Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Oct 2005

TMQ: The Coors Light Love Train

Gregg Easterbrook cites luck as the deciding factor in a bevy of Week 6 games (including the Steelers-Jags contest, whose outcome I contend had nothing whatsoever to do with luck -- it was strictly a function of crappy quarterbacking). He also has some thoughts on when it's actually good to be really far behind, spills the beans on the Tuesday Morning Quarterback lake cruise party, and takes a closer look at NFL contracts. And as I mentioned last week to anyone who would listen, always take Wittenberg and the points.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 18 Oct 2005

61 comments, Last at 20 Oct 2005, 11:56pm by Sid

Comments

1
by Jere (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:38pm

The Colts-Rams game was not due to luck at all. Except for the early "luck" surge of St. Louis, Indy dominated. Luck is a fumble bouncing one way or other, not 4 interceptions that were all bad throws... or throws while getting laid-out. Just cause Cato June is making a pro-bowl bid doesn't make your team lucky, nor your offense weak if it can consistently capitalize on the TOs.

2
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:39pm

I know I shouldn't complain, but... Is it me, or is the 'M' in TMQ starting resemble the 'I' in IHOP?

3
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:43pm

Of course, it is luck when your opponenet loses it's pro-bowl QB, and has to sub in a guy who played one game since 2003.

4
by pawnking (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:44pm

Actually, a good article this week. However...

Has anyone else given up on the narrative as a vehicle for explaining football? That is, it was once believed that each game told a story, was a story, and that a talented storyteller could give a narrative about the story of the game which would answer questions like what actually happened and why. Easterbrook follows this school of thought and sets up his standard memes (running the football, blitzing, luck) to explain everything in all games. Sort of a unified theory of winning football games.

The real problem with this is it doesn't work. That is, when relationships are noted, they are generally not causal relationships, but incidental ones. Do teams win because they run the ball, or do they run the ball because they are winning? Are good teams just lucky, or do teams make their own luck? These questions cannot be fully addressed with words alone.

Which leads me back to FO and similar forums. By attempting to look deeper than a story, FO is trying to tell why teams win and lose in a deeper way than words alone can express. By doing this, they are following the example which started with Newton, and has continued in an accellerated way, changing the way ships are designed, business is done, and sports are played.

In that sense, writers who capture this best are generally deeply ironic (such as Bill Simmons), whose very columns underscore the inability for their verbal models to express the reality of a very chaotic game. I love Simmons' weekly picks, mostly because he always comes up with rules for gambling, which regardless of the fact they seem to change every week he always argues are immutable.

It remains to be seen how effective DVOA will express football, but already it expresses it far better than the best writer. In this, FO is following the example of the computer age and the 21st century.

5
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:49pm

#2:
To be fair, IHOP is in more than one country. The problem is that it's only in TWO countries, and should therefore be known as the TRANSnational house of pancakes. THOP for short.

#1:
Watch the first half much? Look at this week's open thread for fun discussion of how "dominating" Indianapolis was.

Oh, and ESPN once again has the colts on top of their power rankings because of their defense. I'd laugh if it weren't so very sad.

6
by Duane (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:51pm

Wacky Martini of the Week: A martini is ice-cold gin or vodka with dry vermouth to taste, served in a chilled martini glass (stemmed so as to avoid warming the drink with warm hands, open to accentuate the "nose".) All the recipes listed here are simply cocktails served in a martini glass. A few years ago every cocktail was erroneously called a "cosmopolitan".

7
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:53pm

if there IS a narrative of a football game, it would be written by Donald Barthelme (unless it's a Vikings game, in which case Henry Miller)

this is the second week in a row that TMQ picked ,as one of his "obscure colleges", the former site of an NFL training camp

(the Browns trained in Hiram for many years)

8
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:55pm

#4: I've got one word for you:

Facenda

9
by Jere (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:04pm

#5 - Actually, I missed most of the 2nd quarter and assumed the fact that they were scoring was indicative of their play. I did see the INTs... as well as the 2 fumbles by Jackson (1 overturned somewhat questionably as I thought the replay did not contain enough to overturn, but that's me). Yeah Martin was B-A-D, but Bulger didn't look so hot after the strong start - especially after taking the hit as a defender after that ugly INT (and I mean as in pain, I know he was done for the night).

I would also say the Edge's near fumble was just as arguable. I don't know how this works technically... but if one official signals a TO, how does the ref turn that over? Seems a little home town to me - or leveling out the calls after the Jackson down by contact.

10
by Jere (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:06pm

#5 - Actually, I missed most of the 2nd quarter and assumed the fact that they were scoring was indicative of their play. I did see the INTs... as well as the 2 fumbles by Jackson (1 overturned somewhat questionably as I thought the replay did not contain enough to overturn, but that's me). Yeah Martin was B-A-D, but Bulger didn't look so hot after the strong start - especially after taking the hit as a defender after that ugly INT (and I mean as in pain, I know he was done for the night).

I would also say the Edge's near fumble was just as arguable. I don't know how this works technically... but if one official signals a TO, how does the ref turn that over? Seems a little home town to me - or leveling out the calls after the Jackson down by contact.

11
by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:13pm

Oh, and ESPN once again has the colts on top of their power rankings because of their defense. I’d laugh if it weren’t so very sad.

What's so bad about that? DVOA rates them #2 overall and #4 on defense. For an unscientific and biased poll, it looks like it's reasonably in line with the data in this particular case.

12
by Mike L (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:19pm

Wow! Who knew that all of the great comebacks happened in games with huge halftime deficits?!?! I sure didn't. Thanks TMQ.

Also, this randomness of turnovers TMQ talks about is BS. If turnovers are so random, how come the Rams are in the top 5 in giveaways every year?

Turnovers happen because of mistakes or great plays. Whichever team makes the most mistakes generally deserves to lose.

13
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:29pm

I could absolutely agree with him that whether or not you recover a fumble that bounces on the ground can be highly influenced by luck - after all, it is an oddly-shaped ball. However, whether or not you fumble in the first place may not be - some running backs/QBs/receivers have worse hands. If the offensive line sucks, your QB may get blindsided more, leading to fumbles, etc.

I think it was Tiki Barber who was having such a fumbling problem, the Giants started taking it out of his hands at the goal line. That isn't luck, that's poor fundamentals.

Furthermore, interceptions are less luck-oriented. Every team has the random "tipped ball, intercepted" and yes, some of those are going to be lucky, but some of those are good defensive positioning, and many more INTs are bad passes, poor route running, great defense, etc.

To say the Patriots just aren't lucky this year diminishes their accomplishments in previous years (by inferring that those years were primarily because of good luck) while ignoring the more obvious problem they have - approximately 4 zillion injuries.

Some teams do get lucky and recover a huge percentage of fumbles or something, and some teams do have bad luck. But just as many teams just aren't very good, while others are.

T.

14
by Joon (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:29pm

Re: #12

that's not quite true. fumbles are (mostly) non-random, but fumble recoveries are extremely random. most interceptions are non-random, but interceptions on batted balls are fairly random.

i do agree that turnovers in general are less the result of luck than TMQ suggests, but there is certainly luck involved. fumbling a lot is a good way to turn the ball over, but if you manage to recover your own fumbles a lot, does that mean your offense is any less mistake-prone?

15
by pawnking (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:29pm

Mike, one reason the Rams lead the league every year in turnovers is the style of offense they play. If your whole goal is to limit turnovers, you can easily do this by running up the center every play, both hands on the ball. The Rams, for better or worse, have embraced a much more dynamic style of offense, which is constantly high risk and high reward. I happen to think it is a mistake, not because of the turnovers, but because of the punishment the QB seems to take leads to a qucik and rapid deterioration of said QBs skills.

What is the answer? Go back to the Joe Gibbs maximum protection schemes of the 80s? Go back to the "Ground" Chuck knox style of wearing your opponent down through running, running, running? Such philosophies would limit QB wear and tear, and turnovers, but at what cost?

I do not have answers here. Just questions.

16
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:34pm

#11: Because the defense has been up against the likes of Baltimore, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee and San Fransisco. We had a look at what they would do against a decent offense this Monday before Bulger went out, and it didn't look good at all. Then the backup came in and ran a pretty successful 2-minute drill before they adjusted for halftime and dared Martin to beat them in the air. Which he pretty obviously couldn't do. Maybe I'm just being contrary, but I'm not ready to drink the coolaid on a team that's so far planted themselves firmly at the cupcake bar and looked very unimpressive the one shot they had at a good offense (that was even missing its top reciever and had their #2 injured). The defense jumped from 12th in DVOA to 4th this week because, I'm willing to wager, bad throws and fumbles deep in Rams territory that would have huge value compared to the average play in that situation.

#12: It's not quite as stark as you make it out to be. True, a lot of it isn't random, since protecting the ball and good quarterbacking are skills. But a lot of fumbles really are random, ie, a hit at an odd angle, the arm and body getting hit from different directions, etc. and recovery is completely random.

17
by Steve Sandvik (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:56pm

I'm just happy he held the line on the idiotic hold the Saints committed. In Jim Haslett's world, apparently, if say, a OT holds the DE but the LB makes the sack, the hold was incidental and it would be um...chicken manure...to call it. Earth to Jim, if you break the rules, and they see it, they call it, with the singular exception of pass interference on a ball thrown away. Frankly, I think they're a little too liberal on the "uncatchable ball" thing, too. The officials have enough judgement calls to make without them having to make a judgement call about whether they have to make a judgement call on that play.

I did like the "most comebacks happen when you're behind" thing. It made me laugh.

18
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:59pm

"Against St. Louis, the Indianapolis defense looked terrible in the first quarter, surrendering 17 points, then looked great for the rest of game, partly because Lady Luck provided takeaways."

Well, the first TD was set up by a special team fumble, so maybe the Rams were the lucky one, or whatever.

It would be tough convincing Coach D that his cover-2 adjustments and a certain undersized by fleet DE and a sweet rotation of DTs wore down Pace and the rest of the Rams' O-line played no more role in this game than providence.

Tell Harper he was lucky when it looked to every Ram out there like he played his position about as well as it could be played.

Coach D's system will put pressure on the QB to make quick, accurate passes. If he doesn't do that, then you find guys like Harper, June, et al, prospering.

"In the NFL, all teams are stocked with big, fast, strong guys, while luck is distributed randomly week-by-week."

Intelligence, experience and health/conditioning are not so randomly distributed. Perhaps these have a greater part to play in success than mere chance. Just a hunch.

"What better excuse for my annual reminder that NFL contracts are largely fictional, yet the press reports them as if genuine."

And under a system proposed by same just a few weeks ago, these unguaranteed wages would drop by at least 20 percent compared to the present model.

"Houston has not led this season. Houston is the only team that has not recovered an opponent's fumble."

Really stat o' the week: Houston does not have an offensive line.

Stats 3 & 4 are pulled out of columnists' tool boxes throughout a season. The outliers are quirky, but explain little and lack context. You, too, can play at home. Find a player who (1) plays a position unlikely to score a TD, record a sack, kick a field goal, etc.; (2) compare him to a stack of injured or fired starters; (3) revel in the irony; (4) email it around to everyone else in the PFWA so they can recycle it next month.

"Minnesota, which has three recent No. 1 draft picks plus big-money free agent Pat Williams on the defensive line, is last in rushing defense."

If you're looking for problems, you're looking at the wrong line. See pass blocking, Vikings.

"Washington has a winning record despite being minus-8 for turnovers; Buffalo does not have a winning record despite being plus-8. Part of the explanation: through six games, the Bills have one second-half touchdown."

FO covered this phenomenon far better in the Football Prospectus. By yours today!

"The entire NFC East is above .500, while the entire NFC North is below .500."

Detailed stat work provided by the lady who looked at the standings.

"Most teams go pass-wacky whenever it's a long-yardage situation, but the run can be effective against a defense that is thinking pass."

Most teams go "pass-wacky" because it's far, far, far more likely for a team to obtain big yardage through the air than on the ground, and has been for decades. Of course, if a team is going to put seven DBs into zones rather than man the line, a rush might be an option.

See also Philadelphia, which would have used a swell screen to achieve the same result.

If he wants teams to routinely run rather than pass, then he should meet with the Competition Committee and change the vast majority of the rules instituted since 1978.

"Ricky Proehl ran a short stop-and-go, Weinke threw it perfectly."

Well, Detroit is a special case.

"Aaaiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee! yours truly exclaimed to the football gods. What are they doing in a pass-wacky set with a shaky backup quarterback? Interception, touchdown return, Jax wins."

Did he not watch the previous drive? When Maddox botched a handoff with a snap count everyone on the OL believed was a call for the ball (he was it came a beat too early)? It's not as if the team at that moment really trusted his ability to (1) hand off a football; or (2) sell a handoff, then pass accurately.

Of course, one could argue that had the Stillers kicked a makeable FG on 3rd Down rather than run it up the gut, they would have won the game.

But I get a "kick-happy" win isn't nearly as satisfying as a "rush-happy" loss.

Some thought, perhaps, Batch might have done a better job in the 4th Quarter. No comment.

"My ultra-generic prediction is 55-33"

Using my algorithm-produced spreads, I'm 21-8 over the last two weeks (hey, I just started the new program!). In straight up games, I'm nearly perfect.

Markov and linear regression beats Easterbrook. Unless Easterbrook is playing at home.

"So far after six games at his new home with the Jets, Coles has 26 receptions; last season after six games in Washington, he had 31 receptions."

And neither team has featured a competent QB while Coles played. Some of that might be Coles. More of it, I think, belongs to the GMs.

"But I'm willing to wager there has not been a single multi-year NFL contract in the salary-cap era that has gone to term exactly as signed."

I can think of a kicker in New England who will dispute this, even if his legs fall off.

"The agent holds a press conference boasting about the '$50 million' deal he just negotiated, and the publicity helps him recruit new clients."

I'm a little biased because I know how football is actually covered by journalists because, well, you know. It's ludicrous to even think of lawyers calling press conferences for a couple of reporters. These stories almost invariably involve a guy in a rumpled jacket bugging a lawyer every day until said lawyer gives up and tells him that they did the deal.

I've known Steinberg for years and I can't recall him ever calling a press conference. He might have done one, but I never got the fax.

It's the TEAM (you know, the professional corporation with some fellow on the payroll who actually is paid to, well, put together press conferences) that will do this, usually to appease fans who want to sign the over-hyped draft pick, QB or (name your hometown hero).

This same team doesn't often call press conferences when THEY re-negotiate the contract down. Again, Easterbrook fails to understand even the basic mechanics of a football deal.

Under the CBA, it's the team that holds the power to nix contracts and demand cuts, within the limits of the language of the agreement. Both players AND athletes know that very well. It is so pathetically stupid, therefore, to somehow suggest that "(l)ater, when the deal is quietly renegotiated downward, the agent does not call a press conference."

Sometimes I wonder if Easterbrook ever actually has talked to a player or agent.

"Why, TMQ annually asks, do sportscasters and even serious news organizations such as the Associated Press treat the fictional announced value of NFL contracts as real?"

Why do reporters name the high end of a possible felony sentence, knowing that it's highly unlikely the criminal will ever get it? For the same reason. They don't want to be burned later when the guy actually gets that sentence from the judge, or a player finishes a contract making max money (I can think of several players who would be good candidates for that, based on our analysis of the NFLPA salary database, mostly offensive linemen, wide receivers and quarterbacks lucky enough to avoid injuries and yet remain productive).

"There's no need for the media to persist in pretending that NFL players earn far more than they actually do."

Easterbrook has been one of the usual suspects in this lineup for years. Healer, heal thyself.

"Huh? Wouldn't the coal be going in one direction, such as from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, to another direction, such as the power plants around Pueblo, Colorado?"

Wyoming is the country's leading coal producer. The state sends coal throughout the country, a product much in demand because of its low-sulphur mix relative to bituminous Appalachian seams.

I thought he styled himself as something of an expert on the environment? Yet he doesn't consider the economics of America's great extracted fuel source?

Good think Burlington Northern doesn't have a salary cap.

"downfield blocking has become a lost art."

Not in Pittsburgh.

"that B2 bomber, based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, sure looked impressive passing over Arrowhead before the Skins-Chiefs collision started."

It also looked impressive to the millions watching the spectacle on TV, millions who fit an adult, male demographic much in demand from recruiters.

A Missouri Air National Guard crew on Sunday flight duty buzzed Arrowhead. For the cost of the fuel they would have burned anyway they got a zillion dollars worth of free ad space. More when you include Easterbrook's mention here.

At this point, someone will scream, "No blood for football!"

19
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:06pm

Luck is important, but it takes skill and preparation to take advantage of it. Just because you're lucky enough to recover a fumble doesn't mean you're going to score on it.

I remember a playoff game in the 90s, where I think the Giants eeked out 6 points on 4 Vikings turnovers in the first half (including two fumbled snaps). Minnesota wound up winning the game on a last minute FG. Luck can be the deciding factor, but it's rarely enough on its own.

See also ALCS Game 2. The White Sox no doubt got lucky on the call, but they still needed a base hit to score.

20
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:13pm

"Against St. Louis, the Indianapolis defense looked terrible in the first quarter, surrendering 17 points, then looked great for the rest of game, partly because Lady Luck provided takeaways."

Well, the first TD was set up by a special team fumble, so maybe the Rams were the lucky one, or whatever. I'm not sure what his thesis is now.

It would be tough convincing Coach D that his cover-2 adjustments and a certain undersized but fleet DE and a sweet rotation of DTs wore down Pace and the rest of the Rams' O-line played no more role in this game than providence.

Tell Harper he was lucky when it looked to every Ram out there like he played his position about as well as it could be played.

Coach D's system will put pressure on the QB to make quick, accurate passes. If he doesn't do that, then you find guys like Harper, June, et al, prospering.

"In the NFL, all teams are stocked with big, fast, strong guys, while luck is distributed randomly week-by-week."

Intelligence, experience and health/conditioning are not so randomly distributed. Perhaps these have a greater part to play in success than mere chance. Just a hunch.

"What better excuse for my annual reminder that NFL contracts are largely fictional, yet the press reports them as if genuine."

And under a system proposed by same just a few weeks ago, these unguaranteed wages would drop by at least 20 percent compared to the present model.

"Houston has not led this season. Houston is the only team that has not recovered an opponent's fumble."

Really stat o' the week: Houston does not have an offensive line.

Stats 3 & 4 are pulled out of columnists' tool boxes throughout a season. The outliers are quirky, but explain little and lack context. You, too, can play at home. Find a player who (1) plays a position unlikely to score a TD, record a sack, kick a field goal, etc.; (2) compare him to a stack of injured or fired starters; (3) revel in the irony; (4) email it around to everyone else in the PFWA so they can recycle it next month.

"Minnesota, which has three recent No. 1 draft picks plus big-money free agent Pat Williams on the defensive line, is last in rushing defense."

If you're looking for problems, you're looking at the wrong line. See pass blocking, Vikings.

"Washington has a winning record despite being minus-8 for turnovers; Buffalo does not have a winning record despite being plus-8. Part of the explanation: through six games, the Bills have one second-half touchdown."

FO covered this phenomenon far better in the Football Prospectus. Buy yours today!

"The entire NFC East is above .500, while the entire NFC North is below .500."

Detailed stat work provided by the lady who looked at the standings.

"Most teams go pass-wacky whenever it's a long-yardage situation, but the run can be effective against a defense that is thinking pass."

Most teams go "pass-wacky" because it's far, far, far more likely for a team to obtain big yardage through the air than on the ground, and has been for decades. Of course, if a team is going to put seven DBs into zones rather than man the line, a rush might be an option.

See also Philadelphia, which would have used a swell screen to achieve the same result.

If he wants teams to routinely run rather than pass, then he should meet with the Competition Committee and change the vast majority of the rules instituted since 1978.

"Ricky Proehl ran a short stop-and-go, Weinke threw it perfectly."

Well, Detroit is a special case.

"Aaaiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee! yours truly exclaimed to the football gods. What are they doing in a pass-wacky set with a shaky backup quarterback? Interception, touchdown return, Jax wins."

Did he not watch the previous drive? When Maddox botched a handoff with a snap count everyone on the OL believed was a call for the ball (he was it came a beat too early)? It's not as if the team at that moment really trusted his ability to (1) hand off a football; or (2) sell a handoff, then pass accurately.

Of course, one could argue that had the Stillers kicked a makeable FG on 3rd Down rather than run it up the gut, they would have won the game.

But I get a "kick-happy" win isn't nearly as satisfying as a "rush-happy" loss.

Some thought, perhaps, Batch might have done a better job in the 4th Quarter. No comment.

"My ultra-generic prediction is 55-33"

Using my algorithm-produced spreads, I'm 21-8 over the last two weeks (hey, I just started the new program!). In straight up games, I'm nearly perfect.

Markov and linear regression beat Easterbrook. Unless Easterbrook is playing at home. Or he's lucky. Or whatever. I'm kind of confused by all these reductive, essentialist polemics now. Sometimes, it's just a football game.

"So far after six games at his new home with the Jets, Coles has 26 receptions; last season after six games in Washington, he had 31 receptions."

And neither team has featured a competent QB while Coles played there. Some of that might be Coles. More of it, I think, belongs to the GMs.

"But I'm willing to wager there has not been a single multi-year NFL contract in the salary-cap era that has gone to term exactly as signed."

I can think of a kicker in New England who will dispute this, even if his legs fall off.

"The agent holds a press conference boasting about the '$50 million' deal he just negotiated, and the publicity helps him recruit new clients."

I'm a little biased because I know how football is actually covered by journalists because, well, you know.

It's ludicrous to even think of lawyers calling press conferences for a couple of reporters. These stories almost invariably involve a guy in a rumpled jacket bugging a lawyer every day until said lawyer gives up and tells him that they did the deal.

I've known Steinberg for years and I can't recall him ever calling a press conference. He might have done one, but I never got the fax.

He does call back, however, and he gives out his cell phone number. So do a lot of players.

Coaches, never.

It's the TEAM (you know, the professional corporation with some fellow on the payroll who actually is paid to, well, put together press conferences) that will do this, usually to appease fans who want to sign the over-hyped draft pick, QB or (name your hometown hero).

For an example, here's how the PG would report a typical signing:

www.post-gazette.com/steelers/20000720steelenet4.asp

That's basically how it plays out. Reporter bugs agent. Agent returns call. Reporter bugs team. Team freaks out. Team calls press conference.

This same team doesn't often call press conferences when THEY re-negotiate the contract down. Again, Easterbrook fails to understand even the basic mechanics of a football deal.

Under the CBA, it's the team that holds the power to nix contracts and demand cuts, within the limits of the language of the agreement. Both players AND athletes know that very well. It is so pathetically stupid, therefore, to somehow suggest that "(l)ater, when the deal is quietly renegotiated downward, the agent does not call a press conference."

Sometimes I wonder if Easterbrook ever actually has talked to a player or agent.

"Why, TMQ annually asks, do sportscasters and even serious news organizations such as the Associated Press treat the fictional announced value of NFL contracts as real?"

Why do reporters name the high end of a possible felony sentence, knowing that it's highly unlikely the criminal will ever get it? For the same reason. They don't want to be burned later when the guy actually gets that sentence from the judge, or a player finishes a contract making max money (I can think of several players who would be good candidates for that, based on our analysis of the NFLPA salary database, mostly offensive linemen, wide receivers and quarterbacks lucky enough to avoid injuries and yet remain productive).

"There's no need for the media to persist in pretending that NFL players earn far more than they actually do."

Easterbrook has been one of the usual suspects in this lineup for years. Healer, heal thyself.

"Huh? Wouldn't the coal be going in one direction, such as from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, to another direction, such as the power plants around Pueblo, Colorado?"

Wyoming is the country's leading coal producer. The state sends coal throughout the country, a product much in demand because of its low-sulphur mix relative to bituminous Appalachian seams.

I thought he styled himself as something of an expert on the environment? Yet he doesn't consider the economics of America's great extracted fuel source?

Good think Burlington Northern doesn't have a salary cap.

"downfield blocking has become a lost art."

Not in Pittsburgh.

"that B2 bomber, based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, sure looked impressive passing over Arrowhead before the Skins-Chiefs collision started."

It also looked impressive to the millions watching the spectacle on TV, millions who fit an adult, male demographic much in demand from recruiters.

A Missouri Air National Guard crew on Sunday flight duty buzzed Arrowhead. For the cost of the fuel they would have burned anyway they got a zillion dollars worth of free ad space. More when you include Easterbrook's mention here.

At this point, someone will scream, "No blood for football!"

21
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:14pm

Whoa. Sorry that showed up twice. I thought I had received a "database wp error" message, and shot it again.

My apologies to all concerned.

22
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:19pm

FO, if you guys want to kill out 18, please do so. Ugggggh...

23
by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:54pm

Re: #16

Because the defense has been up against the likes of Baltimore, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee and San Fransisco.

I guess I didn't place the emphasis in the right place in my original post. What I was getting at was, DVOA, which adjusts for opponent quality, rates them #2 overall and #4 on defense.

Post #18 = Longest. Post. Ever.

24
by CoreyG (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:56pm

RE #20:

The first Rams TD was the result of a 3 minute drive down the field. The Rams only scored a field goal off the muffed kickoff.

25
by zip (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:59pm

#18/20:

“Huh? Wouldn’t the coal be going in one direction, such as from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, to another direction, such as the power plants around Pueblo, Colorado?�

Wyoming is the country’s leading coal producer. The state sends coal throughout the country, a product much in demand because of its low-sulphur mix relative to bituminous Appalachian seams.

Uh, did I miss something? You also did not explain why coal is being imported to Wyoming while being simultaneously exported, which is what TMQ was asking.

26
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:59pm

Post #18 = Longest. Post. Ever.

and by an amazing coincidence, #20 is just as long

27
by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:10pm

Re #26

I think #20 may be even longer, thus making it the new LONGEST. POST. EVER.

Re #25

I think he meant that, as Wyoming produces a lot of coal, they might be shipping it to a lot of different places, and in more than one direction.

28
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:17pm

RE #25: Wyoming produces low sulpher coal, which is in very high demand throughout the country. This high demand means higher prices. So high, in fact, that it's cheaper in Wymoing to buy bituminous coal from the Applichian seams than to buy the coal that's produced in Wyoming.

29
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:20pm

I seem to recall a consensus of nabobs calling for one long post, and not a spate of smaller posts.

I can go with either one. Because Easterbrook was particularly unreadable this week, he deserved a long one.

The point about the coal trains was that coal is often shipped to a collection point (perhaps it's Denver, or wherever) before it's trundled off somewhere else.

This is quite common in Western PA and E WV, the Saudi Arabia of Coal, too.

This has everything to do with the economies of the transportation network and nothing to do with the fact that sometimes you see trains moving one way, then another.

Wyoming coal, much like cornerbacks or rushers, is fairly fungible.

Now E PA anthracite is more akin to a QB or elite WR. It's the Terrell Owens of coal.

30
by zip (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:25pm

Re: 27/28

I must not be as good at reading "the Carl" as y'all.

So basically the coal going into Wyoming is different from the coal coming out of Wyoming, but it looks the same which confused TMQ.

Also, you're saying people in Wyoming can't afford their own coal? Go capitalism!

31
by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:25pm

Welcome to Carl 2.0: no swarm of rabbit punches, but a Talmud. No Nietzsche, but Tolstoy. Took those suggestions to combine your points to heart?

(I kid because I love. Keep posting. A lot.)

But I'll bite on the no blood for football. Those flyovers and other extraneous trappings of martial obedience are asinine. Your legitimate, limited cost-benefit point aside, one need not be a pacifist to find the NFL's tightness with the legions of empire past the point of seemliness. Especially given the league's enthusiasm for jingoistic posturing with the only other secular institution equalling it in unreasoning hostility to queers vis-a-vis, for instance, its level of interest in Pat Tillman once the story got embarrassing for the brass. Oiliness in every corner, and not to noble ends.

(Global perspective: I watched Super Bowl XXXV (Ravens-Giants) in the middle of the night at a bar in Prague with a surprisingly high proportion of locals. Middle digits and guffaws sprouted liberally in the crowd during the inevitable flyover.)

32
by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:25pm

An I an idiot if I, as a lawyer, just found out yesterday that Gregg Easterbrook is judge Frank Easterbrook's (7th Cir.) brother?

33
by zip (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:28pm

I for one am much more interested in the economics of shipping coal than I am in discussing the stupidity of leading off your column with "Football is about luck."

34
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:36pm

Nate:

That depends on how long you've read TMQ. Gregg mentions the relationship maybe 3-4 times per season in his column.

T.

35
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:37pm

#23: The opponent adjustments are just getting to the point where they can completely override a good performance and turn it "average". Indianapolis's "great" defense is still an artifact.

Indianapolis's opponent's passing DVOA:
-19.4%, -77.8%, -49.1%, 8.3%, 8.4%, and 34.9%.

That 34.9%? Cleveland. Give it time.

36
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:37pm

RE: 18/20 & 28

Carl & B, sounds like excellent material for an informative haiku that TMQ could print next week:

Low-sulfur coal runs
American industry,
like refineries.

Bituminous coal
from Appalachia warms
Wyoming heinies.

37
by Noam Chomsky (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:39pm

I'm glad someone called Carl, that running dog capitalist, on his defense of Imperium and the NFL.

I recall the so-called Houston Oilers. Oil. Petroleum. Iraq. Bush is from Texas. Oilers. Iraq.

Obvious.

Dallas Cowboys. Bush is from Texas. A cowboy. Oilers. Oil. "Cowboy" foreign policy. Bush. Iraq.

Raiders. Oilers. Raiding oil. Bush. Texans. Houston. George H.W. Bush Airport is in Houston. Iraq.

Jets. Oilers. Jets bomb Iraq. Bush. Iraq.

Giants. Code name of imperialists.

Bears. Agitprop stagename for Soviet insurgency. Must be constrained. Marginalized. Other.

Bears suck every year. Soviet Union killed off by capitalists. Bears must be ritually slaughtered every year by the NFC.

Obvious.

Colts. Played on AstroTurf. Turf made from oil. Oilers. Texans. Bush "Cowboy." Iraq.

Obvious.

38
by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:40pm

Carl, don't listen to these naysayers. I like all of your unique brand of wit and wisdom in one neat little package for my consumption every Tuesday afternoon. And wow, did TMQ ever deserve it today. Starting with the stupid and facile "football is all luck" argument, moving on to the boring and trite "football contracts are fake" shtick and then taking it to the next level of idiocy with the coal thing.

Could TMQ do an entire column of stuff like Sweet n Sour plays and Best Blocks? I feel like there's material to be expanded upon in those items and instead of it being expanded on we get TMQs uninformed and just stupid thoughts on coal distribution.

39
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:42pm

You are NOT an idiot. He is GE's brother. In another part of the world I occupy when I'm not writing about football, I championed his brother as a great potential jurist.

Instead, Bush picked Harriet Miers.

For those who think I personally dislike GE, just remember that I did my brainiest best to put his bro on the high court.

40
by Pork Czech Off (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:48pm

In our country, the middle finger means, "Fly Faster, Liberator!"

41
by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:50pm

Re: #35

I hope you're not implying that Trent Dilfer isn't awesome.

42
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 7:10pm

That depends on how long you’ve read TMQ. Gregg mentions the relationship maybe 3-4 times per season in his column.

between football and coal?!

(musta missed it)

43
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 7:25pm

re #20:
I think the other prong of the "consolidated" argument was, well, consolidation rather than just centralization. Note that I don't care at all about TMQ, but for conversation's sake:
Non-sequiturs:
-Minnesota's D line is terrible. The O line being worse is irrelevant, unless you propose a rule that you can only talk about the worst possible aspect of a team when criticizing it. Also, this was part that was supposed to get better.
-Washington and turnovers. Saying that he shouldn't mention it because someone else already wrote about it in a better fashion to a different audience is irrelevant.
-His point about prediction had everything to do with football media and nothing about your method that no one knows about. If you want to box everyone who makes this argument's ears in, you might want to start forming the line now, it'll take a while. Because it's a valid argument.
-The method by which contracts are announced have little to do with his main point, that contracts are almost invariably downgraded, is not disproven by finding a factual error with a throwaway line he uses as a joke, nor with a few superstar players being the exception to the rule.
Matters of opinion:
-Running on 3rd and long. Not the best idea, and pass-happy is a stupid descriptor, but draw plays on 3rd and longs, especially when you have a downfield threat, can be very effective if called properly and your RB has the speed to get a good burst past the line.
-Downfield blocking. Hines Ward is praised as the best blocking WR in football. Aside from that, I can think of maybe one or two guys that get mentioned for it, which is important because people LOVE to bring it up. From my own personal experience I believe that most WRs suck at blocking, so talking about it certainly can't be out of bounds.

This just seems more like a vendetta than an actual critique of his work. Thank you for the information about coal, though. That was most interesting.

44
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 9:05pm

I think TMQ and carl's response were both weak. But hey, its easy to be a critic (I am aiming that comment at myself, in case it isn't obvious).

45
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 9:21pm

Carl, while you and I disagree...I found all your ranting pretty spot-on this week. Although maybe you could give some props to TMQ for at least recognizing the contract situation is out of wack, even if his solution was worse than the current plan. :)

And in reply to post 31....well...the military sure isn't as secular as you'd believe. I'm an atheist, and I have to put up with not so subtly hidden discrimination...on the POW table while deployed, guess what was there? A bible...what about the POW's who don't believe in God? :p And other stuff too..prayers before meetings happen all the time. There's other stuff too, but those are the most prevalent. Actually, the military has been told to firmly check it's stance on religion due to an Air Force Academy incident which dealt with higher-ups promoting xtianity, IIRC.

I mean, mostly I just stay quiet and let people enjoy their prayer, but it's funny the looks you get in the military when you say you don't go to church because you don't believe there's a God...and how happy they get if you just finally say, "I guess he could be out there." :p

On to the football talk...as we've said before I think GE needs a new gimmick...we should run a contest to help him come up with one :D

46
by Vash (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:19am

“downfield blocking has become a lost art.�

Not in Pittsburgh.

*hails Carl, despite the excessive TMQ-bashing*

47
by Joey (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 1:46am

#31
First off, flyovers are simply awesome when you're in attendance. TV does them no justice whatsoever. I've been privileged to go to a number of service academy college games and they pull out all the stops. If you're the typical male who grew up loving planes, you're in heaven.

Secondly, if they're going to sing the national anthem (you know the little diddy that talks about defending the flag in the midst of all the rockets, red glare, and the like) I don't see anything in the least bit wrong with including some symbol of American military might to show that we still are willing and able to defend said flag.

Thirdly, the military does the flyovers for some rather logical reasons: 1) It's a good recruiting tool, as Carl mentioned 2) It's also good PR and 3) They need so many hours in the air, anyway, so they might as well be flying over a stadium as opposed to the open spaces of North Dakota.

48
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 1:50am

To be fair, IHOP is in more than one country. The problem is that it’s only in TWO countries, and should therefore be known as the TRANSnational house of pancakes. THOP for short.

The House of Pancakes is called "International" not because they have franchises in multiple countries, but because they serve pancakes and pancake-like items from many countries (Belgian Waffles, Crepes Suzette, etc.)

49
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:17am

#48:
Wouldn't it then be HOIP, then, for House Of International Pancakes?
;)

50
by Israel (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:12am

Has anyone ever seen Carl and TMQ at the same time?

51
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 4:09am

Yeah the pledge of alligence arose because people in the early part of the 1900s (an early 1800s) were worried about the loyalty of those dirty dirty southern european immigrants (these are the same non WASP immigrants the WASPS were worried about in the 1800s). It was decided brainwashing their children would be the best way to ensure instill loyalty. Those bastard Sacco and Vanzeti and the like. Under God was put on the money in the 50s to fight communism (LMFAO). Such things were bad ideas then and they are now. As is saying the national anthem at sporting events etc. It cheapens true patriotism, and stutifys people thinking about the subject (which is never good in any scenario). Personally I think our countrys zietgiest has severe issues with patirotism/the military. Like abusive husband/pedophile priest level issues.

We spend an obscene ammount of money on the military (more then the next 11 counties combined) and it leads us to be offensive and belligerent bullies. Of course I still think I am very fortunate to have been born here, but lets not fool ourselves we are the greatest country in the world. Even patriotic military loving southern christians should agree that spending 15% on GDP on helping poor people (as Europe does) is a much better use of the money than spending it on guns/missles (unless of course they are completely hypocrites). I think the NFL's close ties to the military/ US patriotism hurt it a lot internationally. Hell they hurts it a lot with me and I was someone who said they would actually report if there was another draft in our campus survey a few years back (the results were something like 27% yes 68% no 5% don't know).

52
by adwred (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:27am

Straight up Becephalus... as a sports lover and godless commie freak of sorts, I am often annoyed at the obscene patriotism demonstrated at the most banal of sporting events.

I understand why leagues do it and patriots like it, so whatever, not my biggest issue... but do we really have to sing the National Anthem at minor-league hockey games in Bridgeport, CT on a Tuesday night in November? It just seems strange to me. Can't we reserve it for bigger games, championships, etc?

P.S. Have you anyone here ever wondered why schoolchildren are asked to pledge allegiance more than once? I mean it is a pledge, right, which is a pretty serious commitment.

53
by Micah (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:59pm

re #50

Israel, what are you suggesting?

54
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 1:41pm

It would be preferable if political commentary were reserved for sites dedicated to that purpose.

55
by adwred (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:05pm

Will Allen:

You find me a website dedicated to politics in sports and I'll go there religiously; how can you ignore it in a TMQ article?

56
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:24pm

One of the things that I dislike about TMQ is the penchant for tossing ill-suported political arguments in a column ostensibly about football; sort of as if Maureen Dowd were writing a weekly column about the Tom Coughlin. Then people in this weekly thread respond in kind, and the result is a bunch of poorly considered political commentary, which can be had had at countless websites.

I generally like this site because it tends to approach a narrow topic, football, largely of the NFL variety, with an empirical approach, which cuts down on the bloviating unmoored from critical thought.

57
by EJP (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 8:07pm

Re: # 49, by Fnor, and # 50, by Israel, KUDOS!! I laughed out loud when I read these posts.

Made my afternoon. Thanks.

Am I the only one who ejoys both TMQ and Carl's analysis/uber-draconian break down of TMQ?

58
by DGL (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 12:59pm

Becephalus and adwred (#51 and #52) are just finding a backhanded way to disrespect the Patriots...

59
by Clod (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 5:52pm

"it’s funny the looks you get in the military when you say you don’t go to church because you don’t believe there’s a God…"

Shouldn't it be " ...I believe there is no God."?

Seems to me it takes faith either way.

60
by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:13pm

He's always whining about how teams need to score touchdowns, and he says the Giants should have run into the line and kicked a FG in the 3rd quarter. Hindsight is 20-20, eh, Gregg? Would you be spouting this idiocy if Manning had hit Shockey for the TD?

61
by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:56pm

Oh, and I noticed that TMQ thinks that Santana Moss is still on the Jets.