Home / General / Indefensible Moves Are Indefensible

Indefensible Moves Are Indefensible

Comments
/
/
/
788 Views

I was amused to see Paul Mike Holmrgen [although what Paul thinks is about as relevant at this point] suggesting that a coach unlucky enough to have to try to win with “talent” assembled by late-period Mike Holmgren should resign if the new management tried to salvage some real value from Holmgren’s comically inept drafting. In other news, Dave Littlefield told LGM that as a manager he’d have to resign when his general manager released Matt Morris.

And yet, Holmgren will have his defenders. Bill James once noted that broadcasters believed so strongly in the essentially non-existent protection effect that when dealing with a player who went from a bad offense to a good one while getting worse, rather than wondering if protection really mattered or even ignoring it, they’d just take some arbitrary selection of 15 games and try to argue that the hitter really was better now. Ground n’ pound nostalgia is like that; it’s essentially impervious to empirical evidence. By all rights, the question of whether it was a good idea to trade up to draft Trent Richardson with a #3 pick should be as settled as the question of whether a team going nowhere should give up an outfield prospect for the privilege of paying a lot of money to a no-longer-able-to-pitch Matt Morris. 1)Using high picks on running backs has a horrible track record; 2)this isn’t surprising, since in the modern game running backs are largely fungible and the marginal quality of a team’s running game doesn’t have a lot of impact on a team’s ability to win; and 3)in practice, Richardson’s well-below replacement level performance at a low impact position for the cap hit of a #3 overall pick provided massive negative value to the Browns. And it’s not like it was an incredibly thin draft with no other decent options; if when trying to unload Richardson the Browns had asked for Luke Kuechly or Dontari Poe or Mark Barron or even Ryan Tannehill the other GM not only would have hung up but would have ignored your calls in the future. When a move is a terrible idea in theory and works out worse than that in practice, I’m inclined to think this settles the question.

But, as I said, people attached to ground and pound always have a million reasons to ignore the evidence, so Brien Jackson:

I confess, I have no idea why you think a running back not lighting up the world when there’s very little offensive talent around him and you’ve pretty much led the world in shitting on the guy playing quarterback. Why, it’s almost like defenses might have keyed on him and bet that Weeden wasn’t a good enough quarterback to make them pay for it!

First of all, I love the “lighting up the world” formulation to describe one of the worst regular RBs in the league and I plan to use it in the future. “Josh Skelton did not light up the world.” “Joba Chamberlain has not lit up the world as the future closer this year.” “Christine O’Donnell’s Senate campaign didn’t light up the world.” And second, is there any reason to believe that it’s impossible to run well without a good passing attack? Sure, some top backs last had decent-to-excellent quarterbacks (Lynch, Gore, Rice. And Morris, although he’s obviously a better argument that any random RB can do well in Shanahan’s blocking scheme than an argument that you should give up a king’s ransom to acquire a running back.) On the other hand, Adrian Peterson — the one running back good enough to possibly justify a high draft pick — had a historically good year with the QB stylings of Mr. Christian Ponder. You think defenses weren’t keying on him? C.J. Spiller had a great year with a Harvard man who no longer has a job. Jamaal Charles had a fine year with a guy who no longer has a job. Doug Martin had a much better year than Richardson with a QB who just lost his job to Mike Glennon. There’s no reason to believe that you need to have a top QB to run well.

This isn’t to say that context doesn’t matter at the margin. The fact that defenses were keying on Richardson is relevant if you’re trying to determine if he merits a starting job. As an argument for giving up further draft picks to take him #3 overall, it’s self-refuting. If Richardson can’t be expected to run well if defenses are keying on him, it’s just another way of saying that he doesn’t remotely justify an elite draft pick. If he can only be good if you have a first-rate passing game it’s insane to take him with a top draft pick, because if you have a first-rate passing game you don’t need an expensive running back.

Speaking of 2012’s top backs, several commenters brought up Marshawn Lynch as an argument for investing in a running back. Look, I’m a Seahawks fan; I like Lynch and I’m glad that the extension worked on in its first year. But it should be obvious that a gamble working out doesn’t mean that it was a good gamble at the time. After the 2000 season the Mariners declined to make a serious offer to a young superstar and instead offered a significant contract to a 32-year-old second baseman coming off two bad years. Since the latter unexpectedly turned into Rogers Hornsby for 2 of the next 3 years this worked out very well. But it would be a horrible idea to infer from this that it’s better to pay above-market rates for past-their-prime mediocrities than market rates for young superstars. (Alas, this does seem to be the lesson that the Mariners inferred from 2001, which helps to explain why they haven’t outscored their opponents in a decade.)

But even as an anecdote, Lynch doesn’t prove what Holmgren apologists think it proves. First, he’s evidence that you can acquire a good running back for not very much. The extension wasn’t a good gamble in my opinion, but it (unlike blowing a top 3 pick along with multiple later ones) was a low-stakes one. Since the Seahawks have an elite QB signed dirt cheap and some elite defenders signed to reasonable deals, they can afford a luxury purchase at running back. If Lynch doesn’t have a big year it doesn’t really hurt the team.

Now, Lynch might be relevant anecdotal evidence if he was always an outstanding player, justifying the mid-first rounder the Bills used on him. Except the following is an exhaustive list of the seasons in which he’s been an elite running back:

2012

The rest of his career, he’s been a decent player, sometimes a little above-average and sometimes a little below, but nothing special. Outside of Wilson’s read option, he’s a decent back, not an elite one. He certainly can’t be used to justify the Browns trading up for Trent Richardson, and the new Cleveland management did very well in salvaging a first-rounder from that busted pick.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • toberdog

    And it may be worthwhile to point out that even the great AP has limits to his effectiveness. He’s off to a very ordinary start this year.

    • Todd

      IIRC his start last year was pretty ordinary (coming off the ACL, too). Then defensive players start to get banged up and not quite so willing to commit to shutting him down in Oct/Nov/Dec.

      Plus, he already has 4 TDs.

    • MikeJake

      Rushing is down overall so far this year.

      Average for preceding 5 seasons: 116.04 YPG, 4.24 YPC

      This season: 106.4 YPG, 4.1 YPC

  • And who did my Giants draft last year, with a late 1st rounder?

    RB David Wilson, who has explosive speed, and nimble moves, but can’t hold onto the football – and can’t block!

    And a RB who can’t block to protect Eli in the Giants long-range passing offense, and then can’t hold onto the ball when he’s given it, is of NO use.

    The Giants would have been better off keeping Bradshaw who, when he’s healthy, can keep Eli from getting killed, and pop-off a decent run every once in awhile.

    Maybe this kid can learn, but this is his 2nd season, so he’s been through 2 training camps.
    And if you can’t learn to block in 2 training camps, it probably doesn’t mean that you can’t learn – it’s that you don’t want to sacrifice your precious body to block an incoming defensive player.

    Of course, it would help if the Giants OL could begin to get its act together, but I doubt that’ll happen before the game this week against KC.
    YEEEESH!

    • Mudge

      Wouldn’t it be nice if Wilson were the only Giants problem. 115 points allowed.

      • McAllen

        Seriously, with the way the NFC East is playing my Cowboys might manage to bumblefuck their way into the playoffs for once.

    • Sherm

      You know things are bad when you find me watching the Mets on a Sunday afternoon in September.

  • Todd

    What’s really going to be sad/funny/expected is when Ahmad Bradshaw gets the bulk of the snaps going forward with Indy. He’s a much better blocker and is good runner when healthy. At least until he injures his feet/ankles again.

    • Cody

      To me, that kinda gets to the heart of the trade from Indy’s prospective. Yea you have Bradshaw who would be great, and not needing a replacement.

      He’s so getting injured eventually, and they’re so thin at RB if they wanted to accomplish anything this season they needed SOMEONE.

      • Todd

        Right, but just like the Browns, they’ve used a 1st round pick on a not-very-good RB. That’s just plain bad team-building. And two teams have done it with Richardson in 17 months.

        It flirts with being too weird to be true. It’s NBA weird.

        • Cody

          not-very-good RB

          Facts not in evidence and such…

          Certainly his last season wasn’t great, but he was on a bad team AND injured!

          I guess the Colts really messed up drafting Peyton Manning – did you see his first season!?

          • Todd

            And it’s the same crew making the Richardson trade, right? Bill Polian, right? Not some batship crazy ex-drunk owner who telegraphs his team’s moves via twitter, right?

            • Brien Jackson

              Well it’s the group that had the foresight/balls to cut Manning and draft Luck, then immediately went to the playoffs (not that I won’t engage in spirited Irsay bashing or anything).

            • Brien Jackson

              I don’t get the love for Bill Polian either really. You’d think getting beat by New England so many times might have clued him in to the fact that he was investing way too much in guys whose job was to catch the passes.

              • Cody

                Well I don’t know, having the team with the most wins in a decade is usually desirable.

                Certainly everything didn’t go perfect, but they dominated for a straight DECADE. The only thing they didn’t do was win a lot of Superbowls, and those are mostly luck generally.

                Then after Peyton got hurt the immediately got another franchise QB…

                I mean, Polian seems like a bit of an ass. But the team is certainly doing alright.

                • Brien Jackson

                  1. Polian isn’t with the Colts anymore, and didn’t draft Luck.

                  2. In any case, “have the number one pick when the two best quarterback prospects since Elway are available” doesn’t really seem like much of a skill to me.

                  3. And again, just because the team with Peyton Manning won a bunch of games doesn’t really explain away his insistence on spending so much cap space and high draft picks on pass catchers when there was plenty of evidence that quarterbacks of that caliber don’t need massive stables of pass catchers to be effective, and when his team had a chronic bleeding wound in the defensive interior.

                • Ahuitzotl

                  Brien:

                  In any case, “have the number one pick when the two best quarterback prospects since Elway are available” doesn’t really seem like much of a skill to me

                  I disagree – that would be one of the most awesome skills in the world. Just not sure how you train for it.

  • Mudge

    You make a very good point in dismissing the whining about the need for a good quarterback. A good quarterback does allow a running back some freedom, but a great back still produces despite weakness at quarterback. The Richardson case is interesting in its own right. With a good quarterback (Luck), Bradshaw ran really well. He used to run well with Manning in NY. No one says Bradshaw is an elite back. Yet Richardson looked very bad in that game because “he didn’t know the offense”. I wonder how Adrian Peterson or Barry Sanders would have performed one week after a trade.

    • Brien Jackson

      Ah, the old “they compared this kid to Mickey Mantle” non-sequitor (not, incidentally, that I don’t think not knowing blocking calls wouldn’t impact Sanders or AP, but still).

      • Mudge

        Au contraire. I wondered, nothing more, and of course the comparison cannot be made because neither Peterson nor Sanders were traded midseason in their second year. Both had excellent rookie seasons, unlike Richardson.

        Your inclusion of a baseball star suggests the recent article at Grantland in which Mike Trout is, of all things, compared to Mickey Mantle.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Ah, the old “they compared this kid to Mickey Mantle” non-sequitor

        In this context, it’s not a non-sequitur. The only way a RB could be worth a top 3 pick in the draft in 2012 is if there’s a reasonable expectation that he could be a player of the caliber of Sanders or Peterson. I agree that it’s absurd to compare Richardson to these guys…which shows that it was idiotic to trade up to take him with the 3rd overall pick.

        • Brien Jackson

          But they should take Barron who, despite the additions of Revis and Goldson, is presently playing for a middling pass defense?

          • Scott Lemieux

            If by “middling” you mean “well above average.

            • Brien Jackson

              For fucking real?

              DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason projection with current D VOA to get a more accurate forecast of how a team will play the rest of the season. Right now, the preseason projection makes up 55 percent of DAVE.

              You’ll forgive me if, for the moment, I don’t think a stat that is over half comprised of a projection negates them being in the middle tier of NFL defenses against the pass through three games.

              • Guest

                The rest of you will notice that they are also near the top in the stat that includes 0% projection.

  • even Ryan Tannehill

    Your words hurt me.

    • Tannehill has been pretty good this year. That is, when he isn’t being sacked, which is probably mostly on the offensive line but also on his inconsistent awareness. We got lucky against an inexplicably conservative Atlanta offense. So we’ll probably regress a bit. But at least we didn’t pay Reggie Bush a ton of money or trade up to draft a RB.

      • True points. I do not expect to beat the Saints this Monday, but it’s at least conceivable, which is a step up.

  • Anonymous

    Richardson had Joe Thomas and Alex Mack blocking for him. It’s not like he had zero talent around him. The main argument for Richardson seems to be that he inflicts pain on defenders, which is great, except that it doesn’t make up for a lack of production.

    Also, too: if you’re looking for a good example for why selecting running backs in the first round is a bad idea, look no further than the Bills. They selected three above average running backs in the first round within a decade (McGahee, Lynch, and Spiller)and look where it got them.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Right. Indeed, one argument Holmgren’s apologists have made here is that since the Browns already had Thomas and Mack they couldn’t justify looking an an offensive lineman with their first round pick, so Richardson was the only viable remaining option. (Why they couldn’t pick a defensive player has never been explained.) But, oddly, this is forgotten when the same people are making excuses for Richardson’s performance.

      • JRD

        Oh, there were tons of other options than TR at that spot; it’s just that Holmgren refused to consider them. And, when detailing the folly of that draft, you have to also consider taking Weeden at #22 overall. Handed a tremendous opportunity, Holmgren and Heckert botched the job terribly.

      • Brien Jackson

        You do realize that you can’t just casually switch between a philosophical and scouting critique like this, right? This would be like saying they shouldn’t have picked a quarterback with the 22nd pick because Weeden sucks. That the latter is true isn’t actually proof of the former.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Um, both critiques are perfectly independently valid. Trading up to take a running back #3 is inherently stupid. Picking a QB #22 can be fine; picking an unimpressive one who’s pushing 30 isn’t. I’m not sure why you think being incompetent one way can’t be incompetent in another.

          • Brien Jackson

            Because it’s a basic syllogism. Your B (don’t ever pick a running back at X pick ever!) does not follow from your A (Trent Richardson isn’t any good), even if we accept A.

            • Scott Lemieux

              No, but there’s also substantial independent evidence for B. A just makes it even harder to defend B.

              • Brien Jackson

                No, it really doesn’t. Talent evaluation pretty much stands on its own. Unless you think Oakland and Tennessee are above reproach for drafting JaMarcus Russell and Vince Young.

      • Brien Jackson

        “(Why they couldn’t pick a defensive player has never been explained.)”

        Er, yes it has: Because there weren’t any sla dunk defensive prospects available there either, except for the defensive equivalent of running backs.

        • JRD

          The real problem, I think, was that Holmgren had no real back-up strategy in the event that the FO failed to acquire the #2 pick and draft RGIII. They could have, should have, bested the offer that Washington made, but Holmgren and Heckert lost their bet that Washington was bluffing.

          Once RGIII was gone, they decided on TR & Weeden reflexively and all other options were screened out.

          • Brien Jackson

            I dunno, “get the best available skill position player at a tie when those guys are scarce, pick a quarterback with my second first round pick, then get a starting RT in the second round” seems like quite the strategy to me. Again, strategy and execution, as it were, aren’t the same thing.

            • JRD

              I think our point of tension here is that I think that it’s pretty clear that H & H decided not on positions of need, but rather on particular players. The press was full of their glowing evaluations of TR & Weeden in the weeks before the draft; their 1st round was as telegraphed as one could imagine.

              So, I don’t actually think that they had anything resembling a “strategy”: I think that they decided early on on TR & Weeden and everybody knew it, which is why a panicked H & H made that ridiculous trade with the Vikings to move up one spot. All the Vikings brass had to do was say “boo!” and H & H gave up, if not a king’s ransom, at least a princely sum. In their minds they had to agree to this because they had no actual strategy to fall back on if TR & Weeden weren’t there.

              • Brien Jackson

                I don’t see what’s wrong with that, really. I mean, once you get past the three big ones (QB, LT, pass rusher), positional need is basically irrelevant, and you should pick on talent. If they thought Richardson was the best blend of talent and value available, they should have fixated on him.

                As far as the trade goes, they just got back more value than they gave up to swap draft picks with Minnesota…who had Cleveland over a barrel w/r/t Tampa Bay because they knew Cleveland wasn’t going to stick with Kalil. That’s not a bad exchange at all, especially when you have two more picks in the top 37.

        • Scott Lemieux

          except for the defensive equivalent of running backs.

          What?

          • Brien Jackson

            Hint: They even call them backs!

            • Sherm

              I was thinking strong safeties. Taking a strong safety that high would be the defensive equivalent of taking a running back that high.

              • Brien Jackson

                I don’t think there’s a huge difference in strong/free safeties in the modern NFL, but I (admittedly glibly) downplay defensive backs because they’re derivative players to an extent: they’re all but useless unless you have a pass rush.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  If you’re saying that the marginal quality of a team’s defensive backs doesn’t many any more than the marginal quality of its running backs, that’s nuts. If Lynch gets hurt or has a mediocre year this year, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

                • njorl

                  Bad corners are catastrophic, but good corners have diminishing returns. You can avoid a good corner, you can’t avoid a good pass rusher.

                • Brien Jackson

                  But the real nub is that “good corners” are still dependent on pass rush. You can be the best cornerback who’s ever lived, but you can’t blanket a receiver forever if you’re team can’t put any pressure on the quarterback. Pass rushers/quarterbacks/offensive linemen don’t require that sort of prerequisite for being effective.

        • James E. Powell

          There were a number of quality defensive players available. A couple of CBs, a couple LBs, and three or four DEs, all better than what the Browns had at the time.

          We’ve been down this road before, so I don’t want to belabor it. You are heavily invested in defending that draft for some reason.

          My claim is that, after Luck and RGIII, there were no really great offensive prospects worthy of the fourth pick. Your counter that there were no defensive players of that quality either would support a decision to trade down. That might have been the way to go, if H&H were looking for the team’s long term interest. But they were looking to have impact on that season. So they picked what they thought were “this season” players. It did not work out.

          • Brien Jackson

            “Trade down!” makes about as much sense as making non-specific claims about what could have been drafted in the fourth round: to trade down, you have to have a partner who wants to move up to get one of those players…which you would then say is stupid on their part (and with the rookie pay scale, there’s no reason to take a discount on pick value just to minimize financial risk).

    • Anonymous

      They selected three above average running backs in the first round within a decade (McGahee, Lynch, and Spiller)and look where it got them

      Go back even further to Antowain Smith and Travis Henry (round round pick).

      This is also an issue of turning over RBs too quickly. All of them had something left in the tank when the Bills drafted the next RB.

      And un-drafted Fred Jackson can hold is own with any of them.

      • Decrease Mather

        Sorry, the above is me, not the same Anonymous who started this discussion.

  • Brien Jackson

    Holy God, we’ve really reached the critical mass of confusing bullshit here, so let’s try to distill it:

    1. We really need to keep arguments straight here. Noting that offensive players who are designated as “running backs” and predomminantly lining up behind or next to the quarterback are valuable personnel when they’re talented and effectively integrated into the team’s offensive scheme is simply not indistinguishable from “ground and pound” advocacy. If anything, your insistence on think that it is (or making statements like “having a productive ‘running back’ doesn’t help you) is far more reductive than anything else.

    2. General arguments about player availability simply don’t hold any water relative to individual assessments. Pretty much no one would take you seriously if you declared that, since Tom Brady is the best quarterback of all time and Jamarcus Russsell was a massive bust so the Colts should pass on Andrew Luck and wait until the sixth round to pick their QB of the future. Similarly, the Raiders, Cardinals, and Bucs actually do deserve criticism for drafting a QB, OT, and DE over Adrian Peterson.

    3. Declarations about what you “can” do in a draft or what you “can” get have to actually be tempered with evidence, not just outright statements. Cfe the fact that Richardson required a first round pick from the Colts for example, but also the fact that the past two drafts have been pretty damn barren where offensive skill position players are concerned, but deep in defensive linemen/pass rushers.

    4. You continue to just waive off the fact that the Browns “inept” draft strategy left them in a position to draft a quarterback and an OT with their next two picks and drafted a premier pass rushing prospect in the next draft. That looks like a good haul to me!

    • JRD

      Point #4 requires a belief that the Browns will not be forced to draft a QB again in the first round just two seasons after taking Weeden – a belief that this Browns fan, at least, does not hold. Further, Schwartz’s regression this year has been shocking, almost making one believe that his high 2nd round draft spot last year was a reach.

      • Brien Jackson

        Well, no, obviously they screwed up by doing a very bad job of talent evaluation. But talent evaluation is a separate issue from general statements about relative value of certain types of players.

        • JRD

          Sorry; it looks as though I misunderstood you.

        • Stan Gable

          I don’t see why you would have a problem in terms of relative value. I mean, it’s pretty clear that a punter can never produce as much value as a QB regardless of how good he is, right? What’s weird about concluding that RB is farther down on the value chain than it used to be or once appeared?

          • Brien Jackson

            Because you have to actually relate it to something. Hell, go with Scott’s “pick a defensive player” idea and take the best defensive draft pick in hindsight and you get…a middle linebacker, which is also a position of rapidly decreasing value, especially in the 3-4. Same thing goes for defensive backs, especially when you have pass rush issues.

            Value is also affected by scarcity and, again, the last two drafts have been pretty damn lean on offensive skill positions, but really deep on the offensive line and defensive fronts.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Just to be clear, you’re arguing that safeties have less value than running backs in modern football? That’s nuts.

              Also, Kuechly already has 3 picks; it’s not like he’s a run-stopping specialist, and he’s capable of playing in a 3-4. Poe has 3.5 sacks in 3 games this year, so it seems safe to say that your implicit assumption that he has no value as a pass-rusher is mistaken.

              • Brien Jackson

                No, I’m saying that there’s no real relative positional value at all once you get past QB/OL/Pass Rusher grouping, because those are the only positions that can elevate others/aren’t in some way dependent upon the rest of the team. This is, what, the 7th time I’ve typed that?

                • Scott Lemieux

                  And every time you type it it’s still wrong.

      • Brien Jackson

        And, actually, I’d say the need to quickly move on from Weeden makes taking Richardson (the highest valued player at the spot) MORE logical, given that they were able to cash out on him at such a high return. There’s no way you’re getting a first round pick for Blackmon right now, and I doubt you’d get one for Barron/Claiborne either.

        • Orpho

          “More logical” certainly seems to be grading on a (really steep) curve. The cash out is certainly making the best of a bad situation, but it’s still a bad situation. When trading a pick that hasn’t worked out for your team is the smartest personnel move you’ve made in 5 years, things are Not Going Well on the personnel management front.

          • Brien Jackson

            I don’t see why it’s grading on a curve at all. In the absence of any obvious game-changing pick (which is basically just a QB, pass rusher, LT, or really special talent), picking the player with the most value to everyone else is clearly the best thing to do. That’s not what the Browns did, obviously, but it still works as a good hedge when you’re also getting the player you think is the best pick.

        • junker

          This is just stupid; you can’t give them credit for this. “We had better draft Trent Richardson, so that if things don’t work out with Weeden we can use Richardson as trade bait for a better QB.”

          Sure, that’s an overall waste of a first rounder (Turning Richardson + another first round pick into… just a first round pick) but look how smart the Browns are!

          • 11th-dimensional draft chess?

          • Scott Lemieux

            And they got very lucky. If Ballard doesn’t get hurt there’s no way in hell they’re getting a 1st rounder for Richardson.

    • Joshua

      Adrian Peterson came off a bad injury his last year in college. Pair that with the many high-profile RB busts, and it’s really no surprise why other teams did not draft him. The fact that he turned out to be everything we wanted and hoped for him to be does not invalidate the logic that went into skipping him.

      • Brien Jackson

        And JaMarcus Russell was a big, non-accurate passer with concerns about his work ethic and discipline. But none of that mattered because QB??? And the Lions should have taken Gaines Adams or Brady Quinn over Calvin Johnson because the Patriots have proven that having stud WRs isn’t necessary??

        Anyway, the point is that if you’re going to retroactively critique a draft, you have to pick a consistent frame for it. You can’t just constantly shift from a criticism of strategy to one of scouting accuracy.

        • And JaMarcus Russell was a big, non-accurate passer with concerns about his work ethic and discipline. But none of that mattered because QB???

          Everyone was slobbering over Russell because he was a speedy Linebacker with an amazing arm playing QB. NFL scouts love that. Hell, I remember when NFL scouts were slobbering over Mark McGwire’s brother. The good teams know that being a freak athlete doesn’t automatically guarantee anything.

    • junker

      2. General arguments about player availability simply don’t hold any water relative to individual assessments. Pretty much no one would take you seriously if you declared that, since Tom Brady is the best quarterback of all time and Jamarcus Russsell was a massive bust so the Colts should pass on Andrew Luck and wait until the sixth round to pick their QB of the future. Similarly, the Raiders, Cardinals, and Bucs actually do deserve criticism for drafting a QB, OT, and DE over Adrian Peterson.

      I don’t know why you keep bringing this point up, except to try and confuse the issue by conflating QB’s and RB’s. There is a great deal of evidence that the best QB’s come in the first round of the draft, and that getting a great QB from later rounds is fluky at best. On the other hand, there is also a great deal of evidence that RB’s drafted in the first round are only marginally better than those picked outside of the first round, or picked up for free in free agency. This is not a difficult point: some positions are more valuable and harder to fill than others, and this should absolutely inform your drafting decisions.

      To reverse your argument, Sebastian Janikowski is a great kicker who was drafted in the first round, and therefore all teams should be looking to the first round to draft kickers.

      3. Declarations about what you “can” do in a draft or what you “can” get have to actually be tempered with evidence, not just outright statements. Cfe the fact that Richardson required a first round pick from the Colts for example, but also the fact that the past two drafts have been pretty damn barren where offensive skill position players are concerned, but deep in defensive linemen/pass rushers.

      Scott addressed this point by listing some of the (better) players who were taken after Richardson and who could have been drafted by the Browns. I don’t think you’ve ever actually given any evidence as to why trading up to get Richardson was the best choice over players like Kuechly; you just keep asserting that it was.

      4. You continue to just waive off the fact that the Browns “inept” draft strategy left them in a position to draft a quarterback and an OT with their next two picks and drafted a premier pass rushing prospect in the next draft. That looks like a good haul to me!

      What? To add to what JRD already said, the fact that the Browns made some good decisions does not then absolve them of a bad draft, nor does it mean you can’t criticize this choice.

      • Brien Jackson

        “To reverse your argument, Sebastian Janikowski is a great kicker who was drafted in the first round, and therefore all teams should be looking to the first round to draft kickers.”

        “Thanks for agreeing with me about how silly this is?Scott addressed this point by listing some of the (better) players who were taken after Richardson and who could have been drafted by the Browns. I don’t think you’ve ever actually given any evidence as to why trading up to get Richardson was the best choice over players like Kuechly; you just keep asserting that it was.”

        Running backs are worthless, so they should have drafted…a MLB to put into a 3-4 defense? Again, please keep your arguments straight.

        “What? To add to what JRD already said, the fact that the Browns made some good decisions does not then absolve them of a bad draft, nor does it mean you can’t criticize this choice.”

        Well, of course not, but mistakes of strategy (picking a kicker in the first round or drafting a player 15 spots higher than he’d realistically come off of the board are not the same things as simply whiffing on your scouting, and you can’t treat them as such. Which is why you can’t say that Alex Smith and Kaepernick proves you shouldn’t draft a QB first overall or something.

    • Ann Outhouse

      Similarly, the Raiders, Cardinals, and Bucs actually do deserve criticism for drafting a QB, OT, and DE over Adrian Peterson.

      How many Super Bowls have the Vikes been to since drafting Peterson?

      How many Super Bowls would the Bucs or Raiders have been to if they had Peterson?

      The answer to both is 0.

      • Brien Jackson

        If only you could wish better prospects into the draft pool when needed? Oh wait, we don’t actually have to consider what the draft actually looked like, we can just make general declarations of what players you can get “later.”

    • Scott Lemieux

      1. We really need to keep arguments straight here. Noting that offensive players who are designated as “running backs” and predomminantly lining up behind or next to the quarterback are valuable personnel when they’re talented and effectively integrated into the team’s offensive scheme is simply not indistinguishable from “ground and pound” advocacy. If anything, your insistence on think that it is (or making statements like “having a productive ‘running back’ doesn’t help you) is far more reductive than anything else.

      This just doesn’t make any sense. Richardson’s value isn’t as a pass catcher, and backs who can catch some passes at 7 yards a crack are essentially a free resource.

      2. General arguments about player availability simply don’t hold any water relative to individual assessments. Pretty much no one would take you seriously if you declared that, since Tom Brady is the best quarterback of all time and Jamarcus Russsell was a massive bust so the Colts should pass on Andrew Luck and wait until the sixth round to pick their QB of the future

      See above. These arguments are a massive non-sequitur. I’m not talking about individual anecdotes; I’m talking systematically. Running backs just don’t have the kind of impact on the modern game that would justify a #3 pick except in extreme circumstances. The Weeden pick is a different category of error than the Richardson pick.

      3. Declarations about what you “can” do in a draft or what you “can” get have to actually be tempered with evidence, not just outright statements. Cfe the fact that Richardson required a first round pick from the Colts for example, but also the fact that the past two drafts have been pretty damn barren where offensive skill position players are concerned, but deep in defensive linemen/pass rushers.

      I don’t even know what most of this means, but if you think any competent organization would consider Richardson as valuable as Poe or Kuechly you’re out of your mind.

      You continue to just waive off the fact that the Browns “inept” draft strategy left them in a position to draft a quarterback and an OT with their next two picks and drafted a premier pass rushing prospect in the next draft. That looks like a good haul to me!

      Again, this is incomprehensible. The Browns used two first round picks and two additional picks to draft two players who had substantial negative value. (They could have taken one of several quality defensive prospects and still been in a position to draft a QB and kept the two later picks, so the whole argument is a non-sequitur.) What they did in the second round is irrelevant to this, and what they did in 2013 is irrelevant except insofar as Richardson and Weeden were so useless they got another high pick. What the hell kind of a defense is this?

      • Brien Jackson

        “Richardson’s value isn’t as a pass catcher…”

        I think the correct response here is: LOL.

        “Running backs just don’t have the kind of impact on the modern game that would justify a #3 pick except in extreme circumstances.”

        This is a meaningless statement, given that it’s literally true of every position on the field other than quarterbacks.

        “I don’t even know what most of this means, but if you think any competent organization would consider Richardson as valuable as Poe or Kuechly you’re out of your mind.”

        Please elaborate on your theory of how middle linebackers are super valuable in 3-4 defenses. Again, you can’t even stay consistent here, behind making sure we all know you don’t like players who line up behind the quarterback.

        “Again, this is incomprehensible.”

        Well, let me try again: “don’t pick bad players” is different than “don’t pick players at a certain position.” If Richardson turns out to be good and the Browns use their second first round pick on a better player (and remember, Plan A was to trade up to get RGIII, and Holmgren swears he made a legit offer to give away the whole draft to get Luck), then things are materially different.

        “What they did in the second round is irrelevant to this…”

        How could what they got with subsequent picks be irrelevant to the question of their draft strategy?

        “and what they did in 2013 is irrelevant except”

        Tell me more about how looking at available resources more than one year out is irrelevant, please.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I think the correct response here is: LOL.

          So you’re not going to defend the proposition that a back getting 7 yards a catch has any marginal value. Good move, since it’s obviously ridiculous.

          This is a meaningless statement, given that it’s literally true of every position on the field other than quarterbacks.

          As I said below, no it isn’t. A team’s collective ability to pass and stop the pass matters a great deal, a team’s ability to run pretty much doesn’t. Hence, players who contribute to pass offense and defense are much more valuable. This isn’t complicated.

          Please elaborate on your theory of how middle linebackers are super valuable in 3-4 defenses. Again, you can’t even stay consistent here, behind making sure we all know you don’t like players who line up behind the quarterback.

          By covering people and breaking up and intercepting passes? [And if we assume that MLBs can’t have any value, why not a DT or safety?]

          Well, let me try again: “don’t pick bad players” is different than “don’t pick players at a certain position.” If Richardson turns out to be good and the Browns use their second first round pick on a better player (and remember, Plan A was to trade up to get RGIII, and Holmgren swears he made a legit offer to give away the whole draft to get Luck), then things are materially different.

          And the Browns committed both errors, only what you fail to understand is that is Richardson turns out to be merely “good” it’s still a terrible pick.

          How could what they got with subsequent picks be irrelevant to the question of their draft strategy?

          Because it doesn’t change the fact that the first two picks were horrible.


          Tell me more about how looking at available resources more than one year out is irrelevant, please.

          If you were expecting to draft in the top 5 or 6 again I think we can safely say that your previous year’s draft was horrible.

        • Brien Jackson

          “So you’re not going to defend the proposition that a back getting 7 yards a catch has any marginal value. Good move, since it’s obviously ridiculous.”

          I spent the last 4+ years watching a team coordinated by Cam Cameron, trust me: throwing bombs every other pass doesn’t actually work in the real NFL. But if you want to keep acting like this is baseball I suppose there’s no stopping you.

          “A team’s collective ability to pass and stop the pass matters a great deal, a team’s ability to run pretty much doesn’t.”

          Again, dude, I’m a Ravens fan who was alive last season. Try harder.

          “By covering people and breaking up and intercepting passes? ”

          They primarily cover backs, though, and we’ve already established that they’re meaningless to a passing offense. Also, 3-4 middle linebackers are readily available in the second/third round, so the same “don’t pick them early” critique applies.

          “Because it doesn’t change the fact that the first two picks were horrible.”

          And this is where you’re inability to keep your framing straight gets us off the rails: in the case of Weeden, sure, subsequent picks don’t change the fact that he’s bad on the merits. But to the extent that your argument about Richardson is one of value, then the other players they’re able to draft quite clearly do matter. That they got a nice RT, for example, is a pretty good reason for not drafting Kalil and moving him first. Had they drafted Wilson with one of those picks, it certainly would have meant they were smart to not pick Tannehill third (or fourth) overall.

          “If you were expecting to draft in the top 5 or 6 again I think we can safely say that your previous year’s draft was horrible.”

          There were superior defensive line prospects being taken all the way through the middle of the first round in 2013. There weren’t any prominent skill position prospects. Somehow relative scarcity has no effect on value though!

          • Scott Lemieux

            I spent the last 4+ years watching a team coordinated by Cam Cameron, trust me: throwing bombs every other pass doesn’t actually work in the real NFL. But if you want to keep acting like this is baseball I suppose there’s no stopping you.

            Again, the most fundamental error you seem to be making is the inability to distinguish between relative and absolute value. Nobody’s saying that you should never throw passes to running backs. They’re saying that top running backs generally aren’t significantly better receivers than guys you can pick up off the waiver wire, so you don’t need to invest a lot of money or high draft picks to find one.

            Again, dude, I’m a Ravens fan who was alive last season. Try harder.

            SO your argument is that random anecdotes trump systematic data. I’m convinced! And what’s even worse is that the anecdote proves my point, not yours. The Ravens’ pass defense was much better than its rush defense. In the regular season, when the Ravens were pretty good and nothing more, Rice was probably a little more effective than Flacco. In the postseason, however, Rice did nothing much and Flacco was exceptionally good, and the Ravens were much better. You win by passing and stopping the pass in the NFL.

            But to the extent that your argument about Richardson is one of value, then the other players they’re able to draft quite clearly do matter.

            Given that they passed up many better players, not really.

            There were superior defensive line prospects being taken all the way through the middle of the first round in 2013. There weren’t any prominent skill position prospects

            That couldn’t possibly make less sense. If the defensive players are better than the offensive skill players, take one of the former! It’s not complicated.

            • Brien Jackson

              “Again, the most fundamental error you seem to be making is the inability to distinguish between relative and absolute value. Nobody’s saying that you should never throw passes to running backs. They’re saying that top running backs generally aren’t significantly better receivers than guys you can pick up off the waiver wire, so you don’t need to invest a lot of money or high draft picks to find one. ”

              And see, I think the fundamental error you make is treating football as a static game like baseball. Because seriously, the idea that having a running back who can’t be covered man to man by an average linebacker means nothing to a passing offense is quite obviously nonsense.

              “And what’s even worse is that the anecdote proves my point, not yours. The Ravens’ pass defense was much better than its rush defense. In the regular season, when the Ravens were pretty good and nothing more…”

              1. This is kind of rich, because the Ravens’ pass defense was terrible in the playoffs, with the exception of the AFCCG.

              2. Thank God the Ravens’ terrible run defense didn’t cost them any winnable games or anything, since they had such a cushion to make the playoffs and all! It’s not like they needed a ridiculous return touchdown and a missed FG to beat the Cowboys at home or anything either!

              ” You win by passing and stopping the pass in the NFL.”

              But this is, or course, true only in the sense that we assume basically all NFL defenses clear the bar of “having an adequate run defense.” If you legitimately atrocious against the run, then the other team is going to beat you with that with ease.

              “In the regular season, when the Ravens were pretty good and nothing more, Rice was probably a little more effective than Flacco. In the postseason, however, Rice did nothing much and Flacco was exceptionally good, and the Ravens were much better.”

              And, again, you can’t stay on point and you invoke the quarterback, which is neither here nor there. But you might also note that none of the Ravens’ wide receivers/tight ends turned in a particularly noteworthy performance either, and their passing renaissance was completely fueled by Flacco, Caldwell, and an offensive line pass blocking like gangbusters.

              “Given that they passed up many better players, not really.”

              Oh look: you responded to a point about draft strategy by invoking talent evaluation again!

              “That couldn’t possibly make less sense. If the defensive players are better than the offensive skill players, take one of the former! It’s not complicated.”

              Erm, in so much as I was talking about 2013 (being a better draft for premium defensive players than 2012) they, um, did.

              • Scott Lemieux

                And see, I think the fundamental error you make is treating football as a static game like baseball. Because seriously, the idea that having a running back who can’t be covered man to man by an average linebacker means nothing to a passing offense is quite obviously nonsense.

                1)What does that have to do with Trent Richardson? 2)How many running backs have a demonstrably better effectiveness as receivers than any generic waiver-wire pickup? It has nothing to do with thinking football is static; it has to do with understanding that the ability to catch short passes when not being covered by corners isn’t a rare skill.

                1. This is kind of rich, because the Ravens’ pass defense was terrible in the playoffs, with the exception of the AFCCG.

                Except for stopping Tom Brady, their pass defense sucked! OK. At any rate, they overcame that through passing, not running.

                But this is, or course, true only in the sense that we assume basically all NFL defenses clear the bar of “having an adequate run defense.” If you legitimately atrocious against the run, then the other team is going to beat you with that with ease.

                1)Since the defending Super Bowl champion had a shitty run defense this is an odd argument, and 2)is this the same Brien Jackson who thinks that it’s crazy to take an excellent interior linebacker over a generic running back?


                But you might also note that none of the Ravens’ wide receivers/tight ends turned in a particularly noteworthy performance either

                I don’t believe you actually watched any of these games. Boldin was nothing special? Really?

                Oh look: you responded to a point about draft strategy by invoking talent evaluation again!

                You can’t separate the two. The available talent is relevant to any (competent) draft strategy.

                Erm, in so much as I was talking about 2013 (being a better draft for premium defensive players than 2012) they, um, did.

                If they didn’t pass up several excellent defensive players to waste a top 3 pick on a running back in 2012, this point would make sense. But they did so it doesn’t.

                • Brien Jackson

                  “How many running backs have a demonstrably better effectiveness as receivers than any generic waiver-wire pickup?”

                  Wait…so your strategy is going to be to constantly run empty backfields? Because otherwise, I don’t see why you’d compare a good receiving running back to a wide receiver, anymore than you’d eschew tight ends because they’re inferior to receivers in absolute terms.

                  ” At any rate, they overcame that through passing, not running.”

                  Well, technically, the overcame it with a tremendously improbable hail mary pass and a kickoff returned for a touchdown.

                  “You can’t separate the two. The available talent is relevant to any (competent) draft strategy.”

                  I’m honestly starting to doubt that you can’t figure that out but, be that as it may:

                  You have to evaluate a team’s strategy through the prism of their evaluations. If the Browns think that Richardson is an extremely talented athlete who profiles as a complete, dynamic, back, and that he’s more talented than the other guys on the board, then they absofuckinglutely should pick him there. To not pick him would be completely idiotic strategy, given that they missed out on the franchise quarterbacks. If they’re wrong about Richardson’s talent level, then they fucked up the talent evaluation, and they need to get better scouts, but if you have to build a draft strategy around assuming their scouts are right, then you did perfectly fine.

                • Sherm

                  Lets not lose sight of the fact that internet arguments and discussions disintegrate real quickly. You guys could probably find some common ground here if this argument was held in the proper forum — at a bar while consuming mass quantities of beer.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Wait…so your strategy is going to be to constantly run empty backfields? Because otherwise, I don’t see why you’d compare a good receiving running back to a wide receiver, anymore than you’d eschew tight ends because they’re inferior to receivers in absolute terms.

                  Jesus. For the millionth and last time, “there’s very little difference in the ability of NFL running backs to catch passes so it’s not worth paying for” doesn’t mean “never throw to running backs.”

                  Well, technically, the overcame it with a tremendously improbable hail mary pass and a kickoff returned for a touchdown.

                  Well, that one game wouldn’t have led to a Super Bowl had Flacco not continued to play extremely well, but since this is your random anecdote used to trump completely clear evidence the fact that you’re no longer even trying to pretend that it’s relevant to anything is fine with me.

                  . If the Browns think that Richardson is an extremely talented athlete who profiles as a complete, dynamic, back, and that he’s more talented than the other guys on the board, then they absofuckinglutely should pick him there.

                  No, they shouldn’t have, because the marginal ability to run isn’t very important to modern football and players who can run well enough can be found much more cheaply. The only exception would be if they were sure that he was a Peterson/Sanders caliber player, and there was little evidence for this at the time and has certainly been proven wrong.

  • Joshua

    Defenses may have been targeting Richardson. But I think there’s a term for people who perform even when they are targeted by the opponents – it’s called “a good player.”

    • Cody

      We might not want to dismiss the possibility that the Browns organization was just so incompetent, there are a myriad of other reasons he got bad production.

      Poor play calling? Lack of blocking? Zero development on him by the coaches?

      Obviously Indy is taking a gamble here, but Richardson was considered an elite talent. That’s generally worth a late 1st round pick (what Indy ASSUMES they gave up… obviously not a given)

      • Joshua

        I’m not saying Richardson is terrible or anything. I was just saying that good players get targeted. They get targeted because they are good and they succeed because they good.

        Bill Simmons pointed out that if Richardson becomes a great back in Indy then Browns fans will go ape shit on the current management. Maybe true, but it’s a simple fact that he wasn’t getting it done in Cleveland.

      • Ann Outhouse

        The issue is not whether he’s a good player. The issue is whether a good or even great RB is worth a #3 overall draft pick in the modern game. The answer is, no, it is not.

        • Brien Jackson

          Please to be listing all of the players in the 2007 draft you would have taken over AP.

          • Anonymous

            There are exceptions to every rule. Trent Richardson is not one of them.

            • Brien Jackson

              Missed the point you did.

          • Sherm

            Darrelle Revis comes to mind, and Patrick Willis as well.

            Brien, I think you can add cover corners and wide receivers to QBs, left tackles and pass rushers as players to target in a draft before even considering a running back.

            • Brien Jackson

              Poppycock. They’re all basically in the same boat of “you can find talent all the way through round three and don’t have a huge impact on the team unless they’re really unique talents,” so if you’re picking between the three groupings you should just ignore the positions and take the best talent.

              • Sherm

                Its a passing league. Can’t have enough good corners, and great cover corners and great wide receivers are bigger game changers than great running backs. And great cover corners are hard to find outside of the first round.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Great cover corners, maybe, but talking about legitimate lockdown guys like Revis is beside the point. If we’re talking generic first round talents, then I don’t think they’re that much more valuable, especially given that it’s a passing league, not a coverage league, and great defensive backs need both a good pass rush and other good defensive backs to make them worthwhile.

                  As for the distinction between running backs and wide receivers, I don’t see it at all, and in fact I’d argue that the “average” great running back is better than an equivalent wide receiver. The number of great running backs who can rack up their yardage even against eight man fronts is a lot longer than the number of receivers who can consistently beat double coverage (i.e. Calvin Johnson at present). So if my quarterback is average to below average, I’d rather have Adrian Peterson and the Ravens’ receivers than Andre Johnson and the Packers’ running backs.

                • Sherm

                  If talking about a legitimate lockdown guy like Revis is “besides the point”, shouldn’t talking about an extraordinary talent like Adrian Peterson likewise be besides the point when discussing the wisdom of trading up to draft Trent Richardson, who obviously lacks Peterson’s unique skills and abilities?

                  AP is a generational player — the best rb since Barry Sanders. Trent Richardson is a pretty ordinary back, and no one in his or her right mind expected him to be as good as AP coming out of college.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Well…yeah. My point was that, assuming we’re talking about run of the mill first round talent and not generational talents, RB/WR/DB are all pretty much on the same level in that positional value doesn’t go very far to making up for gaps in talent. Where Richardson himself is concerned I think the biggest point in his favor is that the last two drafts have been really thin on the offensive side, while there was a ton of first round defensive talent in this year’s draft. If you also think that he’s the best talent of the group that went in the 3-8 range, then you absolutely should take him (see Steve Bisciotti’s beloved story about how he wanted to draft Lito Shepphard over Ed Reed). Tannehill complicates that a little bit, but we don’t know how the Browns graded him out either.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Its a passing league. Can’t have enough good corners, and great cover corners and great wide receivers are bigger game changers than great running backs. And great cover corners are hard to find outside of the first round.

                  This is obviously correct. Good defensive backs and wideouts are far more valuable and hard to find in contemporary football than good running backs, because the passing game is much more important than the running game. To treat the positions as similarly valuable is absurd.

                • Brien Jackson

                  What in the actual fuck are you talking about? Good receivers, tight ends, and defensive backs are every bit as available in the second and third rounds as running backs are. For fuck’s sake, the defending Super Bowl champions had one starting player at those positions who was drafted in the first round, and that was Ed Reed. You are just completely talking out of your ass now.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  For fuck’s sake, the defending Super Bowl champions had one starting player at those positions who was drafted in the first round, and that was Ed Reed.

                  Holy cherry picking batman! Last year’s other Super Bowl finalists, who were a better team, had a high first rounder at TE, 3 1st rounders at windeout, a 1st rounder at middle linebacker, and 2 1st rounders at DB. So what the hell does that prove? Moreover, without Crabtree and Davis their passing game has gotten much, much worse.

                  Anyway, if you think the Seahawks could replace Thomas or Chancellor or Sherman as easily as they could replace Lynch…that’s crazy.

                • Brien Jackson

                  “So what the hell does that prove?”

                  That having four first round players at WR and TE (and for the love of fucking God, you’re actually citing Ginn and Jenkin?!?!?!) and two first round DBs isn’t materially better than having 2 second round WRs, a fourth round TE, and two cast-off CBs. This is literally the same point as “you can draft a running back in the third round!!!!”

                • Scott Lemieux

                  isn’t materially better

                  So your argument is that the 49ers can find comparable replacements for Davis and Crabtree on the waiver wire and their absence won’t materially affect the team? I think that position will not be easy to defend.

                  But that is the position you’re committed to — quality wideouts and tight ends are just as easy to replace as running backs. Alas, it’s wrong.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Well, Smith (2nd round) and Pitta (4th round) have been at least as productive as Crabtree and Davis (top ten picks) through the same period in their careers, and Boldin and Jones (cheap cast-offs) were obviously superior to Ginn (top ten pick/cast-off) and Jenkins (first round pick who didn’t catch a pass and just got shipped off to Kansas City after one year).

                  So, yeah, how does the same “it’s easy to get a good one after the first round” critique everyone applies to running backs somehow not apply to wide receivers, tight ends, and defensive backs?

          • Scott Lemieux

            Please to be listing all of the players in the 2007 draft you would have taken over AP.

            You continue to cite the one exception-that-proves-the-rule everyone acknowledges as if it was typical. The typical top-5 RB is more like Cadillac Williams or Darren McFadden. “The pick is good if the player turns out to be historically good” is a terrible justification, especially when it’s clear that he’s not that kind of player.

            And what’s funny is that above you attack someone for comparing Richardson to Peterson, so even you don’t believe this example is relevant.

            • Brien Jackson

              No, my point is that there’s no substitute for talent evaluation. And that picking Brady Quinn over Adrian Peterson would have been a very stupid thing for Minnesota to do.

              • Scott Lemieux

                Brady Quinn over Adrian Peterson would have been a very stupid thing for Minnesota to do.

                That’s nice, but it’s not actually a defense of the Browns’ 2012 draft.

                • Brien Jackson

                  This is only because you can’t wrap your head around the concept of talent evaluation and think defensive backs are insanely valuable.

                  I mean, whatever else you want to say, Holmgren and staff clearly had a very high opinion of Richardson’s talent. As such, given what was available in the immediate and near term, it was perfectly reasonable (the obviously correct strategical decision, even) for them to pick him as they did. If they were wrong about him then they were wrong. But you’re acting as though actual scouting is meaningless, and you only need to know what position a player is listed at.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  defensive backs are insanely valuable.

                  No, I think they’re more valuable than running backs. That you think this means “insanely valuable” is the problem.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Right. Which is why the team that drafted the first DB in 2012 didn’t have to rush out to spend a crap ton of money and an additional first round pick on two veteran DBs the very next offseason. Oh…wait… (But at least they have a top tier pass defense and a respectable organization through the first three games this year. Oh…wait…)

            • Ann Outhouse

              Adding, AP went seventh, not third.

      • Kurzleg

        We might not want to dismiss the possibility that the Browns organization was just so incompetent, there are a myriad of other reasons he got bad production.

        Hiring the son of your old defensive coordinator as your head coach springs to mind.

  • MikeJake

    I’d say Lynch was worth it solely for his Beast Mode run against the Saints in the playoffs. So awesome.

  • shah8

    Scott’s wrong. Since this is one of those topics he’s crazy and willing to double down on, I’m not going to engage.

    But specifically:

    Talent is talent is talent, and I believe the long snapper is the only player on a roster that simply cultivates a smooth action. Even the punter really, really, helps with knucklers, coffin kicks, etc. Scott is being one of those over-reductionist libertarian nerds (such as those wonks that believes teachers are fungible) that doesn’t understand what they are talking about, and has less desire to understand than to put up a tough appearance of being smart.

    As for the rest of that silly post, GMs drafts running backs high because quality running backs are important to the functioning of the offense, and in general, is the second most important player on said offense. It’s got nothing to do with valuing any ethos of “ground and pound” or “run-pass balance”, and it has everything to do with how dysfunctional an offense gets without a capable RB. The whole “RB is fungible”, “It’s a passing league, now”, meme generation are functions of societal racism more than any real sense or logic. It’s been a passing league since the early 80s, everyone’s adapted to it.

    Ah, one other thing. When a RB has high rushing yardage with dysfunction at QB, this is because defenses gear up to stop the run by placing more people at the line of scrimmage, and the offense has fewer WRs on the field. That leads to everyone being near the line of scrimmage, and if the RB makes it through anyways, then there is an awful lot of daylight. Both Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles’ high yardage 2012 were a consequence of lots of extra boom plays. Now, you can tell when you have great RBs and terrible QBs when the RB have a lower TD count than they should, given the yardage. Compare Adrian Peterson’s 2009 with his 2008/2012 TD totals. What has happened to Adrian Peterson this year is that a) Jerome Felton, his fullback, had been suspended for the first three games, and AD is definitely missing the quality of Felton’s lead blocks. b) Defensive Coordinators have simply begun to totally disregard Christian Ponder, with the result that Ponder is getting over 200 yards on a regular basis now, and hitting on longer passes. Flip side is that there are absolutely no holes for Adrian, in the way it was last year when some attention was paid to the soundness of the pass defense.

    • CaptBackslap

      The whole “RB is fungible”, “It’s a passing league, now”, meme generation are functions of societal racism more than any real sense or logic. It’s been a passing league since the early 80s, everyone’s adapted to it.

      Back in the eighties and nineties, fans properly appreciated gritty white running backs like Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas. But now that black guys have taken over the RB position, not to mention that America is like 20 times as racist as it was then, fans only root for glory-boy white quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Coaches indulge these racist fans by passing more and more, despite the obvious superiority of the run.

      • shah8

        Leaving aside the silliness of the reply, it’s worth reminding that memes do go in and out of style.

        • CaptBackslap

          That was straightforward sports reporting from the dimension where your post made sense

    • Anonymous

      Scott is being one of those over-reductionist libertarian nerds….The whole “RB is fungible”, “It’s a passing league, now”, meme generation are functions of societal racism more than any real sense or logic.

      I have no opinion on the underlying issue about positional player valuation in the NFL, but….Christ, what an asshole.

      Say what you will about some of the recent trivial threads, I don’t recall anyone becoming desperate and unhinged enough to claim that ketchup fans are secret republicans, or consumers of flavored vodka are the equivalent of Rand Paul fans. This is spectacularly pathetic and contemptible rhetorical gambit.

  • timmay

    He certainly had a low YPC. It’s also true, though, that comparisons to AP are completely inappropriate. A player can be worse than AP, and still add value at running back.

    You have a serious problem with assuming athletic performance is a fixed value. At no point do you consider that Richardson was a rookie last year, a rookie who wasn’t even healthy to start the season. In spite of being a rookie who wasn’t 100%, he broke Browns records for yards for a first year running back (as well as touchdowns). The guys whose records he broke? Some nobody named Jim Brown.

    This article – http://www.footballperspective.com/why-trent-richardsons-3-6-ypc-average-does-not-matter/ – makes a pretty decent case that a rookie RB’s YPC isn’t necessarily a great predictor of future success. Specifically, the article suggests Richardson’s YPC in his rookie season were similar to those posted by some great running backs. That is to say, running backs can improve over time.

    Can we at least give the guy at least a few seasons before deciding he’s a bum?

    • Kurzleg

      You’re not addressing the central point, namely that since no matter how productive a running back is that high-level performance isn’t a prerequisite to building a winning team. That being the case, drafting TR at #3, paying him the large amount of money that a #3 pick gets and trading three draft picks to move up one spot for the privilege doesn’t make any sense.

      • Brien Jackson

        Holy shit, enough with the correlation crap. No position other than quarterback correlates that specifically to winning at a high rate. This, obviously, does not mean that you don’t need to pick an array of good players to play positions other than quarterback.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Holy shit, enough with the correlation crap. No position other than quarterback correlates that specifically to winning at a high rate.

          Again, you just don’t understand the argument. It’s true that apart from QB no individual player can have an immediate massive impact. Where the correlations are relevant, however, is that the marginal quality of a team’s passing game is exceptionally important to winning NFL games in 2013 and the marginal quality of a team’s running game has an essentially trivial impact. Hence, passing up players who can have a substantial impact on passing or stopping the pass to take a running back is senseless.

          • Brien Jackson

            No, I understand it fine. The problem is you overestimate the relative value of generic wide receivers/defensive backs to passing offense/defense. They just aren’t that central unless they’re elite players* JUST LIKE RUNNING BACKS!

            *And in the case of defensive backs, having one elite cornerback on defense and no other talent would obviously be totally useless.

            • Scott Lemieux

              If you believe that the quality of a team’s receivers is irrelevant unless you have a generational superstar, I urge you to watch a Patriots or 49ers game this year.

              • Brien Jackson

                1. Again, you have to decide if you want to talk about “good players” or “players drafted in the first round.”

                2. I enjoyed that you avoided telling me to watch the 2012 Ravens’ playoff highlights. That was a nice touch.

                3. The 49ers???? Unless I’m missing something, they’ve got basically the same receiving corp that they had last year, with the exception of swapping out Crabtree for Boldin until the former comes back. And Kapernick threw for 400 yards in week one.

                4. The Patriots are 3-0, will win their division, and have to be at least 50-50 to get the 2nd seed in the AFC. This is central to your point that receivers are essential commodities, I take it?

                • Scott Lemieux

                  1. Again, you have to decide if you want to talk about “good players” or “players drafted in the first round.”

                  Again, this is a strict distinction that exists in your own mind only. Scarcity after the fact is relevant to value at the draft. Nobody’s arguing that it’s impossible to find good wide receivers after the first round (well, except implicitly you, when you argue that the additional picks the Browns wasted to trade up for Richardson have no value at all.) But the fact that quality wideouts and tight ends are more scarce and more valuable in today’s game than running backs is certainly relevant if you’re more likely to get a quality wideout or TE in the first round than in the fourth, which is obviously true.

                  with the exception of swapping out Crabtree for Boldin until the former comes back. And Kapernick threw for 400 yards in week one.

                  My God, could these arguments be more embarrassingly tendentious? 1)Davis is out. 2)The supporting cast isn’t as strong as last year. 3)Kapernick hasn’t been nearly as good this year overall.

                  The Patriots are 3-0, will win their division, and have to be at least 50-50 to get the 2nd seed in the AFC.

                  So, your position is that if a Hall of Fame QB can narrowly beat the Jets, Bills, and Buccaneers this proves that the quality of his receiving corps is completely irrelevant even if his performance is very notably subpar? It’s like arguing with a creationist.

                • Brien Jackson

                  ” But the fact that quality wideouts and tight ends are more scarce”

                  I see absolutely no evidence for this claim whatsoever.

                  “My God, could these arguments be more embarrassingly tendentious? 1)Davis is out. 2)The supporting cast isn’t as strong as last year. 3)Kapernick hasn’t been nearly as good this year overall.”

                  1. Has what to do with anything?

                  2. How in the hell do you come to that conclusion? You do realize that A.J. Jenkins was a pretty epic bust, right?

                  3. Why in the blue hell are you completely incapable of staying on point? How many times is it that you’ve invoked a quarterback when we’re supposed to be talking about non-QBs (and this is just hilariously stupid on the face of it anyway: they’ve played three games, all of them against playoff teams, and in one of them he threw for 400 yards. Teh horrorz!!!!)

                  “So, your position is that if a Hall of Fame QB can narrowly beat the Jets, Bills, and Buccaneers this proves that the quality of his receiving corps is completely irrelevant even if his performance is very notably subpar? It’s like arguing with a creationist.”

                  I mean, you tell me. Unless you disagree with the notion that the Patriots have very, very good odds to win their division and get a first round bye in the playoffs, I’m not sure what you think your contention about their pass catchers is supposed to prove.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  I mean, you tell me. Unless you disagree with the notion that the Patriots have very, very good odds to win their division and get a first round bye in the playoffs, I’m not sure what you think your contention about their pass catchers is supposed to prove.

                  It shows that having worse receivers makes someone’s passing games worse. Since Brady’s receivers have gotten worse he has become less effective, showing that receivers are not entirely fungible commodities (while running backs more or less are, plus it doesn’t really matter very much if your running game isn’t good.) The fact that the Patriots are still a better team than the Jets and Bills is certainly an excellent rebuttal to the zero people who think receivers are as important as quarterbacks. As an argument against the group of people — people who pay attention to evidence, NFL general managers, people like that — who think that wideouts are less scarce and valuable than QBs but more scarce and valuable than running backs — it’s a flat non-sequitur.

                  In addition, your assumption that once you’re better than average the marginal quality of your passing game is irrelevant is fine if your only goal is to beat the Jets and Bills. If you want to beat the Broncos in the playoffs, you might want to make your team as good as it can be.

      • timmay

        That wasn’t what I took away as the central point.

        But, I don’t think there’s any disputing that a high draft pick should never be spent on a running back. The delta between average and stellar performance at that position doesn’t seem significant enough to warrant the expenditure of a high (or even low) first round pick, and by all appearances scouting college-to-pro prospects at this position is a crapshoot – in other words, even if you have the opportunity to draft the next AP, you probably won’t be able to recognize it. Or even worse, you operate under the delusion that you can draft the next AP and end up with Mark Ingram.

        If that’s the point, then it’s fairly uncontroversial. I think the CW now is to avoid running backs in the first round. However, the focus of the post seemed to be on Richardson’s rookie year statistics… which I think is just a poor and incomplete measure of his long term value (as opposed to, simply, his value last year).

    • Jonas

      Dude, Jim Brown’s rookie season had 12 games. Maybe look at some other stat than total yards.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I’m not declaring him a bum. I’m declaring that he’s obviously not the historically good player that would justify trading up to take at #3.

      • Brien Jackson

        Because those late round picks in an underwhelming draft are gonna really hurt them!!!

        • Scott Lemieux

          1)It’s possible that the late picks could hurt them. Even in an underwhelming draft, the more chances the better.

          2)They didn’t just waste the additional pick; they also wasted the #3 pick.

          • Brien Jackson

            Dear God, you just aren’t even trying anymore.

  • Kurzleg

    I’m reminded of the fact that Holmgren left Green Bay because he wanted player personnel decision-making authority, and Ron Wolf wouldn’t give it to him. (That Wolf not but a few years later gave it to head coach Mike Sherman is a sad fact and a reason why the teams eventually floundered once Sherman’s picks had to start contributing.)

    What’s curious to me is that Holmgren never had an elite RB when he coached in Green Bay. Neither Edgar Bennett nor Dorsey Levens were high draft picks, and neither was ever considered the best in the league. Yet Holmgren got a lot out of each of them, enough that was able to win multiple division championships and make it to the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons. Maybe he always resented not having a marquee name in that position, but it didn’t seem to negatively impact his success.

    • Holmgren had Favre at QB, plus Sterling Sharpe(for a spell) plus Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman(check their stats) and Keith Jackson(the one-time Sooner) at TE.

    • Col Bat Guano

      Holmgren did have control of personnel in Seattle his first few years here and the elite running back he chose in the first round was Shaun Alexander. I’m not sure anyone would call him “elite” even if he had a few good seasons. And that might have been Holmgren’s best draft as he got Hutchinson in the same 1st round. Overall, his ability to evaluate talent does not have a great track record. Which made Cleveland’s choice of him for GM pretty silly.

  • James E. Powell

    Since I’m a Cleveland boy, I do not consider the Holmgren/Heckert drafting to be comically inept. I don’t find their draft choices to be funny at all. The 2012 draft is a draft that will live in infamy. It was another blown chance for Browns v2.0, second only to the blown opportunity of the very first draft.

    The Banner/Lombardi made the right move, even if Trent Richardson goes on to lead the AFC in rushing for the next three years, even if the Colts win the Super Bowl. A pretty good RB, and that is Richardson’s ceiling, will not help the Browns as they are currently configured. Another first round pick might.

  • Denverite

    I don’t understand why the Browns don’t just sign Peyton Manning and go from a crappy team to one of the best teams in the league pretty much overnight. It worked for the blue-and-orange!

  • 2)this isn’t surprising, since in the modern game running backs are largely fungible and the marginal quality of a team’s running game doesn’t have a lot of impact on a team’s ability to win;

    I don’t know why you continue to make this demonstrably untrue statement. Rush Yards (R=0.682) correlate better with wins than Pass Yards (R=0.504).

    • Sherm

      No offense, but that’s downright silly. Losing teams put up garbage passing yardage when playing from behind, and against prevent defenses. Its about the efficiency of a team’s passing game. An efficient passing offense correlates to victories. Period.

      • Nobody is saying that an efficient passing offense is unimportant. Indeed, yards per passing attempt is a very simple stat that correlates very well with victory. But what people like you and Scott ignore in an effort to make an inane point about the importance of the passing game is that a running game is also important.

        You can make excuses and slice and dice all you want, but the fact of the matter is I can just look at the rush yards between two teams and tell correctly who won about 70% of the time… and that means a running game is important. Period.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I’ve discussed this many times, but as Sherm says these statistics are useless in that they confuse cause and effect. Winning teams generally run more often because once they’re ahead late killing clock and avoiding turnovers is more important than scoring. What matters is not total yards but yards per play, and when you look at the relevant data you’ll find that passing is much more important than running.

          • Or it means that you can not run the ball twice for 20 yards and expect to win. You cannot simply dismiss the fact that rush yardage is predictive with a just-so story while providing no evidence.

            • Sherm

              You provided ample evidence with your link:

              “Real Quarterback Rating
              Correlation to Victory (reg. season): 223-33 (.871)
              Correlation to Victory (postseason): 9-2 (.818)
              Total Correlation: 232-35 (.869)

              Real Quarterback Rating is our very successful effort to quantify all aspects of quarterback play: passing, running, rushing TD, sacks, fumbles, etc. It essentially uses total QB production and the tried and true passer rating formula to spit out an overall rating of play by quarterbacks.

              Some morons criticized this new indicator during the 2011 season. But what’s to criticize? It turned out to be the best stat in football.

              It also confirms for us that winning in the NFL is all about superior play at QB. No stat in football was better at separating winners from losers.

              Granted, there are MANY variables that go into superior play at quarterback. This is NOT an individual indicator. It is a team indicator. Teams with better pass protection, and better receivers, and better defenses that make like miserable (or as close to miserable as possible in the modern QB-friendly game) are more likely to win the battle of Real QB Rating.

              At the end of the day, it tells us football is a very simple game: nearly 9 out of 10 NFL games are won by the team with the more efficient play at quarterback, regardless of what else happens on the field.”

            • Denverite

              ???

              It’s “just-so” to say that the team with more rushing attempts usually has more yards?

        • Denverite

          The last point is just silly. I can look at who kicked the most extra points and guess which team won more than 90% of the time. It doesn’t mean that extra points are particularly important, or that a short range kicker is valuable at the margins — it means that the team with the most extra points scored the most touchdowns.

          The team with the most rushing yards usually has the most rushing attempts, and that usually means they were up late in the game — and the team that’s winning late in the game usually wins.

    • Denverite

      “Correlate” being the operative term. As the linked article points out, it’s not that running the ball well causes you to win — it’s that running the ball a lot is usually a sign that you have more points than the other team late in the game. And in that case, the correlation arrow is a causal one as well.

      • Brien Jackson

        Stands to reason that running the ball a lot doesn’t necessitate having a lot of rushing yards if you, ya know, aren’t good at running the ball.

        • Denverite

          You don’t think there’s a pretty strong correlation between number of carries and total rushing yards?

          Tell me one team has run the ball 40 times and the other one has run the ball 25 times, and I’d bet the team with more carries has more yards, oh, 90% of the time.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Stands to reason that running the ball a lot doesn’t necessitate having a lot of rushing yards if you, ya know, aren’t good at running the ball.

          Fortunately, we can solve this problem by looking at a team’s yards per carry, and when we do we find that it’s far less important than the marginal quality of the passing game.

          • Why can’t you get your head around the fact that both YPC and attempts might be relevant?

            • Denverite

              Because the empirical evidence says that YPC isn’t important.

              • While I will concede that a multiple linear regression to wins with both YPC and Attempts would be more informative, claiming that “the empirical evidence says that YPC isn’t important” is statistically illiterate.

                • Denverite

                  Fine. Unimportant relative to number of carries.

                  Also, see below.

      • This would be true if Rushing Attempts were the variable, but being that its Rushing Yards then we know effectiveness is playing a large part.

        • Sherm

          From your link:

          Rushing Yards Per Attempt
          Correlation to Victory (reg. season): 122-134 (.477)
          Correlation to Victory (postseason): 5-6 (.455)
          Total Correlation: 127-140 (.476).

          • Denverite

            I was just about to post this.

          • Logic not your strong suit?

            Effectiveness*Attempts=Total Yards

            You are only showing that effectiveness is not enough, which I already said.

            • Sherm

              Teams generally run the ball and rack up rushing yards after they are comfortably ahead, and pass the ball and rack up passing yards when they are behind. Thus, as mentioned above by Denverite, you are confusing causation and correlation when comparing total passing yards to total rushing yards as reasons for victories.

              And have you seen the leading indicators in your link? They all relate to the ability to pass the ball effectively.

              • As I said, nobody doubts the importance of a passing game. But you can’t just ignore the fact that rush yards are important because you don’t want to. Sure, you can make up a just-so story where every team that puts up big rush yards only did so after they piled up the pass yards and were way ahead… but so far nobody has actually provided any evidence of this.

                • Denverite

                  See below. Correlation between rushing attempts and winning is a good bit higher than rushing yards and winning.

                  And this — “you can make up a just-so story where every team that puts up big rush yards only did so after they piled up the pass yards and were way ahead” — is hugely disingenuous. No one is saying “every team” did anything.

            • Denverite

              No, you’re the one with a logic problem. See if you can follow:

              1.) Winning is correlated with total rushing yards.

              2.) Total rushing yards is a function of number of carries multiplied by yards per carry.

              3.) The correlation between winning and yards per attempt is relatively low.

              4.) Therefore, because winning is more or less independent of yards per carry, it necessarily must be highly correlated with the number of carries.

              • 4.) Therefore, because winning is more or less independent of yards per carry, it necessarily must be highly correlated with the number of carries.

                An R=0.5 is not statistically independent, try again.

                • Denverite

                  Hence “more or less.”

                • It’s not even close. An R=0 would be “more or less” statistically independent. So your conclusion is completely false and without basis.

                • Denverite

                  See below.

        • Denverite

          See above. Rushing attempts are strongly correlated with total rushing yards.

    • Anonymous

      It’s yards per attempt that’s the important stat, not total yards.

      From the same article:
      “Winning in the NFL is all about passing efficiency, and little about passing volume.”

    • Paul Clarke

      Just a note: the “correlations” in that article aren’t R or R^2 values:

      It’s not “correlation” in the scientific way that statisticians use the term. It’s just the record of teams when they win a certain statistical battle.

      So they’re basically the fraction of times teams won when being superior in the stat in question.

  • Denverite

    JW Hamner and Brien —

    Here’s another analysis.

    http://www.advancednflstats.com/2007/07/what-makes-teams-win-part-1.html

    Correlation between total rushing yards and winning is 0.45 (different data set).

    Correlation between number of carries and winning is 0.58.

    So at least according to this, if you had to guess who won, you’d be much better off looking at which team carried the ball more rather than which team gained more yards on the ground.

    • Strangely he doesn’t do YPC though. And to illustrate why your conclusions above where wrong:

      Yards per pass attempt is merely pass yards divided by pass attempts. So we have a relatively weak statistic (0.31) divided by an even weaker one with a negative correlation with winning (-0.17). We would expect to have a fairly meaningless result, but we don’t.

      • Denverite

        This is precisely backward. First, a correlation over 0.30 is generally regarded as moderate and not weak, but whatevs. In any event though, because total pass yards is yards per attempt times number of attempts, the fact that number of attempts is negatively correlated with winning EXPLAINS why the correlation is relatively low for total pass yards — it’s dragging the correlation with yards per attempt down.

        • What? You just dismissed an R of 0.5 a being meaningless when talking about YPC. Now a 0.3 is “moderate”. Regardless, correlation does not work like that: you know very little about the correlation between Z and X*Y from the correlation of Z and X and Z and Y.

          • Denverite

            Relatively. I said relatively.

            And your point isn’t really correct in this case. If Corr (Z, X) is a different sign than Corr (Z, Y), then you can be pretty certain that Corr (Z, XY) is going to be less in magnitude than the greater (in magnitude) of Corr (Z, X) and Corr (Z, Y).

            Or to use this specific case: The reason that winning is less correlated with total yards than it is with yards per attempt is because total yards is influenced by number of attempts, which is slightly correlated with losing.

    • Denverite

      Buehler? Buehler? Buehler?

      • You said

        1.) Winning is correlated with total rushing yards.

        2.) Total rushing yards is a function of number of carries multiplied by yards per carry.

        3.) The correlation between winning and yards per attempt is relatively low.

        4.) Therefore, because winning is more or less independent of yards per carry, it necessarily must be highly correlated with the number of carries.

        However he outlines where two weakly correlated stats when made into a ratio are strongly correlated.

        • Denverite

          No. See what I just said. The fact that number of attempts is negatively correlated with winning means that when you multiply it by the strongly correlated yards per attempt, the resulting stat (total yards) is going to be more weakly correlated.

          • Denverite

            Or to put it more symbolically:

            If TPY = YPA * N; and

            Corr (WP, N) k, where k is the boundary for strong correlation; then

            Corr (WP, TPY) < Corr (WP, YPA) and potentially k (depending on the exact value of Corr (WP, N)).

            • Denverite

              Sorry, something got eaten.

              TPY = YPA * N

              Corr (WP, N) k, where k is strong correlation

              then

              Corr (WP, TPY) < Corr (WP, YPA) and possibly k, depending on just how negative Corr (WP, N) is.

              • Denverite

                OK that got eaten again. Grrrr.

    • Denverite

      This guy used the Advanced NFL Stats data and calculated the correlation between yards per carry and winning — 0.18 (and that’s a weak correlation by any measure).

      http://thedctimes.com/2011/09/assessing-football-strategy-is-running-the-football-often-necessary/

      • Brien Jackson

        Lost in this relatively silly discussion is the obvious question of whether one NFL season is enough of a sample size to even make this a meaningful argument.

        • Denverite

          I dunno. 512 games is a pretty decent sample size.

          • Brien Jackson

            Really? Because one season of baseball is a hell of a lot more games than that, baseball statistics are less noisy than football statistics, yet no one will tell you that one season is a big enough sample size to make sweeping assumptions about baseball.

            • Denverite

              I mean, you kind of have a point. It’s not that one baseball season isn’t a big enough sample size. It’s that it isn’t a representative sample of a multi-year period. If anything weird is going on during that year (live ball, juiced players, whatever), then it’s going to give you a really flawed picture. If you took the same number of games (4,860 if my math is right) at random from the entire period in question, you’d be fine.

              (And yes, the same point applies to football. But we’re now looking at data from multiple seasons, including one from the 1994-2008 period.)

              • Brien Jackson

                I would think that the fact that the nature of football changes so quickly would make that a difficult task.

      • And here is another that gives Rush Attempts 0.55, Rush Yards 0.45, Rush Yards/Att at 0.18. (It’s data from 1994-2008)

        However, at the same time he says:

        When teams have at least one running back with 10 attempts and five yards per attempt, they win 65 percent of the time; with a quarterback with 25 attempts and eight passing yards per attempt, they win 70 percent of the time.

        Which simply screams for a multiple linear regression, and maybe if I’m ever unemployed or really bored I’ll look into doing it.

        It’s important to note that I don’t disagree with the idea that running backs are fungible, it’s the idea advanced here that the running game is irrelevant that I object to. Quite strongly obviously.

        • Denverite

          And it’s not the idea that the running game isn’t irrelevant that I have an issue with — it’s the notion that any correlation between yards rushing and winning percentage somehow proves it. In my mind — and this looks to be born out by the numbers everyone is finding — that correlation is mostly driven by the correlation between rushing attempts and winning percentage, which is more a function of second half game management strategy than the quality of the rushing attack.

          • …which is more a function of second half game management strategy than the quality of the rushing attack.

            It could just as easily be that a commitment to running even when you aren’t particularly effective at it… to keep defenses “honest” as they say… is what’s important. Or maybe you just need to be above a certain threshold in YPC to be “effective” and after that the marginal return on wins is minimal.

            It could be a lot of things, but you can’t simply dismiss rushing yards and attempts simply because you think’s it’s because teams run to kill clock and you have no other evidence.

            • Denverite

              Good point. I think it’s wrong, but that’s just intuition. Now I’d really like to see the correlation between second half rushing attempts (or less preferably, second half yardage) and winning. My guess is that it’s a lot higher than total game attempts or yards, but again, that’s just a guess.

              • Brien Jackson

                But that actually is kind of self-explanatory. Would the correlation of first half rushing attempts be more instructive?

                • Denverite

                  Yep, probably. You’d expect to see a much lower correlation (than total game attempts).

                • Brien Jackson

                  Or, at least, if you wanted to do second half attempts, you’d need to cut out circumstances like being down by 20 points or something.

  • Jordan

    Yeesh. This is not hard, people.

    1) Trading up to grab a RB at #3 is insane unless you think that RB is the next coming of AD or Sanders or something.

    2) If you thought Richardson was the next coming of AD or Sanders before the draft, you were insane.

    3) Therefore, drafting Richardson at #3 is insane.

    Valid, and Sound. Just admit it.

    I can’t believe the commenters have actually made me be a Scott supporter on a “I hate Runningbacks” post. Bravo, I guess.

    • Denverite

      I know I should know this, but who is AD? Tony Dorsett?

      • Jordan

        CRAP. It stands for All Day, which is/was Adrian Petersen’s nickname. For some reason, for the longest time, I have always abbreviated him AD instead of AP, which makes no fucking sense.

        Sorry.

    • James E. Powell

      I’d have done it for LaDainian Tomlinson.

      • Jordan

        Fair enough, me too probably.

      • Denverite

        What about Reggie Bush? Assume your coaching staff has a game plan how to use him.

        • Jordan

          No. Even with the game plan, picking him #3 in a draft?

          • Brien Jackson

            I dunno, third overall might be high if you re-drafted that first round (Mario, Ngata, and Cutler would get picked first), but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bush is a totally reasonable top ten pick. That has to be one of the two or three worst drafts for the top ten picks (Vince Young, Michael Huff, Donte Whitner, A.J. Hawk, and Matt Leinart) ever.

            • Jordan

              Well, you could certainly have done much, much worse (as you note). In fact, I am (still) continually shocked that my team ended up making the right choice with Mario, which was also considered a bizzare choice at the time.

              Still, though. If you are redrafting with full hindsight, nah, I don’t think top 10. If you are redrafting with some combination of hindsight and what was thought at the time, then sure, possibly.

              • Brien Jackson

                I dunno, in the first round you’ve got Williams, Ferguson, Cutler, Ngata, Hali, Davin Joseph, and Nick Mangold, and if you expand it to the second round you can add Andrew Whitworth and MJD. That’s 9, and there’s no one else over whom Bush wouldn’t be defensible if you think his primary problem was that New Orleans used him like a generic running back too much.

  • Steve S.

    You appear to have been a little excited when you composed this post, as it is all over the place, but I’ll focus on a couple of points.

    In Seattle Mike Holmgren did a genuinely superb job building an offense from virtually nothing. His achilles heel was defense, where he really didn’t have a clue, and the team’s run of winning seasons coincided with defensive decisions being forcibly taken away from him. I mention this because, even though Lemieux is fixated on the picks of Richardson and Weeden, the Browns in recent years have been spending much of their high draft value on defense. That might explain some things since those two 2012 picks, while questionable, aren’t going to single-handedly sink a franchise.

    Then there is calling Russell Wilson “elite”. Now, I’m a big fan, but I have no patience with statements like this. Can we please let him succeed for an extended period, in circumstances where he is being relied upon to carry his team far more than he is now, before we throw around terms like this? Is he better than Brady, Peyton, Rodgers, Brees, Ryan, Schaub, Flacco, or even Eli, Roehtlisberger, Romo, Dalton, Cutler, and I’m not even mentioning RGIII and Newton and Luck? How expansive is your definition of “elite”? Jesus, settle down.

    • Scott Lemieux

      1)Holmgren obviously did a better job in Seattle, although I think he’s a better coach than personnel guy. I don’t see how his performance in Cleveland can be defended.

      2)Wilson played at a very high level last year. I’m not interested in quibbling over “elite” because who cares, so let’s say “very good” and we can go home.

    • Denverite

      I don’t know about the rest, but God isn’t better than Peyton. I mean, sure, Yahweh has a cannon for an arm and is a lot more mobile, but Peyton is more accurate, gets rid of the ball quicker, and reads a defense WAY better.

      • Indianapolisite

        Spoken like someone from Denver! But I must say, having Luck is always better than skill.

        But really though, Wilson isn’t “Elite” but I would put him above Schaub who I think is awful…

  • Brutusettu

    But back to the sunk cost thing that some seem to have forgotten.

    Is it being argued that TR was a poor pass blocker and didn’t help the team’s passing game that way?
    Is it being argued that TR receptions weren’t picking up 1st downs or putting the Browns in position for more 1st downs?

    Aren’t signing bonuses paid upfront?

    What would TR’s actual contract $ in 2013, 2014, and 2015 be?

    ya. *sunk cost* or how SL wanted TR traded because he wants the Browns to continue to play in the Factory of Sadness.

    • Brien Jackson

      Well how good Richardson is really doesn’t even matter to the Browns at this point because they drafted such a shitty quarterback. It’s the same scenario as having one great DB on a shitty pass defense: they can be the best in the league, but they just won’t help you very much. So under the circumstances, trading Richardson for an additional first round pick and going back to rebuilding is the right call, unless you think you’re going to pick a QB up in a miracle find.

      They should be shopping Jordan, Haden, and Gordon for the same reasons.

  • Pingback: Ya Think? - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: Regression to the Mean and the Marginal Value of Running Backs - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: Why Was Chris Kluwe Released? - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: Divisional Round Preview - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: Trent Richardson is the Most Extraordinary Player Since Saving Private Ryan! - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: The NFL 2014 1: The AFC - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: #LOLCowboys - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

It is main inner container footer text