Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Jan 2013

Andy Benoit's Super Bowl Diary, Day Two

As an FO reader, you probably have little regard for the circus that is Media Day. That’s admirable. The circus wasn’t actually that crazy this year, there were less costumes and gimmicks than we saw in Dallas and Indy the past two years. The TV Azteca people were there again but, surprisingly, their ladies were dressed semi-appropriately.

There was a bigger crowd and more commotion in the Ravens hour, even though the Niners went first. Maybe that’s the Ray Lewis factor. As you probably read, he had somewhat of a tough day due to new (old?) PED allegations. Terrell Suggs, predictably, was the loudest speaker with a podium. On the way back to my hotel, I saw Suggs' wife and kids racing in the back of one of those small carriages attached to a bicycle that you pay some strong-legged local a few bucks to tow you around in. (Of course, the race was really between the actual peddlers, as the Suggs Family was merely sitting in the carriages.)

If you’re not working on a story about what color pajamas Vernon Davis wears to bed or what kind of cereal Bernard Pollard likes, Media Day involves a lot of standing around mixed with people watching. The problem for the poor writers who have something to cover is that Media Day has become such a spectacle that no one, especially not the players, takes it very seriously. (Well, the NFL sorta takes it seriously; they’ve sent out some 100 emails to all media members today alone, most of them being interview transcripts.)

What’s fun about Media Day is you see a lot of former Super Bowl participants playing the role of reporter. They’re actually some of the few people who can actually elicit a meaningful football-related response from the players. Eddie George, Tiki Barber, Deion Sanders, Steve Tasker, and Brian Billick all had microphones out there today.

The buzz around town will start to pick up Wednesday when more celebrities descend on radio row for interviews. Thursday and Friday will be the craziest days, not that things aren’t crazy already. Doug Farrar, Mike Tanier, and I ate dinner on Bourbon Street last night. (Doug did not test his seafood allergy, electing instead to eat some sort of Cajun pizza; he did, however, have turtle soup ... is that considered seafood?) The Bourbon Street scene was mostly full of unkempt party-goers and cheaply dressed men trying to coax you behind the curtains of their various strip clubs. (We politely passed.) We didn’t see any players walking around -– though we did see Davis strolling around the much tamer Canal Street by himself.

That’s all for now. The media party is tonight at Mardi Gras World. The really good parties take place in a few days. Just like yesterday, feel free to post your Super Bowl questions and comments below. We’ll end this report by hitting on some of the questions from yesterday’s post:

Anonymous: Do you think the writers 'fiercely cling' to the whole process because it’s how things have been (and thus, obviously always should be)? Or because sheer manpower is the biggest advantage they have over independent websites like you guys, sportsonearth, etc. etc.? I'm curious if you have input on their motivation…

There’s somewhat of a marriage to tradition factor there. A lot of the smaller newspapers will send writers no matter how flimsy the connection to the teams might be. It’s not cheap sending those people. The manpower advantage has become less of a factor thanks to Twitter and access to film and interview transcripts. What a lot of the bigger media companies have is more money to spend, and spend it they do. It must pay off for them –- they wouldn’t do it year after year if it didn’t, right?

dbostedo: I'm guessing someone might already do this on media day... but, just in case:
Please ask Colin Kaepernick and Joe Staley if they burned that old man.
Ask Jim Harbaugh when he wants some cake.
And ask Matt Birk if he'll make you a Mai Tai.

If you didn't know, he was referring to this, which was linked on site a while ago.

young curmudgeon: 1. Your other article that is current on the site, "Film Room," has illustrations. This one would be better if it had illustrations, too. Like, for instance, the TV Azteca reporter...

2. I'm a little uncertain about citing the terrific culture of New Orleans, then saying "it's a warm Indianapolis." I understand that Indianapolis is a very nice city and is almost certainly underrated in terms of culture, sophistication, etc., but we're talking NEW ORLEANS here. I mean Cajun and Creole and Bourbon Street and beignets and Arnaud's and the Neville Brothers and Brennan's and Louis Armstrong and Mardi Gras and Jean Lafitte and...and...and...

To point one, I’ve gone through several Google searches trying to figure out who the TV Azteca reporter was. (Ines Sainz was at Media Day, but the lady I referred to Monday is someone else.) Normally, I’d just check the name on her credential. But in this case, to stare at any part of her -– especially her credential, since it rests near her chest –- for a duration long enough to read her name would be impossible to do without crossing over the "creeper" line. Yesterday, she wore one of those outfits that everyone has to pretend they aren’t noticing.

To point two, thank you for this, I need to clarify: New Orleans is like a warm Indianapolis in that it’s a city with a great convention center and lots of hotels and restaurants within walking distance of the stadium and media center. The similarities between the two towns end there. But from a Super Bowl media standpoint, those are gigantic similarities.

Snafu: I'm driving into town for my first Super Bowl this Friday.

For partying on Friday and Saturday night, do you recommend St. Charles or Bourbon St?

What traditional Super Bowl parties are open to the public and worth attending?

St. Charles Street is vastly underrated. Most of the action is on Decatur Street, though. That’s where ESPN and CBS set up shop. (CBS practically owns Jackson Square this week, by the way. Restricted access to anyone without a CBS pass.) From what I gather, it’s very difficult for fans to get into any of the major Super Bowl parties (like Playboy, Maxim, Sports Illustrated, etc.) ... unless of course you’re willing to hand over $1,500 for a ticket.

J-Flan: As a strategy to contain the read option, couldn't the defensive end or outside linebacker hit the Quarterback without knowing whether the QB is carrying the ball? I don't think it is against rules to hit a runner who is faking the carry. A defense will give up running yards to the running back but the trade-off is getting a bunch of hits on the QB and perhaps limit the play calling of read option to protect their QB.

Ah, we end with a football question. Refreshing! And a great question, too. This one confounded a lot of us here in the media workroom. In fact, we wound up having to call Mike Pereira. Pereira’s answer was that once a quarterback is out of the pocket, he is fair game to be hit whether he has the ball or not. However, the hit must be in the midsection, as the defenseless player rules are in effect. Ostensibly, this means that if the quarterback is read-optioning within the pocket, he gets full quarterback protection. (Which is why you don’t see teams drilling the quarterback after standard handoffs.)

This discussion leads to an interesting broader discussion: to what extent should a defense try to hit the quarterback? Is it fair to roll the dice and hit him hard on the read-option plays when the line might be blurry? Remember the last time we had a Super Bowl in New Orleans, the Patriots came out and hit the finesse Rams running backs and receivers every chance they got, even if those backs and receivers weren’t having a direct impact on the play.

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 29 Jan 2013

18 comments, Last at 01 Feb 2013, 1:16am by DoubleB4

Comments

1
by Insancipitory :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:21pm

If a team doesn't think their defense can contain a QB, I think it's a valid meta-game strategy to just go for every borderline hit they can plausibly get (see Favresota Favres at NO Saints). Vicious, borderline criminal, pummelling of QBs is a well established if not particularly honorable tradition.

But as noted it can work for any position. Brandon Browner isn't so much a cornerback as he is a bully on the prowl for lunch money.

9
by CBPodge :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 6:18am

I would love to the Ravens do this and just defend it by saying "Well, when in New Orleans...". I imagine the locals wouldn't love that though!

2
by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:30pm

So... umm... DID anyone ask Jim Harbaugh when he wants some cake?

I can't seem to find any confirmation anywhere else.

3
by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 1:08am

As a strategy to contain the read option, couldn't the defensive end or outside linebacker hit the Quarterback without knowing whether the QB is carrying the ball?

Sure but that completely eliminates the end/OLB from the play, forcing the defense to stop the RB with just 10 men. This is a huge advantage for the offense.

Sure, this happens a lot anyway, but typically the QB-assigned player can at least offer support to eliminate an outside bounce.

There is no easy way to contain an offense in which the QB can run and throw effectively. The question as always is 1) can such a QB be found and 2) can you keep him healthy with the extra hits in the running game.

3
by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 1:08am

As a strategy to contain the read option, couldn't the defensive end or outside linebacker hit the Quarterback without knowing whether the QB is carrying the ball?

Sure but that completely eliminates the end/OLB from the play, forcing the defense to stop the RB with just 10 men. This is a huge advantage for the offense.

Sure, this happens a lot anyway, but typically the QB-assigned player can at least offer support to eliminate an outside bounce.

There is no easy way to contain an offense in which the QB can run and throw effectively. The question as always is 1) can such a QB be found and 2) can you keep him healthy with the extra hits in the running game.

5
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 1:45am

Boot pass game stresses the defense very similar to read option of the DE. Good defenses have stopped both for decades. Good defenses can handle zone read.

If the read option is that much of an issue for you (and for Green Bay it certainly was), then why not hit the QB every effin' time? You might pick up some flags, but at least you make SF think about how much they want to run that play and you put some doubt in the QB's mind.

Defenses overvalue the 15 yard penalty. The opportunity to physically hurt the QB is much, much more valuable.

6
by JimZipCode :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 2:41am

If you can actually hurt him. Collin Kaepernicus is a tough young, very young player. Ravens could beat the crap out of him, and he might not start flinching until ~2 years down the road.

7
by 0tarin :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 3:06am

I do agree, despite the fact that the Ravens seem to have a propensity for doing serious damage to opposing QBs, be it in the pre, regular, or postseason. If any team is going to use this strategy (effectively), I have no doubt it'd be Baltimore.

15
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 8:01pm

Well, Brady flinched 10 or so days ago. The Ravens hit him in the first half (and hit him low a few times). He looked pedestrian in the 2nd half.

16
by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Thu, 01/31/2013 - 11:29pm

Yeah because offenses have typically had athletic physical specimens who can throw accurately for decades as well. No wait...

As I said, if you have a QB who can run and throw it is very, very difficult to stop. This isn't rocket science and it's not a fad. The challenge, of course, is to find these athletes.

18
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 1:16am

Well let's just give up then.

Is it harder? Yes. Is it very, very difficult? No. Otherwise these offenses would be dominating the game. They aren't.

10
by CBPodge :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 6:25am

Isn't the point of the read option that you're making the defense effectively defend with 10 men anyway, because the DE/OLB is assigned to the QB regardless. I would think that a good approach would be to have the DE/OLB just go straight as hard and as fast as they can regardless. Not necessarily hit him, but they could definitely just grab him every time they get there so that the QB knows he's there.

I would have thought that the only role the guy assigned to the QB plays on an option handoff is to try to chase down the runner if he makes a big play (i.e. its a role you'd ideally not want him to have to actually do).

I'm not exactly an expert on the read option, but certainly out of shotgun can't it only be run in one direction - if the RB is to the left of the QB, the RB will run to the right hand side of the line, with the QB option going left. I'm not sure if it's similar from Pistol. I would have thought though, that if you know which way the offense is going to be running, and know that your DE/OLB can reliably take the QB on his own, then 10 guys should be enough to stop the run, given that you know what direction it will be in.

14
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 7:58pm

The read option can be run the other way with the QB reading the front side end. It's been a popular college play for about 5 years now.

Hell, teams that base out of this offense can have the QB read any of the front 7 defenders.

17
by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Thu, 01/31/2013 - 11:32pm

Check my post. As I said, it happens sometimes anyway, but the DE/OLB assigned ot the QB can at least offer some support on the bounce. If he hits the QB every time an NFL-caliber RB should have an open lane in which to bounce almost anything outside.

To put it simply, there is no "easy" way to stop the read option if the QB can also effectively throw the football.

8
by james Van DeKamp (not verified) :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 5:41am

49ers are projected to be the favorites with their bunch as the best linebackers in NFL. An interesting contest is certainly in order. I can almost see Ravens going all out in this occasion.

11
by dbostedo :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 9:31am

Almost? All out? For the Super Bowl? No way!!

The spammers have gotten more sophisticated... almost... human.

13
by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 12:27pm

That would be the generic all sports spam template.

{TEAM or SPORTING PARTICIPANTS} are projected to be the favorites with their {SUPERLATIVE}. An interesting contest is certainly in order. I can almost see {OPPOSING TEAM or SPORTING PARTICIPANTS} going all out in this occasion.

Not a game or match of championship.

12
by young curmudgeon :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 10:54am

thanks for clarifications/information on both my points from yesterday. Both diary articles have been far more interesting than the vast bulk of the stuff that attempts to give a picture of what Super Bowl week is like.