Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
At Football Outsiders, we do not focus only on the All-Pros and fantasy studs. We pride ourselves in pointing out incompetence at all levels. In that spirit, the Loser League strives to highlight the very worst regular players and allow those poor souls who struggle at regular fantasy football an opportunity to be successful.
The second half of this year's contest came down to the final week with Ready to Crumble overtaking The Shiznitzs to claim a copy of Pro Football Prospectus 2006. The Shiznits were undone by strong performances by Gus Frerotte, Kevan Barlow (via penalty), and Corey Bradford in Week 17 and fell all the way to fourth. Ready to Crumble survived the late-season benching of Kyle Orton thanks to the continued poor play of Alex Smith. In second place, Very Superman Team put his faith in the offensive genius of Brian Billick, riding Jamal Lewis and Kyle Boller to a strong finish. The final standings for the whole season can be seen here.
What do all three of these championship-caliber teams have in common? They all wisely chose second-half Loser League MVP Antowain Smith. While Oakland kicker Sebastian Jankikowski had the lowest point total, six kickers scored within 20 points of him. Smith, on the other hand, had only one running back within 23 points of him. Congratulations to the former leading rusher of two Super Bowl winning teams for a level of incompetence that would make Kevan Barlow proud.
The Second-Half Loser League All-Pro Team features many expected names, but it also includes one of the best wide receivers in football as well as the first running back taken in the real NFL draft in each of the past three seasons. Also, a year after Marshall Faulk claimed a spot on the second team, another future Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career makes an appearance.
QB: Kyle Orton -- 44 points
RB: Antowain Smith -- 34 points
RB: Willis McGahee -- 50 points
WR: Shaun McDonald -- 31 points
WR: Keyshawn Johnson -- 40 points
K: Sebastian Janikowski -- 21 points
QB: Brett Favre -- 66 points
RB: Ronnie Brown -- 57 points
RB: Stephen Jackson -- 69 points
WR: Nate Burleson -- 42 points
WR: Deion Branch -- 48 points
K: Rob Bironas -- 32 points
To begin, Keyshawn, if you are reading, you are neither one of the best wide receivers in football nor a future Hall of Famer. The top-shelf wide receiver is Deion Branch and the future Hall of Famer is Favre. Both of these players had the rare combination of helping both Loser League teams and their actual teams, as Aaron detailed in this week's Quick Reads column. Nate Burleson was theoretically a capable replacement for Randy Moss, but I think this is the only All-anything team he is going to make this year.
Second-half MVP Antowain Smith was only in the lineup thanks to an injury to Deuce McAllister. It takes a special talent to perform as a Loser League All-Star and stay in the lineup for the entire season. With that in mind, here is the season-long All-Loser team.
QB: Kyle Orton -- 94 Points
RB: Jamal Lewis -- 126 Points
RB: Reuben Droughns -- 145 Points
WR: Bryant Johnson -- 106 Points
WR: Jerry Porter -- 107 Points
K: Ryan Longwell -- 70 Points
QB: Alex Smith -- 142 Points
RB: Willis McGahee -- 146 Points
RB: Ronnie Brown -- 150 Points
WR: Antwaan Randle El -- 111 Points
WR: Laveranues Coles -- 112 Points
K: Sebastian Janikowsi -- 76 Points
The presence of rookies Orton and Smith on the All-Loser squads is no surprise and a reminder of just how impressive Ben Roethlisberger's season was a year ago. Special props to Bryant Johnson, who showed he was no Brandon Stokley while playing alongside the talented wide receivers in Arizona. For the season, Johnson caught exactly two passes in six of 16 games and scored only one touchdown. Remember, a receiver needs two catches to avoid a penalty.
Only one player made the full-season All-Loser team two consecutive seasons. Congratulations to Laveranues Coles! As Santana Moss proved, it was really the offensive scheme in Washington that was causing the problems.
The season-long MVP goes in a unanimous vote to Kyle Orton, the efficient game-manager for the Bears. Injuries to Alex Smith made what should have been a tight race a runaway, with Orton posting a score 48 points lower than his nearest competitor. Imagine how low Orton's score could have been if he did not receive the penalty in Week 16!
Thanks to everyone who played in another successful season of Loser League. In all, 215 people participated in the second-half contest. These teams featured a wide variety of names from nostalgic, The Christian Okoye Coalition, to hopeful, Go Browns (Even though it will screw my team), to a slight confusion over what sport we are writing about, Kill Neifi Perez.
And now the big announcement ... combining the first-half and second-half contests, the overall winner of this year's Loser League, and winner of a Ryan Leaf replica San Diego Chargers jersey, is Christ Punchers, who finished third in the first half and sixth in the second half.
We look forward to another exciting season a year from now in the only game around where Charlie Frye will be a coveted commodity.