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.
08 Feb 2006
by Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal
Al: Life's funny sometimes, Vivek. My journalism career began with a hard-hitting expose on Richard Dean Anderson oh so many years ago. And now it ends after a Super Bowl where we saw the triumphant return of MacGyver, saving the day by using his Mastercard in the game's best commercial.
Yes, true believers, this is the end of the run here at Scramble for the Ball for Vivek and myself. I'll still be around contributing to Four Downs this off-season and writing some pieces for Pro Football Prospectus 2006 -- the only football annual guaranteed not to have Kevin Jones on the cover -- but as for Scramble, this is it for me. Come next season, I'll have a one-year-old and a job that will keep me from having the time each week to write a column full of random pro wrestling references and occasional football analysis. In our stead will be a returning Ian Dembsky, writing a revamped, even more fantasy-centric Scramble for the Ball. Ian has a short note at the end of the column discussing Scramble's future.
Vivek: Cheer up, guys. This is not goodbye. It's just we won't ever see you again. (This being Scramble, we had to throw in some obligatory movie references.) Actually, I'm sure that one of us will repay the favor to Ian by filling in when life comes calling. We're already Ian's biggest fans, so you can be sure to see a plethora of wrestling references in next season's mailbag. Plus, I need his help in salvaging some of my keeper teams that have been devastated by my version of "When Trades Go Bad."
There is no one-year-old for me, but there is no way that I can continue my secret FO life without figuring out how to say to my fiancÃ©e, "Do you mind if we schedule our wedding weekends (yes, plural) around kickoff weekend in September?" and "I know this is our honeymoon in Europe, but let's remember our American culture and watch some football." Nor will I broach those subjects if I value my future high-def TV. Combine this with a work travel schedule that saw me regularly watching games from airport lounges and writing at two in the morning in hotel rooms, and we know that turning Scramble over to Ian was the right move. (If Football Outsiders ever decides that it needs an NFL Europe correspondent, I'm there.)
Al: Don't worry, we're not going to waste your time with a Scramble for the Ball retrospective or anything like that. Instead, we'll do what we did last year after the Super Bowl, and that's give you our predictions of where some key free agents or possible salary cap casualties will end up next season. Coincidentally, we'll be discussing the same players that are featured in the Football Outsiders Old Faces in New Places off-season contest, where you can do the same thing we're doing here, only you're eligible to win a copy of next season's book if you come in first place in the contest. You have until February 13 to enter.
Al: The biggest name on the free agent market (at least until Terrell Owens is cut) is last year's MVP. Prior to this season, Seattle agreed with Alexander that the Seahawks would not make him their franchise player yet again in 2006. So, if the Seahawks want to keep Alexander they'll have to come to a long-term agreement with him. Would Seattle be crazy to let Alexander and his 27 touchdowns bolt to another team? Not at all. As we saw during Seattle's victory over Washington in the playoffs, the offense can succeed without Alexander as long as it has Matt Hasselbeck and the exceptional offensive line intact. At 29, it is likely that Alexander is entering the downside of his career, especially with 1700 carries under his belt, including a career high 370 last season.
If Seattle doesn't re-sign Alexander, then who does? It would have to be a team that thinks they're only a running back away from winning a championship and is willing to take a chance that Alexander has another above average year or two of production in him to justify what will likely be a huge signing bonus. That sounds like Carolina to me. Sure, the Panthers also need a second receiving threat to take some pressure off of Steve Smith, but running back is the more pressing need. Carolina was #29 in rushing DVOA last season and will most likely be losing DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis to free agency and retirement respectively.
Al: Speaking of DeShaun Foster, it's unlikely that Carolina resigns him, unless Foster is OK with accepting a role as a backup or third down back. With the glut of running backs on the market and the potential for four backs to go in the first round of the draft in April, that isn't inconceivable. I'll give Foster the benefit of the doubt, however, that he'll get a contract somewhere with a team willing to at least include him in the mix for a starting job. He might be a nice fit with the New York Jets, who did relatively well in power running situations while struggling to break off long runs. New York will likely be going with some sort of running back by committee situation next season with Curtis Martin, Derrick Blaylock and Cedric Houston battling for carries. With none of those options being anything close to sure bets to have a successful 2006 season, I could see Foster signing there late in the process after all the starting jobs get locked up and the Jets look to get another warm body in to earn playing time.
Vivek: The second half of Al's paragraph is exactly why I cannot see Foster turning up in the Meadowlands. With Ahman Green a question mark and the Packers trying to convince Brett Favre that the team can contend in 2006, Foster could be a nice fit in Green Bay.
Al: Green has indicated that he wants to return to Green Bay, and after testing the free agent market and finding lukewarm interest for his services, it's where he'll end up staying. Green will be 29 and coming off a season where he only played in five games because of a thigh injury. Not exactly a recipe for a huge payday in this flooded running back market. As much as we've been down on DeShaun Foster at Football Outsiders, if I was a GM, I'd rather take my chances that Foster can have a fluky good season with some luck and a good offensive line than on Green coming back from injury and being an effective running back. Green Bay will stick with what they know and allow Green to come in and compete with Samkon Gado for carries.
Vivek: Green will have to prove himself somewhere, without a guarantee that he will be what he was a few seasons ago. A short-term contract to remain in Green Bay would give him a familiar environment to regain his old form.
Al: With the Whizzinator returning in 2006, and Ciatrick Fason establishing himself as a short yardage option late last season, Bennett's time in Minnesota is likely over. With so many backs on the market, Bennett isn't going into any team's training camp as its primary tailback. He'll have to sign somewhere as a third-down option. Maybe Bennett is the Viking that Mike Tice has already enticed to come to Jacksonville.
Vivek: Bennett is so dedicated to training this winter, that he has rented a place in Brazil in order to work out in the South American heat and mountains. Still, no team will trust him with the full-time job in the backfield. A good fit would be as part of a split backfield in Indianapolis with Dominic Rhodes.
Al: Although James has stated recently that he doesn't expect to be back in Indianapolis, his situation has "franchise tag" written all over it. The Colts have shown that they're willing to break the bank to keep their offense together and they'll do it to keep James around for one more season.
Vivek: Re-signing Wayne and making sure sack-master Dwight Freeney is happy are the top priorities for the Colts right now, and I cannot imagine James being happy with the franchise tag designation. Corey Dillon might be hitting that running back wall, and as much as it would be out of character for Bill Belichick to go after a big name free agent, Edge would be nice in a New England jersey.
Al: Williams isn't going anywhere, he'll stay in Miami. The dumbest trade rumor I've heard in a while involved the Texans dealing David Carr to Miami for Williams and a third round pick. Nowhere in the rumor does it explain why the Dolphins would trade a productive running back and a valuable draft pick for a quarterback who is owed over $8 million in 2006 and has never had a season with a quarterback rating over 85. Williams and Brown developed into an effective duo for Miami. The Dolphins are not going to give away quality depth for a mediocre quarterback.
Vivek: Another trade rumor has Ricky Williams going to Denver. Um, Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson? They looked pretty good to us. I think the team did pretty well. Imagine a roster with both Ricky Williams and Terrell Owens? Williams will stay put in Miami.
Al: He'll be backing up his cousin in Atlanta next season. Matt Leinart and Leigh Steinberg were doing everything but begging the Saints to draft Leinart at #2 this past week. Leinart and Steinberg couldn't stop talking about how Leinart would be extremely happy to play for New Orleans and how he would never turn his back on a city that has been hurt by the devastation that Katrina brought to the city. If New Orleans does draft and sign Leinart, there's little reason for them to keep Brooks and the $12 million he is owed over the next two seasons.
Vivek: I'm not as quick as Al to jettison Brooks from New Orleans, at least this winter. Keeping Brooks gives the Saints some time to bring along Leinart -- whether that is one game, four games or a full season.
Vivek: Collins is one free agent whose future depends almost entirely on the new coach. If Ken Whisenhunt turns down the head coaching gig (and I would not at all be surprised to see him to return to Pittsburgh), then Jim Fassel moves into the frontrunner spot for the job. You only need to go back to 2000 to remember that Fassel and Collins led the Giants to the Super Bowl. Collins might have another year to prove himself in Oakland.
Al: The Jets are reportedly interested in bringing in a veteran quarterback to compete with Chad Pennington in training camp for the starting job. Collins seems like exactly the type of player they'd be interested in bringing in. For all of Collins' faults, no one really questions his ability to throw a deep ball. Pennington was heavily criticized by Jets fans for his inability to throw an accurate pass for more than 15 yards. If New York is going to bring someone in to compete with Pennington, they'll bring someone in who can effectively do the one thing Pennington has shown he can't do.
Al: Culpepper has been heavily rumored to be going to St. Louis to rejoin his former quarterbacks coach Scott Linehan. With the sex boat scandal, a questionable prognosis for his immediate future because of a devastating knee injury, the $6 million Culpepper is owed on March 14, and Minnesota's willingness to trade high level talent, it's not an unrealistic scenario. I still don't see it happening, though. Minnesota can't think Brad Johnson is the long-term solution, or even a short-term solution for next year. Maybe he can hold down the fort for a couple of games if Culpepper isn't viable for opening day. Culpepper is still the best hope Minnesota has at quarterback for next season if they hope to contend for a Super Bowl.
Vivek: Culpepper is not going anywhere. He will return to his pre-2005 form in Minnesota when healthy.
Vivek: Kyle Boller might be the starter right now for Baltimore, but this experiment will not last very much longer. Kitna would be a nice free-agent pickup who could push and eventually push aside Boller for the starting job for the Ravens. And yes, there is a good chance that the Bengals will not be able to re-sign him even with Carson Palmer's knee injury. Kitna will not want to keep the seat warm while Palmer rehabs.
Al: Cincinnati is in a tough spot here with Kitna. With the paucity of quality quarterbacks in the NFL, Kitna should be able to get a long term deal with a decent signing bonus and a starting job. The Bengals need insurance for Carson Palmer in case he isn't ready for opening day, but it's unlikely they'll be able to top anything Kitna can get on the open market, especially after giving Palmer a big extension just a few weeks before he tore up his knee against the Steelers. I say Dallas brings Kitna in and gives him a shot to unseat Drew Bledsoe, who only has one year remaining on his contract, as the starter. Unless Dallas does a major refortification of their ineffective line, I can't see them going into next season with the lead footed Bledsoe as their only option behind center.
Vivek: Drew Brees' shoulder injury all but guaranteed that Rivers will stay in San Diego.
Al: Yeah, San Diego isn't getting rid of Rivers.
Vivek: I could have been throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and piled up the numbers that Warner did last season. Dennis Green will not have the patience to see if Josh McCown is the long-term solution, so Warner should resign in Arizona.
Al: I thought he'd be a nice fit in Oakland last year, and I still think he'd be a good fit there next season. I don't think the Raiders are ready to hand the reigns over to Andrew Walter just yet. Warner could have another prolific passing year throwing to Oakland's talented receivers.
Al: McCown will be lucky to find a backup job somewhere. I'll throw his name into my random team picker and say he ends up as a backup in Kansas City.
Vivek: Matt Millen should realize that his team is not one player away from a playoff spot, so the Lions could conceivably take a chance that Josh McCown turns into a serviceable starter in the NFL.
Note: Actual name of town on the Big Island. Pronounced Ay-hole-ay.
Al: Denver is the early favorite, which means they won't be Owens' final resting place in 2006. There isn't a team in the league, this side of Indianapolis, that couldn't use TO's talents at wide receiver. But there aren't likely many teams in the league willing to put up with his antics to try and take advantage of those talents. I'd love to see him in Oakland lining up opposite Randy Moss, but that team has too many needs on defense to spend any money on yet another potentially disgruntled big play receiver. Washington also makes a lot of sense, but they've publicly said they aren't interested in Owens. You know Detroit is always on the look out for a new wide receiver, but if they're not willing to spend an extra $500,000 a year to sign Mike Martz, they won't shell out the money to bring in Owens.
I keep seeing Owens in a Kansas City uniform next season. For all of his failings, Herm Edwards always seemed to get along great with his players in New York. He seems like just the right coach to coax a solid year out of Owens. With Tony Gonzalez beginning to decline, Kansas City needs some new receiving threats to keep their high powered offense running. Owens could be just what they need to take Kansas City back into the playoffs in 2006.
Vivek: As evidenced by his meeting with the organization last week, Denver is TO's first choice. And eventually TO will get what TO wants.
Al: Where will the "idiot kicker" end up? How about Minnesota who had some of the worst field goal kicking in the year last season, and where Vanderjagt should find success kicking plenty of meaningless regular season field goals in the Metrodome.
Vivek: His Kris Brown-like performance in the playoffs against Pittsburgh stamped his ticket out of Indy. He could end the kicker-by-committee plan in Dallas.
Al: Bryant quietly had a nice year in Cleveland. The Browns will keep him to pair up with Braylon Edwards and form one of the best, young receiving duos in the league.
Vivek: Agreed. The Browns should keep Edwards, Bryant, and Reuben Droughns together to build on what momentum they got last year.
Al: He stays in New England.
Vivek: He will get a long look from teams like the Redskins, but will re-sign with New England.
Al: This is who Carolina should go after to complement Steve Smith. The Panthers don't need another gamebreaker to take some heat away from Smith. They need someone who can get open against single coverage and catch the ball whenever Jake Delhomme throws it his way. That's Jurevicius. He's caught 65 percent or more of balls thrown in his direction in three of his last four seasons. He'll give Carolina a legitimate #2 wide receiver for the first time since their Super Bowl season.
Vivek: If Givens leaves the Patriots, Jurevicius would fit nicely in New England. They were in hot pursuit of Jurevicius a few years ago, but decided to sign Donald Hayes instead. The Patriots will not make that mistake again.
Al: If Wayne stays in Indianapolis, Randle El will likely be the best free agent wide receiver among those wide receivers who weren't kicked off their teams halfway through last season. As such, he will be incredibly overpaid by one of the many teams in need of a legitimate #2 wide receiver. That sounds right up the Washington Redskins' alley to me.
Vivek: In Chicago, Randle El would have the chance to be a tremendous playmaker, both as a wideout and a kick returner. The Bears should make the Illinois native its top free agent target.
Al: There's no way Indianapolis lets Wayne go elsewhere.
Al: The Jets will likely franchise Abraham again and keep doing it until a better candidate shows up on their roster. He's exactly the type of player a team should use the tag on. If Abraham stays healthy and motivated, he'll make more money through a series of one year franchise deals than he would with a long term deal. If he doesn't do either, the Jets are free to move on after the season without any salary cap concerns or long term commitment.
Vivek: Franchise tag, and then a trade. Abraham stayed healthy in 2005, so his value is at its highest right now. The shoulder injury to Drew Brees has quieted any Phillip Rivers for Abraham trade talk, so let's send him to Washington.
Al: Let's see, who could use a safety? How about New England who may have been hurt by poor safety play all season more than any other team in the league.
Vivek: Archuleta can replace the aging Corey Chavous in Minnesota.
Al: Buffalo will hold onto Clements, whether they franchise him or can come to an agreement on a long term contract. Clements might actually be better off in the long-term by Buffalo franchising him than he would singing a long-term deal. There is an increasing likelihood that 2007 will be an uncapped year if the NFL and NFLPA can't come to an agreement on a new CBA in the very near future. If that happens, however, players will not be eligible for free agency after their fourth season but only after their sixth. What that means is that the free agent market will be much shallower than normal and a player like Clements, who will have just finished his sixth year, could be in line for a huge payday if he plays well this upcoming year.
Vivek: The Bills will do everything they can to keep their rising star. The cost of franchising him dropped by nearly $3 million compared to last year.
Al: Peterson didn't really have that great of a year on an improving 49ers defense. I could see San Francisco letting him go. The Giants could use some outside linebacker help, but I don't think they'll spend big money on a free agent linebacker two seasons in a row. A better fit would be Cleveland, who could use Peterson as a pass rushing linebacker in their 3-4 defense.
Vivek: Peterson will be a hot commodity in this weak corps of free agent linebackers. Jacksonville could use an upgrade there even with its success at getting to the quarterback.
Al: Ton of corners out there. It's impossible to correctly guess where they'll all end up. Ike Taylor is a restricted free agent and more likely to stay in Pittsburgh than Townsend is. Townsend could ride his Super Bowl ring to an overpriced contract as many others have done in the past. San Diego has much cap space and need for a cornerback to help a defense that struggled covering opposing wide receivers.
Vivek: Pittsburgh could end up as a major loser this offseason, with five starters and 12 players total as potential unrestricted free agents. Townsend is the elder statesmen among Pittsburgh's cornerbacks, so he will likely have a new home next year. If the Patriots miss out on other cornerbacks, he could wind up in New England.
Vivek: No team is going to get the Vanden Bosch discount this offseason ($540,000), but the defensive end should repay Tennessee for taking a chance on him last year.
Al: Yeah, Tennessee keeps him.
Al: VO was one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the league in 2005, stopping opposing running backs from having a succesful play in 90 percent of the plays he was involved in. He can play end in a 3-4 or fill a need at tackle in a 4-3 defense. Arizona has a ton of cap space and glaring needs on the defensive line. I'd look for them to make a run at Kimo.
Vivek: Another one of my favorite NFL player names. Like with Townsend, von Oelhoffen has a younger player next on the depth chart (Brett Keisel) that could be ready to step into a starting role. Cincinnati would welcome him with open arms.
Especially Carson Palmer. And the team orthopedist.
Al: There will be a lot of safeties on the market this year. Williams would be a good fit for a team looking for a safety who is most effective against the run. The Houston Texans seem like a team in the most need for help in that area.
Vivek: Tank wants to return. The team wants him to return. If the salary cap permits, he will stay with Tennessee.
Al: Carolina isn't letting Witherspoon go anywhere. They'll try to leave that defense intact to make another run at an NFC Championship next year.
Vivek: This is one, if not the, top priority for Carolina.
Al: There isn't a team in the league that couldn't use Woodson. San Francisco should have plenty of cap room and need more help stopping the pass than anyone else in the league.
Vivek: Any team can use Woodson, but can they all depend on him and deal with his personality? This is a player who has missed 22 games during the past four seasons. Kansas City, now with Herman Edwards at the helm, would get the most out of Woodson.
Al: Hey, another free agent safety! Green Bay could really use an upgrade at the position after coming in at #30 in pass defense against tight ends last season.
Vivek: Someone has to go to New England.
Al: Lewis' time in Baltimore is done. After his poor performance this year and his legal troubles, Lewis will have a tough time finding a starting job. There are a few teams, though, with weak running back situations that could give Lewis a shot at competing for playing time. Tops on the list for me is Arizona, a team that doesn't appear sold on J.J. Arrington as its feature back with a coach that is willing to take a chance on players.
Vivek: Lewis showed some flashes of being a top back towards the end of the season, and he has indicated that he would like to stay. Some people have been suggesting that it is time for the Ravens to turn the running game over to Chester Taylor, but people fail to remember that Taylor is only a month younger than Lewis. Whether it is through the franchise tag or a long-term deal, expect Jamal Lewis to stay with the Ravens, which means that â€¦
Vivek: â€¦ will be elsewhere next year. If DeShaun Foster leaves, Taylor would be a nice complement to Stephen Davis in Carolina. As evidenced towards the end of Carolina's season, John Fox is willing to modify his ground-game strategy to fit a lateral runner versus a North-South back, and that could mean room for Taylor.
Al: No way the Ravens franchise Lewis and dump Taylor. Baltimore will keep Taylor, who was much the more effective back in its offense in 2005.
Al: Lewis isn't going anywhere. Baltimore will find a way to appease Lewis without giving him the ridiculously large signing bonus he is reportedly seeking or having to cut or trade him elsewhere.
Al: McAlister, on the other hand, I can see Baltimore getting rid of. Detroit seems like a good fit with his former coordinator Donnie Henderson recently hired to run their defense.
Vivek: Arizona should open up its wallet and make a splash on the defensive side of the ball.
Vivek: Bruce was not responsible for St. Louis' collapse last year. He'll stay with the Rams.
Al: Bruce is scheduled to make a base salary of $6.5 million in 2006, in the final year of his contract. I fully expect St. Louis and Bruce to renegotiate an extension that keeps him in blue and gold for next season at a reduced cap number. Bruce still has another season or two of productivity in him and will finish his career in St. Louis in a reduced role.
Vivek: I would feel more confident about Harrington's 2006 home if Mike Martz had taken the offensive coordinator job in Detroit. Still, I would place my money on Harrington's staying in Detroit, but not without a challenge from another quarterback.
Al: I agree. Harrington will stick around and at least be given the opportunity to compete for the starting job in Detroit. Harrington is only owed just under $4.5 million next year. I could see Detroit, however, getting in the mix for someone like Kerry Collins or Aaron Brooks if their price stays low enough.
Al: Hartings' base salary jumps from $665,000 to $4 million in 2006, in the final year of his contract with Pittsburgh. The Steelers are close to the cap, meaning the team and its center will have to come to an agreement on a new contract with a lower 2006 cap figure if he's going to stay with the team. Pittsburgh should be able to work something out.
Vivek: If no contract can be worked out, Atlanta is in the market for a center.
Al: Keyshawn would be due $3 million in roster bonus and base salary in Dallas in 2006. The Cowboys are slightly under the cap, so they don't really need to renegotiate or cut Johnson. I think Dallas keeps him. Johnson is still a productive #2 wide receiver, and Dallas won't be able to find anyone more productive on the open market for less money.
Vivek: I have not read one rumor about any team being interested in Keyshawn. Dallas.
Vivek: Law is due an $11 million bonus in March, which means that the Jets will release him or restructure his contract. Don't expect Law to want to be part of a rebuilding project, so a return to New England is a possibility.
Al: I see a reunion in Law's future, but with his former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in Cleveland. Law's 2005 was overrated by gaudy interception totals, but he is still an above average cornerback. With plenty of cap space, Cleveland can afford to bring Law in to immediately upgrade a weak secondary.
Al: It's been reported that Madison isn't interested in taking a pay cut in 2006, meaning there's a good chance he'll be plying his trade elsewhere after this season. The Giants need a big upgrade at cornerback, and don't have any other obvious positions to spend big money on this off-season.
Vivek: I should point out that most of the cap casualty choices in last year's contest wound up staying put. Madison will restructure his deal and remain in Miami.
Al: According to the fine folks over at BillsZone.com, Buffalo should save nearly $5 million by dumping Williams. Since Williams hasn't come close to living up to his status as the #4 pick of the draft in 2002, his days in upstate New York seem to be numbered. Williams has played both tackle positions and guard during his career, meaning he could fit in nearly anywhere for a team looking to take a chance that the 360+ pounder will live up to some of the promise he showed not long ago. Oakland could use some help on the offensive line and will have to cut about $30 million to get under the salary cap. If ever there was a team looking for a cheap fix to a problem, the Raiders are it.
Vivek: $10.8 million. That is what it would cost the Bills to keep the now backup lineman. New Orleans is rebuilding and can take a chance on Williams.
Al: Cutting Moulds will save Buffalo $5.5 million under the cap. With Lee Evans and Josh Reed on the roster, Moulds' time in Buffalo looks to be over. He should be able to find himself a nice payday on one of those teams looking for a #2 wide receiver. I already have Randle El going to Washington and Jurevicius in Carolina, so I'll send Moulds to the Baltimore Ravens, who could use another veteran target for Kyle Boller to throw to.
Vivek: Cutting Moulds would save money, but the Bills are in good cap shape. They can afford to keep the veteran to help JP Losman.
Al: Rice will stay in Tampa. The Bucs are over the cap, and it's likely that at least one of Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, and Anthony McFarland will be cut along with Brian Griese. I'm guessing that McFarland is the one to go and not Rice. Run stopping defensive tackles can be found for a much more reasonable price on the free agent market than pass rushing defensive ends. Just look last year at the Giants, who signed Kendrick Clancy to a one year deal at just over $1 million. Even if Tampa gives someone like Clancy twice that, they'd replace most, if not all, of McFarland's production for half the price. Finding a pass rushing defensive end like Rice for half of his salary next year will be much more difficult, meaning he stays with the team.
Vivek: Tampa Bay
Vivek: What would the final Scramble be without my collapse with anything gambling related? Scoring the Prop Bet Extravaganza took just as long as it did to write, but in typical fashion, Al ran away with the contest, taking home $1765 while I moved further away from my LCD TV after losing $1205.
Al: Tough call here. Do we go with backup safety Etric Pruitt, who left Hines Ward wide open on the Randle El touchdown pass and was flagged for holding on what would have been a 34-yard punt return into Pittsburgh territory by Peter Warrick? Or, do we go with Jerramy Stevens, who engaged in some weak trash talk going into the Super Bowl only to have three huge drops that stalled Seattle drives?
I vote for neither. To me, the biggest goat of the game was Seattle punter Tom Rouen, who managed to kick the ball into the endzone in four of his six punts. Seattle dominated most of the first half, but only managed to put three points on the board. Had Rouen not given the Steelers 20 free yards three times in that half, Seattle's offense would have gotten the ball back with much better field position. With an extra ten or so yards of field position, maybe a couple of those Rouen punts would have been Josh Brown field goals and given the Seahawks a lead going into the second half.
Al: Despite being spotted a 31 point lead going into the Super Bowl, assistant editor Tim Gerheim couldn't hold on for a victory. Cartoonist Jason Beattie roared into first place on the backs of Hines Ward and a trifecta of productive Seattle receivers. My team still sucks.
Jason's 194 points barely edged "Best of the Rest" winner Geoff's 193-point squad. Geoff rode five Steelers (Roethlisberger, Parker, Randle El, Reed, Pittsburgh Defense) to the title. The lesson for next year? Make sure you draft most of your team from the Super Bowl champs.
|QB||Manning, NYG||-3||Plummer, Den||18||Manning, IND||20|
|RB||Alexander, SEA||32||James, IND||11||Johnson, CIN||12|
|RB||Anderson, DEN||29||Foster, CAR||20||Dillon, NE||10|
|WR||Smith, DEN||21||Galloway, TB||6||Moss, WAS||18|
|WR||Ward, PIT||43||Branch, NE||18||Engram, SEA||11|
|WR||Jurevicius, SEA||12||Houshmandzadeh, CIN||8||Smith, JAC||3|
|TE||Stevens, SEA||21||Clark, IND||14||Miller, PIT||16|
|K||Brown, SEA||22||Vinatieri, NE||12||Elam, DEN||17|
|DEF||New England||17||Chicago||-1||New York Giants||1|
|QB||Hasselbeck, SEA||60||Palmer, CIN||3||Brady, NE||39|
|RB||Barber, NYG||6||Jones, CHI||11||Williams, TB||3|
|RB||Bell, DEN||6||Portis, WAS||16||Bettis, PIT||32|
|WR||Wayne, IND||11||Harrison, IND||5||Smith, CAR||65|
|WR||Jackson, SEA||38||Johnson, CIN||5||Muhammad, CHI||5|
|WR||Toomer, NYG||3||Burress, NYG||0||Lelie, DEN||17|
|TE||Watson, NE||15||Shockey, NYG||5||Cooley, WAS||9|
|K||Vanderjagt, IND||4||Feely, NYG||0||Gould, CHI||3|
Al: So that's it, Viv. I'd like to just thank a few people before we sign off. First, thank you, Viv, for joining me here after Ian left two seasons ago. Ian, for taking over for us and for fumbling the ball away at the goal line in NFL 2K during your senior year at Brown. Aaron, thank you for giving us this space every week for the past three seasons and for giving me an interesting line on my resume that everyone wants to talk to me about during job interviews. Thanks to Tim Gerheim for putting up with my awful grammar. To my wife, for putting up with me when I was sitting at my computer at 11 p.m. on Tuesday nights writing this column. Thank you to our readers, some of whom for some strange reason actually seemed to enjoy the column. Thanks to the folks over at FoxSports.com for occasionally acknowledging our presence on their website. And of course, a special thank you, to the immortal Sid, one of our first readers at the site and certainly our most frequent emailer over that first season.
Vivek: And the Oscar thank you's begin.
To Tim for correcting my smart quotes and making me seem somewhat literate.
To Aaron for giving this opportunity to us, and like Al said, it is a great conversation starter.
To D'Brickashaw Ferguson for having one of my favorite first names,
To my parents for mass emailing the link to anything I write to every random relative, which probably accounted for a good percentage of our page views.
To my fiancÃ© for accepting the fact that she loses me on Tuesday nights and early Wednesday mornings.
To the makers of Red Bull, for helping me with these late nights. (Al was way too conservative with his 11 p.m estimate.)
To Al, with whom my pseudo journalism career has taken us from Marv Albert (pre-biting days) to FOXSports.
And like Al has started many columns, without further Apu, the return of the man, the myth, the legend â€¦ Ian Dembsky.
Ian Dembsky: Good news for all you Scramblamaniacs -- despite life getting in the way of Al and Viv returning next season, Scramble for the Ball will continue. I'll be taking over the weekly writing of Scramble, and it will change from being a back-and-forth effort to being a one-man show. The Keep Choppin' Wood Award will live on, as will Best Bets and the Mailbag.
There will be a slight change, however, in that the general content will be more fantasy football focused than simply general football commentary. As I don't know a bigger fantasy nuthead than myself (not to mention a more successful one), I hope to help you win your league with advice all season long. Fred McGriff reports, "Ian's fantasy football advice has already brought me back to back to back fantasy football titles, and it can help you, too!"
I'd like to take a moment and thank Viv for taking over for me; I didn't have the time, and you did a great job with the column this season. The same goes for Al; maybe I can rope you back in someday, but in the meantime, it's been a great ride.
It's a bit early to make judgments on player value for next season, since a lot has yet to be determined in free agency and the draft, but I'd encourage you to post keeper league questions in the Scramble thread if you have any. See you next season!
124 comments, Last at 21 Nov 2012, 5:33pm by piegrella