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Tag: "football"

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.

Things I Never Knew Before Today

[ 48 ] January 15, 2012 |

Apparently Aaron Rodgers’s head is somewhere in the middle of his back.

This game is, though, an object lesson about why officiating never really “costs” any team a game; the Packers have benefited not only from a farcical roughing-the-passer call to negate a 3rd down play but an almost equally bad call upholding a non-fumble call on a fumble, and yet they’re still getting beat pretty badly.   With that said, I can’t resist noting that Bill Leavy was the same idiot whose crew made a complete hash of Super Bowl XL.  What this guy is still doing in playoff games I can’t tell you.

Recap: Evidence Matters

[ 111 ] January 14, 2012 |

Saturday’s game is a good lesson in making predictions based on intuition.   The numbers suggest that Alex Smith has become a very serviceable QB, and despite my skepticism played very well against a terrible defense.   The numbers also show that Tim Tebow is really, really terrible, and was he!   Although it’s hard to compete against Belichick’s defensive schemes, which today involved such radical ideas as “covering the other team’s top wideout” and “not running your fourth-and-short defense on every play.”   (The person who should be most embarrassed today is not Tebow, or even his media fluffers, but Dick LeBeau.)

Belated, Brief NFL Preview

[ 32 ] January 7, 2012 |

Since I was on the road, I missed the first game (I’m, ah, sure I would have picked the Texans behind the immortal T.J. Yates.) But still time for the other three:

Detroit at New Orleans: What, who’s playing the Saints now? Must be a misprint. Seriously, discipline aside you have to be impressed with how quickly the Lions have recovered from Matt Millen, and also impressed that Stafford has become a top 10 QB. But they’re at least a year early as a playoff contender, playing a terrific team that’s especially good at home, Stafford still ain’t Brees, and the Lions were scored on at will by the Packers’ second-string. Saints -10 1/2.

Pittsburgh at God’s Own Team. Obviously, a huge mismatch. Which, yes, yes, doesn’t mean that a Broncos win is impossible (cf. the Seahawks last year.) Only the Seahawks had someone with some history of being an NFL QB; the Broncos have a guy who’s merely bad when he doesn’t turn the ball over and is Ryan Leaf-caliber when he does. If you think that the Tebow who didn’t generate turnovers is the real one, then the Broncos have a puncher’s chance. Me, I say Steelers -8 with extreme prejudice.

Atlanta at NY Giants This, on the other hand, is as close as it gets. and surprisingly Ryan was as good or better than Manning (the latter of whom has been much better than I thought he would be.) The question of the game is whether the very good Falcons offensive line can protect against the healthier Giants pass rush and allow Ryan to pick on the atrocious Giants secondary. The answer is…I have no idea. But in those circumstances I guess you should take the points. Falcons +3.

The Clutchest QB There Absolutely Ever Was Update

[ 76 ] January 1, 2012 |

Tim Tebow is so great that he can get a team coached by Norv Turner to knock someone out of the playoffs!   He Just.  Wins.  Football Games.   To focus against his 20.6 QB rating is to miss the intangible qualities that make him a very, very, very special atrocious quarterback.

The Clutchest QB There Absolutely Ever Was Update

[ 54 ] December 24, 2011 |

What happens when a QB playing like Colt McCoy and Josh Freeman and Dan Orlovsky (well, not quite as well as the immortal Orlovsky) despite an unrealistically low turnover rate no longer has the unrealistic variable working for him? The results could be immensely entertaining!

In fairness, you can hardly expect a QB to flourish when entering the House of Pain, an abattoir for quarterbacks if there ever was one. This is 1990, right?

Tim Tebow, Circumciser

[ 52 ] November 1, 2011 |

Dave Zirin’s piece on Tebow’s disastrous performance and his aggressive evangelicalism links to this very disturbing 2008 news story of Tim Tebow going to the Philippines to circumcise young boys

On the recent weeklong trip to the orphanage his father’s ministry runs in Southeast Asia, Tim assisted in the care of more than 250 Filipinos who underwent medical and dental procedures, including circumcision.

Tim’s original task was to preach to the hundreds of people waiting in line before they had their teeth pulled or cysts removed. But as the day progressed, he looked for more active ways to help the three Filipino doctors. By the end of an exhausting day, he was wearing gloves and a mask, wielding surgical scissors, and helping the doctors in the circumcision of boys, finishing off stitches with a snip.:

Um. Whoa. Wow.

I know that some are saying people are going overboard with the Tebow hatred. But he makes it so easy. And really, what are the chances we are seeing the beginning of a very scary political career here? Way too high.

The Most Racist Team in Professional Sports

[ 27 ] October 31, 2011 |

Michael Tomasky’s excellent piece on the Washington Redskins, a team whose owner, George Marshall, made the team identity his own virulent racism, is well worth a read. The Redskins were the last team in the NFL to integrate, in 1962 when Marshall was also openly supporting southern segregationists against the civil rights movement. Moreover, the person responsible for its integration was, of all people, Stewart Udall, who forced Marshall’s hand when he wanted Department of Interior land to build a new stadium.

Tebow and Our Galtian Overlords

[ 95 ] October 24, 2011 |

This story certainly sounds familiar:

At this point, the Denver Broncos’ attitude toward Tebow seems to be that you can hide making a mistake if you insist on making it repeatedly while loudly proclaiming that it’s the opposite of a mistake. It’s like the supply-side economics of talent. The Broncos invested a #1 pick in him, and if they just keep reinvesting in the top-tier, benefits will eventually rain down on all. Reality can go suck it.

But don’t kid yourself, the five minutes of decent football he played against an awful team coached by an utter yutz who’s the lamest of lame ducks proves that he has that DavidWillie EcksteinBloomquist Essence Du Scrappy White Winner to propel your team to success, the fact that he belongs in an NFL starting job about as much as Gino Torretta notwithstanding…

Apparently, Reports of the Death of Al Davis Were Premature

[ 36 ] October 18, 2011 |

I’m not saying that the good start of the Bengals isn’t at least mildly surprising, but I think a lot of writers were missing the fact that Carson Palmer hasn’t been a good quarterback in three years.   Getting two first-rounders for him is a real coup for Cincinnati.

Al Davis

[ 27 ] October 17, 2011 |

I came into football awareness in the late 70s and early 80s in Sacramento, California.  The choice in football lay between the Raiders and 49ers, and for reasons I can’t fully explain I chose to love the Raiders and hate the Niners.  This persisted in spite of the Raiders move to Los Angeles; by that time I identified closely enough with the team that I hated those who hated it. This meant, of course, that I developed a healthy lack of respect for the NFL and for establishment sports media at an early age.

I don’t know much about Davis’ political leanings, although apparently his father was a Taft Republican.  The Raiders donated more money to the Democratic Party than the Republican, but this would not be unusual for a team that bounced between Los Angeles and Oakland.  Davis did hire the first Latino head coach, and the first black head coach of the modern era.  Davis had a reputation for generosity with his players, although this doesn’t mean that he supported any structural efforts on their behalf.  Indeed, Davis understood his relationship with the players in personal terms, supporting Howie Long’s devastating decision to cross the picket lines in the 1987 strike.   And of course, Davis knew how to hate.

What to say about Davis and Marcus Allen?  Davis lost faith in Allen on November 30, 1986, when Allen fumbled in overtime on what should have been the winning drive against the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Raiders were 8-4 at the time, but they lost the last four games of the season, including an awful 37-0 defeat at the hands of the Seahawks.  It was twenty-four years ago, but I swear I remember the fumble like yesterday; I was crushed in the way that only a 13 year can be crushed.  It was very, very easy for me to blame the Raiders’ collapse on Allen, and so on some level I understood Davis’ reluctance to rely on Allen.  But then, I was 13 year old; Davis was fifty-eight, and should have known better.

But… The Raiders drafted Bo Jackson in part because of Davis’ skepticism about Marcus Allen, and it turned out that hey, Bo Jackson was actually better than Marcus Allen.  Jackson didn’t become a Raider by accident; he was precisely the kind of player that Davis was interested in, and the Raiders targeted him because of the feud.  The Jackson-Allen 1-2 punch almost made up for the fact that the Raiders were trying to put together an elite team with helmed by Jay Schroeder, although this was itself a result of Davis’ weird attitude about Steve Beuerlein.

As I understand it, Davis’ player acquisition strategy was guided by an emphasis on athletic ability over demonstrated football skills.  The Raiders thus aimed for players of outstanding physical ability, without specifically trying to fill holes in the offense or defense.  As a strategy, this seems to have made sense for the first two and half decades of the Raiders existence, and less so afterward.  I don’t think that this is accidental; as the NFL (and the NCAA) matured in terms of physical training and scouting, it became harder to find “athletes” who were undervalued because of their lack of skills.  This is to say that NFL teams began to appropriately correct for lack of skill in their acquisition, just as the gap covering raw athletic ability narrowed.  By the 1990s, the Raiders were drafting players like Ricky Dudley, who had Hall of Fame caliber athletic ability but who couldn’t catch the ball.  Under Davis’ influence, the Raiders were never able to update this acquisition strategy.

That said, the thing I hold most against Davis is a departure from the focus on athletic ability, which was the drafting of Todd Marinovich.  Not much serious thought seems to have gone into this, beyond the notion that Marinovich was somehow undervalued because of his attitude.  Turned out that Marinovich just sucked, and that he didn’t even fit into the Raiders offensive scheme.  If there’s one thing I can’t forgive, it’s that Al Davis made me believe in Todd.

Nevertheless, he was a remarkable individual, and football would have been poorer without him.

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