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17 Feb 2009

Four Downs: NFC West

by Vince Verhei

Arizona Cardinals

Will the team survive the loss of two coordinators?

A timeline of the month of February for the Arizona Cardinals:

February 1: Cardinals lose classic Super Bowl to Steelers. Optimism for 2009 high.

February 6: Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley hired as head coach of Kansas City Chiefs. Optimism for 2009 dims.

February 7: Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast fired. Optimism for 2009 detectable only by powerful microscopes.

The exact role and influence of offensive and defensive coordinators in the NFL is hard to define and even harder to measure. Their responsibilities and duties change from team to team and from season to season. Stability, however, can only help a team. Will the loss of top coaches on both sides of the ball will cause enough upheaval to ruin the Cardinals' chances of returning to the Super Bowl?

Surprisingly, Arizona isn't the only Super Bowl team in recent memory to lose both coordinators. The 2004 Patriots beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, then saw defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel leave to run the Cleveland Browns, while offensive coordinator Charlie Weis departed to pick up the reins at Notre Dame. In Pro Football Prospectus 2005, Ned Macey looked at what happened to teams when their coordinators left to take head coaching jobs. From 1989 to 2003, 35 coordinators were hired as head coaches in the NFL. The average unit (offense or defense) dropped 2.9 places in the NFL rankings for points and 3.3 places in the average rankings for yards.

One reason that units decline when they lose coordinators is regression to the mean; good teams are much more likely than bad teams to play worse the following year. Teams that placed in the top five in points scored or allowed and then lost their coordinator were worse by about 45 points the following season. Teams that ranked in the top five but retained their coordinators declined by 55 points. We don't suggest that all top-ranking teams fire their coordinators in an attempt to mitigate an inevitable decline, but this does show that retaining coordinators does not guarantee outstanding play.

Since that initial study, 15 more coordinators have taken NFL head coaching jobs (including Norv Turner twice). Six units improved in the rankings, most notably the Philadelphia offense, which jumped from 18th to sixth in points scored after Brad Childress left in 2005. Nine units declined, none moreso than the Patriots defense, which fell from second to 17th after Crennel left. Of these 15 units, the average team declined 3.8 spots in the rankings.

Some of you have no doubt spotted the MacGuffin in all this. This study only looks at coordinators who left to take head coaching jobs. It is not looking at coordinators who are fired, like Pendergast was. The Cardinals were 28th in points allowed last season; they were much better in DVOA, but still ranked 21st. This was, at best, a below-average unit last season, and improvement on this side of the ball is somewhat likely no matter who is in charge in 2009.

Who Could Leave?

Everybody! The Cards could lose key players at quarterback (Kurt Warner), running back (J.J. Arrington), tight end (Leonard Pope), defensive end (Bertrand Berry), and linebacker (Karlos Dansby) to free agency (or, in Warner's case, retirement). Leading rusher Edgerrin James is also a candidate to retire or be released. And then there's Anquan Boldin, the No. 1 receiver disguised as a No. 2 who has been publicly angry with Cardinals management for nearly a year now and wants to be traded. All told, the Cardinals have only 41 players under contract for 2009.

Who Could They Sign?

Almost anybody! The Cardinals have a league-high $41 million in cap space. Most of that should go to Warner, who looked like an MVP in the first half of the season and again in the playoffs, and Dansby, the team's leading tackler. (Dansby was the only outside linebacker in the league involved in 20 percent of his team's run tackles.) Also, if Boldin can be convinced to return he won't come cheap. If he does leave, the Cards would not be desperate to replace him. Steve Breaston played well as a third receiver last season, and Arizona won the two games Boldin missed after shattering his face against the Jets, scoring 41 points against the Bills and 30 against the Cowboys. The Cardinals ranked 30th in run blocking last year and their tackles were abused in the Super Bowl; Jordan Gross or Jon Runyan could make immediate impacts. On the defensive side of the ball, they'd love to sign Albert Haynesworth, but so would 31 other teams. The Cards switched between a 4-3 and 3-4 last season; if they do that again, they'd be the perfect spot for athletic pass rushers like Julius Peppers or Terrell Suggs.

St. Louis Rams

Will Chris Long get more sacks in 2009?

Forty tackles, four sacks. Not terrible numbers for a defensive end, but not what the Rams were hoping for when they took Chris Long with the second overall pick out of Virginia last April. Were St. Louis fans right to expect big things from Long right away? And can we expect a big jump from Long in his sophomore season?

Between 1996 and 2007, 16 defensive ends were selected in the top 10 picks of the draft:


Defensive Ends Drafted in Top 10, 1995-2007
Name Team Rookie Year Sacks Second Year Sacks Difference
Mario Williams HOU 2006 4.5 2007 14 9.5
Andre Carter SF 2001 6.5 2002 12.5 6
Greg Ellis DAL 1998 3 1999 7.5 4.5
Grant Wistrom STL 1998 3 1999 6.5 3.5
Kevin Carter STL 1995 6 1996 9.5 3.5
Richard Seymour NE 2001 3 2002 5.5 2.5
Mike Mamula PHI 1995 5.5 1996 8 2.5
Jamaal Anderson ATL 2007 0 2008 2 2
Gaines Adams TB 2007 6 2008 6.5 0.5
Cedric Jones NYG 1996 0 1997 0 0
Courtney Brown CLE 2000 4.5 2001 4.5 0
Jamal Reynolds GB 2001 2 2002 1 -1
Justin Smith CIN 2001 8.5 2002 6.5 -2
Andre Wadsworth ARI 1998 5 1999 2 -3
Julius Peppers CAR 2002 12 2003 7 -5
Simeon Rice ARI 1996 12.5 1997 5 -7.5

In hindsight, Long's four sacks look like what we should have expected from a rookie pass rusher; nine of these ends had more sacks as rookies, seven had fewer. They averaged 5.1 sacks in their rookie seasons. The next season, nine of them saw some improvement, two matched their sack totals, and five saw their numbers drop. The average sacks in Year Two climbed modestly to 6.1, but only two players -- Mario Williams and Greg Ellis -- have made the kind of improvement it would take to get Long into double-digit sack numbers.

If we look at sacks per game instead of total sacks, things don't change much. These players averaged 0.35 sacks per game as rookies and 0.46 sacks per game the next year, an addition of 1.7 sacks over a 16-game season. It was not Williams or Ellis who made the biggest jump on a per-game basis however; that would be Courtney Brown. The Browns defensive end posted 4.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons, but he played 16 games in 2000 and only five in 2001. The good news is that his production (at least in terms of sacks per game) more than doubled; the bad news is that he missed 11 games.

Expect Long to make modest improvements this year and collect five or six sacks, but do not look for him to be a Pro Bowler anytime soon.

Incidentally, two other ends were picked in the top ten last season: Derrick Harvey (who had 3.5 sacks for the Jaguars) and Vernon Gholston (who had no sacks and just 13 tackles as an outside linebacker for the Jets). Again, only modest improvement should be expected from these two youngsters.

Who Could Leave?

The Rams' first priorities are to re-sign free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe and cornerback Ron Bartell. Dante Hall set a career low in kickoffs last year (20.6 yards per return) but was still effective as a punt returner (10.3-yard average, right below his career rate of 10.5). The Rams could also lose veterans La'Roi Glover and Jason Craft, whose best days are long behind them. Beyond that, we're talking the Brock Berlins and Dane Lookers of the world, players who probably should be replaced anyway. Though not free agents, two of the greatest players in Rams history -- Torry Holt and Orlando Pace -- are likely to be cut for salary cap reasons. The Rams are only $14 million under the cap; releasing those two veterans would nearly double that room. (The Sporting News reports that the Rams turned down a first-round draft choice from the Titans in exchange for Holt last season. That's a trade both teams likely wish they pulled off now.)

Who Could They Sign?

The Rams are not overflowing with talent, but they at least have potential at defensive line and in the secondary. For what seems like the 27th season in a row, the Rams need to rebuild their offensive line. An interior lineman like Pete Kendall of the Redskins or Mike Goff of the Chargers, or a tackle like Jon Runyan or Tra Thomas of the Eagles, would help this team take a small step back to respectability.

San Francisco 49ers

Is there any hope for Vernon Davis?

Three years after being selected sixth overall in the 2006 draft, Davis is most famous for being thrown off the field by coach Mike Singletary after committing a personal foul against Seattle. He has sandwiched two horrible seasons (-30.4% DVOA in 2006, -24.6% in 2008) around one mediocre campaign (-8.6% in 2007, still below replacement level).

We can try to predict Davis' future success (or failure) by looking at players who have put up similar statistics early in their careers. Here are players most similar to Davis, limited to those between 23 and 25 years old and coming out of their third seasons:


Tight Ends Most Similar To Vernon Davis
Name Third Season Team G Rec RecYD Avg. TD
Ron Hall 1989 TB 16 30 331 11.0 2
Don Warren 1981 WAS 16 29 335 11.6 1
Mark Brammer 1982 BUF 16 44 400 9.0 4
Jamie Asher 1997 WAS 16 49 474 9.7 1
Lonnie Johnson 1996 BUF 16 46 457 9.9 0
Doug Jolley 2004 OAK 16 27 313 11.6 2
Irv Smith 1995 NO 16 45 466 10.4 3
Anthony Becht 2002 NYJ 16 28 243 8.7 5
Reece McCall 1980 IND 16 18 322 17.9 5
Calvin Magee 1987 TB 15 45 565 12.5 4
Arthur Cox 1985 ATL 16 33 454 13.8 2

As FO honcho Aaron Schatz noted upon compiling this list, "yeah, that's a pile of suck." The ten players averaged just 29 catches for 311 yards and 1.3 touchdowns the following season. If we loosen our age restrictions somewhat, we get Daniel Graham as a good comparison for Davis, except that Graham has much more value as a blocker. The best comp for Davis may be Irv Smith. Like Davis, Smith was drafted in the first round (20th overall) from a big school (Notre Dame), and the two were very similar in size (6-foot-3, 249 pounds for Smith; 6-3, 250 for Davis). Smith's best year, by the way, was his third season. It was all downhill from there.

Who Could Leave?

Almost nobody of any value. J.T. O'Sullivan, our lowest-rated quarterback of 2008, is a free agent and, um, doubtful to return. The 49ers were strong on both kick and punt returns last year, but Allen Rossum is a free agent. He ranked seventh in average kickoff return in 2008. Roderick Green is an interesting pass rusher. In nine games last season, he had 3.5 sacks -- but only seven tackles. But the stars of the team -- guys like Patrick Willis, Michael Lewis, Frank Gore -- aren't going anywhere.

Who Could They Sign?

As General Manager Scot McCloughan put it on the team's own Web site, "When it’s all said and done, we’ll be in the top 10 [in cap room] in the NFL for sure. We’ll have room and we’ll be one of the teams with the most room. We have enough room to possibly be aggressive and there’s enough room to take care of our own guys. Whatever we want to do, we’re going to do it. We have some cap room where we can improve our roster because of the room we have. We’re in very good shape."

Yippee!

With the quarterback position likely to be determined by a Shaun Hill-Alex Smith training camp duel, it's time to find someone on the receiving end of those throws. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is far and away the best available at the position, at least in free agency. A dream scenario would be to somehow pull Anquan Boldin away from the Cardinals, which would be an immediate upgrade for the 49ers and also strike a blow to their top division rival. If they decide to bring in competition for Davis, there are some good tight ends available, most notably Owen Daniels and Bo Scaife.

Seattle Seahawks

Do coaches fare better the second time around?

For the first time since 1999, the Seahawks head coach is not Mike Holmgren. Instead it is Jim Mora, former coach of the Atlanta Falcons. In the past decade, Tom Coughlin, Tony Dungy, Bill Belichick, and Jon Gruden have all won Super Bowls in their second jobs as head coaches, but in general, is it a good idea to hire a retread, or should teams go with a fresh face instead? The following table shows the records for all 57 coaches with more than one coaching job since the 1970 merger (including a handful of guys like Art Shell, who had multiple jobs with the same team):


Coaches with Multiple Jobs, 1970-present
First Job Second Job Third Job Fourth Job
Avg. Years Win % Avg. Years Win % Avg. Years Win % Avg. Years Win %
5.1 0.545 4.1 0.479 4.0 0.506 4.0 0.500

To make this clear, those 57 coaches averaged 5.1 years at their first job, and had a winning percentage of .545. In the next go-round, the average tenure lasted 4.1 years, and the aggregate winning percentage dropped to .479. Eleven coaches managed to find a third job, and three men somehow pulled off a fourth stint in the NFL. Can you name them? The answer's at the end of this column.

So in general coaches see a slight dip in their second tenure, but that's skewed by guys like Mike Ditka, who got a second job because he had a long, successful tenure in his first gig. Mora's success in Atlanta was moderate -- a 27-21 record, but just one playoff berth in three years. Let's limit our sample size to the 26 coaches whose first tenure lasted four or fewer seasons:


Coaches with Multiple Jobs, First Job Less Than 5 Years
First Job Second Job Third Job Fourth Job
Avg. Years Win % Avg. Years Win % Avg. Years Win % Avg. Years Win %
3.0 0.467 3.9 0.462 3.0 0.480 5.0 0.588

These coaches usually have a little longer to prove themselves, but they don't necessarily fare any better. Looks like there's no real advantage to hiring a coach with prior experience.

Who Could Leave?

Bobby Engram, one of the most dependable Seahawks of the Mike Holmgren era, will likely try to end his career on a winning team -- i.e., not in Seattle. Leroy Hill is coming off a disappointing season and a marijuana arrest, lowering his demand both with the Seahawks, and with other teams. It would probably hurt Seattle more to lose him than it would help another team to sign him. The Seahawks have only $9 million in cap space; they could free extra room by cutting or re-negotiating with players like Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, or Deion Branch.

Who Could They Sign?

This is a team in serious transition, and a lot of what they do in free agency depends on what they do with players like Hasselbeck and Jones. They have clear and serious needs at wide receiver and along the offensive line, but the one position that would lend the most immediate help may be a cornerback to play opposite Marcus Trufant. Last season the combination of Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings failed woefully at that task over and over again. Bryant McFadden, all six feet of him, would be a welcome sight in Seahawk blue.

By the way, the three coaches with four jobs were:

  • Chuck Knox (Rams, Bills, Seahawks, Rams again)
  • Bill Parcells (Giants, Patriots, Jets, Cowboys)
  • Marty Schottenheimer (Browns, Chiefs, Redskins, Chargers)

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 17 Feb 2009

45 comments, Last at 24 Feb 2009, 3:17pm by phildo

Comments

1
by fogarty :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 2:43pm

"those 57 coaches averaged 5.1 jobs in their first year"
I don't think that's what you mean, Vince :-) Great article though!

7
by JoeD (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:46pm

Bill Parcells came close it seems like...

2
by Marko :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 2:49pm

"To make this clear, those 57 coaches averaged 5.1 jobs in their first year, and had a winning percentage of .545."

That's an incredible winning percentage considering how many jobs these people had in their first year. Where did they find the time to coach (let alone eat or sleep) while holding down an average of more than 5 jobs at once?

3
by Matt W (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 3:27pm

"those 57 coaches averaged 5.1 wins in their first year"

That still isn't what you mean, I don't think.

4
by Marko :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 3:42pm

It obviously should be "5.1 years in their first job."

5
by Drunkmonkey :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:05pm

"It would probably hurt Seattle more to hurt him than it would help another team to sign him."

I'm confused. How can Seattle hurt LeRoy Hill? Was it supposed to say 'It would hurt Seattle more to SIGN him than it would help another team to sign him'?

19
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 6:25pm

*Sigh.* It would probably hurt Seattle more to LOSE him than it would help another team to sign him.

6
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:34pm

Yes, it should (and now does) read "5.1 years at their first job."

8
by Key19 :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:48pm

The Cards offense really only managed 17 points against Dallas. Two return TDs (kickoff and blocked punt)(one TD had no extra point). So I wouldn't say they exactly lost nothing without Boldin. The Bills were not great last year, but 41 points is still very solid. 17 against Dallas is not really that impressive though. That said, I think they can buff up their defense enough to make things happen. If Warner retires, he doesn't need a big contract. Then they can resign Dansby and could very likely land 2/3 of Haynesworth, Peppers, and Suggs.

Is Bulger the answer for the Rams at QB (provided they fix the line)? I always have had my doubts about him, but I can't say I've really watched all that much of him.

Seems like the Seahawks are going to be pretty bad for a while.

I actually think the 49ers will be competitive for the Division title this year (or a Wild Card spot). 7-9 is not that bad, and they did have a pretty up-and-down QB situation. If they can get a solid starter and have him last a full season, I think they'll be a solid team.

9
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 5:11pm

"If we loosen our age restrictions somewhat, we get Daniel Graham as a good comparison for Davis, except that Graham has much more value as a blocker."

The only part of Vernon Davis's game that coaches rave about is his blocking, but they do rave about it. Martz and Singletary both said he's the best blocking tight end they've ever seen, saying that he can take out any DE in the game.

What makes you think Graham is a better blocker?

11
by Jimmy :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 5:21pm

Because he played for the Patriots.

18
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 6:11pm

I was trying very hard not to say that.

12
by tuluse :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 5:33pm

Why not just convert Davis to tackle then?

16
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 6:09pm

I believe they were talking about run blocking -- that he was the only tight end they'd had that they could assign to run-block a DE one-on-one and count on him to do the job. Though certainly he stayed in to pass block a lot in Martz's offense.

Let me see if I can dredge up some links somewhere....

27
by jimbohead :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 12:51am

I'd read that part of the reason his numbers were poor last season was that Martz kept him in to block so much on passing downs. I have one particular memory of just completely walling off... I want to say Ellis, but I don't think it was him, coming off the left side in pass protection.

For the larger point, even if the niners don't think Davis is worth anything as a TE, they also have Walker, who was pretty competent as well. I think the bigger needs on this team are at safety and OLB. Not to mention QB. Or a decent RB2 (no, Foster doesn't count). Or RT.

30
by David :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 6:19am

If ever a team was a candidate for Best Player Available, it's the niners at the moment. Is there a single spot where free agency doesn't offer upgrades? The only standout players are Patrick Willis and Frank Gore, and the niners could still use another middle linebacker (Spikes played well, but I don't see him playing more than one extra season), and upgrades at RB are always welcome.

Any upgrades in free agency and certainly through the draft would be more than welcome, but I think the division title will be tricky. The 7-9 record flatters to deceive, a little, and the 9-7 record of the Cardinals is probably less an indicator than that whole 'SuperBowl' thing

43
by Jimmy :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 7:05pm

I have one particular memory of just completely walling off... I want to say Ellis, but I don't think it was him, coming off the left side in pass protection.

I don't know if it is the pay you are thinking of but Davis did stonewall Ware on a few plays in the game against the Cowboys. Not easily done at all, and the result as you imply didn't seem to be in doubt from the moment contact was made. I am not sure there are any other TEs in the game who could pull that off.

As has been mentioned the idea of asking him to gain 30 lbs of muscle and moving him to tackle has occurred to the Niners. Personally I think he would be a monster at tackle, can you imagine the damage he would do to a defense when he got to the second level? The flip side of that is that if used and coached properly he could be an animal in the passing game whilst destroying linebackers and defensive ends in the run game. I personally suspect that this is part of the reason behind Raye getting the coordinator gig, Singletary wants a coach who will simply coach the players on the team without any decisions made on the basis of using a grandiose scheme the coordinator wants to use attempting to be the next Bill Walsh.

45
by phildo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/24/2009 - 3:17pm

because he only weighs 250.

29
by Theo :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 6:18am

Because he has a 92 SPD rating in Madden.

10
by BucNasty :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 5:14pm

I heard that if Kurt Warner comes back he wants to play somewhere warm. I hope he remembers how warm it was when he stepped off of that plane in late January. A peak at the schedule also shows a nice chance to avenge that Patriots game in a place where it's not likely to snow.

I'm not sold on Vernon Davis's similarity score. To this point Davis seems a bit like Reggie Bush: a fantastic athlete who hasn't been able to use that athleticism to become a great football player. Good coaching and a change of attitude could turn things around, though, and unlike Bush he has size and strength to go with his speed. I like Mike Singletary so far, and I think it's worth noting that Davis didn't respond to his benching with a rant but actually with a bit of class. This could be a new beginning. Or not. I just think he's too different of a player for any statistical similarities to that group of tight ends to be predictive of anything, though I admittedly know nothing about any of them except for Anthony Becht and Doug Jolley.

13
by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 5:34pm

Re: that list of players with comparable records to Vernon Davis, I will definitely defend Don Warren's play for the Redskins from 82-92. However, the skill he brought to the team was as a blocking tight end--he was even an original member of the Hogs. That's not the sort of thing that shows up in his numbers as a receiver, but nonetheless it was important to the Redskins teams of the 80s.

14
by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 5:38pm

Does the fix need a fix? Now it's...

"To make this clear, those 57 coaches averaged 5.1 wins in their first year"

Isn't it 5.1 years in their first job?

Or is it coincidence that "Avg. Years" = 5.1, and average wins in first year equals 5.1 too? Trying to make things as clear as possible. ;-)

15
by Jon L (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 5:46pm

"Since that initial study, 15 more coordinators have taken NFL head coaching jobs (including Norv Turner twice)." That might be the most amazing sentence in this whole article.

22
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 8:48pm

Davis is the only TE on the list you've provided that routinely gets double teamed on passing plays. Add in the misuse of him under Martz and Hostler and you have provided the most pointless set of similarity scores ever ( and that's saying something, similarity scores are by far the least useful analytical tool you use on this website (most of them actually have some meaning)).

As for your assertion that Davis can't block, it suggests that you have never watched the guy play.

26
by bablue (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:22pm

Agreed. I'm not sure what you're talking about Vince, Davis is a terrific blocker. But its hard to beleive much of what you say when you are so far off a player who was the crux of the 49ers section. Maybe FO should looks into watching a few more west coast games?

31
by David :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 6:26am

*sigh*

Vince is, if memory serves, a Seahawks fan. As such, I imagine he watches a fair few west coast games...

The similarity scores are interesting - face facts, true believers - The Duke may be a great athlete, but he isn't so far a great football player. Looking at players with similar career paths, there's no real cause for optimism in the statistics.

Like all statistics, though, these do have to be parsed through the 'common sense' filter. If you think there are mitigating reasons why the similarity scores don't apply to VD - fair enough, but I believe that the similarity scores are a useful statistical tool in general

35
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 12:19pm

"but I believe that the similarity scores are a useful statistical tool in general"- I beg to differ, they might be useful in baseball but production in the NFL is so dependent on factors that other than the player's own skills that I think they are very limited. For example, a decent set of comparable players to Davis would have to include the following factors:
-they have been in offenses with poor offensive lines
-they have been used primarily as a blocker for mystifying amounts of time by two different offensive coordinators
-their back-up TE is only capable of contributing as a receiver, meaning Davis has had to become the primary blocker when Walker is on the field
-they've had poor and inconsistent quarterbacking
-when they do run routes they get double teamed as the only major downfield threat on the offense

If you could find that set of similarity scores then they could be relevant, but you can't and so they're not. It isn't just a problem with Davis, I just don't think that football lends itself to this particular type of analysis.

Oh, I forgot to include a patronising *sigh*, there you go.

37
by David :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 12:26pm

Actually, leaving aside the VD talk for a moment, I'm coming round to your point on similarity scores in general. As you say, baseball is a different sport to football, so the best you can say is that VD *in his three different offenses* is most similar to Irv Smith *in that Redskins offense*. With baseball being more of a collection of individual battles, perhaps similarity scores do work better there

And sorry if the *sigh* comes across as patronising - that's probably just a reaction to an over-used trope that is thrown around far too often. Yes, this site, like many others, has biases and probably watches more east coast games than west coast, but we can probably do better than to level this knee-jerk criticism. Perhaps Vince just isn't seeing what we as a 49er fans are seeing when VD is on the field

38
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 1:01pm

I just realised that the sigh was referring to the pats bias thing, not my post, sorry about that.

17
by KyleW :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 6:11pm

What are you trying to suggest by the analysis of rookie DEs? That they are not worth the high draft pick or that they improve steadily over time? The analysis doesn't really seem to say anything.

20
by BucNasty :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 7:04pm

I think he's saying that DE's take time to develop, though I think a better way to go about that is to ignore the busts and just show the elite guys' rookie vs. sophomore seasons, regardless of where they were drafted. We're talking about expectations. I'd rather compare my shiny new defensive end to the development curve of the guys who went on to become great than a list of highly drafted players.

28
by jimbohead :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 3:23am

At the same time, though, a comparison to other first round players is more apt because we don't know the end from the start. What we know about Chris Long is that he's highly touted coming out of college (hence, 1st round pick), and had solid but unspectacular production during his rookie year. His rookie production and draft position is (I think) typical of those who went on to become top-tier players, but it also potentially matches many who were busts. So why limit the comparison, except on presently known information?

And this is all just to say, I'm probably taking your comment much more seriously than it was meant. Yay me!

41
by BucNasty :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 2:44pm

I disagree, because we all know that every pick has a potential to bust. We know there's the possibilty that our top pick will go on to have a bunch of 5 or 6 sack seasons. What we really want to know is the learning curve. When talking about what you can expect after drafting a top tier defensive end, I think it's far more useful to say, "Even assuming your team took the right guy, this is about the best you can expect for the first year or two." I only care about the draft busts if my guy still hasn't broken out after his third year. At that point, feel free to bring out some kind of depressing similarity scores of other top draft busts to show me what kind of mediocrity I can expect from one of the most highly paid players on the team.

21
by spenczar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 8:18pm

Vince, I'm a regular FO reader, but you lost a lot of credibility in saying Vernon Davis can't block. That's all he CAN do.

23
by Quincy :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 8:50pm

"The Sporting News reports that the Rams turned down a first-round draft choice from the Titans in exchange for Holt last season. That's a trade both teams likely wish they pulled off now."

Was that supposed to be for last year's first rounder or this year's? If it were last year's pick, I doubt the Titans would have been better off with Holt instead of Chris Johnson.

24
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 10:46pm

"Since that initial study, 15 more coordinators have taken NFL head coaching jobs (including Norv Turner twice). Six units improved in the rankings, most notably the Philadelphia offense, which jumped from 18th to sixth in points scored after Brad Childress left in 2005."

As a Vikings fan...it hurts to read that. And yet, it's completely non-shocking.

25
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:17pm

Davis' abilities as a blocker are grossly overstated by the 49ers front office, I'm sorry. He's good, sure, but he's not on the same level as Graham was.

32
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 10:45am

"Graham was" -When did Graham retire? Or did his blocking decline as he moved west?

Personally I'm not just going off the statements of the niners' front office when I say the guy can block, he's a brute. His only issue is that every now and then he'll block the wrong fella but that is mostly in pass protection and frankly I can't work out why he isn't running routes on pass plays anyway.

33
by Theo :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 11:26am

Of course he is not going to get many balls, let alone for a lot of yards.
If you play on a bad offense, a Martz' offense (when did he ever use a TE?), the bad Qb's Vernon has played with and the bad offensive line he had played with; I have no idea why one would try to predict his future with this knowledge.
.
Watch Kwame Harris' lowlight video and you know why Vernon Davis has the similarity score of Anthony Becht.

36
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 12:22pm

Why does everyone keep saying this without citing any reasons?

34
by Harris :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 12:06pm

"Stability, however, can only help a team."

I'm sure residents of the Detroit metro area would beg to differ.

Hail Hydra!

39
by Drew630 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 2:02pm

(The Sporting News reports that the Rams turned down a first-round draft choice from the Titans in exchange for Holt last season. That's a trade both teams likely wish they pulled off now.)

Call me crazy, but I'll bet that the Titans are glad in hindsight to have Chris Johnson over an aging Torry Holt. While Holt would've been helpful to their passing attack, the future promise and the past year's production of Chris Johnson are far more valuable. Plus, if they really want him they could probably offer a lesser pick to the Rams this offseason.

44
by MJB (not verified) :: Thu, 02/19/2009 - 4:53pm

Sure the Titans are glad in hindsight to have Chris Johnson, but I am sure that they would of wanted the aging Torry Holt over the 30th overall pick this year. As that would of been the exchange that was offered last year at the trade deadline (according to the Sporting News by way of the Post-Dispatch). Click my name if you don't believe me.

40
by Kenneth (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 2:27pm

Maryland is a big school (in football) now?

42
by RickD :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 5:02pm

Well, at least they have a big coach!