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Tag: "football"

A Brief Appreciation

[ 89 ] March 29, 2012 |

Watching last night’s Barcelona-Inter Milan draw reminded me, that for many people on this planet, the most frightening sight in the world is a 5’4″ Argentinian–born the year after the Mets won the ’86 World Series–charging right at them:

See how his eyes are already looking at your feet? They’re not. They’re really on their way up to your belly-button, meaning your center-of-gravity’s betrayed you and he knows what lies your feet have told. And that move he’s making? It’s calculated to humiliate you five seconds after you realize its purpose, so there’s only one alternative, and given that Italians are famous for the volumptuousness of their gravity, they chose it with gusto:

You would think this tactic successful: share the Jovian gravitational force of 2.58 g that yanks Italian players to the pitch every time the wind considers blowing, but it’s to no avail! The tiny Argentinian spits in the face of Italian-alien gravitational alliances, pauses to shoot a look of shame at his “competitors,” then continues moving toward goal as if he’s bounding over Martian fields. Having no resort, the Italians do what they can:

Which entails trying to rip his face off. Anyone who wants to complain about the dirtiness of Italian football is welcome to in this thread. Keep it clean, though, my friends, as some players know what best to do when there’s nothing to be done:

“Keep your distance, lads,” you can almost hear one of them say. “And hope an Italian shows up.”


Tebow, In Fact, Makes No Sense For The Jets. If They Care About Winning.

[ 141 ] March 26, 2012 |

I would have, as an NFL GM, been a little leery of Peyton Manning; as Bill James once said about signing Barry Bonds after the Giants let him go, “I don’t believe in his future, I’m not convinced of his value in the present, and I’m not interested in the past.”   Of course, the parallel is far from exact because the upside on Peyton is much higher; a QB of Manning’s caliber can have the same kind of impact in 16 games than a great baseball player can have in 162 (let alone 120 games of an old Bonds with no defensive value.)   But still — with his serious neck injuries it’s unclear if he’s still Peyton Manning even if he’s healthy, and there seems a pretty good chance that he won’t stay healthy.   For a good team with a remotely acceptable QB, signing Manning wouldn’t really make sense.   But for the Broncos, the beauty of it is that there’s a positive opportunity cost; getting rid of Tebow (for draft picks and cash!) is a major positive in itself, and if Manning happens to have a couple more big years left it’s a major bonus.

For the same reason, despite the inevitable revisionism the Jets trading for Tebow — unless they don’t care about anything but maximizing short-term revenues — doesn’t make a shred of sense:

  • This idea of bringing him in as a Wildcat QB…if the Jets thought this had more than trivial benefits even if it works, they would have just kept Brad Smith, who unlike Tebow has proven that he’s good at it.
  • And whatever gains you get will be mitigated by the fact that this turns the QB situation into a circus in an intense media market.   Giving Brad Smith a few snaps didn’t make people clamor to put him in the starting lineup.
  • And if Tebow is going to get more like 10-20 snaps a game even while he’s a backup…so you’re saying that Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano can create and implement two different offenses that will work simultaneously.  Sure.  And Erick Erickson is going to write the new Federalist Papers.
  • This isn’t to say that Mark Sanchez is particularly good.  He’s not, and the Jets should have been looking around for alternatives.    Sanchez for the last two years has been 28th in DVOA, 1% above average in 2010, about 5% below this year.   Mediocre, but not awful.  In Tebow, the Jets have managed to acquire a QB who’s substantially worse than that while only being a year younger — nearly 20% below average DVOA.    Sanchez regressed dangerously close to replacement level; Tebow needs a telescope to even see replacement level.
  • And don’t tell me that this is because Sanchez had good weapons to work with.    The Jets had one quality receiver –  one a perennial contender couldn’t wait to get rid of — backed up by a bunch of guys who were done or had no ability in the first place.   The tight end and running game are mediocre at best.   The left side of the offensive line is overrated and the right side a sieve (something they better have ideas about improving if they’re going to play Tebow.)
  • And if the argument is that Tebow Just Wins Football Games, well, in that respect Sanchez is what Tebow is supposed to be.   He guided a team to an 11-5 season.  He’s won four playoff games on the road — two as a rookie! — and was pretty decent in the two postseason games he lost.   Tebow did play well in one playoff game, but deprived of the Broncos’ MVP in that game (Dick LeBeau) the next week he made one of the worst past defenses in the league look like the ’85 Bears.    Despite this a lot of Jets fans want Sanchez’s head on a pointed stick — and not without reason!  But saying that Tebow is better because of his clutchitude is self-refuting.
  • And nor would it make any sense for the Jets to acquire Tebow to play some other position (although, to their credit, they don’t seem to be doing this.)  He doesn’t have anywhere near the speed to be an NFL running back.  I forget who brought up Aaron Hernandez in comments, but…let’s wait until he establishes any ability to catch passes at all before we start comparing him to one of the best TEs in the game, shall we?   It’s like speculating that Ichiro Suzuki could be converted to a pitcher — great athlete!  great arm!  — and then saying he could be the next Roy Halladay.

The Jets have created a huge distraction for a team that needs a lot fewer distractions, in order to bring in a guy who hasn’t shown that he even deserves an NFL job.   Great work!

It Gets Funnier!

[ 56 ] March 21, 2012 |

Apparently, the Jets might be saved from their incompetence by their own incompetence.

It has been observed that the Lord works in mysterious ways

[ 32 ] March 19, 2012 |

manning tebow

From a hermeneutic perspective, the “text” of Manning making aliyah to Denver can be interpreted literally, emblematically, allegorically, didactically, and, not least, probabilistically.

I like those odds.

“I can’t see myself missing Peyton more than I might miss Ross McLochness, or Ronnie Pudding, or Danny Upham, or Little Danny Schindler.”

[ 38 ] March 7, 2012 |

Well, he never really added much value to the Colts anyway.

It’s weird that cutting a player who apparently was worth upwards of 10 wins a year to his team is the rational move, any yet it really is.

“He’s the head coach and chief punk on that Syracuse team…a hundred bucks of my own money for the first of my guys who really nails that creep.”

[ 24 ] March 2, 2012 |

Huh, I had no idea that Reggie Dunlop’s coaching techniques were so influential.

Tebow and Lin: Two Players Next to Each Other

[ 96 ] February 20, 2012 |

The oft-made analogy between Tebow and Jeremy Lin is idiotic for one reason above all — Lin has been good.   The Knicks have been on a streak, despite an injury to their star player, because their point guard play has dramatically improved.   The Broncos bad a bunch of (narrow, often outright fluky) wins against (mediocre or worse) teams in the regular season in spite of their QB, who was actually worse than the guy he replaced.   Tebow was, granted, effective in one playoff game.  And then, the next week, facing a coaching staff able to develop a gameplan that distinguished between “bad thrower for an NFL QB” and “bad thrower for an NFL running back” he was atrocious against a secondary that was shredded by the likes of Dan Orlovsky, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Joe Flacco. The question about Lin is whether he’s as good as he looks; the question about Tebow is whether he can ever be an adequate NFL QB despite his generally sub-replacement-level performance. It’s the laziest analogy imaginable.

If only you knew the pain I fought through to write this post.

[ 60 ] February 19, 2012 |

Thanks to a deep desire to nap and a DVR that’s threatening to delete everything I want to watch, I spent a few hours this afternoon watching the Heat and Barcelona win sometime in the past week, and I was struck by how casually brilliant LeBron James and Leo Messi look. When you think of Michael Jordan, you invariably think of the image he cultivated, which looks something like this:

He was a winner, no doubt, but he always played up his own struggle. It was never enough for him to be great: he had to sprinkle the floor with Kryptonite just to remind everyone how incredible Superman is on Tuesdays. James and Messi? They’re content to be great. Neither of them is going to pull a Kobe and leak his every bump and bruise to the media in order to score a “heroic” twenty-one points. They’ll leap and weave around the children like the gods they are and that’ll be that. Consider Messi at 1:33 in this video:

Restraint is a talent, I know, but it doesn’t always manifest itself as disdain, and that shot? It mocks the sport. It asks “You want me to do this?” and shrugs its shoulder in consent. Is it as manly a display as Jordan’s? Absolutely not. But I’ll take it or its sibling — The Kid‘s perpetual “I just did what now?” expression — over the now-conventional displays of aggressively false modesty plaguing major American sports.

Congrats to the Giants

[ 145 ] February 5, 2012 |

I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, but Eli Manning was at the top of the list. Today, he (and Manningham) made the plays, and Brady (and Welker, although that really wasn’t a very good throw) missed two pivotal opportunities, and that was a difference. Great game, which for those of us without strong rooting interests is the most important thing.

Super Bowl Open Thread

[ 39 ] February 5, 2012 |

I can’t leave any suspense about the pick, since I already placed my low stakes wager on the Giants (money line and +3) the Monday after the championship games before the sharps bet the Giants payouts down more. The line seems like an obvious botch for a relatively even-matched game on a neutral field. The difference in records is largely a product of the Pats’ much easier schedule, and the Giants right now are a different team than the one earlier in the year that didn’t have Osi and only had Tuck in the most formal sense. This isn’t to say that I think that the Giants are overwhelmingly likely to win the game or anything. Eli, while championship quality, isn’t Brady, and the Giants (benfitting from Harbaugh’s inability to adapt to the Ginn injury and a lucky — not wrong, necessarily, but lucky — call on the Brandshaw near-fumble) were just as lucky to win the championship game as the Patriots. Still, I like the macthup of the Giants receivers against the Pats secondary, and while New York’s secondary isn’t a lot better the Gronkowski injury is a huge factor for an offense that lacks a deep threat. Had the Patriots signed a real wideout rather than a reality TV star in the offesason, I’d probably see them winning this game; but they didn’t and I don’t. Certainly, getting points to take the Giants is an easy call.

I am rooting for OT not only because it would mean a close game because I would take a perverse pleasure in Gregg Easterbrook types launching into less-funny-than-Frank-Caliendo routines about the Incredible Complexity of the new postseason OT rules. Here, let me explain it: “it’s sudden death unless the first team to receive a kickoff kicks a field goal in its first possession.” Sooooo complicated! Can I have my PhD in astrophysics from MIT now? Also, I think the rules are fine; certainly infinitely preferable to the abominable NCAA rules, which are almost as bad as penalty kicks/shots. I have little patience for equity whining; If you can’t stop a team from scoring a TD after a kickoff, boo hoo hoo hoo hoo. And that goes triple for Steelers fans inclined to whine; if you can’t beat one of the three weakest playoff teams in NFL history in regulation and then start the OT with a defensive scheme that will allow the other team to score if their QB can make a throw half the tailbacks in the league can make, tough shit. [To clarify, I'm not saying that Steelers fans are uniquely whiny or anything; it's an illustrative hypothetical.]

…Refs deserve a lot of credit for that safety call; obviously correct, and gutsy. Having praised Bellichick, I should not that the first quarter — most glaringly his Don Cherry homage — has been ugly; Patriots looked grossly unprepared.

…Shorter Clint Eastwood: vote for Mitt Romney? Do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?

Modes of Loyalty

[ 14 ] February 5, 2012 |

Ah, the Patriots:

So close to the Super Bowl, yet so far.

Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood has been cut by the Patriots less than 24 hours before the big game — bad news for him, of course, but a move that increases the likelihood Chad Ochocinco will be active against the Giants on Sunday.

Which makes me think of this:

Stengel [didn't make an emotional commitment to his players.] With Stengel, you were only as good as your last start. And that was a large part of why he was able to stay on top, year after year, in a way few other managers ever have. It’s not that he wasn’t “loyal” to his players, but his idea of loyalty wasn’t “Joe helped me win the pennant last year, so I owe it to him to let him work through his problems.” It was “these boys are trying to win. I owe it to them to do everything possible to help them win.”

–Bill James, The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers (170)

I suspect the conclusion many people will draw from the first story is “yikes, is Bellichick ever an asshole.” Which isn’t exactly wrong. But on this, I’m on the Bellichick/Stengel side. A coach’s job is to be loyal to the team and the team’s fans by doing what they feel is necessary to win, not to express loyalty to individual players per se. It’s not an accident that a coach willing to cut a guy the week before a Super Bowl already has five rings.

NFL Conference Championship Open Thread

[ 103 ] January 22, 2012 |

On Pats/Ravens, I wouldn’t make too much of how dominant the Patriots looked in the last round; without first round Broncos MVP Dick LeBeau involved, Tebow turning into a pumpkin was inevitable, and the Broncos defense was overrated. On the other hand, while Flacco is an NFL QB and at this point Tebow is not, he’s not a very good NFL QB either. Between wondering if the Ravens are the right team to exploit New England’s secondary (which does look slightly less awful with Chung back) and Ed Reed apparently being a lot less than 100%, I’ll take New England -9. I’ll also recommend Pierce on Belichick, which I agree with almost entirely; maybe Charlie has even learned to love Belichick’s correct 4th down gamble against Indianapolis.

On Giants/49ers I don’t think I have anything original to add; if the Giants (especially Eli and the pass rushers) play the way they’re capable of playing they should win, but the Niners are more consistent and we should remember that the Giants were beaten badly by the Redskins just a few weeks ago. Given this kind of even matchup, though, I have to take the points. New York +3.

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