After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
by Al Bogdan
Before we sit down over the next month and watch professional football played at the highest level, we should take a moment and reflect on football at its worst and reveal the results from the Football Outsiders second half Loser League Contest. 131 brave souls wandered into the dark forest of crappy pigskin performance, but only one could emerge victorious. Somewhat appropriately, that one team that rose above all others was the Jesus Freaks from Springdale, Arkansas. The Freaks were powered by many almost all of the first half All-Loser team. Kyle Boller, Kevan Barlow, Eddie George, Ike Hilliard and John Kasay formed the recipe for a winning team no matter which half of the 2004 season you looked at. Sprinkle in a little Josh McCown, Emmitt Smith, Peerless Price, Rod Smith, and Paul Edinger and voila! -- a Loser League Championship. If you want to see how your team finished in the second half contest, here are the results.
Jesus' victory could be considered a big upset, as after Week 15, the Mark Brunell All-Stars appeared to be running away with the title. However, much like Mark Brunell himself, the MBAS fell off a cliff, blowing their 13 point advantage with only two weeks to go to finish in 23rd place, 27 points out of the top spot. What happened? Penalties reared their ugly head. Over the last two weeks, MBAS scored 123 points, with six players pulling 15 point inaction penalty in Week 17 alone.
Here are the first and second All-Loser teams for the second half of the season. A lot of these names are ones that you'd expect to find here, but there's one in particular that's kind of sad:
QB: Eli Manning, NYG -- 68 points
RB: Kevan Barlow, SF -- 84 points
RB: Thomas Jones, CHI -- 85 points
WR: Bobby Wade, CHI -- 37 points
WR: Kevin Johnson, BAL -- 41 points
K: Paul Edinger, CHI -- 13 points
QB: Tim Rattay, SF -- 86 points
RB: Emmitt Smith, ARI -- 85 points
RB: Marshall Faulk, STL -- 85 points
WR: Hines Ward, PIT -- 41 points
WR: Laveraneus Coles, WAS -- 42 points
K: Kris Brown, HOU -- 20 points
Yes, that's right. Former perennial #1 fantasy pick Marshall Faulk is a member of the All-Loser team. How many of us have won a fantasy league over the past decade with Marshall Faulk as our #1 running back? It's sad to see a great fall so far.
Eli Manning gets my vote for Loser League MVP for the second half. Although there were many kickers and wide receivers that scored fewer points, he was far and away worse than anyone else at his position. Tim Rattay finished as the second worst quarterback, despite not playing in the last four games of the season. An honorable mention should go to Phil Dawson, who had 10 points going into Week 17 before he inexplicably went 5-5 on field goal attempts and threw in an extra point for good measure to score 16 points.
After coming up with some great team names in the first half contest, FO readers didn't disappoint in the second half. We had your team tributes, such as the 1990 Patriots, the Run n Shoot Oilers, the Bengals All Time Team, the Washington Generals, and Ladies and Gentlemen, Your '04 Miami Dolphins. We also had homages to individuals, such as the aforementioned Mark Brunell All-Stars, Krenzel Kicks Ass, Just Give Ron Dayne the Damn Ball!, The Abe Gibron Experience Featuring John Shoop, Davey Wannstadt's Howling Death Commandos, Martz's Blunders, The Griese Bledsoes, and third-place finisher Steve Deberg Where Art Thou. And of course, a litany of sexual references that we'll let you go and discover on your own. My personal favorite name? The Unemployed Hobos of Central Virginia. I didn't realize that there were employed hobos. I thought part of being a hobo was that you didn't have a job.
Now, being an All-Loser for only half of a season is nice, but it takes true skill to make the full season All-Loser squad. You have to be just good enough to get regular playing time over 16 weeks, but bad enough to not do a whole heck of a lot while you're on the football field. Here they are, your first and second team All-Losers for 2004, led by Loser League MVP Kyle Boller:
QB: Kyle Boller, BAL -- 169 points
RB: Kevan Barlow, SF -- 174 points
RB: William Green, CLE -- 177 points
WR: Troy Edwards, JAC -- 86 points
WR: Ike Hilliard, NYG -- 98 points
K: Paul Edinger, CHI -- 62 points
QB: Josh McCown, ARI -- 196 points
RB: Eddie George, DAL -- 186 points
RB: Marshall Faulk, STL -- 189 points
WR: Laveraneus Coles, WAS -- 109 points
WR: Peerless Price, ATL -- 109 points
K: Todd Peterson, SF -- 84 points