Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
20 Nov 2013
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Mike: So, Tom, Major League Baseball and Various People Who Are Paid to Write About Major League Baseball finished up their awards season last week.
Mike: Peterson. Oh, that was rhetorical. I see what you did there.
Tom: Maybe it's just a sign of my occasional lack of patience for people who don't think like me, but I don't really care about any football awards.
Mike: See, I like the exercise. It's fun to sit around and talk about the best of the best in a sport. Yes, it's a bit unhinged to give out those awards. Yes, it's even more unhinged to actually care who wins. Great fun was had by all, especially all the statheads in the corner fuming over why anyone cares about postseason awards when we have all these pretty numbers. But it's a neat exercise. And you can bet the players care, when runner-up to a postseason award can get you $100,000 off a contract escalator.
Mike: Who knows? Maybe someone else will be Peyton Manning next year!
Tom: I think Eli actually did get a couple votes in 2011. That whole "actually playing" bit and all that.
Mike: I think that was because some of our dimmer colleagues think they are actually twins. Back to baseball, I think the real issue is that the awards themselves are bad. Sure, you can grab whatever piece of equipment and slap on some semiprecious metal and call it a day, but that's just lazy.
Tom: Yeah, even the Brett Favre hologram trophy isn't an actual thing. Yet.
Mike: So myself and a couple commenters sat around the top-secret IRC compound and wondered; where is the Ruin Tomorrow (Jr.) Award for Ripping Off the Phillies and/or the Dodgers? Where is the British Constitution Award for Best Application of Unwritten Rule? Or even the Ty Cobb Award for Aggressive Drunkenness and Creative Profanity? These awards are far more interesting than the current slate, and the NFL awards are even worse. None of the awards are even named after anyone!
Tom: Sadly, college stole the Johnny Unitas Award from the NFL.
Mike: So Tom and I, as your Scramble writers (and certified awardsologists) decided that now, before it's too late, we would cook up some awards for the NFL to hand out this postseason, to truly capture the flavor of our new national pastime.
Tom: I thought we retired that for Warren Moon and his mustache that never changed.
Mike: Well, last I checked, Warren Moon is not on an active NFL roster, so while it may have been redundant during his career, someone else can win!
Tom: Yes, but NFL players inconveniently wear helmets when they're on the field. Half the defensive linemen in the league may have fantabulous mustaches that are as unchanging as Moon's was, and we'd never know about them.
Mike: We do learn about the more fabulous ones, though, like Brett Keisel. There is also nothing in the Fake Awards Charter that requires the award go to a player. It can go to a coach, even! Like, a coach who has a goatee that makes him look like an aquatic mammal.
Tom: I admit, we do hear about beards. I couldn't have told you for sure Keisel actually has a mustache.
Mike: Are you kidding? The mustache portion is the most fabulous part!
Tom: No, I'm not kidding. I zone out on most of the non-action during games, at least visually, and they don't include helmet-less shots on the all-22 or condensed versions of games. Fine, we can give this to Andy Reid.
Mike: Really the only sensible choice. When your face-wig blends animal kingdoms, you know you have reached another level. All hail the King of Walrii!
Tom: I suppose now the next award you'll want to give out is the Mike Holmgren Walrus Look-Alike Award. Then we can give out the Best NFL Coach for a Baby Halloween Costume Trophy.
Mike: Come now, Tom. We have standards.
Tom: We do?
Mike: ... perhaps we should move on to the next award.
Mike: Are there any multi-sport players right now?
Tom: Your winner has to be Brandon Weeden, peaking out in high-A with an ERA over 6, followed by an NFL career that seems unlikely to see him as a starter again a season-and-a-half (roughly) after he was a first-round pick.
Mike: Oh yeah. Him.
Tom: Most of the other baseball-playing footballers I can think of either only played minor league ball in college as a summer thing or had more success. Drew Henson both played in AAA and started an NFL game. Quincy Carter only played baseball in college. Chad Hutchinson also made AAA and started in the NFL.
Mike: It's interesting that there are so many baseball players and football players. I suppose it might have something to do with MLB's professional minor league system.
Tom: It's easy to play both sports, especially growing up since football is a fall sport and baseball a spring/summer one.
Mike: True, although there are plenty of former collegiate or high school basketball players now playing in the NFL. Particularly among tight ends. Very few professional NBA players, however.
Tom: I suppose here I should mention Bud Grant, who played for both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minneapolis Lakers.
Mike: The exception that makes the rule, yes. Weeden is the clear winner of this group, however, because of his failed promise in both leagues, and spectacular collapse in the harsh spotlight of the NFL.
Tom: We should note, though, that the failure of his NFL career is not so much his fault as that of Cleveland Browns management, who thought drafting a player who would turn 29 his first season in the league was a good idea. At least the Panthers only spent a third-round pick on Chris Weinke.
Mike: Neither of us have actually played professional football, so our experience is limited. I think there are a few workplace best practices that carry over between all industries, however.
Tom: As Baylor basketball could tell you, "don't murder your teammates" is probably one of those.
Mike: That is the first rule, yes. The second rule, I think, is that you don't insinuate that colleagues or subbordinates are using narcotics. Especially if you have no clue what his actual situation is.
Tom: "You must be on drugs to be acting so crazily" may have been one of the possible responses to a passenger request on the New York City cab driver's exam, as least per Can You Pass These Tests?, but it was not the right one. Let that be your guide.
Mike: There are special bonus points for leaking that information out of spite. I suppose that is only fair if you are not one of the Schianomen.
Tom: Yes, well. Let's just mention Richie Incognito and move right along.
Mike: Let's not half-ass it.
Tom: That's what the Patriots players said to Lisa Olson.
Mike: Somehow, that incident has been overshadowed. I think the person who most needs a talk with the mediation dolphin is Richie Incognito, who this season went from "jerk with amusing name" to "insane person with amusing name."
Tom: I wish I though that was true. I don't think he was any different than he's been before. The circumstances around him just changed. And he didn't have the filter to adjust his behavior accordingly.
Mike: Oh, I think you're absolutely correct, there. I think the greater issue is that Incognito was, like the apocryphal frog, unable to detect that the waters of crazy were hitting the boiling point. Everything just seemed normal! For a certain, insane definition of normal. But I'll let Jon Stewart handle that aspect of it. Just to break out the sad trombone, however, it's worth noting that Incognito has received a tremendous amount of support from players across the league. But not quite as much support as alleged murderer Aaron Hernandez!
Tom: At the risk of making this conversation much too serious, members of groups defend those perceived as fellow members of the group, especially against accusations by those outside the group.
Mike: Yawn. Next award.
Mike: This award recognizes that some people simply do not understand the limits of a human being's endurance and, honestly, structural integrity. For those who aren't complete nerds, Kaibutsu is a term for pitchers at the semiannual Koshien Japanese youth baseball tournament that are considered so dominating that their coaches commit some good old-fashioned Japanese ritualistic maiming by driving them into the ground. The current example is 16-year-old Tomohiro Anraku, who threw 772 pitches in four games played over five days and possibly destroyed his arm in the process. Over here, we don't have quite that level of excess, but it's easy to find coaches willing to drive their workhorses into the ground
Tom: Doesn't this have to be Jack Youngblood?
Mike: Well, make your case.
Tom: I know he's not active, but his recent comments and noted playing with a broken leg fit the theme perfectly.
Mike: Youngblood is a great candidate, but I don't think anyone fits the bill this year quite like Robert Griffin. Like a true kaibutsu, his coach sent him out to the slaughter in the playoffs last year, risking at least some of his promising young quarterback's future for his team's temporary advantage. Like a failed kaibutsu, Griffin was ground into dust and crumpled because he was too injured to even plant his foot. Now this year, the Redskins are dealing with the aftermath of that absurd and useless exploitation, with an extra dose after Griffin rushed himself back to the field. Both he and his coach want him to be the monster. With a -10.2% DVOA, however, nobody is scared.
Tom: I feel like there's a whole ball of wax around Griffin, from the crazy stat that the Redskins used play-action on 40 percent of pass plays last year to the ACL recovery in college to the recent comments that seemed to imply a split with the Shanaclan. And as Vince noted in this week's Quick Reads, he has a sizable VOA to DVOA drop, so if you're not paying attention to that pesky "schedule strength" thing, you think he's okay.
Mike: And all he and the Shanahans are doing is running Griffin endlessly into more hits than any NFL quarterback can take, adding risk of reinjury and cascading injury to the mix.
Tom: As exciting as it was, I'm starting to think winning the NFC East last year was bad for the Redskins. Of course, that's the Rob Johnson Fool's Gold Award.
Mike: Sadly, we had to discontinue that one after we introduced the Tom Brady Actual Gold Award. It just got way too confusing.
Tom: Oh, I thought it just got sacked too many times.
Quarterback: In the AFC East contest of rookie quarterbacks, there was a winner and there was a loser. The losing team was the New York Jets, and the losing quarterback was Geno Smith, who threw for just over 100 yards and turned the ball over four times for a week-worst -3.
Running Back: Of course, that the Bills won that game did not mean every part of their team fared well. C.J. Spiller was one of two backs this week to avoid the penalty yet not crack 10 yards yet who had 1 point thanks to 10 receiving yards. Andre Ellington was the other, while Bernard Pierce matched their Loser League score without the benefit of any receiving yards.
Wide Receiver: Joe Haden was one of our Madden selections this week for his work in holding A.J. Green to 0 points. Vincent Brown, Darius Johnson, Jacoby Jones, and Andre Roberts each had 1 point.
Kicker: 0 was not quite the modal score for kickers this week as half a dozen had eight points and four others had 11, but a scoreless trio was still a rare sight. Kai Forbath got there the old-fashioned way, while Josh Scobee and Nick Folk each made two extra points and missed a field goal.
For a full list of Loser League scores, go to the results page.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Pro tip: Do not commit kick catch interference in the final two minutes of a tie game. Kassim Osgood's error gave the Saints 15 free yards and helped set up Garrett Hartley's game-winning field goal at the gun. Honorable mention to Luke Kuechly, who narrowly avoided what could have been his second crucial late-game penalty of the season that could have turned a Panthers win into a Panthers loss.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Jim Schwartz's very curious decision was not so much that the Lions went for the conversion on fourth-and-5 from the Steelers 10 up four points in the final stanza of Sunday's eventual loss. Rather, it was trusting the punter to carry the ball through the line that puzzled your Scramble writers. Honorable mention to Jim Harbaugh for his two no-hope challenges, the first of which came on an 8-yard gain on first-and-10 in the first quarter.
Tom: You were right, as the Cardinals covered in Jacksonville, while the Bears and Ravens gave me the unenviable push.
Mike: You just can't avoid that push.
Tom: Lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing. All picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks. And alas, the push is in play for every game this week thanks to no half-point lines.
Mike: I can't shake the feeling that Vikings +5 is a trap. Green Bay's offense (and therefore Green Bay) without Rodgers is cover-your-eyes awful. But so is Minnesota's secondary.
Tom: The run game and defense weren't enough for them against the Giants. I'm not quite ready to permanently damn them, especially against an offense as limited as Minnesota's.
Mike: Instead, I'm going to go out on a limb and go with one of this week's multi-score lines. Atlanta has no defense whatsoever and their offense is riddled with injuries. The Saints actually have a real defense.
I'll let that sink in for a bit.
Ready? OK. I don't think they're actually as complete a team as Seattle, but they are clearly a real contender, and the Falcons are in the middle of the collapse that will likely close their window. I think 10 points, even away, should be pretty easy for Drew Brees and company. New Orleans Saints -9 at Atlanta Falcons.
Tom: Two lines stand out to me this week. First, the Lions are favored by 10 at home against the Bucs. Obviously Tampa has certain massive trainwreck-related attributes, but they're coming off a solid win against that Falcons team. DVOA has these two teams in spitting distance of each other, separated by 3.9%. The other one is the Giants favored by 3 over the Cowboys. Yes, they're at home, but that line implies two equal teams. By DVOA, the Cowboys have been a much better team this year. That line should be reversed. Of course, the Cowboys are down Sean Lee and the Giants have been somewhat better of late. Weighted DVOA suggests maybe a line closer to equal. I've taken Tampa Bay before this year, but I'm too worried about that game actually ending up 38-10 to pick them. Dallas Cowboys +3 at New York Giants.
evenchunkiermonkey: I'm starting to think Lamar Miller might be droppable. 11 carries and 4 receptions between the last 2 weeks has me wishing I picked him for my 2nd half Loser League team.
Mike: As a fellow Miller owner, I commisserate with you. Miller has been riding the pine for a while on my squad, and I'm starting to consider trading him to someone shallow at RB and try to fish out a WR3 on spec. I think he'll bounce back, but I don't think it'll be worth the wait. See if anyone is willing to take a flier on upside in exchange for some limited value elsewhere.
Tom: It's certainly been a disappointing season for the Miami running back, to the point where you could drop him in favor of another lottery ticket who may or may not get catches or yards in any given week. Given that Miami is down two offensive linemen and may lose a third and their best with Mike Pouncey's injuries, I have no issues with dropping him.
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15 comments, Last at 22 Nov 2013, 3:33pm by Duke