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29 Jan 2014

Scramble: 2013 All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: After covering the Superb Owl Prop Bets last week, it is time for the other annual Scramble pre-Super Bowl column tradition, the naming of the annual All-Keep Chopping Wood team. One of the tasks assigned to your Scramble writers is to make a weekly honoring of the award based on Jack Del Rio's motivational ploy turned punter injury. At the end of the year, we then pick a full starting lineup of players who did their most to help their teams not win any games this year, preferably by the combination of their on-field and off-the-field misadventures, the funnier the better.

Mike: Note that while we will be consulting the low men on our DVOA totem pole when compiling our particular All-Fail list, even a particularly ineffective player may just be that: ineffective. This isn't just the opposite of an all-star team. This is something greater. Something more meaningful. Something beautiful. The year-end accumulation of a decade-long gag making fun of a stupid motivational stunt pulled by Jack Del Rio.

Tom: Speaking of other decade-long gags, Mike, before we launch into the column, we should note the presence in the Super Bowl of Denver Broncos linebacker Paris Lenon, the last XFL player who remains active in the NFL. As far as I know, though, no Scramble writer has actually separated their shoulder while writing the column, which is why this column is still named Scramble for the Ball instead of Boring Old Coin Toss.

Mike: I can't find his XFL nickname.

Tom: A la Rod "He Hate Me" Smart?

Mike: Sadly, Lenon does not seem to have had an XFL nickname.

Tom: He apparently only played in XFL for four weeks, so it might have been after that gimmick died a natural death. Looking at this Memphis Maniax roster, it appears that only a few players were actually assigned nicknames.

Mike: I'm not sure he actually counts as an XFL player, with only four weeks of service time. Actually, let's rectify this. Right here, right now. As the last bastion of the Church of the XFL, it falls on us to give this gentleman a nickname.

Tom: Well, we have two obvious sources. First, his name is Paris -- there are plenty of allusions there, from the capital of France to the Texas city to Troy. Second, his family calls him Mike, after his middle name, since there are other men in the family named Paris. Oh, three, he played his college ball at Richmond, nicknamed the Spiders.

Mike: Wait, there are other men in his family named Paris? What kind of family does that?

Tom: I have no idea. I have the same middle name as my first-born male cousins on my dad's side, but everybody claims that was unintentional (and it's not my grandfather's name). Plus, none of us actually go by our middle name and we all have different first names.

Mike: Yes, but Euripides is a really normal and common boy's name. Duh.

Tom: I'm on the verge of looking up just how common it was based on U.S. census data.

Mike: Do it. DOOO EEEEET. Anyway, I have decided that Paris' XFL nickname is retroactively La Barricade. Foolish children with delusions of grandeur crash upon him and die bloody, violent deaths. The italics are for extra emphasis. Of pain.

Tom: That's better than anything I was coming up with. Anyway, I'm not seeing anything more recent than the 1990 census, and Paris is much more common than you'd think for males. It came in 1060th, a couple spots behind Emmitt.

Mike: Now that we have corrected this slight against the world's last remaining God-Man, we can get back to what we do best: mocking bad football players.

Tom: Yes, that was a fun digression. If you're confused about why bad is good this week, check out last year's All-KCW squad for a better idea of what this is all about.

Quarterback

Tom: Let's start, as we normally do, with the quarterbacks. Damn you, Blaine Gabbert. You threw only 98 passes this year, two short of the cutoff to make the main DVOA leaderboard. Your -92.8% DVOA remains on the list of the "Others," leaving Kirk Cousins' piddly -43.0% last on the real list.

Mike: I actually have a suggestion that does not reside among the bottom feeders: Matthew Stafford. Yes, he is 15th in the league by DVOA, but most of the guys on the bottom are on bad teams that weren't going anywhere.

Tom: Stafford was an agonizing player who should have performed better. But that agony was basically 25 percent, maybe even less, of the agony delivered to Houston Texans fans by Matt Schaub.

Mike: It is hard to argue with that many pick-sixes.

Tom: Yes, Stafford contributed to the NFL lexicon with his propensity to take a bad sack that knocks his team out of field goal range, but I was using "Schaubing" before this year to refer to passes thrown short of the sticks on third down and short of the end zone in goal-to-go situations before it jumped into the popular parlance as "throwing a pick-six every single week."

Mike: On the other hand, the Texans were pretty terrible even without Schaub. A more impressive fall from grace would be Eli Manning, who finished the season with a whopping 26 interceptions to just 18 touchdowns. Only Geno Smith had a greater delta between a quarterback's most valuable play and his least.

Tom: We could have an interesting discussion about Eli Manning, and the Texans weren't good, but they weren't quite as bad as their 2-14 record indicated. They lost all their close games after the first two weeks, with many coming after a Schaub mistake, and seemed to mentally collapse. Plus, it was wanting to play Schaub that got Gary Kubiak fired.

Mike: Remember that I supported Kubiak's decision.

Tom: From a pure on-the-field perspective, trying to win every game you could, it was certainly not clearly wrong and probably right. From a team management perspective, it was awful.

Mike: Although it is hard to argue with "getting your coach fired for wanting to play you over a horrible rookie" as far as qualifications for All-KCW. I accede to your selection.

Tom: Succinct way of putting it. Matt Schaub it is.

Running Back

Mike: Draft Ray Rice in the first round! Sure-fire points.

Tom: I did. I thought he would fall off his cliff next season. That Rice and teammate Bernard Pierce take up the last two spots in rushing DYAR and DVOA suggest the problem might have been something beyond the backs in Baltimore this year.

Mike: Nonsense, they won the Super Bowl and brought back their quarterback! Who, due to winning a Super Bowl, is therefore the best quarterback. There is no way that offense could fail!

Tom: I would now suggest we have a discussion about the elite-ness of the Baltimore offense this year, but that might make our fair Editor-in-Chief's head explode. Whatever Baltimore's offense was in 2013, it was at least not Now. Rice and Pierce were a part of that mess. Both probably contributed to it. I don't think either was quite as bad as their DVOA and DYAR ranks running and passing (both were bottom five in receiving DYAR as well) made them seem. Baltimore's offense was broken and never got unbroke.

Mike: Suffice it to say, their eliteitude was surpassing.

Tom: In unrelated news, the Lions hired Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell as their new head coach, so good luck with that!

Mike: Good luck have fun!

Tom: Really, though, this has to be Trent Richardson, doesn't it? Colts running backs by DVOA: Donald Brown 19.2%, Ahmad Bradshaw 9.4%, T-Rich -22.8%.

Mike: I really hesitate to give it to Richardson just because the Colts offensive line is so extremely bad.

Tom: Yes, the third overall pick actually had a better DVOA in the two games he played in Cleveland than he did in Indianapolis. No, the Colts don't have a good offensive line, but they looked substantially worse when Richardson was playing than they did with the other backs.

Mike: The two compliment themselves pretty poorly, it's true. But the change of scenery was a complete disaster.

Tom: And Richardson did nothing to flatter the offensive line. Nothing whatsoever.

Mike: If Richardson is going to get the nod, it has to be for the ransom Indianapolis gave up to obtain his services, not because he looked bad behind a really bad line.

Tom: It's hard to disentangle the move from the player, but I think he really was that bad. The Colts got him anticipating he would be a sustaining force to let them implement the kind of run-heavy ball-control game plan they wanted to run. Instead, he turned into a spare part. After the bye week was when he was supposed to shine and be the player the Colts traded for. Instead, he had more than eight carries only twice in nine games (eleven if you include the postseason).

Mike: True, although that is partially on the Colts for trying to fit Richardson's current marginal value into a game plan that completely ignored that value. My other nominee would be BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who inexplicably sucked up valuable carries in high-leverage situations from a much more promising back, Giovani Bernard. Yes, the DVOA and DYAR aren't that different, but watching the two run live, behind the same line, was like night and day.

Tom: See, Law Firm basically had the sort of year I think you could reasonably expect from him. He's a decent short-yardage back, thus the relatively good success rate ranking, but that's about all he is. Bernard didn't get more carries because the Bengals were afraid he would break if they gave him the ball that much.

A guy who is really getting overlooked is Doug Martin. He went even higher in fantasy drafts than did Rice. He was supposed to be a star. Instead, he was ineffective in a bad situation early, then got hurt.

Mike: Rashard Mendenhall is another good candidate for "really bad half of a committee" and had the added bonus of dragging down a team that just missed the playoffs!

Tom: Funny you mention him, since we picked Mendenhall last year.

Mike: He is not very good at running the football!

Tom: And what do you know, he kept fumbling like it was still part of his rehab assignment. I'm taking Trent Richardson, so you can take Mendenhall if you like.

Mike: Rashard Mendenhall it is! We are nothing if not consistent when we feel like it.

Wide Receiver

Tom: Now to pick some people for Matt Schaub to not be able to throw the ball to! In no surprise at all, the receivers at the bottom of the DVOA/DYAR chart come from dysfunctional offenses we've already named -- Greg Little, Davone Bess, Ace Sanders, and Santana Moss.

Mike: Kenbrell Thompkins has a strong candidacy, somehow finishing 74th in the league in DYAR despite being on the same team as Tom Brady.

Tom: Not on the big chart, but only because he was so bad early his team benched him: Kenny Britt with the contract year to end all contract years. We have not run receiving plus-minus numbers yet, but Thompkins is a player whose I will be fascinated to see. The Patriots used him a fair amount on vertical plays, where we know Brady is not a great passer. Still, a 46 percent catch rate with a quarterback who completed 62 percent of his passes to other targets?

Mike: Thompkins finished a whopping 158 DYAR behind oft-injured punchline Danny Amendola. To add insult to (others') injury, Thompkins had a vaguely interesting story that was endlessly harped upon whenever he made a positive play.

Tom: I still rate Britt as more disappointing, considering he proclaimed himself healthy and he'd shown he could be a really good NFL receiver when healthy. Thompkins was a rookie undrafted free agent forced into an early role on a team missing all of its passing weapons from last year. It was not really much of a surprise he mostly disappeared from the offense by midseason.

That's one of the issues with picking this team, finding the line between players who were thrust into too big a role out of necessity and guys who were just terrible. Britt's inability to catch a cold (31 percent catch rate) put him in the latter category.

Mike: It's true, Britt has shown a consistent ability to be Kenny Britt.

Tom: He ranked second in DVOA in 2011!

Mike: I still have no idea how.

Tom: He could catch! He could run after the catch! He made the "embryonic Michael Irvin" comparisons seem not-insane. Then he got hurt nine and a half quarters into 2011 and hasn't been the same since.

Oh, remember Miles Austin? He was supposed to finally be healthy this year and a really good receiver. He ended up one target short of the big leaderboard and had the worst DVOA on a team with a real quarterback. I don't even think we need to get into his contract, beyond noting it was a Jerry Jones Special.

Mike: I'm tempted to go with Mohamed Sanu, but Cincinnati has actually found a viable second option behind Green, so his struggles did not really hurt his team as much as Britt and Austin. I'm fine with those two.

Tom: We picked three last year, so we could go with Miles Austin, Kenny Britt, and Thompkins if you like.

Mike: Let's go with that.

Tom: Cool.

Tight End

Tom: At what point should we just rename it the Brandon Pettigrew Memorial All-Keep Chopping Wood Team Tight End? We honored him last year, and he responded with another terribly unproductive season.

Mike: Highly touted fantasy tight end Jermaine Gresham had a similarly awful year and ... why am I listing so many Cincinnati Bengals in this column? They won their division! Somehow.

Tom: I just pulled up the list of drops, so I could check Pettigrew's number. Davone Bess had nine drops this year on 86 targets. I'm kicking Thompkins off and putting Bess on in his place.

Mike: Holy hell that is impressive.

Tom: After eight drops on 102 targets last year, Pettigrew only had four on 68 targets this year.

Mike: An exciting improvement.

Tom: The leader in drops among tight ends seems to be Garrett Graham, who had six on 89 targets, with worse FO stats than Pettigrew. On the other hand, he was catching passes from Schaub and Case Keenum and got force-fed the ball for no good reason whatsoever.

Mike: Graham had to contend with aforementioned Houston quarterback cluster****. Yes, so he's out.

Tom: See above regarding players forced into situations out of necessity.

Mike: Well, that isn't really necessity. There are other options in Houston. The ball simply didn't get to any of them.

Tom: Well, my definition of necessity in this case includes the dire quarterbacking situation. Either way, we're both fine not picking Graham.

Mike: That doesn't make any sense!

Tom: He got thrown a zillion passes (a) because Houston had Andre Johnson and a bunch of garbage and (b) the awful quarterbacks kept throwing the ball his direction even though bad things tended to happen.

Mike: It's not like Schaub and Keenum were sitting in the pocket thinking "Oh man, I am bad at my job! I must find my tight end and throw in his general direction!"

Ed. Note: Actually, that pretty much is exactly what they were thinking outside of Keenum's first four games. -- Rivers McCown

Tom: No, it was more like "I am bad at my job! I must get rid of the ball! Here, let me throw it toward my tight end!" Are you fine with Pettigrew, or did you want to talk about this some more?

Mike: Brandon Pettigrew is easily as good an option as any, and we have the added bonus of furthering our newfound love of consistency!

Offensive Line

Tom: My Arizona chapter of Football Outsiders Almanac 2013 has a table of the teams with the fewest offensive Adjusted Line Yards since 1995. If we re-run that chart in FOA 2014, there will be three new teams in the top ten. The Ravens would be second, the Jaguars fourth, and the Giants ninth or tenth. I think we could get a decent All-KCW line out of just those teams, and I'm not sure we have enough room for a member from each.

I think Richie Incognito has to be on the team. Also at left guard, there was Will Rackley of the Jaguars and Lucas Nix of the Raiders, both of whom were among the worst players in the league this season. At left tackle, Bradley Sowell of the Cardinals was down there, as was Will Beatty of the Giants.

Mike: Someone from the Ravens needs to be on this team.

Tom: Gino Gradkowski was among the nominees we received at center, as was Michael Oher at right tackle. I'd prefer to put Gradkowski on the team, leaving room for Lamar Holmes of the Falcons at right tackle. Then we can play either one of the left guards or David Diehl of the Giants at right guard.

Mike: Oher is probably the go-to there, considering the spectacular ongoing failure of the Michael Oher: Left Tackle project. Highly touted prospect complete with inspirational movie, to left tackle in training, to awful left tackle in fact, to right tackle, to possibly worst right tackle in the league.

Tom: Okay, we can do that. So Michael Oher at right tackle, David Diehl at right guard, and Samson Satele at center?

Mike: With Richie Incognito and Bradley Sowell, I think.

Tom: That works by me. If we didn't mention your favorite offensive line nominee, keep in mind we could have put together three complete lines and still not gotten to everybody.

Mike: Yeah, there are a lot of bad linemen, all over the place. Feel free to add names and insults in the comments, if it helps your coping process.

Defensive Line

Tom: Typically, this is a very difficult position to fill. Individual defensive linemen rarely accumulate stats, and sometimes the stats they do accumulate are deeply misleading. Is making a tackle seven yards downfield on a running play a good thing, because it indicates the lineman was actively involved in the play, or a bad thing, because the lineman is seven yards downfield instead of on the line of scrimmage? It's difficult to say without watching the play in question.

Mike: It's not even that.

Tom: It's that, but it's much more than that.

Mike: You have to watch the play itself, and have some idea of what the call was. Was he trailing behind the play because he had outside contain but reacted well and closed on the ball? Or was he lost in no-man's land and came to his senses too late?

Tom: Right. A defensive tackle can make zero to six tackles in a game and be playing very well, okay, or very badly.

Mike: Exactly. Long story short, evaluating defensive line play with stats and limited film is essentially impossible.

Tom: Still, given what we've read, I'm inclined to think Shea McClellin's bad Stop Rate actually matched his overall caliber of play.

Mike: San Francisco was fantastic at keeping the ends in check, ranking in the top 10 run defense by ALY to the left and right ends. The middle of that line, where Glenn Dorsey resides, was a full yard worse than either end. The primary purpose of a nose tackle is to soak up blockers and make plays on runs up the middle, and the 49ers, an otherwise stout defense, was third-worst in the league at doing so.

Tom: From what I saw of San Francisco this year, Dorsey was more just a guy. Think Bears bad, to use an old analogy, rather than actually bad.

Mike: You have two better candidates for tackle?

Tom: Just looking at our numbers, Dorsey's quasi-backup Tony Jerod-Eddie comes out worse. Sure, he only played 36 percent of the time, but Dorsey only played 41 percent, himself. And from what I saw of the 49ers, Dorsey was a solid player. Jerod-Eddie was the one who was really just a guy.

Mike: How can they both be just a guy? And more to the point, don't we expect backups to just be a guy?

Tom: Dorsey was clearly better. He was a starting-caliber player, just a guy relative to other starters but not just a guy overall. I don't think you can make as firm a starter-backup distinction as you like between guys who played 41 percent and 36 percent of the time. Dorsey made the tackle on 11 percent of run plays when he was in the game, and did so with a good success rate. Jerod-Eddie made the tackle 7 percent of the time, and less successfully.

Mike: If the reason the latter is starting is an injury, I think you can.

Tom: If that were the case, I'd agree with you, but Dorsey played in all 16 games. If you want a different nose tackle, how about Cam Thomas of the Chargers? 30th on ALY up middle, 32nd overall on ALY, and not that effective a player from what I saw.

Mike: Fine, fine. You know I'm a sucker for hating the Chargers defense.

Tom: We can name two defensive tackles if you like, Dorsey and Thomas.

Mike: I'm having a look at Corey Wootton.

Tom: Slightly above average run stop rate, slightly below-average percentage of rush plays. I won't complain if you want to mention him.

Mike: No, we can go with Dorsey and Thomas.

Tom: Okay. How do you feel about McClellin? My other defensive end nominee is Dion Jordan, whom you may recall was the third overall pick in April.

Mike: McClellin is terrible and only has more exposure for his terribleness now that the rest of the defense has eroded. The brain trust has basically admitted as much, and he's penciled in as an outside linebacker for next year. I don't think he's as bad against the run as many think, at least compared to the rest of Chicago's Keystone Kops, but he sure hasn't been good. In any event, he is a fine representative of a pretty bad defensive line for this year.

Tom: Delightful. Should we blame Jordan for his inability to get on the field, or Miami's dysfunctional front office for drafting an interesting conversion prospect and not having a clear plan for how to use him?

Mike: I'm inclined to blame the front office. I didn't see Jordan that much, for obvious reasons, but he hardly had a choice in who drafted him.

Tom: Fine. I'm trying to come up with a good really disappointing edge rusher. Would Kamerion Wimbley be too Titans-centric of a nominee? They signed him to a five-year, $35 million contract before 2012, and he turned into a 20 snaps a game player.

Mike: Jonathan Massaquoi? Atlanta had a pathetic Adjusted Sack Rate. Osi Umenyiora is another candidate, if you want to punish veteranosity.

Tom: Umenyiora ended up with 7.5 sacks, which was a couple more than I thought he had. Does that disqualify him from contention? I don't think anybody other than maybe Falcons fans at their most optimistic expected much from Massaquoi.

Mike: True. 7.5 sacks still isn't great, and teams ran all day at Umenyiora with great success.

Tom: Umenyiora it is then!

Mike: He is also only 32, so he shouldn't be falling off a cliff like this, but it seems that he is. Life outside of New York, I suppose!

Tom: Shea McClellin-Cam Thomas-Glenn Dorsey-Osi Umenyiora is your defensive line.

Linebackers

Tom: Since you rejected Dion Jordan, can we honor Dannell Ellerbe, Shocking Super Bowl Winner To Overpaid Free Agent Disappointment?

Mike: Yes, especially since $14 million of his $35 million contract is guaranteed. Guaranteed! The Dolphins really, really wanted him. No other team was near either the yearly average or guaranteed numbers the Dolphins were throwing at him. I suppose the Ravens are happy he took his skills to South Beach.

Tom: After we didn't pick one last year, we could use a Texans linebacker on here. Rivers nominated Brooks Reed, an outside player, but I think inside player Darryl Sharpton would be another fine choice.

Mike: I'm leaning toward Reed, if only because he should have the easiest job in the league: playing behind J.J. Watt, and Reed is remarkable in that he is actually bad at everything.

Tom: Sounds good. How do you feel about James Laurinaitis? His charting stats are atrocious.

Mike: Didn't we pick Laurinitis last year?

Tom: We did not. We talked Rams linebackers, and I mentioned Laurinaitis was okay. I didn't watch as much of the Rams this year, but this year Laurinaitis has the worst success rate in coverage of any linebacker in the league.

Mike: He has paired that with a sharp drop in tackles. And St. Louis is mediocre at stopping runners at the second level. I can get behind his candidacy.

Tom: Great. Do you want another outside linebacker, so we can play a 4-4?

Mike: I think we're OK with 4-3. Horrible-Mockery-Of-The-Pro-Bowl-Style.

Tom: Great. Dannell Ellerbe, James Laurinaitis, and Brooks Reed are your linebackers then.

Cornerback

Tom: Josh Robinson was nominated for the KCW award in the FO Reader Awards (vote now!), but was he even the worst Vikings cornerback this season? Chris Cook, come on down, you're the winner of "What cornerback has the league's worst success rate by our game charting project this year"! A 31 percent success rate, and with 12.3 yards per play allowed in coverage, he wasn't just giving up short passes. (Robinson had a 33 percent success rate and 10.1 yards per pass, albeit with a higher sample size.) If you wanted to overload the defense with Falcons, Asanate Samuel and Robert McClain both also gave up more than 10 yards per play in coverage.

Mike: It is amazing the cliff Asante Samuel has fallen off. Granted, Atlanta has trouble getting to the quarterback, which does leave the now-stale All-Pro on a bit of an island, but it takes a special kind of bad to allow roughly 12 yards per play and nearly 5 yards after the catch.

Tom: To be fair, allowing 4.7 yards after the catch is nothing phenomenal. That's a number susceptible to skewing by big plays, as we may get to in a minute. Plus, I think Samuel's dropoff was fairly predictable.

Mike: He had a good year last year. And the defense in front of him was supposed to get better this year!

Tom: To clarify: that his career would drop off a cliff at some point was predictable. His gambling style relied so much on seeming to cheat quarterbacks and close quickly, and once he lost that, he was toast.

Mike: Well, supposed to is probably the operative term.

Tom: John Abraham out, Osi Umenyiora in, the rest of the crew pretty much the same. Maybe slightly better, still lacking in top-level players. The drop-off I did not see coming was Cortland Finnegan, who played like he'd lost a step he couldn't lose before going on the shelf with an injury. That was in the second year of a five-year, $50 million contract.

Mike: At least he was injured and bad while he still had guaranteed money on the table!

Tom: Is that a positive for him or the Rams?

Mike: Depends on whether the Rams are as self-loathing as we believe them to be.

Tom: Sure, then, why not? Also, after we did not pick him last year, we need Cassius Vaughn on the team this year. After somehow ending up with only 7.9 yards per pass in 2012, he was at 10.2 this year.

Mike: I feel the need to reward a member of San Diego's secondary.

Tom: Okay, no Vaughn, Derek Cox it is.

Mike: Derek Cox seems like the obvious choice. ...Apparently he IS the obvious choice!

Tom: 9.3 yards per play, 46 percent success rate, and it certainly felt like much worse than that as they tried to keep benching him and eventually it stuck.

Mike: Truly the anchor of the league's second-worst pass defense.

Tom: Our cornerbacks: Derek Cox and Asante Samuel on the outside, while Cortland Finnegan plays the slot.

Safety

Tom: Ed Reed is one of the choices.

Mike: My thoughts on Ed Reed are well known to those few readers we have not driven insane.

Tom: Signed to provide veteran leadership and be the key piece that got the Texans over the proverbial hump, he was injured early, ineffective when he finally did make it onto the field, and deemed so superfluous he did not make it to the end of the season.

Mike: Probably the worst signing this offseason, especially with over a third of the nearly $15 million guaranteed. And all utterly predictable.

Tom: Yes. Pro tip to all you NFL teams out there: When you sign a defensive player, make sure you talk to your defensive coordinator about whether it's a good idea to sign that player first.

Mike: Troy Polamalu looks way better in our stats than I thought he would and Ike Taylor much worse.

Tom: Also, we have not mentioned a player on the league's second-worst defense (by DVOA, of course) yet. Packers fans, please note M.D. Jennings has the worst Stop Rate among all safeties.

Mike: Huh.

Tom: Yes, Bears fans, even worse than Chris Conte's.

Mike: OK, but Stop Rate can't be everything. There has to be some extra credit for being as comically overmatched as Conte was this year.

Tom: I think Jennings was pretty much as comically overmatched as Conte, we just don't live in Green Bay.

Mike: Despite the current weather, this is technically true. Considering Jennings' horrible stop rate and the fact that someone from the Packers' defense needs to be on this team, I'll go with Jennings.

Special Teams

Tom: Sadly, no teams were terrible at both kickoffs and field goals this year. The worst kicker was perhaps Alex Henery, who contributed -2.8 points of FG/XP value and was the worst kickoff kicker in the league by our numbers. The kickers who come out worst by FG/XP, David Akers and Randy Bullock, were both above-average on kickoffs. Sebastian Janikowski was below-average on kickoffs and FG/XP value, but the Raiders were on the whole a good kickoff team, so blaming him doesn't seem accurate.

Mike: Henery seems to have a noodle for a leg. His career long is 51 yards. He's only attempted five kicks of 50-plus yards in his three-year career. That is kind of shocking, really.

Tom: It really is. It's especially weird when you remember he was drafted in the fourth round.

For punter, we received a nomination for Sav Rocca, partly for himself, partly as a representative of Washington's incredibly dreadful special teams unit.

Mike: If we're going for Sav Rocca, we might as well go with Jon Ryan. Ryan also has an anemic average distance. Everyone makes great hay about the Seahawks' low punt return yardage allowed, but that's because nobody even bothers to attempt returns on his giant mass of short punts.

Tom: Ryan's specialty seems to be kicking from midfield to the 12.

Mike: His punt percentage within the 20-yard line is better but similar to Rocca's, while playing for a much better team. Only 21 returns were attempted on Ryan's 74 punts. Perhaps that is more for the all-overrated team, but it does bug me. I am not sure if it's actually KCW or I'm just annoyed by the disparity between reputation and what I've seen.

Tom: Ryan may be a candidate for the all-overrated team, but I don't think he's All-KCW worthy. The Steelers and Bills both also came out behind the Redskins in terms of pure punt (non-return) value, but they both recognized their problems and tried changing punters during the season.

Mike: And strangely enough, Zoltan Mesko, who was part of the Steelers' problem, played some non-horrible football for the Bengals. Which is in and of itself a conundrum.

Tom: Punters may be people, but for football players they're weird things, as America's most famous MMO-playing now-former punter keeps showing.

Mike: A decent portion of Oakland's negative punting value seems to be two extremely costly blocks and horrible coverage teams.

Tom: Pretty much. If you throw out blocks and aborted punts, the Raiders were 12th in gross punting value.

Mike: Fine, we can go with Rocca. I still think he's getting jobbed.

Head Coach

Mike: I don't see how it can be anyone other than Greg Schiano.

Tom: The other head coaches nominated in the FO Awards were Kubiak and the Ultimate Leader.

Mike: I think the problem with Mike Shanahan is that Schiano upstaged him at his own insane game of making the coach the center of attention.

Tom: Who ever would have thought the Dan Snyder Redskins would end up firing a coach a year after he looked like a savior?

Mike: There is also that. The Redskins coaching staff imploding is a semiannual ritual at this point, and has sucked in even such luminaries as Joe Gibbs. Tampa is supposed to be boring, though! Schiano made it not-boring! In a completely absurd and unfortunate fashion!

Tom: I almost think Schiano making it to a second season was a major accomplishment. When he started, I wasn't sure he'd make it through the entire first season.

Mike: If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was a kind of perverse performance art.

Tom: When it comes specifically to coaching this bunch of ne'er-do-wells and some knuckleheads, though, you're right that Greg Schiano is the only choice.

Mike: Truly, it is a team of Schiano Men.

Tom: Assuming you approve, you seem to be missing a link for your team of Schiano Men.

Mike: Definitely approve. His toughness is even rated as "Keep Choppin'!"

FO Staff Playoff Fantasy Long Title Challenge Report Section

As expected from a team only down its third wide receiver, a tight end, and a defense, Aaron climbs into first place and has what seems like a commanding 16-point lead over second-place Rivers (who has only Steven Hauschka and Seahawks defense) and 25 and 26 points over the two more serious contenders, Mike Kurtz (Marshawn Lynch, Demaryius Thomas, Doug Baldwin) and Sean McCormick (Peyton Manning, Eric Decker). But with Russell Wilson, Knowshon Moreno, Golden Tate, and Matt Prater still on his team, Aaron has to be the heavy favorite.

FO Playoff Fantasy Update
Pos. Sean Mike R. Mike K. Rivers Tom Aaron
QB Peyton Manning Aaron Rodgers Tom Brady Nick Foles Drew Brees Russell Wilson
  45 13 32 17 32 18
RB Stevan Ridley Jamaal Charles Marshawn Lynch LeSean McCoy Frank Gore Knowshon Moreno
  18 1 42 14 23 22
RB Donald Brown Danny Woodhead Eddie Lacy Gio Bernard DeAngelo Williams LeGarrette Blount
  27 15 8 11 1 40
WR Eric Decker Wes Welker Demaryius Thomas DeSean Jackson Julian Edelman Anquan Boldin
  10 12 30 5 22 30
WR A.J. Green Marvin Jones Randall Cobb Jordy Nelson Steve Smith Golden Tate
  3 13 5 12 13 4
WR Riley Cooper James Jones Doug Baldwin T.Y. Hilton Michael Crabtree Keenan Allen
  12 2 13 44 19 28
TE Vernon Davis Jimmy Graham Brent Celek Coby Fleener Julius Thomas Gregg Olsen
  16 4 1 17 13 5
K Alex Henery Phil Dawson Stephen Gostkowski Steven Hauschka Graham Gano Matt Prater
  6 28 10 25 4 23
D 49ers Chiefs Broncos Seahawks Bengals Panthers
  5 3 2 7 -2 -2
Total 142 91 143 152 125 168

Best of the Rest

It is a superficially close contest between bledderag and BlueStarDude, separated by only one point. Except, Montee Ball is the only player either team has left, so there is no way to make up that deficit. With two top seeds making it to the Super Bowl, few players remain for the Best of the Rest teams. The only player with even a semi-plausible chance of taking the title is Alec B, who also has Ball but needs 18 points from Andre Caldwell and Zach Miller (combined 5 points in their four postseason games) to eliminate his deficit. Full Best of the Rest results can be viewed here.

Awards!

Keep Chopping Wood: His play over the course of the season did not merit inclusion on the team overall, but three fourth-quarter turnovers in a one-score game meant Colin Kaepernick was an easy pick this week.

Mike Martz Award: It was no surprise John Fox kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 12:07 to play in the AFC Championship Game to turn a 17-point lead into a 20-point one. Of course, that it was no surprise Fox did so does not mean it was the wisest course of action.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 29 Jan 2014

58 comments, Last at 31 Jan 2014, 10:09am by Noah of Arkadia

Comments

1
by Vince Verhei :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 2:46pm

I still insist that Josh Freeman, who basically played and misbehaved his way off not one terrible team, but two, should have been the quarterback.

2
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 3:15pm

And he managed to collect 3 million from the 2nd team, for doing nothing, after demonstrating his desire to do nothing, while still on the 1st team!

33
by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 9:44pm

Failing upwards is the new American dream. In the larger picture, Freeman's 2013 season is an inspiring success story.

37
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 4:34am

Comment of the year? Either way I'm pretending I said it and making it a facebook status.

5
by DEW :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 3:25pm

Freeman gets a pass from me for the same reason as Jonathan Martin, if not as overwhelmingly: it's just hard to separate the meltdown from the Schiano effect, and from Minnesota's ridiculous mismanaging of him in throwing him out there before he had a chance to learn the offense and then apparently using that as an excuse to bench him for the rest of the year. It's hard to tell how much of Freeman's failures were Freeman-based and how much came from circumstances.

6
by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 3:38pm

Yeah, Schiano seemed hell-bent on running Freeman out of town, and Minnesota starting him was the second-most inexplicable thing that happened in Minnesota this year, the first-most inexplicable thing being him never playing again. Totally confused by that one.

While I certainly appreciate the idea that Schiano's coaching was a form of performance art, I wish he'd have attempted some other form of expression, like perhaps simply swimming in a pool of raw sewage for several weeks.

14
by dryheat :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 4:48pm

I've been swimming in raw sewage. I love it!

17
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 5:16pm

"I LOVE IT!"

25
by Sakic :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 6:17pm

Two Naked Gun references in one week I LOVE IT!

26
by Theo :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 6:57pm

I watched that game and it was a mockery. It was utterly atrocious; said without a trace of hyperbole.

12
by Tom Gower :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 4:13pm

I give him a pass for Minnesota, because he had no business playing that game and got caught up in Spielman v. Frazier or whatever else was going on there. Tampa? Maybe, but that situation was a mess bigger than him. Plus, the Bucs were in a rough division. The AFC South was pathetic this year, the Texans were the favorites, and Schaub melted down in probably this season's biggest team collapse.

3
by DEW :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 3:19pm

Really, the entire Dolphins offensive line, save Mike Pouncey (who gets honorable mention for repeatedly saying nice things in the press about Incognito) could be a KCW award-winner. For example, Bryant McKinnie, who managed to suck for two separate teams, and yet was still somehow an improvement over both of Miami's previous two tackles (and while Martin gets something of a pass for the intolerable workplace situation, Tyson Clabo has no such excuse). I presume the epic suckitude of the Miami OL is why neither Lamar Miller nor Daniel Thomas even was mentioned in passing in the RB discussion. (It's also why I boggle at ESPN draftniks saying that Miami should pick a RB early in the draft. The team has literally no idea whether the backs they have are any good, because they'd have to be a weird crossbreed of Barry Sanders's speed and evasiveness merged with Marshawn Lynch in full-on Beast Mode to gain any yardage at all. Or be Matt Forte, come to think of it. Given the Bears' OL issues over his entire career except 2013, Forte might well have some "among the best ever" arguments to make.

Among coaches, while Schiano is the clear choice for KCW, I think we all need to step back a moment and gaze at John Fox, who appears to be the one man most likely to stand in the path of a Denver Super Bowl win. The man has the most productive (in terms of yards and points) offense in the history of football helmed by a living legend (albeit one on the down side of arm strength), and he makes strategic decisions like he thinks he's coaching the '72 Dolphins.

4
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 3:19pm

Really, how many rosters does Bryant Mckinnie have to eat himself off, in order to be recognized; what'sa' fatt*ss gotta do? If he has two pizzas delivered to the sideline during week one's 3rd quarter next September, will you two see the greatness that is right before you?

11
by Mike Kurtz :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 4:04pm

At least he wouldn't be stealing food from a fan.

9
by widderslainte :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 3:57pm

But... but... Tyson Clabo's absence was the cause of the Falcons' failure.

18
by James-London :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 5:28pm

This is a recurring nightmare. Ronnie Brown spent his first three seasons in Miami breaking two tackles to get back to the LoS.

And I'm going to insist that Jeff Ireland is the GM for this team.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

23
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 6:02pm

Pouncey was actually the first Miami OL to embarrass the team this year when he and his brother wore those snazzy "Free Hernandez" ball caps.

41
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 11:09am

There's no way I'm giving Martin a pass. He's wholly deserving to be on the KCW wood team with his buddy, Incognito. They come as an item and I wouldn't know which one to pick if There Could Be Only One. The line had several ok games after the bully fiasco, and not only because UFA Sam Brenner performed better than Incog.

------
The man with no sig

54
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 10:45pm

If we were only going to pick one Dolphin, which is generally our goal especially at a specific position group, Incognito was a lock. Also, after what I saw of Martin at right tackle last year, shifting him to left tackle was more evidence for Jeff Ireland winning Keep Chopping the Roster.

58
by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 01/31/2014 - 10:09am

I understand that, but for me, this is like the beaten women syndrome. The responsibility is 50/50 between victim and aggressor (I'm not talking morally, but in practice), even if for obvious reasons people side with the victim.

As for moving Martin to the left, there's a history of struggling rookies on the right which move to LT on their second season and succeed. Ben Muth himself thought Martin would do better on the left, which is where he played in college.

------
The man with no sig

7
by Mike B. In Va :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 3:47pm

Two words about the O-Line:

Colin.

Brown.

8
by dorganica :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 3:56pm

Oh man, how does Paul McQuistan not get brought up? His starts at left tackle after Okung's injury were some of the worst displays I've ever seen. That, coupled with his shabby guard play, should make him an easy inclusion here.

27
by Theo :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 7:00pm

Isn't that more on the coaches for putting the wrong guy at the wrong place?

31
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 8:39pm

Also, KCW is about people who hurt their teams. McQuistan isn't good, but his team is in the Super Bowl, so it can't have been hurt too much. He was overmatched at tackle and an at-best-adequate guard. But he does reach the levels of awful expected at KCW.

10
by widderslainte :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 4:00pm

Tom and Mike must not have watched Atlanta games if the defense was "pretty much the same" and fail to mention a single offensive lineman.

Roddy should be chopping wood before Osi gets mentioned.

13
by Tom Gower :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 4:17pm

(a) We did mention Lamar Holmes.
(b) The reference to Atlanta being the same was the team in front of Samuel, and the six of the eight most prominent front seven players from the previous season returned. We mentioned the Abraham-Osi swap, and losing Vance Walker was not what I think of as "significant turnover in the front seven."

22
by widderslainte :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 5:56pm

(a) OK, my bad. I expected a screensheet of the ATL OL depth chart and may have missed his mention in disbelief.
(b) Maybe the same team on opening day. Check out the snaps counts and it's night and day aside from Babineaux. By the last quarter of the season they were starting players for evaluation, and Massaquoi was getting Osi's snaps.

15
by dryheat :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 4:54pm

I still don't see how Trent Richardson can't be a unanimous choice. And by unanimous, I mean by every reader of this site. I don't know what the all-time lowest YPC is for a reasonable amount of carries, but he has to be awfully close.

I don't know how you can use the Colts offensive line as an excuse. He was bad last year and this year in Cleveland also. Unless the Colts substituted five new linemen in every time Donald Brown or Ahmad Bradshaw came into the game, it's hard to say the line is what caused Richardson to suck. And if the Colts did substitute five new linemen in every time Brown or Bradshaw came in, why didn't they just leave them in? Unless it was a genius Grigson ploy to lower Richardson's salary next negotiation.

The man has no vision, takes twice as long as Ryan freakin' Grant to get to the hole (which is four times as long as Benjarvus), can't break a tackle, and isn't a threat in the passing game. What else could he possibly suck at?

Keep in mind that I'm neither a Browns fan or Richardson fantasy owner, so I don't even have those axes to grind.

16
by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 5:15pm

My theory is Richardson gave so much joy in his ability to provide material for a seemingly-endless fount of "Trent Richardson sucks" jokes, that it overrides his just plain badness on the field.

Also, it appears Cleveland trading him means Cleveland actually made a good football decision, and I'm guessing the simple cognitive dissonance of that means it's hard for people to wrap their brains around anything Richardson-related.

19
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 5:31pm

Hey, he could fail a drug test, when he gets caught using a fake johnson to fill the cup.

Hey, I'm a Vikings fan. I actually have seen it all.

47
by Bobman :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 4:10pm

The Whizzinator strikes again! Not sure I spelled that right. Not sure there even IS a right way to spell that.

21
by Tom Gower :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 5:50pm

Worst YPC with over 200 carries is Harold Green on the 1993 Bengals, 2.74. Richardson was 2.92 with the Colts (158 carries) and 2.995 overall. Also below T-Rich: Reggie Cobb, 1993 Buccaneers, 2.98; Marion Butts, 1994 Patriots, 2.89; Eddie George, 2001 Titans, 2.98 (P-F-R query).

20
by AnonyRuss :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 5:36pm

How is Fred Davis not mentioned for tight end? Take it from the sucker who drafted him over Greg Olsen, he at least deserves to be mentioned in this conversation.

24
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 6:04pm

Packers fans are disappointed that the rest of the middle of their defense didn't get a mention. MD Jennings was admittedly awful. But having AJ Hawk, Brad Jones, and BJ Raji in front of him didn't do him any favors.

36
by uosdwiS :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 1:50am

Other than Matthews-when-healthy and Sam Shields (surprisingly), there's a case to be made for all of the players on the defense. I'm just disappointed nobody mentioned Nick Perry, who is well on his way to mastering the art of not being seen (he and Raji must be trading notes), except only when jumping offsides on 4Q FGs.

28
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 7:16pm

How much were Akers and Henery affected by that Snowbowl game at the Linc, where both teams decided to just stop trying to kick extra points because the snow was too deep?

30
by Perfundle :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 7:41pm

Well, Henery wasn't affected at all, since he never even attempted a PAT or FG.

35
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 1:13am

Henery didn't attempt a kick, so his FG/XP value didn't change. Lions were at -11.1 in all games, -10.1 excluding Week 14 (blocked XP). Including that game does hurt Henery's kickoff value, but (a) he was pretty bad even in the other games and (b) Sam Martin's kickoff value is basically the same with or without that game, which to me says that was a game where Henery's major problem, his below-average leg, was a problem for the Eagles.

29
by Duke :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 7:27pm

I know he didn't make the team, but even mentioning Wootton seems unfair, given that he was playing out of position all year to make up for the injuries/ineffectiveness of his teammates (he's really a DE). And as mentioned, he wasn't all that bad.

39
by Eddo :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 10:30am

Agreed, I thought Wootton and Tim Jennings were the lone bright spots on an otherwise awful Bears defense.

32
by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 8:44pm

"can we honor Dannell Ellerbe, Shocking Super Bowl Winner To Overpaid Free Agent Disappointment?

Mike: Yes, especially since $14 million of his $35 million contract is guaranteed. Guaranteed!"

And where's the love for Paul Kruger, especially since $20 million of his $40.5 million contract is guaranteed.

42
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 11:11am

And Philip Wheeler. I thought he was the worst of the two Miami LB signings.

------
The man with no sig

34
by andrew :: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 10:44pm

You start off the cornerback thread by noting the Vikings have the two worst YPC, then mention others who are over ten, to then somehow not picking either Viking cornerback. Did they split the votes?

50
by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 5:58pm

Even by Scramble's standards, team selection is very much a process.

38
by Tim R :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 6:13am

Wasn't Finnegan basically playing with one eye for most of the season? Seems like pretty extenuating circumstances.

40
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 10:45am

Two thoughts:

1)Even though I still think he's salvageable into an above-average or very good starter, I wouldn't argue too much against Matthew Stafford's inclusion into KCW this year. His complete nosedive (which was so bad it nullifed the defense and special teams becoming serviceable) in the second half of the year basically singlehandedly kept the Lions out of the playoffs.

2)I don't think Pettigrew should qualify for this year. The coaching staff finally,belatedly figured out he's useless as a pass-catcher, so he was barely targeted (at least in comparison to previous years), limiting the damage he could do to his team. He made the KCW team on reputation, like many players make the Pro Bowl.

43
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 12:52pm

The biggest argument for firing Schwartz is if he didn't have a very direct and frank confrontation with Stafford, over Stafford's lack of preparation. I was really surprised at what Stafford was willing to just toss out there, especially in terms of his mechanics. It also doesn't say much for Jerrel Jones' decision to pair Linehan with Romo. Yeah, I know; Jerry screws up. What a shocker.

44
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 1:40pm

Agreed, the Schwartz coaching staff were like overindulgent parents who pay lip service to the concept of discipline, yet let their kids get away with whatever they want. Linehan was definitely part of that problem. I do not forsee that approach going well in Dallas.

45
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 1:46pm

I disagree about Stafford. Any QB in his position that publicly states he doesn't need to work with a passing coach when he has serious problems with his mechanics breaking down most games is in danger of going on a Jeff George/ Scott Mitchell career trajectory. I also think he can be made into an above-average starter. But his attitude at the end of the year really makes me wonder.

53
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 8:40pm

Remember he never stated that he didn't have to get better and improve his mechanics. He stated that he wasn't interested in a passing coach outside of team activities (the same sort of folks Tebow worked with). As far as how much he's willing to work with the team, I have a hard time believing he'd be so obstinate as to resist (actively or passively) the efforts of the new coaching staff to fix his mechanics (which the new coaching staff has publicly stated will be a top priority in the offseason).

46
by Nevic :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 2:15pm

This year's team had almost no off-field incidents involved in the decision making. How about Aaron Hernandez at tight end?!

55
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 10:46pm

I thought about Hernandez, but decided that was too serious for the sort of amusement we're trying to provide.

48
by Bobman :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 4:16pm

Great team. The real question now is, what was the salary cap of this team in 2013?

Just a guess, but I assume they're over the limit, making this a voyage of the double-damned. That occurred to me when I saw the OL featuring Michael "The Next Orlando Pace" Oher and Samson "I can Rob Jim Irsay Without Using a Gun" Satele. Trent Richardson is actually relatively cheap, except for the opportunity cost of 2014's 1st rounder.... because hurting your team is not just about performance.

And whoever named these guys sure had a sick sense of humor. Clearly bad parents. If you can't think up a nice middle name, just leave it out.

49
by BJR :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 5:02pm

Does Eli Manning get a pass for career accomplishments? Matt Stafford seems to be getting a lot of mentions and he undoubtedly had a far, far better season than Eli, by any measure.

51
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 6:38pm

Eli had a pass, but somebody intercepted it.

52
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 8:28pm

Well done, sir.

56
by tuluse :: Fri, 01/31/2014 - 2:24am

I think the teammate-adjustment factor is working for Eli and against Stafford here.

57
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 01/31/2014 - 7:54am

"Highly touted prospect complete with inspirational movie, to left tackle in training, to awful left tackle in fact, to right tackle, to possibly worst right tackle in the league."

The last time I checked, Derek Newton is still a right tackle in the league.