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11 Apr 2006

Four Downs: NFC West

Guest Column by Doug Farrar

Did you miss the first 2006 edition of Four Downs: NFC West? You'll find it here.

Arizona Cardinals

"Stuck In the Middle With You…"

America's Chic Pick to make a great deal of noise in the 2005 season, the Arizona Cardinals fell below all expectations with their 5-11 mark. Kurt Warner was decent but unspectacular, especially with receivers the caliber of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal. The running game was a nightmare, as Arizona finished with the Reverse Triple Crown: dead last in yards per game (71.1), touchdowns (2) and yards per attempt (3.2).

The primary reason for these issues was the Cardinals' offensive line. Football Outsiders has Arizona at the very bottom of the league in raw yards per carry by running backs as well as Adjusted Line Yards, which cuts runs of various lengths in order to measure blocking separate from a back's ability to break a big play. The Cardinals are also way down in Power Success (the ability to convert third- or fourth-and-short) and the percentage of runs stuffed for minimal gain.

The Houston line gets most of the quips and shots (possibly because pass-blocking gaffes are more obviously damaging in the view of the overhead cameras), but make no mistake – this line is as bad as any you've seen. Arizona did rank 14th in Adjusted Sack Rate, but that run blocking … oy vay. Marcel Shipp led the team with 451 yards on 157 carries (a 2.9 yd/carry average) and no touchdowns. Former Cal running back J.J. Arrington, the second-round rookie thought by many to be a potential fantasy sleeper, found himself waylaid and doubted early on. FO tells us that offensive line stats are tied invariably to the performances of running backs, so there's really no way to know how much was Arrington's fault. We'll go with probability here and say that the majority of the problem resided with those who were supposed to block for him.

So what did the Cardinals do to regenerate their offense? They signed former Indy running back Edgerrin James to a four-year deal worth $30 million, including a $7 million signing bonus. According to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, James will put $14.75 million in the bank by the time he hangs up his cleats at the end of his first season as a Cardinal. Reports indicate that in addition to his initial signing bonus of $7 million, he received a $4.5 million roster bonus on the seventh day of the 2006 league year.

In other words, the Cards are paying James the near-equivalent of what the Seahawks are estimated to be shelling out for Shaun Alexander this season. Alexander's new deal has a one-year contract value of $15.125 million. The problem with that equation for Arizona is twofold: Where they didn't spend the money, and what James did elsewhere to earn such a contract.

Guess which team finished 2005 first in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards (through only the middle of the pack in rushing yards) and Stuffed ranking? James' former squad, the Indianapolis Colts. In other words, James' protection has been switched from Concrete to Doily … and then, there's the small matter of James losing the advantage of defenses unclenching to account for Peyton Manning. The last time a defense adjusted to Kurt Warner, he certainly wasn't wearing a bird on his helmet. Unless Arizona upgrades that line with quickness, they just bought a Ferrari that they'll never get out of the driveway.

The good news? Well … it probably can't get much worse. In 2005, Oliver Ross and Alex Stepanovich struggled through injuries, Elton Brown was a rookie, and Leonard Davis simply hasn't become the player demanded by his position (left tackle) – he's more of a road-grading guard type. They acquired a free agent guard, Milford Brown, who used to play for the … uhhh … Texans.

Maybe we are moving backwards here?

Draft Strategy

Need #1 is cruelly obvious, but most mocks don't address it at Arizona's #10 pick. Problem is, there's only one real Top Ten O-lineman in this draft -- his name is D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and he won't make it past the third or fourth selection. At this point, most projections have Jay Cutler as the most realistic option – LenDale White's stock is a total mystery until his private workouts, and it's hard to know how a Vince Young pick would be a fit either way. The idea of choosing tight end Vernon Davis keeps popping up, which might give Arizona its best measure of protection: stack the team with terrifying receivers and FORCE defenses to back off.

St. Louis Rams

Falling Down

From 1999 through 2004, the St. Louis Rams won exactly twice as many regular-season games as they lost, finished first in the NFL in both points and yards three years in a row (1999-2001), won one Super Bowl, played in another, and established themselves as one of the NFL's premier teams. 2004 was a season of many questions, as the Rams went 8-8 and lost the NFC West to the Seahawks – a team they beat twice in the regular season and again in the playoffs, becoming quite possibly the worst team ever to win a postseason game. In its own way, that's not an unremarkable achievement. While there had been rumblings for a while that the Greatest Show on FieldTurf wasn't what it used to be, few would have called St. Louis' 6-10 campaign correctly.

So … what happened to this former juggernaut?

First, the ever-mercurial Mike Martz missed the final eleven games of the season with a heart ailment. 2-3 when Martz stepped aside, the Rams tried to soldier on under interim coach Joe Vitt. (Martz was eventually fired on January 2, 2006.) Issue #2 came from within their own division, as the Seahawks underwent a character transplant and beat their former tormentors both times the two teams faced off. Issue #3 was a precipitous decline in the team's offensive efficiency – did you ever think you would see the day when the St. Louis Rams would finish 19th in the league with a -6.7 percent offensive DVOA? (DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, is explained here.)

Well … that's what they did. Depth on the offensive line was an issue all year, especially at the guard positions. Second-year running back Steven Jackson passed the 1,000-yard mark, but he also proved the fallacy of that number as an effective guideline for excellence in a sixteen-game season. Jackson only exceeded 100 rushing yards in two games, and one of those performances was against the Houston Texans, which shouldn't even count. Where Jackson impressed was as a receiver in an offense used to Marshall Faulk's tremendous versatility (43 catches, 320 yards, two touchdowns).

The larger issue affecting this team over time has been the increasing neglect of their defense. Is there a better illustrative example of the no-matter-what value of defense to an NFL team than the Rams? Case in point -- in the three years they led the NFL in both yards and points, we have the following defensive rankings, and the corresponding postseason results:

Year Def. YDS Rank Def. PTS Rank Record Postseason
1999 7 4 13-3 Beat Tennessee Titans, 23-16, in Super Bowl XXXIV
2000 24 31 10-6 Beaten by New Orleans Saints, 31-28, in wildcard playoff game
2001 3 7 14-2 Beaten by New England Patriots, 20-17, in Super Bowl XXXVI

This isn't exactly a revelation, but it is a blood-simple truth which the Rams seem to have forgotten – it just doesn't matter how many points you score if your defense stinks. In 2005, the Rams' defense was simply embarrassing, ranking 31st in points, 30th in yards and 29th in defensive DVOA. And it doesn't help that they lost safety Adam Archuleta to the Redskins and defensive tackles Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett to the Panthers and Packers, respectively, this off-season. The acquisition of former Minnesota safety Corey Chavous provides a reliable, if unspectacular, replacement for Archuleta. Former Panther Will Witherspoon will add speed in space to the Rams' linebacker corps and leading tackler Pisa Tinoisamoa. Ex-Cowboy La'Roi Glover will provide veteran savvy in spot situations – but he's prone to wearing down over time. If this defense can rise out of the league's bottom third and the offense runs in place or better, the Rams could at least prevent the Seahawks from winning the division by seven games again. New head coach Scott Linehan will need to see everything come together for any sort of playoff berth.

Draft Strategy

The mock consensus for St. Louis at the 11th pick seems to target two positions – either defensive back(corner Jimmy Williams of Virginia Tech, safety/corner Michael Huff of Texas, corner Tye Hill of Clemson) or tight end (Maryland's Vernon Davis, should he fall that far). Massive Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has received the odd namecheck as well. The Rams' pass defense did them no favors in 2005, finishing 23rd in the NFL in yards allowed, 24th in interceptions (only 13) and 30th in TDs allowed (26 – only Tennessee and San Francisco were worse). Their wisest choice would be a potential shutdown corner, especially if they expect to continue to try and force other teams to play catch-up.

San Francisco 49ers

"The sun is shining and the grass is green…under the three feet of snow, I mean!"

Stan Marsh's ode to the "quiet little mountain town" of South Park fairly accurately describes the difficulty involved in assembling any optimism for the 2006 San Francisco 49ers. After finishing with a 2-14 record in 2004, they used the first overall pick to draft a quarterback who threw eleven picks and one touchdown in his rookie campaign. They have harrowing depth issues at nearly every position (illustrated, perhaps unfairly, when their secondary was ravaged by injuries in 2005). There's precious little experience at outside linebacker with Julian Peterson's departure. They lost Brandon Lloyd, their one reasonably good wide receiver, to the Washington Redskins. Linebacker Andre Carter also headed off to the nation's capital. Veteran fullback Fred Beasley signed with the Dolphins.

San Francisco responded to these losses by signing future Hall of Fame guard Larry Allen, streaky receivers Antonio Bryant and Bryan Gilmore, and cornerback Walt Harris. Allen may have one more sliver of true greatness in him, but the 13-year veteran may have been better served if he'd signed with a team that had more line support around him. Bryant and Gilmore provide tools and talent, but not too much, historically, in the way of reliability. Harris probably won't be out on the field as much as the Niners need him to be – not good news for a secondary in extreme flux.

So … where are the shining sun and the green grass in this musical? Where do the fans of this formerly great franchise still have hope? How can a team that wound up with a 2005 offensive DVOA ranking of -46.9 percent in 2005 (worst in the NFL by a staggering margin), and a defensive DVOA of 21.5 percent (second-worst in the league, with only Houston underneath them) hope to improve to any discernible degree?

To be honest, there just isn't much to go on. There will be opportunities for the 49ers to surprise in what will most likely be an easy division again, and the free agency/draft strategizing may provide them with a helpful player or two. Above all else, new offensive coordinator Norv Turner really needs to point whatever's left of his rep in the direction of Alex Smith. If there's Cody Pickett talk by Week 8 of the 2006 season, we've got problems. San Francisco doubled its win total from two to four in 2005 – expecting anything near another double is sheer folly. If they can crawl out of the NFC West basement, that would be considered by many to be a success.

Draft Strategy

Many mocks have the 49ers taking either Maryland tight end Vernon Davis or Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk with the sixth pick. Davis' freakish athleticism could be a galvanizing force in a barren passing game, perhaps having the same effect as Antonio Gates' arrival in San Diego. Hawk's impressive production and feral intensity would be welcome in any defense, and one can only imagine Hawk's potential under Mike Singletary's tutelage.

Last year, San Francisco would have suffered the mother of all P.R. hits had they traded down from the very top to address their desperate positional needs -- and it didn't matter anyway, since no team was particularly eager to move into the top slot. In 2006, the strategy may make more sense, and it is a lot more of a realistic possibility.

Seattle Seahawks

"I Won the NFC Championship Game, and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt!"

Alright, alright … enough with the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Whether the Seahawks were victimized by horrible officiating or not in Super Bowl XL, it's past time to move on, and it's not like there hasn't been enough to keep the minds of the Seahawks faithful off the events of February 5, 2006. Besides, Mike Pereira and the now Holmgren-less Competition Committee are addressing all those issues – fear not. Holding will be called just as reliably and consistently as illegal contact by cornerbacks in 2004, and horse-collar tackles in 2005.

(Pause – let me know when you're through laughing, and I'll continue.)

For the Seahawks, free agency began with a few nasty hits. Green Bay signed free safety Marquand Manuel, who had filled in admirably for Ken Hamlin after Hamlin's season-ending head injury in October. Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius took his career-year mojo to Cleveland, eschewing Seattle's higher offer to re-up in favor of the chance to play in his hometown. No fan could begrudge Jurevicius – he helped hold the offense together in the wake of injuries to top receivers Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram, and his character, toughness and effort typified the sea change in attitude and personnel which lifted the Seahawks to all-time heights in 2005. Seattle cut brittle cornerback Andre Dyson (who landed with the Jets after the Seahawks tried to re-negotiate), and linebacker Jamie Sharper, who hasn't landed anywhere pending the aftereffects of a staph infection in his right knee. Both players were preseason pickups in 2005, and both players suffered through injury-filled seasons.

Then, things got interesting. Three-time All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson, a key man in one of the NFL's best offensive lines and the league's finest left side in tandem with Walter Jones, received the transition tag designation from the Seahawks. Transitioning Hutchinson instead of franchising him saved the team about $600,000, as Transition players earn the aggregate of the top ten at their position (offensive linemen, not just guards, in Hutch's case) as opposed to the top five for franchised players. In retrospect, this was a rather large tactical error -- the Minnesota Vikings then put together an offer sheet which brought the "poison pill" phrase straight into the consciousness of every football fan – a seven-year, $49 million offer containing a clause stating that if Hutchinson wasn't the highest-paid offensive lineman on the team for the year 2006 at the time the offer sheet was signed, the entire $49 million would be guaranteed. The Seahawks took the case to arbitration and lost, even after Jones agreed to re-work his own higher-dollar contract, and the Vikings had themselves the best guard in football.

Seattle retaliated with gusto and wicked humor. Still stinging from a pre-Super Bowl lack of national awareness and respect, the circumstances of the game itself, and the NFL's blanket denial of any sloppiness, the Seahawks got mad AND even. Former Vikings wide receiver Nate Burleson, a 24-year-old restricted free agent with impressive talent when healthy, signed an equivalent seven-year, $49 million offer sheet with still more poison pills. If he played five games in Minnesota this season, the whole deal would be guaranteed. In reality, the structure of the deal contained enough dummy clauses and late backouts to give Burleson four years, $14.5 million and approximately $5 million guaranteed. Like Jurevicius in Cleveland, Burleson was coming home – the former O'Dea High standout might have turned down more money from the Vikings in the end. The fallout from this tête-à-tête should be revealing – without some restrictions in future, the transition tag as a personnel strategy, not to mention restricted free agency, would appear to be a dead issue.

Lest we not forget in the middle of all this gamesmanship, the Seahawks also landed the biggest whale of the 2006 free-agent class – there just weren't as many waves created because the player in question had worn a Seahawks uniform throughout his NFL career. 2005 MVP Shaun Alexander signed the Big Momma deal he'd been praying for – eight years and over $60 million. Seattle also went after San Francisco's finest player, landing (some would say overpaying) linebacker Julian Peterson to the tune of seven years and $54 million, with approximately $18.5 million in guaranteed money.

Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell has developed a reputation as one of the NFL's "Moneyball guys," those executives and personnel men who value depth, intangibles, good fits within a scheme and personal character more than sheer high-priced athleticism. Such thinking (building a team "wide" instead of "tall") can provide advantages up and down a roster in any cap-driven league. The 2006 Seahawks, however, have broken type for a supposed "Moneyball team," swinging their proverbial wallet at the end of its chain with intent to damage.

Draft Strategy

With Dyson gone and Hamlin's future still in question, the Seahawks recently visited with former Pats and Jets CB Ty Law. Law is said to want seven figures this year – although Seattle still has that to spend, Law left the Emerald City without a contract. When Law's price is driven down by the Forces of Reality, it could get serious. Most draft pundits have Seattle taking a defensive back with the 31st pick – names frequently bandied about include Tennessee's Jason Allen, Ohio State's Ashton Youboty and Fresno State's Richard Marshall. If Law and/or a safety like Lance Schulters (who also recently visited Seattle) were to be signed, Seattle might still pick a cornderback in the first round.

Other options would include a dedicated edge-rusher, but those types can be had later on. The offensive line, though hurt by Hutchinson's departure, was boosted to a point with the signing of former New England tackle Tom Ashworth. Seattle has several depth linemen who can play multiple positions at starting or near-starting caliber – it's an embarrassment of riches at a solid but sub-Pro Bowl level.

Thanks to Doug Farrar, editor-in-chief of SEAHAWKS.NET, for stepping in while the FO staff is hard at work on draft material and Pro Football Prospectus 2006.

Later this week: AFC East by Bill Barnwell.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 11 Apr 2006

84 comments, Last at 19 Apr 2006, 9:51am by Mr Shush

Comments

1
by Ben (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 6:51pm

Arizona's O-line has the potential to be very good. Leonard Davis would be a very strong Lt if he didn't jump every time the DE looked at him. Elton Brown is huge and will develop. Oliver Ross can be a good tackle if he's healthy. The positions that are in desperation are C and RG. Steponavich and Leckey both have potential at C. Reggie Wells was hurt last year. The best thing that could happen to Arizona would be Vernon Davis falling to #10 and Jean-Gilles or Mangold falling to the second round. The sacks taken by Warner last year were not only from the O-line woes but also from the lack of a safety net. Adam Bergen, Eric Edwards, J.J. Arrington, and Marcel Shipp don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of defenses. Once Quan and Fitz were covered then Warner was going down. Anyone know what James' recieving numbers were like in Indy?

2
by Ben (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 6:52pm

OK, not very good,....good....solid....ok

3
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 6:55pm

Some damn fine work there Doug.

But here is a question for you. As wel as Ty Law being out there you also have Charles Woodson. So might the Cardnals or Rams go after him? (I am hoping for a positive anwser so I don't have to worry about him possibly going to Green Bay.)

4
by underthebus (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 7:19pm

DJ Gallo had a funny quip about the Vikings and Hawks situation.

'...basically saying to the Vikings organization: 'Ah yeah, Vikings! We just totally overpaid one of your mediocre players. Whatcha gonna do now, huh? Whatcha gonna do? You never would have paid him that much, so who's the stupid one now, huh? Who's the stupid one now? (Oh, right. Still us.)'

5
by goldfishassasin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 7:31pm

I can’t understand why San Fran hasn’t been more aggressive in Free Agency. I understand the concept of building in the Draft, but if you don’t want your future star quarterback to develop any he has to have something better than a JV squad around him. If anything they have regressed with the loss of both Lloyd and Peterson, arguably the only reasons last year to even bother watching their games.

Why do I get the feeling that Arizona just paid a bunch of money to a guy who will probably get his legs broken by week five? James is going to have to 'will' holes to open for him, and I just cant see him taking a beating for too long before old injuries resurface. Yeah, you could try to distract the defenses into overplaying the pass, but ask the Eagles how well that worked last year against Seattle (or anyone else for that matter).

As for the Rams .... yawn...

I think the case could be made that Seattle has improved enough to dominate the NFC West this year. The rest of the NFC is another question. Dallas and Carolina both look to be formidable. With the top run defense in the league, if Peterson returns to pre-injury form, and if Seattle drafts/signs a quality DB, they may be an injury free season away from greatness.

Nate Burleson works best as a #2 receiver which he'll do in Seattle. He ranked #6 in DPR in 04' next to Randy Moss (higher than Moss). Now Jackson is no Moss, but he is the most underappreciated #1 receiver in the game. Even with the loss of their star LG, Seattle looks to have their top 5 offense back in form (oh yeah that Shaun guy too...). Oh yeah and did you see their schedule!?! Maybe the NFL is trying to make up for SBXL.

6
by PDBIP (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 8:23pm

I wonder how Kurt Warner would be remembered if he retired one or two seasons after the super bowl, when he and Trent Green were the two most productive QBs in the league. He walks away, says little, and smiles ofr the cameras. He could have been a legend.

7
by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 9:38pm

#3, thanks for the kind words. I don't think Woodson is on their radar - it's probably either Law at a lower price, or BACB at 31. Maybe both.

8
by Michael (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 9:50pm

you guys keep bashing the niners im not worrying this guy who wrote the column is biased he writes for seahawks.net they should of got another guy to write it. i predict the niners will have7-8 wins because of there easy schedule plus eric johnson is back we got antonio bryant a 1,000 yard reciver in cleveland who also sucked at qb. plus in my opinion we have the best offensive line in the league. so i think we'll finish 2nd in the nfc west....

9
by Vince (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 10:02pm

plus in my opinion we have the best offensive line in the league.

And your evidence for this is?

10
by goldfishassasin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 10:32pm

Obviously the evidence is in their great offensive numbers. Sacks, YPG, 1000 yrg Rusher, TD's ... wait, wait, dont use any of those ...

11
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 10:35pm

Well, because he isn't writing for Seahawks.net .

If I were to find one organization that was associated with a specific team and still not particularly biased, I'd probably pick the Hawks. Hawk fans aren't zealous. They're...reasoned. It's very odd, but kind of refreshing.

12
by thepeepshow (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 11:16pm

I agree. Seahawk fans do seem pretty rational. You’d figure different with all that coffee they drink up there. Then again I think the only Pro Sports championship they’ve won was in Women’s Basketball, so they’re pretty use to watching from the benches. Just don’t get them started on the ‘East Coast Bias’ or SB officials.

I’m not so much a Hawks fan, but I did root for them in the SB. I’m probably one of the few people outside of Seattle that thinks this team is elite, and I clearly expect them to take the NFC West (Ok, so the Bills could too …), if not make a second run at the Super Bowl. If they do, maybe the rest of the league may finally take notice as I have.

13
by KillerB (not verified) :: Tue, 04/11/2006 - 11:46pm

Kurt Warner still will be a legend. Warner's last big payday will be when someone pays to make his story into a movie. He's the closest thing to 'The Natural' that football's ever seen, and his struggles after the big three-year run of 'The Greatest Show on Turf' offense shouldn't diminish that.

We now look at him as 'washed up Kurt Warner' but after he's gone from the game for a while I think people will look back and remember what an amazing, out-of-nowhere story his career really was.

This is coming from someone who is not even remotely a Rams fan.

14
by Stevie (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 12:39am

look I dont write for Seahawks.net and Im not biased but I found #8 hilarious. Im not sure how the Niners can have an

15
by Stevie (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 12:41am

'easy' schedule when every team they play is better then them...Alex Smith 1TD, 11 ints I think he'll improve and throw at least 5 TDS and 25 picks this year. We'll see how the ''best offensive line in the league'' goes this year, they didnt seem to be opening up huge lanes for Kevin '2.5YPC' Barlow last year. On the other hand the Green Bay front office must agree with you as they hired the coordinator of the leagues worst offence to lead them fearlessly into the future

Hey guys, get the quote bug fixed!

16
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 1:02am

I'm somewhat surprised that the writer didn't mention that, in addition to barely doing anything other than hoping everyone will be healthy in 2006 on the OL, the Cards also signed a real offensive line coach. Formerly, the coach was Everett Lindsey, who as far as I can tell was one of Denny Green's players in Minnesota who was given the OL coach job with pretty much no prior experience. Now, I'm a person who believes that OL performance is pretty closely linked with OL coaching in nearly all cases. The Cards hired Steve Loney from the Vikings former coaching regime. It'll be interesting to see how they do with someone who's actually coached before.

In fact, investigating the relationship between OL performance and OL coach would be rather interesting. For instance, after 2004 Miami hired Hudson Houck, who had turned around the Charger's OL. In 2005, a formerly abysmal line seemed to do at least well enough to help them win nine games.

17
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 1:10am

Upon further investigation, it seems that Loney was the OC/OL coach in MN in 2005, and solely the OL coach from 2002-2004. Also, MN finished second to last in Adjusted Line Yards in 2005, (only above AZ) but first in 2003, second in 2002 and seventh in 2004. Maybe 2005's off year was a function of Matt Birk being hurt, or maybe it was a function of Loney's multiple duties, maybe both. Hopefully, AZ gets the 2002-2004 version of Loney's coaching.

18
by XxXdragonXxX (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 2:52am

#4

19
by XxXdragonXxX (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 2:55am

Number 4

Yeah, that is pretty funny until you realize that Burleson won't get anywhere near the final 3 years and 34.5 million of that contract. What he'll actually get is 4 years, 14.5 million.

20
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 6:41am

Nicely done Doug. The 'Hawks aside, It's difficult to see anyone in this division better than 8-8, even with the NFC North on the schedule. The biggest challenge for Seattle might be the Superbowl losers curse.

I didn't see the 49ers at all last year (which was nice). Assuming that whatever #8 is taking isn't available legally, is there any suggestion at all that Alex Smith can be a viable QB?

DVOA, DPAR and the conventional stats suggest not. Are the stats fair or is there something about him the numbers don't show?

21
by bowman (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 9:27am

''without some restrictions in future, the transition tag as a personnel strategy, not to mention restricted free agency, would appear to be a dead issue.''

The transition tags and RFAs requires the acquiring team to provide draft picks, although possibly not what would be given in a straight trade. While the contract matching might not be viable, at least the teams with RFAs and transition tags are getting something rather than nothing.

22
by Doc (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 9:51am

#21 - Transition Tags do not result in compensation. the teams do not have to give up draft picks like they would with a franchise tender or similar to RFA designations

23
by admin :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 10:07am

James -- two things the stats don't show about Smith.

1) His offensive line was terrible, and the big free agent pickup was injured most of the year (Jonas Jennings).

2) He was a rookie. McNabb's rookie year was pretty bad too, passing-wise. I wouldn't judge any player based on nine games.

Other than that, no, he really did suck that bad.

24
by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 10:12am

Re: 21 - the RFA passage in that quote was an error on my part. I meant to write that the transition tag would be a questionable personnel strategy in future. RFAs not so much, because of the compensation issue.

25
by Les Norton (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 10:44am

A very nice read, just who is this Doug Farrar guy? lol Are we glad to have him or what?

I think that number 8 needs to explain to me what league he aims to finish 2nd in?

26
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 11:19am

12: I believe that Lenny Wilkins coached the Super Sonics to an NBA title in the late 1970s.

27
by Jere (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 11:19am

Doug, you state that Law is looking for 7 figures... but the Seahawks will wait for that price to be driven down. 7 figures is a million, and isn't the veteran minimum for Law's tenure at least a million?

28
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 11:36am

Aaron, thanks. I wondered if he looked any better in action than he does on paper. Obviously not.

Re #27. Jere, The Veteran minimun for Ty Law is $770k. I could be wrong but I'd assume the 'seven figures' refers to gaurenteed bonus money.

29
by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 11:39am

27, thanks for the clarification. According to most reports, he wants a contract with approx. $10 million guaranteed, which would indeed be eight figures.

30
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 11:54am

The binning of the niners offense was to be expected but they have changed half the personel. New starters this year are Battle (should be healthy), Bryant, Johnson, Jennings, Newberry (again is now healthy), Allen and Snyder. Alex Smith will have an extra year to learn (the idea that at this stage you can say he will never be a good qb is laughable, he played the whole year behind a banged up, young line with only one reciever, Lloyd, who refused to go over the middle). Why is Bryant described as 'streaky' in the article when he's done nothing but produce? We all know he's a tool but he has performed well and can everyone here say that if they'd been a 21 year old millionaire they never would have done anything stupid, he's still only 25, he has time to mature.

The real worry for niner fans is at OLB, the only guy on the roster is Brandon Moore and though he is an OK pass rusher (5 sacks in reserve duty), he's only 6'-1

31
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 11:59am

I can't avoid a sense of deja vu reading the optimistic posts about Arizona.

Who is Warner's back-up?

32
by Justanothersteve (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 12:27pm

#12 & 26 - The Sonics were NBA champs in 1978-79. Still not much to get excited about.

33
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 12:30pm

RE 14 and 25

I don't know who #8 is but he got pretty upset at alot of us on another thread in FO when we really trounced on the 49rs. said he could alomst see them going (IIRC) 10-6 and taking the NFC West. I pointed out (as a realistic GB Fan) that SF needed to plug more holes then a Danish Dyke and he went off on me as well.

Listen and listen well Michael....

I know my team has problems this year and probably fo the next 3-4 as well. I can handle that. But the BIG problem in SF is in your ownership. How the hell do you guys emerge from Salary Cap Hell 2 years ago and tank? Because your ownership does not know thier head from thier ass from a football. The Yorks had and still have no intention of trying to figure out the system that is the NFL and I can almost make this bet. (if they get rid of Walsh as GM/President of Football operations I will) That until the Yorks sell the 49ers they will be bottom dwelling in the NFC West.

34
by jebmak (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 1:22pm

In my stats class this year, we did a project comparing teams wins to things like offensive and defensive rush/pass yds/attempt. According to our simple research, the one team that FAR (by eight games) outperformed how well it was supposed to do based on the statistics, was the 49ers. They should have been -4 and 20. That doesn't bode well for next year as they regress to the mean, I think.

35
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 1:41pm

RE 31

AS it stands right now

John Navaree

36
by dman (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 1:47pm

GBFL, I agree with you regarding the yorks, but they did kindof get jobbed last year in the draft. If they could have traded last year's pick for this year's pick I think that could have made a major difference. (the difference between alex smith and matt leinart).

37
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 1:48pm

Not sure why the Cards couldn't take Winston Justice at #10. I think a few mock drafts have him slated there and on the vast majority of the others he's taken within a handful of picks from this slot.

38
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 1:52pm

Re: 35

That's what I thought. Warner hasn't been the most durable guy for the past several years. In the (likely) event that he misses a fair portion of their games, it doesn't look good for the Cards.

39
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 1:54pm

RE 36

Well there were plenty of other people they cold have taken in the draft. I mean to Tim Rattay that must have been a huge slap in the face. And then they trade him. Well I have no hurt feelings for the yorks. Like I said before, until they learn the business of Football....

40
by dman (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 2:01pm

Can't really argue with that GBFL.

41
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 2:14pm

According to our simple research, the one team that FAR (by eight games) outperformed how well it was supposed to do based on the statistics, was the 49ers. They should have been -4 and 20. That doesn’t bode well for next year as they regress to the mean, I think.

It's due to schedule strength.

I keep hoping I'll have the time to write something about this up, but schedule strength can be interpreted in many ways - not the least of which is 'how many more/less wins would I expect with my schedule as opposed to a schedule filled with league-average teams?'

San Francisco's schedule strength last year is very weird. The average DVOA of their opponents was positive, so it was a 'difficult' schedule - but not really, for them. The fact that they played Indianapolis, Seattle (twice), NYG, Redskins, and other strong teams isn't important. You could've replaced all of those games with Minnesota and they still would've lost 5 games.

What did matter for San Francisco is that they had Houston and St. Louis (twice). Put another way, the DVOA rankings that San Francisco faced was 29, 18, 16, 22, 1, 9, 13, 7, 12, 4, 24, 22, 4, 10, 29, 31.

If I plot that distribution, it's incredibly asymmetric. An 'average' distribution would be spread around 16 - that is, most of the teams you face would end up near the middle of the pack. You'd face a few tough guys, and a few weak guys.

San Francisco faced only tough teams and awful teams last year. The tough teams don't matter - an average team would've beat them last year anyway. But the awful teams? That was like a present.

And, incidentally, it's how they got all but 1 of their wins.

42
by Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 2:14pm

Hey, don't diss Navarre so fast. In 24 attempts last year he had as many touchdowns as Alex Smith.

43
by MRH (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 4:35pm

Re #23/Aaron:

Nothing so sophisticated as similarity scores but I looked at the normalized passer ratings (NPR) for Smith, McNabb and two other famous rookies.

I took the passer rating of these 4 players divided by the league passer rating for their rookie years. An average QB would have an NPR of 1.00. Pretty much anything over 1.1 is good and under 0.9 is poor. By normalizing passer rating against the league in a given season, it makes comparing qbs across different offensive environments easier although still doesn't adjust for strength of schedule.

Here's the four qbs (passer rating/NPR):

McNabb: 60.1/0.78
Smith: 40.8/0.51
Mystery QB #1 draft pick: 30.4/0.46 Mystery QB #2 draft pick: 39.0/0.49

McNabb was bad, Smith was worse. Smith's NPR was one of the 20 worst NPR's since 1950for a qb with 150 attempts or more.

The bad news for 49er fans is, Mystery QB #2 draft pick is Ryan Leaf. The good news is, Mystery QB #1 draft pick is Terry Bradshaw. So Alex Smith is somewhere from one of the worst draft busts of all time to a HoF QB. Another way of saying, as you did, it's too soon to tell.

44
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 4:50pm

I'd be a lot more forgiving about Smith's numbers if it wasn't for that worse than 1-in-20 interception percentage (5.6%). Even in McNabb's first year, which was pretty mediocre, it was still much better than that (3.2%).

Granted, the only other QB in that range last year was Tim Rattay, who also played for the 49ers. But saying 'his decision making skills are on a par with Tim Rattay!' isn't a compliment.

45
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 5:48pm

RE 44

Well I am not syaing that Smith will be bad or good yet. he has yet to play a full season, though with stats like last year he could be a 2td/35int guy. My main problem is that people are touting the strides that there defense has made and that thier TE is coming back. Granted these are positives, but until Alex Smith proves to the world that he can throw the ball acuratley at his own people SF will not be able to crawl out of the cellar in the NFC west. Sorry michael and all of you SF fans out there but that is how I see it.

46
by CA (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 6:12pm

the Seahawks got mad AND even. Former Vikings wide receiver Nate Burleson, a 24-year-old restricted free agent with impressive talent when healthy

and

‘…basically saying to the Vikings organization: ‘Ah yeah, Vikings! We just totally overpaid one of your mediocre players. Whatcha gonna do now, huh? Whatcha gonna do? You never would have paid him that much, so who’s the stupid one now, huh? Who’s the stupid one now? (Oh, right. Still us.)’

I'm not sure that giving up a third round draft pick and a $14 million effective contract for a not particularly good player whose previous team did not particularly want him constitutes ''getting even.'' I am sure that Nate Burleson does not constitute an ''impressive talent.''

That said, I'd rather give a $14 million contract to a #3 wide receiver than a $49 million contract to any guard ever to play the game. So the Seahawks did come out ahead (or, perhaps more accurately, less behind) in the Great Northern Overpayment War of 2006, in spite of themselves.

47
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 6:56pm

Nice work, Doug. I agree with your assessment that the Seahawks will be division champs again, but they won't have such an easy road to the Super Bowl this year. I see WAS, CAR, DAL and PHI all being potential roadblocks in the playoffs.

You got in a couple of nice zingers regarding the divisional opponents.

AZ: they just bought a Ferrari [James] that they’ll never get out of the driveway.

STL: If this defense can rise out of the league’s bottom third and the offense runs in place or better, the Rams could at least prevent the Seahawks from winning the division by seven games again.

Hard to believe that SF might have actually gotten worse, but on paper that appears to be the case right now. When you're picking up OL from the Texans . . . well, Alex Smith, you have my sympathies.

48
by Tom (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 7:10pm

Worth noting that the Seahawks first made a normal offer for Burleson and the only threw in the poison pills when the Vikings demanded a 2nd round pick instead of a 3rd in compensation.

49
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 10:16pm

re 47: the niners haven't picked up any linemen from the texans, that was the cardinals. The niners signed Larry Allen from the cowboys.

re 45: Smith did have a couple of decent games late in the year, especially aganst the rams if I remember correctly. The biggest improvement the niners can hope for is to avoid the absurd number of injuries they suffered last year.

50
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 10:19pm

If anyone is interested, the niners have announced a trade of underachieving No 1 picks. Rashuan Woods for Sammy Davis of the Chargers. I think the niners got the best of that, Davis has started 30 or so games and Woods is slow, injury prone and has hands of stone (I'm sure Matt Millen is gutted he missed out there)

51
by Terry (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 11:07pm

As a Chargers fan... a good trade for the Niners.

52
by NF (not verified) :: Wed, 04/12/2006 - 11:56pm

I apparently had an entire post swallowed up by the quotes bug. I wrote that FO should have a contest to predict the worst team in every division, because this division is an example of where there are three teams that could be the worst. With the injuries and coaching disasters possible, the Cardinals, Rams, and 49ers are three mediocre to bad teams that could become incredibly awful. The 2006 Cardinals will be a complete debacle if their passing game fails, the Rams have some good players with the gaps filled by average to mediocre players or aged veterans, and the 49ers will suceed or fail miserably for the third straight year depending on whether Mike Nolan is a genius and they get a decent QB starting (which could be Alex Smith. Look at the jump Carson Palmer made from 2004 to 2005. If Alex Smith can make that sort of jump he might be replacement-level.).

53
by PackMan (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 10:43am

I thought that Martz would have been a good fit for O-coordinator in AZ. He has a history with Warner (not sure if there is still bad blood there, though) and with those receivers, Edge, and McCown or a young Draftee on the bench, I think he could have made it happen there.

54
by Aaron (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 2:17pm

Re: 43. Terry Bradshaw undoubtably had one of the worst rookie seasons of all time and can give any struggling rookie quarterback hope. That being said, there's a reason I hardly ever compare current players to those prior to 1978. It was just a much different game back then, not only on the field but in terms of player development, lifespan of the core of a good team, draft strategies, and so forth. Comparing Alex Smith to Terry Bradshaw is somewhat like comparing the 2008 presidential race to the one between Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams.

Plus, the guy did get to share a locker room year after year with one of the greatest defenses of all time, which sort of helped him win some Super Bowls.

(Note: comment not red because I'm at my parents' house for the holiday.)

55
by CA (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 2:57pm

Re: 53

Martz and Green coaching together? I don't see it working at all. They run different systems. Plus, Arizona already has its offensive genius (Green). Why would they need another one with a different philosophy?

56
by MRH (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 3:41pm

Re 54
No question that Bradshaw's rookie year was a different era. I do seem to recall an article on the greatest qb years ever that went pre-78 though...

Bradshaw as a rookie was about as far below the average qb of that year as Smith was below the average 2005 qb. Point taken that players developed differently then.

BTW, Bradshaw was not much of a qb thru the first SB win. Normalized passer ratings:

1970-1974: 0.46; 0.96; 0.97; 0.84; 0.86

Then he got very good, backslid a year, and performed at a high level relative to the league:

1975-1982: 1.33; 0.98; 1.17; 1.30; 1.09; 1.15; 1.10

Here’s the league passer rating for those years:
1970: 65.58
1971: 62.05
1972: 66.25
1973: 64.93
1974: 64.09
1975: 65.66
1976: 66.96
1977: 61.11 (the low point of the post-1960 era)
1978: 65.16
1979: 70.37*
1980: 73.74
1981: 72.84
1982: 73.78

*1979 was the great leap forward, the 1st time the league rating broke 70. It’s never look back, hitting 82.90 in 2004 and 80.04 in 2005.

57
by Moses (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 5:16pm

San Francisco faced only tough teams and awful teams last year. The tough teams don’t matter - an average team would’ve beat them last year anyway. But the awful teams? That was like a present.

And, incidentally, it’s how they got all but 1 of their wins.

I find this to be funny. The general rule of football is that bad teams tend to get their wins against other bad teams. As they improve, they start beating good teams. For all the ''analysis'' that went into the post, it just re-stated the obvious -- the 4-12 49ers were not a good team and they beat bad teams.

The exception to the rule is the very unbalanced team. For example, every now and then you'll get a bad team that is bad (record wise) because of something disasterous happens to part of the thier team, but they're solid otherwise. These teams tend to be more erratic in who they beat, usually because they're solid enough on side of the ball they can sometimes make-up for the poor aspect on the other side of the ball. Last year's Jets were a great example. 2004's Dolphins were another.

58
by Charles (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 6:59pm

As for the Ram's draft, you would almost have to assume that they will be picking up a DB. As much as Davis would help, I can't see him lasting that late. And while I did get to see a lot of Ngata (being a Ducks fan), it wouldn't surprise me to see the same front office that has failed with 3 recent 1st rd picks on DT's (Lewis, Pickett, and Kennedy) be a bit gunshy about spending another #11 pick on one. On top of that, anyone who saw any St Louis game last year saw a secondary that was repeatedly shreaded, even when healthy(which has been a rarity the last few years).

59
by Kevin (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 9:55pm

#47

Interesting you don't see the Giants as a potential roadblock for the Seahawks making another Super Bowl. Especially considering they needed the Giants to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory 3 times (at least) in order to win the game.

60
by niners fan for life (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 10:22pm

gbfl do i really care what you think about this i mean your bashing smith when you go arron rogers how stupid of you to talk trash when you have a qb thats even more unproven then smith. oh yea i also said that the niners would finish 7-9 to 8-8 not 10-6 get your shit straight before you say it ight.

61
by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 10:38pm

Re 59,
Aside from the breeze being a little tricky in Qwest, the Seahawks being decimated by injuries, and 50 being just outside of Fealey's range, the Giants were spotted a TD. Sure it happens to other teams (Sup Saints), but happens A LOT to the Seahawks.

Yeah the Giants, thanks to help from the officials, could have stolen one. If Coughlin was a little more clever than he appearently is hopeful and inuitive they might have with a punt. But Tiki can't run, catch, and make strategic desicions. So here's to dogs too old to learn new tricks. The URL in my name reminds us why that, for everything else, there's MasterCard.

62
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 11:01pm

The general rule of football is that bad teams tend to get their wins against other bad teams. As they improve, they start beating good teams. For all the ‘’analysis'’ that went into the post, it just re-stated the obvious — the 4-12 49ers were not a good team and they beat bad teams.

The general rule of any sport is that bad teams beat bad teams and not good teams. That's kindof the definition of 'bad'.

But you're missing the point - it was a response to a belief that the 49ers will regress next year because they overproduced this year. Suppose you want to predict how many wins a team has - you look for some variable which correlates with wins - like, say, point differential, etc. Which is what the previous poster did.

You then apply that to a team - like the 49ers, and say ''my God, they should've won like, zero games. How did they win 4?''

The thing to realize is that the correlation you saw applied to average schedules. The spread about that correlation is due to both the fact that your correlation is imperfect, and the spread of schedules., and the finite nature of the game.

The last effect is what causes a regression back to the mean, so you might think a team that wins 4 games but should've won 1 is more likely to win fewer than 4 games in the next year.

In San Francisco's case, however, it wasn't sample size - it was just the schedule effect. You don't see this by looking at just the average schedule strength, because their schedule looks difficult.

The entire reason for the post was to point out that San Francisco didn't luckily win games (like, say, Atlanta did). They just had a lucky schedule. That lucky schedule continues next year (thanks to Arizona and St. Louis, though they lose Houston) so there's no real reason to expect a regression.

63
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Thu, 04/13/2006 - 11:38pm

Re: 49

Oops, my bad . . . that's what I get for posting at the end of a workday. I used the wrong example, but I stand by my assertion that the 49ers look worse on paper. Fortunately for them, the games aren't played on paper.

Re: 59

I think the NFC East is going to be a buzzsaw next season, and I see the Giants as the odd team out. For most of the 2005 season, they struck me as a team playing over their heads. The game at Qwest Field never should have come down to 3 Jay Feely misses, because Shockey dropped that TD pass.

I haven't followed the offseason closely, but I don't know of a lot of changes the Giants made to get better (on paper). We all know about the FA moves that WAS and DAL made, and PHI's lost 2005 season is attributable mainly to injuries and T.O., IMO. As of today, neither of those are factors, so I think PHI should return to challenge for the division.

I say that in April, so a lot can change between now and then. Last April, about 3 weeks prior to the draft, I thought the 'Hawks were headed for another 9-7 season, followed by a one-and-done in the playoffs and Holmgren riding off into the sunset.

64
by Mike (not verified) :: Fri, 04/14/2006 - 12:10am

Good read. Great Job by Mr. Doug Farrar.

Kudos!

65
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 04/14/2006 - 11:14am

RE 60

im going to laugh in your face when my niners finish 9-7 and compete for a play off spot you watch..

re:88 hey im going to be there and guess what if you think your going to win with arron rogers you need to kill your self i know sf has smith but with eric johnson back and the best offensive line in the league and dont forget battle and bryant we will trounce your packers by at least 10 points…. i gurantee it..

re: 101 hey it looks like the niners have a good team this year way better then last year and were not even at draft day yet. so bjorn if thats your real name whats your favorite team so i can bash them…

So NFFL(Michael)

These are just a few of the points you brought up on the other post. You want to talk about shit/trash talking? I am only pointing out facts. My team has a horrible O-line and does not look to get better anytime soon. I may have a untested QB, but I can have faith that untested he may be, he at least is learning from somebody better than John Kitna (for Carson Palmer). In this post and no matter how much you love your team they went through what the redskins and a few other teams this year might have had to go through becuase your onwership does not grasp how to run a NFL Franchise. I used to respect the 49ers because we would always envariably meet in the playoffs (if not the 49ers it was the Dallas Cowboys). They have traded away most of the talent they have, and are looking to someone who gave them one mediocre year. I was not trashing smith in this post I was pointing out facts and I like alot of other readers have not made up my mind about him yet. But in all good faith when you have a rookie QB that was touted by your organization as the next Manning (Peyton) and when you compare numbers it does not even come close. I understand that he was a rookie QB and that he was runnig for his life most of the time. But if the O-line does not get solid and protect him and open holes for your RB then your team will have some serious problems.

NFC West

Seahwaks - just about the same as last year thuogh Alexander may have to run right at little bit more.

Arizona - Coach Green is trying and if they get one guy in that O-line edge will be able to take pressure off of Warner.

St. Louis - Who knows with a new head coach?

San Franciso - Could do good but needs to have a solid O-line (not just TE) to protect Smith and open up holes for the run game.

NFFL- you can talk about the pass game all you want but if your team is only one dimesional in the regular season they are not giving themselves a chance to win. All the other team has to do is try and grind it out. And just in the NFC West you have two teams that can grind it out because they have a decent Running Back.

66
by BradleyS (not verified) :: Fri, 04/14/2006 - 12:09pm

Good read, nice work Doug
come on, Burleson is gonna have a bigger effect on Seattle than Hutch will in Minn. Seattle did a good job in the offseason of signing for need AND ddepth. Going into the draft they are far an away the best team in the NFC west. After the draft it could be a closer race though.........

67
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Fri, 04/14/2006 - 2:52pm

Re: 66

Agreed, Burleson should be a nice addition for Seattle. But I'd sure love to see them pick up a red-zone WR, someone big and tall like Jurevicius who can block downfield and can win the occasional jump ball. I don't see that guy on the current roster. And they still need some help in the secondary.

Those concerns aside, they're still clearly the best in the division. I'm looking forward to getting the season underway.

68
by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Fri, 04/14/2006 - 5:50pm

Coltrane, there's no doubt that they don't have an answer for Jurevicius. I try not to get too attached to players anymore, but he was an exeption - losing him was a gut punch. I had been a fan of his ever since the Bucs' Super Bowl run, when I realizd I was watching the second coming of Ed McCaffrey. With Burleson, Jackson, Engram back in the slot where he belongs...and D.J. Hackett hopefully getting a few more reps, I suppose the hope is that Jerramy Stevens will be the red zone threat they've always wanted him to be.

Failing that, Shaun will just have to run for 35 TDs this year.

By the way, something Aaron brought up during one of his interviews with us (I think it was the pre-NFC Championship interview)...D.J. Hackett had the highest rating of any receiver with less than 50 catches in 2005. He hasn't taken Engram's place as an FO Demigod, but he's a name to watch.

69
by Matt (not verified) :: Fri, 04/14/2006 - 7:14pm

...basically saying to the Vikings organization: Ah yeah, Vikings! We just totally overpaid

That's pretty much how we felt out here about the deal Minnesota gave Hutch. They paid how much for a guard?

70
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Fri, 04/14/2006 - 11:31pm

Yeah Doug, I was thinking the same thing about Stevens as a primary red zone target. This is his chance to live up to his 1st round status. It's not a bad plan, I suppose, because he finally showed some promise last year. (Apart from, you know, getting the yips at the Super Bowl. But most of the team appeared to do that.)

But with their WR corps and SA in the backfield, I'm sure they'll find a way to punch the ball into the end zone a few times. Barring any major injuries, I don't expect this offense to miss a beat, regardless of Hutch's defection.

As for Hackett, he definitely showed some promise last year. He's got some speed and some height, so here's hoping he builds on last season's success.

71
by Jim (not verified) :: Fri, 04/14/2006 - 11:41pm

Nice unbiased breakdown of the Raiders

72
by Zach (not verified) :: Sat, 04/15/2006 - 2:56am

I think the biggest thing overlooked with the Seahawks is that their defense is gonna be quite good as well. They've got one of the top linebacking corps in football, with Tatupu, Hill, and Peterson. The line is also gonna be good, with Wistrom, Fisher, Tubbs, Darby, Bernard, and Davis. Plus, if they get Hamlin back, and you add him in with a decent secondary, you're talking about a potential top 10 defense coupled with a top 3 offense. That's a Super Bowl calibur team.

73
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 04/15/2006 - 6:13pm

Is it just me, or is the received wisdom on the 2006 Seahawks exactly the same as the received wisdom on the 2005 Eagles at this time last year? (Clearly the class of the NFC if not the league, soft division, few key losses, diya diya diyada . . .) It's a long time since a losing Superbowl team failed to regress heavily the following year. Here's one bet that it happens again (though not to the extent of last year's Eagles).

74
by Kyle (not verified) :: Sun, 04/16/2006 - 1:43am

RE 61

So we're totally disregarding the two contradictory calls in overtime, where Shockey switching his ball-carrying hand is ruled

75
by Kyle (not verified) :: Sun, 04/16/2006 - 1:45am

RE 61 So we're totally disregarding the two contradictory calls in overtime, where Shockey switching his ball-carrying hand is ruled 'bobbling' whilst Engram did nothing of the sort? So we're disregarding the fact that Seattle was granted an illegal challenge within the final two minutes, due to the fact that the Toomer touchdown play started prior to the two minute warning but concluded afterwards? So we're disregarding the fact that the NFL Officiating Office affirmed the decisions made on both the Toomer and the Shockey touchdown catches, and just sticking to Mike Holmgren's 'i speak for the committee since i'm on it' position on the matter? So we're disregarding the fact that many an analyst, expert, columnist etc believed that the Giants outplayed the Seahawks the entire game? So we're disregarding...

We ARE disregarding #74 though, for I accidentally used double quotation marks.

76
by Tom (not verified) :: Sun, 04/16/2006 - 2:27am

Poor Kyle,
Pierra, on NFL Total Access, said that Shockey's ''TD reception'' was something they [The League] would like to be called as an incomplete pass. He also added that it was going to be sent out to all the officiating crews as an EXAMPLE of an incomplete catch. Some what schitzophrenically he also asserted that the challenge procedure worked correctly, it was just unfortunate that the original call was incorrect. WTF?

Shockey dropped a lot of passes last year, and a fair share in his trip to Qwest. If he wants to demonstrate possession he should try to get two feet down before he coughs it up, or perhaps ceasing to juggle the ball at somepoint while going to the ground. It's football, not tag. It's not enough to touch the ball, he's actually got to control it and establish himself inbounds. He's well compensated to pull off that nifty trick. If he wants to be a professional juggler, well a career change will eventually be in order.

Yeah, a lot of columnists focused on the 3 missed field goals, two of which were makeable. They neglected a wide variety of errors the the Giants committed and opportunities they squandered, not the least of which is a free TD. What was more dramatic? The what-might-have-beens in a very difficult kicking situation, or the lack of preperation by the Giants. (What was it 11 false starts? Seriously, that's not prepared. As a guy who grew up with the Seahawks in old glory days Qwest, particularly at that point in the season was no where near as loud as the Kingdome. The playoff games were actually a shade of loud. Even then, the Panthers gave up one false start?)

The one person most directly responsible for the Giants loss is Coughlin. For all the blown opportunities, what the players put on the field was enough to get to the threshold of victory. If he had punted instead of stretching for the long FG which had already been demonstrated to be out of range, they likely would have won, or at worst tied. Deservedly, or not. The game at Qwest was hardly the only game the Giants played in that showed a great lack of preperation. Nor was it the only game where they got the lion's share of generous officiating, the Chiefs game in NJ also comes to mind. But given that at the close of the Giants season, that Tiki was right, and Coughlin didn't want to hear it.... Well how much time do you think he's spent in quiet reflection and self-evaluation this off-season?

77
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Mon, 04/17/2006 - 1:55pm

Mr. Shush,

Shut up, man, you'll jinx it for us!!! :-)

Seriously, though, as a 'Hawks fan I'm a little concerned about all the good things being said about the Seahawks for the same reason you just detailed: dating back to the '99-'00 Titans, the Super Bowl loser has shown a shocking tendency towards tanking the next season.

Of course, even with that in the back of my mind, I think the 'Hawks are the class of the NFC West (in April, at least). That's not saying much, sure, but it'd be good enough to get into the playoffs. Once they're in, though, I do think they'll have a tougher road to Miami. That's where we might see some regression from last year, because I'm not sure they'll get the #1 seed this year.

Can't wait to find out, though . . .

78
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Mon, 04/17/2006 - 2:12pm

To be fair to the 2000 Titans, they didn't ''tank'' the next season -- they earned home-field advantage through the playoffs and won their division.

They just got whipped in the playoffs, is all. The trend you're talking about really starts with the 2001 Giants.

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by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Mon, 04/17/2006 - 2:30pm

Well, that was my point, but I phrased it badly . . . the '00 Titans were the last team to do well in the regular season after losing the Super Bowl.(Although they did tank in the playoffs against BAL, but I digress.)

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by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 04/18/2006 - 2:15pm

It's interesting. Throughout the early years of the salary cap era, only the '94 Bills failed to make the playoffs the next season. From the '01 Giants onwards, not a single Superbowl loser has even gone 8-8. It's unclear whether to count the '99 Falcons as the start of the new trend, with the '00 Titans as a blip, to see the Titans of the last of the former trend and the '99 Falcons as the blip, or to take 1998-2000 as a transition period. Of course, it may simply be a fluky distribution not indicative of any general clause or trend but merely the result of small sample size. Indeed, it's hard to see what kind of cause there might be for the Superbowl Loser's Curse, if it were some structural change about football.

However, now look at the quarterbacks involved in each case. Of the eight franchises (Bills x3, Chargers, Steelers, Patriots, Packers and Titans) which had success the year after losing, six went to the Superbowl with a pro-bowl calibre quarterback who continued to play at a high level the following season (Kelly x3, Bledsoe, Favre, McNair). A seventh, Stan Humphries, was good but not great in both the years in question. Pitssburgh managed to remain good despite a change in starting QB. Of the seven (Bills, Falcons, Giants, Rams, Raiders, Panthers and Eagles) who failed in the season following a Superbowl defeat, 3 (the Rams, Raiders and Eagles) lost their pro-bowl (in two cases MVP) starting quarterbacks to injury in that subsequent season. 3 more had quarterbacks who were never really very good in the first place (Chandler, Collins and Delhomme). Only Jim Kelly in 1995 could be argued to have played at a genuinely high level in both the seasons in question and seen his team regress around him.

So, for Seahawks fans, the message is to pray that Matt Hasselbeck stays healthy. If he does, you ought to break the 'curse'.

Damn. I was really hoping that curse actually existed. Flippin' Seahawks.

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by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 04/18/2006 - 2:17pm

Sorry, towards the end of the second paragraph that should obviously say 'Jim Kelly in 1994', not 1995.

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by Brock (not verified) :: Tue, 04/18/2006 - 4:45pm

The Giants did outplay the Hawks at the end of 4th quarter and much of OT, but not the entire game. It was close to an even game for the first 3.5 quarters. The Giants also got 2 questionable TDs, otherwise the game doesn't come down to the missed FGs. As for this upcoming year, the Hawks could be better than last year if they shore up their secondary. Of course injuries is a X-Factor with every team.

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by Brock (not verified) :: Tue, 04/18/2006 - 4:49pm

Most of the teams who lost in the SB and didn't do well the following year were decimated by age, free agency/salary cap, injuries, and lack of chemistry. Injuries could happen to anyone, but the other factors shouldn't apply to the Hawks.

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by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 04/19/2006 - 9:51am

I can imagine team chemistry being messed up somewhat if the uncertainty surrounding Holmgren's future isn't resolved. Playing under a coach who you think or know will be gone at the end of the season can be somewhat de-motivating. Also, don't ignore 'sudden unexpected improvement in the rest of the division, leading to increased schedule difficulty' as a reason for decline (see last year's Eagles - though obviously not the only factor there). That said, it would be somewhat unexpected in this case - certainly if any team improved to the point of being as good as the 'Hawks - and the out-of-division schedule is pretty soft, what with the AFC East and NFC North.

I think the Hawks have to be favourites to get HFA again (though look for the Vikings to push them if Johnson stays healthy - no, seriously). Their combination of schedule ease and superior talent and coaching should even be able to overcome a Madden cover appearance from Alexander.