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» Scramble Over/Unders: the Norths

The league's northern divisions pose a number of meaty questions, such as: "Is the Bears' offense due for a repeat performance?" "Why do the Lions have such pronounced splits?" and "Has Johnny Manziel made the Cleveland brass even crazier?"

16 Feb 2006

Four Downs: NFC North

by Michael David Smith

Chicago Bears

What Happened Last Year?

Chicago's defense reminded local fans of the '85 Bears. Chicago's offense reminded local fans of every offense that played the '85 Bears. There's not a Bears fan on earth who would have objected if told before the season that the team would win the NFC North and earn a first-round playoff bye, so it's hard to see the 2005 season as anything other than a major success.

And yet, the loss in the playoffs to the Carolina Panthers exposed some serious problems. Everyone knows the offense needs major improvements, but that playoff loss also showed that the defense, as great as it is, can be exposed by an elite wide receiver. In the playoffs it was Steve Smith, but there were also problems in the regular season. Chad Johnson had touchdown catches of 18 and 40 yards against the Bears. Joey Galloway burned them for seven catches and 138 yards. Santana Moss had four catches for 96 yards. The Chicago secondary is good, but it won't be great until it can shut down some of the league's top receivers.

Who's Leaving?

The Bears are in good salary-cap shape and Hunter Hillenmeyer is the only free agent from that great defense. Hillenmeyer is a restricted free agent, and he's the least valuable player of the starting 11, so there's every reason to believe the defense can be very good again in 2006.

Although defensive tackle Tank Johnson is still under contract, the Bears must be somewhat concerned that he could be unavailable this year. Johnson, who was already on probation, was charged on Sunday with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. The Bears had one of the best four-tackle rotations in the NFL last year, and Johnson was an important part of it. If he misses part of the season (either because he's in jail or because his off-field activities get him suspended), the Bears will miss him.

Guard Terrence Metcalf is the only unrestricted free-agent starter on offense, but with that offense, having everyone come back isn't necessarily a good thing.

Whom Should They Sign?

Chicago will almost certainly bring in another quarterback, but the team's most important question is whether that quarterback is someone who will challenge Rex Grossman for the starting job, or someone who will be able to fill in if the oft-injured Grossman gets hurt again. The Bears hope that Grossman will prove both that he can stay healthy and that he is a legitimate NFL starter. Because they're optimistic that Grossman can lead them through the 2006 season, they probably will bring in a low-priced free agent backup, like Charlie Batch of Pittsburgh or Chris Weinke of Carolina. Last year's veteran backup, Jeff Blake, is an unrestricted free agent and most likely will not return. Kyle Orton, who started for most of his rookie season, probably will be demoted to third string.

Chicago native Antwaan Randle El seems like a natural fit for a team that desperately needs an upgrade to the passing game. But the Bears might be a bit gun-shy about spending big money on a wide receiver after giving a huge contract to Muhsin Muhammad last year and getting very little out of him. And Randle El was just a mediocre receiver when Ben Roethlisberger was throwing him the ball. It's hard to imagine him playing better with a lesser quarterback. On the other hand, Chicago could use an upgrade to its punt return game, and Randle El could help out there.

Detroit Lions

What Happened Last Year?

Yet another meltdown for the Lions, who had raised hopes high enough that there was some talk that they could be a playoff team. Instead, all six of Matt Millen's first round draft choices (tackle Jeff Backus, quarterback Joey Harrington, running back Kevin Jones, receivers Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams) struggled as the Lions' offense fizzled. Steve Mariucci was sacked and Rod Marinelli is the new coach. But fans are most intrigued by new offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Who's Leaving?

Jeff Garcia, the starting quarterback in the middle of last season, will almost certainly not be back. Backus' rookie contract has expired, and he will probably go elsewhere.

Third-down back Shawn Bryson is an unrestricted free agent. He was a better runner than Jones last year, and he's a good receiver who should fit well into the Martz offense. Detroit should try hard to keep him.

Defensive end Kalimba Edwards is an unrestricted free agent. When he's healthy he's a very good situational pass rusher, but he has frequently struggled through injuries. Although he played in all 16 games in 2005 and recorded seven sacks, he had only one sack in the final nine games after being hobbled with a series of injuries. Signing him likely will not be a high priority.

Special teams, which have usually been a strength for Detroit, were a disaster in 2005 and could be in for a major overhaul this off-season. Return man Eddie Drummond was the best in the league in 2004, but he was ineffective in 2005, and he and agent Drew Rosenhaus have indicated that he'll demand a significant raise as an unrestricted free agent. Cornerback R.W. McQuarters filled in admirably as a kick returner when Drummond missed time, but he's an unrestricted free agent, too. The Lions should let Drummond go and try to re-sign McQuarters, who also played well on defense and was one of the team's best all-around players last year. Punter Nick Harris doesn't have a strong enough leg and should be replaced, perhaps by Carolina's Jason Baker, an unrestricted free agent who had an excellent 2005.

Whom Should They Sign?

Does Martz believe in Joey Harrington? That's the question on everyone's mind. If he thinks he can turn Harrington into the high-quality quarterback the Lions thought they were drafting in 2002, they won't make any major waves in the off-season. But if Martz looks at the tape and decides that Harrington isn't his kind of quarterback, things will get interesting. Before he re-signed with Arizona, Kurt Warner would have been a possibility. Martz and Warner haven't always seen eye to eye (or, more precisely, Martz and Warner's wife haven't always seen eye to eye), but the Lions might have wanted a veteran quarterback who knows Martz's offense. Now it seems more likely that the Lions will either use their first-round pick on a quarterback like Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler or stick with Harrington.

Elsewhere on offense, Detroit needs to improve its line. With Backus most likely on the way out, Philadelphia's Jon Runyan could be on the way in. Runyan is the biggest name among the offensive tackles on the market, and Millen has a penchant for signing big names.

Speaking of that penchant for big names, if Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is on the trade market this off-season, the Lions might be interested. Their 2005 starter at middle linebacker, Earl Holmes, is an unrestricted free agent who might sign elsewhere or retire.

The biggest question mark on defense is at cornerback: McQuarters could leave, and Fernando Bryant's situation is uncertain. The Lions gave Bryant a big contract with a $7 million bonus before the 2004 season, and he's played 12 games in two years because of injuries -- and played badly when he's been healthy. The Lions might target a cornerback to play across the field from Dre' Bly.

Green Bay Packers

What Happened Last Year?

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Javon Walker was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the first game. Injuries reduced the Packers to their fifth-string running back. Brett Favre started the season playing well but regressed badly as the season wore on, and by the end of the season he was just chucking the ball down the field and hoping it would land in the right place. The defense was every bit as bad as the offense, and the special teams were even worse.

Who's Leaving?

The first question, of course, is whether or not Brett Favre will be back at quarterback. There haven't been any clear indications, but when he last spoke publicly he said he was leaning toward retirement. The best choice for Green Bay in that case would be Jon Kitna, who showed in Cincinnati that he is a capable player when his team needs him, but also that he won't stand in the way of the development of the team's quarterback of the future.

Even if Favre is back, the Packers' offense will look different. Running backs Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher are all unrestricted free agents. Given that they're all coming off injuries and subpar seasons, there's no reason to think Green Bay should spend a lot of money to keep them.

The defense will return most of its starters, but two starting defensive linemen, Aaron Kampman and Grady Jackson, are unrestricted free agents.

Whom Should They Sign?

If Favre retires, Aaron Rodgers, last year's first-round draft pick, will get every opportunity to earn the job. But the Packers will sign some veteran free agent to be there in case Rodgers shows that he's not ready. Craig Nall, the Packers' fifth-round pick in 2002, has spent the last four seasons on the bench behind Favre and is now an unrestricted free agent. If the Packers planned to use the same offense they used in years past, it would make a lot of sense to keep Nall around. But with new head coach Mike McCarthy bringing in his own schemes, Nall might not fit with the plans.

Assuming Green, Davenport, and Fisher all go elsewhere, Green Bay might be tempted to sign one of the big-name free agent running backs, like Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James or Jamal Lewis. That would be a mistake. The best choice would be to keep Samkon Gado and Noah Herron, two players coming off their rookie years and making the league minimum, and see whether they can develop. Gado and Herron were just as effective last season as Green was.

With Kampman and Jackson leaving the defense, Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard would be a good signing. Bernard isn't as stout against the run as Jackson was at his peak, but he's a very good pass-rusher, and he's sturdy enough on the inside that he'll take some heat off middle linebacker Nick Barnett.

Minnesota Vikings

What Happened Last Year?

Daunte Culpepper struggled in the first half of the season, then missed the second half with a torn ACL. Brad Johnson took his place and played much better than Culpepper did. When Culpepper's agent, Mason Ashe, asked the Vikings for a new and improved contract last month, it must have been hard for the folks in the Vikings' front office to conceal their laughter. Culpepper is a player whose contract still has seven years on it, who received an $8 million raise seven months ago, who threw six touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2005, who was lost for the season in the seventh game with a serious knee injury that might not be healed in time for the start of the 2006 season, whose backup demonstrated his expendability in the final nine games of the year, and who was charged with indecent conduct after a salacious boat party that embarrassed the franchise. It's not clear why Ashe and Culpepper subsequently parted ways, but it is clear that Culpepper won't get a new deal.

Despite all the problems with Culpepper on the field and with the Love Boat off the field, the Vikings managed a respectable 9-7 record. That means new coach Brad Childress doesn't have as large a rebuilding effort as it might appear at first glance. If the Vikings make the right moves this off-season, there's no reason they can't be in the playoffs in 11 months.

Who's Leaving?

Minnesota has to pay Culpepper a $6 million bonus on March 14, and it's possible Culpepper could be gone by then. But more likely he'll be back as the starter when the season begins. Johnson is under contract for 2006, so Minnesota fans could be treated to a quarterback controversy this summer.

Koren Robinson, who played relatively well in limited action last season, is an unrestricted free agent, as are running backs Michael Bennett and Moe Williams. The Vikings have good depth at both positions, so they'll probably allow Robinson, Bennett and Williams to leave, although Robinson's value as a returner makes him the most likely of the three to stay. At receiver the Vikings expect Troy Williamson to make a bigger contribution in 2006, and at running back, Mewelde Moore is likely to be the starter, with Onterrio "The Original Whizzinator" Smith set to make his return as a backup.

Melvin Fowler and Cory Withrow, who split time at center last year, both are unrestricted free agents and unlikely to return, with a healthy Matt Birk set to start in 2006. If Birk is back to top form, he's a big upgrade to the line.

On defense, four starters are unrestricted free agents: Middle linebacker Sam Cowart, strongside linebacker Keith Newman, strong safety Corey Chavous, and cornerback Brian Williams. Backup defensive end Lance Johnstone also is a free agent, but the Vikings spent first-round picks on defensive ends each of the last two years, so he seems unlikely to return.

Whom Should They Sign?

Birk will help the middle of the offensive line, but the Vikings could also use an upgrade at guard. The Vikings could make a serious play for the best lineman available in free agency, Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson. Signing him would make a big difference to the running game, which was ineffective last year. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Seahawks will likely put the franchise tag on Hutchinson and keep him in Seattle.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Will Witherspoon would give the Vikings an upgrade at linebacker. At cornerback, Oakland's Charles Woodson will hit the open market, and the Vikings might be the high bidders for his services, although Woodson is an inconsistent player who will probably come with a cost that his productivity doesn't warrant. Other options in the secondary include Deshea Townsend, Ty Law, Will Demps, and Adam Archuleta. With more than $20 million in salary cap space, the Vikings will definitely be players in the free-agent market.

Monday: AFC West by Mike Tanier

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 16 Feb 2006

131 comments, Last at 05 Mar 2006, 12:43pm by Steve

Comments

1
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 1:16pm

Kurt Warner is no longer a UFA; he re-signed with Arizona yesterday.

2
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 1:29pm

Not sure what happened there; I corrected this prior to posting but the Warner thing is still in it. It's fixed now. Thanks David.

3
by brian (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 1:32pm

Don't confuse Brad Johnson outplaying Dante as Brad Johnson playing well. He had Ortonesque games against some of the worst passing defenses in the league.

Brian

4
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 1:35pm

Happy to nitpick!

On another note, anybody know what Chicago's cap situation is like? Since it might be in their best interests to unload some of the worst underachievers on their offense, under contract or not.

5
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 1:48pm

Brian, I disagree with you about Brad Johnson. I thought he played well. (He's 10th in DVOA.)

6
by Grim Jim (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 1:55pm

re: #4
The Bears appear to be about $17 million under.

7
by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 2:13pm

According to this report Culpepper asked for a $10 million raise, and not surprisingly was shot down. If he fired his agent because his agent told him it was crazy to ask for $10 million, well, that wasn't a very smart move by Culpepper(unless he's trying to get himself cut or traded). Now people are saying that the Vikings will trade him for as little as a second-round pick. Considering that AJ Feeley was recently traded for a second round pick, you have to figure that some team will be interested at that price(Lions? Fins? Jets?).

8
by Kal (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 2:28pm

A second-round pick for Daunte? That's almost certainly worth it, even with his expensive contract. I would have said someone like Arizona would bite on that, but not any more. I don't think that Minnesota would be willing to do it for Detroit given they're in the same division. But what about somewhere like Miami? In Miami, Daunte would have a star receiver, a good running game, and Miami is basically missing a good QB as their package. They don't play against each other and Daunte's been liking staying down in Miami in recent months. Hmm.

9
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 2:37pm

Injured, overpaid and thinking you're underpaid is no way to go through your NFL career. I'm not sure if I would give up a seventh-round pick for Culpepper. How do you know he's not going to pull a T.O. on you? And how do you know he'll ever be the same after this ACL tear? And how do you know he won't be the 23-interception Daunte Culpepper of 2002? Or the on-pace-for-27-interception Duante Culpepper of 2005?

10
by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 2:49pm

Isn't Jamie Martin a UFA? I would think he would be a good fit for any team that's unsure if their starting QB can hack it. I know I'd be happy to see him with the Bears.

As good as Tillman and Vasher are, they're just not shut-down corners. I wonder if that's an area that the Bears might spend some money. Most reports that I've seen have the Bears selecting a TE early in the draft and trying to find some O-Linemen to backup the aging group. It seems so odd to look at the line now compared to a few years ago. In 2001 they had aging tackles with youngish homegrown players in the middle and then it looked like a they were just going to promote from within to replace guys but Villarial, Weigmann and that other guard went elsewhere for more money and the Bears ended up bringing in FA for three of the four open spots in the past couple years.

11
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 3:04pm

Yes, Jamie Martin is a UFA. I wonder if the Lions are interested because of the Martz connection.

12
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 3:14pm

The Bears have great cap space right now. Actually the Vikings, Packers, and Bears are like in the top 5 in cap space going into this offseason. The Bears have it because Angelo has been able to piece together a young, cheap defense. The Vikings because prior to the past offseason, their owner would never spend any money, and the Packers because they have a handful of free agents and they cleared out cap space last season.

The Lions are an estimated 9 million under the cap as well.

13
by Mike W (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 3:26pm

The Packers D was terrible? Really? Who knew? They overachieved, but they were on the field all the time and statistically looked pretty well at the end of the season.

They should try to keep Kampman, and for the love of God, get some young DTs.

Good point for not spending cap room on a RB. I think either Green or Davenport will come back anyway.

14
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 7:31pm

How do you know he’s not going to pull a T.O. on you?

I love the fact that T.O. is a verb now. That's fantastic.

15
by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 7:45pm

Well, [puts on grammar nazi hat], if T.O. was actually being used as a verb, the sentence would have been "How do you know he's not going to T.O. on you?".[removes ugly old grammar nazi hat]

Regardless, the point about T.O.'s antics being so widely known that they've become genericized(hey, I took my hat off) for being such a pain in the ass as to bring the whole team down is kind of funny. Brutus, Benedict Arnold, and now TO...

MDS, you wouldn't give up a 7th rounder for Culpepper? Even with his contract and injury, this is a guy who 2 years ago had one of the greatest seasons a QB ever had. Of course all the bad things that you mentioned could happen, but you could also get a really good QB. If you were a team thinking about drafting a QB high in the draft, wouldn't you think that Culpepper has a better shot to turn out well as a 1st or 2nd round QB? Are the cap numbers on his contract really that much more unreasonable than a high draft pick's? That last one is not a rhetorical question, I really don't know what the numbers on Culpeppers contract are.

16
by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 7:48pm

Wow, when I took my grammar nazi hat off I really did forget everything I know about grammar. That should be "wouldn't you think that Culpepper has a better shot to turn out well THAN a 1st or 2nd round draft pick?"

17
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 8:04pm

Those hats come in blue? My head's getting cold AND I feel like correcting someone... let's check out Bayless or Simmons to see what they've mangled.

18
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 8:06pm

See, that's the problem with the salary cap and the rookie slotting. The truth is, I'd rather trade a first-round pick for Culpepper than a second-round pick for Culpepper. The big problem I'd have with trading for Culpepper is that he's slated to make a lot this year (although if the Vikings pay the roster bonus and then trade him, it's less of a cap hit for the team that trades for him). That's for a guy, yes, who had a great season in 2004, but also for a guy who had bad seasons in both 2002 and 2005 and who is coming off an ACL tear.

For any player, you have to consider both how much he brings on the field and how much he prevents you from doing elsewhere because of his salary-cap drain. With Culpepper, I find it very hard to believe that he's going to be more than a league-average quarterback in 2006, given the ACL and the fact that he looked bad in 2005. So why should a team take him, knowing he's going to get paid more than a league-average quarterback, and he'll be unhappy even with what they're paying him?

19
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 8:13pm

I'd welcome ARE to the Bears, but not at the price he will surely bring. I say let Snyder overpay for him, let Gibbs figure out what trick plays to use.

I don't buy any of the talk about trading Tom Jones, either. You need 2 quality RBs these days.

20
by Dman (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 8:33pm

About Culpepper, it's not just an ACL, it's a couple of collatoral ligaments plus meniscus. I say he proves he'll walk without a limp again before we start throwing draft picks at him.

21
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 8:55pm

It doesn't make any sense to trade Culpepper, from either the buyer or seller side, assuming nobody does anything very stupid. I don't think the Vikings are going to cut him either, so if he truly wants more money than what his current contract calls for, he is going to have to get out on the field and play well. From the Vikings standpoint, that isn't a bad position to be in, since they have plenty of cap room. If Culpepper doesn't recover well, the Vikings are out six million. If he does, and performs well, they don't have to figure out what comes after Brad Johnson. In the world of the NFL, six million risked on a qb is not outlandish, certainly not compared to what is risked on qbs who are drafted in the first round, without ever having taken a snap in the league.

The wild card is whether Culpepper will be as inept in seeking his goals as T.O. was. I tend to think not, but who really knows?

22
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 9:18pm

Also, not to overly defend Culpepper's performance, which was bad, but it needs to be pointed out how bad his teammates let him down in the first seven games. In the season opener, Culpepper gets a long td pass called back on a phantom (there wasn't even any contact) offensive PI call, and then as the Vikings drive down for a go-ahead touchdown,, late in the game, to the Bucs 10 yeard line, Culpepper throws a catchable ball at the five that Moe Williams tips in the air for an interception. The losses to the Bengals, Panthers, and Falcons had Culpepper trying to keep up with opposing offenses which were scoring well over 20 points in the first half, while the Vikings offensive line was struggling. Roethlisberger or Manning wouldn't have looked good quarterbacking for the Vikings in those games.

Anyways, MDS, on the other side of the ball for the Vikings, after the Fred Smoot experiment, I'd be shocked if the Vikings took a flyer on Charles Woodson. That ain't happenin'. Guys with track records like Woodson's are not going to be signed by the Vikings, under the new regime, to anything but clause-ridden, incentive-dependent contracts.

I do think the Vikings have a clause in the Koren Robinson contract which allows them to match any offer, and since nobody is likely to offer Robinson a deal without a lot of language which protects the team should ol' Koren fall off the wagon, I think Robinson has a good chance to stay in Minnesota. Even if he never becomes more than a slightly above-average WR, he makes enough big plays as a kick returner to have really good value.

23
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 9:23pm

Injured, overpaid and thinking you’re underpaid is no way to go through your NFL career.

Which is why i think that Green Bay will let Ahman Green go. He has been good for us in the past, however he really got hurt bad and may not be worth the money to keep him.

As far as money is concerned I think that the Packers will have approx 17 million to play with under the cap. and if Brett does retire or get traded the that should that should also give back about 3-4 million on a cap hit.

Now the most Glaring area that I see that Green Bay needs to work on is thier O-Line. It was horrible last year.

and by the end of the season he was just chucking the ball down the field and hoping it would land in the right place.

The reason for the above. The O-line. Any QB no matter how tough he is, how great of a passer he is, or how well he can scamble will at the end of the year give it up if he had to run for his life most if not all of the season. We had to play the Bears 2X, Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Minnesota 2x. Get the picture he was runnig for his life and so at the end of the year he just said to hell with it and threw the ball and hoped for the best.

Will Brett Favre be with Green Bay next Year? My magic Eight Ball says no. I feel that Brett Favre will not come back to play another year and I can't wait to see him inducted into the hall of fame in 2011-2012. so does that mena he will get out of football 100%, no I feel that he will take a year maybe two off and then come back a a QB coach or maybe even a O-Coordinator.

24
by Ben K (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 9:45pm

"With Backus most likely on the way out..."

I'm curious as to why you'd talk about Backus this way. All the indications that I've heard/seen from the Lions is that he'll be resigned, as he should be. He played hurt for a good portion of last year and still was the best on the line. I also can't see them going into FA and the draft with two OT's and a OG to replace (assuming they'd like to move Butler back to a reserve and replace the disaster named DeMulling). Resigning Backus, bringing in a vet and a rookie at, and using a better scheme (which Martz will hopefully bring) seems like the logical route for fixing the OL.

With the other things you mentioned, I like the idea of letting Drummond go and using RW McQ. He played well on the defensive side (when not forced to guard the opposing teams best WR because of other CB injuries) and gave much more of a spark in the return game than Drummond did when healthy. Also, there's no way the Lions can afford what Ray Lewis is making over the next few years. So unless he takes a significant pay cut, I seriously hope they do not consider trading for an vastly overpaid, quickly aging LB, no matter what his name is.

25
by Bill (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 10:01pm

In Miami, Daunte would have a star receiver, a good running game, and Miami is basically missing a good QB as their package.

Who's the star WR? Wes Welker?

26
by CA (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 10:50pm

Re: 25

Who’s the star WR? Wes Welker?

Is that a failed attempt at humor? Or mere ignorance?

27
by NFC Central Freak (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 11:39pm

I think Chicago will see more out of its receivers when they start a QB who can throw the ball with some degree of accuracy. MM looked to be in great shape last year. You cannot catch that which is not thrown.

I the comment on cornerbacks is spot on. Whatever the scheme in the playoff game it was pretty clear that nobody could hang with Steve Smith. At all.

ARE for kick return duty would be appropriate. Expecting anything more out of this guy would be foolish.

GB needs to blow up the roster and start from scratch. Half the roster is below average NFL quality. That'a a terrible ratio.

28
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 11:46pm

My feeling about Backus is just that the entire line needs such an overhaul that I don't see much reason to keep him around. They're going to be running a very different offense anyway, so there's no real point in keeping a guy just because he's already been with the franchise.

29
by Dexter (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 12:03am

Ryan Fitzpatrick will go to the Lions

30
by paytonrules (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 1:02am

#27 MM had approx 10-12 drops last year. I don't care if Kyle Orton doesn't throw a perfect ball if you're a #1 A-list big free agent signing star you catch the ball.

As for the Bears, the good news is that on offense they have the makings of a pretty good offensive line and running game (THREE quality backs!), with the defense they already have they really only need to improve at quarterback and wide reciever.

The bad news is those are probably the hardest positions to improve in all of football.

The Bears shouldn't neglect the defense this offseason either. Defense is much more variable than offense, and that defense despite it's age is likely to regress without being improved in one way shape or form. Depth needs to be addressed, although that's a lot to ask for in one off-season.

31
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:02am

I'm glad that FO is one place that has realized that Craig Nall hasn't fallen off the face of the earth. I really hope the Packers hang onto him, because I'm definitely not sold on Aaron Rodgers. I'm not sold on Nall either, but at least with two unproven young QBs you've got a pretty good shot probability wise that at least one pans out.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see Ahman Green stick with the Packers. They should not and likely will not offer him much money, but I can't see too many other teams offering much either, so he might be willing to stick with the Pack at a reduced rate and accept a reduced role. I'd like to see him as the 3rd down back behind Gado.

I'm biased, but I'm also a bit more optimistic about the Packers than most other probably are. Last year they were a 4-12 team that looked to be about one Javon Walker away from 7-9 or 8-8 (I just reviewed their game results, 5 losses by 3 or less). The fact that Walker was injured at the very beginning of the season gives me hope that he can get back to most of his previous form next season.

32
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:31am

I am surprised someone mentioned Favre as a O coordinator in a few years. I was under the impression from comments he made that he is not a Xs and Os kind of guy and more of an "athlete" who was comfortable in the system he was in, and didn't feel like he had the inclinations/smarts tolearn a new one. Sounds like an odd candidate for an OC.

Remember only coaches sons and Ford employees get hired for coaching positions based solely on name recognition :)

33
by PDBIP (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 6:21am

Brett Favre is a great OC in video games. Therefore...

34
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 6:43am

"As good as Tillman and Vasher are, they’re just not shut-down corners. I wonder if that’s an area that the Bears might spend some money."

I don't think the Cover-2 defense really calls for shut-down corners, as the CBs spend most of their time playing a short zone anyway. Remember that the "giving up big games to stud wide receivers" phenomenon only really hurt them against Carolina, because they would totally shut down all other passing options. Carolina, however, don't have any other passing options anyway, and even if they did Delhomme would most likely ignore them, while Steve Smith is not a stud wide receiver but an inhuman beast-freak from Alpha Centauri, who actually can be a one-man offense if necessary. The problem wasn't Tillman and Vasher, it was a failure to scheme appropriately for the Panthers' offense.

35
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 9:44am

Certainly anyone trading for Culpepper would be taking a risk, but draft choices aren't sure things either. I could see someone making a deal for him once they had an understanding that nothing was going to be done on his contract until he had played a year. That would eliminate any long term cap risk.

Culpepper might not like that arrangement but he would have to be foolish not to see that's the best he can hope for.

36
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 9:55am

A few questions -

What's the history on receivers recovering form ACL surgery? Is Walker's return to form very likely or only 50/50?

Has there been a recent example of a team replacing a high first round QB 'bust' with another high first round QB? Most teams seem to shy away from QBs at the top of the first round when they've been burned there recently. OTOH, Millen has demonstrated a willingness to do things a little differently.

37
by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 12:56pm

"draft choices aren’t sure things either"

I agree that they're not sure things on the field, but they are sure things on the payroll. If a team uses its second-round pick on a player who doesn't pan out, all it has lost is the pick and maybe $2 million. If a team uses its second-round pick on Culpepper and he doesn't pan out, the team has lost the pick and maybe $15 million.

"Has there been a recent example of a team replacing a high first round QB ‘bust’ with another high first round QB?"

The closest thing is the Bengals, who took Akili Smith No. 3 overall in 1999, then took Carson Palmer No. 1 overall in 2003.

38
by Dman (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 1:02pm

Backus definetly needs to go. That whole O-line needs to get blown up. I think there may be some talent there, but at this point they are just too entrenched in a screwed up system. Blow it up and rebuild through the draft.

39
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 1:10pm

RE:32

Yea but he helped transformed that system. Early on is his career the Green BAy Packers NEVER went into a Shotgun formation. This was a philisophical (sp?)
belief of Holmgres that he has somewhat let go since he took over at Seattle. what you would see alot of in Green Bay was the sigle back 3 wr (west coast offense) style play. I think that Brett is truly smart enough to be a OC just becuase he was helping the Green Bay Packers transform into more versitle team. Just becuase he says he was an "athelte" that was comfortable in the system he was playing for does not mean he has the smarts to go out there and try to outwit the other team as a coach.

What I meant by that statement is that since he is such a competitor that the juices will get flowing after a couple of years off and he will want to come back to the game that he enjoys and loves so much. I feel that he would be a great asset to any team that picks him up as either a QB coach or OC.

God knows that too many recent retirees of football have gotten anyalists jobs and pretty much none of them have anything new to add to the game. :-)

John Madden has said it all way to many times :-)

40
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 1:19pm

RE: 36

I think that for the pre-season and the first four Games JW will be at most 75%. they say the recovery for a Torn ACl is about 1 year. with the advancements is sgurgery techniques and rehab practices he should make the pre-season no problem. however to make cuts and stop and gos he will have to be very careful his first few games back.
RE: 37
yea SD took Ryan Leaf in 2000 (?) and then replaced him with drew brees and then drafted phillip rivers.

RE 31:
I just don't know about Nall. I know why GB drafted Arron Rodgers in 2005 (who wouldn't be crazy to draft him that low in the first round.)I see your arguemnet that if Brett does go the way of Marino and Elway then we will have 2 failrly young QB's to choose from. Nall has been behind Favre for two years now and Rodgers one. we will just have to see which way it goes. Like I have said in Ealier threades about this I just hope we do not have another Majowski on our hands. :-)

41
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 1:22pm

A second-round pick is not that bad for a QB that has proven themselves to be fairly decent if not stellar - and if that QB has flashes of brilliance, it's definitely worth it. The QB market is small enough that it's hard to not try for a good QB if you have a chance to do it, just because you won't get the option otherwise.

While Daunte isn't the superstar QB that he plays himself up as - he's basically had one outstanding season and a lot of bad to okay ones - he's definitely a better QB than Frerotte. Jaws had a great piece on him where it looked like he does a bad job of picking up his reads and as a result does a lot of instinctual plays and/or takes a lot of sacks. I suspect that's why him and Moss worked well together - because Moss does a good job of catching the ball if it's thrown to him regardless of the coverage, and when Moss left Culpepper had to pay more attention to the coverage around the receiver. Chambers is a similar receiver in that regard, so I think that would be a good fit.

If I were to trade for him - especially if I'm Miami - I'd make the contract very much oriented towards performance goals. Make him able to make 10mil a year - but only if he gets X yards and has a TD/Int ratio that's reasonable...that sort of thing. Otherwise pay him only a few mil.

42
by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 1:33pm

I agree that he's better than Frerotte, but he also takes up more financial resources than Frerotte. Even so, I suppose he'd be an improvement to the Dolphins if you could guarantee that his knee would be reasonably healthy and that he wouldn't be a disruptive presence because he's unhappy with his contract. But I don't think you can guarantee those things.

43
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:08pm

That's just it, MDS - there aren't any guarantees here. The question isn't whether you can guarantee it - it's whether you think it's more likely that he won't be horribly disruptive. Given that Saban has done a fairly good job with his disruptive elements (Williams) I think he could mostly control Culpepper.

And like I said, losing a second round pick and some money for that possibility is to me a fairly worthwhile proposition - especially if the one real weakness on your team is the QB. If it was some other team that needed a QB I'd probably say no. The Lions, for example, need so many things that getting a star QB would not be that useful, and taking a risk on a star QB isn't that useful either. Same goes for the Saints or Buffalo or NYJ or any number of other teams. But Miami really seems like they're just _this_ far from hitting the bigtime - and that the only thing they're really missing is an A-list QB.

44
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:11pm

Re: 37 MDS, unless his new team would agree to a new deal, they have no cap risk beyond his first year salary. And as I said previously, I think any team making a deal for him would need to reach an understanding with him that there will be no new contract until he's played a year.

You're right, the Bengals situation somewhat parallels the Lions (though Smith was gone by the time they drafted Palmer). Certainly the timing is right.

Re: 40

I thought about SD, but Brees was a second round pick (relatively modest salary and bonus money), so I don't think it's really all that similar to the Lions situation.

45
by Nate (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:13pm

Green Bay for Life - your interior o-line struggles (two bad guards, and center out with injury), but you have one of the better pair of tackles in the game.
Kal - Daunte has at least 3 seasons that look good to me. One transcendent season and two excellent seasons. And the guy has never thrown for less than a 60% completion percentage.
Re: my team, the Bears - our o-line is old. The door will slam shut on our offense soon.

46
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:13pm

RE:43

I have to agree with you on Miami, that they are very close. but how is thier O-line, I know that they were decent this year, however I think that Culpepper will lose some of his mobility so I think they would alos have to bolster thier O-line to protect him a little bit more and pehpas open some bigger holes for their running game.

47
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:22pm

RE: 45

That is my point if our Interior O-Line is lets just say "CRAP" then we get no inside blocking and the run game is forced to the outside (which is not our strong suit) and the QB has to run for his life because all he sees is 300 lbs gorillas runing at him and trying to tackle him :-)

RE: 44
but the whole triangle thing still points to a team that is willing to pay a high price for a Qb get burned and then come back in a few years and try again with another high draft QB. and for thier sake I hope like hell Phillip Rivers is better than Ryan Leaf

48
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:31pm

#46:

According to DVOA, Miami was 5th overall in pass protection and adjusted sack rate, and allowed 26 sacks all year. They were also 11th in adjusted line yards and 8th in power running. Miami's OLine is very strong, probably one of the best in the league from top to bottom. If people like Frerotte - who isn't the most mobile QB - can do okay back there, I think Culpepper would do fine. And as always, the best way to avoid being sacked is to run the ball which Miami does a good job at.

#45: He's got one simply amazing season (last year after the contact change), 2 good seasons (2000 and 2003), a couple okay ones and one really bad one (last year). I didn't mean to say that he had one great season and the rest were crappy. I wish he had more of a trending statline though; it looked like after 2003 and 04 that he was going to be great, but then he seemed to revert to 2002 standards.

49
by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:32pm

I think the Lions would be crazy to take a qb in the 1st round, especially a reach pick like Cutler.

IMO, you sign Mike Martz precisely so you DON'T have to take a qb in the 1st round. The greatest asset Mad Mike brings to the organization is the ability to find and develop cheap qbs that nobody else realizes can play in the NFL. This frees up cap space to use on another need.

If Martz doesn't think Joey is the guy, you tell him to find the next Trent Green (8th rd pick back when they drafted that deep)/Kurt Warner (FA)/Mark Bulger (6th rd) at the combine or Arena game or sitting on someone's bench. Presumably he has an idea of qbs that he'd have drafted or acquired over the last few years if he had the chance or need.

Of course, Millen might do anything but the sensible thing to me is to give Martz a chance work his magic and use the 1st rd pick to take the best player available (unless he’s a wr). Given the HC’s background, I’d guess the Lions would go defense in rd 1.

50
by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:35pm

I really feel like saying that Culpepper has had one outstanding season and a bunch of bad-to-okay ones is selling him short.

In 2000, he threw for 33 TDs and almost 4000 yards and added 7 rushing TDs while turning the ball over 23 times(according to FO stats). He was ranked #3 in DPAR.

In 2001 and 2002, Culpepper clearly regressed, his Y/A dropped significantly and he turned the ball over like a machine. These definitely qualify as bad-to-okay years(17th and 24th in DPAR).

In 2003, he was once again one of the best QBs in football, 25 passing TDs + 4 more rushing with 18 TOs. He passed for almost 3500 yards and was #5 in DPAR.

In 2004 he was outstanding, and there is absolutely no question he was top 5 in football.

2005, well, that was just a disaster.

By my count that's 3 years of top-5 QB performance, 2 years of bad-to-okay performance, and one disaster year. He may not be worth an extra $10 million right now, but when he is playing well he's one of the best QBs in the league. He's not "fairly decent with flashes of brilliance" - this is a guy who if you put him in the right situation will be at the top of the leaderboards, and IMO there are only a few QBs I would rather have - Brady, Manning, Big Ben, McNabb(who's also hurt and has had bad years), maybe Palmer(and he's got injury issues too and is even less proven than Pep). The fact is there just aren't that many QBs out there who have or can or have produced like he has, and it seems weird to me that there isn't a team out there who is going to conclude that they can put him in the right situation and manage whatever attitude issues he's developed, because it's not likely you get a QB as good as Culpepper in the draft.

51
by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:42pm

Of course #48 wasn't there when I wrote my comment and #43 sounds like me and Kal agree on this - somebody(Miami or Chicago seem like the obvious candidates) should at least try and get Culpepper while his value is this low.

52
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:45pm

RE 50:
but the one thing NO ONE has mentioned is the whole "sex on the riverboat" scandle. His name was one of the ones that came up. Now granted NFL players do not spend time in jail, but I would be curious to see how a ankle monitor would match with the Miami Uniform?

53
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:46pm

#50, read my earlier post. He isn't just a decent QB, and that's sort of my point. If you can get a 'good' QB for a second round pick in this NFL, you should probably go for it. I was saying 'fairly decent with flashes of brilliance' to show what you should get for a second round pick; if you can get something better (like Culpepper) it's really worth it.

I'll try and restate my point. If a team needs a QB and there is an available QB that is decent to good with flashes of brilliance, and all it will cost you is some cap money and a second round pick, it's a good bet. If that QB is actually great (or has shown himself to be great) like Culpepper, it's a steal. It becomes less of a steal because of the injury, but that can be mitigated fairly reasonably.

In my mind, a second round QB would be someone like Bulger or Green, maybe Leftwich or Plummer. Proven game winners with flaws who are in the top 15. Culpepper would go for more if he hadn't been injured and there weren't the personal problems.

54
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:50pm

#51:

Yeah, we basically agree. Though I don't think Chicago would be a good fit for him - mostly because I think they've got other weaknesses that they need to address and they don't absolutely need a QB as their one deal. That, and they need to run the ball better.

Plus, there's no way that Minnesota trades to a team in their division unless that trade seriously hurts the other team or seriously helps them - and Chicago's second round pick isn't as valuable as Miami's is. Add to that that Culpepper would almost certainly not like to play on Soldier field, and I don't think it's going to work. Miami would work almost perfectly.

55
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:58pm

Just a bit of a note: even Culpepper's worst years were above replacement level. There are several teams who would see an immediate upgrade by Culpepper even at his worst - Buffalo, Chicago, Miami, Detroit, San Francisco, and Houston. Baltimore and Cleveland at worst would be treading water.

Usually about 25% of the teams in the league only have replacement-level quarterbacks. Then again, that might have something to do with their offensive lines, but I can't really argue with Buffalo/Miami/Chicago/Detroit.

Heck, Buffalo went from an "average" QB (Bledsoe, ~0%+/-5% DVOA over the past 2 years, with 2 teams) to a "replacement level" QB (Holcomb, -12% DVOA over the past 3 years) and look where it got 'em.

56
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 3:14pm

I think that Detroit's QBing is largely because of the horrifyingly bad OLine, but that might be my Harrington bias. Chicago, Buffalo and Miami though - absolutely.

57
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 3:23pm

If I'm a GM considering making an offer for Culpepper my biggest concern isn't the variation in his performance year to year, but simply how poor he was in his only year without Moss. There has been a lot of debate here about whether or not Moss was 'inflating' Culpepper's passing success. Whatever you think of Culpepper's performance last year you can't say it laid this question to rest.

58
by NFC Central Freak (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 3:41pm

GB For Life:

Favre has been a wonderful quarterback.

Favre is not coach/coordinator material.

Why?

Favre, by his admission, hates practice. He hates watching fim. He hates reviewing the playbook. He pretty much hates everything to do with preparation. Last I checked that was a pretty key element of a coaches job in the NFL.

Favre is a homebody. He has talked incessantly of how much he enjoys cutting the grass at his home in MS. That is just one of multiple domestic chores that Favre has gushed about as being preferable to prepping for the game. I doubt someone that distracted would be much good at coaching.

Finally, and this is a personal opinion based only on observation and input from those around the division, Favre just isn't smart enough to be a coordinator.

I know that reads as mean. And rude. But great instincts and great physical skills mean nothing as a coach.

Mike Holmgren pretty much had to berate Favre nonstop for several years to make him into the QB he became. And once Holmgren left he began to regress. And not all of it can be attributed to a loss of skills due to age. Favre needs a mentor to be at his best. Mike Sherman wasn't that guy. Darrell Bevel CERTAINLY isn't that guy.

And if the coach needs a mentor to be at his best then why have THAT guy as coach?

I think Favre will be one of the few athletes you will see who when done will just walk away only to show up at periodic reunions of some sort.

Again, pure guess. But despite his lack of book smarts Favre DOES know his limitations. And coaching or being in a booth somewhere are not core competencies. And Favre knows that about himself.

59
by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 3:46pm

Kal, we need to work on our timing :-). Good points about Chicago though. Is Miami the only team that is a reasonable candidate for Culpepper? If there's only one team in the market, that alone makes it somewhat unlikely that a deal gets done.

Re: 50 I don't think anybody would let alone that seriously influence their decision making(although it may be part of a pattern of attitude issues). Yeah, it was stupid to do it on a boat around a bunch of waiters. But I never really saw anything that said it was worse than what happens in strip clubs every day. Something like Jamal Lewis organizing a coke deal seems a lot worse to me, and he wasn't having a hard time getting a job in the NFL until he stopped playing well.

Re: 57 In 2004, his best year, the receivers he completed the most passes to were Jermain Wiggins(71), Nate Burleson(68), Randy Moss(49), and Marcus Robinson(47), and in 2000 he completed more passes to Chris Carter than Moss. While it's legitimate to wonder whether Culpepper would have been as successful without Moss, I really don't think it's any worse than with most other QB/WR combos like Manning/Harrison, Young/Rice, or Aikman/Irvin. Yeah, he won't be good if you put him in a situation where he's got nothing but crappy receivers, but I'm sure Culpepper could work just fine with, say, Chris Chambers or any other good WR.

60
by Ben K (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 3:49pm

The problem with just letting Backus go is that I don't see anybody worth letting him go for. Sure Runyun has been a very good OT, but he's also 33 right now and likely wouldn't be anything more than a stopgap. Unless they begin to compete right away I don't think he'd be around for when they're making runs at the playoffs. And also I find it hard to believe you're going to find 3 starting quality OL in one offseason without trying to start draftees who need some time to learn before they can perform at a higher level than the current guys. I don't think you can afford to take OL with the first 3 picks in the draft because wilkinson is getting up there in age (hopefully cody can step in) and they need another DE opposite Hall to get pressure on the QB. Not to mention the secondary needs some depth and we need probably one starting LB. And how hard is it for an OL to learn a new scheme. I'm sure Backus had a different scheme in college and he had been "entrenched" in that for 4 years. Who's to say that after 4 years in the MorningMooch scheme that he can't learn a new one and do well in it? If it were easier to go out and find starting quality linemen then I'd probably be for letting backus go as well, but I just don't think its that easy. With FA guys being overrated from the scheme that they were in (DeMulling, maybe Woody) and draft picks not quite ready for a starting job (Bulter), I don't think its that easy. Maybe someone has an example of a OL that was blown up, 3 or more new guys were brought in, and they performed well the next year.

61
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 3:52pm

NFCCF:

Ok you got a point, but I am one of those helpless GB Fans that really does not want to see Brett go.

So I will sit here in the frozen tundra that is my home in the Sierra Nevada of California and cry fo my team as they begin to rebuild in a fanchise that can win again and see them in Superbowl LXI (61)

62
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 3:56pm

Hey NFCCF,

Have we heard anything on the Arron Brooks situation in New Orleans/San Antonie/Los Angels?

I know they have a high first round draft pick.

Anyway have a great time out there (I used to use the name J.S. before so you may rememebr some of our posts that we argued over)

63
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 3:59pm

There isn't qb in the league who would have looked good, or even average, with the Vikings offensive line last year, when the Viking's defense was giving up well over 20 first half points on the road, as was the case in all but one of Culpepper's bad performance's last year. Does he have weaknesses? Sure, he doesn't read as well, or as quickly, as he should.

Having said that, if you pair him with an above-average defense, so he doesn't feel the need to throw three touchdown passes in the first half each week, and get an offensive line that can the ball with a modicum of effciency, he can still be a well above-average qb. You don't trade such a qb for a second round draft choice, unless he becomes t.o.-like.

His statement from yesterday is some indication that he may grasp that the only way for him to get the cash he wants is to get on the field and play well. That is, he understands how his and the Vikings' interests are aligned. Then again, his behavior towards the new Vikings coaching staff may indicate otherwise.

If I'm Vikings management, I continue this game of chicken, pay Culpepper the six million dollar bonus (really, compare that with what is regulalrly risked on QBs who are drafted in the first round who have yet to take a NFL snap) due next month, and dare Culpepper to damage his career further by not working hard to return to previous levels of performance. Unless soembody offers something substantially more than has been bandied about in the media, the Vikings will likely take a bigger risk eventually on a QB (Brad Johnson can't play forever) than what they are facing now.

64
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:06pm

Oh, and for goodness sakes, stop with the ankle bracelet nonsense. Culpepper stands accused of fondling a stripper's breasts while receiving a lap dance. The worst that will happen to him is that he pays a small fine, and I'd wager he gets a suspended sentence at worst, with the record expunged in a year or two if he stays out of trouble. Steve McNair got arrested for drunk driving, which is a far, far, worse offense against the general public, and nobody thought it was the End of Western Civilization.

65
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:07pm

If I were a team I wouldn't let Favre anywhere near coaching. Can you imagine him as a QB coach? Gah. "Just go out there, slinging and slanging, have a good time, ya gotta feel it". Gah.

He might make a good owner though. But don't give him anything that would force him to use his intelligence.

#59: Let's go by divisions. No one from the NFC West would work. Dallas might vaguely be interested, but I don't think Parcells wants to deal with that and he's mostly happy with Bledsoe I believe. No one from the NFC South works, and the NFC North is out automatically.

AFC North - Baltimore wouldn't be horrible if they didn't have such cap issues. Tennessee is in a similar boat, and they've got two decent QBs anyway + a high draft pick. Oakland is similar to Baltimore, and they've got the added problem that they've got a ton of other things to address (like their whole defense). Buffalo isn't the worst idea but I don't think they're ready to give up the Holcomb/Losman experiment yet.

Miami definitely seems like the best fit of all the teams out there - they're out of the conference, have cap room, need a good QB and it's somewhere that Culpepper apparently likes to hang out.

66
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:08pm

In my opinion the Bears are in excellent shape moving forward: assuming Grossman pays well (and who played better in the playoffs anyways, Eli or Grossman?...) they have a strong Oline, great running backs, several recievers who can fill in at 2 and 3 alright, MM was Steve Smith two years ago, the defense is good and young and is not losing anything to free agency. Chicago has an opportunity to draft the best players they can and to bring in free agent youth who dont have to be forced into the lineup, except through injuries.
The only reason to disagree would be if their quarterbacks deflate all that value around them... but I think Grossman is good, that hell play next year, and that I would be happy to have Orton (TONS of experience for second yera backup quarterback...) as number two.

67
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:08pm

In #63, that's "...run the ball with a modicum of effciency....."

68
by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:22pm

"There isn’t qb in the league who would have looked good, or even average, with the Vikings offensive line last year"

Brad Johnson looked pretty good.

69
by jimmo (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:25pm

I'm with MRH #49 on this one. With the beatings the QB takes in Martz' offense, I can't see the Lions going for one in the first round. And I definitely don't see them going after Pennington, as mentioned in another thread.

I could see bringing in Martin and Smoker, drafting a guy (Reggie McNeal, Omar Jacobs, Jeff Mroz?), and letting those three, Harrington and Orlovsky battle it out. If any three emerge, Martin moves to the sidelines as a QB coach, able to step in for injuries or poor play.

70
by Dan (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:27pm

#57 - If you remember in 2004 Randy Moss had his nagging groin and hamstring issues that made him miss about 6 or 7 games, and Culpepper didn't miss a beat. That Monday night game vs. Indy that year was without Moss, and he had the Vikings in the game the whole time and it was only a matter of the Colts getting the ball last that won the game. I'm a Dolphins fan, and I would love to see him in Miami at the right price.

And to all the people that say Brad Johnson is better than him, give me a break. He caught fire against some pretty weak defenses, but if you can say with a straight face that given the decision of Culpepper or Johnson you would take Johnson then I'm not sure what is going through your head. You can't take that 5 game stretch of futility and put a label on Culpepper that he's gonna suck.

71
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:31pm

Brad Johnson isn't better than Culpepper, but a better question is whether Johnson is good enough to trade Culpepper and get rid of his huge salary cap hit. If I were the vikings my money would say 'no' but they do some wack stuff out there.

72
by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:43pm

At their news conference yesterday, Martz and Marinelli both said they expect Harrington to be back with the Lions this year. Not that that proves anything, but he certainly seems to be in the team's plans. Harrington gets a $4 million roster bonus on June 15, so the team has some time to watch him in minicamp and decide whether it wants to keep him. His base salary is $4.45 million, and I must say that $8.45 million is too much for him. But at the same time, I'm not real confident that if they got rid of him, they'd get anyone better to take his place.

73
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:52pm

Brad Johnson looked pretty good

Yea becuase he had like 2 years of rest.
Don't get me wrong Brad stepped up when he needed to but he was also very ineffective at times as well. I feel that if you think he was so much better then why did they not make the playoffs? because even with him in there they still stunk in key areas (defense) and could not win when they needed too.

I think all of this talk about trading Dante Culpepper is not going to go anywhere but I would love to see him leave this division just so it could come down to the Bears and Packers for a while. Assuming of course that my favorite teams rights itself and gets back into the winning tradtion :-)

74
by empty13 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:55pm

I will agree his line was blown up last year and the running game was blown up somewhat and trailing by a lot early in a few games (helped by cottrell's scheme not being bought into yet) hurt 'chauncey pullpecker's stats' but...

he has to have all the cylinders working to be productive. he is not a leader or a game breaker. he misses moss and linehan more than the other stuff.

he has small hands for a big man, is already a well known fumbler, and as a big man, his mobility isnt going to improve with age.

the main reason the offense malfunctioned and that he asked for a bonus adjustment is because HE EXERCISES BAD JUDGMENT. got to win the game all by hisself...

WITH A GOOD DEFENSE NOW, guess what: run the old man caretaker offense, as the local (not in) minnehaha fans tell me... and spend chauncey's salary on other needs.

i think wilf looks at it the same way.

75
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 5:03pm

Oh, and for goodness sakes, stop with the ankle bracelet nonsense.

Oh come on i was trying to be humorous :-)

I know what he is accused of, I would just like to see, just once, one of these "Stars", "Examples", or "pillars of the community" get what anyone else who does not have millions of dollars to spend on thier defense in court gets.

76
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 5:03pm

If I were the vikings my money would say ‘no’ but they do some wack stuff out there.

Well, you also have to wonder if Childress is really that interested in pushing for a playoff run next year. The Vikings kindof tanked their playoff hopes early last year. If they do so again this year, it's easy enough for Childress to say "hey, we're rebuilding".

The big thing with Culpepper is that $6M bonus due. With that, the Vikings aren't going to keep him one year and toss him the next. Not even for 2 years. That's why they might go with Johnson - because they can toss Johnson aside in a year or two.

It really depends on whether or not Childress thinks Culpepper is worth it for several years, and that I don't know.

Then again, there is one other thing we're not considering. Childress was Philly's offensive coordinator. Culpepper: McNabb-like. Johnson: Not McNabb-like.

77
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 5:04pm

get what anyone else who does not have millions of dollars to spend on thier defense in court gets.

That's still a little harsh. Public indecency and harassment isn't going to get you or me thrown in jail, either. Especially if it's not your first offense. This isn't because he's rich. It's because it was illegal, but it wasn't exactly going postal or anything.

78
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 5:08pm

MDS, you ignored the rest of the statement, which was "....when the Viking’s defense was giving up well over 20 first half points on the road....".

Trust me, if Ol' Brad had been trying to keep it close while the Vikings defense was yielding more than 20 points in the first half on the road, he would have been substantially worse, if, for no other reason, he can't avoid a rush. You can play with Johnson's style as long as your defense doesn't give up a big lead in the first half. If you want a better comparison, check out Johnson's performance in the Steelers' game, and even that is not great, since it was in the Metrodome.

79
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 5:11pm

GBL, the chance of a non-celebrity having a county prosecutor devote the resources required for a ten-week investigation, of whether the non-celebrity fondled a stripper's breasts during a lap dance, approximates zero.

80
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 5:13pm

RE 77:

Yea Pat well my mistake at age 18 for "Public Indecency" (Flashing a girl at a soriety nite out my "thingy") got me 2 months in a jail cell and 2 years probation.

I have learned from that drunken nonsense they called college and have done well for myslef but I still feel that as a society as a whole we are willing to "forgive and forget" just because they have talent. i am getting sick of it, and it just is not football either, I feel that all sports have been tainted by these "talents" that since they have money think they can do anything.

81
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 5:55pm

Re: 70

Moss missed 3 games in 2004. If we add on a couple of others where he was obviously limited we could streetch it to 5 games in 2004 minus Moss.

For some reason you give these five games considerably more weight than the seven games Culpepper played last year.

I'm not saying Culpepper is as bad as last year without Moss, I just think how well he will play without Moss is still an open question.

82
by Aaron Boden (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 6:50pm

I thought Jerry Azumah was a Free agent as well this year for the Bears

83
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 6:56pm

OK, public indecency isn't going to get anyone who has enough money for a lawyer thrown in jail?

Got me. I know of a few people (not me! not being able to drink alcohol keeps you out of a lot of trouble) in similar situations and all they got was probation. Mitigating circumstances, I guess.

84
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 8:23pm

RE 83

yea I guess, but enough of that for right now. I still think that Culpepper will not be traded unless the Vikings get one heck of a sweet deal out of it.

What about arron Brooks going to Miami, is the consenus that he is worse then a ferrote? or does anyone think that Saban could save his downward sprial of a career?

85
by Dman (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 8:23pm

I think you get his point pat, I don't think anyone here is foolish enough to believe that we common folk get the same treatment as the uber rich.

86
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 9:23pm

Did you see the Cap hit that the raiders will take if they keep Collins? it is 12.9 million Dollars. I know he is not worth that much hell the raiders could get Culpepper cheap and still save some roon in the cap.

87
by Paul (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 9:47pm

68: where are all the genuflectors? I'd swear someone would say that Ben/Tom would look just fine (and of course Peyton would be discussing breakdowns)

88
by Bill (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 11:30pm

Re: 25

Who’s the star WR? Wes Welker?

Is that a failed attempt at humor? Or mere ignorance?

Welker had their highest DVOA this year (20th in the league). Chambers and Booker are anything but star receivers. Hence, a statement.

89
by PDBIP (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 2:44am

Yes, and Az-Zahir Hakim and Doug Gabriel both had higher DPAR and DVOA than any Miami reciever. So you're saying you'd prefer both those players starting for your team before Chris Chambers, right?

Perhaps Chamber's FO numbers are unrealistically low because he was the number one option and had many incomplete passes forced his way, whereas Welker was only thrown the ball when he was open. Perhaps Chambers faced a double team often, and still caught the ball half of the time. But calling Chambers "anything but a star" is getting silly. It helps to actually watch football as well as break down the numbers.

90
by PDBIP (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 2:53am

Another thought I just had... judging a players' ability based on one season is also flawed. Chambers has been consistantly high over the years. One name that also has been consistently high, no matter where he was playing? Jurevicius.

91
by Sean (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 1:02pm

What's the knock against Detroit Lions punter Nick Harris? His average yard stat is a touch low (only 11th in the league at 43.5) because he's so frickin' good at kicking a ball that dies inside the 20. He kicked 84 punts last year -- 34 ended up inside the 20 (40.5%, 3rd best in the league) while only 2 (2.4%) went into the endzone. This guy had a kick that can put the ball exactly where he wants it. Sure, he's just a punter, but if the Lions had a decent defense this past year, they'd have been able to make something of the horrible field position Harris put the opposition in on a consistant basis.

Besies, about the weak leg argument -- if Harris wasn't as good at sticking the ball in the 20, he could easilly have an extra yard or so on his average, which would put in among the leaders.

92
by Bill (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 2:27pm

All of those things about Chambers are possible truths - there are certainly things DVOA doesn't pick up on - his blocking ability, for one.

But a star receiver should do everything well, ESPECIALLY catching the ball, which DVOA does measure.

Chambers throughout the years:

-2001: +23.7% DVOA, 53.3% of passes caught
-2002: -4.7% DVOA, 52% of passes caught
-2003: +7.8% DVOA, 49% of passes caught
-2004: -9.4% DVOA, 50% of passes caught
-2005: -11.6% DVOA, 49% of passes caught

You know what? Don't believe in DVOA. Not a problem. And what else, let's say Chris Chambers has been double-teamed on EVERY PLAY. For his entire career.

Steve Smith was the only viable threat the Panthers had this year and he caught 69% of the passes thrown to him. Santana Moss had David Patten and the Pit Crew Memorial All-Stars across from him and he caught 63% of the passes thrown to him. Hines Ward had the sufficiently overrated Antwaan Randle El across from him and he caught 61% of the passes thrown to him. Torry Holt had the decaying bones of Isaac Bruce across from him and he caught 63% of the passes thrown to him.

The only advantage those guys had on Chambers was, usually, they had a better QB. However, Chambers played in a better offense, with more weapons, a better offensive line in pass protection, and in better weather than all except Holt. All of which is stuff that DVOA _does_ account for, while Chambers' raw numbers do not.

A star receiver - one of the top 10, or top 15, in the league - catches more than 60% of the passes thrown to him. Consistently. Chris Chambers does not.

I only see, usually, about 6 or 7 Dolphins games a year. So maybe in the other 10, Chris Chambers is a star. But according to all the evidence I see, Chris Chambers is a mediocre receiver who gets thrown the ball a lot.

93
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 2:55pm

83-W.Welker MIA 9.7 44 9.2 45 14.1% 20 12.3% 52 434 0 56%

What was with the crack on WW earlier? He was my vote as '06/'07 breakout player of the year...

94
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 2:57pm

Ooh. Those unlabelled numbers sure are impressive.

So you don't have to go look for yourself, he was 20th among wide receivers last year in DVOA (14.1%).

95
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 3:17pm

The problem with Harris is that his below-average distance and below-average hang time aren't enough to make up for his excellent skill at keeping the ball out of the end zone. You cited his gross average, but net average is more telling, and he's below average in that category.

96
by Kal (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 4:04pm

Steve Smith had Delhomme throwing to him. Chris Chambers had Frerotte.

Again, some times you have to look at the game and not just dissect the stats. I hate saying that because this is all about quantitative analysis, but it's true. Brandon Lloyd is a tremendously gifted receiver, but he has bad DVOA and DPAR almost entirely because Alex Smith throws the ball to him.

One thing that I'd like to see in the offseason is some way for DVOA to do a better job of tracking how a receiver performs. Right now, 'balls at receiver' is very misleading; overthrows, thrown-away balls, defensed balls, missed routes, dropped passes, bad passes - they all fall into the same bucket. There is no way to differentiate between a bad QB throwing to a good WR and a good QB throwing to a bad WR by looking at the DPAR alone. This is in contrast to RBs who don't have this dependency.

97
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 4:29pm

Running backs are every bit as dependent on their teammates as receivers. With receivers it's primarily about the quality of the quarterback, and with running backs it's primarily about the quality of the offensive line, but in both cases you need to consider context when looking at DVOA. (Which Aaron often points out.)

98
by Kal (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 4:55pm

Sorry, I meant that RBs don't have the dependency of the QB, not that they don't have any dependencies. Furthermore, DVOA usually does a good job of tracking running performance since most teams utilize one back primarily; the rushing DVOA is often going to coorespond well to a RB's DVOA. Because there are multiple receivers who normally (not Carolina) get the ball, it's harder to correlate overall passing DVOA vs which WR, RB and TE did what.

Though that would help - showing what the DVOA/DPAR of the QB is that is throwing to that receiver and using that as another modifier.

99
by Ben K (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 5:03pm

About Harris: He lead the league in both inside the 20 and inside the 10. However, there are alot of variables that go into those numbers. Also take into consideration the Lions had the 4th most punts returned (not fair-caught, not OB, not TB) and gave up the 5th worst return avg. I think that says something about the return coverage over-persuing which would lead to more downed balls inside the 20, or under-persuing which would lead to more returned punts. How about also the fact that Chad Stanley, Derrick Frost, and Dustin Colquitt all had far worse yard per punt avgs and still had nearly as many downed inside the 20 as Harris. I don't think this proves harris has a weak leg, but it does that power has less to do with number downed inside the 20 than you think. Also, in DVOA, Harris came up at -1.1. That means that he was a below average punter last year. He was even worse below average in 2004 and 2003 when he played a majority of the season for the Lions. My bottom line is that Harris is not great, he's not even good, but I don't think its something The Lions need to worry about while there are other needs on the team and there isn't likely to be much better available.

100
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 6:19pm

I guess I feel like if the Lions' offense is going to look like last year, I want them to get a better punter than Harris because the punter is going to be on the field a lot. But if the Lions' offense is going to look like last year, punting is the least of their problems.

101
by Catfish (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 11:16pm

Re: 99

I never saw Harris this year, but this site's special teams ratings take into account all factors you mention, and they have Harris as below average at -1.1. (see link)

102
by Ben K (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 12:06am

Re: 101:

I know that. See line 7+. And actually not only does he fall below average because of his negative number. You can see that he's even in the lower 3rd of all punters' DVOAs. So he's even lower below average than the number -1.1 indicates.

103
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 3:28am

MDS, it simply is not true that running backs are as dependent on their teammates as receivers. No receiver is going to put up good numbers with a truly awful offensive line, and neither will a running back. However, it is possible for a Hall of Fame running back to perform well with a hideous quarterback, while a truly great receiver can't do squat with a hideous qurterback. See Gale Sayers and the first half of Walter Payton's career.

104
by Ruben (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 4:29am

Will (wow, night owls??),

I'd say it really depends on the type of runner...a Reggie Bush-type, or other outside-the-tackles guy probably improvises alot, and doesn't depend on his linemen as much as a between-the-tackles runner.

And I still don't understand why the praise o' Backus is being sung here. Ever WATCH him? When he isn't in the midst of a ridiculous hold (called or uncalled), he's getting backed into the runner, or completely smoked on the speed rush.

As I've said before: his biggest accolade is his collegiate career, and he played beside the proven-great Hutchison. I maintain that Hutch made him look good during his All-American career, and he's ridden that ever since; Backus isn't even the most talented OT on his team (if McDougle is still there)!

End rant...

105
by Michael David Smith :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 7:34am

"No receiver is going to put up good numbers with a truly awful offensive line"

That is just demonstrably false. Did you ever see the 1997 Arizona Cardinals? Rob Moore led the league in catches and yards despite the Cardinals having an absolutely horrid line.

If you show me evidence that there's a higher year-to-year correlation between running backs who change teams than there is between receivers who change teams, I'll agree with you that receivers are more dependent on their teammates. Giving me two anecdotes of Hall of Famers from a few decades ago doesn't persuade me.

106
by rk (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 2:12pm

Re: 104
I think Stockar McDougle signed with Miami last offseason.

107
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 2:55pm

MDS, your anecdote matched one season against two Hall of Fame careers. I doubt we can get enough of a sample size to get the information you want, but beyond Sayers and Payton, we can also look to Barry Sanders as another HOF running back who played for the vast majority of his career with hideous quarterbacking. Show me a HOF wide receiver who had hideous quarterbacking or offensive line play for most of his career. The closest I can think of off-hand might be Cris Carter or Tim Brown, if Brown makes it, but Carter had Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, and Brad Johnson, who aren't terrible. Brown had Gannon from 1999 on, and Hostetler, who wasn't terrible, from 93 through 96. He did have to put with five pretty bad Jay Schroeder years, and with Donald Hollas as the main QB for a year. Then again, nobody is going to think of Brown as dominant at his position in the way that Payton, Sayers, and Sanders were at theirs. Also, I good case can be made that Sayer's offensive line wasn't any good, and Payton's was below average until the latter part of Payton's career.

Does this defintively prove anything? No, but it is suggestive that a great running back is less dependent on his teammates than a great wide receiver. When thinks of it, it does have some logic. A successful pass play has more elements to it; an offensive line which isn't terrible, and thus gives the quarterback and wide receiver a chance, and a quarterback who effectively delivers the ball. A successful running play only needs to have an offensive line which isn't terrible, and provides a great running back with chance, unless one wishes to argue that handing the ball off requires as much skill as passing the ball.

108
by Ben K (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 6:44pm

Re 104 and 106

McDougle did sign with Miami last year and sat the bench nearly the entire year. McD was trash. I don't claim that Backus is a great OT. I just don't think there are that many better options out there. I don't think Backus is going to command as much as people think and I think he wants to stay in Detroit. If backus goes then the only person I want to see replace him is D'Brick. I do think there's a slight chance that the Jets take Cutler, GB and Oak take Mario and Hawk, and SF tries to trade down. If Detroit gives up a 3rd maybe they can move up and take D'B. D'B and Runyun or some other at least adequate FA RT would make me happy. Combine that with a FA G and we might have ourselves the makings of a decent OL. I'm not against letting Backus go and I'm not against keeping him. I just want to see them build a line that looks better than what they've had the last 4 yrs. I think they can achieve this with or without Backus. I happen to like the guy and hope they don't lose him, but if they do so be it...just make the line better.

109
by Go Steelers (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 7:49pm

108, The problem with FA RTs is that they stink and FA Gs are trouble in the locker room.

110
by Stevie (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 2:10am

Nice article MDS. Bill I liked your posts. #80 Getting two months imprisonment for a harmless flash makes me gladder to live in Australia then I already am

111
by tim (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 3:04am

#105 how can you crack down on a guy who gives two examples when you give one? how about it's demonstrably false when you don't have to go dredging in the depths of NFL history for one example.

112
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 5:02am

The statement was made that no receiver would put up good numbers with a bad offensive line. For the statement to be false, exactly one example needs to be shown. That was done. I don't see how that's particularly bad arguing.

Now if they had made a less strong statement - that the strength of a line correlates to the performance of a receiver - that would be one thing. That's not what Will Allen said.

As an example: the worst ranked offensive line this year was Arizona. Arizona had the 17th ranked pass offense, and had two receivers that had fairly good years as far as receivers go. Minnesota ranked 31st in OLine, yet had the 18th ranked pass offense. Maybe the most telling one is this - New England had the 27th ranked offensive line yet had the 2nd ranked pass offense this season.

The flip side also appears to be true. While SF had a horrible OLine and the worst passing offense in the league, NYJ had the 31st worst pass offense but only the 24th worst OLine performance. Chicago had the 30th worst pass offense but 15th ranked OLine.

At least doing it at this level, it doesn't appear that there is any kind of immediate correlation between the two performances. Intuitively one would think that a good OLine would go with a good passing game, but it looks like a lot of times a good passing game can happen because the OLine stinks, and therefore you have to pass the ball more. Why? Because the passing game relies on the skill of not only the OLine, but the QB and the receivers. The running game only relies on the skill of the RB and the line.

113
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 9:15am

"the worst ranked offensive line this year was Arizona"

Only in the running game. They were ranked 14th in adjusted sack rate, at 6.0% (league average being 6.7). Arizona and Houston's offensive lines last year were mirror images: each was above average at one part of their job and mind-numbingly awful at the other.

Similarly, NE's O-line ranked 6th in pass protection, and NYJ 30th. The adjustments towards standard of passing game are smaller for Chicago (20th, not 15th) and Minnesota (29th, not 31st), and it would also be fair to note that the ratings of NE and Ari's lines may be inflated by quarterbacks good enough to get the ball away quickly, while Jersey B's and Chicago's are probably dragged down by the experiences that were going on behind them.

114
by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 9:37am

#111 and, to a lesser extent, #107, don't seem to understand when anecdotal evidence is useful and when it is not. My one anecdote about the 1997 Cardinals was in response to a specific claim, "No receiver is going to put up good numbers with a truly awful offensive line." Anecdotal evidence is perfectly acceptable when refuting a claim that something never happens. If I say, "No one has ever run the 100-meter dash in less than 9.8 seconds," you don't need to name 500 people who have done it to prove me wrong, you just need to name one.

However, when Will brought up Gale Sayers and Walter Payton, he was doing it to support his claim that "it simply is not true that running backs are as dependent on their teammates as receivers." That's making a broad generalization and therefore requires more evidence than a couple of examples. The claim may be correct, but the evidence presented was insufficient.

115
by T (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 12:15pm

Good read. But I don't agree with the doom and gloom that supposedly surrounds the Packer D. They had some tough factors to deal with this year, not the least of which was the time they spent on the field.

In addition, Kampman will likely be back, as both sides have previously said they want to get something done to keep him in GB.

On O, they were closer this year that what their record shows. Injuries and an O line that was easier to go through than a box of Oreos made for some tough offensive outings. And I mean "offensive" in more ways than one.

So if they can repair the line, keep the basics of the same scheme, and realize that Ahmad Carroll sucks and needs to go, this team has a decent chance to improve a good bit in '06.

116
by Gregg (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 1:00pm

MDS - Great article, one big question. Why so down on Kyle Orton? He hit a wall to say the least but was his rookie year so out of whack that he'd be demoted to third-string? Considering the rookie years of Eli, other rookie QBs lately, isn't there a lot of hope for improvement? Heck, I thought he'd be a serious challenge to Grossman with normal development. If he hadn't started all season (on a division champion team), we'd probably be talking about how promising his career looks.

117
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 2:21pm

#113, thanks. I had forgotten to take that into account - that the table is ranked by rushing stats, not total. Still my point is reasonable - there doesn't seem to be a direct correlation between OLine strength and passing game, and receivers on teams that had bad OLines did do well this season. If there is a correlation, it's certainly less strong than 'no receiver can have a good game with a bad OLine' that WA spouted earlier.

118
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 5:43pm

Various Lions thoughts:

I'd suggest that there is likely to be a better (and cheaper) punter than Harris available, or perhaps put another way, better than Harris is likely to become. If the past few seasons are the best he can do, punting indoors 9 or more games per season, then there's got to be someone better somewhere.

I also disagree with blowing up the line and starting over. I don't think you can pick up more than one rookie per season and have a solid OL, not that I expect to get one this season. Again, putting it a better way, I think an OL comprised of FAs and rookies would be worse than what we have now, and if Martz is going to leave the QB out to dry, let's not recreate the Texans' OL. I do think they need to patch some holes, though. I'd love it if they signed Runyan.

119
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 6:11pm

Yeah, I spouted an overstatement. The more general point, however, is suggested by the HOF careers of guys like Payton, Sayers, and Sanders; a great running back can overcome lousy teammates easier than a great wide receiver.

120
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 6:56pm

Well, teammates or lines? I'd totally be in favor of saying that a really good receiver is going to be screwed if he has a bad QB - but he won't be nearly as screwed as if he has a bad OLine. With your examples - the Bears line for a while was known as one of the better ones out there, and Sanders and Sayers were just insane.

In my mind it comes down to how many times a player touches a ball or has the ability to touch a ball - and who is responsible for getting them that ball. A RB will typically get 20-25 touches a game. A QB gets upwards of 60 including running plays. WRs tend to get maybe 15 a game - and all of those are dependent heavily on the QB's skill.

121
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 7:59pm

Kal, Payton's line in the early years was not all that good. My point is that a wide receiver is more dependent on teammates as a whole. I'll go back to a simple way of examining it. A successful passing play has, at a minimum, two elements; blocking which doesn't result in the quarterback being sacked or too hurried to deliver the ball accurately, and a quarterback who delivers the ball accurately to the right player when there is sufficient time. A running play, at a minimum, has one successful element, blocking which gives the running back enought room to advance the ball downfield. Thus, the running back is less dependent on teammates, unless one wishes to argue that handing the ball off is on the same plane as passing the ball, in terms of odds of success.

122
by Rick Berg (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 9:16pm

I'm sure various posters are right that Brett won't come back as a coach when he retires, though I wouldn't ascribe that to any lack of intelligence. Like GBFL, I'd love to see Brett stay around in any capacity, though it'll never be the same once we can't watch him trot out onto that field anymore. A sad day that will be. But GBP president-to-be John Jones said recently that once Brett does retire, the Packers will do everything they can to keep Brett involved as a team ambassador in much the same way Bart has functioned over the past 20 years or so.

123
by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 10:10pm

Will, obviously, no one is going to claim that there's a big difference among quarterbacks in terms of how good they are at handing the ball off. But I don't understand why you're ignoring the effect of a quarterback on how the defense lines up. A running back with a good quarterback is going to have a big advantage in terms of the number of eight-man fronts he faces.

124
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/21/2006 - 3:12am

Yes, Michael but at the highest level of running back play it isn't as critical, which is not to say it is unimportant.

125
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 02/21/2006 - 7:10pm

FWIW - Payton '75-87. No Bear OL made Pro Bowl '75-84. Covert went '85-86; Hilgenberg '86-87. Info from pro football reference.com

It would be interesting to see if any other HoF RB had a lower ratio of o-line pro bowl appearances/rb years played.

126
by Fnor (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 2:24pm

Will: Not true. If you have no credible passing threat, even with a high-octane running game, 8 men in the box against a decent defence is simply too much for any non-Barry Sanders RB to overcome.

127
by Dezz Nutz (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 4:45am

I agree we just cant blow up the O-Line and hope to be any better there next year. So Backus is a good decision. They signed him the other day so its a moot point. Runyan would be nice but remember last years free agent signing of DeMulling? I don't remember that working out very well, but Runyan is a better player...aging though. Noone has said much about Woody, he's good but hasn't quite earned his overpaid dues, so to speak. Getting rid of hurt all the time suck all the time Fernando Bryant and using that first round draft pick on a DB would be clutch. Or what about Ray Lewis, BAD idea, but who???? A.J. Hawk anybody?

128
by Tortoise (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 1:01pm

RE #34

You hit it right on the head. The coaches were so cocky that they kept man coverage on smith the whole game. Look at what happened to carolina when seatle shut down steve smith. NADA!

129
by Tortoise (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 1:06pm

RE 54

Chicago needs to run the ball better? The little offense they did have came from the solid running game. How many NFL teams have 3 quality RBs like they have. There passing game is what needs help.

130
by Ben K (not verified) :: Fri, 03/03/2006 - 3:53pm

re 127

Comparing Runyun to DeMulling is crazy imo. Runyun has actually produced in his career. DeMulling was being covered up for by his linemates. I would love to be proven wrong and have DeMulling flourish in Martz's system. But i just don't see it happenening.

131
by Steve (not verified) :: Sun, 03/05/2006 - 12:43pm

Green Bay had all of the bad breaks last year. I would keep Favre around and try to shore up the offensive and defensive lines in the draft/free agency