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Exhuming McCarthy

[ 181 ] January 19, 2015 |

Mike McCarthy

Above: Congratulations to Seattle’s MVP in the NFC Championship Game!

Barnwell has an excellent analysis of Mike McCarthy’s hideously bad in-game tactics, putting it in the proper context of McCarthy’s extensive history of hideously bad in-game tactics. (There’s also some great stuff about how fans always assume that a late game offense that fails is a prevent defense even when there’s blitzing.)  But for whatever reason, lots of fans and most announcers love the kind of old-school bullshit that unnecessarily throws away football games like Murray Chass loves pitcher wins. So it’s worth addressing some of the more common illogical arguments used to defend McCarthyism:

  • There are some calls that are such close percentage plays that the general data doesn’t do much to inform the specific case, and it’s appropriate to defer to the coach’s assessment of the relevant factors. 4th and goal from the 1, or the 1/2, is not one of them. I linked to the 4th down bot yesterday, but again in these particular cases the odds overwhelmingly favor going for it. Only in very unusual circumstances should you kick a field goal, and the burden of proof weighs strongly against McCarthy’s apologists.
  • At this point, like Chass telling people who analyze the wrong statistics go get their nose out of their slide rules and watch the games, it is de riguier for the Phil Simms type to inform us that football games are played by human beings, and the general rule does not not always determine specific cases.  Well, duh.  But the arguments that proceed from this tend not to actually be arguments about a specific facts of  a case but rather just meaningless cliches or useless tautologies.  “YOU HAVE TO PUT THE POINTS ON THE BOARD IN THE NATIONAL. FOOTBALL. LEAGUE.” is just a bunch of words next to each other. “I trust my defense” doesn’t tell us anything, because if you trust your defense why are you so terrified at the prospect of the other team getting the ball at their own 1/2 yard line?  “Rules” with no content and arguments that cut both ways aren’t reason to make bad percentage calls.
  • Was yesterday one of the extremely rare cases in which it’s correct not to play the overwhelming percentages? I can’t see that.  Yes, the Seahawks have an excellent run defense.  But the Packers have 1)an exceptional offensive line, 2)decent runners, and 3)the best QB in the world. Moreover, going up against the best team in football on the road should logically make you less risk-averse, not more.  The idea that the Packers were unlikely to get 18 inches on the ground doesn’t make any sense, and without that assumption you can’t defend McCarthy.
  • There’s a superficially more persuasive argument made by McCarthy apologists, namely that despite his horrible decisions Seattle had to have a large number of things go right to win the game at the end, and hey the odds of recovering an expected onside kick are a lot better than scoring on 4th-and-goal from the 1.  And, yes, after the Burnett interception Seattle’s win expectancy was south of 5% and a lot of things had to go right for them to win.  But the logical fallacy here should be obvious: it treats your good breaks as inevitable and knowable, while the other team’s good breaks are contingent and lucky.  McCarthy had no way of knowing at the time he screwed up the game that a QB long established as above-average would spend 3 1/2 quarters playing like Ryan Lindley’s less talented younger brother.  Nobody has ever confused Jermaine Kearse with Jerry Rice, but I don’t think expecting to get picks on 80% of his targets — two resulting from deflections directly into the hands of Green Bay defenders  — is realistic.  If all of this stuff had to happen for McCarthy’s decisions to be sound, then they were dumb.  The fact that coaches win all the time despite of making bad tactical decisions doesn’t make them less bad.  And, sometimes, those marginal decisions just do make the difference.
  • It’s also worth comparing McCarthy with Pete Carroll.  If Carroll went with the “YOU HAVE TO PUT THE POINTS ON THE BOARD IN THE NATIONAL. FOOTBALL. LEAGUE. YOU HAVE TO TAKE THAT ZERO OFF THE SCOREBOARD. IT’S ABOUT THE JIMS AND JOES NOT THE XS AND OS JEEM” mentality and takes the 3 points at 16-0, as many coaches would have, the Packers almost certainly win.  And, as djw said in comments, I have less than no patience with claims that this was “luck.”  It was good coaching and good execution, and that McCarthy’s team wasn’t prepared for it is instructive.
  • As Barnwell says, we also shouldn’t overlook McCarthy’s conservatism also manifesting itself in taking the ball out of the hands of the best player in the world for much of the 4th quarter.  I know I’m supposed to be upset about Belichick “running up the score,” but leaving aside the fact that I think this is always nonsense in professional football, better that that playing not to lose.  There’s a reason that Belichick is 21-9 in the playoffs while McCarthy — with a quarterback at least as good as Brady — is 7-6.  And it ain’t inflated footballs or surreptitious videotapes.

On the Same-Sex Marriage Cases

[ 14 ] January 19, 2015 |

As most of you heard, the Supreme Court has granted cert in the same-sex marriage cases Friday. Biggish Media Scott has all the analysis you crave!

On the “ought” question, it’s long past time for the Court to abandon incrementalism and do the right thing.

On the “is” question, I am at worst cautiously optimistic.

Criminalizing Non-Helicopter Parenting

[ 116 ] January 19, 2015 |

The next decent defense I hear for these kinds of arrest will be the first.


[ 190 ] January 18, 2015 |


“You ask for a miracle. I give you…Mike McCarthy.”

If you don’t want to give Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch the chance to hang around and beat you, you probably don’t want to spend the first quarter throwing points away for no obvious reason. But, hey, I’ll take the Super Bowl appearance, and Packers fans can content themselves with their coach impressing the announcers with his commitment to old-school bullshit.

NFL Conference Championship Picks/Open Thread

[ 154 ] January 18, 2015 |

SEAHAWKS (-8) over Packers You know about these teams. The real question here is Rodgers’s health. If his calf isn’t a major issue, 8 points is too much to give up to the most valuable player in the sport, and his near-flawless second half against the Cowboys would suggest that it isn’t. But his first half makes clear that he’s not going to be near full mobility, and the Seattle defense is much better positioned to exploit this than Dallas’s was. This will probably be close most of the way, but I think Seattle will eventually pull away.

PATRIOTS (-6 1/2) over Colts. I don’t mean to be stubborn, but this is a much easier call. I know Indianapolis has looked good the last two weeks. But the first game was against a below-average QB missing his only two decent weapons (and, yes, yes, picking against the Colts there was as stupid as a pick against the spread can be, an excellent illustration of why contrarianism is dumb and “hmm, should I be picking 4 favorites?” logic is even dumber.) And even Andy Dalton would probably have given Denver a better shot that the “Peyton Manning” who showed up last week. This week, they’re going up against a healthy icon. The (past-peak but still excellent) icon has only one great weapon, but 1)the weapon is great and it’s not clear how the Colts can deal with him if he stays on the field, and 2)the bunch of OK additional options should allow McDaniels to game plan around Vontae Davis easily (and Davis is apparently well less than 100% anyway.) Admittedly, Luck will do some damage — if the Broncos couldn’t get any pass rush it’s not clear how New England will. And they won’t benefit from the inevitable 2-yards-a-carry-plus-fumble from Trent “so nice he was worth a first rounder twice!” Richardson. But the Pats are better offensively and defensively, playing at home. I think they’re headed to Arizona without a great deal of difficulty.

…I greatly appreciate the valiant efforts of Seahawks MVP Mike McCarthy to keep them in the game, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough. Apparently my worries last year about Seattle’s third-rate receiving corps weren’t so much wrong as premature.

Lanny and Roger

[ 15 ] January 18, 2015 |

Two bad tastes that go perfectly together.

Impeach Obama!

[ 86 ] January 17, 2015 |

You may have heard about Tom Wolf’s salutary decision not to serve Yuengling, a terrible vaguely beer-flavored water brewed by a union-busting company, at his inaugural. But buried in the reporting is a truly disturbing fact:

When the Canadian ice hockey team defeated the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics, President Barack Obama sent the Canadian prime minister a case of Yuengling, NBC Philadelphia reported. NBC said at the time that Yuengling was “the President’s brew of choice.”

Surely this will feature prominently when historians determine that Obama makes Buchanan look like Lincoln. I don’t know how the Weekly Standard‘s interns missed this dispositive evidence.

Restricting Civil Forfeiture

[ 105 ] January 16, 2015 |

Very important news:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without evidence that a crime occurred.

Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.

Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.

I’m sure that had Mitt Romney won Attorney General Yoo would have done exactly the same thing, though.

…Balko has more.

“The arc of justice may be long, but Chief Justice Roberts is bending it towards Rand Paul.”

[ 17 ] January 16, 2015 |

And, alas, it’s the real Rand Paul, not the civil libertarian ones some people have invented.  And, yes, if King v. Burwell is reversed, we’re in a second age of of Lochner.   (Ian did leave out my favorite example of the utter incoherence of reactionary jurisprudence of the early 20th century: Hammer v. Dagenhart. Sure, Congress might have limited itself to what the Court itself had repeatedly said was regulating interstate commerce, but Congress could still not do so because…I’m not going to lie to you Marge. Well, goodbye! And using transparently erroneous legal arguments to deny health insurance to 10 million people would fit it nicely next to the use of transparently erroneous legal arguments to help businesses exploit child labor.

Notes on the Ongoing Death of Freedom

[ 77 ] January 16, 2015 |

Here’s one of the horrible outcomes the Halbig troofers are trying to eliminate:

For the first time in a decade, the number of people struggling to pay their medical bills has started to decline, according to a new survey released on Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund. The researchers attributed the historic drop to the number of people gaining insurance under the health care reform law.

Between 2012 and 2014 — as Obamacare’s main coverage expansion took effect — the Commonwealth researchers found that the number of people who had issues paying for health treatment dropped from 41 percent to 35 percent. Over the same time period, the people who skipped out on health services because they couldn’t afford them declined from 43 percent to 36 percent.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will act quickly to free people from the tyranny of more affordable medical insurance and restore the most precious liberties of all, the freedoms to declare bankruptcy and forgo medical care.

Annotating Christopher Caldwell

[ 112 ] January 15, 2015 |

For my Gawker debut, I show that there hasn’t been an argument made in such detail or with such care since Liberal Fascism

Perhaps Caldwell’s essay was an homage to the late Straussians Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa.  Presumably the esoteric meaning of the essay is that Obama’s legacy is unassailable…

UPDATE: Link fixed! Although let Target’s experience be a lesson that Canadians are a hard, unforgiving people.


[ 79 ] January 15, 2015 |

Shorter Roger L. Simon: “Everything changed for me on 9/11.  I used to be a Democrat, but then I figured out that only Mitt Romney bully pulpiting the Overton Window stood between the United States and SHARI’AH LAW.  I am not a crackpot.”

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