Surprisingly strong defense so far is helping the Patriots dominate the league in 2015. But the equally well-rounded Arizona Cardinals are right behind them on the list of the ten best teams in DVOA history through Week 5.
21 Nov 2012
by Tom Gower
I'm flying solo this week since Mike's busy with the Thanksgiving holiday and other commitments, so I thought I would take this week's column to review the book we've plugged the past two weeks in this space, Gary Myers' Coaching Confidential.
The book is billed as one of those "year in the life" books, but rather than focusing on one coach in particular, Myers talked to a number of the most famous and successful NFL coaches, including Sean Payton, Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells, Tony Dungy, Andy Reid, Dick Vermeil, Mike Shanahan, and Brian Billick. Plus, he also talked to a couple owners, Robert Kraft and Daniel Snyder, who have experience with different coaches and different coaching styles.
Coaching Confidential does not have a particularly strong unifying narrative throughout the book. Rather, the individual chapters are in some cases more about the actions of a single coach, while in other cases they are more thematically-oriented. The first chapter, for instance, covers the rise and fall of Sean Payton. Myers had clearly been working on Coaching Confidential for a while before the Saints' Bountygate scandal came to light, and had already talked to Payton, leading him to recast the first chapter.
The second chapter is more thematically-oriented and is one of the more intriguing ones: the late-night phone call no coach ever wants to get. Brian Billick explains what it was like getting the phone call about Ray Lewis's arrest in Atlanta following Super Bowl XXXIV. Myers also tells the story of Joe Gibbs, Sean Taylor, and the 2007 Washington Redskins, who made a surprise postseason trip following the shooting death of the star safety.
Additional chapters cover Bill Parcells' relationship with new owner Robert Kraft and the subsequent Patriots-Jets coaching movement involving Parcells and Bill Belichick, Parcells' mind games with his players, Tony Dungy's second chance in Indianapolis (plus Dungy and Reid's relationships with their children and Michael Vick), Jimmy Johnson's tenure in Dallas -- a subject I found more engagingly done in NFL Network's recent A Football Life documentary on Johnson, if only for the actual footage of the Cowboys' outdoor weight room, moments from the careers of Mike Shanahan, John Elway, and Brett Favre, burnout and Dick Vermeil, getting fired, and the antics of Rex Ryan, whom Myers covers as an NFL columnist for the New York Daily News.
The chapter on getting fired is a good example of the at-times-discursive nature of Coaching Confidential. It begins with Brian Billick going into more detail on the Ravens 2000 season and coping with the aftermath of Lewis's involvement with the Atlanta police, a topic first broached much earlier in the book. Billick talks about the dedication of that season, then dealing with the aftermath of some early postseason success, which Myers uses to launch into a discussion of Dan Marino's career and Don Shula's eventual departure as head coach of the Dolphins in favor of Jimmy Johnson.
The topic of what to do after some postseason success could have made for a terrific chapter, with coaches like Johnson and Shanahan who won consecutive Super Bowls, Parcells and Gibbs who won multiple non-consecutive Super Bowls, and Billick, Payton, and Dungy, who won one and haven't won again yet. However, Myers moves on to more of Billick's own history as the "hot" assistant after serving as the offensive coordinator of the 1998 Vikings and the rest of his Ravens tenure, up to and including his surprising (to him) firing after a disappointing 2007 season. From Billick, Myers moves on to Mike Shanahan and his bitterness after his surprise and quick firing by Al Davis, as well as Davis' unsurprising refusal to pay him the rest of his contract amount, leading to Shanahan's revenge as chronicled in the excerpt in a recent Monday Morning Quarterback. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Shanahan's current employer, Dan Snyder, and his extensive history of firing coaches.
Like that chapter, too much of Coaching Confidential is a series of vignettes and anecdotes. Rather than a comprehensive book on what it is like to be an NFL coach, the result instead feels more like "Storytime with Famous Coaches." For what it is, it is at times a terrifically entertaining book, and one I read through quickly and with pleasure. I did not find it, however, to be the great book I was hoping it would be.
FTC Disclaimer: I read a review copy by the publisher. The publisher also provided additional copies to give away to our readers.
QUARTERBACK: In what may be a first, a pair of teammates tied for the lowest score among quarterbacks this week. Yes, Chiefs fans, both Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn threw for 90-something yards without a turnover or an interception for 4 points.
RUNNING BACK: We continue our spat of teammates atop the Loser League leaderboard with one of the strangest performances of the week. Namely: perhaps the league's worst rushing defense holding a running offense that had been somewhat competent at times in check. Yes, in what should have been a favorable matchup against the Buffalo Bills, both Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush had 30-something yards of offense and put up 3 points.
WIDE RECEIVER: We would suggest Mike Wallace's two fumbles and -2 points were signs he was not really that interested in getting paid, but we previously chronicled DeSean Jackson's apparent indifference in his contract year and the Eagles still chose to pay him. Runners-up to him in Loser League this week were Jacoby Jones (who is disappointed Loser League doesn’t value return scores), the aforementioned DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and T.J. Graham, each of whom had no more than five receiving yards and 0 points.
KICKER: Dan Carpenter is the third Dolphin among this week's honorees, as his missed field goal offset two made extra points for 0 points.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Cleveland Browns defensive back Buster Skrine is normally frequently involved in the action. That's normally not a good thing, but it was even moreso the case this week with him pressed into the starting job in Joe Haden's absence. The result was three penalties, including illegal contact penalties on consecutive plays and a pass interference call on a drive that led to a Cowboys score, plus the normal active day in coverage.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: What time is it, NFL coaches? It's time to kick on fourth-and-one! Gary Kubiak kicked a field goal down 10 in the third quarter from the Jaguars 10. John Fox kicked a field goal from the Chargers 1 in a tie game in the second quarter against an offense that hadn't done anything all game, and again from the Chargers 12 with an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter. Ron Rivera once again punted on fourth-and-one near midfield when a conversion would have given his team the win, even after punting and losing against the Falcons.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell for sure what announcers are paying attention to in any given game. Take, for instance the Chargers-Broncos game. Chargers right guard Louis Vasquez goes out with an injury in the second quarter. Play-by-play man Kevin Harlan starts talking about how the Chargers have a good veteran backup on the interior in Rex Hadnot. There’s a slight problem with this, though: Hadnot was already in the game, playing left guard for the injured Tyronne Green. The actual replacement for Vasquez was seventh-round rookie David Molk, an undersized collegiate center. That's a problem, and two plays later Philip Rivers is sacked on third down when the patchwork offensive line fails to respond to Rivers' prompting to adjust to a Broncos overload. Vasquez would return to the game after halftime. Midway through the third quarter, Harlan finally realizes Hadnot is playing left guard, though he still claims he was playing right guard earlier. It's a disappointing sequence from Harlan, who's earned some love on this website in the past for his greater-than-average attention to just the kind of substitution he botched here.
supershredder: Struggling with my flex this week (non-PPR, long TD gain bonuses):
DET Mikel LeShoure vs HOU - Like the line matchup in this one (DET strong up the middle and HOU vulnerable in ALY at the nose).
GB Jordy Nelson vs NYG - I feel like I just can't trust Jordy this year.
SD Danario Alexander vs BAL - Picked him up 2 weeks ago and yet to start him. If I do I'm sure this will be the week he slips up.
Planning on starting Dez Bryant and Eric Decker in my WR slots. Would appreciate any help on this - especially the two WR matchups! Thanks.
First off, let's deal with Alexander. He had 31 yards receiving in the first 55 minutes of the game against the Broncos. If you have options, I would prefer to stay away from any Chargers receiver given the offensive line issues right now, and I would rank Malcom Floyd over Alexander in any event. On Nelson, I think you can afford to be conservative with him until he shows he's recovering from his hamstring injury. I don't think he’s that bad of a play this week so much as that Leshoure is a better one. He's been getting the carries, and the goalline carries, and as you noted the Texans have issues on runs between the tackles. I would start Leshoure.
Keller has a juicy matchup this week against a Patriots secondary that's below-average against tight ends by DVOA and giving up more yards to tight ends than the average defense. The rest of the schedule is less promising for Keller, as even Tennessee has been more hit-and-miss for opposing tight ends lately. Finley, meanwhile, is a better player who plays in a better, more consistently productive passing offense. Bennett has been a consistent producer lately, but a consistent producer at tight end means about 40 yards per game. Given the Giants' current offensive woes, especially in pass protection, I doubt that changes quickly. I like Finley's upside best.
Mike pulled ahead of me last week with the Saints' destruction of the Raiders, while I foolishly took the Rams to beat the not-yet-hapless, as it turned out, Jets. He is now 7-3 on the year, while I am only 5-5. With him taking this week off, though, I have my choice of games.
There are a couple lines that stand out. The quality difference between Jacksonville and Tennessee is not so large that the Titans should necessarily be favored on the road by 3 points, though I have forsworn picking the Jaguars. Green Bay and the Giants looks like more of a toss-up than the Giants favored by 3 points. Weighted DVOA has the Falcons as a worse team than the Buccaneers, which does not quite comport with Atlanta being a 1.5 point favorite on the road. I will instead, however, take the Detroit Lions +3.5 versus the Houston Texans. It's not that the Lions are particularly good on Thanksgiving or because it's a Thursday game, but because of the questionable health status of Johnathan Joseph and the flaws players like Danieal Manning and Brice McCain showed in pass coverage on Sunday.
22 comments, Last at 26 Nov 2012, 8:52pm by Mr Shush