A look at fourth-down decision making in 2014 highlights Sean Payton, Marc Trestman, and... wait, this can't be right... Jim Caldwell? Plus: Chip Kelly may be less aggressive than you think he is.
22 Sep 2010
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Mike: So, I hear Michael Vick is in the news!
Tom: Let's talk about something less controversial and tired, like which religion is correct. (For the curious, South Park already told us the Mormons are right.)
Mike: Asplode! Aside from that, not that much crazy happened this week, actually.
Tom: By which you mean we didn't watch the Titans-Steelers game together.
Mike: Yes. That would have been ... interesting.
Tom: Especially given how the game unfolded. I was not very happy about that.
Mike: So I've seen. I'm not going to engage you on this issue. I do this for the chidr ... readers.
Tom: I really don't get it. How do you survive without watching your team play live? I mean, I know it happens occasionally, as the Steelers are a nationally popular team that gets pretty good distribution. But I'm in my fifth straight season with Sunday Ticket, and my whole life is so much fuller and richer now.
Mike: I pretty much freak out continuously when I watch Steelers games, a trait I unfortunately inherited from my mother. Not watching Steelers games live is really a blessing. If I had Sunday Ticket for five years, it would end in a heart attack.
Tom: See, that's part of the fun. Part of Sunday Ticket's appeal is I watch games alone, and I have the freedom to react as I want. In a public place, or at a game, I'm constrained by the norms of public decency.
Mike: Stupid public and their social norms. The other thing is that there's always someone on IRC watching the Steelers game. Between reactions from them and GameCenter, I get enough information to know what's going on, but not enough to start the chain of crazy.
Tom: That would bother me almost as much as a total blackout. It's enough information to be tantalizing, but not enough to satisfy me.
Mike: I've been watching the Bears for five years. I don't need much to be satisfied.
Tom: That's the other half of it. I got so sick of the Redskins and Bears as an out-of-town fan. Watching a team I didn't despise was part of the big relief of getting Sunday Ticket.
Mike: That may be part of my affinity for Chicago since I grew up watching the Browns.
Tom: I still don't get it. Growing up watching a rival seems easy, you just root against them. As an Oilers fan, the Bears and Redskins were neutral teams. I didn't have to hate them, I just did.
Mike: It's the Browns. It's like kicking a sick puppy.
Tom: And there's something wrong with that? Didn't you cheer The Drive and The Fumble? I know I did.
Mike: True, there's nothing really wrong with it, but there's a combination of having to live around Browns fans and the fact that it was hard to work up hate for a rivalry that never really provided a rival. I have much stronger feelings against teams that have played the Steelers in the postseason, honestly, particularly New England.
Tom: I was thinking more of the old Browns, before they moved.
Mike: You have to go back to the 1980s for non-joke Browns teams. The '90s were Vinny Interceptaverde and Metcalf Up The Middle and Total Meltdown Belichick. Anyway, I get by with what the networks give us. Except CBS, which is apparently broadcast with the power of five hamsters in wheels. Small wheels. Not that I'm angry about last week's reception.
Tom: Yes, well, there exist amazing modern conveniences designed to fix such problems.
Tom: If that's what you want to call electric antennas and cable, sure. I'm just trying to be a problem solver here. But, really, feel free to revel in your inadequate football viewing experience.
Mike: True. Just be careful around all that flaming money. It's a fire hazard.
Tom: Well, in that case, maybe next year, I'll just have to start playing fantasy football for money ...
Tom: I did after all win my non-staff league fantasy game this week to move to 2-0. It didn't hurt that my opponent had the league's worst score while I had the second-highest, a point off the best.
Mike: No such thing as too much overkill.
Tom: Peterson paced my cause with 24, while the Dolphins defense had 23. That's 47, and my opponent's entire team put up 49. Jeff Reed put up 13, Steve Smith, Esq. 12, and Reggie Wayne 15, and that was plenty for the win.
Mike: Week 2 for me was pretty much the opposite of Week 1. I went from second-highest total to third-lowest.
Tom: So you're kind of like the Titans?
Mike: Not engaging! Not engaging! After watching how much the Jets inexplicably love LaDainian Tomlinson, I'm worried about my running backs. Then again, it's probably just annoyance at wasting my first-round pick. Matt Forte/Darren McFadden/Rashard Mendenhall is still a good set of three.
Tom: Yes, well, Ryan Mathews was my first-round pick in staff league. My prediction of a very strong year from him kind of assumed he'd be on the field.
Mike: My receivers actually let me down. Greg Jennings, the New York Football Steve Smith and Dwayne Bowe combined for 10 points, so I guess it's not all gloom and doom. Stephen Gostkowski not getting any field goals didn't help.
Tom: That Steve Smith now scares me. I don't trust him enough to start unless he's in a favorable matchup.
Mike: Well, that's probably because the Giants are turning into a risky proposition. Then again, he was close to having a decent game on Monday, despite getting a lot of attention from Indy's secondary.
Tom: Thirty-five yards?
Tom: Horseshoes, hand grenades, and thermonuclear warfare (plus slow dancing, if slow dancing counted).
Mike: Slow dancing never counts.
Tom: I'm now starting to feel like an old-style fantasy football player, who believes you should draft running backs with your first three picks if there are starter-type backs there. Receivers just frustrate me.
Tom: Ugh, I have Kevin Kolb on both teams.
Mike: Yeah, dropping Smith in favor of Orton. Then I'll be able to sort out David Garrard/Kyle Orton/Matt Ryan and use one or two of them as trade bait.
Tom: Good luck finding somebody willing to give you much for them.
Mike: We'll see. This is a long-term plan, and I think there's a decent chance two of them work out.
Tom: I'll be playing a waiver-wire quarterback in one league until Ben Roethlisberger comes back. I don't disagree with you, I don't think.
Mike: It's a weird, fluid situation with the team as a whole, so we'll see how it goes.
Tom: I think I'll be hanging on to Kolb for a while, but it means carrying three quarterbacks, which is awkward and annoying.
Mike: I can hardly criticize, since I'm doing the same exact thing based on speculation.
Triple Asian Flu (Doug) 78 def. Team CBORG (Lunix) 69
Doug continues the defense of humankind's honor with a much more substantial win over ESPN's mighty computer brain than we were treated to last week. He managed this feat despite paltry eight points from Chad Henne and none from Julian Edelman. Not sure why he started Edelman with Hakeem Nicks on the bench. Maybe he's not a believer? Or maybe he figured it was about time those mobsters hunted down Wes Welker. CBORG received a lift from Drew Brees's 18-point performance, but squandered Mike Sims-Walker's 14 points while the receiver rode the pine and Percy Harvin threw up a whopping three points. Apparently the ESPN's projection system is fallible.
Remain in Matt Light (Barnwell) 83 def. Team Verhei 78
And lo, all things are possible under the disturbing glare of Catholic Match Girl. Despite some big start/sit mishaps (Eli Manning's six points compared to the benched Tony Romo's 14, Michael Turner's seven points against Clinton Portis's 15), Barnwell was able to edge out Vince. This is bad news for Vince, who made all the right decisions in Week 2 but still lost. Except for tight end, where he started Kevin Boss (zero points) instead of Jeremy Shockey (three points). But really, they're tight ends. Who cares?
Scramble Forever (Ian & Al) 100 def. Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom) 64
And Scramble Forever keeps on rolling, posting by far the largest margin of victory (36) of any game this week. All this with Jahvid Best's 40 points sitting on the bench, and a negative performance from Arizona's DST. In Best's absence, Aaron Rodgers and (26 points), Andre Johnson (21 points) and fashionable late-round pick Darren McFadden (14 points) led the way against a pretty all-around disappointing performance by the Ringers, to the tune of this week's low score. When a DST is your top scorer (Dolphins, 18 points), you know you're in trouble.
Equipo del Jefe (Aaron) 113 def. Phanatic CodeBreakers (Tanier) 87
Of course, it's less of a criticism when the defense in question gives you 32 points, like the Steelers did for Aaron this week. Jefe was pretty uneven, sporting single-digit production in five slots but counterbalancing those low numbers with the aforementioned 32 points, plus 29 points from Matt Schaub and 17 from Antonio Gates. Despite the large spread, Tanier had a real chance to win this game. Had he started Orton (20 points) instead of Brett Favre (1) and Josh Cribbs (13) instead of Chad Ochocinco (4), he would have come out on top. I guess the cereal was just that good.
That's Great Hustle! (Sean) 90 def. Malice Aforethought (Will) 83
Will managed to avoid comparisons to Team CBORG this week (unlike Tom and Elias), so that is a plus. On the other hand, he made nearly all the right decisions (even down to Jay Cutler and his 23 points over Mark Sanchez and his 22) and still lost a close one. The combination of Peyton Manning (22 points), Steven Jackson (12), Dustin Keller (17) and Jeff Reed (13) simply proved to be too much. Sean is the team in this league playing the Ben Roethlisberger trade-in sweepstakes, which makes me wonder why I haven't seen a deal for him yet. Now is the time, Sean! Do the hustle!
Better Call Saul (Rob) 83 def. Consensus Picks (Elias) 66
This was a strange week for Elias, as all of his top-shelf talent sorely underperformed (Stephen Gostkowski had one point, Randy Moss had nine, Marques Colston had six). He was buoyed somewhat by good performances by B-List fantasy talent in Matt Ryan (19 points), Knowshon Moreno (15) and missed out on a 12-point game by Eddie Royal, but the whole thing just ended up flat. Saul didn't give an exemplary performance, but had excellent consistency, with Tom Brady (11), Tim Hightower (17), Miles Austin (14), Dallas Clark (14) and Mason Crosby (10) all contributing 10 points or more to the win.
Your Scramble writer is glad nobody has lost to CBORG yet. It just makes the eventual defeat that much more hilarious. It would be a great parallel if it happened to Barnwell, the strangely compelling, unattainable muse of Mimi (Catholic Match Girl) being destroyed by a horrible disease (destroyed by soulless machine) right on the cusp of being with her true love (winning quasi-comedy fantasy football league). Poetry, really.
Mike: This is like echidna-level rap. Seriously. "When you're on the road don't LOL?" That's the best they could come up with?
Tom: I'm sorry, I thought echidnas were from Australia and therefore awesome at pop culture. Just look at Paul Hogan and Keith Urban, and don't try to tell me their careers are adequately explained by their talent other than being Australian.
Mike: I take it you never played Sonic Adventure II.
Tom: Hmm, I played most of the Genesis Sonic games. Ah, but I see Sonic Adventure 2 was a Dreamcast/GameCube game. No, I did not in that case. I was a big defender of the Sega Master System, primarily because Alex Kidd in Miracle World was a much, much, much better game than Super Mario Bros. But at the end, there were very good reasons Sega went away and Nintendo didn't.
Mike: Nintendo made better games? Like Super Mario Bros. Seriously, what is wrong with you?
Tom: There are too many people like you who were brainwashed into liking Super Mario Bros 1 because it came with Nintendo and video games were awesome.
Mike: I still play Super Mario Bros. to this day. It's up there with Mario Galaxy 2 and Goemon's Great Adventure.
Tom: Please note that I am in no way decrying the greatness of SMB3, which really was the apotheosis of the 8-bit side-scroller. So, back to this "commercial" -- it seems much more like a PSA than an actual commercial.
Mike: On some level, you have to cut them some slack. Right, it's pretty much a PSA.
Tom: Cellularsouth's logo and name is in the bottom-left corner, but it's not heavily branded at all. See, most people who do PSAs are already famous people who are either giving back (because they know somebody) or doing community service.
Mike: It's actually pretty funny. The logo is followed by his name and the song title, like he's cutting an album with this.
Mike: Even more than the lyrics, I'm concerned with the cinematography. It's like a relatively unknown player completely extinguished their budget for the commercial.
Tom: What, it's lacking the crazy graphics of ESPN's Monday Night Football halftime highlights?
Mike: It's lacking anything! It looks like a dude with a camera and three locations, all within about 500 feet of each other, with a shaky cam and a probably-pirated copy of After Effects.
Tom: Ah, but I think they're using Ole Miss's stadium, or at least it looks like "Rebels" is what the end zone turf says.
Mike: Premiere, sorry. After Effects has actual visual effects, something this music video lacks. He also doesn't seem to know what he's doing with his arms.
Tom: It's like they spent their entire budget on paying Dexter McCluster.
Mike: "OK, so I'll bounce around ..." I just said that! Anyway. "OK so I'll bounce around and ... uh ... flailing? How does flailing work? OK, we'll do flailing." I do like how he abbreviates his name as DMC. Lawsuit in aisle six!
Tom: Well, when he's not flailing, he's kind of acting out the lyrics.
Mike: That was actually pretty amusing.
Tom: He's kind of literal the way the Blackberry commercial was.
Mike: True. On the other hand, since it is very much like a PSA, it at least has a good message as opposed to Miller Lite's "It's not sexist if a woman says it" commercials.
Tom: This is true. Texting while driving can be quite dangerous, and I didn't do it even before Illinois banned it.
Mike: Yeah, no good can come of it. Also, our commenters should call their mothers. And them visit more often.
Tom: I don't really care about that. Just don't text while driving. Also, if you're making a left turn across traffic, say in a 45 mile per hour speed-limit zone, don't drop your cell phone, reach down to pick it up, and then turn without re-checking to see if there are any cars coming.
Mike: Knowing is half the battle!
Kicker: Kicker scores are most interesting when somebody misses an extra point, or has an exceptionally bad day from the field. Instead, the only kicker to miss more than one kick was Graham Gano, and he made two field goals and three extra points (plus another field goal that didn't count). Instead, your Loser League kicker for the week is Jay Feely, who kicked an extra point and missed a field goal for -1 points.
Wide Receiver: The Denver wide receiver roulette wheel hit on Demaryius Thomas and missed on Jabar Gaffney, while Steve Breaston matched Gaffney's 1 point in the post-Kurt Warner era.
Running Back: It was a bad week for some good running backs. Only 1 point for Ricky Williams against a good Minnesota rush defense, while your first-round selections of Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson netted you only 2 points this week.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Trailing only 19-14, the San Francisco 49ers forced the New Orleans Saints to punt with 5:36 to go in the fourth quarter of Monday night's contest. The 49ers had problems finding a capable punt returner this season and turned to rookie defensive back Philip Adams to pick up some yards. Alas, the necessary precondition for Adams picking up some yards was actually catching the punt. He tried to field it at the 17, near the sideline, and couldn't. Courtney Roby recovered the ball, and, while the 49ers defense held the Saints to a field goal, that still turned a five-point game into an eight-point game, meaning San Francisco could no better than tie. They did manage that -- but only that -- and lost in regulation. That's a fate they could have been spared if Adams had simply not given the ball away like he did.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: The Houston Texans faced fourth-and-4 at the Redskins' 34-yard line on the opening drive of overtime on Sunday. Despite spending most of the second half, and that drive, successfully moving the ball up and down the field on the Redskins' defense, and despite picking Neil Rackers after tiring of Kris Brown's late-game misses, Gary Kubiak elected to put the game in the hands of a beleaguered defense that had given up 27 points and almost 500 yards. Matt Turk's punt unsurprisingly went into the end zone, netting only 14 yards, and it took a lucky icing timeout for the Texans to get another chance to win the game.
COLBERT AWARD: While this is a pro column, we're willing to stray into the college game from time to time. Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio, come on down and accept this week's Colbert Award. You recognized that a 46-yard field goal to tie was a dubious proposition, and that a tie really wasn't really that great a deal thanks to the NCAA overtime rules. You elected to take a calculated gamble on a fake field goal to win the game, and for that boldness, we salute you and wish you a speedy recovery.
Jere: I drafted Ricky Williams in the sixth round but, while he's sat on my bench, after two 1-point games should I simply drop him? I can always use the bench space for prospects or bye-weeks and I doubt I'll get any trade value in my league. Thoughts? Also, for Week 3, not knowing Beanie Wells' status, who would you start in the Flex spot of a PPR league? Tim Hightower vs. Oakland, Devery Henderson vs. Atlanta or Darren Sproles vs. Seattle?
Tom: Honestly, I think there's a reasonable chance you should think of Ricky Williams as a prospect. Ronnie Brown will get most of the carries as long as he's able to take most of the carries. Which almost certainly won't be all season.
Mike: I'm also not sure who you're going to find off waivers that will have better upside. You might get some value off matchups, but if you're not starting Williams, why would you be starting whatever random replacement you got?
Tom: I see an argument for bye weeks. If Brown is still healthy, do you start Ricky as Miami's RB2 or, say, random wide receiver with favorable matchup?
Mike: That's true, would have to go with the random receiver.
Tom: I don't think there's any reason to drop Ricky immediately, but recognize what he is.
Mike: If a truly great prospect hits, drop him and pick that guy up, but Williams is a decent guy for waiting and seeing in the long term.
Mike: As far as the second question, have to go with Hightower.
Tom: You have a team's clear top running back, a non-elite wideout, and a third-down back.
Tom: Even in a full PPR league, I don't think you want to over-think that.
Mike: Plus, Oakland means probably more passes to the running back since Nnamdi Asomugha is lining up against Larry Fitzgerald and the team has, essentially, no quarterback. I see a lot of screens and swings in Hightower's future.
Tom: Oakland actually hasn't seen too many passes thrown to backs against them this year. Yes, it's early.
Tom: It's just much too easy for me seeing Henderson put up 0-2 points.
Mike: Like you said, don't over-think this.
Tom: Even with a Mathews' injury, Mike Tolbert will get the goal-line carries. Yes, don't over-think this.
Dan: I'm trying to decide how strongly to react to the first two weeks of play. How would you rank these wide receivers for the rest of the season (this is not a PPR league): Dwayne Bowe, Michael Crabtree, Mike Williams (TB), and Demaryius Thomas?
Mike: Bowe is the most talented of the bunch, but I'm in the same boat as far as he goes. Kansas City is just so bad.
Tom: They're 2-0! They're still 22nd in passing offense DVOA!
Tom: This question is a good example of why wide receivers frustrate me.
Mike: I think Crabtree is probably the best bet of the lot, just based on the pathetically easy schedule and the fact that San Francisco may have some hope of a real passing offense.
Tom: Crabtree kind of scares me just because it's easy for me to see him being very up and down. 15 points one week, three the next.
Mike: You get that with any receiver, though. Thomas would probably be my No. 2.
Tom: I haven't watched any of Denver this year yet, but I actually like Mike Williams.
Mike: Tampa's offense is intriguing in general. I think the real problem is that you have to play match-ups with them. The entire offense is so young, and a good defense will eat them alive.
Tom: Josh Freeman really seems like he's made a sophomore leap. But that is true. I wouldn't start Freeman or Williams against the Steelers this week.
Mike: There are going to be weeks where Tampa players are just not an option. So I guess my list is probably Crabtree, Thomas, Williams, Bowe. Which makes me sad, because I had high hopes for Bowe. Drafted him, even.
Tom: I think you're overreacting. I agree on Crabtree, but I'd put Williams second, Bowe third, and Thomas fourth.
Send your fantasy questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com, or post them in comments. We can create a bidirectional dialogue! Or was it synergy? I always get confused. If you see anything that is a good candidate for a LOL, feel free to send those along too. OK, that definitely makes it synergy.
31 comments, Last at 24 Sep 2010, 1:00pm by MCS