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.
21 Oct 2008
by Ben Riley and Vince Verhei
In the 16th century, Sir John Harrington, inventor of the first working toilet, wrote that "Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason." Although the Scramble team was unable to determine whether Sir Harrington bears any familial relationship with crappy quarterback John Joseph Harrington, Jr., he does provide us with this week's theme: the NFL's Worst Acts of Treason.
(One important caveat: None dare call it Spygate lest yet another comment thread get hijacked, so we intentionally omitted Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini from this list.)
Fawkes Favre, QB, New York Jets
Treasonous Activity: According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, Favre called the Detroit Lions coaching staff prior to Packers-Lions contest in Week 2 to share with the Lions the details of the Packers' offense. According to Glazer's report, Favre spoke with Lions coaches for more than an hour. Although Favre immediately texted his bff 4ver (Peter King) to claim the report is "total bs ... not true and pretty ridiculous," thrice Lions head coach Rod Marinelli has been asked about Glazer's report, and thrice Marinelli has crowed "no comment."
Level of Heinousness: Remember, remember, the 14th of September, the Packers and touchdowns and plot. Just as Guy Fawkes failed to blow up Parliament, whatever advice Favre may have given the Lions failed to prevent them from getting blown out by the Packers by the score of 48-25. The level of heinousness may rise, however, if it turns out Favre has been spoon-feeding information to all of Green Bay's opponents this year: Glazer's report provocatively suggests "rumors that Favre has spoken to other teams [to give] them information," and on Tuesday former Packers safety LeRoy Butler said in a radio interview that "this is just the beginning [of the stories coming about Favre.] This is only the smallest one."
Traitor: Bobby Petrino, head coach of Arkansas
Treasonous Activity: In early December 2007, Petrino -- the first-year Falcons head coach -- assured Arthur Blank and the media that his "plans are to be back with the Falcons" for the 2008 season. Five days after making that statement, the Arkansas Razorbacks announced that Petrino was their new head coach. To add obnoxiousness to injury, during his introductory press conference Petrino led the crowd in cheers of "woo pig sooie." Oh, and Petrino broke the news that he was leaving to his Falcons players by way of ... a memo.
Level of Heinousness: Jane Fonda-like. Much like Hanoi Jane's support for the North Vietnamese ultimately provoked a backlash that was counterproductive to her "cause," the Falcons are much improved under the steady, non-treasonous hand of head coach Mike Smith. As for the Razorbacks? They currently sit at 3-4, making Petrino little more than lipstick on the woo pig.
Traitor: Paul Brown, owner, GM and coach of the Cincinnati Bengals
Treasonous Activity: Paul Brown, the man indirectly responsible for making the Cleveland Browns the only logo-less team in the NFL, was fired by team owner Art Modell in 1963. Four years later, Brown returned from self-imposed golfing exile to sponsor the creation of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise. Brown would go on to coach the Bengals for eight seasons, including three playoff appearances.
Level of Heinousness: Similar to Benedict Arnold. Although his name is synonymous with treason, Arnold actually was one of the Continental Army's best generals and he lead the American forces to many important early victories. Plus, he largely turned traitor because he hated the French, which is somewhat understandable. Similarly, Paul Brown led the Browns during their glory years in the 1950s and really shouldn't be faulted for Art Modell's black, black heart. Speaking of which...
Traitor: Art Modell, Ravens owner
Treasonous Activity: Moving the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1995 after 1) promising to never move the team, 2) claiming that, as a Brooklyn native, he would never betray Browns fans the way the Dodgers betrayed theirs, and 3) testifying against Al Davis in a (failed) effort to prevent Davis from moving the Raiders to Los Angeles. Modell has never returned to Cleveland.
Level of Heinousness: Think Ezra Pound, the anti-Semitic, fascist poet-genius, whose Canto 1 might serve as a fitting anthem for bitter Browns fans:
And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping...
* * *
Dark blood flowed in the fosse,
Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead, of brides
Of youths and of the old who had borne much;
Souls stained with recent tears, girls tender,
Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads...
Traitor: Robert Irsay, Baltimore nee Indianapolis Colts owner
Treasonous Activity: After drunkenly declaring "This is my God damn team!" in January 1984, three months later the erratic Colts owner was about to lose his team to the City of Baltimore through the City's power of eminent domain. The famous "Midnight Move" to Indianapolis ensued, with Irsay moving the team under the cover of darkness via a fleet of Mayflower moving vans.
Level of Heinousness: Reminiscent of Pierre Laval, the de facto head of Nazi-occupied Vichy France. Faced with impending invasion by the
City of Baltimore the Germans, a few historians believe Laval is a misunderstood historical figure who made a justifiable decision to capitulate in the face of near-certain military defeat -- but most agree that Laval was really just a bastard. As for Robert Irsay, he was described by at least one person who knew him as "a devil on earth ... no good ... he was a bad boy." That person being, in fact, Irsay's own mother. Yikes.
Traitor: Deion Sanders, CB, many teams
Treasonous Activity: I gotta be me, that's the bottom line
Frisco gave me the contract and Prime signed the dotted line
-- Deion Sanders, Y U NV ME?
The man who made the term "business decision" famous in football made several such choices throughout his career, following a peculiar chain of rivalries through each free agent transition. He turned his back on the Falcons to join the division-rival 49ers; left the 49ers for their top competitor in the NFC, Dallas; exited Big D for their most hated opponent, Washington; then retired after one year in D.C. rather than play for Marty Schottenheimer. Even when he made his return, it was in Baltimore, a geographical rival for Washington if not a common football foe. This lack of loyalty may be even more vile than rhyming "line" with "line."
Level of Heinousness: Few remember Anakin Skywalker for turning on the Jedi and joining Emperor Palpatine; they simply remember Darth Vader. Few remember Sanders for turning on the Falcons (and 49ers, and Cowboys, etc.); they simply remember Prime Time.
Traitor: Marcus Allen, RB, Raiders
Treasonous Activity: Allen hit the league like a comet, leading the league in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns in his rookie season, then rushing for 191 yards and two scores as the MVP in the Raiders' 30-9 defeat of the Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII. He then spent the rest of his Raiders tenure feuding with Al Davis. If there's one team the Raiders hate more than the Broncos, it's the Chiefs. So when Allen left the team in 1993, you kind of knew he'd be going to one or the other.
Level of Heinousness: Another Marcus, Marcus Junius Brutus, was one of the key conspirators in the death of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. While a gang of men ambushing their leader and stabbing him to death is a vile, repugnant act, it may have been necessary for the good of the Roman Empire to remove the self-declared dictator for life from power. (Can you see where this is going?) In much the same way, Al Davis had this betrayal coming. After a contract dispute, Allen found himself struggling for playing time with the Raiders. And it's not just because the team signed Bo Jackson -- Davis also brought in aging veterans Roger Craig and Eric Dickerson to play in front of Allen. When free agency finally presented itself, Allen pulled the knife from his back and stuck it into Davis'. And speaking of Davis...
Traitor: Al Davis, vampire, Raiders
Treasonous Activity: Where, oh where, do we begin? Who hasn't Davis screwed over? Not content to see bitter separations from former players (Marcus Allen, Warren Sapp) or coaches (Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, and the new kid, Lane Kiffin), or even with the entire league (who he sued for the right to move to Los Angeles), Davis has betrayed entire municipalities, using the cities of Oakland, Los Angeles and -- yes -- Irwindale as leverage against each other, seeking to move his team whenever the wind blows.
Level of Heinousness: Dare we bring Judas Iscariot into this discussion? Yes, because A) We are running out of well-known traitors, and B) If anyone deserves this comparison, it's Davis. Another strong comparison would be Aaron Burr. After the Louisiana Purchase, the former U.S. Vice-President plotted to overtake much of the newly-acquired Western U.S. by force and start his own empire. Davis would love to get away with that stunt.
Traitor: Lawyer Milloy, S, Patriots
Treasonous Activity: Two years after helping the Patriots win Super Bowl XXXVI, Milloy was cut just five days before the start of the season. He promptly signed with the Buffalo Bills, New England's first opponent, and helped his new team blast his old team, 31-0.
Level of Heinousness: Milloy's turn would ultimately prove futile. In the season finale, the Patriots had their revenge, defeating the Bills by the same 31-0 score, and going on to win the next few Super Bowls. Another infamous if not particularly damaging traitor would be John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban fighter who is currently serving a 20-year sentence in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Milloy, meanwhile, is starting for the Atlanta Falcons, which we surprisingly can't compare to jail time.
Traitor: Thurman Thomas, RB, Bills
Treasonous Activity: Thomas spent 12 great years with the Buffalo Bills, leading them to four Super Bowls and becoming one of the NFL's all-time best rushing/receiving threats. The Bills spent many of those seasons battling the Miami Dolphins for the AFC East title. When his tenure with the Bills ended, Thomas signed a free agent contract with ... the Miami Dolphins.
Level of Heinousness: Hard to believe, but Batman once conspired against the Justice League. He had specific plans in mind to dispatch Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and the rest of the crew if necessary. These plans came to light when Ra's al Ghul stole the plans and put them to use. After the villain was vanquished, Batman was kicked out of the Justice League, but would eventually return. Similarly, after his playing days ended, Thomas signed a one-day contract with Buffalo so he could officially retire in that uniform.
Lots of worthy candidates in Week 7, including K.C. Quarterback (see below), Chris "Loate" Kluwe, and Marty Booker, but we have to give the axe-trophy to Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards for two reasons. First, his four drops pretty much destroyed what little momentum the Browns had after their upset over the Giants two weeks ago. Second, it allows us to repeat the refrigerator-magnet analogy offered up during Audibles: "He is a one-man drop machine. You ever try to hang something on the fridge, but the magnet you're using isn't strong enough to support the weight of the object? That's like Braylon Edwards and a football."
When Gary Kubiak called a quarterback draw on fourth down to defeat the Miami Dolphins in Week 6, we here at Football Outsiders were quite impressed. We decided that starting immediately, each week we would dole out the Stephen Colbert Award to the coach who showed the biggest balls, and the inaugural winner would be Kubiak. Then when it came time to write Scramble, we forgot about it. On that note, we hereby declare Kubiak the winner of the Week 6 Colbert award. Better late than never, right?
The Week 7 Colbert Award goes to Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. His team opened their game against Indianapolis with a 6:54, 13-play, 67-yard drive, ending in a 31-yard Mason Crosby field goal. At that point, McCarthy opted for a surprise onside kick, risking the chance of Peyton Manning and the Colts starting a drive near the Green Bay 40. As it turns out, there was a penalty on the play and Green Bay ended up rekicking, so McCarthy reaped no reward and incurred very little penalty for his call, but it still took a lot of balls.
QB: Officially, the biggest loser of Week 7 was Brodie Croyle, who put up a 3, but that's only part of the story. Croyle only threw 10 passes before leaving the game due to injury. He was replaced by Damon Huard, who in 16 pass attempts managed to put up a 4. Then HE was knocked out. In came Tyler Thigpen, who threw 11 passes and notched an 11 -- thanks almost entirely to a 14-yard touchdown run. As a passer, he scored a 3. If we ignore that run, then all three quarterbacks threw enough passes to avoid the penalty, and they had the three lowest scores across the league. If we combined them all into K.C. Quarterback (again, ignoring the run), they would have scored a 10 -- tied for the fifth lowest score. K.C. Quarterback, we salute you and your once-in-a-lifetime performance. This day will never be forgotten.
RB: Devastating news: The Bengals finally benched Chris Perry. On the other hand, doesn't getting benched for Cedric Benson just enhance his losing status? Benson scored a 6, which is bad, but only tied Benson for eighth place in the standings. Three names scored a 2 this week, tying for the lowest score: Ronnie Brown (this is what the Ravens defense does to people), Kolby Smith, and Ahmad Bradshaw.
WR: A pair of 0s this week for Cincinnati's Antonio Chatman and San Diego's Legedu Naanee. Maybe Chatman can take Perry's place as the weekly Loser League king for the Bengals.
K: Four 0s this week, as kicks went wide, short, and blocked all over the place. Those four went to Nick Folk, Nick Novak, Shaun Suisham, and Adam Vinatieri. Novak is the fifth member of the Chiefs to be mentioned in Loser League this week, and there are only four categories. That may also be a record.
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