Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Week 12 DVOA Ratings

Denver remains No. 1 in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, but New England moves up to No. 2 and has taken over as our Super Bowl favorite.

22 Jan 2007

Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2007.

New Orleans Saints 14 at Chicago Bears 39

Aaron Schatz: Last week, I think I pointed out a defensive player who smartly just jumped on the ball instead of trying to scoop and score, and losing the recovery. On the big fumble by Drew Brees on third-and-4, Ogunleye tried to scoop and score, and missed, and the Saints recovered. Cost the Bears 25 or 30 yards.

Doug Farrar: I think that was Seattle's own Chuck Darby you mentioned. And there's Fred Thomas (!) making a nice bat-away play on the deep (under)throw to Berrian. Gosh!

I'd like to know what happened on the Brees fumble when Jammal Brown blocked inside and let Mark Anderson come through unobstructed.

Mike Tanier: Even high school coaches now tell their fast guys that when the ball is bouncing around and they have a bead on it, they should attempt a scoop and score. Falling on the ball is strictly for linemen or when the ball is fumbled in heavy traffic. I am guessing that coaches at all levels figure the chance of a touchdown or a rundown to near the goal line is pretty good, and the risk that the offense recovers and it's third-and-35 or whatever, makes the scoop a good play.

Bill Moore: Seeing lots of Benson, and not that much Jones. Benson isn't running that well either. Strange.

Michael David Smith: I like the call to go for it on fourth-and-1 and I'm surprised the announcers don't.

Bill Moore: FOX reports that the rules official says there isn't a penalty to falsely calling a timeout. However, I recall there being a penalty for the defense faking a timeout call when you didn't have one on a field goal.

Am I wrong? If not, why wouldn't that apply to an offense?

Aaron Schatz: Wow, did the officials make a bad call on the Michael Lewis fumble. Wow, wow, wow. I thought it was REALLY clear that he was down before he fumbled.

Russell Levine: I disagree. I thought he was starting to lose control before he was down. Even though it wasn't fully out when the knee hit, he did not have control of the ball at that time.

Doug Farrar: Evil Rex dominated the first quarter: 2-for-8 for four yards on a fullback dump-off, and that inexcusable end zone airball to Desmond Clark on first down after the continuation of the red zone drive. Three Saints fumbles in a quarter, of course, will trump Evil Rex on most occasions.

Bill Barnwell: I am convinced that Brian Griese and Kyle Orton are playing beer pong on the sideline.

Grossman blew the blitz recognition when he was nearly sacked in the first quarter -- he pushed Jones inside to block no one and left a wide-open Saints DB coming off the edge.

You know how overwhelmed he is? Watch him coming up to the line as the first quarter ended -- he had no idea the clock was running down to :00. He wasn't rushing or slowing down, he was at his normal cadence.

What's with the brand on Mark Anderson's arm?

Aaron Schatz: I think that's the q-dogs, Omega Psi Phi. In fact, thinking about it, I wouldn't be surprised if that's the symbol shaved into Larry Johnson's head also. It would make more sense than having a Rock-a-fella symbol shaved into your head.

Ned Macey: I think this is a good example of the fact that causing fumbles is a repeatable skill. The Bears are attacking the football. The play by Harris on Colston was an outstanding strip, and they were relentless on Lewis. Adrian Peterson is a great player to have on your team.

Doug Farrar: On the drive that ended with Chicago's third field goal, why go away from Benson near the goal line there when that approach was starting to wear down the defense? It's obvious through the first half that Grossman has no touch on anything short- to mid-range.

Ned Macey: I guess I'm a little surprised the Saints aren't running the ball more. The Bears came out with a lot of eight-man fronts, but they looked to be playing pass more now, and the Saints are still throwing.

Doug Farrar: Running the ball certainly wasn't a problem for the Bears on their first TD drive: eight plays for 69 yards and all of them on the ground. Looks like Lovie had a page from an old Decatur Staleys playbook.

...and the Saints respond to 1920s-era George Halas with a little Air Coryell. That answering TD drive was nothing but pass plays.

More Rex problems at the end of the second half. He was running off the field with time left, and just throwing the ball away with 12 seconds left on the clock. Yelling, hand signals ... anything? A rolled-up newspaper?

Aaron Schatz: The Bears are playing almost exclusively nickel when Reggie Bush is on the field, and yet they are not lining their tackles up wide like they've been doing all season, which means you don't have that space in front of Brees for the easy draw or step-up-in-pocket.

Ned Macey: While I was driving home from a beer run right before the game, the radio color man said that if McAllister and Bush are both in then they will always play nickel. Are they doing it when Deuce is not in the game too?

Michael David Smith: It looks to me like the Bears are just treating Bush as a wide receiver, and that any time the Saints use a personnel package that includes Bush, they're just automatically putting in their nickel package. I can't say for sure, but I don't think Hunter Hillenmeyer and Bush have been on the field at the same time on any play -- Hillenmeyer is the Bears' slowest linebacker, and they probably figure he'll be no use against Bush.

Bill Barnwell: Anyone else see Sean Payton eating a nacho before the second half started? That was awesome.

Aaron Schatz: When Bush scored that amazing TD, Aikman kept saying "this route is called smoke." It was a combo of a slant from the receiver and Bush coming out of the backfield in a wheel. Wait, that's a "smoke"? I thought smoke was the quick hitch where the QB recognizes the CB playing off and throws it fast for a quick gain. Can we decide what to call things and stay with one set of definitions?

It seems clear that the Saints came out in the third quarter and said, "OK, this is ridiculous, our corners aren't very good but there's no way Grossman is going to hit anyone" so they stopped the 2-deep shell and just left the corners one-on-one to bring an eighth guy up to stop the run. Then on the last drive of the third quarter, the Bears said, "OK, well, if you're going to leave guys man, and shade us outside, we're going to stop trying to have our lame quarterback throw long when he constantly leads his guys too much, and instead we'll throw some inside curls and posts that take advantage of how your lame corners are shading us."

Mike Tanier: I think there are two terminologies at work. In the old West Coast offense terminology, slant-and-flat was called Jet Smoke. Then there's also the Smoke play where the QB just fires it to the receiver. I am guessing that the same system doesn't use both calls.

Bill Barnwell: Too late idea: Could the Saints have stuck fake dreads on Fred Thomas so that he blended in with McKenzie? Does anyone really think Rex Grossman would have been able to tell the difference?

Doug Farrar: I can't see how it was a matter of getting Thomas “help�, as Aikman said – it's a matter of getting him the hell off the field. Grossman didn't even burn the Seahawks' street free agent/rookie corner combo that badly. And it's Thomas' good fortune that it took Grossman so long to resemble an actual NFL quarterback. When you're forced to rely on the downside of Rex Grossman...

Of course, the most glaring aspect of Thomas' year was the difference between his pre- and post-injury stop rate, as Aaron pointed out here.

Aaron Schatz: Amazing how a close game can become a blowout so quickly. The Saints just imploded at the end of this thing. IM-PLO-DED. That recent decline by the Bears defense? Yeah, these guys came to PLAY today. Big congratulations to them for a great performance. Like Ned said: fumble recovery is random, but fumble creation is not, and Lovie Smith defenses excel at fumble creation. Create enough fumbles, and you're bound to have a game like this where you recover nearly all of them.

That being said, I don't care that Grossman had that one good drive. He looks horrible. The Colts or Patriots would both destroy him, no matter if their offenses might have trouble with the Bears defense or not. The Super Bowl has to open up with the AFC team as 7-point favorites, minimum.

Good Sean Payton: Nice non-challenge on the Bernard Berrian touchdown. You throw that red flag, and you lose, you blow a timeout that you might need at the end (at the time, we're still talking two-score game). You win, yay, Bears get first-and-goal on the one and probably score anyway.

Bad Sean Payton: First of all, you know your kicker is 78 years old, and you've got third-and-10 at the 30 against a team that gives up rushing yards on third-and-long. Why not draw, try to get closer to where Carney is in range? I'm usually a believer that you go for the first down, but most teams don't have a field goal kicker who is clearly limited in range like this. Second, on the five-yard line, why call two straight drop-back passes with no rollout to get out of the pocket, and yet no max protect to keep the quarterback from a sack or intentional grounding? Run the ball, or roll out, or leave guys back there to protect -- they basically left Brees a sitting duck for the safety.

Ned Macey: Kudos to Tanier. Not sure I read anywhere else all week that the Bears are just a better team. This has become an ass-whipping.

All the credit in the world to Sean Payton this year for an amazing job, but I still think he butchered this game. First off, as I said earlier, I think the pass-happy thing was crazy. The Bears are missing Tommie Harris. You have an extremely efficient bruising running back. It got stuffed early when they were playing the run, but once it became clear that the Saints were going to pass, the Bears defense took over. They made one huge play, but they scored seven points the rest of the game.

The Saints are an offense too dependent on the big play in the passing game. That's a mediocre bunch of receivers in the intermediate game. Against the Cover-2, the big play is hard to hit. Nice design on the one to Bush, but they don't have the weapons to march down the field like the 2002 Raiders.

Also, what is Fred Thomas still doing on the field? Every mainstream reporter in football knows he couldn't cover anybody. Then, I do agree with Aikman that if he is on the field you have to give him help. After Berrian got two in front of him, did anybody not know the long ball was coming soon? Maybe Payton has no impact on the defense, but then it is on their D-coordinator.

Finally, super congratulations to Lovie. I do think it is a big deal that he is the first African-American coach to make the SB, and I think that's a story that should be retold. He definitely didn't have to beat the toughest competition in the world, but has there been a worse SB QB in recent years than Grossman? Smith and Rivera's defensive adjustments for this game were impressive. One two-minute drive and one big play (and Manning should have at least held that to a 30-yard gain). The fact that Bobby Petrino has a contract for several million more than Lovie is a joke.

Mike Tanier: Don't kudo me yet! Although I am happy to see so many plays that I diagrammed in use today. Desmond Clark did a double move up the middle for a big gain. The Bears dogged the blitz and dropped into coverage a lot. One thing I haven't seen from the Bears in the past few weeks is an offensive play that really shocked me: something that looked like it was from the far corner of their playbook, like an empty backfield play or something. I wonder if they are too predictable to beat whoever wins game two.

Doug Farrar: I thought Payton was wrong for bailing on the run all day, not just on those plays. It was as if he was never alerted to the Harris injury and the subsequent effect it had on Chicago's defense.

Aaron Schatz: In defense of the Saints' passing game, they do not have a mediocre bunch of receivers in the intermediate passing game. They have Joe Horn and Marques Colston. But Horn hasn't been able to play for two months, and Colston's hands were off today. I don't know if that's a bad day, or the elements, but he's usually better than he was today. Copper is a nothing, a roster filler. Henderson strikes me as an Ashley Lelie type. The tight ends are nothing special.

Thomas does better against possession guys. I think he would make a very good nickel corner if they could go out and get a faster guy to start opposite McKenzie. I don't think the Saints are a one-year fluke.

Ned Macey: Good point about Horn. I'd be worried about the Colts if, say, Wayne were not playing today. The AP story on inactives said Payton had a rule about nobody playing if they didn't practice. Apparently Horn practiced at times this week. No idea what his condition was, but I hope he couldn't run or he had to be playing.

In Colston's defense was the impressive catch across the middle. It seemed like Brees was a little off for much of the day. Don't know if that was the slick ball or what.

New England Patriots 34 at Indianapolis Colts 38

Bill Moore: I've come to a conclusion. We are going to learn in the off-season that Brady played hurt this year. By keeping him on the injury report for two straight years, the Patriots avoid having to disclose when Brady has a minor injury. People see his name and "questionable" week after week, and think nothing of it. But what that strategy buys them is eliminating the distraction of having to discuss minor injuries.

However, in watching Brady over the last, call it, seven games, he is not his normal self 24/7. As Jaws pointed out on NFL Matchup, Brady failed to step up into only modest pressure for a number of missed opportunities. I'm not Will Carroll, and I don't play him on TV, but I think Brady is hurt and is failing to step up to avoid further injury to whatever is wrong.

We'll see if the overthrow problem continues today, but it has been a problem following Brady for weeks.

Aaron Schatz: We're three plays in now.

Freeney wide
Freeney wide
Freeney wide

On the fourth one, he twisted inside for the first time, but if he's going to be going back to the wide rush, there are going to be more of those third-down conversion draws.

Bill Barnwell: I'm convinced the Patriots have magnets in their gloves or something to recover these fumbles. This is impossible.

Michael David Smith: Am I the only one on the FO staff who thinks the Colts have a bad o-line? When I watch plays like that Addai pick up of six inches on third-and-four inches, I just feel like the Colts' line is the worst in the league at pushing forward in short yardage, which in my opinion is the most important thing a line has to do.

Mike Tanier: Greg Cosell at NFL Films told me in December that they have an average at best line made better by Peyton. But they really looked good against the Eagles, the Ravens last week ... I really had them scouted out as better than this. They really look awful.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Colts' line is definitely terrible at pushing forward in short yardage, and has been for years and years. Not the only way to judge a line, but they do suck at it.

I want to know what's going on with this Vrabel on the outside thing. They've got Vrabel at LOLB instead of inside, with Banta-Cain on the bench and Eric Alexander (52) at RILB. Now, I understand that Vrabel is better on the outside, but Eric Alexander is an undrafted free agent rookie. He's not really somebody I trust. Every play before the snap, Dallas Clark looks like he's going to be completely open, and one of these plays he will be.

Simms is right, I think he mentioned this. The Pats will run better because unlike the Chiefs and Ravens, they understand that you must soften up the Colts before you run on them. Do you remember who else understood that? The 2005 Steelers.

By the way, does anyone notice that the entire Patriots staff seems to be in matching nasty-ass grey hoodies?

Mike Tanier: Terrible decision by Manning on the interception. Great play by Samuel. And also, Mr. Harrison, could you get a little separation? Samuel barely backtracks on the play.

Aaron Schatz: Raheem Brock, my friends. Props on stopping that screen, because the Pats had the right play call against the blitz and he got all the way over to force Faulk outside and into Kelvin Hayden.

Bill Barnwell: Is it too early to call the Colts run defense of the past two weeks a fluke?

Russell Levine: Is it too early to call ballgame?

Aaron Schatz: Hey, you know that thing about how Belichick believes that only a game-changing player is worth big money? At this point, can we put Asante Samuel in that category with Tom Brady and Richard Seymour, at least considering his knowledge of how to play in the Pats' scheme? He just made himself another million or two a year on that interception, and as a Pats fan I have to say that this may be the first time since Lawyer Milloy that I will get very angry if the Pats let a player leave -- and remember, Milloy was the first one so none of us knew at that point that the dynasty was coming.

Michael David Smith: On third-and-24, a pass bounces off both of Harrison's hands and his facemask, resulting in an incomplete on what could have been a 97-yard touchdown. Phil Simms says the Colts "have to calm down and stop just trying to throw downfield." Uh, Phil? I don't think the play call was the problem there.

Patrick Laverty: How come all I hear from the media is you can't blitz Tom Brady, he'll pick a blitzing defense apart, but it seems on every passing down, there are blue shirts coming off the bench, out of the stands, from everywhere to get Brady?

Mike Tanier: It looks like the Colts are trying to throw a wrinkle at Brady. They rarely blitz, so they figured they could surprise him once or twice. Hasn't worked.

Oh, and Cato June is terrible.

Too late to change my pick? Are you sure? Oh, well. Sigh.

21-21

Okay, I feel slightly better about my pick ... win or lose, the Colts didn't totally turn into Chumpzilla. Yet, anyway. The no-huddle, calls-at-the-line thing is the way to go for the Colts, I think.

Oh, then the kick return. Spoke too soon.

Bill Barnwell: Maroney is the wrong back to attack this defense with. Dillon and Faulk are much better ideas.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know, I think Maroney is the kind of guy who can break those easily breakable Colts tackles. But I would run him on the right side, toward June, not on the left side toward Morris.

The Colts climbed back into the game because Manning is not, in fact, choking, except for the one interception. They had the FG drive, halftime, TD drive, the Pats had one chance and just because they came up a yard short doesn't mean the Colts are suddenly playing great defense, and then another TD drive. The defense is still a problem -- and the Pats come down and score again to make it 28-21.

Bill Barnwell: Maroney's more of a cut-back guy though and the Colts are a quick enough defense to adjust for that.

Nantz just referred to Tully Banta-Cain as "explosive". Really?

Aaron Schatz: Patriots go three-and-out again. What a dramatic turn this thing is taking. That Pats defense is feeling sick and crampy and tired and it is not going to be a good thing for them to come back onto the field.

By the way, Todd Sauerbrun is not kidding around here. Boom, boom, boom.

Mike Tanier: Well, the NFL has delivered two awesome games. I mean, this one has me on the edge. The other game was close until early in the 4th quarter. You know what that means: DULL SUPER BOWL.

Russell Levine: I get the feeling the Colts just squandered the best chance they're going to get to win this game.

Aaron Schatz: How is that corner end zone thing not pass interference on Kelvin Hayden? Just like Ellis Hobbs, his back was to the passer, he's clearly playing the man and not the ball. That Hobbs was one was pretty clearly PI so I don't know why this one isn't.

Can we give Reche Caldwell Keep Choppin' Wood even if the Pats win?

Bill Barnwell: I get the feeling Reche Caldwell just squandered the best chance the Patriots are going to get to win this game.

Mike Tanier: As someone who is sorta rooting for Indy, let me say: that was pass interference.

Russell Levine: As someone who is quite openly rooting for Indy, let me say: that was pass interference.

I can take issue with that third-and-5 run, Phil Simms. You're not playing to tie, you have to play to win if you're Indy. They have New England on its heels: they have to go for the kill there.

Bill Barnwell: How far back were the safeties on that 52 yard pass to Clark? 35 yards from the LOS?

This Patriots linebacking corps is done.

This is coming down to Gostkowski or Vinatieri and I really, really wish it wouldn't.

Aaron Schatz: Losing by three in the final four minutes, yes, my go to receiver would also be Aaron Moorehead. Twice.

Doug Farrar: Best thing to do is a best two-out-of-three cover drill between Fred Thomas and Reche Caldwell. Loser gets this week's KCW.

Bill Barnwell: Caldwell burns Thomas three times and drops three passes. Nothing is solved. We need to have them play NTN Trivia or something.

I'm hating the Patriots defensive playcalling on this last drive. They have too many holes in their secondary to blitz Manning and get away with it. The roughing the passer call doesn't help.

Mike Tanier: Two minute warning: Wayne attempts a self-pass at the end of that nice slant and run. Oh, my stars and garters. This game is nuts.

Will Carroll: This game is NOT over.

OK. Now it's over. See you in Miami.

Russell Levine: Wow. Where does this game rank among the best of all-time? It's right up there.

Maybe the "Patriot Way" came back to bite them in the rear this year. The receivers were clearly an issue today, and even a mixup on the final series.

What a football game. And good to see what looked like very heartfelt congratulations all around between BB and Dungy and BB and Manning.

Aaron Schatz: Sigh. 12 men in the huddle?

Mike Tanier: Yeah, the 12 man thing was pretty sad. I was shocked when Omar Gaither ran out there in a Patriots uniform.

Aaron Schatz: Can we cancel the Super Bowl and just give rings to the Bears defense and the Colts offense? I can't remember one team this one-sided ever making it, let alone two.

At least now people will stop saying mean things about Manning. I never thought it was his fault when they lost, it was almost always the defense. The only exception was the 2003 AFC Championship. Manning was great in the 2004 playoff game, where none of the receivers could hold onto the ball and Edge gained roughly three pico-inches per carry.

Patrick Laverty: 2000 Ravens?

Is Reche Caldwell the new Grady Little? He dropped one in the end zone, but Gaffney bailed him out with the TD on the next play, but that one when he wasn't even covered, maybe he doesn't score, but maybe he does. Patriots are up by 10 going into Indy's final drive. Patriots then just have to kill off one minute of clock, game over.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, no. No, no, no. The Ravens were SO much better than the 2006 Bears on offense, and their offense was much higher ranked in DVOA than the Colts defense during the season, plus they had excellent special teams.

I have to say, Patriots fans are going to have to take a lot of crap now, which is really depressing for those of us who haven't been jerks over the last few years and were never mean to Manning. I can't be happy for the Colts just because I know their fans are about to torture all of us for the sins of some.

Patrick Laverty: Two requests:

New England fans: Don't start with the "well our team was sick all week. If they were healthy, the Patriots win this game easily. They were up 21-3 and just got tired." No, you lost. End of story.

Indianapolis fans: Don't start with the "See, Manning's better because Brady threw the big interception to end the game." Yeah, he threw the pick, but your team just played really well in the second half. The key was that the Colts D shut down the Patriots' running game, when in the first half, Dillon and Maroney were dicing them up like a Ginsu on an aluminum can.

Good luck Colts. I hope they win, and all the Elway's not a..., umm, I mean Manning's not a winner crap can go away.

Mike Tanier: The no-call pass interference in the end zone was a bad call. The roughing the passer was ticky tack. That being said, the Patriots had their chances.

One lineman each scores on red zone fumbles. Nothing needs to be said about that.

Tom Moore running the ball three times in the red zone under two minutes to play. Putting it in that rookie's hands. Holy cow. And what was that rookie Alexander doing on the line getting mauled by the left guard? Odd defensive call by Belichick. And no, I don't think he was "allowing them to score." You do that if the opponent will lead by three, not four.

All of my 1985 Bears-Patriots leads for Rundown are shot. And every other columnist is thinking the same thing.

That third-and-4 play that the Patriots ran, where Brown and Gaffney were stacked on the right side of the formation, Gaffney cleared out, Brown sat down in the zone but a Colt jumped the route and broke up the play. I saw that before somewhere (last time I plug TDZ I promise).

And I will be the first to state that I am thrilled I will never have to hear about how Manning cannot beat Brady in a big game. And I will be the first to state how much I enjoy watching both quarterbacks, how great they are and their teams are, and how much I look forward to 5-10 more years of duels between them.

Michael David Smith: Marvin Harrison was terrible today. The only times Manning didn't look good were the times when he looked like he was forcing it to Harrison.

Bill Barnwell: I'm still happy it wasn't Vinatieri or Gostkowski. Is the Brady-Manning thread closed yet?

Russell Levine: On the "allowing them to score thing" ... you certainly don't allow them to do it when it's third down and one stop means a tying field goal, not losing by four. Although I must say the last time I saw a hole that big on the goal line it was in Super Bowl XXXII and Terrell Davis burst through a very disinterested Green Bay front.

Bill Moore: Reche Caldwell DEFINITELY gets the KCW. You are standing there alone, NE needs 1) to move the ball, and 2) to take time off the clock. You scream for the ball, and you ... DROP IT? Oh yeah, and it's your second wide open drop of the day.

The lack of quality amongst the receivers definitely stood out today.

The non-PI call was a little ridiculous, but we knew coming into this game that Carollo wasn't a DPI kind of guy. Just no one thought it would work against NE.

That said, it was a pretty fair game overall. It goes to show that "just let them play" is better than football fields of penalty yardage.

The Colts played better. Period. They found the holes, they kept their offense on the field. In fact, when Hobbs almost ran one back but didn't quite make it, I turned to the rest of the room and said, "good. The D will get a few minutes longer to rest." That's a sign of good play and game management.

Wide receivers aside, the Patriots played their guts out too. Probably literally as many are likely heaving right now. However, when they only scored three points on that second to last drive, I was sure they were done.

However, can anyone explain to me where Corey Dillon was at the end of that game? Maroney isn't a true pounder. I don't have his success rate in front of me, but it's not great. With 4:35 to go, Dillon should have been pounding away. Other than the wide open Reche, I don't get why all the passing at that point.

Finally, there was a great embrace by Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy.

Ned Macey: I'm not especially rational now, but I'll try to give a reasoned analysis of the game from my point of view. First off, as a fan and an analyst, I could not have imagined a better way for this game to go. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Pats, but the 8-0 in one-touchdown games thing was unsustainable.

Samuel did make himself an extra million or five today even in a losing effort. That being said, Hobbs also played outstanding. This wasn't like Denver where Bailey controls one side and Wayne abuses the other side. Everything was down the middle with Clark and Fletcher. Wayne and Harrison had both killed the Pats in the last two regular season games, and I was very impressed by both corners. It seemed like they always knew when the Colts were going to go deep. Clearly the Colts thought coming in that they could make big plays, but they just weren't there. Maybe my Harrison-tinted glasses are in the way, but I thought on the second slow-mo replay on the long pass that Samuel just got a finger on it.

Another great performance by Dominic Rhodes. The Colts were definitely right to not pay James long term, but as a fan it is too bad that he wasn't there today. I don't think they are better without him, but they obviously didn't miss him too much.

If the Colts offensive line is one of the worst in the league, then I'd argue that Manning is the greatest player in NFL history. They just hit 126 yards on the ground against the Pats with Rhodes and a rookie who was the fourth back off the board. They aren't the best line, but there is more to line play than short-yardage.

Defensively, this was the real Colts. They will give up some plays, but they're fast and you can't just keep handing off and hoping for good results. They are an average defense, which isn't bad considering their pedigree and salaries. Other than the 35-yarder on the fourth-and-1, they held the running game in check. (By the way, doesn't it seem like fourth down plays often gain a bunch of yards more than you thought?) The kick-off coverage, however, is not average.

I think this game showed they should have kept Branch. They are basically as good as the Colts without him, but they had nothing to attack them with. The Nick Harper injury, while little reported by the announcers, was clearly noticed by Brady. He went to his right just about every throw in the second half, and Hayden was beat repeatedly. Imagine having Branch over there. If they win a SB the next year or two, then that decision will be vindicated.

Brady played well. The play to Gaffney in the end zone was a great play by both players. I thought Brady was just throwing it away. The game-ending interception is meaningless. 80-yard drives in less than a minute are damn near impossible.

Finally, I'm most happy for Dungy. The fact that Tampa Bay won the year he left has hung over him for years. Tampa Bay has one playoff berth since 2002. Dungy has an amazing regular season record. He's made the playoffs every year since like 1998 and only has one losing season in his career. The Colts are substantially better under him than they ever were under Mora. Plus, I like that he's not an a**hole. Nice guys finish last is my least favorite expression in the world. He may not be the coach that Belichick is, but he's one win away from almost guaranteeing a place in Canton.

Congratulations Tanier, rundown 2 for 2.

Bill Barnwell: I don't think the problem was Hobbs and Samuel as much as it was the safeties and linebackers.

Vrabel and Bruschi are absolute toast. Banta-Cain is some yeast. If the Patriots defensive line plays a great game, they can get away with it. The Patriots defensive line wasn't anything special tonight and they had no answer for the middle of the field.

Also, since no one ever gets to second-guess Belichick -- somebody please explain to me why the Patriots threw the ball three times when they got the ball back before the two-minute warning.

Russell Levine: Or even why they threw it before the go-ahead field goal.

Ned Macey: By the way, it was definitely pass interference on Hayden.

Michael David Smith: I'm surprised so many people are talking about pass interference. I've long since reached the point where I don't even think about pass interference because I know I'll never figure out how it's called. I'm close to the same way on roughing the passer.

Aaron Schatz: What did happen on the Pats roughing the passer anyway? They never really explained it and it isn't like Manning got knocked down.

Patrick Laverty: I think Jarvis Green patted Manning on the helmet for making a nice throw and they called it hands to the face. Or something like that. Seriously, receivers and DBs do hit each other in the helmet harder after a good hit than Green did to Manning. The protection for QBs has become a joke.

Will Carroll: Rhodes is going to be the biggest off-season loss. The Colts are going to get raped by the cap this year, but if they win the Super Bowl, it's hard to say that it didn't go to plan.

Patrick Laverty: I thought I heard that the Colts have something like 11 FAs and they're already over the cap. Manning, Harrison, Wayne, Freeney and 49 guys fresh out of college.

Aaron Schatz: When I wrote in Week 9 that the Colts could not make the Super Bowl with the defense as currently constituted, was I wrong?

Mike Tanier: No man, we were right on. They wound up losing a bunch of games and we called that. But the defense improved. Dungy and his coaches get paid to get those guys to improve, and they did. And DVOA said they were improving, leaving us trying to ask "well, is this a one-game or a two-game thing, or is it real." And there just wasn't enough there to make a definitive answer.

We were several weeks ahead of the curve in attacking that defense. We were right with the curve when we were being guarded about the improvement. Can't be right all the time.

Alex Carnevale: No shame in losing a game that great. The big winners today were Sprint, Sony, MasterCard, Gatorade, DirecTV, and the American Red Cross.

Aaron Schatz: Over on the pro-football-reference blog, Doug Drinen ran this really bitter, angry rant about the Patriots for two whole days last week. Not written by him, by another guy who sometimes writes for him. And I wrote him and asked him why he did it, given that we try to go out of our way around here to praise both teams. And he said, "Irrational hatred is the very essence of sports fandom."

Really? I always thought that irrational love was the very essence of sports fandom. I guess I'm old fashioned that way.

What we saw over the last week, poisoning sports sites around the Internet and the discussion threads here on FO, is what happens when irrational hatred becomes a more important part of being a fan than irrational love. And let me tell you, it sucks.

I believe in a world where the Patriots and Colts can both be great teams, and it just so happens that no team gets to win the championship every year. I believe in a world where Colts fans can respect the accomplishments of the Patriots in the same way that Bears fans respect the accomplishments of the Saints, where people don't call either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning a choking crybaby, and where we don't obsess over the pressure of a Bill Belichick handshake, measuring our hatred for him to the most intricate measurement of pounds per square inch.

I know the world isn't like that. I just want Football Outsiders to be like that. I hope that all the people who have said so many nasty things to each other over the last week will step back and decide that they want Football Outsiders to be like that too.

Posted by: admin on 22 Jan 2007

482 comments, Last at 30 Jan 2007, 6:32pm by chris clark

Comments

301
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 12:58pm

#298: Those numbers are the readers. And unless something has dramatically changed (which I doubt: what, you think Patriots fans didn't know about this site beforehand?), those numbers are not outdated. The percentage of Patriots fans has been dropping ever since the site started.

The Deion Branch articles earlier this year (when I first noticed the Pats fans infusion here) each had several hundred posts. The “Branch files a grievance� topic almost hit 700 posts… some game threads don’t make it that high.

Frequency of posts doesn't equal the percentage of people reading. Patriots fans tend to be a little.. um... overly protective of their team.

302
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 12:59pm

Post 298:

40% of readers are Pats fans? No way.

Eagles fans are everywhere. Steeler fans as well. Vikings/Lions/Packers fans. (Strangely enough not that many Bears fans.) Colts fans clearly.

FO is diverse dude. The football UN. And sometimes it reqiures a security force but nobody can agree on a resolution. Ha!

303
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:02pm

No Cardinals fans? (or one?) maybe I should take up the mantle of 'token Cardinal fan'

304
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:06pm

301:

Yeah, there is one. But it's a sporadic poster. One feels like a member of the Audobon Society seeing a rare bird when he posts.

305
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:09pm

#302: Makes you really wonder which franchise is worse: the Lions or the Cardinals? They're both absolutely horrendous in terms of performance/competence, but the Lions at least have fans.

306
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:09pm

#302

The Lions are worse. They break the spirit of more people.

307
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:14pm

Personally, I think the Lions franchise is absolutely FABULOUS. Marvy. Couldn't be better.

Speaking of whack "statistics" for a moment how about Favre being undefeated against the Lions playing at home (GB or Milwaukee)? Dude's been playing in the league since 1992! And never lost to Detroit in front of the hometown crowd including playoffs. (Yes, once upon a time the Lions were in the playoffs.)

I know it means nothing from nothing but it's still kind of weird.

308
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:25pm

#305: I still prefer the fact that Favre's undefeated at home under 34 degrees when not playing an African American quarterback wearing the number 7. He's 0-2 when facing a black quarterback wearing the number 7 in the same conditions. Two! Clearly a trend. I suggest all black quarterbacks switch to the number 7 to take advantage of this matchup.

I had another wacky statistic regarding Tom Brady as well, but I can't remember what it was. Something like "90% winning percentage in games in the first, second, and fourth week in October." Cuz, you know, in the third, he's freaking horrible.

But, of course, to reply to your last statistic: who isn't undefeated against the Lions? I mean, McNabb's undefeated against the Lions anywhere. (*)

(*: note - McNabb lifetime record vs Lions: 1-0).

309
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:28pm

302
funny.

I don't have a favorite team, as I grew up in upstate NY, and became interested in football around the time the Bills benched Flutie for "He who makes every defensive lineman look like Reggie White", and so couldn't root for them.

So I'll be the board's Cardinal fan. And Matt Leinart is better than Vince Young.

310
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:29pm

I probably hate Indy as much as is possible while retaining my mental health.

(pause while waiting for several posters on these threads to stop laughing)

But the conversations of the past week have made me think I'm a piker when it comes to hating. And it's not just Pats fans, althought they were more numerous. Too many Colt "fans" felt they had to match vitirol with vehemence, which made even the open game thread a waste of time and resources. A lot of those people seem to be gone. If they were "disappeared" to the FO version of Gitmo, thank you to Aaron and company.

Oh, if I'm on the watch list, please tell Ryan that when I call him "Rivethead", I do so with love. I'd like to think that there is a difference between using even a modicum of wit and intelligence in spewing useless invective and the "eat crow s*** and like it, you...." stuff that showed up under the guise of "fan" the past week.

I think that the "irrational hatred" wasted on the Pats and Colts was beneficial in one sense, though. People venting that much rage on a computer have a lower body count as a result.

And, big surprise, I want the Bears to win. I've lived in Chicago for 13 1/2 years, and this city will be impossible to deal with for two months of winter if they lose. For two teams that play the "same" defense, there is a wide difference in how they play it; I don't think Peyton will have it as easy as some think. Dallas Clark certainly won't.

311
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:29pm

Joey Harrington is undefeated against the Lions. Man, that's a horrible franchise

(Harrington-lifetime 1-0 against the Lions)

312
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:31pm

309
He's beaten them much more than once.

313
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:32pm

Pat:

What folks may not know is that as the Packers lost games whomever was keeping tabs just dropped the temperature. True fact.

'Cause for a while Favre was undefeated when the game was played in temps less then 40 degrees. And then it was 37 degrees. And then the current 34.

If I'm lyin' I'm dyin'. With a little time I could probably pull up the different games where the number had to get altered. I am pretty sure one is when the Panthers came up to GB in December of 1999 and put it to the Pack. Like the next DAY I read the new parameters.

Just crazy....

314
by cttb (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:34pm

OK, I've read the "love thy enemy" arguments, and I'm with you. Really, I am. Irrational hatred, true hatred, embitters the soul. We should rise above it.

But I'm still never forgiving the Broncos for the 87-88 AFC Championship game. And I'm not even a Browns fan, I was just living in Cleveland at the time.

Sometimes vile, irrational hatred is just the natural result of getting kicked in the gut. C'est la vie.

315
by Chocolate Milk (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:35pm

The last time Dallas Clark played the Bears, 54 gave him a concussion.

316
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:38pm

#85 might be a little nuts, but I thought that situation (3rd and 4, needing a 1st down to win the game) was the perfect situation for a shotgun formation draw play to Kevin Faulk. You know, the play that totally gashed the Colts defense in the 1st half and they never went back to.

317
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:39pm

I can beat that. Tim Couch, undefeated against the Lions.

Now I'm just being mean. :)

318
by cd6 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:39pm

307

Now that's taking one for the team

319
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:41pm

As for the posting-bias, this site isn't overwhelmed by Patriots fans, we just won't shut up.

320
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:43pm

Ok, I need some help trying to sort out my rooting interest for the SuperBowl. Since I really don't have any vested interest in either team winning, it seems like it's going to come down to deciding to root against one of two distinct groups.

Would I rather quiet the "Manning=teh sux" crowd, or would I rather quiet the "NFC=teh sux" crowd? Right now I'm leaning towards the former (especially since I don't think I could bring myself to root for Rex Grossman getting a ring), but my usual default rooting interest is "Any NFC team except the Cowboys, Giants, or Redskins".

I'm really torn. Any of my fellow NFC fanboys care to offer some advise?

321
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:48pm

#311: Yes, I know that, actually. I pointed it out here a while ago when someone actually believed that statistic.

And I just realized that that my own statistic is wrong! Turns out Green Bay lost to Minnesota at home, too, and Culpepper doesn't wear #7 (his two previous losses were to Atlanta and Jacksonville). So now I have to change it to "Brett Favre is undefeated at home under 34 degrees when not facing African American quarterbacks wearing a prime number." (Unfortunately, he's no longer winless in the other case: it's 1-2. Oh well.)

322
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:50pm

#306 - you forgot left-handed.

323
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:51pm

Ryan Leaf is undefeated against Buffalo and Tennessee

324
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:52pm

#318: When in doubt, root against the idiots that are actually wrong. The NFC is actually worse this year, though not nearly as bad as people think it is.

Plus, "Super Bowl winning QB Rex Grossman" is just too horrific to imagine.

325
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:54pm

Wanker:

I have written this previously, but the single BEST thing about the Bears is that throughout the season that team plays at fever pitch on EVERY down. As I understand it Lovie Smith puts playing hard on page 1 of the Bears team manual. And follows up by having film reviews after games where he doesn't point to poor plays or good plays. Lovie points to players who are loafing. He calls these moments "loafs". And then all those responsible for said "loafs" get to endure a day on the practice field most unkind.

Smith gets buy-in because there are several team leaders who play like their d*mn balls are on fire. Thomas Jones. Lance Briggs. And most importantly, Urlacher. Urlacher calls the plays on defense, plays special teams, and runs all over the field like a maniac.

How can a special teams guy or sub who gets 12 plays a game NOT play hard when the team leader is flying around as if his remaining time on Earth is being counted down publicly over the PA?

I am a Packer fan. I rue the day the Bears were smart enough to draft Urlacher and Co. But I appreciate teams that play hard as in ALL THE TIME.

326
by Chocolate Milk (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 1:55pm

If Rex has a "Good Rex" game and wins superbowl MVP everyone's head will explode.

327
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:00pm

As I understand it Lovie Smith puts playing hard on page 1 of the Bears team manual. And follows up by having film reviews after games where he doesn’t point to poor plays or good plays. Lovie points to players who are loafing. He calls these moments “loafs�.

Word has it that Matt Millen does something similar, except he reviews film and points to players that are actually playing hard. And then he goes out and drafts guys to replace them, because they just don't fill the mold of the franchise.

Seriously, does anyone think there's a team in the league that doesn't do something similar to Lovie? I do like the Bears, and think Lovie's a damn fine head coach, but that's kindof silly.

328
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:02pm

Re: 322

Yeah, that's pretty much my exact line of thinking right now. The only thing that's making it a difficult choice is that I really don't care if the AFC croud is right or wrong. I just want something to throw back at them. Although throwing back "Yeah, well Rex Grossman won last year's SuperBowl" doesn't really fill my heart with pride.

329
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:04pm

Is it too early to start the Lovie Smith vs his old mentor Dungy hype? What's that you say, there is no Lovie Smith vs his old mentor Dungy hype?

330
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:06pm

Pat:

Well, all I know is that the Bears sure SEEM to play at a higher level on a more consistent basis then most teams.

I know that guys playing hard may seem like a given, but I have watched plenty of games where guys are going through the motions when they don't think the play is in their area.

And I'm a Packer fan. Writing nice things about Chicago is a painful process. But to not acknowledge this item would be foolish.

Maybe watching another team that plays crazy nuts on the field like the Eagles has caused you to think that other teams do this naturally. Ha, ha....

331
by Spoilt Victorian Child (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:07pm

#318: When in doubt, root against the idiots that are actually wrong. The NFC is actually worse this year, though not nearly as bad as people think it is.

Plus, “Super Bowl winning QB Rex Grossman� is just too horrific to imagine.
Exactly. But then I also like the Colts fans I know better than the Bears fans I know.

--Another Eagles fan

332
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:15pm

Well, all I know is that the Bears sure SEEM to play at a higher level on a more consistent basis then most teams.

But that may also be because, y'know, they're better players.

That's all I'm really saying - it's dangerous to try to cherry-pick small bits of info on a team to try to say "this is why they win" because, well, almost anything you choose is going to look like it's a valid reason why they win.

Think about it this way: how do you know that Rod Marinelli isn't doing the exact same thing with the Lions? Sure, every Lions player might be on the practice field extra hard each week for loafing the previous game, but does that actually make them stop loafing?

You don't know it works until you see it turn a team that doesn't win into a team that does win. Many of the Bears star players are only 3 and 4 year players - Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson, Lance Briggs, etc. They've pretty much only been there when Lovie Smith was there. Maybe it's Lovie that's the cause of it. Or maybe it's just because they're great players.

333
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:16pm

Re 327:
I just can't wait until next week when I get to find out what all the storylines are. Obviously, black head coaches/friends/mentor will be explored, presumably the case of Dislexy Rexy will be investigated, and the "on probation but able to go to the game by the grace of a judge" should be reported, but what about the little stories? The ones about Brad Maynard punting in his backyard and saving a puppy* and Dallas Clark being fascinated by porn movies enough to honor them with his 'stache*?

*may not actually be true, but I bet they are

334
by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:17pm

Re: Manning's familiarity with Bear defense

I know he lit them up in 2004 in Chicago. How much difference is there now in the Bear defense? Player turnover, coaching changes?

335
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:24pm

Pat:

You misunderstand me. I am NOT writing that the Bears are a good team because they play hard. Though I am sure it helps.

Wanker wanted to know who to root for. And so I gave him a reason. Or tried to.

I hope that clarifies things.

336
by norovirus (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:35pm

I just want to report that I got to 6 Patriots starters last week and I intend to take down the Colts in the SB. Just try and play when your pukeing..ha ha...ask Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk and Roosevelt Colvin what it's like...yippee. PS Biffy you need to go to bed earlier.

337
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:36pm

Re 332:
Well, the gamebook is in my name. Urlacher didn't play - Hillenmeyer was in the middle and Odom played SLB. Azumah and McQuarters are gone and Tillman and Vasher are much better. Mike Green is gone and Manning is in - I always thought Green sucked but the only thing I can think about Manning is that I don't hear him being called out. The nickel corner would have been... Vasher in his rookie year and Manning, Jr. is the nickle now - I'd say that's a wash, because Vasher has more talent, but at that time we didn't see it much.

At the same time, sometimes the offense has as much to do with bad defense and the changes there are huge. Instead of Q. Mitchell at LT, it's Tait and Miller is RT. Krenzel is the QB with David Terrell and Bobby Wade as the starting WRs. That offense was just crazy bad. No talent at all.

338
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:41pm

Regarding the Bears' intensity, I do think an unmeasurable intangible is the intensity adopted by the most prominent player. It matters that Uhrlacher plays like a maniac, and not just in how is own play is better as a result. It matters that Peyton Manning is extraordinary workaholic, and, say, Michael Vick, is not. When Reggie White arrived in Green Bay, he just didn't bring his performance, be brought an example of how to approach the profession. Jerry Rice provided his example of how to approach the job, and Randy Moss did the same, and the effects went beyond their individual performance.

We see the same in other sports. Tom Kelly's job in managing the Twins was made so very much easier because the highest paid and most famous guy, Kirby Puckett, played every last 162 games as if he was still in Class A ball and trying to make a major league roster. NBA teams can be just a nightmare to coach, even with Hall of Fame players, unless the great players are named Jordan, Johnson, or Bird, at which time it gets to be rather more manageable, since those guys woud not tolerate less than maximum intensity from their teammates.

If Lane Kiffin wasn't given authority to cut Randy Moss, he shouldn't have taken the Raiders job.

339
by Paul (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:03pm

88, the beauty of statistical analysis is that it is to be used in CONJUNCTION with what your naked eye sees. I'd suggest that my approach to analysis is more centered. This site offers plenty of hard data, most (or all) of which is fascinating and useful. And the FO staff excels at bringing the numbers to life. But what you fail to realize is that sport is not played in a vaccuum. To give you an analogy, ESPN's John Hollinger recently compared the rookie seasons of Chris Paul and Magic and determined that, according to his empirical evidence, Paul had a better rookie year. That is patently absurd. Similarly, as HORRIBLE a passer as Mike Vick is, what DVOA does NOT capture is the fact that backside pursuit is negated almost entirely on running plays, opening things up for Dunn and others. It may be implied in certain statistical trends, but only speculatively.

So, the gist of my original post is that from a scout's perspective, I would argue, vehemently, that the 2006 Bears offense is much more threatening than the old Ravens offense. Reaching into the FO archives hasn't persuaded me otherwise.

Further, on a high level, I imagine that the Bears defensive scheme wouldn't be all that different from how they schemed for the Saints, save for the Reggie Bush matchup strategy. That is, when the Colts face a team capable of keeping their defense on the field, they resort to a series of short to intermediate passes. Also, I doubt you will see Manning test us with the less conventional weaponry, since that's reserved only for teams who are markedly deficient in the secondary. I would challenge you to present me with any anecdotal or empirical evidence that suggests that Rhodes/Addai can sniff Reggie Bush in the passing game. Your perspective is awfully acute if you think so. Oh, and check the numbers. Bears are #1 vs TEs. Dallas is toast. That said, I fully appreciate the Colts offensive efficiency this year. Thanks for attacking my post. I love that interaction, Doktarr

340
by JohnB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:10pm

Question:

What is the opinion that Rex can play as well in the SB as Big Ben did last year?

341
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:21pm

Re 338:
Well, when you set the bar so high...

I think Rex can easily get a QB rating of 22.6 (Completed 9 of 21 passes for 0 touchdowns, with 2 interceptions). Let's hope he aims a little higher.

342
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:25pm

The difference between the Bears and the Ravens is the Bears' 28.5% variance in total DVOA, the majority of which (I would imagine) comes from their offense. On any given day, there is a chance that that -11.1% turns into a Good Rex-fueled engine of...well, not destruction, but consistent point-scoring and non-implosion. That's not really something you can say about the 2000 Ravens.

343
by Spoilt Victorian Child (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:36pm

Yes, the Bears' scheme against the Colts will likely be similar to the one they ran against the Saints. The problem is that Manning is better than Brees, Harrison is better than Colston, Wayne is better than Henderson, and the Colts aren't likely to completely abandon the run. Sure, Bush is a more valuable receiver than Addai or Rhodes, and Clark probably won't be much of a factor. But that hardly seems to balance out.

344
by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:47pm

RE: 280,

Thanks a lot for the link.

RE: 336,

I wouldn't say I attacked your post, Paul. I disagreed with you. Actually (and you seem to have missed this!) I only disagreed with half of what you said. I used FO stats to BACK UP your assertion that the 2006 Bears offense is better than the 2000 Ravens offense. I challenged Aaron to support the original "audibles" statement,

Aaron Schatz: Oh, no. No, no, no. The Ravens were SO much better than the 2006 Bears on offense

...in light of this.

You're of course right that stats can't tell us everything. But they do tell us some useful things. For instance, they tell us that a good chunk of what makes the Bears offense look good is the fact that their special teams tilt field position in their favor (a factor that also worked for the 2000 Ravens to a lesser degree). This is the sort of thing that is easy to forget if you just look at scoring stats, or even just study the games.

As for the Colts/Saints comparison, I continue to disagree with you.

when the Colts face a team capable of keeping their defense on the field, they resort to a series of short to intermediate passes.I haven't seen any sort of patterns consistent with that. What the Colts do on offense is highly dependent on what the opposing defense is doing, but almost completely independent of what the opposing offense is doing.

Also, I doubt you will see Manning test us with the less conventional weaponry, since that’s reserved only for teams who are markedly deficient in the secondary.It's just not that simple. Rather than try to break it down, I refer you to Ilanin in the latter half of post #60, who does a great job of summarizing what the Colts have done on offense. If you have to choose between reading the rest of my post and reading his, read his.

I would challenge you to present me with any anecdotal or empirical evidence that suggests that Rhodes/Addai can sniff Reggie Bush in the passing game.Empirical is easy. Addai caught a higher percentage of passes thrown his way (80% to 73%), had more yards per catch (6.5 to 6.1), and had a much higher DPAR (10.4 to 5.9), despite having many fewer opportunities, revealing a much higher efficiency. The only place Bush looks better is raw totals. That's basically the same story as the entire comparison of the Saints offense and Colts offense.

Anectodally... Bush is frequently used as basically a WR #3 in the passing game on downs where McAllister is in. The Colts, by contrast, almost never have Rhodes and Addai in on the same down. The fact that the Colts often use someone else as the third receiver doesn't make their offense any less explosive. It's just different personnel.

Additionally, a lot of passes to Bush sort of qualify as "long handoffs". The Colts have their own version of the "long handoff" - called the stretch play.

Oh, and check the numbers. Bears are #1 vs TEs. Dallas is toast.To be fair, Clark is sort of a blend of a TE and a third WR, but Chicago is excellent against "other WR" as well. So, yes, assuming the Bears approach playing defense against the Colts the same way they have approached playing other teams this year, it is highly unlikely that Clark will do much in the Super Bowl.

Then again... New England is also fantastic on defense against both "other WR" and "TE". And we know how that turned out. This goes to what I alluded to above - teams just don't approach the Colts the same way they do other teams. Teams use defensive strategies against them that they never use against the other 30 teams. The most obvious examples are the Eagles game and the Titans games.

So, IF the Bears play the way they normally do, then Clark will be smothered, and Harrison will have a monster game. But I'm not convinced that will happen.

345
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:47pm

#340: Special teams, too (special teams variance is pretty small, though, but they're second in the league there). Yay, Devin Hester is God, but he has a ton of fumbles on returns as well.

346
by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:49pm

I apologize for the bizarre formatting in the above post. For some reason, the servers here have trouble with multiple blockquote tags. I assure you it looked great in the preview window...

347
by James C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:51pm

Badger, post 300

"Eagles fans are everywhere. Steeler fans as well. Vikings/Lions/Packers fans. (Strangely enough not that many Bears fans.) Colts fans clearly."

This Bears fan for one has been running scared from the FOMBC since the playoffs loomed over the horizon.

In a rookie of the year thread I waxed lyrical about how good Manning, Anderson and Hester were and doomed them for the next week. Manning couldn't tackle anything, Hester tried his best to return every kick to the opposition and Andersen just got stalemated all day. Since then I have been taking this curse thing rather seriously and will continue to do so for another couple of weeks.

348
by JACO (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 4:10pm

For all of those who are bashing Belichick for his post game interview with Solomon Wilcots, you apparently have never seen Belichick ever be interviewed by the local media.

Here's the link to the video of the interview (also linked by my name):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cntcxRoKWE

A transcript of the interview:
Wilcots: Coach, you had a 15 point lead at halftime. In the end what proved to be the difference?
Belichick: Well the Colts, they just did a little more than we did today.
Wilcots: We know last week was a hard fought game for you - you talked about it yesterday, that it really took you about half the week to get back into it. How much did fatigue play a factor?
Belichick: Oh I don't know, I think both teams fought pretty hard out there.
Wilcots: Alright coach, well thank you for joining us.
Belichick: You're welcome.

The interviewer stopped the interview short, not Belichick. I'm not a Belichick or Pats fan, but I don't see how you can rail on the guy, especially after losing a close game to his biggest archrival. He has been known to give very simplistic answers to generic non-football questions in the past, and this was no exception. I would give him credit for not dropping any f-bombs or insults (then you could argue he's being a bastard), and merely giving some politically correct generic answers. The only time you ever get anything more than that is if you ask a real question, or something football related that occurred during the game or season. For example, Wilcots could have asked the following questions:
1) How did you defensively plan to counteract the Colts no-huddle offense in the second half?
2) What was the rationale for leaving the faster Tully-Banta Cain on the bench and moving Vrabel to the outside, and using a slower ILB?
3) What did the Colts do strategically in the second half to neutralize your running attack, and specifically Laurence Maroney? Did you notice anything with how the defensive linemen were aligned?
4) Along those lines, do you think in retrospect that mixing in a few more screens to Maroney and Kevin Faulk would have helped open up the field a little more in the second half?

If the interviewer asked more in-depth questions, or something other than the standard postgame BS, he would probably have gotten some more in-depth answers.

I think in the offseason that if the Patriots can't or are unwilling to sign Asante Samuel to a long term deal, they will slap the franchise tag on him and get at least another year out of his services, and if he performs at a high level again and comes anywhere close to this year's peformance, they would probably give him a long term deal after that, especially with his demonstrated value and the cap going up by leaps and bounds over the course of the next 2 years. I have a feeling their LB core will look dramatically different (especially because I think Bruschi is going to retire and Seau is done), so I think they will make a run at Adalius Thomas and/or Lance Briggs this offseason, who both fit their scheme (Thomas probably much more) and shore up their pass coverage deficiencies at the LB position. I know everybody's going to say they won't break the bank blah blah blah, but they've shown in the past they have been willing to pay the market value for certain players who they feel they need to come in and make a difference (example: Roosevelt Colvin, who they also signed away from the Bears). I can see them letting TE Daniel Graham walk to the Jets because this year's draft pick David Thomas will slide right into that position, and they will couple his increasing productivity with Ben Watson, who is continuing to emerge and blossom.

As was mentioned above, the Patriots will also have two first round picks this year (#24, from Seattle trade for Deion Branch, and #28 overall), as well as a couple of extra picks in some of the later rounds as well. I think they'll be aggressive in retooling the roster, restock this offseason and come back loaded next year with a chip on their collective shoulder.

349
by Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 4:14pm

#336 wrote: It matters that Uhrlacher plays like a maniac, and not just in how is own play is better as a result. It matters that Peyton Manning is extraordinary workaholic, and, say, Michael Vick, is not. When Reggie White arrived in Green Bay, he just didn’t bring his performance, be brought an example of how to approach the profession.
I cannot agree more. Peyton may be the best QB right now, although I understand those who think Brady is. Brady works very hard, especially reviewing film. However, has any QB logged more total time than Peyton Manning with his skill players? Has any QB logged less total time than Vick with his skill players? (other than Alge Crumpler)
I think Manning is a small bit better than Brees and Wayne/Harrison are better than Saints' receivers, although they are declining fast (especially shown by Patriots excellent CBs).
I do not want to talk trash about any rivals of my favorite teams, such as the Florida Gators. I want them viewed as positively as possible. Win or lose I think my favorite team looks better by comparison and I appreciate the game more.

350
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 4:28pm

I dunno, like I said, I thought the Belichik/Wilcotts interview was pretty funny.

351
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 4:57pm

However, has any QB logged more total time than Peyton Manning with his skill players? Has any QB logged less total time than Vick with his skill players? (other than Alge Crumpler)

I don't know. How do you know?

Or are you just presuming it from on-field performance? (Which suggests that Vick could be as good a passer as Manning is if he just worked harder. That, I doubt.)

I hate constantly saying this, but I think it's really dangerous to presume that work ethic automatically equates to on-field success (and vice versa - on field success implies a great work ethic). Who knows? Maybe Manning and Brady actually put in the least amount of time with their receivers, and they're just that good.

352
by Martial (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 5:22pm

As a long time reader of this site, I can assure you that Aaron has always been exasperated by the hate. He’s never been as eloquent about the love as he is above, but he’s said similar things many times. Those who accuse him of asking for peace now solely because the Pats lost are ingrates and should be ashamed of themselves. Aaron is a football fan first and last. Sure, somewhere in between alpha and omega he’s a Patriots fan too, but he couldn’t and wouldn’t have done all he’s done unless he loved the game.

And all lovers of this game love what the Colts and Peyton Manning accomplished this weekend – though, personally, as a Pats fan, I also hate the result. That was simply a great game.

My basic set of rooting rules (because the game is more fun if you want a team to win):
1. My team until they’re done (Patriots)
2. My team’s division (AFC East)
3. My team’s conference/league (AFC)

Go Colts!

353
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 5:45pm

Pat, it's anecdotal, but I have heard more than one broadcaster say that he has observed Manning working with his receivers earlier on gameday than is the norm. Maybe their memories are distorted, or they are just making it up, but it is not the sort of eyewitness account which can be completely dismissed. I've heard Manning himself say that he has cut back the routine somewhat, because he recognized he was in danger of wearing his receivers out. This is another bit of evidence that Manning puts more time in than the norm, and has even recognized that there comes a time when there might not only be diminishing returns, but negative returns. In contrast, I've heard Vick say that he hasn't spent much time looking at film, which isn't the same as working with receivers, but does lead to a fairly reasonable hypothesis that Manning works harder at his job than Vick, and that the difference may have something to do with the difference in performance.

Nothing automatically leads to successful human performance in any area. However, there is a gigantic body of evidence which suggests that in the majority of instances, being further right on the bell shaped curve for exertion will result in better human performance.

354
by BB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 5:54pm

346: If they're complaining about that, then the same people must have been the ones that were really ticked at this interview (not exact quotes, but the response is close as far as my recollection):

ABC Sideline Reporter: Why did you kneel there at the end of the half instead of trying to run plays?

Lloyd Carr: Well that's a stupid question!
Lloyd Carr turns and goes to locker room

355
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:04pm

My basic set of rooting rules (because the game is more fun if you want a team to win):
1. My team until they’re done (Patriots)
2. My team’s division (AFC East)
3. My team’s conference/league (AFC)

It's funny how different people can approach a game.

My basic rooting rules:
1. Eagles
2. Anyone in the NFC except for divisional rivals
3. Anyone in the AFC
4. Redskins
5. Giants

356
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:09pm

#351: Yeah, I know about the reporters talking about it - but all reporters say people do things "more than normal" with no justification whatsoever.

and has even recognized that there comes a time when there might not only be diminishing returns, but negative returns.

That's partially my point, though. There's no real reason to believe that Manning works out any more with his receivers than the average quarterback. Or, let's say, the most common quarterback. I think it's safe to say that Vick isn't a "common" quarterback. He might do it more than "bad" quarterbacks, but considering there's a ceiling, it's entirely possible that the majority of quarterbacks work out for basically exactly the same amount of time with their receivers.

I prefer to laud quarterbacks for things that I know make a difference - as in, Manning's got an extremely fast release, and is very decisive and generally doesn't make mistakes in reading coverage. Those, I know he's above the curve on, and I know they lead to winning (fewer sacks, fewer interceptions).

The only part there that I can't prove is the "fast release" part, but that's much less of a stretch. And in any case, you could always say "well, in any case, he gets sacked less, and throws fewer interceptions", obviating the 'why'.

357
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:09pm

re 302, 307: I am a member of the Audubon Society. I read the Cardinal fan's post. It didn't feel anything like seeing a rare bird.

Re 317: "this site isn’t overwhelmed by Patriots fans, we just won’t shut up." Thanks, that made me laugh.

re 323: "the team leader is flying around as if his remaining time on Earth is being counted down publicly over the PA?"
"play like their d*mn balls are on fire." Now THOSE are analogies (or metaphors, or whatever the hell those things are, where is pacifist viking's English teacher expertise when I need it?). Some nice writin' there, Badger T1000.

358
by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:26pm

Usually I root for my team then my division.

However, "Rex Grossman, Super Winning Quarterback"

Go Colts!

359
by JohnB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:33pm

As a Bears fan my head was swimming most of the championship game so I wasn't able to take close notice of what the defense was doing. I heard that once, when the Saints lined Bush up in the slot Ulracher lined up against him, man-to-man. This gives me some hope against Clark.

360
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:36pm

Pat, the fact that you cannpt prove something beyond a reasonable doubt should not inhibit someone from making well formulated inferences that fall short of absolute empirical certainty. When I was employing salespeople, and saw that one salesperson was having 10 calls per week, and another was having 4, I could be about 75% certain that the person with 4 wasn't working as hard, even though they were working at remote locations. Similarly, I can be at least 75% certain that Manning spends more time in the film room than Vick, and this helps explain the some of the difference in their ability to read defenses.

361
by DenverMatt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:42pm

A little late here but - RE: #63 - "On the whole, the Colts are the same team as the Saints, minus Reggie Bush. Slightly less exotic on offense, similar yardage production, and nothing but two DEs on defense. Including all phases of the game, they simply don’t have as many playmakers as Chicago."

Attention NFC Fans - The Junior Varsity Conference WILL NOT be winning the Super Bowl this year. Try in 2 or 3 years - if there are some major changes. Beating New Orleans and Seattle is nothing even close to KC, Baltimore and New England.
Chicago would have been a 4 or 5 seed in the AFC. If that.

362
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:43pm

Of course, Pat, if we could get Tom Moore to let us buy him a couple of cocktails (he looks as if such activity is not foreign to him) he might be willing to talk about the differences in work habits of the various qbs he's coached. I'd be wiling to wager the Manning does lie on the right side of the curve.

363
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:49pm

re: 350
"Those who accuse him of asking for peace now solely because the Pats lost are ingrates and should be ashamed of themselves."
Here are some of the comments from the Colts/Ravens discussion thread. My point is that if eliminating these kind of comments is a serious concern at FO, it certainly could have been dealt with earlier. I would be much happier as a Ravens fan if I didn't have to hear all the time about how much everyone hates my team while we're losing a football game. The fact that FO apparently only seems to care when hate is directed at the Pats is what bothers me.

Marko, the Ravens cannot possibly lose this game by enough to satisfy me.Baltimore must lose. They must lose this game, and their next one, and every other game from here to eternity.

Also, as a Patriots fan, I’m predisposed to disliking the Colts, and I was all set to root for the Ravens here, but that means I’ll have to root for Brian Billick and Ray Lewis, and I just can’t do that. Manning might make a lot of commercials, but at least he’s never been suspected of killing anyone.

Ray Lewis just embodies everything that is wrong in sports today.

I’m a Pats fan and I’m cheering for the Colts. Mostly the Ravens seem like assholes

Please be a fumble
I hate the ravens

What is it about the ravens that makes them so easy to dislike? I’ve got money on them to win the superbowl but i’m still kind of hoping they lose today

i’m an eagles fan, but i’m rooting for the colts. i can’t stand the ravens for some reason. very unlikable players. unlikable coach. awful purple and black unis. oh, and their entire fan base end every sentence with “hon.�

Ray Lewis is a very unlikable man.

I’m in the exact same boat. I’ve actively disliked the Ravens for years, despite the fact that the Eagles see them once every 4 years.

Fuck the ravens, what a classless organization from top to bottom.

Oh, and this further cements my hate for B’more

364
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:50pm

Yeah, Denver, the biggest problem I have with the notion of the Bears winning (and I'm definitely rooting for the Colts) is that Seattle just is nothing more than average, at the very best, and it took the Bears more than 60 minutes to beat them at home. Then again, the Colts defense is still far from a sure thing, and the Bears are much more physical than the typical NFC team, so I won't be wagering the retirement accounts on this one.

365
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:56pm

Do people think that the Bears will play like they did against the Saints, or like they did in the previous several weeks? Is there an AGS today?

366
by jgm (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 7:05pm

I know that the SB is the next topic for elaboration but what is this thing about the Pats having a number of players down with the stomach flu in last weeks conference championship?

367
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 7:13pm

Re 346

Trying to interview someone who doesn't want to talk is unplesant and awkward, as the video shows. I think Wilcots cut it short, or was told to cut it short, because Belichick wasn't talking.

With that said, I'm not going to criticize someone for not being chipper after losing a game like that. "Hey coach, you really pissed away that game. Let's dissect it, shall we?" You have to give a guy a few minutes to decompress.

368
by BB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 7:32pm

362: On the flipside of the same coin, the Saints were definitely more than average by any metric you choose, and the Bears put together an excellent defensive performance and a bruising rushing attack to grind out what became a blowout victory.

That's the madness of being a Bears fan this year -- we never have a clue what we're going to get from week to week from our team.

369
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 7:49pm

Tank Johnson will play in the Super Bowl.

370
by Corey (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 8:19pm

Back to the Hobbs/Wayne pass interference call in the end-zone that was called: I've become mildly obsessed about trying to find an answer to this. It looked to me on replay like Hobbs didn't touch Wayne, so the call would be a pass interference for face-guarding, except that isn't pass interference in the NFL, right? Did something change in the rules, or did I miss contact in the replay I watched? Everyone at the bar was yelling at me that Hobbs didn't turn his head, which he didn't, but he also didn't touch Wayne (at least that I saw).

Please help me out here so I can start doing work again.

371
by cd6 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 8:24pm

I set up the way I cheer for my teams a bit differently then you guys, I guess:

1.) Steelers (hometown)
2.) Whoever is playing the Patriots that week
3.) Whoever is playing the Ravens
4.) Seahawks (where I live now)
5.) Browns (where I went to school; also, out of pity)
6.) Any AFC team not named "Patriots" or "Ravens"
7.) NFC Teams
8.) If Pats-Ravens play eachother, root for injuries

372
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 8:35pm

#368: Is there a replay on the Web somewhere? Everyone constantly says "I didn't see Hobbs touch Wayne" but I'm pretty darn sure I saw him contact him (below the waist, if memory serves) before the ball got there.

373
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 8:40pm

Similarly, I can be at least 75% certain that Manning spends more time in the film room than Vick, and this helps explain the some of the difference in their ability to read defenses.

I think you're kindof missing my point: I think not working with your receivers/spending time in the film room/etc. will make you suck. That might be Vick's problem. But it doesn't mean Manning succeeds because he does that - diminishing returns, and all that.

I just somehow doubt Manning's work ethic is a major reason why he's as good as he is. I think a large part of it is just him. And so people will look at anything Manning does, and say "ah, that's the reason he's so good" - but if someone else did that same thing, I doubt it would make them any better than average.

374
by Phil (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 8:55pm

Is Belichick a football genius? Without a doubt. But his behavior last night proved to me that he’s also one of the biggest A-holes I’ve ever seen in sports. Bigger than Bonds; at least Bonds respects his fellow athletes, if not the reporters that cover them.

UMMM, WHAT!?
Do you know who Barry Bonds is?

375
by DenverMatt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 9:12pm

#362 - True enough Will. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Bears win. I just think the AFC/NFC gap is huge this year. #368/370 - Looked to me like there was contact before the ball - and if it's a question of timing, I think the benefit of the doubt went to PI - as Hobbs not only didn't turn his head around, he didn't even flinch in the direction of the ball.

376
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 9:19pm

#373: Yeah, I have to agree on that - if a guy following someone leaps towards them, hitting him, when the ball contacts is not that big a deal. The intent was clearly to interfere, not to block the pass from being caught. That's probably part of the reason why PI isn't reviewable - because it's probably not clear cut in all cases.

As I've said elsewhere, though, I don't really know why Patriots are defending Hobbs on that play anyway. It was a retarded play. He turns around, and it's an interception.

377
by thad (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 9:21pm

"Attention NFC Fans - The Junior Varsity Conference WILL NOT be winning the Super Bowl this year. Try in 2 or 3 years - if there are some major changes. Beating New Orleans and Seattle is nothing even close to KC, Baltimore and New England.
Chicago would have been a 4 or 5 seed in the AFC. If that."

Really?
Are you a Bronco's fan?
If so, how many times in the two weeks leading up to Super bowl XXXII did you hear this, only reversed.
Denver was what, a 12 point underdog?
I am not a Denver fan, but if I was, it would have driven me nuts to see my team dismissed so fast.

378
by DaveO (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 9:29pm

I do have a rooting stake in the outcome of the SB (go Horse!), but I think that if I didn't, I might actually like the sound of "Rex Grossman, SB Champion!". If only to help dispel the rather silly notion that wins and losses go solely, or even primarily, to the QB...

379
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 9:47pm

#376: The NFL's tried that already. "Brad Johnson, SB Champion" and "Trent Dilfer, SB Champion". Sadly, it doesn't work. It just makes people think those QBs are decent.

And then, someday, your team might end up with Rex, because he's available as a backup, and the coach says "he's got experience, and he's tough and gritty. Heck, he won a Super Bowl."

380
by Countertorque (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 10:18pm

RE: 374

If he turns around, he'll lose the receiver and it'll take him a second to find the ball. So, the best he could do was watch the receiver's eyes and try to time his jump. I thought if he didn't touch the receiver it should be a good play.

I've never played football, but I've learned this from playing ultimate. Just because he didn't look back doesn't necessarily mean he wasn't playing the ball.

381
by Fat Tony (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 10:27pm

As a Pats fan, I think our most hated rival is the Jets, not the Colts. Over the long haul, I've probably expended more irrational hatred (the sports kind, not the angry kind) towards the Fins than anyone else, but over the last 10 years, it's clearly the J-E-T-S. Chad Pennington is my most hated rival at the moment. Weird and kinda sad, but there it is.

NFL team I most reflexively root against is the Broncos, simply because they almost always beat New England. We literally never beat John Elway so he was my most hated/respected rival in his day. Still, my favorite NFL Films SB moment is the bit after the Broncos beat the Pack and Bowlen says "This one's (dramatic pause) for John!" Odd how that always chokes me up a little.

Definitely rooting for Manning to get his first ring and pretty much always root for the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Jets are the only AFC team I would root against there. Thankfully hasn't been an issue for the last decade or two. Or three. Four decades?

382
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 10:30pm

Re 368

This isn't going to be a satisfactory explanation, but pass interference is about 95% subjective in the NFL. The refs have so much latitude to interpret the rules, there was even an FO blog post about it last week. A ref sees a DB clearly not playing the ball, and then possible contact. He throws the flag. As the saying goes, it is what it is.

383
by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 10:34pm

Pat and Will Allen,

We know that Peyton puts in an extraordinary amount of time studying film, working with receivers (on game day, during practice weeks, in the summer, and in the off-season) because of a very large number of people have reported it. Former Colt back up QBs such as Huard have written articles saying so. Huard (and his college coach David Cutcliffe) says the massive volumes of notebooks he creates with his notes for every game are mind boggling. His receivers have been quoted saying so. Players who have left and joined other teams say so. His college and former pro coaches have said so. His current teammates say so. REporters who cover a number of teams say so. Coaches and players who work out with him at the Pro Bowl say so.

John Gruden and Mike Shanahan have written and been quoted on the subject of how Manning amazes them with the way he spends so much time talking football at Pro Bowls (even around the pool with his then-fiance, drawing plays on napkins with Gruden).

I mean, damn, are they all lying?

384
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 10:37pm

381
I don't think Pat's denying that Manning is a prepare-a-holic (even if it's not a word), just that there is diminishing returns on practice, and so to say Peyton is the best because he always practices is not true. Part of the explanation, but not all of it.

385
by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 10:58pm

382,

I think the biggest part is not the time, but the quality. [By the way, I think the biggest problem most coaches have is that they feel compelled to put in 18-20 hour days and they end up being very counter-productive.]

Manning apparently is a compulsive note taker. He fills a notebook with notes during meetings, film breakdown, etc. He studies them and goes back to notebooks from years and years back. He's obviously very bright, given his academic success in college (graduated with honors in 3 years, Phi Beta Kappa, etc.) So part of the key is that he has a study system that is extremely effective. He isn't just running film with a clicker. He breaks down the film like a coach and makes notes of everything.

In other words, he not only puts in an amazing amount of time, he has an extraordinary system to process all the info he takes in.

386
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 11:14pm

Re 383

I've often thought the same thing about these coaches. There's always a story about Gruden or whoever sleeping in their office and working from 4:00 AM to midnight. That doesn't impress me that much, because it tells me he could be using his time more effectively. Nothing requires 20-hour days.

387
by DenverMatt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 11:22pm

#375 - Good point. And I think one of the Packers was in the parking lot eating bratwurst with the fans before the game, if I remember right. So it wasn't just the media.
After the first 4 Broncos Super Bowls I can't honestly say I expected the Broncos to win. They had a better team than the other 4, I would say, but ya know, once bitten, twice shy......

So how about the Bears of weeks 1-8 versus the Colts of weeks 1-8? That game would probably be a pick'em, and great to watch. (Although I expect this SB to be a good game). I just think the Bears defense has regressed, and the Colts seem to be coming on a bit. And I don't think the Bears want to be relying on offense?????

388
by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 11:26pm

384,

Having coached, I can tell you that it is a competitive/fear thing. If the other guys work longer hours and we lose, we should have worked longer, too. But a lot of it is spent on only marginally useful stuff.

389
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 11:29pm

#383: It's still the same problem. Everything you're describing could easily be done by someone else. Yah, sure, you'd have to be dedicated and hard working, but these aren't children were talking about.

But you're assuming the converse, when it doesn't have to be true: not preparing will make you suck, but preparing won't necessarily make you not suck.

I mean, damn, are they all lying?

No, they're not lying. But what, did the reporters ask them "how much time does Manning spend watching film? How much time does your new QB spend watching film? What about other QBs you've been with? In hours per week, please." They said he spends a lot of time watching film. There's no baseline for what a lot is - whether it's average, low, high, whatever.

Sigh. I don't get why people don't understand what I'm saying. Without an estimate of the amount of time that each QB spends in the film room, or a "preparation metric" (let's give the QBs a test before they take the field!) you don't know if Peyton's better. Or how much better.

Manning apparently is a compulsive note taker.

So what? I barely ever took notes, and I can quote stuff from classes ten years ago. You're still judging the quality of preparation by the results on the field, and that's circular logic. Phil Simms clearly prepares for every game he announces (he spews tons of cliches about each player) and he still sucks, because his preparation is completely wrong.

The biggest problem with all of this is that it seems logical. Peyton's a great QB, we've got reams of stories about how diligently and hard working he prepares for games, obviously, that preparation leads to being a great QB. Maybe that's what he needs to be a great QB. But there's no reason to believe that other people need that as well.

Hell, there's no reason to believe that he needs it as well. Unless there's ever been an interview after a game where he sucked and he said "No, I didn't prepare for this game at all. It was New Year's Eve, man, I was thinking about something else."

Hasn't anyone ever seen a really hard working person come up against someone with a knack for something in a class?

390
by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 11:44pm

Huard, as a QB with familiarity with a lot of other QBs, says so. Coaches who have coached lots of other QBs say so.

391
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 11:53pm

Huard, as a QB with familiarity with a lot of other QBs, says so. Coaches who have coached lots of other QBs say so.

It still doesn't matter. (That was only step 1 of the point.) Insert from post #387, paragraph 5, sentence 3.

I think for some reason people think I'm insulting Peyton or something - I'm not. It is, however, somewhat insulting to other QBs to suggest that they, too, could be just like Peyton if they would just work hard at it. They're probably working just as hard as him at it. They, however, probably don't have quite as good a knack for football, or the same measurables, or the same arm strength.

Like I said, the big problem is that it all seems reasonable. But you just can't know. It could all be an obsessive-compulsive disorder thing with Manning, where he spends so much time breaking down so much... and in the end, he'd do just as good if he just went on the field.

And, like I said, that's even assuming that the people in question weren't just giving the easy answer.

392
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:00am

Rules question concerning the 12 men in the huddle penalty. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but once Brady realized they had 12 men in the huddle, couldnt he have called a time out to avoid the penalty?

If thats the case, what a major, MAJOR screw-up by Brady/Bellichek. Without this 5 yard penalty the Pats have an excellent chance of running the clock completely (or nearly completely) out.

This blunder is nearly as bad as the Chris Webber "time-out" in the NCAA tourney. What makes it even worse is that it was made by a Hall of Fame QB and coach, as opposed to a 19 year old college student.

393
by Mike J (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:07am

I think its very obvious to me that the truly transcendant athletes are created by a wide mix of factors and the primary difference between those few truly iconic guys (Peyton, Michael Jordan, etc) and the next tier is usually the absence of one or two factors. Its a diminishing returns thing, sure - but the difference between MJ and Kobe isn't that big, either. A very small improvement is a very large difference at this level.

Peyton is a compulsive competitor, brilliant, an obsessive preparer, who also happens to have the ideal body for a quarterback, a great arm, the luck not to sustain any serious injuries, and the fortune to be raised in an outstanding environment to learn football from a very young age.

The difference between Peyton and someone on that next tier down from him (Brady, for one example, or Favre if you ask me, etc) is that he just has a tiny bit more of an edge. A little more precision. A slightly more accurate pass. A little better decision making. etc

That's why it's both accurate and inaccurate to say that these things make him great - its the confluence of ALL of those factors that make him one of the 5 greatest ever. He wouldn't be what he is without it, but adding it to someone who lacks all the others is not going to create a second Peyton - you'd have to give him all those factors, and some are genetic or innate.

And alot of people with the innate advantages (Tracy McGrady, Kobe, etc) never acquire the inability to settle for anything but perfection that typifies guys like Peyton or MJ.

394
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:18am

#390: No, I'm pretty sure you're screwed the instant the guy steps into the huddle.

#391:
For the most part, I agree with what you're saying, but some of the specifics, not so much.

Its a diminishing returns thing, sure - but the difference between MJ and Kobe isn’t that big, either.

I'm not so sure. They're different people, after all, with different upbringings. Different instincts. Different brains. You can see that there's not much physical difference, but there's a lot more to a person than just the physical attributes.

It's just not easy to figure out "why" Manning's a great QB. He just is. There's just not a way to measure it. It makes sense to take all of the (seemingly) logical things Peyton does and say "okay, this is smart."

But like I said, it's circular logic. You're presuming that those things matter, when there's no reason it couldn't be just Peyton.

Now, after Peyton retires, if he starts up The Peyton Manning University for NFL Quarterbacks, and starts churning out QB after QB, we'll know.

One other point: there's no reason to believe that much preparation would help any other quarterback at all. Maybe Manning's brain is just able to take in all of that stuff, unlike other QBs. In which case, it's not the preparation that's causing Manning to be a great QB. It's Manning himself, and the preparation is just a catalyst.

395
by Eddo (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:25am

To put the Peyton/hardest worker debate another way: yes, Manning (and Jordan in basketball) is probably one of the hardest working players. However, that just pushes him slightly ahead of where he is now (I think this is what Mike J (is the name a coincidence?) is getting at in post #391). However, I could mirror Peyton Manning's preparation to the exact detail--the note-taking, the film studying, the constant thinking about football--and not even sniff the NFL. It's great to prepare and hustle and all that, but ultimately, it's Manning's football ability that makes him great.
Pat puts it best: I too never took notes in classes, and I probably averaged a total of 10 minutes of studying for each test in college, yet I still was able to get better grades than most of my friends (and classmates) who put in countless hours of studying and preparation. If I were like Manning, I would put in all the study time on top of the natural ability, but my grades wouldn't improve much--say, from a 3.4 GPA to a 3.5.

396
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:34am

#390: No, I’m pretty sure you’re screwed the instant the guy steps into the huddle.

Yup. The official threw the flag well before the Patriots had broken the huddle, and the play was whistled dead before the play could begin, much like a false start would be. See Rule 7-4-Note.

However, 12 men in the defensive huddle is not a penalty. (Strictly speaking, there's no such thing as a defensive huddle - see Rule 3-13).

397
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:43am

No, Pat, I'm not saying that other qbs could be just like Peyton if they prepared like him, nor am I saying that Peyton's performance would decline if he spent less time preparing. I'm saying that, in most instances, and all other things being equal, people who work harder at developing a given skill become more proficient than those who work less hard, and that all NFL quarterbacks are unlikely to be equal with regards to how hard they work. Thus, when we see differences in pattern recognition performance, for instance, and there is a substantial amount of anecdotal data which suggests that the superior person in this regard, individual A, spends more time in improving his pattern recognition than individual B, whose work habits seem (anecdotally reported, to be sure) somewhat lax by the standards of the profession, it is not completely unreasonable to think that if B more closely approximated A's work habits, his skill in this area might improve.

Jack Nicklaus, when he was the world's best golfer in the 60s', had one glaring weakness in his game; chipping and pitching from just of the green. Noting this, he observed that this was an aspect of golf he had spent little time on, compared to other areas, and compared to best short game players he competed against. Luckily for him, he did not say to himself, "Well, I don't have absolute proof that Gary Player's short game would suffer if he worked at it less hard, nor is there absolute proof that my short game would improve if I was more diligent in working at it, so there is no reason to think I should more closely approximate Player's work habits in regard to the short game".

Instead, he said to himself, "Self, I am not a very good short game player, and guys who are better at it seem to work at it more than I do. Therefore, I think I shall experiment with working at my short game more extensively than I do now." Lo and behold, his short game made remarkable strides.

Then again, if all PGA golfers imitated Vijay Singh's monumental time on the practice tee, half of 'em would be getting back surgery within a year, so it is absolutely the case that one should avoid unqualified assertions.

398
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:59am

#394 You may be right about the rule, but the flag was thrown when the 12th man left the huddle and started off the field. What this tells me is that New England realized they had too many men in the huddle, sent the 12th guy to the sideline, and then the penalty was called. What if they had called the time out PRIOR to sending the 12th man to the sideline?

I could have sworn earlier this year I saw a QB call a TO in order to avoid a 12 men penalty. But I'm getting old and my memory may be faulty.

399
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:15am

I’m saying that, in most instances, and all other things being equal, people who work harder at developing a given skill become more proficient than those who work less hard

Eh. I don't agree with that, either. Work too hard, and you'll burn yourself out. I think most people know that from experience.

and that all NFL quarterbacks are unlikely to be equal with regards to how hard they work

That's the main part I disagree with. They're getting paid millions of dollars - that's a big money risk to gamble without working hard. I think, in general, all quarterbacks work exactly as hard as they can possibly work.

And, like I said, that's the assumption that starts the circular logic.

It's a lot like weight training. Too much weight training can actually be seriously detrimental. Too little doesn't let you live up to your potential. What is "enough" depends on the person. And some people just don't need as much weight training to get equivalent performance.

400
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:17am

Noting this, he observed that this was an aspect of golf he had spent little time on, compared to other areas, and compared to best short game players he competed against.

And, it should be noted - he's the only one that would know that he could improve that by working on it.

That's not the case here. We're discussing media reported information on Manning and other quarterbacks. We have no way of knowing that other quarterbacks haven't tried putting more time in with film study, and gotten nothing out of it.

401
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:00am

To assume that everyone is at their 'golden mean' of work efficiency is an iffy assumption, at best.

I'd bet that some are over, some are at, and some are under. So some quarterbacks would benefit from 'being like Peyton' and some would not.

402
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:32am

Re 397
Eh. I don’t agree with that, either.
Work too hard, and you’ll burn yourself out.

I hadn't chimed in on this before, but you lost me there. I was with you up to that point. He even left it as a generality -- in MOST instances, people who work harder become more proficient. If you can't concede that point, it sounds like you're not discussing, so much as blindly defending.

The strangely utopian "in general, all quarterbacks work exactly as hard as they can possibly work" reminds me of a scene from Gattaca. If a person exceeds his potential, it's only because we incorrectly measured his potential in the first place.

403
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:38am

Wow, is this really FO? I come in after work and see a discussion of what makes Peyton Manning great? And it's almost February? My my my, how times do change.

I won't go into why, because there are doubtless myriad reasons and who knows what %age to put on work, or physical gifts, or memory or instant recognition, etc. But I will point out something that a very wise FOer (wish I remember who) pointed out last year or maybe two years ago about Manning's playoff dropoffs: He works an extra 15 hours each week (for arguments sake) studying and applying himself and it pays off during the regular season.

But in the post-season, EVERYONE puts in those extra fifteen hours before the playoff game and his cushion in preparing for a specific opponent, study, tendencies, etc. is greatly reduced. What if a DB notices one single tendency (those right flat passes to Marvin, for example) and has the jump on Manning on one single play all game--a pick-six can mean a 14-point swing and turn an otherwise close game into a rout. (or a rout into an otherwise close game)

I have no idea if it is right, but it is one of the few arguments that made rational sense to me. Hey people choke in pressure situations and I am one of them, so I know. Manning has been in a ton of them and performed very well in many, and performed less well in some. It's not choking. Now trying to take on too much of a load and taking unnecessary risks... not exactly choking, but playing unwisely.

But I thought the homework-delta suggestion worth repeating. Now with two weeks to pick apart film on PM.... will the Bears have something that nobody else has? Maybe. Or will Addai and Dom "The Playoff Monster" Rhodes do to Chicago what Edge did two seasons ago when they decided to blanket receivers and dare Indy to run?

404
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:39am

If you can’t concede that point, it sounds like you’re not discussing, so much as blindly defending.

Not really. It's an important point - there's no point for someone to work harder than they get any benefit from. It's just a drawback. So each person really needs to find out how much work they need to put in to play at their best. I'm guessing the successful ones have.

To assume that everyone is at their ‘golden mean’ of work efficiency is an iffy assumption, at best.

I shouldn't've said all - I should've said "the majority" - or at least, "the successful quarterbacks." I highly doubt the distribution would look like a bell curve. It probably looks more like a bell curve that smashed into a wall. I doubt that there's much extra performance to be squeezed out of most quarterbacks in the NFL just from preparation.

405
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:46am

Re 402

there’s no point for someone to work harder than they get any benefit from.

That was my point. He said working harder was beneficial. He didn't say working to the point of burn out. No one is advocating that.

See post 384. The guy that wrote that is seriously smart and sexy.

406
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:49am

402
Alright, now we just have to find a definition of 'successful', and we'll agree :)

(although I probably think that it's a little more flexible at the 'wall' than you do, that might just be Peyton messing with my mind, 3 years ago I didn't think it was possible for a qb to be this good)

407
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:24am

313 Chocolate Milk: Last time a team concussed Dallas Clark (Denver in Week 17 of the 2004 season) he returned to scorch them in the playoffs one week later (6/112/1).

Actually, IIRC it was not his last concussion, but the parallel structure matches your argument. He's not one to get intimidated. Even with his head on a swivel in Balt ten days ago, he's been a game-changer this post-season and leads all receivers in yardage.

On a yards per game basis, call him and Berrian even at about 95 this post season. Next up for Indy are Wayne and Harrison in the 45/50 YPG range, Rashied Davis at 42 YPG and Muhammad at 29 YPG. (Keeping in mind Indy played Balt, the league's top D and Chicago had an OT game to pad the per-game stats). Indy's receiving game looks to be in fine shape, even with a limited Harrison.

And the last time Chicago chose to limit Manning (2004 at Soldier Field) he only got 211 yards through the air (along with 4 TDs), but the ground game managed to squeak out 275 yards for the win. Granted, I don't expect Grossman to fumble 3 times and throw 2 picks like Krenzel. But bringing up "last time they played" arguments is pretty flimsy, especially when it was 2+ years ago. Urlacher wasn't even credited with a tackle in that game (per ESPN).

408
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:34am

ericb, by the way, are you a Seattlite currently in an EE grad program? If so, see you ate your brother's holiday party on Friday.

409
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:36am

A couple comments on this relatively absurd discussion.

For argument's sake, let's agree that Manning prepares harder than any other QB. You can disagree with that (or, more precisely, say you're not sure) and if so we can just agree to disagree. No biggie. Again, just take that for argument's sake.

Malcolm Gladwell made a VERY interesting comment on this point a while back, in a chat with (of all people!) Bill Simmons:

Simmons:This is actually a question I’m obsessed with: Why don’t people work hard when it’s in their best interest to do so?

Gladwell:The (short) answer is that it’s really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn’t work hard. It’s a form of self-protection. I swear that’s why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor. If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I’ll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost. That has to be devastating, and dealing with that kind of conclusion takes a very special and rare kind of resilience. Most of the psychological research on this is focused on why some kids don’t study for tests — which is a much more serious version of the same problem. If you get drunk the night before an exam instead of studying and you fail, then the problem is that you got drunk. If you do study and you fail, the problem is that you’re stupid — and stupid, for a student, is a death sentence.

The point is that it is far more psychologically dangerous and difficult to prepare for a task than not to prepare. People think that Tiger is tougher than Mickelson because he works harder. Wrong: Tiger is tougher than Mickelson and because of that he works harder.

They actually talk about Manning after this, but the point is obvious.

Still, as Pat would say, none of this really proves what the additional studying actually helps. For that, I would point you to this article in Scientific American. Basically, it says that people become great by working hard at things. Physical gifts do matter, especially in a sport like football, but effort and repeated, effortful training is more important than most of us appreciate. It's a good read, really, take a look. I'll close with one interesting tidbit:

A 1999 study of professional soccer players from several countries showed that they were much more likely than the general population to have been born at a time of year that would have dictated their enrollment in youth soccer leagues at ages older than the average. In their early years, these children would have enjoyed a substantial advantage in size and strength when playing soccer with their teammates. Because the larger, more agile children would get more opportunities to handle the ball, they would score more often, and their success at the game would motivate them to become even better.

410
by Alex (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 6:33am

"Over on the pro-football-reference blog, Doug Drinen ran this really bitter, angry rant about the Patriots for two whole days last week. Not written by him, by another guy who sometimes writes for him. And I wrote him and asked him why he did it, given that we try to go out of our way around here to praise both teams. And he said, “Irrational hatred is the very essence of sports fandom.�

Really? I always thought that irrational love was the very essence of sports fandom. I guess I’m old fashioned that way."

I think I can explain this. You see, Doug Drinen is a Jets fan, so he doesn't have a whole lot to love in his favorite team, even when he's being irrational. He doesn't have much choice but to have irrational hatred for other teams, especially the teams that beat the Jets a lot (like the Patriots).

Also, when your team hasn't won a Super Bowl in your entire lifetime, and their division rival wins 3 in 4 years, it's probably pretty hard to avoid a little bitterness and hatred.

411
by Goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 10:42am

So, I was talking to a friend in Boston last night. 1st time I'd spoken to him since the pats colts game. And he said he was glad that at least Vinatieri didn't beat them.

Hey I said, Gostkowski was fine, so why would it matter?

Vinatieri isn't loyal he said, so we don't like him here.

What?

Once again I heard about how he was supposed to go out and find out what he could get, but then come back, and the fans in Boston hate him now since he didn't come back.

I'm not sure how prevalent this attitude really is in Boston, but it blows me away. Guy wins 3 superbowls for your team, your team tells him to go out & talk to other teams, and then you manage to dislike him because he leaves? Sorry, he should forever be a hero in Boston, whatever else happens in his career, and fans in Boston should be mad at the coaching staff for him being gone, if they feel the need to blame someone.

412
by JohnB (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 11:17am

re post 405:

54 wasn't credited with a tackle in that game because he didn't play.

413
by Fat Tony (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 11:23am

re: 409 I'm glad Vinatieri didn't kick a game winner because if he had there would have been an orgy of moronic articles written about Belichick's arrogance coming back to haunt the Pats. On the other hand, I don't hate Adam, appreciate what he did for the Pats, respect his decision to get paid, kick in a dome, etc. Hey, I've doubled your sample size. :)

And by the way, Adam didn't win 3 SBs for the Pats, any more than Brady or any other single player did.

414
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:03pm

If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I’ll win then.

Yes, but Tiger doesn't have a head coach reviewing game tape to see where he's screwing up. Self-protection only works when you're only accountable to yourself.

(Then again, maybe that's the problem, too. Maybe there aren't enough offensive coordinators smart enough to realize where a QB can improve. Though I don't believe that, either.)

For that, I would point you to this article in Scientific American.

But there, you're talking about long-term hard work. As in, 20 years of hard work. At that point, I'm not sure the work itself is causing the benefit - rather, the work is changing the person. If that makes any sense.

I mean, have we ever really seen a QB significantly improve in the offseason, and attribute it to "better preparation"? Why not? I mean, if the key to Peyton's success is better preparation, why isn't anyone mimicking it?

I guess what I'm saying is that if it's not the preparation itself, but many years of preparation making him able to use that, the prep really is just a catalyst. Saying "well, X should work harder, like Peyton Manning" would be wrong - X would have had to prepare from age 3, and by now, it's too late. And then, it's also difficult to judge, because you don't know whether or not other QBs need that prep to be as good.

that might just be Peyton messing with my mind, 3 years ago I didn’t think it was possible for a qb to be this good

Well, three years ago it might not've been. The 2004 rules changes might've had more effect for Manning than other quarterbacks, too.

415
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:35pm

Pat, I specifically stated that one could not make the blanket assertion that more work always leads to better results. I do think, having spent a non-trivial amount of time around working professional athletes, albeit not NFL qbs, that the distribution for hours spent on diligent practice and training is much more bell shaped than you seem to believe, although still not classically bell shaped. Roger Clemens works much more diligently than the mean effort put forth by major league pitchers. Vijay Singh practices much more than Phil Mickelson.

Now, like I said, if all their associates adopted Clemens' and Mickelson's work habits, a goodly number of them would physically break down; those two guys are real outliers in terms of durability, so one cannot say that all their counterparts in pitching and golf should adopt their habits. Nor can one say with absolute certainty that those two fellows would have their performance decline if they cut back on their workload. However, if a 32 year old power pitcher was interested in prolonging his career as much as possible, and up until then had not adopted a regimen anywhere near as extensive as Clemens' (trust me, their are pitchers in the major leagues whose major physical effort in the off season consists of swinging a golf club, and then climbing back in the cart), it would behoove them to move in Clemens' direction, while being ever-vigilant about not overtraining.

No, everybody does not have the same ideal workload for optimum performance, nor does everybody, even professional ahtletes, even NFL qbs, find their optimum workload. There are a lot of athletes who, after putting a few million in the bank, become far less interested in doing so. Turn on an NBA game sometime. It is less obvious in football, I think, because there are so many more players competeing, and the fact that halfhearted effort during a game can result in severe bodily harm. I have no doubt, however, that there is significant variability in effort during the week, especially off the field, and that optimizing effort to maximize performance falls well short of 100%, even among quarterbacks. Now, if we narrow it to "successful quarterbacks", I would agree that the distribution is much more narrow, depending on how one defines "successful".

416
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:39pm

Make that "Clemens and Singh's work habits".

417
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:42pm

I'm a Patriots fan, and I don't hate Vinitieri for signing with the Colts. I understand the sentiment though, it's actually pretty common for fans to hate the players they used to cheer for when the switch to a rival team. And irrational love is the essence of fandom, but irrational love breeds irrational hatred, either of other teams, or sometimes of your team and the players/coaches on it.

418
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:44pm

Pat, professional athletes with millions in the bank, and enough guaranteed cash, blow off coaches with great frequency, thus allowing themselves the luxury of self protection. Now, in the NFL it is less prevalent, due to how most contracts are structured, but it would be erroneous in the extreme to say that the phenomena is non-existent, even among NFL qbs.

419
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:56pm

Pat, if your point is that one should be very hesitant to assert that, say, Donovan McNabb, is not optimizing performance due to his work habits, and that he should thus more closely approximate Manning's, I would agree wholeheartedly.

420
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:05pm

Make that “Clemens and Singh’s work habits�.

Vijay Singh uses steroids? Wow, I didn't know that.

(Seriously, people, 12 years into his career Clemens suddenly "discovers" that he can lift weights during the season, morphs into the thickest man in his sport, and somehow avoids the criticism that is heaped on Bonds, et al. I don't get it.)

421
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:08pm

Pat, if your argument is that most current NFL QBs would not get as much of a boost from adopting Peyton's work habits as Peyton does, then I agree with you. Most guys have not trained themselved to be able to absorb information the way he does, and would probably reach diminishing returns much earlier.

If your argument is that Peyton does not get a significant boost from his work habits, then I disagree with you.

422
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:13pm

#417: I wouldn't even say McNabb as the ideal example. I'd say more like Jake Delhomme, Jon Kitna, Jeff Garcia, Kurt Warner. There you're talking about guys who were universally given no shot to play in the NFL, and they've managed to hang around. (You may note that those guys are monochromatic, and the counterexample is a different color, but I think that's just coincidence. There haven't been any black CFL/NFLE QBs turned successful NFL QBs). I think it's insane to think they haven't been working like crazy to even keep pace with guys who are more suited for the game than they are.

I mean, saying Vick is a loafer is one thing. You're talking about a guy who has a huge contract already, and not a ton of incentive, and is clearly not living up to any manner of expectations of potential (and a case where he has potential). But honestly, I can't really think of another case that I could say "yeah, he's probably just a lazy slacker." Rex Grossman, maybe.

423
by Eddo (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:20pm

420: I think it's a bit unfair to label Grossman a "lazy slacker" after the one incident. :-P
In all seriousness, I think that Manning's work ethic gets blown out of proportion because it's the "American way" to be a hard worker. I think it's great that Manning is so dedicated; however, having average ability and amazing dedication is no match for having amazing ability and just average dedication. I would put most successful quarterbacks in the latter category. It's guys like Vick, who has amazing ability but poor dedication, who really frustrate fans.

424
by Eddo (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:25pm

To clarify my "I would put most successful quarterbacks in the latter category" from my post #421: I'm not saying Brady, McNabb, Palmer, et al, don't work hard--I'm just saying that their level of work is the norm for starting quarterbacks. Does Manning work more? From everything I've ever heard, yes he does. In this specific case, maybe that pushes him slightly farther ahead of the pack.
But I've never heard any stories about how Dan Marino or Joe Montana (two great QBs) worked much harder than, say, Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms (two other quality QBs). So there's really no proof that Manning's work ethic is what makes him #1 among many.

425
by Mark (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:29pm

422,

I don't see anyone here saying that Manning's work ethic alone is what makes him #1, just that his work ethic is one of many factors that make him #1. In the end, there's no real objective empirical proof for any of this, but that doesn't mean it's not true.

426
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:45pm

doktarr, I would agree that there is a very likely chance that Clemens has used steroids. I do think that if Clemens had been subpeonaed to testify at a grand jury hearing which eventually led to indictments of a steroid manufacturer and distributor, Clemens would be under significantly more scrutiny.

I also think that pitchers in general have likely been the baseball players who have benefitted the most from steroid use, and the fact that many have done so without easily observable
change in muscle mass is largely why they have been overlooked. I can think of few players who would receive more immediate benefit from steroid use than a hard-throwing relief pitcher, and that benefit wouldn't necessarily result in an easily observable increase in muscle mass.

427
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 1:56pm

#421: That's why I said maybe! :)

428
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:12pm

420
Warren Moon?

429
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:32pm

Oh, I agree, Pat, that Vick is the only prominent qb whose work habits are obviously holding him back. I do wonder about Grossman, when he starts talking about New Year's Eve interfering with his preparation, but it wouldn't be the first time a guy tossed out a throw-away line to a reporter that really didn't represent reality. It was the last straw for me, however, which meant I had to suspend my NFC North loyalties, no matter who the Bears played in postseason. The guy just drives me nuts, and I can't bear the thought of morons talking about Grossman being a Super Bowl winning qb, as if it was a significant measure of him as a player.

I have had my suspicions about Culpepper from time to time, but not so constantly as to give me any certainty. What has impressed me the most about Manning is a trait he shares with Tiger Woods, the willingness to work to eliminate weaknesses, despite being already at a higher plane than nearly anybody, or, in Woods' case, most definitely anybody. Manning has really gotten better at throwing while under pressure, and I'm sure that took a lot of work. I wonder how many NFL qbs would have made that effort, given Manning's contract situation.

430
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:55pm

Actually, Favre is another guy who I have suspected has had his performance be less than optimal at times, due to suboptimal work habits. It may be he just is more disciplined during games when he has a coach willing to get in his face (think Holmgren or McCarthy vs. Sherman), but I've wondered if coaching has also played a role in his time spent on preparation during the week.

431
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:14pm

Manning has really gotten better at throwing while under pressure, and I’m sure that took a lot of work.

Er? I haven't noticed that at all. His sack rate is still phenomenally low, and it always has been.

The few cases I've seen where he's had problems throwing under pressure (Pitt, partially NE 2004, although he wasn't bad) it wasn't the pressure, it was where the pressure was coming from. That is, he couldn't read the coverage. By now, they're running out of new coverages to throw at him.

432
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:20pm

#426: Good call - forgot about Moon. The fact that Moon played until his early 40s kindof highlights the fact that I really doubt the guy wasn't working as hard as he possibly could.

433
by Not saying (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:34pm

Re: 429

It is something that Manning said that he worked on over the offseason. It also seemed to be a really noticable difference in the first Pats game. In that game, what seemed to make the difference were a number of throws that Manning made while on the run, throws that I think would have fallen incomplete in previous years. That's what frightened me the most coming into this game.

434
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:41pm

Pat: I mean, have we ever really seen a QB significantly improve in the offseason, and attribute it to “better preparation�?

One example I can think of is Donnovan McNabb, who improved pretty dramatically over one offseason (I want to say 2001, but I'm not sure) by working on a customized program to improve his balance and proprioception. His goal was to be able to throw accurately while rolling out in either direction, which is certainly something he does better than most QBs.

And, more apropos to the matter at hand:

Will Allen: What has impressed me the most about Manning is a trait he shares with Tiger Woods, the willingness to work to eliminate weaknesses, despite being already at a higher plane than nearly anybody, or, in Woods’ case, most definitely anybody. Manning has really gotten better at throwing while under pressure, and I’m sure that took a lot of work.

I haven't heard Manning say explicitly "I got better at moving in the pocket and throwing under pressure through extensive work in the offseason", but he does talk about how hard he prepares, and the improvement is right in front of us. It's not hard to put two and two together.

I'd actually seperate two aspects of "preparation", the physical and the mental.

The physical entials drilling and training in the offseason or during the week, and/or extending warmups on game days. The benefits are obvious, but need to be weighed against your stamina and the increased chance of injury. Dedication to proper training techniques, diet, stretching can dramatically increase your capacity to train, but at the same time some people are just naturally more gifted at this.

The mental side entails studying film and game situations to try to find an edge. Aside from hours in the day and the need to sleep, most players simply lack the capacity to absorb a ton of material in a way that they can use to make split-second decisions on game day. The ability to do this comes more innately in some than others, but dramatic improvement over time is achievable in this area with enough dedication. (see: SciAm article I referenced in post 407)

What I'm driving at here is that most NFL QBs, and this includes the journeyman or overachiever types, do not have the ability to do the sort of preparation that Manning does. Just like throwing a football accurately, or benching 400 pounds, being able to absorb volumes of film on opposing defenses and apply that knowledge in 5 seconds of game time is a skill that must be developed through intense training. Note the common thread of athletes like Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi, and Peyton Manning - all three were more or less raised to do what they did from a young age.

I think that the Delhommes and Warners (and, as I mentioned at the top, McNabbs) of the world are a lot closer to Manning in their physical preparation than their mental preparation. It's much harder to learn to be able to train mentally at Manning's level, than it is to learn to be able to train physically at Manning's level.

435
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:42pm

Pat, I don't think sack rate is a good measure of accuracy when on the move. It certainly appears to me that he throws the ball more accurately when moving out of the pocket now. I suppose the only way to measure that would be to compare completion percentages while outside the tackles, along with comparing sack rates while within the tackles, since it could also be that Manning has become more proficient at getting outside the tackles when rushed.

436
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 4:16pm

#433: I only mentioned sack rate because it's not like he's any different at avoiding pressure, so it would really only be accuracy. His accuracy might be different, but it hasn't seemed that way to me. There were a few crappy throws on the move in the NE game. The big difference was that the hot read that he needed in the last game was open - whereas in previous games, it was covered.

The ability to do this comes more innately in some than others, but dramatic improvement over time is achievable in this area with enough dedication. (see: SciAm article I referenced in post 407)

Yes - but in some sense, then, the work isn't actually what's causing the improvement. It's the huge amount of time dedicated to doing it repeatedly. Manning could likely quit preparing almost entirely and probably not drop off that much. It's the aggregate instincts that he's built up. That's what I said previously.

That's kindof my point: don't say "one reason Manning succeeds is all the preparation and hard work he does before each game!" That's not the reason he succeeds. Not the work, nor maybe even the quality of the work. He succeeds because he's been doing that for decades - in other words, he succeeds because of who he is.

It's somewhat insulting to say that guys like Kitna, Delhomme, Warner, etc. don't do just as much preparation as Manning does. They're probably just not as good at it as he is, because they can't be, because they haven't been doing it as long. Or it might just be because their brains aren't wired like Manning's is.

I guess really what I'm saying is credit the man, not the methodology.

437
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 4:26pm

Eventually every discussion of human behavior becomes an analysis of whether free will exists, doesn't it?

438
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 4:38pm

Will, I would say the main improvement is not getting outside the pocket, as much as it is moving within or stepping up in the pocket to avoid the rush. He buys himself more time better than anybody right now.

Pat, if you disagree with us on this, then I guess we have to agree to disagree on that point.

but in some sense, then, the work isn’t actually what’s causing the improvement. It’s the huge amount of time dedicated to doing it repeatedly. Manning could likely quit preparing almost entirely and probably not drop off that much. It’s the aggregate instincts that he’s built up. That’s what I said previously.

I disagree. I think he's learned to be able to apply intense study to games in a way that other QBs can't. Therefore, he gets more out of intense study than other QB's do. If he stopped studying game film the way he does, he would lose some of his edge.

I'm not denying that a lot of the edge is stuff he's learned over the years, but I wouldn't discount his ability to learn specific things about his next opponent, either.

It’s somewhat insulting to say that guys like Kitna, Delhomme, Warner, etc. don’t do just as much preparation as Manning does. They’re probably just not as good at it as he is, because they can’t be, because they haven’t been doing it as long. Or it might just be because their brains aren’t wired like Manning’s is.

(possible buggy bold text)

As the Sciam article stated, wiring your brain that way is something that is learned, not innate. But I think it's fair to say that other QB's simply CAN'T prepare the way that Manning does, because they can't absorb the material that way. In the short run (and by short run here, I mean a few years at least) they can't benefit from it.

439
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 4:46pm

410, JohnB, I only said no tackles because I was responding to a post (#313) which said last time they played 54 gave "Dallas Clark a concussion," which I thought was fairly pointless. (although it is still possible to concuss somebody but not wrap-up, and have somebody else get credit for the tackle, I guess...)

Doktarr (407) Glad I'm slow-tracking my kids in school. I never much minded being fast-tracked in school, but an extra year physical maturity in sports would have totally rocked. It's pretty obvious in wrestling.

On a related note, my kindergartner came home from school yesterday with a shiner and a warning letter--turns out he got in trouble with some 1st grade kids for playing tackle football on the pavement during recess. Sweet. My little Bob Sanders. Now it's official, neither the Colts nor their 6 year-old fans are soft.

440
by NY Expat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 5:01pm

407:

I find it ironic that Gladwell would be used to defend a point here on an FO thread, since I have yet to read anything by him that doesn't amount to him simply pulling stuff out of his ass.

(Even the quoted argument by him has a much simpler explanation: Diminishing returns.)

The SciAm point about soccer players was interesting (and quantifiable).

441
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 5:02pm

He buys himself more time better than anybody right now.

I don't disagree with that. But since he's not getting sacked more, that means that before, he was throwing without buying himself time. Which means he was making bad reads. Which is exactly what I said. :)

I’m not denying that a lot of the edge is stuff he’s learned over the years, but I wouldn’t discount his ability to learn specific things about his next opponent, either.

But then it's the ability, not the work itself, that's the reason he would play better. The work is person-agnostic: anyone can do exactly the same preparation Manning does. If he gets more benefit out of it than others do, then it's not the work, it's the person.

As the Sciam article stated, wiring your brain that way is something that is learned, not innate.

That's not quite what it's saying. You can wire your brain better through learning. But inside that same group, some of them are going to be better (just because they're faster learners, or whatever else), etc.

In other words, there's no guarantee that if Kitna, Delhomme, etc. or someone physically near-identical to Manning (say, Eli) would be just as good as Manning had they gone through the same regimen (which Eli may have), even from birth. You've got to allow for some innate ability.

Eventually every discussion of human behavior becomes an analysis of whether free will exists, doesn’t it?

Basically, yeah. And screw y'all, you aren't taking free will from me. Back away from my shotgun.

442
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 5:04pm

#439: sacked less, not more. Dangit.

443
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 5:16pm

By buying himself more time, he has more time to make better reads, and more time to let his receivers get open down the field. It's related, obviously.

But then it’s the ability, not the work itself, that’s the reason he would play better. The work is person-agnostic: anyone can do exactly the same preparation Manning does. If he gets more benefit out of it than others do, then it’s not the work, it’s the person.

It's not that simple. It's not just nature versus nurture. It's training the mind to create the ability to use more study to get better.

Again, the point of the SciAm article is that through effortful study, you can wire your brain that way. Look at the part about spatial reasoning aptitude tests done on grandmaster chess platers. Grandmasters are not BAD at these things, but they are not blowing the curve away like you would expect if it were simply a matter of talent. The vast majority of their superior abilities at spatial reasoning ON A CHESS BOARD are learned, not innate. A typical Grandmaster can reconstruct a chess position after looking at it for only a few seconds, but he will fail specacularly (like most people would) if he tries the same trick with a city map.

Similarly, Manning has wired his brain to be able to study reams of game film and distill it into picking up patterns on the field. Sure, Manning is probably inherently above average at this, but the vast majority of this ability is learned through effortful study. Most QBs simply haven't spent their life learning to recognize coverage patterns.

Another interesting thing about the chess parallel is that studies show that the vast majority of the difference between an "expert" and "grandmaster" class player is what they think about in the first five seconds after looking at a chess board. Much like a QB has to make his decisions in the first few seconds of looking at a defense in motion. It's all about the training of the subconscious mind, a-la "Blink" by Gladwell.

444
by NY Expat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 5:18pm

A few other responses (don't have time to track the exact message #s):

- Fat Tony: LOL. See, that's the kind of "hate" I can respect. The beauty is that we can find our victories where we like. I'll always remember the 51-45 win vs. MIA in 1986, even if it was just the regular season, because we kept hearing over and over again "you can't beat Marino in a shootout", and I knew the Jets had enough firepower to do just that.

- Yes, I know exactly who Barry Bonds is. So far the only teammate who had a problem with him has proven to be less than a team player himself, getting injured in the offseason doing activities prohibited in his contract, and then lying about it (this would be Jeff Kent).

- My gripe about Belichick was primarily regarding his reaction to Manning at midfield after the game (see comment 160 for a description -- yes, I looked up one comment number. Sue me). I'm sure his interviews are legendarily brusque, so I suppose that was a bit of a cheap shot, but it was the icing on the cake in combination with his behavior towards an opponent (or whatever the opposite of "icing on the cake" would be; I'm not feeling prosaically creative at the moment).

Anyway, I thought that interaction was important to point out, since nobody else was, and thought this forum would be the appropriate place for it. That doesn't seem to be the case, which is perfectly fine by me. I'm going to try to not respond to any further conversation on the subject, since it doesn't have any relevance to the primary purpose of the thread: Discussing the marginal advantage Peyton Manning's preparation gives him over other teams with a two-week lead time, based on solely anecdotal evidence. Kidding! I kid!

445
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 5:25pm

#435: Hey, I'm just amazed about how long any FO discussion goes on without falling victim to Godwin's Law.

446
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 6:07pm

#441: You mixed two of my statements - the statement that you quoted was in reference to in-the-week preparation. With regards to the SciAm article, my only point was that they never inteded to exclude any innate ability, just to point out that learning was a significant (maybe dominant) part of it. I think "vast majority" is likely hyperbole. But it doesn't really matter, as that wasn't the point of the discussion at all.

The statement that I made there was simple: in-the-week preparation is short. I can believe that Manning's better because of years upon years of training. That makes perfect sense, and I have no qualm with it - in essence, those years of training (and the desire to do it at a very young age) are what made him anyway, so the argument is essentially semantic anyway.

What I don't believe is true is that it's the "more in-the-week preparation than any other QB" that makes Manning better (even if it was true that he does prepare more, which I don't think is given). I don't believe that most successful quarterbacks leave preparation time on the table when it could improve them. Maybe Manning's able to make more of more time, but still, in that case, that's his ability (learned or innate), and not the actual preparation that matters.

Discussing the marginal advantage Peyton Manning’s preparation gives him over other teams with a two-week lead time, based on solely anecdotal evidence.

Yup. See, that's my entire problem with the whole thing. It's all anecdotal. And it's entirely insulting to the remaining quarterbacks in the league, with absolutely no established basis in fact.

So he prepares more. So what? What evidence is there to suggest that he wouldn't be just as good without all that preparation? Or with only half of it?

447
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 6:41pm

What I don’t believe is true is that it’s the “more in-the-week preparation than any other QB� that makes Manning better (even if it was true that he does prepare more, which I don’t think is given). I don’t believe that most successful quarterbacks leave preparation time on the table when it could improve them. Maybe Manning’s able to make more of more time, but still, in that case, that’s his ability (learned or innate), and not the actual preparation that matters.

Why must it be either/or? Why can't it be both? His preparation over the course of his life gives him an edge, and the ability to absorb more opponent-specific stuff during the week ALSO gives him an edge. The former edge is probably bigger than the latter edge, but they both exist.

It’s all anecdotal. And it’s entirely insulting to the remaining quarterbacks in the league, with absolutely no established basis in fact.

Anecdotal? Sure. But not all anecdotal evidence is bad evidence. As Stan pointed out, we have a mountain of anecdotal evidence that he prepares more than other QBs. I'm willing to take that at face value.

Insulting to other QBs? No. It's only insulting if you conclude that other QBs would be better if they copied Manning's preparation routine, and it's just laziness that prevents them from doing so. I think this may be true to a small extent, but not to a large extent. Tom Brady would probably not get much out of doing Manning's weekly routine - unless, perhaps, he dedicated himself to it for several years in a row.

So he prepares more. So what? What evidence is there to suggest that he wouldn’t be just as good without all that preparation? Or with only half of it?

Well, that's an inherently unprovable assertion, as it applies specifically to Manning (he's not going to not study for a big game to provide a control case). But if you think that nobody plays as well as Manning is right now (and I do), then you either have to explain that difference somewhow. Physically, he is very gifted, but not really moreso than several other QBs (Palmer, Culpepper, Elway, and many more). Obviously he has trained a ton to develop accuracy, and he is great at that. But beyond that there's his ability to make reads quickly.

As I see it, it would be illogical to imagine that his exceptional ability (relative other QBs) to read a defense has nothing to do with his exceptional preparation techniques (relative other QBs). This are the two things that set him apart the most from other top QBs, and intuitively they are related. I mean, those reads are WHY he studies so much.

Again, it's a combination of the studying, and the ability he has developed over a lifetime to absorb that material and apply it. They are linked.

448
by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 6:49pm

#443 - That brings up an interesting question - just what is the FO equivalent of Godwin's law? Some possibilities:

"As FO discussion thread grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Mat Millen approaches one."

"As FO discussion thread grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the irrational Brady-Manning debate approaches one."

"As FO discussion thread grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Ron Mexico approaches one."

"As FO discussion thread grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving FOMBC approaches one."

"As FO discussion thread grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving ROBO-PUNTER approaches one."

"As FO discussion thread grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the hypno-toad approaches one."

449
by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 6:52pm

Incidentally, I understand Hitler was a Pats fan.

450
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 7:00pm

Martial #350, Wanker79 #353, cd6 #369:

I set up the way I cheer for my teams a bit differently then you guys, I guess:

I'm right there with cd6's method:

1) Eagles (hometown)
2) Whoever is playing Dallas and the Giants
3) Whoever is playing the Panthers and Raiders
4) Browns (out of sympathy with my Father-in-Law)
5) Steelers (went to College there, wife from there, plus they're from my State)
6) Eagles West, aka the Chiefs
7) NFC teams not named "Redskins", "Giants", "Cowboys", and "Panthers" (aka "Giants South" and a bunch of steroided up cheating motherf***ers)
8) AFC teams not named "Raiders" or "Patriots" (the two f***ing teams who beat us in the Super Bowl)
9) Teams with gangs of criminals and cheats on or recently on the roster (i.e. currently the Bengals, Chargers, Ravens, and Panthers)
10) Patriots, Raiders, and Panthers
11) Redskins when playing Giants and Cowboys
12) Injuries and a tie game when Giants and Cowboys play.

451
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 7:08pm

His preparation over the course of his life gives him an edge, and the ability to absorb more opponent-specific stuff during the week ALSO gives him an edge.

It's not either/or - it's where you're assigning causality.

Take Proto-Peyton. Add preparation over the week, and only preparation over the week. Does that lead to more wins than an average good QB? In my opinion, no. An average good QB already prepares significantly over the week.

Now add preparation over his life. Does that lead to more wins? Yup. Add prep over the week. More wins? Yup. There's a synergy there, but the causative agent is the long-term, not the short term.

That's all. I just don't like assigning causation blindly.

452
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 7:15pm

I'm not sure why you think I am applying causality the other way. I agreed (and explicitly stated) that the preparation over the course of his like is a necessary condition to take advantage of all of his short term preparation.

I think at this point we're just talking semantics; this discussion has gone on long enough.

446,

Brady-Manning is definitely the closest thing we have to Godwin's law. FOMBC is second, but only in the sense that people will inevitably start saying that FO stats underrate their favorite team.

453
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 7:19pm

#447 - Only if he's following football in the afterlife. He died 15 years before the Patriots' inaugural season.

454
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 7:38pm

re:2
"This is Alexander’s fourth year with the Patriots. Or at least his third. He’s regarded as the Patriots’ best coverage linebacker. "

Hes almost a safety/LB tweener.

He wasnt the problem, the Vrabel/Bruschi Burnt toast sandwich was.

455
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 7:46pm

re:346
Pat, you're making shit up agian.

"However, has any QB logged more total time than Peyton Manning with his skill players? Has any QB logged less total time than Vick with his skill players? (other than Alge Crumpler)"

Because Vick admitted in an interview earlier this year that he never watches film, and rarely prepares for games. I'm pretty sure that does it.

456
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 8:16pm

Denver Matt, it must have really hurt to see the Broncos go 1-3 against the weakest division in the Junior Varsity this year.

457
by thad (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 9:18pm

Roger Clemens?
You have got to be kidding me.
Its one thing to say Bonds' slugging percentage and home runs went through the roof so he probably took steroids.
Its quite another to look at Clemens innings pitched, strikeouts, and strikeouts per nine innings and say they have noticably changed at all.
He has pitched betwen 180 and 250 innings from 1990 to 2005 and generally been around a strikeout an inning.
Or, you could not let facts impede a good arguement and say Clements, Ryan, Carlton, Satchel Paige maybe took steroids.
Cause you know there is absolutely no correlation between having a high strikout rate as a young pitcher and having a long career.
I realize I am being harsh but one second Peyton Manning and then
boom, Clemens probably juiced up.
Yeah ok.

458
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 10:03pm

thad,

Look at Clemens' career through 1995. Note that his 12-year career at that point seemed headed for a decline and retirement 4 or 5 years after that, based on similarity scores to other pitchers.

Note that he started lifting during the season after that year, and put on a ton of muscle (albeit mostly in his core in stead of in the arms like the sluggers). Note that his career suddenly resurged. Having your career take a U-turn suddenly at age 33 IS a change, even if he put up numbers like those seven years earlier.

Note that this is around the same time that all the sluggers started looking ridiculously huge as well. I mean, it's not exactly a stretch to suspect 'roids.

459
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 11:31pm

456
not to take one side or the other, but Clemens' underlying numbers (k/9, bb/9, etc) have not changed dramatically, and most of the shifts in performance have been due to changes in league (DH/no DH), ballparks (bye bye fenway), defense (having Adam Everett behind you really helps), and luck.

Clemens hasn't gotten better, although staying at the same level is pretty amazing.

Clemens was much better in 93-96 and 00-03 than you think.

460
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 12:03am

I’m not sure why you think I am applying causality the other way. I agreed (and explicitly stated) that the preparation over the course of his like is a necessary condition to take advantage of all of his short term preparation.

I'm not suggesting you were. The original statement, way back when, that I made, was that you can't equate "more film time" with "better performance on the field." You didn't oppose that. Others did.

The whole thing's a complicated issue - but look at sports media, and you'll see it's treated blandly as "look, I followed Peyton Manning for a day, this is what makes him better than everyone else." It's silly. Manning could spend the entire day doodling cartoons in a notebook, and these guys would be praising it as master strategy.

461
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 2:25am

doktarr, Not sure I buy the Clemens thing, either. I read an article (brutally vague here: I have no idea where or when, but the past few years, maybe Slate.com) about how unlikely it is pitchers would benefit from steroids because of the mechanics of what they do not being terribly reliant on big muscles, compared to shaving a millionth of a second off a swing time because a slugger is stronger making a huge difference. (I believe the gist is that accuracy would not improve, and a pitcher's weak link is not muscles but joints. In fact, all the muscles and weight training might further stress their all-important shoulder joints, so steroids might well be a foolish pursuit for pitchers.)

That's all I have to go on and it's not much, except that Clemens just doesn't "look it." I agree than a physical and statistical change at age 35 is a strong indicator, but not sure that steroids would have the desired on-field results. CAVEAT: They of course help recovery time from fatigue and injuries, and if there is any reason to take them under massive medical supervision, I can see this being legit. And this may well be what he has done, and that's probably measurable in innings pitched and games missed.

I recall above that someone said Jeff Kent was the only teammate with whom Bonds had a problem? Uh, no, how about the poor sap he knifed in the back a couple weeks ago. "Yeah, him, that expendable guy nobody ever heard of, I took the bennies off his locker shelf because... I was hungry. Man, is he one bad dude to leave them around like that." And then a day or two later he recanted. As a Pirate fan, I can't really dislike Bonds--when I met Bonilla about ten years ago I shook his hand and thanked him for almost pulling it off for a few years there in Pittsburgh--so I still have a soft spot in my heart for the pre-2000 Bonds. But now he is a freakish embarrassment to all sports.

462
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 2:40am

Bobman, you're a Pirate fan? No wonder you're such a big football fan :)

463
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 2:45am

460

HAH! You kill me. No really, please, kill me!

In 1987 I started a job and one of my bosses was running a rotiss league out of his office. He asked if I was a baseball fan. The answer: "Sort of. I like the Pirates." I was stung early in the 70s by the Clemente and Unitas bugs and never gave up on those two teams. Stubborn. But, every once in a long while it pays off.

464
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 10:30am

Is this thread still active?

I didn't know where else to post this, but I suppose a good indication of reaching the big-time is when the Onion cuts you up.

465
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 12:21pm

We now have more Pirates fans than Cardinals fans on this thread!

I moved to Pittsburgh in 1989, just in time to see the Pirates' division titles (and the name of that first baseman who went to Atlanta still makes me shudder), the Penguins' two Stanley Cups and the Steelers return to prominence. I moved to Boston in 1997, just in time to see the Red Sox turn it around and eventually win the World Series, plus the Patriots dynasty and the Celtics being the worst team ever to qualify for any postseason ever. So I've had decent luck in terms of seeing high-level athletics.

/BC sucks!

466
by DGL (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 1:11pm

463: Sid Bream. The b*****d couldn't run worth a d**n for six years with the Pirates, and somehow he scores from second on a short single to left.

I'm more Bobman's generation, I guess - I grew up with Mannie Sanguillen, Al Oliver, Richie Zisk, and of course Willie.

And my mom had an opportunity to get tickets to game 7 of the 1960 World Series, but blew it off -- because what idiot thought that the '60 Series would go to seven games??

467
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 1:44pm

Who'da thunk I'd run into so many fans of the Pirates out here?

Funny thing is, despite losing TWO heartbreaking Series to the Pirates, I couldn't hate those guys. They were too good -- Stargell, Sanguillen, Clemente and then later Dave Parker -- it was more of a "Damn, that one's going to drop in" than actual dislike. Heck, Parker was even intimidating in those goofy black and canary-yellow pajamas they made him wear.

Odd question -- go look at Paul Molitor's numbers vs. Dave Parker's. They even were convicted in the same drug trial -- why is one in the Hall of Fame, and the other doesn't have a prayer?

468
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 2:12pm

"Odd question — go look at Paul Molitor’s numbers vs. Dave Parker’s. They even were convicted in the same drug trial — why is one in the Hall of Fame, and the other doesn’t have a prayer?"

Molitor ended up on the right side of the 3000 hit line, Parker on the wrong side. Molitor was better late in his career, especially during his 'veteren presence on a champion' (Toronto 93) vs Parker's (Oakland 89), as well as the fact that Parker was overshadowed more by the bash brothers, rickey, eck, etc. Molitor played half his career at 3b/2b, so he isn't penalized for being a dh. Parker was neither fish nor fowl, finishing with a 290 average and never hitting 35 homers in a year. Corner outfielders are supposed to hit lots of hrs (stargell), have a high BA (clemente), or reach some totally bogus milestone (brock). So, lots of reasons.

FWIW, I do think that Molitor is more deserving, although I don't really care about the HOF.

469
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 3:40pm

Parker had one of the great outfield throwing arms you will ever see.

470
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 4:48pm

Paul Molitor also wins the Google Fight!

http://googlefight.com/index.php?lang=en_GB&word1=%22dave+parker%22&word...

(also, QB Patriots beats QB Colts there)

471
by chris clark (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:04pm

I know this is late to be joining the thread, but one of the key points of the sci am article was "effortful" study, which was defined to be study that pushes your limits and gets you to stretch those limits. It even cites as examples how not to do it, the amature sports enthusiasts who play at their game for years but never improve beyond a certain plateau--they may be practicing, but their practicing isn't actually improving their skill. If I were to guess how this might apply in the Peyton case, it would be that practice during the week isn't part of his superior ability (granting that ability for the sake of argument, not that I would necessarily deny it otherwise), because that practice is unlikely to be "effortful study". It isn't likely he is stressing his abilities in those practice/study sessions. On the other hand, perhaps all those years of losing to the Pats was effortful study, as I'm certain he was trying as hard as he could to win those games, so the lessons taught in those games would have been learned under the effortful study definition. I suspect Peyton's extra weekly preparation is more akin to stretching or warm-up exercises, which keep one's acquired abilities from becoming dull. It may be true that if he has stretched his abilities more, he needs more preparation to keep those skills from diminishing, just like an athelete has more to lose when taking a break from exercise than a desk-jockey does.

472
by chris clark (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:28pm

On the topic of Aaron's peace and harmony plea being the result of the Pats' losing. I don't think so. I think it was more in response to what happened the week before after NE won in SD.

In fact, it is my unprovable hypothesis that we would have had more irrational hate if NE had beat IND--that's what my what-if machine says. The reason being is that we would have had a continuation of NE's defense being #3 in VOA underrates them, as we did before. Curiously, I think some of the underrating argument makes sense, despite not being currently a NE fan. However, I also think the argument was contributing to irrational hate, as it gave the impression that it wasn't going to be good enough for NE to win the SB, but they were going to have to have the best defense in the league in the process.

And, I, as one of the fans of the other teams in the league not going to the SB and one which underperformed our expectations, feel sympathy for the Pats' fans. It is tough when your team doesn't do as well as one hopes, especially when one has high hopes. And, in that sense, I feel particularly sympathetic to the fans who truly felt that portions of NE was underrated. Been there; done that.

However, to return to my point, I don't think Aaron's plea was that of a NE fan who felt the tables turning on them. I think Aaron's plea was genuine.

As such, I'm glad this thread turned out the way it did, with hope that CHI is not truly a 7-pt underdog and that the SB might be a good close game, and that Peyton is pretty incredible as a QB. Those are all good things to discuss.

473
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:56pm

The reason being is that we would have had a continuation of NE’s defense being #3 in VOA underrates them, as we did before.

Shhh! You'll summon the hounds!

474
by Al 45 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 3:52pm

Re: Pat

I had this discussion with Pat in another thread in which I stated that there is no such rule as 'Face Guarding' and that the call against Hobbs was egregiously poor. He disagreed. I couldn't find that thread, so I figured I'd post it here where he would see it.

Well, here's more:

POSTED 10:26 a.m. EST; UPDATED 11:17 a.m. EST, January 26, 2007
LEAGUE ADMITS FACE-GUARDING SCREW UP

In response to an item in our Conference Championship Ten-Pack regarding a key pass interference call on Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs that allowed the Colts to complete an 18-point comeback and knot the game at 21, a member of PFT Planet has alerted us to a January 25, 2007 "Q&A" on Jaguars.com in which Vic Ketcham writes that the NFL has acknowledged that a bad call was made.

Writes Ketcham, in response to a question that chastised him for suggesting that face-guarding is still forbidden:

"Face-guarding was discontinued several years ago and I completely missed it. I talked to Dean Blandino in the league office and he confirmed what you're saying. Blandino, by the way, was in the replay booth at the Patriots-Colts game. Ellis Hobbs should not have been flagged for pass-interference. He didn't make contact with the receiver and in no way did Hobbs impede Reggie Wayne's ability to catch the pass. Blandino confirmed that the incorrect call was made. It advanced the ball from the Patriots' 19-yard line to the one-yard line and was the big play in a touchdown drive that led to a two-point conversion and a tie game at 21-21. Referee Bill Carollo made no reference to face-guarding in his explanation, but CBS analyst Phil Simms did. Apparently, he, too, doesn't know the rule no longer exists. The next time you hear a TV analyst say, 'he wasn’t playing the ball,' think of the Hobbs play, then turn down the sound."

Like I said... it was an extremely bad call and never should have been made.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 9:35pm

I had this discussion with Pat in another thread in which I stated that there is no such rule as ‘Face Guarding’ and that the call against Hobbs was egregiously poor. He disagreed.

No, I disagreed there was no contact before the ball got there. If there's basically any contact beforehand, it's pretty much textbook PI.

I fully admitted I could've been wrong about that. I never was able to find a replay, so I was just going of memory, and I could've sworn I saw contact.

476
by Bobman (not verified) :: Sat, 01/27/2007 - 3:22am

466 Did Stargell EVER play OF? My only memories of him are on 1st base and being rather chunky and immobile, but that could have just been a late career move.

Parkers years in Pitt reminded me a lot of Bonds's years there. or vice versa.

477
by Bobman (not verified) :: Sat, 01/27/2007 - 3:37am

And Stan, Parker was just so smooth as an all around athlete, throwing, running in those gold PJs, swinging the bat. Like he was born doing these things that other people have to learn to do. Fluid.

Great job reminding me of Sanguillen, thanks. Memories of Clemente are much more vague. Who remembers Willie Randolph's rookie year in Pittsburgh--injury replacement at 2nd base? Racking my brain to remember the name of the solid player he subbed for that year.... help! Rennie Stennett? And how about that catching platoon of Spanky and Sluggo.

Okay, back to football.

478
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Sat, 01/27/2007 - 8:03pm

474
More games in OF than 1B.

479
by Bobman (not verified) :: Sun, 01/28/2007 - 6:22am

476
Thanks. Eye opening, especially that early on, 1964 (a very good year to be born, I might add)looks like he split the season between 1B and OF, the a clear preponderance of games in OF until 72 (injury replacement at 1B?), and back to the OF until 1975. And a cool website, BTW.

480
by fromanchu (not verified) :: Sun, 01/28/2007 - 4:11pm

447
just when i had recently been thinking that FO has disproved godwins law, you go and prove quirk's exception.

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by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 01/30/2007 - 4:06pm

I doubt anyone is reading, but anyway:

If I were to guess how this might apply in the Peyton case, it would be that practice during the week isn’t part of his superior ability (granting that ability for the sake of argument, not that I would necessarily deny it otherwise), because that practice is unlikely to be “effortful study�. It isn’t likely he is stressing his abilities in those practice/study sessions. On the other hand, perhaps all those years of losing to the Pats was effortful study, as I’m certain he was trying as hard as he could to win those games, so the lessons taught in those games would have been learned under the effortful study definition. I suspect Peyton’s extra weekly preparation is more akin to stretching or warm-up exercises, which keep one’s acquired abilities from becoming dull.

I disagree. Here is how I see the comparison breaking down:

The SciAm article talks about how chess masters study game after game and position after position, constantly stretching their understanding of chess positions. Through this study, they acquire the ability to look at a position and, within the first few seconds of analysis, see the proper move to take.

Peyton has studied game after game and defensive formation after defensive formation, constantly stretching his understanding of defensive alignments. Through this study, he has acquired the ability to look at a defensive alignment and, within the first few seconds of analysis, decide what play is most likely to be successful against it.

In that context, the continued study of each team defense the week before is very much "effortful study", in line with a chess player studying the favorite openings of published games of his next opponent.

I agree that the physical practice with his receivers is not "effortful study" in the sense that the SciAm article is addressing.

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by chris clark (not verified) :: Tue, 01/30/2007 - 6:32pm

It's an interesting perspective, especially given that the preparation during the season is probably directed toward one opponent and their tendancies at a time. On the other hand, it would seem that (within their abilities to do so) other players from other teams would also be able to do the same kind of effortful study.

The one quibble I would have with this analysis is that, I'm not certain the advancements occur is small increments. I think the come as a series of breakdowns/breakthroughs. In fact, I think that's one of the reasons the study must be effortful. You need to push hard enough that you get to the point where your current method fails (and that is exposed to you) and that causes the next level of revelation, where the mind picks a new and better organizational principle to explain the apparent failure, which then leads to a new series of successes. Only if you are pushing hard enough, will you realize the failure, and seek to correct it. If you are in your comfort zone, other factors can gloss over a failure and you won't recognize it, and thus won't correct it.