The season would go down to the finish line, as the Oilers lost their last two games to the Bengals (the infamous 61-7 game) and Browns to fall from a division title and bye to the wild card, and then completed the trifecta by losing to the Steelers in the wild card game. Glanville would leave the Oilers in the offseason (pseudo-non-firing) to coach the Falcons, and Jack Pardee would arrive for his four years of playoff disappointment. Oh, and those Oilers were also one of the most penalized teams in NFL history, a proud result of Glanville's policy of drawing the "too aggressive" line way past the "stupidity" line. The elements for an interesting book were there, but, well, it's a trip down memory lane for old Oilers fans only.

Bonus "hey, that guy" note for people who don't remember what famous people were assistants on the 1989 Houston Oilers: future Oilers/Titans general manager Floyd Reese and of course the defensive backs coach was future Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

My 2011 Total Titans Archive

It occurs to me that with me not putting up a post here whenever I put up a Total Titans post, and with the site not having a sort-by-author function, I don't have a good way to keep track of which posts are mine. I have thus decided to create this irregularly-updated page of my Total Titans posts. In true blog fashion, it'll be in reverse chron order, with the newest material at the top.

UPDATE: Because of the length of this post, I'll keep it at one year's worth, so here are my Total Titans post from 2011.

2011-12-30: Texans Tribune answers Total Titans' questions about the Texans
2011-12-25: Tennessee Titans playoff scenarios
2011-12-24: Titans beat Jaguars, 23-17
2011-12-24: Tennessee Titans-Jacksonville Jaguars inactives, gameday thread
2011-12-23: Enemy Intelligence: Jacksonville Jaguars
2011-12-20: Titans who may be playing their final home game this week
2011-12-19: On the Titans' offense after Week 15
2011-12-16: Enemy Intelligence: Indianapolis Colts
2011-12-15: 18 to 88 answers Total Titans' questions about the Colts
2011-12-13: UFR: Jake Locker's play against the Saints
2011-12-12: Titans fans, what questions do you have about the Colts?
2011-12-11: Titans' upset bid foiled by Saints, 22-17
2011-12-11: Tennessee Titans-New Orleans Saints inactives, gameday thread
2011-12-09: Saints Nation answers Total Titans' questions about the Saints
2011-12-08: Enemy Intelligence: New Orleans Saints
2011-12-06: Titans fans, what questions do you have about the Saints?
2011-12-05: Field position and the Titans' defense
2011-12-04: Titans stave of Bills, 23-17
2011-12-04: Tennessee Titans-Buffalo Bills inactives, gameday thread
2011-12-03: Enemy Intelligence: Last week's Buffalo Bills game
2011-12-02: Buffalo Wins answers Total Titans' questions about the Bills
2011-11-30: Updating field position and the Titans' offense
2011-11-29: Titans fans, what questions do you have about the Bills?
2011-11-27: Titans rally past Buccaneers, 23-17
2011-11-27: Titans-Buccaneers inactives, gameday thread
2011-11-26: Enemy Intelligence: Last week's Tampa Bay Buccaneers game
2011-11-22: I'm pretty much done with Chris Johnson
2011-11-20: Titans comeback fails as Falcons prevail, 23-17
2011-11-20: Tennessee Titans-Atlanta Falcons inactives, gameday thread
2011-11-19: Enemy Intelligence: Last week's Atlanta Falcons game
2011-11-16: Player Game Analysis: DT Karl Klug against the Panthers
2011-11-13: Tennessee Titans blow out Carolina Panthers, 30-3
2011-11-13: Tennessee Titans-Carolina Panthers inactives, gameday thread
2011-11-11: Enemy Intelligence: The previous Carolina Panthers game
2011-11-03: Enemy Intelligence: Last week's Cincinnati Bengals game
2011-11-02: Meandering thoughts on various issues about the Titans
2011-10-30: Tennessee Titans right the ship and beat the Colts, 27-10
2011-10-30: Titans-Colts inactives, gameday thread
2011-10-29: Enemy Intelligence: The previous week's Indianapolis Colts game
2011-10-28: 18 to 88 answers Total Titans' questions about the Colts
2011-10-27: More on Chris Johnson and the Titans' struggles in the run game
2011-10-25: Based on his play against the Texans, Chris Johnson is not really an NFL-caliber rusher
2011-10-25: Questions for Titans-Colts Q&A
2011-10-24: How the Tennessee Titans gave up 222 rushing yards
2011-10-23: Tennessee Titans crushed by Houston Texans, 41-7
2011-10-23: Tennessee Titans-Houston Texans inactives, gameday thread
2011-10-21: Texans Tribune answers Total Titans' questions about the Texans
2011-10-20: Enemy Intelligence: The last two Houston Texans games
2011-10-18: Questions for Titans-Texans Q&A
2011-10-17: On the Titans' offense at the bye week
2011-10-11: Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins, Men on the Spot
2011-10-09: Titans smacked around in 38-17 loss to Steelers
2011-10-09: Tennessee Titans-Pittsburgh Steelers inactives, gameday thread
2011-10-08: Titans-Steelers: Three players to watch
2011-10-06: Enemy Intelligence: Last week's Pittsburgh Steelers game
2011-10-06: Greg Cosell on Matt Hasselbeck
2011-10-04: Statistical tidbits on the Titans' offense through four weeks
2011-10-02: Titans take advantage of Browns' miscues for 31-13 win
2011-10-02: Tennesee Titans-Cleveland Browns inactives, gameday thread
2011-09-30: Enemy Intelligence: Last week's Cleveland Browns game
2011-09-25: Tennessee Titans-Denver Broncos inactives, gameday thread
2011-09-24: Thoughts on the Titans' pass protection against the Ravens
2011-09-23: It's All Over, Fat Man! answers Total Titans' questions about the Broncos
2011-09-21: Enemy Intelligence: Last week's Denver Broncos game
2011-09-20: How the Tennessee Titans shut down the Ravens' passing attack
2011-09-20: Titans fans, what questions do you have about the Broncos?
2011-09-18: Tennessee Titans topple Baltimore Ravens, 26-13
2011-09-18: Tennessee Titans vs Baltimore Ravens pregame thoughts, open thread
2011-09-15: UFR: Titans defense against the Jaguars
2011-09-14: Enemy Intelligence: Last week's Baltimore Ravens game
2011-09-12: UFR: Titans offense against the Jaguars
2011-09-11: Tennessee Titans fall to Jacksonville Jaguars, 16-14
2011-09-10: On the Tennessee Titans' 2011 season
2011-09-08: 2011 Tennessee Titans preseason positional analysis: S
2011-09-07: On Quinn Johnson
2011-09-06: 2011 Tennessee Titans preseason positional analysis: OLB
2011-09-05: 2011 Tennessee Titans preseason positional analysis: C
2011-09-04: Tennessee Titans form 2011 practice squad
2011-09-04: On Chris Palmer's offense
2011-09-03: Tennessee Titans 53-man roster and analysis
2011-09-02: Some thoughts on Titans-Saints
2011-09-02: Titans roster cutdown open thread
2011-09-02: 2011 Tennessee Titans preseason positional analysis: OT
2011-09-01: Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints preview
2011-09-01: Tennesee Titans re-sign Chris Johnson
2011-08-29: Titans start cutdown process with Haye, 8 others
2011-08-28: 2011 Tennessee Titans preseason positional analysis: WR
2011-08-27: Recap: Titans top Bears, 14-13
2011-08-27: Titans-Bears inactives, gameday thread
2011-08-25: Belated thoughts on Titans-Rams
2011-08-21: On Rob Bironas and expectations
2011-08-20: Titans-Rams preview
2011-08-17: Belated thoughts on Titans-Vikings
2011-08-13: Titans-Vikings preview
2011-08-10: Did the Titans have a problem covering tight ends in 2010?
2011-08-04: Titans add DB depth with Walker, Babineaux
2011-08-01: Titans re-sign Dave Ball, Jacob Ford, Ahmard Hall
JULY 2011
2011-07-31: Tennessee Titans sign TE Daniel Graham
2011-07-30: Tennessee Titans add LB Barrett Ruud
2011-07-30: Titans re-sign G Leroy Harris
2011-07-25: A pre-free agency look at the Titans' roster
MAY 2011
2011-05-08: I don't care about Jake Locker's stats against Nebraska
2011-05-07: How the Tennessee Titans gave up big plays in 2010
APRIL 2011
2011-04-30: Tennessee Titans close 2011 draft by taking DB Tommie Campbell
2011-04-30: Tennessee Titans add DT Karl Klug in 5th round
2011-04-29: Titans add DT Jurrell Casey in 3rd round
2011-04-27: Ranking the Titans' top draft needs
2011-04-24: Reviewing past Tennessee Titans drafts: 2005
2011-04-22: A pre-draft look at the Titans' roster: Defense
2011-04-21: A pre-draft look at the Titans' roster: Offense
2011-04-12: Tennessee Titans preseason schedule announced
MARCH 2011
2011-03-31: Tennessee Titans take DE Robert Quinn in Bloguin mock draft
2011-03-28: 2011 Tennessee Titans offseason positional analysis: NB
2011-03-27: Titans picks in the 2011 draft
2011-03-23: 2011 Tennessee Titans offseason positional analysis: CB
2011-03-14: How the Titans were intercepted in 2010
2011-03-10: 2011 Tennessee Titans offseason positional analysis: G
2011-03-07: 2011 Tennessee Titans offseason positional analysis: C
2011-03-06: Field position and the Titans' offensive success revisited
2011-02-27: Do the Titans play better against the AFC South?
2011-02-26: 2011 Tennessee Titans offseason positional analysis: TE
2011-02-20: Evaluating Randy Moss's Titans tenure
2011-02-16: Upon further review: Michael Griffin's interceptions in 2010
2011-01-06: Evaluating Jeff Fisher's performance as Tennessee Titans head coach
2011-01-02: Tennessee Titans close out season with 23-20 loss to Colts
2011-01-02: Titans-Colts inactives, gameday thread

Monday, October 03, 2011

Book Review: Showdown

Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins by Thomas G. Smith tells the story of how the Washington Redskins were essentially forced to start using black players. D.C. Stadium, later RFK, was just built on federal land. JFK's Interior Secretary, Stewart Udall, in furtherance of federal government regulations banning discrimination on the basis of race, declared the Redskins, who'd signed a 30-year lease for the facility that was crucial in getting it built, wouldn't be allowed to play in the new building unless they agreed to add their first black player. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall got Udall to agree to a one-year extension, then drafted and otherwise acquired black players. The end.

Admittedly, the story is somewhat more complicated than that. Marshall, who originally acquired the team when it was in Boston and then moved it to D.C., made a conscious business decision that seemed to match his personal predilections to keep the team lily-white, even at the cost of success on the field. Baseball and the rest of the NFL integrated, the Redskins got worse, Marshall kept trying to act like he was a football man like his friend George Halas, the Redskins got even worse but still apparently made money, then eventually agreed to integrate under federal and NFL pressure.

Smith pads out the Redskins integration story with some of the color of Marshall's life and the story of integration, including perspective from the black newspapers. The Redskins integration story itself is relatively thin; Smith, a professor of history, got on to the story from writing about Udall and environmental policy. The subtitle is misleading-Udall seems to have done it on his own, without any push from or even the assistance of JFK and the rest of Camelot. Marshall spent the last half-decade-plus of his life in particularly ill health, estranged from his family, and didn't seem to ever have elaborated on why he made the final decision to integrate or even go to court for the right to use the stadium without integrating. Bobby Mitchell, the most notable player to integrate the Redskins, might have been able to share some interesting tales; he gave Smith an interview in 1985, when the academic work that formed the basis for Showdown was being written, but didn't cooperate with the actual writing of Showdown (which ended up not being released until September 2011).

Questions that I'd like to see flesh out notwithstanding, Smith tells the story in Showdown reasonably well, and I can see why the suggestion was made to expand his academic articles into a book, but at just over 200 pages of narrative, the book feels about 50 pages too long. As you'd expect from a book by a professor, Showdown includes endnotes, a bibliography, a brief bibliographic essay, and an index, each a feature too often missing in books about football. I noticed a couple nits; the man who threw to ball to Don Huston is referred to as Arnie "Huber" rather than Herber, some of the Redskins stock sales are referred to as purchases but sound more like redemptions (a distinction you may have to be a corporate attorney to care about), and one more that's so important I don't remember what it was.

Overall, I found Showdown an interesting story about something I hadn't known that much about. The material wasn't quite enough for a fully-satisfying book, but it was a worthwhile read as a library rental. Recommended for what it is.