Home / General / The Master and the Mularkeys

The Master and the Mularkeys

Comments
/
/
/
726 Views

bill-belichick-deflategate-620x400

The Patriots opened the season without their most valuable player, suspended 4 games for a trivial offense the league has not remotely proved he even committed in a grotesque abuse of arbitrary power. They were missing the best tight end in football. The starting left tackle on an already extremely shaky offensive line was also hurt and inactive.* And, oh, they were on the road against a team that is arguably the best in the NFL. And yet, they won. Granted, they were pretty lucky to win, needed a botched snap on a field goal an NFL kicker should be expected to make, but that’s not the point — that the game within that margin is a triumph in itself. And the game is a reminder of what makes Bill Belichick arguably the greatest post-merger NFL coach. Mays:

Especially with New England’s patchwork offensive line, the Cardinals came into Week 1 holding two distinct advantages: Their solid front four would face another reworked Patriots line featuring second-tier options like Cameron Fleming, Ted Karras, and Marcus Cannon, and cornerback Patrick Peterson would likely smother whichever receiver the Pats were willing to sacrifice to his side. McDaniels responded by taking both matchups out of the equation. New England’s receivers ran routes that were specifically designed to exploit the man coverage that Arizona loves, and a majority of the Patriots’ plays were aimed at rookie cornerback Brandon Williams

By giving his QB quick throws dictated almost entirely by the coverage, McDaniels both simplified Garoppolo’s approach and made any offensive line deficiencies irrelevant. Wideout Julian Edelman’s ability to win early on routes when singled up on cornerbacks is remarkable, and with tight end Rob Gronkowski nursing a left hamstring injury back in Boston, Edelman was the focal point of New England’s passing game. He caught all seven of his targets for 66 yards, and made three grabs for first downs on the Patriots’ opening drive of the game. His value to this offense will probably never get its due given the planet-destroying potency of Brady and Gronk, but it was on full display.

[…]

New England’s approach in Sunday’s game is what we should now expect from the Pats — finding the smallest weaknesses (the presence of Williams at cornerback, first-year starter D.J. Humphries at right tackle, and backup Earl Watford at right guard) and exploiting them in every way possible. New England went on the road against what might be the most talented roster in the league and thoroughly outplayed it. As Belichick has constantly reminded everyone, a stacked roster can only take you so far. The way it’s deployed will always matter most, and as it’s been so often, Belichick and his staff squeezed all it could from the Patriots on the field.

As Tanier observes, another adjustment is that Belichick and McDaniels abandoned their usual uptempo style, limiting the teams to 10 possessions each. Normally, because they hold a substantial talent advantage the Patriots want to reduce the role of luck by increasing the number of possessions; against a rare more talented roster, slowing things down makes sense.

As I’ve mentioned before, Belichick does a lot of things extremely well — he’s a good judge of talent, he’s a very good motivator, and he’s a ruthless master of loyalty in Casey Stengel’s sense (i.e. your loyalty as coach should be to this year’s team and not individual players who contributed to past teams.) But one crucial reason for his remarkable success is how carefully his between-game and in-game planning is tailored to the available personnel and matchups. Sunday night’s game was his latest clinic.

The anti-Belichick of the year is, of course, Mike Mularkey and his EXOTIC SMASHMOUTH. Not only is this a pretty dumb concept to bring to an NFL team in 2016, it’s horribly tailored to his talent. Why on earth would you take Marcus Mariota — a grade A prospect who thrived in Chip Kelly’s uptempto, shotgun offense — and put him mostly under center in a grinding ball control offense? And why would the Titans hire him — particularly given his abysmal record — with Kelly himself available? It’s inexplicable, but this story figures to end something like 3-13.

*Since it came in a dead thread, it should be noted that a regular commenter has seen a Sandra Bullock movie and has an, ah, idiosyncratic explanation for the recent success of the Pats:

The Patriots are a fine team, capable of beating most of the NFL, without Brady. Because they have an excellent offensive line filled with players most fans can’t name.

This is…wow. This is howler almost on a par with saying that the 2015 Broncos were able to overcome their feeble pass rush with an outstanding passing game. The pass-blocking Patriots offensive line has been steadily deteriorating from mediocre to rather terrible. I could point to film analysis, but really that’s breaking a butterfly on a wheel. Nobody with any idea what they’re watching could look at the 2014 or 2015 Patriots and think they had a good — let alone great — pass-blocking line. They have kept winning in spite of their line, not because of it. This is not exactly a secret: I mean, you don’t coax your 68-year-old former offensive line coach out of retirement because the unit is playing well. With an already dubious offensive line missing Solder, the same thing was true Sunday — Arizona got plenty of penetration that Garoppolo was able to overcome using his mobility and quick release to receivers mostly running short routes.

But of course this is the analytical equivalent of Mike Mularkey’s approach to coaching: every square peg has to be jammed into the round hole of “the offensive line is what matters:”

But the worship of quarterbacks is the dumbest thing in sports. Any great quarterback without a good offensive line ends up with Archie Manning’s career, and with good protection, there are a lot of people who can do the job decently even if they can’t measure up to Brady’s level.

[different comment]

Every quarterback that you can ever name as an all-time great had great protection. Every single one.

This is abject nonsense coming and going. On the one hand, you can of course be a great quarterback without even good pass protection. Russell Wilson has been a terrific QB playing behind the worst pass-blocking line in the league. Another contemporary mobile QB, Ben Roethelsberger, will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer although he’s often played behind mediocre or worse lines. But that’s not the only way a QB can overcome weak pass protection. Others — like Brady and Peyton Manning and Marino — can function at a high level with a weak offensive line because they have a quick release and a supernal ability to read the defense.

And on the other hand, the idea that if you have a good offensive line you can just plug pretty much any QB into the offense and be OK is even more absurd. The Cowboys have the consensus best offensive line in the league. When Tony Romo is healthy they get excellent QB play; when they play Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel, they get sub-replacement level QB play. The Browns have had a Hall of Fame left tackle since 2007 and he was joined by a Pro Bowl center from 2009 until last year, and throughout that period they had QB play that ranged from dreadful to ghastly. Give Matt Cassel to the Patriots and he can do OK, but that’s because of Belichick and his staff and the surrounding talent as a whole, not because of the offensive line per se.

To state the obvious, my point is not that offensive line play doesn’t matter. It’s important! The Seahawks are a great team, but even with Wilson their inept pass-blocking leaves them highly vulnerable to teams with effective pass rushers (even if, like the Rams or Dolphins, they don’t really do anything else well.) But the idea that the QB is mostly just a creature of the offensive line is absurd.

And unlike people on the Internet, NFL personnel types know this, which is why they pay left tackles so much money.

Uh, I happen to have NFL personnel types right here, and while they certainly (and correctly) value left tackles highly, they value QBs much more and defensive pass rushers and wideouts more. Again, this isn’t exactly a secret — Brock Osweiler was able to parlay less than a season of not-quite-mediocre play into a salary substantially higher than Tyron Smith’s. I don’t know if Garoppolo will be able to keep playing as well as he did in Week 1, but if he does it certainly won’t be his below-average-at-best that deserves the credit.

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

    The Patriots opened the season without their most valuable player, suspended 4 games for a trivial offense the league has not remotely proved he even committed in a grotesque abuse of arbitrary power.

    Wasn’t the spoliation proven reasonably well?

    • ThrottleJockey

      It was, but if you take away that you take away his hobby horse.

    • Denverite

      No. Long story short is that they measured air pressure with one of two gauges that measure about 0.5 PSI apart, but they DIDN’T RECORD WHICH ONE THEY MEASURED WITH. One of them would mean that the balls probably were doctored, the other probably not. So because they don’t know which gauge was used, they can’t prove it either way.

      • Srsly Dad Y

        I thought Duvall meant the cell phone spoliation.

        • Srsly Dad Y

          Per the Second Circuit (pdf),

          Brady was punished for failing to cooperate, and it is clear from the Commissioner’s decision that Brady’s cell phone destruction was part and parcel of the broader claim that he had failed to cooperate. … [T]he cell phone destruction merely provided further support for the Commissioner’s determination that Brady had failed to cooperate, and served as the basis for an adverse inference as to his participation in the scheme to deflate footballs.

          • Denverite

            Oh, if he’s referring to that, then no one disputes the phone was destroyed.

            • twbb

              Ugh, how does Tom Brady sleep at night?

              Oh wait, I know this, on a giant pile of cash with Gisele Bündchen.

              • witlesschum

                And while dreaming his good friend becomes president.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  They should tack on another 4 game suspension for that. Hell, tack on 8.

                • Crusty

                  In defense of Brady (yuck, I hate saying that) I think they’re just celebrity friends.

          • vic rattlehead

            I haven’t followed this closely. Is it somewhere in Brady’s contract that the NFL can search his phone as part of an investigation? Because if not, fuck that shit.

            • dave

              Nope. But they can suspend him for “failing to cooperate” in an investigation. So if they decide that refusing to turn over his personal phone = “failure to cooperate” then that’s the ball game.

              • vic rattlehead

                Meh, that’s a little too broad for my liking. Unless there’s an actual criminal investigation, or there is a civil suit pending and the phone would be subject to discovery, I’m on Team Brady-write that specifically into the contract if you want to be able to look at players’ phones as part of an investigation.

                • efgoldman

                  write that specifically into the contract if you want to be able to look at players’ phones as part of an investigation.

                  Unfortunately, the appeals court decided that the collectively bargained standard player contract gives the commissioner essentially unbridled license to impose any power-mad disciplinary conditions he wants to.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        wow. I kind of tuned this all out at the time, but that’s just… (shakes head)

        • ASV

          And of course, the reason they didn’t record it is that footballs being a little outside the proper range is not a big deal one way or the other. Another way we know this is that the rulebook penalty for ball tampering is a $25,000 fine.

    • dave

      It was undisputed that Brady destroyed his phone. Whether or not that was spoliation is another question. Also – even if it was spoliation, that only permits an inference that the phone contained something incriminating on it, it doesn’t mandate that inference.

      Given that Brady provided an innocent explanation, had been told the phone was not being requested, could not have been compelled to produce the phone anyway (thereby reducing any incentive to destroy it), was able to produce phone records showing that the NFL already had possession of all the text messages he exchanged with the ball boys, I am not comfortable inferring that there was some smoking gun text that he destroyed and therefore he is guilty in the absence of any other actual evidence.

      That said, destroying the phone was certainly a stupid move – one that would not have been permitted by an experienced lawyer (which Brady didn’t have at the time).

      • Scott Lemieux

        And making refusing to cooperate the underlying offense was a transparent end run after the factual basis for the deflation accusation collapsed — it was an obvious pretext.

        • Dilan Esper

          By this definition, there are tons of pretextual discovery sanctions and spoliation inferences issued every year by courts.

          Destroying relevant evidence is recognized by every state in America, and the federal courts, as evidence of guilt. You are as out of your league on this legal issue as you say I am on offensive lines.

          • dave

            Evidence of guilt does not equal proof of guilt.

            The whole point here is that the context in which the phone was destroyed significantly weakens the probative value of the destruction as evidence of guilt.

            Are you suggesting that any spoliation of any kind should warrant a judgment against the spoliator?

            In addition you are conflating spoliation with the separate offense of lack of cooperation.

            Because it was legally convenient, the NFL has chosen to pretend that they would have issued a 4 game suspension for failing to turn over a phone that was never requested. If Brady had been able to prove his innocence to the NFL’s satisfaction, do you really think he would have gotten a 4 game suspension for destroying his phone?

            • Dilan Esper

              Evidence of guilt is all that is required to uphold an award on appeal. Reviewing courts are not allowed to weigh the evidence except in rare circumstances.

              As for how I feel about spoliation inferences generally, they are an established part of our system, and I think triers of fact should have substantial discretion in deciding whether one is warranted.

              Finally, “they didn’t ask for it” has nothing to do with the inference. You preserve evidence that exonerates you whether asked for or not. So when you destroy it instead, you get a negative inference.

              • dave

                It isn’t “they didn’t ask for it”. It is “they said they didn’t want it”.

                Also -again – I understand that this fact doesn’t legally prevent a negative inference. All I am saying is that this fact is relevant to the factfinder’s decision whether or not to draw the inference and also the severity of the inference drawn.

                • The other thing about all this is that people often have strange ideas about technology…and technology is complex. So:

                  Brady was able to obtain a log of all his phone calls and text messages, and since he had not changed phone numbers, this included calls and messages during the mysterious four-month gap. These were cross-referenced against communications listed in the Wells Report, and for the most part (with the exception of three missing texts) they matched, as Wells was given access to both Jastremski and McNally’s Patriots-supplied work phones. This is one of Brady’s strongest arguments that there are no missing damaging text messages: since Wells had access to Jastremski and McNally’s side of any damning conversations with Brady, why did he need Brady’s messages?

                  And that’s where we stand on Tom Brady’s destroyed cell phone. He likely gave it to his assistant to wipe after only owning it for four months. Most of what Wells wanted from the phone he was able to find on Jastremski and McNally’s phones, but crucially, Brady’s refusal to hand it over radically altered Wells’s opinion of his guilt, and was the main reason why Wells found that he wasn’t a credible witness.

                  I personally am not 100% sure where all of my various communication records are, and I’m a computer science academic. Maybe Brady is sophisticated enough that he sent messages that he recognised were damning but also that the only record was on his phone but was hamfisted enough to just do a wipe in a very suspicious way.

                  It’s possible, of course. But it makes me a little leery.

                  And that goes back to the shambolic first order investigation. Put people under pressure and they can easily look bad or make a mistake.

          • Scott Lemieux

            Destroying relevant evidence is recognized by every state in America, and the federal courts, as evidence of guilt.

            I didn’t say the NFL had no evidence at all. I said they didn’t prove their charges, even to a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard. They didn’t.

            • dave

              Dilan doesn’t want to talk about the merits. He only cares about whether the process conformed to the procedural rules.

              As long as Roger Goodell had the authority to do it then Dilan is satisfied.

              • Gee Suss

                Dave FTW.

              • Dilan Esper

                I have no opinion on the merits. I think Scott embarrassed himself by giving legal opinions, not by opining whether Brady deflated the balls.

                • marduk

                  Admission that you were wrong as evinced by the 50-50 split among the judges is apparently never forthcoming.

                • Dilan Esper

                  Marduk, again with the 50-50?

                  1, the trial judge was reversed and doesn’t count

                  2, what about the judges who denied en banc review? They don’t count either?

                • marduk

                  Your statement has always been that the NFLPA’s case was without merit. Yet of the 4 judges that engaged the material, two found it convincing enough to render their judgement in favor.

                  You want to claim the trial judge’s opinion “doesn’t count”? Well, it obviously counts more than yours. If you had been correct and the NFLPA’s case had been without merit surely no judge would rule in favor. Let alone fully half.

                  You want to count the en banc judges? Fine, let’s do that. How many ruled in favor vs against?

                • Dilan Esper

                  Marduk, a reversed trial judge counts exactly the same as my opinion.

                  In your world, if a Ninth Circuit en banc ruling gets reversed 5-4 by the US Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit is proven right because more judges voted for that result. That isn’t how the system works. We have a hierarchy. Once a higher court reverses a lower court, the lower court ruling no longer counts on this issue.

                  And how do you know the en banc judges didn’t engage on the issue?

                • marduk

                  You don’t seem to be responding to my point at all. Clearly one side lost and the other side won. But your assertion- that Scott was obviously incorrect, embarrassing himself, and making a frivolous legal argument- that assertion was proven wrong.

                  As I said at the time, you don’t get to disparage a position as embarrassingly, obviously wrong, and then point to a split decision and call out “scoreboard”! The fact that multiple judges found the NFLPA’s argument compelling puts the lie to the claim that it was transparently unpersuasive.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  You don’t seem to be responding to my point at all. Clearly one side lost and the other side won. But your assertion- that Scott was obviously incorrect, embarrassing himself, and making a frivolous legal argument- that assertion was proven wrong.

                  As I said at the time, you don’t get to disparage a position as embarrassingly, obviously wrong, and then point to a split decision and call out “scoreboard”! The fact that multiple judges found the NFLPA’s argument compelling puts the lie to the claim that it was transparently unpersuasive.

                  This. It’s worth noting here that Dilan’s argument cannot have been vindicated, because it was literally unfalsifiable. If a judge ruled in the NFL’s favor, he’s right. If a judge rules in Brady’s favor, he’s right because of something called “football realism” (which is somehow totally different than my legal realism, and Dilan can magically tell which is which.) But of course the course of events was equally consistent with my view (federal courts are usually extremely deferential to arbitration awards, but a case with a high-profile defendant and a particularly egregious substantive ruling and particularly unfair procedural framework could possibly be an exception.)

                • Nick056

                  Admission that you were wrong as evinced by the 50-50 split among the judges is apparently never forthcoming.

                  In the fairly considerable reading I’ve done about federal courts, I’ve never before seen this rhetorical tactic prior to Bradygate. After Hobby Lobby was decided, did we tally up the full count of where all the federal judges stood on the case for any reason? Shelby?

                  Anytime a 3 judge panel reverses a District Court by a vote of 2-1, you will have a 2-2 split. What is that supposed to prove? The split stands because the full Court of Appeals denied en banc review. Their decision won. You’re essentially “quoting from the dissent” while trying to say that the dissent ought to carry the same weight as the majority opinion, because it was consonant with the lower court ruling. It doesn’t work that way. You can say the dissenters were right, but conducting a head count of all the judges who heard the case irrespective of one judge being in an inferior position to the others is dumb.

                  The NFLPA had the weaker argument — by quite a bit. The phone permitted an inference of spoliation, and crucially, Goodell was not merely the official who made the decision as to discipline but the Arbitrator. I’ve said since this case began that certain unnamed individuals simply could not or would not separate Goodell the collosal asshole and discipline nutbag from Goodell the arbitrator, who receives a great amount of deference as to his decisions.

                • Marek

                  In the fairly considerable reading I’ve done about federal courts, I’ve never before seen this rhetorical tactic prior to Bradygate. After Hobby Lobby was decided, did we tally up the full count of where all the federal judges stood on the case for any reason? Shelby?

                  I get that it’s a long thread by now, but did you read it? The reason one can tally up the federal judges on each side for this argument is to disprove a claim that it was legally frivolous to suggest that Brady and his “union” might win. That two federal judges acted to vacate the arbitration award demonstrates convincingly (in the absence of obvious hackery a la Shelby) that it was not legally frivolous.

              • Davis X. Machina

                Only the death of Scalia has finally convinced me we don’t have a highly-placed Federal appellate judge commenting here under a psueudonym.

              • Scott Lemieux

                Dilan doesn’t want to talk about the merits. He only cares about whether the process conformed to the procedural rules.

                As long as Roger Goodell had the authority to do it then Dilan is satisfied.

                Exactly. It’s telling that Goodell apologists immediately retreat to discussions of his formal authority, even when the point is not under dispute. My language assumes arguendo that Goodell had the authority to issue the punishment. It doesn’t change the fact that 1)the NFL’s case against Brady is a joke, and 2)even if Brady was guilty the punishment was grossly disproportionate.

                • Dilan Esper

                  Your arguments prior to the Second Circuit ruling did not acknowledge Goodell’s authority at all. And you pushed back pretty hard against me.

                  Look, the past is past. But I have never said you didn’t have a plausible case that Brady didn’t deflate the balls. I thought you made some very good points on the facts. My problem was always with the way you presented the law. I was right and you were not.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Your arguments prior to the Second Circuit ruling did not acknowledge Goodell’s authority at all. And you pushed back pretty hard against me.

                  I pushed against your claim that there was no possible legal basis to attack the punishment and that the District Court judge was not merely wrong but lawless. I did not say that Brady was likely to prevail or that there wasn’t a solid basis for Goodell’s authority. Since then, you’ve been arguing against a strawman wherever possible, even when it’s not relevant to an argument anyone is making.

                • Dilan Esper

                  Scott, I remember your pushback being somewhat stronger than that. And I certainly remember saying that Brady COULD win because of what I called “football realism”, which is inconsistent with what you just said.

                  But as I said, the past is past. I’m happy to move on. :)

                • The past is past unless you bring it up but then when people push back you want to forget it? What?

                  Weird dude. Why did you bring it up at all if you don’t want to discuss it?

                  There really is nothing wrong against discussing threads from the past, you know! Or actually looking them up so you can see what you actually said. It’s not that hard to use a search engine!

                • Dilan Esper

                  Bijan, I really don’t have anything to say to you.

                  For the benefit of others– the past is past because it really doesn’t matter in the cosmic scheme of things whether Scott was right about Tom Brady’s legal case. And little good will come from continuing to bring it up and rehash it.

                  And also because very little that is argued about on the Internet really matters very much. Especially on the topic of football and whether a highly paid football player should serve a four game suspension.

                  And finally because both Scott and I have real jobs and real lives and surely are not going to spend inordinate amounts of time looking up what might have been said a year ago so that we can repeatedly score meaningless rhetorical points, or troll each other’s posts over and over again with personal attacks based on stuff said in the distant past. Because well adjusted people with careers and lives don’t do that.

                  So yeah, the past is the past. :)

                • Bijan, I really don’t have anything to say to you.

                  That’s fine. I’m glad you’re starting to work your way out of the bizarro false accusations replies.

                  (Of course, you have that you don’t have anything to say to me to say to me! :))

                  And finally because both Scott and I have real jobs and real lives and surely are not going to spend inordinate amounts of time looking up what might have been said a year ago so that we can repeatedly score meaningless rhetorical points, or troll each other’s posts over and over again with personal attacks based on stuff said in the distant past. Because well adjusted people with careers and lives don’t do that.

                  Whoops! This was to me. You couldn’t help yourself.

                  You know most people don’t repeat obvious, kooky lies about other people, even if they are annoyed by them. But funny!

                  However, this is more positive. But you can do better! Just don’t reply! What do you care? *Why* do you care?

                  (And talking about lives, you have a series of comments going on about how you were right and Scott was wrong….last year! There’s nothing in principle wrong with that. There is something wrong with you insisting that you don’t do it :))

                • rea

                  The goddesses of law will not be good enough to me to give me a chance to actually litigate these issues with Dilan. so I guess the point really is moot.

                  (And by the way, ordinarily no spoliation instruction is given to a jury unless it is established that the missing evidence would have been material, and there is no reasonable excuse for nonproduction)

                • cpinva

                  “There really is nothing wrong against discussing threads from the past, you know!”

                  “the past is never dead, it’s not even past.”

      • There may have been information on the phone unrelated to deflate-ghazi that Brady didn’t want leaking to the media or his wife.

        • e.g. texts to other women, porn history, dick pics, shit he said about teammates or coaches or other people, Donald Trump’s taxes and so on. Expectation of privacy, how does it work?

          • That’s it! Trump is hiding his tax returns because they show his payments to Brady’s ball deflaters!!!

            • chrisM

              With his own money? Surely not!

              • Philip

                With the Clintons’ money! Wheels within wheels, my friends!!

                • Gregor Sansa

                  A clear case of play to pay.

      • patrick II

        that only permits an inference that the phone contained something incriminating on it, it doesn’t mandate that inference.

        No, it doesn’t necessarily infer that the phone contained something incriminating. It can be inferred only that Brady had something he did not want the NFL to see. Being married to Michelle Bundchen might something to do with that — or actually most anything private he considered personal business.
        Given the NFL’s propensity for leaking what is supposed to be private information (drug test results, wonderlic scores, etc.) I wouldn’t trust them at all and there would be no way they would ever get a private phone from me short of a subpoena.

    • witlesschum

      I continue to go back to the various statements ex-NFL QBs made about deflating balls at the time which made it sound like it was commonplace and the league fairly randomly decided to suddenly make it an issue, despite the fact that it seems vanishingly unlikely to have made a difference in the outcome of the game.

      • medrawt

        And I continue to go back to the league’s decision that actually it wasn’t going to share any of the PSI data it gathered last season with us.

      • Scott Lemieux

        It’s an obviously trivial rules violation, that even if he was guilty should have been punished with a fine.

    • durk

      Actually it wasn’t. They assumed that on balance, Brady could have or possibly should have know about the deflation. For $5 million, Godell bought an investigation that would have earned an F in my Intro to Research Methods class. They used 2 different gauges which gave different readings but they did not record which gaugues were used on which balls. They sampled the entire population of Patriot footballs, but a non-random sample of Colt footballs. They tested the Patriot’s footballs at the start of the half while the balls were still cold, and a few of the Colts balls at the end of the halftime when the balls had been sitting in a warm room.

  • howard

    Back when coach was the giant defensive coordinator in the pre-free agency era where you had lots of knowledgeable veterans, belichick would change up the defensive formation every week based on the opponent’s weakness.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yeah, he is just relentlessly disciplined at attacking weak links, which as a Seahwaks fan I know all too well…

      • howard

        I tend to think of that as his approach on offense; on defense I think he begins by asking “what is one thing the opposing offense relies on that I can take away?” and goes from there.

  • Colin Day

    The Patriots also didn’t have Ninkovich.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Good point.

    • efgoldman

      The Patriots also didn’t have Ninkovich.

      Or Vollmer, the starting right tackle. As Scott points out in the OP, the O-line is no great shakes to start with – mostly rookies and second-years. Then missing both sort-of-OK starting tackles….
      If Scarnecchia accomplishes nothing else, apparently he was able to coach up second string right tackle Marcus Cannon so he can at least block a telephone pole, which he couldn’t last year.
      On Sunday nite, Pats also played a lot of two tight ends, and Bennett was held in to block almost all the time. He did a hell of a job.

    • jeer9

      The spread, though, favoring AZ was ridiculous: 6 early in the week and then 9 when it was announced Gronkowski wouldn’t play. (Why am I never in Vegas when these events transpire?) The Pats’ defense is certainly improved from last year’s DVOA ranking of 15 (and it may be a top 5 unit once Mingo gets into the swim of things). If, as should not have been unexpected, the D held AZ to 20 or so and Garoppolo played fairly well, there was a decent chance they could win. (Many fans were writing the game off as a sure loss.) As it turned out, they needed AZ’s kicker to botch an easy field goal.

      Nice reference in the title to Bulgakov’s novel, though malarkey (singular) without the second “the” would have been a better pun and still retained the allusion to Tennessee’s coach. I’m almost certainly in the minority in my greater appreciation for The White Guard.

  • Denverite

    The pass-blocking Patriots offensive line has been steadily deteriorating from mediocre to rather terrible. I could point to film analysis, but really that’s breaking a butterfly on a wheel. Nobody with any idea what they’re watching could look at the 2014 or 2015 Patriots and think they had a good — let alone great — pass-blocking line. They have kept winning in spite of their line, not because of it.

    So when I read Dilan’s comment the other day, I typed out a response that more or less matched what Scott wrote above. Then I went to Football Outsiders to pull the rankings showing that the Pats were one of the worst lines in football in 2015, and — oh.

    http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol2015

    I’m not sure what to make of this. They certainly didn’t look great, especially including in the AFCCG, where somehow the refs must have missed the three extra Bronco defenders on the field allowing them to hit Brady on nearly every other play. But the FO numbers say what they say. NE was a great run blocking line and a slightly-below-average pass blocking one.

    The Seahawks are a great team, but even with Wilson their inept pass-blocking leaves them highly vulnerable to teams with effective pass rushers (even if, like the Rams or Dolphins, they don’t really do anything else well.)

    Yeah, I thought you were exaggerating about the entire front seven being in the backfield in 0.2 seconds after the snap and Wilson immediately running for his life. Jesus, you really weren’t even joking.

    • dave

      FO is just wrong here. My guess is that the Pats run-blocking looks good because they basically never see a team’s base defense b/c of the threat posed by their passing offense.

      Digging further, it looks like their run blocking grade is heavily influenced by the fact that they rarely had runs stuffed. Obviously this is great, but again I bet it is influenced by the light defenses they saw and the presence of LeGarrett Blount who doesn’t often get totally stuffed.

      • Scott Lemieux

        presence of LeGarrett Blount who doesn’t often get totally stuffed.

        Right. Blount’s ability to get yards after contact was the key. After he got hurt, the Pats running game wasn’t even minimally competent.

      • efgoldman

        FO is just wrong here.

        I’m not a stats person, but if the FO is taking the whole year into consideration, I can see it. The line play was good enough for most of the season, but the injuries were sequential, and finally got too much to overcome.

    • Scott Lemieux

      1)As you say, their pass-blocking stats were below-average, and that’s what’s relevant to the discussion.

      2)The problem with the purely stats-based FO analysis is that it can’t separate the o-line from the QB. You really do need film analysis to determine whether the team has a decent sack rate because the offensive line gives the QB a lot of time or because the QB is mobile and/or can get the ball out quickly. In the case of the 2014-5 Pats, I think the answer is pretty obvious.

      Yeah, I thought you were exaggerating about the entire front seven being in the backfield in 0.2 seconds after the snap and Wilson immediately running for his life. Jesus, you really weren’t even joking.

      Granted, the Dolphins have a good defensive line, but I’m still amazed that Cable might have managed to make the line worse. (And the fact that both Carpenter and Okung looked good in week 1 is just more salt in the wound.) As I said in the dead thread, I was thinking of getting tickets to see Seattle at the Meadowlands, but given what the Jets did to the Bengals I’m not sure I want to see that live.

      • Dilan Esper

        You can’t separate the QB from the OL either, Scott.

        It’s a team sport. There’s inherent limits in your stats here that don’t exist in baseball.

        • Manny Kant

          It’s easier to separate the QB from the OL because lots of teams play multiple QBs behind the same OL over the course of a season, surely? See Scott’s discussion of the Cowboys in the OP.

          • LastUniversalCommonAncestor

            Plus, one could count pressures/hurries, time for rushers to the backfield etc. It gets more debatable at times, but certainly more accurate than just evaluating OLs by sack rate.

            Brady doesn’t really move much at all, but has ridiculous pocket presence, and although his ability to sense pressure and step up into the pocket has clearly diminished recently, his release is among the fastest in the league (and his offense is designed to facilitate that). So he may not get sacked a lot, but quite frequently there are rushers closing in on him as he releases the ball, and getting there just a split second too late.

            Simply watching games, anyone can see the difference between today’s Patriots’ OL and that of just a few years ago, when Brady was famously “pitching a tent back there”.

          • Scott Lemieux

            It’s easier to separate the QB from the OL because lots of teams play multiple QBs behind the same OL over the course of a season, surely?

            And, also, QBs with long careers rarely always play behind lines of a similar quality, but past QB performance predicts future performance pretty well.

      • Denverite

        As you say, their pass-blocking stats were below-average, and that’s what’s relevant to the discussion.

        Yeah, I was just majorly surprised to see them ranked 18 out of 32. They didn’t look nearly that good.

        And the fact that both Carpenter and Okung looked good in week 1 is just more salt in the wound.

        Okung played well. Wasn’t the main knock on him in Seattle his health, and he was pretty good when he was on the field?

        • erick

          yeah when healthy he’s good. The problem is he was either out or playing hurt about half the time. I think if the Hawks had known he was going to sign such a bad deal they would have kept him, he really did agents a favor by showing that maybe representing yourself isn’t such a good idea.

          Carpenter is probably an average starting guard, but he got over paid.

          • ColBatGuano

            Carpenter is probably an average starting guard, but he got over paid.

            This is Seattle’s big problem. Other teams seem willing to pay big bucks for their FA lineman who they know are average at best. Tampa Bay gave JR Sweezy a 5 year/$32 million contract with $14.5 million guaranteed. I’m pretty sure Schneider and Carroll didn’t think he was worth that.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Wasn’t the main knock on him in Seattle his health, and he was pretty good when he was on the field?

              Yes. He was maybe a touch overrated, but he’s a good player when healthy.

              This is Seattle’s big problem. Other teams seem willing to pay big bucks for their FA lineman who they know are average at best. Tampa Bay gave JR Sweezy a 5 year/$32 million contract with $14.5 million guaranteed. I’m pretty sure Schneider and Carroll didn’t think he was worth that.

              Yup. To be clear, I’m not criticizing Carroll and Schneider for letting Carpenter go at this price, and that goes triple for Sweezy. The Unger trade was terrible, though, and they really should have been able to make a deal with Okung given what he signed for in Denver.

  • Davebo

    Look, I agree the Brady suspension was BS but seriously.

    The Patriots opened the season without their most valuable player, suspended 4 games for a trivial offense the league has not remotely proved he even committed in a grotesque abuse of arbitrary power accordance with a legally binding agreement between Robert Kraft and the National Football League which resulted in Kraft’s 1995 investment of 172 million dollars to be valued today at 3.2 billion dollar while throwing off almost $500 million a year in revenue.

    I honestly can’t imagine why Kraft chose not to contest the “grotesque abuse of arbitrary power” himself.

    • Definitely. Granted the Broncos had a great defense, but the superbly inept Patriots offensive line was the major factor in their defeat in the AFC championship. (Plus missed extra point, of course.)

      • jeer9

        Listen. I admire Belichick as much as your average Pats’ fan, but the offensive line play in the Denver championship game was certainly affected by crowd noise (to what extent we’ll never know) and that impact, even if marginal, falls squarely on BB’s shoulders as he made only a minimal effort to win either of the last two games of the season and ensure HFA. The previous week’s playoff game in Foxboro against a KC defense with a fairly decent pass rush resulted in very few hits on Brady. (And if you think Denver still wins in Foxboro, you’re truly drunk on donkey kool-aid.)

        BB obviously felt that the regular season loss in Denver was due to some unlucky gaffes and bad calls but that the Pats were a superior team and that HFA really wouldn’t matter much. He was wrong and that view was based upon hubris (which is all too often punished). I also think that if he had to do it all over again, they would have invested more energy into winning one of those games. (This is not to say they didn’t try but the effort was rather cavalier and secondary to protecting the health of certain players.) Their failure to win the championship last year is on Belichick and no one else.

        • Scott Lemieux

          As I said, I agree with this entirely; in some key spots last year he coached as if HFA didn’t matter and he got burned by it. He’s great but he’s not perfect.

          • Denverite

            I think he figured that it was unlikely the Broncos would beat the Steelers/Bengals winner (and he might have been right if Brown had been able to play and/or Big Ben was 100%), and even if so, facing the Partially Reanimated Corpse of Peyton Manning wasn’t the world’s hardest task.

            • Scott Lemieux

              But, still, you can’t defend him because there was no upside to these moves. What benefit comes from letting a third-stringer return a punt in a snowstorm? It was very uncharacteristically unsound on a risk/reward scale. And I have no idea what the neither-here-nor-there game plan in the Miami game was about. He had to know the HFA was worth more than that, especially given the quality of the Denver defense.

          • efgoldman

            He’s great but he’s not perfect.

            They literally gave away a home game they had won, against a bad Eagles team that was ready to lay down.

    • Scott P.

      Kraft has already admitted he was wrong to not contest the punishment.

      • dave

        In addition there is basically no legal basis for Kraft to contest the punishment. NFL by-laws basically prevent such a contest. The only way to contest it I can see would be to bring an anti-trust claim which would likely fail and even if successful would probably harm Kraft more than the $1,000,000 fine, lost draft picks, Brady suspension, and reputation hit combined.

        • efgoldman

          The only way to contest it I can see would be to bring an anti-trust claim which would likely fail

          And Bob Kraft does not, ever, want to be seen as an Al Davis type.

      • Scott Lemieux

        I also assume he thought that if he went along Brady wouldn’t be suspended more than a game or two. If he knew Brady was getting 4 there’s no way he would have acquiesced.

        • Davebo

          I suspect you are right but seriously, let’s not kid ourselves about why Kraft knuckled under. He could have reversed his course after the suspension.

          Don’t screw the golden goose.

        • Maybe so but apart from the money, this may work out well for the Pats. The aging Brady gets a shortened season, and an experienced backup whose capabilities the coaches understand well; and they may very well win all four games, at least the way it looks they should get three of them. All good news.

          • erick

            yeah and they get a better idea if Garrapalo can be counted on as the replacement, Brady may have ideas of playing until he is 45 or whatever, but QBs at his age can fall off a cliff really quickly

            • efgoldman

              they get a better idea if Garrapalo can be counted on as the replacement

              Depending on Brady’s continued health, the Pats will have a decision to make at the end of next (2017) season when Jimmy G’s contract is up. If he goes 3-1 or 4-0 this month, he’ll get good money from a bad team.

              • Denverite

                If Garrapolo has a good four game stretch, they pretty much have to re-sign him right now, right? Otherwise they’ll very possibly find themselves where the Broncos were last spring — a 40 year-old Brady decides to hang it up, and the price tag for Garrapolo is way too high.

                • efgoldman

                  Otherwise they’ll very possibly find themselves where the Broncos were last spring

                  The Pats generally have not re-signed players early. Plus they have three really important starters on D (Collins, Hightower. Butler) up this year – the consensus is one of them will be gone.
                  But yes, there’s a lot of trepidation about that.
                  OTOH if some bad team is going to pay Jimmy G stupid money (hello Matt Cassell, Matt Flynn, Ostweiler….) which seems inevitably to happen because some front offices are always stupid, Pats won’t match it.
                  On the third hand, Bill is maybe the least sentimental coach evah, and he has a long track record of letting guys go a year or two early rather than paying big big bucks at the tail end of a career. The Krafts always said Bledsoe was like a son to them. Too bad, wave goodbye.

          • Davebo

            Absolutely. Brady will be back strong and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pat’s are 3-1 when he does.

            And let’s face it, the money is beyond irrelevant in this situation.

            That doesn’t change my initial comment. Unless “arbitrary” has taken on a new meaning.

  • MikeJake

    The Browns have had a Hall of Fame left tackle since 2007 and he was joined by a Pro Bowl center from 2009 until last year, and throughout that period they had QB play that ranged from dreadful to ghastly.

    Against the Eagles, RGIII got sacked (and thumped pretty good), thanks to his poor pocket presence that I was dreading to watch, because he dropped back and then just stood there and got hit by a pass rusher that Thomas had driven more than far enough outside, instead of stepping up into the clean pocket that was there.

    • Mudge

      A bad line (aside from Thomas) and a non-intuitive QB is a terrible combination. The AFC North has Roethlisberger, Flacco and Dalton, perhaps the division with the best overall QB talent (I’ll put NFC South second, Newton, Winston, Ryan and Breese). Pity the Browns.

      • MikeJake

        They’re not a bad line though, even after losing Mack and Schwartz. They ran the ball well against a decent Eagles front. They should be at least average this year.

        Cam Erving at center does look to be an adventure.

        • Thrax

          They ran the ball well against a decent Eagles front.

          Not really. They got 37 yards on 5 scrambles from Griffin, and picked up 40 yards on the ground on a garbage-time drive in the last minute. Aside from that, they ran the ball 13 times for 43 yards–3.2 YPC.

          • MikeJake

            Whatever. The point is, on a play that was adequately blocked, Griffin got sacked because he lacks basic pocket skills. Which goes to Scott’s point.

      • Denverite

        If you count Bridgewater, the NFC North isn’t bad.

      • Scott Lemieux

        This could well be the worst NFL team assembled by anyone other than Matt Millen that we’ve seen in a long time.

        • Hayden Arse

          I wouldn’t rule out the LA Rams after what we saw Monday night. The Rams front office is Millenesque in its ability to whiff on high round draft picks, and sign terrible veteran contracts.

          • erick

            yeah, their Defense isn’t as good as in the past and the offense is (hard to believe) even worse.

            Add to that the coaching brilliance of Jeff 7-9 Fisher and it could be a long year in LA, wonder how much the fans will stay interested just for novelty’s sake?

            Having said that I’m sure they’ll have like 5 trick special teams plays ready to beat Seattle or Arizona then after the season the owner will extend Fisher becasue he proved once again that they are close to the best teams in the Division and just need another year to gel…

            • efgoldman

              Add to that the coaching brilliance of Jeff 7-9 Fisher and it could be a long year in LA

              Has Fisher become a replacement-level SUPERGENIOUS?

          • Scott Lemieux

            Yeah, the Rams are hideous, and bringing back Fisher is almost as dumb as hiring Malarkey.

          • MikeJake

            They seem to spend too time wringing their hands over how they’re going to get Tavon Austin the ball, because they paid a slot receiver like he’s a WR1.

          • DetroitRex

            The Rams front office is Millenesque

            I don’t think you fully understand how soul-tearingly awful the Millen era was here.

            There needs to be a football version of Godwin’s Law: anytime you compare any other front office to Matt Millen, you are immediately wrong, your point is invalid, you lose the argument, and everyone in the thread gets to point and laugh.

            Not that the rams aren’t truly awful, but they’re not World-Historical awful.

  • Mudge

    It is always a joy when Casey Stengal’s wisdom wanders through a football post.

    Mularkey never fails to live up to his name.

    • keta

      The Stengel quote about football I’ve always admired is how he describes the law of diminishing returns in relation to football coaches working long and ridiculous hours each week preparing for the next opponent:

      You gotta learn that if you don’t get it by midnight, chances are you ain’t gonna get it, and if you do, it ain’t worth it.

      A very sage observation.

      • Captain Oblivious

        Unfortunately, they do it in part because they are expected to, and they get trashed by the press and by sports-radio callers if they’re perceived as not working themselves to death.

        Even Joe Maddon, whose Cubs are running away with the division, has had to publicly defend not being at the ballpark at dawn every day to do who knows what they think he should be doing.

      • witlesschum

        Michigan State’s coach, Mark Dantonio, is supposedly a big devotee of this and will run his assistant coaches out of the office if they’re working past a certain hour without a special reason. He also has assistant coaches stick with him longer than you’d expect.

      • JMG

        I always thought that Stengel quote was about his players chasing women, not strategy.

  • Joe_JP

    People other than Dilan who people here on average don’t think are tools (not talking about myself) disagreed with Scott on the legal issue. But, whatevs.

    The basic point on hoodie’s skills is granted. Pretty boy was out for the year after getting hurt in the first game or something and they won 11 games with the backup. The Jets actually decided to be good that year and tiebreakers went against him, so the Pats didn’t even get to the playoffs. But, still. Sheesh. That guy probably could win with Tebow.

    • dave

      I think almost everyone on the anti-NFL side of this issue thinks that the legal issue was a tossup and that people of good faith could disagree about whether Goodell exceeded his (ample) authority.

      I find it annoying when people keep falling back on a defense of the process as if that is a defense of the outcome.

      If you were to argue that Brock Turner’s sentence was too lenient and my response was that the Judge did not exceed his authority in issuing that sentence, you would rightfully point out that that is beside the point.

      • Dilan Esper

        I don’t have any opinion about whether Brady was guilty of intentionally deflating footballs in the AFC championship. I think some of Scott’s arguments on the facts are plausible.

        But I did, and do, think that the legal issue was no tossup, that there were no grpunds to overturn the arbitrator’s decision in court, and that the fact that Brady did as well as he did was due to “football realism”, the fact that this was a case about the best player in America’s favorite sport, and Brady’s position was contrary to black letter law.

        And finally, spoliation inferences are a standard legal doctrine and there’s nothing wrong with a negative inference regarding the destruction of the phone.

        • dave

          And finally, spoliation inferences are a standard legal doctrine and there’s nothing wrong with a negative inference regarding the destruction of the phone.

          You mean nothing “legally wrong” right? Or are you claiming that the negative inference is (or should be) mandatory.

          • Dilan Esper

            It’s discretionary and unreviewable (at least unless there is actually no evidence that any evidence was destroyed).

            • dave

              Yet you continue to reiterate this point which is not responsive to mine. I get that it is generally within the discretion of the factfinder. I suggested as much in my very first comment on this subject.

              Obviously you only want to talk about what is procedural permissible here. I don’t. I fully understand the arguments on that point.

              • Crusty

                I’ll address your point. I get it- you’re saying that those spoliation inferences are ok in court, but should they be in real life? Yes. They are actually much stronger in real life than in court. All of the ordinary inferences that we make in every day life are stronger in real life and are the basis for permitting them in court. For fairness in court, but not in real life, we have specific rules fighting back against those normal, real life presumptions. Take the right to remain silent. In real life, we’d like to hear both sides, if you didn’t do it, why don’t you just tell us, is normal reasoning. But in court we tell juries they have to fight that impulse, that that’s not the rule, that someone’s failure to testify on their own behalf means nothing. And with spoliation, in real life, would that kind of thing matter or be fair? Of course. Try telling someone in real life, i.e., outside of court that you had something that would exonerate you but you got rid of it, but they shouldn’t presume anything about that and they should still believe you.

                • Dilan Esper

                  +1

                • dave

                  This is not my point at all.

                  There seems to be a lit of confusion about the difference between whether something is ok procedurally and ok factually.

                  If I were the factfinder in Tom Brady’s case I would decline to drawn a negative inference from his destruction of the phone because, under the circumstances I don’t believe such an inference is warranted.

                  Thus it is my opinion that when Goodell drew a negative inference he was wrong to do so and if that negative inference was a necessary component of his determination of guilt then that determination was also wrong.

                  At the same time, I don’t dispute that a factfinder would have the right to draw a negative inference. They absolutely have that right. But having a right does not justify every exercise of that right.

                • Dilan Esper

                  Dave, you may not have drawn it, but that doesn’t mean it was implausible, for the reason stated by Crusty in his final sentence.

                • vic rattlehead

                  That Goodell drew a negative inference is not really controversial to me, that is not uncommon in a situation like this.

                  My problem is, I dispute the fact that Goodell was entitled to that phone in the first place. I think it was beyond the pale to demand a player turn over their phone absent an explicit agreement between the NFL and the union.

                  If Brady were being civilly sued, and there was reason to believe that there was evidence in his phone, I’d be 100% on board with sanctioning him and his attorneys, but that just isn’t what happened.

                • Dilan Esper

                  The spoliation inferemce has nothing to do with whether someone has a right to the evidence (except in some narrow circumstances involving privilege claims).

                  The point of the inference is Brady wouldn’t destroy the phone if it exonerated him- he would introduce it into evidence.

                  So when he destroys it instead, it’s plausible to make an inference.

                • Crusty

                  @Dave wrote-

                  dave says:
                  September 14, 2016 at 2:20 pm

                  “This is not my point at all.

                  There seems to be a lit of confusion about the difference between whether something is ok procedurally and ok factually.”

                  You only know if something is “ok factually” if you already know the fact you’re looking for. Whether Brady’s phone contained relevant material can only be known by knowing what’s on the phone.

              • dave

                Dave, you may not have drawn it, but that doesn’t mean it was implausible, for the reason stated by Crusty in his final sentence.

                I never said it was implausible. I said it was wrong under the circumstances.

                Also – Brady never claimed the phone exonerated him. How could it?

                The inference drawn here is that the phone must have something incriminating or he wouldn’t have destroyed it. Given the specific circumstances, I don’t think that inference is warranted.

                • Crusty

                  Exonerate him? Well, not 100%, but when you claim you had nothing to do with something, a history of your personal communications consistent with not having had anything to do with something is helpful.

      • Joe_JP

        I think almost everyone on the anti-NFL side of this issue thinks that the legal issue was a tossup and that people of good faith could disagree about whether Goodell exceeded his (ample) authority.

        Isn’t quite my read of the posts/comments on this issue.

        I find it annoying when people keep falling back on a defense of the process as if that is a defense of the outcome.

        Depends on how you look at it. If the “process” was defensible, the outcome (upholding the result of the process?) seems to be.

        If you were to argue that Brock Turner’s sentence was too lenient and my response was that the Judge did not exceed his authority in issuing that sentence, you would rightfully point out that that is beside the point.

        Okay. You can find whatever annoying, but to be clear, “the process” being unjust was a major complaint. That he was “exceeding his authority” is a major complaint. This includes what appropriate treatment by the courts should have been. This is a major point of the “legal” debate here.

        So, “beside the point” might be so in your eyes, but not to many people around here.

        • Dilan Esper

          Isn’t quite my read of the posts/comments on this issue.

          Mine either.

        • Depends on how you look at it. If the “process” was defensible, the outcome (upholding the result) seems to be

          Hmm. My first reaction was this was obviously wrong, but it sort of depends on what you mean by the defensibility of a process.

          If you believe, for example, I pure procedural justice, the the outcomes of a just procedure are by definition correct. So I could see this sort of argument which transfers he defensibility of the process to the outcome (ie the outcome is defensible because it was the result of an ok process).

          But normally we don’t thing process corrects constitutes outcome correctness but rather we have an independent set of outcome properties we’re trying to achieve and we compare processes by how well they achieve outcomes with those properties. So it’s can be a sensible move to look to the outcome to critique the process even if the process was properly carried out and agreed to.

          (Not weighing in on this case, just this principle.)

          • Brien Jackson

            Dilan has always ignored/refused to grapple with, say, the undisputed fact that the referees tested the balls with two different gauges that measured two different readings and neither made sure that the same balls were tested with the same gauge nor so much as wrote down the measurements they recorded so, to wit, the NFL can’t even strictly show that the balls were deflated, let alone that Brady bore responsibility for it.

            • (((Hogan)))

              I think Dilan’s argument is that whether he deflated the balls (or had them deflated) is irrelevant; he was punished for not cooperating with the investigation. (Seems like a perjury trap to me, given that Brady was told by the investigators they wouldn’t need his phone; but apparently Goodell is allowed to do any goddamn thing he wants, so no harm no foul, so to speak.)

              • Yep. In this thread, he’s conceded the first order (de)merits several times. I don’t recall what he said before and I don’t feel like looking it up.

                To weigh in a little bit on both the process and the outcome…I find it problematic that the first order investigation can be such a shambles and the process be fine. That seems like a strangely designed process to me.

                I also feel that the spoliation inference is defeasible and given the shambolic nature of the process, morally probably should be defeated, but I think that’s trickier. Some of it feels a bit like Hillary’s email server.

                • Brien Jackson

                  I guess I would say that when you inevitably reach an absurd conclusion, then you have to conclude that your premise is wrong. To take the notion that reconciliation of the facts doesn’t matter here seriously, you then couldn’t really argue against the league’s power to accuse a player of an offense and then punish them at Goodell’s discretion with literally no evidence, or even transparently fabricated evidence either. The notion that that could fall within the bounds of the CBA or arbitration rules is plainly ridiculous.

        • dave

          Depends on how you look at it. If the “process” was defensible, the outcome (upholding the result of the process?) seems to be.

          There’s a lot of stuff getting conflated here. As far as I can tell, we have the following issues:

          1. Was Brady actually guilty
          2. Was the punishment proportionate
          3. Was the arbitration process objectively fair and reasonable
          4. Was Goodell’s decision warranted by the evidence disclosed in arbitration
          5. Was the arbitration process and outcome consistent with the CBA and law?

          I think the answer to the first 4 questions is clearly no.
          I think the answer to the 5th question is no but its a close call and ultimately 2 of 3 appeals court judges (and Dilan) disagree with me.

          I think that the answer to 5 (while important) has absolutely nothing to do with the answers to questions 1-4.

          I get that people still have opinions about the legal review by the courts. I don’t care if people want to discuss that. But when I am commenting about the actual facts (as was Scott in the OP)and people keep responding with process arguments, I think it is fair to find that annoying.

          • (((Hogan)))

            1. Was Brady actually guilty

            and 1a. Of what exactly

          • Crusty

            I’ll supplement with 3a, was the arbitration process fair and reasonable because it was what the players agreed to in the CBA? and 3b (which I suppose is a variation on 5) was the arbitration process actually what the players agreed to?

          • Scott Lemieux

            I get that people still have opinions about the legal review by the courts. I don’t care if people want to discuss that. But when I am commenting about the actual facts (as was Scott in the OP)and people keep responding with process arguments, I think it is fair to find that annoying.

            +1 first round draft pick.

          • Every lawyer I know who’s familiar with arbitration law, thinks those two judges who agreed with Brady were grossly, obviously, WTF wrong. As they indeed were.

            If you don’t like being stuck with grossly biased & downright wrong results, don’t agree to arbitrate, or doctor up that agreement.

            (I haven’t researched it, but I’m curious what happens if an arbitration agreement specifies a more robust standard of review, like “substantial evidence.” Can the parties contract out of arbitration case law?)

            • Marek

              Every lawyer I know who’s familiar with arbitration law, thinks those two judges who agreed with Brady were grossly, obviously, WTF wrong. As they indeed were.

              I practice in that area and I don’t think that. But then, you don’t know me.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Isn’t quite my read of the posts/comments on this issue.

          [cites omitted]

    • Dilan Esper

      I don’t mind Scott attacking me on offensive lines, but FFS I wish he would at least try to learn something about actual legal procedure (which requires more than reading a few Supreme Court cases) before analyzing the Brady suspension. I was dead right about the law here but, as you say, I am still a tool. :)

      • dave

        Two judges agree with you and two disagree. I guess your definition of “dead right” is different from mine.

        • Dilan Esper

          How about all the judges who denied en banc review?

          That’s a phony count. The trial judge who got reversed doesn’t count. You might as well count Goodell.

          It’s 2-1.

      • vic rattlehead

        but FFS I wish he would at least try to learn something about actual legal procedure

        But unless I’m mistaken, the “investigation” wasn’t a civil suit subject to the FRCP or applicable state law-so the discovery rules don’t apply (and the federal court case that made it up to the 2CA was basically just an appeal of an administrative decision, like an ERISA case, or at least that’s my casual understanding, so there would be limited if any discovery beyond the administrative record). There was also apparently no provision in Brady’s contract obligating him to turn over his private cell phone to investigators (honestly, that’s a bit much absent the context of a legal proceeding or a specific agreement between the players’ union and the NFL).

        So I’m not really sure why you’re blathering about “actual legal procedure” other than you’re still butthurt about Scott repeatedly pwning you and your terrible arguments over the years.

        • Dilan Esper

          Vic, it was review of an arbitration award, only reversible for manifest legal error or similar. Several US Supreme Court cases, including one involving the Major League Baseball Players Association, had reversed trial court orders overturning labor arbitration awards on the grounds that there is ordinarily no review of the merits.

          Scott did a whole series of posts saying Brady would be able to get the award overturned. I said that would only happen if the courts ignored settled law.

          I was right.

          And honestly i am not butthurt that Scott engages me. I am flattered. As far as i know, we like each other, follow each other on twitter, etc.

          • And honestly i am not butthurt that Scott engages me. I am flattered. As far as i know, we like each other, follow each other on twitter, etc.

            Ok, that’s so weird it’s funny! I laughed.

    • efgoldman

      But, still. Sheesh. That guy probably could win with Tebow.

      He’s a genius, Bill is, but he’s not a deity.

      • Joe_JP

        Denver won with him for a time & I think he is a better coach than the one they had.

        • efgoldman

          Denver won with him for a time

          For some values of “won.” Aided and abetted by a terrible defensive coaching decision.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Again, it’s amazing how Goodell’s apoligists always want to bring up the formal legality of Goodell’s punishment even when nobody is discussing it.

      • efgoldman

        it’s amazing how Goodell’s apoligists always want to bring up the formal legality of Goodell’s punishment even when nobody is discussing it.

        As a Pats fan since their first exhibition game in 1960, can we now stop any and all deflategate discussions for all time? Can you create a macro that will nuke all such comments, please? The bullshit is over, he’s not playing for the next three weeks, asking abiut how the sub plays is a legit discussion, but WHY he’s playing, isn’t, any more.
        Enough is enough.

  • Todd

    Game was another good example of why so few teams play man coverage, other than as a change of pace look. Cardinals have one of the most versatile, athletic, and talented Secondaries in the league. Yet, when they play the high powered offenses, they get shredded. They are still good enough overall to win their fair share of shootouts, but it will be tough to get a ring playing that much man coverage while blitzing so often.

    • Denverite

      but it will be tough to get a ring playing that much man coverage while blitzing so often.

      notably rare exceptions

      • Todd

        I’d wager the Broncos play a lot more zone when facing a high-powered offense. Especially in big games.

        • Denverite

          It depends very much on the team. Apparently they started in a zone in the first game but switched to a man scheme at halftime, to good effect. Against Pittsburgh last year, they played man in the first game, got burned, and played zone in the playoffs with much greater effectiveness. They played a hybrid against NE in the AFCCG — they went nickel with the three corners playing man and the safeties and ILBs playing in a shell (Phillips famously thought he could bring a ton of pressure just rushing three or four and was dead right). Then it was straight man against Newton in the SB.

          • Todd

            Here’s a nice article from Bucky Brooks detailing the mix of man and zone the Broncos used to frustrate Newton. He singles out the Cover 3 zone the Broncos used (which Atlanta and Seattle had used so effectively against Carolina in the past).

            http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000635224/article/broncos-defensive-tactics-flummoxed-panthers-in-super-bowl-50

            But I’m really just pointing out that man coverage used to be the base for the vast majority of teams, but a series of rules changes and offensive innovations have made that a less optimal strategy against talented offenses now. I think it hurts the Cardinals, as they are over-committed to their schemes.

          • Scott Lemieux

            This is all excellent stuff. Phillips isn’t remotely Belichick’s equal as a head coach — largely, I suspect, because he’s too nice — but as a DC he’s right with him and they have a lot in common in terms of how they approach matchups.

            • Denverite

              but as a DC he’s right with him

              I dunno. I love Wade, but Belichick was a phenomenal DC.

              • Scott Lemieux

                They went through Phillips’s record in the FO Almanac this year and…it’s pretty tremendous. Belichick is a tough standard, evidently, but his case to be on the same level is stronger than I would have thought. (And not because I think Belichick is overrated.)

                • Casey

                  Yeah, people forget that the Broncos only made the super bowl in ’89 because they had the best defense in the game.

                  And they were close to that level in ’91, as well. If Elway doesn’t get hurt in the AFC championship game, maybe we’re talking about Philips as a legend instead of a very good coordinator.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Yeah, the ’89 version of Elway was better than “Peyton Manning” but he was pretty terrible for a Super Bowl QB (in large measure because of Reeves, of course.)

  • vic rattlehead

    Beautiful. Just need to win one more of these first four and I’m happy.

  • njorl

    Left tackles make more than wide outs.

  • JMG

    I have always thought that while it is hard to be a player for Belichick, what with zero job security and the near-certainty you’ll have to go elsewhere for any big payday, it would also have its compensations, besides the obvious one of winning all the time. For one thing, it would be more interesting. There’s a lot of tedium in football, so having something new to learn and implement each week would be refreshing. For another thing, if he picks you for his roster, you will be used in some meaningful capacity. You will have an opportunity to succeed.

    • Denverite

      Chad Brown is on the radio here frequently. He played for the Patriots towards the tail end of his career. He said Belichick was straight up when he was thinking about signing — he thought Chad could still do X well, that was pretty much all they were going to ask him to do, old players tend to fall off a cliff pretty quickly, and when that happened to Chad he’d be gone within a couple of weeks.

      • sk7326

        it also explains why guys often came back after getting cut … it’s ruthless, but it’s never personal

        • efgoldman

          it also explains why guys often came back after getting cut …

          Historically, an awful lot of Pats players stay in or return to the area after their careers are done.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Maybe Pierce can help me here, but from what I understand that while Belichick is somewhat cold and distant from his players, unlike some of his coaching tree (McDaniels, Mangini, Weis) he’s not an asshole or gratuitously mean — he treats players professionally and straight-up.

        For another thing, if he picks you for his roster, you will be used in some meaningful capacity. You will have an opportunity to succeed.

        This is a great point.

        • JMG

          Don’t most of us prefer a boss who’ll give it to us straight rather than blowing smoke up our ass?
          True confession: I covered the Pats as a sportswriter from 1978-2005. Of the three coaches who will be in the Hall for coaching (Berry as a player already when he coached), I learned a lot of different things.
          1. Parcells was a master manipulator of human beings. If you asked him to draw up a play, he might have 11 x’s and 10 o’s. But he knew how to get the most out of people who might otherwise hate his guts. Belichick was his head henchman for a decade. I’d rather be a galley slave.
          Key quote: One player to another. “I hate that guy (Parcells) and what I hate most is that he’s always right.”
          2. Carroll, just as much or more than Belichick, emphasized the word competition. Nobody was secure with him, which is why in his Pats’ tenure players went whining to the front office/owner, which Kraft himself has acknowledged. He’s said he didn’t do right by Pete.
          3. Bill. Learned more about football technically and football history than from anyone. His much-maligned media relations are an extension of the Washington press fee-fee problem. If I asked him a question he thought valid, he’d always give a good answer. Otherwise no.
          The other thing about Belichick I think lies in his Parcells apprentice/slavery period. He WON’T manipulate people, or at least tries not to. He wants to be as honest as he can, and when he can’t be honest, he clams up.

          • efgoldman

            He WON’T manipulate people, or at least tries not to. He wants to be as honest as he can, and when he can’t be honest, he clams up.

            And he’s frustrating as shit for the Boston sports media, because he won’t stand there and give them a meaningless pull quote that they can put in the paper or use for a video clip.
            The last few years it’s become a game, which the coach consistently wins. And he has the rest of the organization from field to front office playing the same game.
            Of course, getting to six super bowls gives the coach/GM a certain amount of credibility.

      • That is interesting, Denverite. I doubt there are many coaches who both could & would say that – for one thing, I doubt many of them know what they’re doing to that extent.

    • dave

      One thing the Patriots seem to do that no other team appears to do is to have 100% competition for every spot. No one is safe due to reputation, draft slot, salary, or any other reason besides merit. I think that results in sharper play and it also allows Belichick to find the diamonds in the rough that might get overlooked elsewhere.

  • Lord Jesus Perm

    But one crucial reason for his remarkable success is how carefully his between-game and in-game planning is tailored to the available personnel and matchups. Sunday night’s game was his latest clinic.

    This. Belichick isn’t performing alchemy or sprinkling his players with pizie dust; he simply tailors and adapts his scheme to the players he has. When they had Randy Moss, they pushed the ball down the field with a more vertical attack. With guys like Welker/Amendola/Edelman, they’ve gone to a short pass game. When Brady was getting his sea legs, they leaned on the run game and a good D. Too many coaches are married to their schemes and don’t adjust for the players they have. Norv Turner insisted on seven step drops and vertical routes for Teddy Bridgewater, despite the fact that (A) Minnesota’s O-line was hot garbage, and (B) Bridgewater is much better working the intermediate parts of the field. Chuck Pagano’s done something similar with Andrew Luck, and gotten his QB killed in the process.

    Outside of maybe 5-7 coaches, I think NFL HC’s just flat out handicap their own teams’ chances of winning.

    • Denverite

      Too many coaches are married to their schemes and don’t adjust for the players they have. Norv Turner insisted on seven step drops and vertical routes for Teddy Bridgewater, despite the fact that (A) Minnesota’s O-line was hot garbage, and (B) Bridgewater is much better working the intermediate parts of the field. Chuck Pagano’s done something similar with Andrew Luck, and gotten his QB killed in the process.

      Ditto Kubiak. He’s married to a stretch zone blocking system that requires very specific types of players — a reasonably athletic QB who can play under center and run the boot, one-cut running backs who run downhill, athletic (but not necessarily big) linemen who can move well laterally, etc. One of the reasons the offense was such a hot mess last year was Manning couldn’t do either (and even Osweiler wasn’t a great fit), and both guards were way too hurt/slow. (Also, CJ Anderson — who actually is a good fit — was hurt for half the year.) The result was a crappy attempt at a hybrid that neither ran nor passed very well, especially the first half of the year.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Rex Ryan last year was another classic example. If (as is likely) the Bills crash and burn this year he’ll be seen as a fraud, and it’s not entirely fair — his track record as a defensive coach really is quite outstanding. But he spectacularly failed to adapt to the talent he had last year, and while the defense will almost certainly be better this he’s got a stars-and-scrubs team whose stars are mostly hurt or suspended so it won’t matter.

        Also, if Belichick’s brother was the defensive coordinator of the 32nd DVOA defense last year, I think we can pretty safely say that he would rather spoon with Roger Goodell than hire him as an assistant.

        • Breadbaker

          Also, if Belichick’s brother was the defensive coordinator of the 32nd DVOA defense last year, I think we can pretty safely say that he would rather spoon with Roger Goodell than hire him as an assistant.

          Image, please leave my mind. Thanks!

    • efgoldman

      Chuck Pagano’s done something similar with Andrew Luck, and gotten his QB killed in the process.

      I’m not sure the failure is all Pagano’s. Irsay and Grigson can supposedly see what’s happening on the field as well as we can, and they do stupid shit like trading for Richardson rather than improving their OL and their old, creaky defense.
      Not to say that Pagano’s even close to a top coach. But he has no tools to work with at all.

      • Lord Jesus Perm

        It certainly isn’t all Pagano’s fault; I’d argue that outside of Luck, the Colts have one of the five worst rosters in the league. However, I do think he deserves a great deal of the blame given that he did manage to change the gameplan when Luck got hurt last year. He and Chudzinski made sure to get the ball out of Matt Hasselbeck’s hands as quickly as possible. That same plan with Luck would do a lot to help him stay upright and help minimize some of their weaknesses (IE bad blocking and a lack of a reliable run game to supplement the pass). For some reason though, they’ve simply chosen not to do this.

        Also, IIRC, this is the same man who when asked about the punshiment Luck receives in the pocket basically shrugged and said that he needed to learn to deal with it.

        • efgoldman

          said that he needed to learn to deal with it.

          And when Pagano is fired, and Luck gets a career ending injury or ends up winning a SB with another team (cf Plunkett) Pagano will still believe it.
          How many SUPERGENIUSES can one league stand?

  • hypersphericalcow

    with apologies:

    OLDMAN MUND: I TAKE YOU DOWN WITH EXOTIC SMASHMOUTH

    SEK: What are you doing?

    OLDMAN MUND: EXOTIC SMASHMOUTH CAUSE CROSSFOOT MAKE ME SO FUCKING BUFF

    SEK: You’re just rubbing your head against my shin.

    OLDMAN MUND: EXOTIC SMASHMOUTH TAKEDOWN MOTHERFUCKER SO FUCKING BUFF

    • Scott Lemieux

      Would SEK object if I started to refer to him as OLDMAN MULARKEY?

      • hypersphericalcow

        It’s a typo away from “OLDMAN MALARKEY”, but retains plausible deniability.

  • Casey

    An actual laugh out loud moment from The Ringer’s story on Mariota:

    “I’m going to do the things that I’ve had success with since 2001, and I will continue to do that until someone stops us,” said Mularkey, who served as the Titans’ interim head coach for part of the 2015 season and is now their full-time boss.

    FFS. Mularkey has a lifetime record of 18-40. What would “someone stopping him” look like?

    • Scott Lemieux

      I am definitely using that in this week’s open thread.

    • LastUniversalCommonAncestor

      Clearly, he was referring to the things he specifically did in those 18 games where they weren’t able to stop him…. Prove him wrong.

  • CrunchyFrog

    OT: Yep, he’s running a terrible campaign – worst in modern history. No field staff. He’s going to lose by double-digits. The only question is if he quits before the actual election.

    And yet, the polls are now trending STRONGLY in his direction. Aggregators all show thin leads for Clinton, and states that once looked safely Clinton are now led by Trump.

    Look, the last 2 weeks have been worse that the Goring of Gore. Powell’s stolen emails get released and 75% of the coverage is about his comments about Clinton and 1% about his devastating assessment of Trump. Today MSGOP and CNN are slobbering over Trump’s “child care” plan. HO-LEE-FUK.

    Krugman gets it:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/why-are-the-media-objectively-pro-trump/

    Now watching the supposedly liberal MSNBC give an hour over to Drudge’s biggest promoter Mark Halerpin. I never thought I would see anything like this, and I lived through 1999-2005.

  • addicted44

    I don’t understand why NFL teams have been unable to change their incentives structure to encourage more coaches to coach with an eye towards winning, rather than with a focus on keeping their jobs.

    • efgoldman

      I don’t understand why NFL teams have been unable to change their incentives structure to encourage more coaches to coach with an eye towards winning

      Especially because winning is the way to keep your job.
      However, when you look at the coaching carousel teams vs the teams owned by the Krafts, Maras, Rooneys, and stockholders, you see owners who know enough to hire good people and let them do their jobs.
      I’m guessing those ownerships also run or ran their other businesses the same way.

      • addicted44

        Winning may be the way to keep your current job, but not necessarily the ideal way to keep an NFL job.

        There are a ton of Head Coaches, who had terrible records, but because they are considered good coaches continue getting jobs with other teams.

It is main inner container footer text