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.
03 Nov 2010
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: So, the big NFL news this week is the Vikings releasing Randy Moss. Brad Childress did that on his own, annoying his own players, the front office, and the Wilfs, who happen to merely own the team, in the process. Apparently Childress has control over the 53-man roster, so he was within his rights to do that. And Moss' rant about how he wishes he was still with the Patriots and how the Vikings coaches should have listened to him was just the last straw and the culmination of events. But was Childress right to release him? How should a coach react when his player goes on a rant to the media like that?
Mike: Well, the problem here is that it isn't "a player." It's "Randy Moss." The rules are different. If it weren't Randy Moss, then Ziggy would've heard about the move the next day and said, "Oh. OK, can't have that sort of thing."
Tom: I get that the rules are different for elite players. Most famously, LT had different rules than other players when Bill Parcells was coaching the Giants. But say somebody really hard to replace off the street but non-elite, Bryant McKinnie maybe, had made the same rant, about how he wished he was playing for the other team and the coaching staff should've listened to his suggestions?
Mike: He'd be canned.
Tom: My reaction was that the best thing for a coach to do is just basically ignore it, and say "Oh, that's just Randy being Randy. He's an emotional kind of guy who wants to win," and that he'd be disciplined in-house.
Mike: Although, to be fair, part of it is also that the team gave up a third-round pick for five catches. That's a really steep price for nothing.
Tom: I think the big problem is that Childress isn't confident enough in his job security and control of the team to be able to laugh it off like I could see Jeff Fisher doing.
Mike: You really think Fisher would just laugh this off?
Tom: Laugh it off maybe isn't the right phrase, but I feel like he (or another similarly secure coach) would be in a much better position.
Mike: That is true.
Tom: Where he could make his judgment based on whether the player's on-field performance was worth the potential locker-room disruption.
Mike: It is easier to deal with adversity from a position of strength.
Tom: And not that the player was questioning his authority, so he had to go because he was also somewhat of a distraction. That's one of the reasons (along with Kenny Britt's injury) I actually think it's realistic to expect the Titans to pursue Moss.
Mike: I don't know who is willing to work with Moss at this point. He's spiraled out of control, even by his standards. I mean, we talked about how he was bad news in Oakland, where all he did was pout and give passive-aggressive press conferences.
Tom: The best answer, I think, is a team that has a fairly solid locker room, a coach confident in his authority, and a team that'd be willing to let him go again quickly if he won't operate effectively within a team environment. I think what we learned from Oakland is that if he's not in a strong environment where he wants to be, he's poison.
Mike: He was arguably poison in New England, also. Actually, not arguably. They traded him mid-season, and the Patriots fit all of your criteria.
Tom: I think with New England, he wore out his welcome, and he knew he wasn't going to be there next year, which hurt his motivation.
Mike: He talked about not being there last year, too, if I recall. In any case, it seems that the Moss problem is getting worse.
Tom: Part of the issue I have with Moss is I can't figure out what makes him tick. Is it money, individual success, team success, respect, some combination of those, or what?
Mike: I'm not sure even he knows. Oh, well-prepared catering. That's a large part of it.
Tom: Oh, sure. I said it was realistic to expect the Titans to pursue him. I'm not sure that they actually will, but we'll see who if anybody puts a waiver claim for him about the time the column goes up and this whole discussion will be somewhat moot.
LATE NOTE FROM TOM: So, after we wrote all this Tuesday night, it ended up the Titans did indeed end up submitting a waiver claim for Moss and were awarded him. I suspect this isn't an overall net boost for the Titans as much as you'd expect, since I suspect part of the reason they were interested is Kenny Britt's injury is actually worse than you think. Moss is probably still a better deep threat than Britt, and defenses presumably will fear him more, but Moss isn't the same type of physical receiver Britt is and thus probably less useful for the quick slant, shallow cross, and intermediate dig routes. Still, he's a big upgrade on Nate Washington as a burner and I'm excited to have him on the team. Worst case, he blows up after three weeks, the Titans cut him, and they're no worse off than they would have been without him.
Tom: After rowing about my fantasy team last week, the fantasy gods had their way with me this week. Adrian Peterson had 20 points. The rest of my team combined for 43, and I lost by 27. Ben Roethlisberger, one point. Marshawn Lynch, against the Raiders D, no points. Zach Miller, no points.
Mike: I'd make a joke about that, but considering the way the Greek gods acted (our modern framework for polytheism, sorry India), it's really hard to criticize.
Mike: Aha! I figured out how I won this week. My sister and brother-in-law have "Barnwellitis."
Tom: What exactly is Barnwellitis? Outsmarting yourself? Accidentally leaving your kicker on the bench because the interface screwed you over like I did in Staff League?
Mike: "Over-reliance on a small number of teams, who make up a disproportionate amount of your roster." My opponent's team relies fairly heavily on Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Johnson had a good game. Schaub did not.
Tom: Schaub reacts quite poorly to pressure, and the Colts got pressure on him.
Tom: Which Mike Williams?
Mike: Seattle, sorry. We need nicknames for the Williamses.
Tom: We do.
Mike: Sadly, neither of them have done anything remotely interesting, which makes nicknaming hard.
Mike: Anyway, my quarterback saga continues. Started Kyle Orton (partially because we were moving house on Sunday and his game started before I could get to my computer) and received a respectable 20 points. David Garrard nearly doubled that total with 39. I have no clue who to start at quarterback anymore. As for the names, neither seems that great.
Tom: I'm not claiming they're great. Start Orton. Garrard will probably have 39 yards passing next week.
Mike: Orton is on bye. But yes, I'm starting Ryan. And Garrard will have zero yards passing, as he is also on bye.
Tom: Well, yes, there is that.
Mike: Hold on, let me get red-zone numbers from the FO Premium database. Cleveland has a far superior red zone defense to Tampa's: -45.3% DVOA, good for fifth, compared to -9.4%, which is 18th. Although Cleveland has a paradoxically terrible Goal to Go rating of 29.9%, 24th in the league. Anyway, that gives the Patriots a better chance of getting shut down in the red zone and kicking gimme field goals, which means I want their kicker.
Tom: This will surely give us fodder for next week's fantasy update, when we talk about how the Browns gave up four touchdowns, and the Bucs forced five field-goal attempts. Because overthinking kicker matchups like this deserves that cruel fate.
Mike: That's why we get paid the medium-sized bucks. On the upside, I do have good matchups next week overall. Dwayne Bowe is somewhat worrisome, but not if Nnamdi Asomugha can't play. Other than that, McFadden vs. Kansas City? Greg Jennings vs. Dallas? Matt Forte at Buffalo? This should be a good week.
Tom: More fodder for next week's column, like my strong words last week.
Mike: We shall see.
Malice Aforethought (Will, 3-5) 50 def. Team CBORG (Paul the Cyborg Zombie Octopus, 2-6) 48
Your Scramble writer apologizes for the mess put up by Team CBORG, as he was moving house the past weekend and forgot to set the roster until it was too late. Mike Sims-Walker had a good game, though!
Phanatic CodeBreakers (Tanier, 2-6) 60 def. Team Verhei (4-4) 46
Just an ugly game for Vince's team, with no points from Joseph Addai, three points from Braylon Edwards and an especially ugly negative four points from Vikings DST. The CodeBreakers didn't put up beautiful numbers (Frank Gore with 17 points was the team's high scorer), but gave Tanier just enough to make it through.
That's Great Hustle! (Sean, 6-2) 67 def. Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom, 1-7) 54
Sean manages to hang on to the lead in the Non-Scramble Alumni Division with a relatively close win over the league's worst team. Both teams were generally unimpressive, but Sean got some extra points out of his players compared to Tom (18 from Peyton Manning and 19 from Larry Fitzgerald against 12 points for Ryan Fitzpatrick and 11 from Ryan Mathews), which proved to be the difference.
Equipo del Jefe (Aaron, 5-3) 83 def. Triple Asian Flu (Doug, 5-3) 31
Meanwhile, one of Sean's rivals keeps pace against a pretty miserable week from Doug. When your quarterback only gives you five points (Ben Roethlisberger), you know you're in trouble. Aaron's 23 from Jamaal Charles and 18 from Antonio Gates were just icing on the cake.
Remain in Matt Light (Barnwell, 6-2) 62 def. Consensus Picks (Elias, 5-3) 57
Catholic Match Girl must have figured out Eleazor's laser-eye trick for this week, as Barnwell was really on the ropes. His savior was Benjarvus Green-Ellisand his 24 points, so let's hope for Barnwell's sake the Patriots never star in a horror movie. Elias' stars, meanwhile, failed him greatly, with anemic totals from Randy Moss (0 points), Knowshon Moreno (5) and Eddie Royal (1).
Scramble Forever (Ian & Al, 5-3) 101 def. Better Call Saul (Rob, 4-4) 88
Despite the 13-point disparity, this was by far the game of the week. Brandon Lloyd was the highlight of Rob's team with 22 points, but he received good production across the board. Ian and Al, however, just had too much, including five slots with 13 or more points, led by Arian Foster's 22. Heck, Ian and Al's bench (53 points), even without a quarterback (and ignoring Chris Ivory's zero, since he wouldn't have a spot), would still put up a good fight against most of the teams in this league (at least this week).
Your Scramble writer probably should not have complimented Ian so much. That's just asking for it.
Mike: HP has done something that very rarely happens.
Tom: Make you hate babies?
Mike: Not quite. But not since that ANA commercial from last year have I seen a commercial and thought, "What the hell was that?" Baby riding along bison? On a freeway? In the plains? Who thinks of this? Of course, afterward you realize how the baby got to be so flat in the printout.
Tom: I think those might be sheep or llamas. Not sure they're bison.
Mike: Because the baby is seen bolting at breakneck speed toward a closed door. Then they do an "impact" cut, where you cut right when the audience is expecting two things to collide. Except it's a baby. And true, look sheepish, not bisonish.
Tom: See, here's the thing. They're talking about sending the pictures to the printer over the Internet. Then they show us a show of baby moving at traffic speeds.
Mike: I was going to make an AT&T joke, but phone outline at the end is clearly not an iPhone.
Tom: Yes, it has actual physical buttons. And Steve Jobs doesn't like buttons, plural. Anyway, I feel like there was an Internet commercial that did this much more effectively. Where the Internet was so fast, they could see pictures of Baby instantly, as if Baby were right there in the room with them. As opposed to Baby traveling at, say, 80 miles an hour for a day and a half, running with sheep and weaving through traffic, to come see them. Unless, of course, this is HP's backhanded way of admitting their photo printers are really slow.
Mike: Seems unlikely. Also, is this couple on vacation? They're carrying around their baby on a tiny roller chair next to some kind of quasi-wilderness attraction.
Tom: I would guess so. But most people don't take their Exersaucer with them on vacation.
Mike: Right. Especially next to A GIANT CANYON.
Tom: My guess was somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.
Mike: Could be.
Tom: Oh, come on, I'm sure they're keeping a good enough eye on Baby to prevent him(?) from repeatedly crashing the Exersaucer into the fence until it breaks, then going plummeting down the side of the mountain. Right ... right ...?
Mike: I'm less concerned about l'enfant terrible knocking down the barrier, and more concerned with places where there aren't barriers, or poorly maintained ones. I suppose we could make this a recurring series: "Why commercial parents are awful." Maybe a Webisode series of "The E*Trade Family Is Visited by DCFS"?
Tom: I swear, I didn't pick this commercial because I'm reading Gulliver's Travels and babies remind me of Swift's A Modest Proposal.
Mike: I think you're reading too much into this.
Tom: Also, isn't part of the attraction of a digital camera that you can take tons of photos and only print out the very best ones? This "Aunt Susan" person may not want 452 adorable photos of Baby's First Vacation on her photo printer when she returns from Thursday afternoon's Bridge Club meeting.
Mike: I think you just queue them for people, like Picasa or Shutterfly.
Tom: No, I really think you can set it up so that you click print on the mobile device and it sends it straight to the printer to print. Or at least that's the message I'm getting from this commercial. Maybe I'm wrong, but this sounds like a feature I wouldn't want.
Mike: Yeah, that system wouldn't even work. What if the printer was powered down? Also, it's hawking a website. Websites don't have direct access to peripherals, usually.
Tom: I just checked out the website and apparently the printer has an e-mail address that you send the document to. And the printer then prints the document. That leads me to presume it happens automatically when it receives the email.
Mike: I still seriously doubt that's actually how it works. The queue theory seems just as viable to me.
Tom: Maybe. They're not quite as specific as I'd like them to be. Still, this seems like a horrible product idea to me. Or, rather, it's part of HP's insidious scheme to get people to use lots and lots of printer ink, preferably HP-branded printer ink.
Mike: OH MY GOD THE PERSON INSIDE MY MONITOR KNOCKED ON THE SCREEN. MOST DISTURBING ONCLICK EVER.
Mike: When you click on the "e-print" button on the site, the animation is a hand knocking on the monitor from the inside. HP is now the top of my "needlessly creepy company" list. Also, you are apparently right about the image just printing. This is the worst idea in the history of computing.
Tom: I can't quite agree with you there.
Mike: I was exaggerating.
Tom: In case you haven't noticed, I can be fantastically literal.
Mike: True. But this is still a horrible idea, and another demonstration of the danger of using babies.
KICKER: When you miss your only attempt of the day, you're not going to have a very good Loser League score. Just ask Nick Folk, who earned -2, to beat out Olindo Mare's one make in three tries for -1.
WIDE RECEIVER: If Jacoby Jones had better hands, he might have caught more passes for the Texans and earned more than 0 points, but then he wouldn't be Jacoby Jones. Hines Ward caught three passes for only 15 yards as part of Pittsburgh's general offensive struggles Sunday, and Bernard Berrian matched that total ... Wait, Berrian actually played? Your Scramble writer didn't actually notice that.
RUNNING BACKS: Your Scramble writer did, alas, notice Marshawn Lynch had nine carries for 7 yards and 0 points. As Mike Hart primarily spelled Joseph Addai, Donald Brown ended up with 2 points, and a pair of 28s, Felix Jones and Jonathan Stewart each had 3.
QUARTERBACK: Max Hall is still not an option, so you couldn't have his 3 points, but you could have had Matt Hasselbeck's 6.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Arizona Cardinals quarterback Max Hall threw three touchdown passes in Sunday's game. Unfortunately, only one of them was to a player wearing a black jersey, the same color jersey Max Hall was wearing that day. Enter Derek Anderson, and exit Sunday the Cardinals, losers by three points.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Attention Mike Shanahan: Your Scramble authors were resident in the greater Chicago area during the Rex Grossman Error and would like to let you know that the acceptable times to bench your actual NFL starting quarterback and putting in Rex Grossman in a one-score game. They are, (a) when the starting quarterback is injured and unable to play effectively (in which circumstances we include a concussion), (b) when you don't care about actually winning the game, like in the preseason, and (c) no other time.
COLBERT AWARD: Given how concerned about being in control of every minor decision NFL coaches tend to be, it's almost refreshing when NFL coaches get their players a great deal of flexibility in making risky decisions. Yes, we could have easily elected to give Keep Chopping Wood to Jets punter Steve Weatherford this week, but instead we're giving his head coach Rex Ryan the Colbert Award for giving his players room to make plays, even if they don't always manage to quite accomplish that feat.
I'm considering offering Flacco plus (something) for Rivers in one league. Flacco's had better numbers the last few weeks, and, looking at their schedules down the stretch, is facing an easier set of pass defenses during the playoffs (Hou/NO/Cle, vs. KC/SF/Cin for Rivers). But I can't help feeling that Rivers, is the better player with the better offense. Which wins out?
Mike: I'm not sure that Flacco has a better draw, pass defense-wise, although Houston is a black hole. Cleveland isn't bad, and New Orleans is either randomly great or awful.
Tom: Flacco does still have a schedule edge. Rivers is just so much better as a player, plus he has a much less effective run game. The midseason KUBIAK update has him breaking the single-season yardage record, and I'm on board with that prediction.
Mike: I guess it depends on what you'd have to give up for him
Tom: I agree with you there.
Mike: It's too late in the season to get a great deal on a player like Rivers, so be prepared to pay handsomely. Perhaps too much.
Tom: Well, it depends on what the guy with Rivers' team looks like.
Tom: I'd be willing to thin out my wideout rotation to make that kind of quarterback upgrade.
Mike: I'd say if you have to give up a top-tier wide receiver or a second-tier running back, you're paying too much.
Tom: Yup. I'd pay a moderate amount but no more.
mrapollinax: Davone Bess or LeGarrette Blount in a 1 PPR league? Furthermore, where do you see Blount falling for the rest of the year? My current starters are Rashard Mendenhall and Matt Forte with Willis McGahee and Reggie Bush on my bench. Blount was a nice pickup last week but will I be able to fit him into that FLEX or even start him over Mendenhall or Forte? Below is my current team:
QB: Peyton Manning
WR: Percy Harvin; Steve Smith (NYG); Davone Bess; Jordan Shipley; Eddie Royal; Johnny Knox
RB: Rashard Mendenhall; Matt Forte; LeGarrette Blount; Reggie Bush; Willis McGahee
TE: Aaron Hernandez
Tom: Bess goes up against the Ravens, while Blount is against the Falcons.
Mike: The Falcons have a very good rush defense.
Tom: Unless Mendenhall or Forte has a horrible matchup and Blount has a very good one, I wouldn't start him over either of them.
Mike: Yeah, and he really doesn't.
Tom: He's also not a pass-catcher, when hurts you in a PPR league. I think he'll probably end up a in Willis McGahee-type role. I don't trust he'll get lots of carries regularly, though with the Bucs' backfield injuries, that may improve his situational effectiveness. I'd also rate Bess as your fourth-best wideout option this week, behind Smith, Harvin, and Knox.
Now that the election is over (no politics!), hopefully the lack of quality commercials will pick up down the stretch. In the meantime, send your fantasy questions to Scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com.
27 comments, Last at 07 Nov 2010, 8:24pm by Scott P.