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.
14 Jan 2010
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: So, my all-Indianapolis/New Orleans fantasy strategy means I'm still alive and kicking in our staff fantasy league, unlike Mr. Verhei and his cadre of Rodgers, Maroney, Jackson, Driver, Ochocinco, Finley, Crosby and Green Bay Defense.
Mike: I'm not doing much better. My strategy was essentially to trust in my ability to assess the teams and matchups and choose my team accordingly. Yeah ... that didn't work out so well. I got pretty good performances from my players, but they were all in losing efforts.
Tom: It was a good weekend for Vince, especially with Ray Rice added in, at least. I did lose Cincinnati's defense off my team, so I have a wonderful -3 points. Full credit to The Sanchize for not playing as awful as I expected him to, or as he often did during the non-(almost completely) random portion of the season.
Mike: I'm not going to give Sanchez too much credit. He didn't really do anything on Saturday.
Tom: 12-for-15, no sacks, fumbles or picks.
Mike: A decent DYAR, also, but lots and lots of yards after the catch inflating a dinky, dunky performance.
Tom: I didn't say he was good, merely not awful.
Mike: My point is that he was in a gameplan where he was, as much as I loathe the term, "managing the game," in the non-pejorative sense. He didn't do poorly or well. He mostly did nothing.
Tom: He completed more than Joe Flacco's four passes!
Mike: Frighteningly true.
Tom: Offhand, the fewest completions for a winning quarterback in a playoff game since the merger is Bob Griese's three in the 1974 AFC Championship Game. He was six-for-seven in the Super Bowl that year. I've previously referred to these two games as "Jeff Fisher's idea of what football should look like."
Mike: STEELER FOOTBALL.
Tom: Seeing those stats really makes me wonder how Bob Griese made the Hall of Fame.
Mike: Because the NFL Hall of Fame isn't about stats. Except when it is.
(Mike favors Emmitt Smith with a flat stare.)
Yes, I actually brought up a picture of Emmitt Smith on my monitor so I could do that.
Tom: Fouts is probably a better example of that, since he was the first Super Bowl era quarterback elected to the Hall of Fame without even making a Super Bowl, I believe.
Mike: Probably true, but Smith just irks me since he is statistically ahead of players I believe to be far better than him.
Tom: I've achieved a level of calm re: Emmitt, accepting that he'll make the Hall of Fame this year regardless of how good I think he was. Which was very good, just maybe not at that exalted level.
Mike: Nobody can seriously argue that he wasn't very good. It's all, of course, a mater of ratedness.
Tom: Anyway, Vince did get his week of glory, putting up 98 points, 1 point more than he scored in the entire playoffs last year.
Mike: Nice. The most surprising thing to me was the total meltdown of Green Bay's defense. Just ... wow.
Tom: I mentioned this in Audibles, but it seemed like the deep middle of the field was open all game.
Mike: And the mid-middle. And short-middle. Really, anything middle-related.
Tom: Sean is looking formidable. He's lost only Gostkowski, and racked up 20 each from Breaston and Fitzhulu. You and Vince, as we have mentioned, are kind of screwed.
Mike: Extremely screwed. Strategic hazard, I guess.
Tom: You did end up with the same record as the Boston Sports Guy!
Mike: My soul, it hurts when you say that.
Tom: You should have cross-checked your picks and changed your mind. Contraindicators may give you valuable information, you know.
Mike: It's true, but I will take my epic fail with my head held high. And root for the top seeds to win against those who hath spited me.
Tom: As readers of Seventh Day Adventure well know, sometimes the best bet was simply to go ahead and bet against Rob Edelstein's lock. For the record, Rob ended up 2-15 this year on his "lock of the week." That's an 88 percent success rate.
Mike: Poor Rob.
Tom: I don't mean to pick on Rob -- he seems like a nice guy, and his picks are just for fun -- but that's incredible. To quote NHL 2002: "Well, then, don't eat it!"
Mike: I don't know enough about college ball to comment on the vagaries of picking, but it seems to me that the spreads are so insane that it's a fool's game.
Tom: College ball is insane, generally speaking, but normally redeemed by the fact that with six games on TV at once, there's normally at least one decent or otherwise interesting one. That's why the new bowl season is about as disappointing as most of this wild card weekend. One game on at a time, and most single games aren't that interesting to non-partisans.
Mike: That would be nice, having more football.
Tom: I must say, I've become a much bigger NFL fan since getting Sunday Ticket.
Mike: I'd join Gregg Easterbrook's complaints about Sunday Ticket, but I don't have cable either, so I'm not getting it in any case. I'm actually really glad I don't get Red Zone. It seems like a horribly inorganic way to watch a game, like watching a baseball game that was all fastballs and home runs.
Tom: I had it going on my laptop while watching the real game on TV. It's sort of information overload, watching a game, a tab open to keep track of stats, gamecast on Red Zone, chatting about the game, plus the Audibles e-mail thread.
Mike: Yeah, I get a bit overloaded with the same, minus Red Zone. Part of the problem is that there are so few games, so you can't really just take a game off to relax and just watch. We have dealt with this issue before, however. In a nutshell: Picks are crazy, one should really just flip coins.
Tom: That's your gambling manifesto.
Mike: One of the great ironies of this column is my intense hatred of gambling.
Tom: And we seem to have survived, somehow, without making a single wrestling reference.
Mike: The times, they are a-changin'.
|FO Playoff Wild Card Results|
|Aaron||Peyton Manning||--||LaDainian Tomlinson||--||Marion Barber||0||Miles Austin||14||Julian Edelman||16||Percy Harvin||--||Antonio Gates||--||Nate Kaeding||--||IND||--||30|
|Dave||Brett Favre||--||Adrian Peterson||--||Reggie Bush||--||Randy Moss||4||Greg Jennings||19||Robert Meachem||--||Jason Witten||2||Jay Feely||6||NE||0||31|
|Vince||Aaron Rodgers||40||Ray Rice||27||Laurence Maroney||0||DeSean Jackson||7||Donald Driver||4||Chad Ochocinco||2||Jermichael Finley||15||Mason Crosby||8||GB||-5||98|
|Mike||Tom Brady||7||Ryan Grant||7||Cedric Benson||23||Sidney Rice||--||Jeremy Maclin||20||Derrick Mason||0||Brent Celek||5||Ryan Longwell||--||NO||--||62|
|Sean||Philip Rivers||--||Thomas Jones||9||Beanie Wells||9||Vincent Jackson||--||Larry Fitzgerald||20||Steve Breaston||20||Dallas Clark||--||Stephen Gostkowski||2||NYJ||5||65|
|Tom||Drew Brees||--||Joseph Addai||--||Pierre Thomas||--||Reggie Wayne||--||Marques Colson||--||Austin Collie||--||Jeremy Shockey||--||Garrett Hartley||--||CIN||-3||-3|
Well, you may have found Vince's 98 points impressive. And it is, unless you're dryheat, who not only put up 101 points despite having an inactive Anquan Boldin but also has all of his players remaining. It helps when you pick up Kurt Warner (38), Early Doucet (19), and Dustin Keller (15). Going heavy on a team that put up 51 points was a good move, as even the defense was a good play despite giving up 45 points. Five sacks, three turnovers, and a defensive score will do that for you (11). Second among the remainder teams was Dan with 88 points; no Warner, but going all in with Dallas netted him good scores from Romo, Felix Jones, Suisham, and DAL D. Brendan Scolari was narrowly behind at 85 points with an almost identical team (Dan has Cotchery, Brendan Crayton). There were seven more teams with between 62 and 72 points, so don't get too confident in your teams, gentlemen.
Tom: We have covered a variety of different commercials in Scramble this year. The Car Commercial. The "Ripping Off Good Pop Culture To Make Crap" Commercial. The "Stupid Randomness" Commercial. One thing we haven't hit is the Local Star Commercial. Peyton Manning in a national Mastercard commercial comes with a certain level of script-writing and management. If it's somebody boring, it'll just be mediocre. If it's Peyton Manning, Genius Athlete Endorser of Our Era, it'll probably be great. We may find Howie Long creepy, but the commercial is merely odd, not actively bad. Athletes, however, don't only do national commercials. Sometimes, if you’re, say, a mediocre quarterback who leads your team to a Super Bowl, you'll get a local commercial to strut your stuff to your adoring fans. Entrez Jake Delhomme.
Mike: DUN DUN DUUUUN.
(Editor's Note: DUN DUN DUUUUUN.)
Tom: I love the symbolism of this commercial. The lady in red walking down the dark alley at night, the flashing neon sign advertising "biskitz biskitz biskitz." Just in case you didn't know you were getting an ersatz product.
Mike: My main question is how something store-bought can be "made from scratch." I suppose in the sense that they were made from the component ingredients of biscuits. Are they arguing that Weird Street Vendor's biscuits are made from inorganic material or something?
Tom: Maybe the claim is that Weird Street Vendor makes biscuits and ships them frozen to the store, where they're reheated, while Bojangles makes their biscuits in-store. But if that's the claim, why not come out and make that claim? I will admit, however, that I don't believe I've ever eaten at Bojangles, so they may indeed have some incredibly good biscuits.
Mike: True, but still, we have all sorts of stupid food labels. "From scratch" is one of the worst, since it, like "organic" has a weird moral connotation.
Tom: That's because you're a horrible damnYankee and not a fine Southron genlemin like Jake Delhomme.
Mike: It's true, he -- wait, is Delhomme even from the South?
Tom: He's a Cajun, from Louisiana.
Mike: Well crap. I can't really compete with that. I'm sure he learned the fine art of biscuit-making from an elder biscuit vigilante, or Colonel Sanders, that fine Southern gent -- wait...
Really, though, it's all in the cape. They should add capes to the normal NFL uniform. Make it an extension of the hair rule.
Tom: Did you not see The Incredibles? No capes! Actually, maybe that's the way to do capes. He looks like he's just wearing his Panthers uniform with a cape randomly billowing behind him. It's his equivalent to the legendary "your own personal movie soundtrack that follows you around!"
Mike: Truly, Jake Delhomme is living the dream. Except for that whole being put on IR in disgrace thing.
Tom: Remember, it's not Jake's fault John Fox signed him to a crazy extension. If I were in his shoes, I would have signed the same deal.
Mike: Of course.
Tom: Nor is it strictly Delhomme's fault Fox kept trotting him out there after it was reasonably clear Delhomme was not a good option.
Mike: I'm really wondering what happened to him. Maybe too many biscuits? Or too tired after a night of stalking the town, protecting women from inferior baked goods?
Tom: He's 34, and NFL quarterbacks tend to decline as they age. Guys like Warren Moon or Don Lorenzo are serious, serious exceptions to the general trend of NFL quarterbacks. Almost no quarterbacks are good after the age 36 or so, and that includes elite, Hall of Fame-caliber players. Delhomme had a shorter distance to fall, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised that he declined slightly early.
Mike: Wait, is this actual football analysis in our commercial segment? DARK ARTS.
Tom: Well, in that case, back to nonsense! I don't really get the Lady in Red’s objection to the biskitz. This guy comes up to her on the street and offers her free food. She turns him down because it's not the right type of free food. Now, I will do this, but I'm weird. Most people are very accepting of free food.
Mike: Maybe she just watched Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Tom: This commercial is advertising the quality of the food, but seems to be downplaying the basic commercial transaction that is at the root of how Bojangles can continue to provide tasty (?), made-from-scratch biscuits to its customers.
Mike: Have we come to this? Looking gift biscuits in the mouth?
Tom: Fine, you can take your bad free food. Or have you never had incredibly dry and hard biscuits?
Mike: Oh, I've had all sorts of biscuits, so yes. Still, food has to be pretty bad to be not worth the low, low price of free.
Tom: Like the biscuits in this commercial. Weird Street Vendor may be providing very good biscuits but the sole relevant criterion seems to be "made from scratch," not "delicious."
Mike: As I said, it's a moral term, and this commercial is a morality play. She's being seduced by the guy's ... er ... biscuits. But they are inferior! Unlike Jake Delhomme's biscuits, which are delightfully scratched.
Tom: Maybe this woman has some serious vision problems. She declares Delhomme hit Weird Street Vendor "in the biscuits," when the thrown football clearly hit him in the face.
Mike: Maybe the South has adopted some sort of Restatement of Slang, with consolidations, allowing for fewer slang words for anatomy/baked goods and thereby allowing everyone to live normal, productive lives while talking at three words per minute.
Tom: I'll have you know that I'm a native "Southerner," if you're willing to put Texas in that category.
Mike: Not especially willing to, no.
Tom: Fair enough.
Mike: Dammit, now I'm hungry.
Tom: Well, in that case I guess it's time to end this column so you can go to bed. Or have you never used that strategy?
Mike: No? I'm not even sure what that strategy is.
Tom: Wait, you’ve never gotten tired late at night and decided to go to bed instead of (a) staying up and being hungry or (b) eating food when you shouldn’t? I'm surprised. I thought everybody did that in college. I guess you're just easily seduced by the thought of dry, hard, tasteless biscuits so long as they're warm and made from scratch.
Tom: In that case, curse you, Jake Delhomme, for tempting us with made-from-scratch biscuits we can't have!
Mike: It's true, tomorrow I'm going to have to make biscuits. And then throw them at passers-by. I think I have gotten Jake's message mixed up, here.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: The tone for the Ravens-Patriots playoff game was set early, on the first play from scrimmage, when Ray Rice romped 83 yards for a touchdown. Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather failed to attack the hole decisively and failed to lay a hand on Rice or catch up with him after his cut. Against that kind of run support, you can see how a team could succeed with a quarterback who could only complete four passes.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Challenges are rare and valuable things and should be husbanded wisely and kept until needed. Unless, of course, you're Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who blew his first challenge less than a minute into the game on an almost-certain loser after the benefit of a commercial timeout in which to view television and video board (presumably) re-airings of the play, then blew his second challenge on a useful but non-vital 15-yard completion on third-and-9 with less than a minute to play in the first quarter. This second challenge would be reasonable, except that it left him without a challenge for the final three quarters. 15-yard gains down to the 41-yard line aren't that valuable.
COLBERT AWARD: When NFL teams fall behind in elimination games, more boldness than usual is required. While Packers coach Mike McCarthy eschewed the boldest moves -- such as going for 2 while down 45-44 and going for it instead of taking the field goal down 24-7 with :04 to play in the first half -- he did boldly call for an onside kick down 31-17, and then went for it on fourth-and-1 when the drive after the successful onside looked like it might not produce a first down. Ahman Green converted and the drive produced a score that cut the deficit to 7 points. A fourth-down conversion on a subsequent drive cut the deficit to 7 again, and McCarthy tried to win the game in one blow on the first play of overtime, an effort that nearly succeeded. That is how NFL coaches should be coaching in elimination games when their team goes down early.
49 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2010, 5:10pm by MatMan