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The biggest game this week is the Iron Bowl, where the playoff hopes of Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia hang in the balance.

01 Feb 2017

Scramble: 2016 All-KCW Team

by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Andrew: Hello and welcome to the penultimate Scramble for the Ball of the 2016 NFL season! It's hard to believe we're here already. So much has happened over the past six months, some of which we're even allowed to talk about!

Bryan: Last week, we brought you a Scramble tradition: the Super Bowl Prop Bet Extravaganza! This week, we're engaging in the other time-honored Scramble tradition: the All-Keep Choppin' Wood team. This is our full lineup of players who did the most to help their teams lose games during the 2016 season. We'll talk about on-field blunders and poor play; off-field distractions and controversies; unwieldy contracts and free-agent busts; or a combination of all of the above and moreso. There was some ferocious competition for some of the slots this year, as there always is.

Andrew: Without further McAdoo, let's get straight to it. As always, the names of the actual selections are in bold in their respective segments.

Fantasy Positions

Quarterback: The first name on this year's All-KCW Team needs no introduction. In fact, he technically even fits all three of Bryan's criteria above. We speak of Jets quarterback/defensive back JUGS machine Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick, you may remember, was the subject of a will-he-or-won't-he signing controversy during the offseason, as the player held out because the team wasn't offering more money and the team held out because the player was Ryan Fitzpatrick. When the deal was eventually done, Fitzpatrick went back to being the terrible quarterback the Jets anticipated, with his six interceptions against Kansas City a particular highlight. Fitzpatrick responded to accusations of poor play by blaming the coaches' lack of confidence in him, to which the coaches responded by benching him for Bryce Petty. Petty was even worse, putting up more negative DYAR in his four starts (minus-414) than Fitzpatrick had in his 11 (minus-328). If you knew nothing else about the 2016 New York Jets, that would be all you needed to know about the 2016 New York Jets.

Halfback: For the second straight year, we highlight a Green Bay Packers running back. Last year it was Eddie Lacy, this year it's James Starks. Starks didn't qualify for our full table of running backs with only 62 rushes; had he qualified, though, he would have been second-to-last ahead of Chris Ivory (another fine KCW candidate). Before Starks' injuries, however, he was ineffective, to say the least. Starks turned 30 this offseason and, like so many before him, fell off that cliff, averaging just 2.3 yards per carry. The Packers tried everything to replace him, trading for Kansas City backup Knile Davis, signing multiple reject Christine Michael, and eventually converting receiver Ty Montgomery to a full-time halfback. Injuries explain some of that, but Starks looked pretty much done this season.

Tight End: No extravagant justification necessary here: Will Tye of the New York Giants was not the worst tight end in the league by DYAR, but he was the worst guy not coming off a three-year injury (Dennis Pitta), or being thrown to by a rookie quarterback (Trey Burton, Lance Kendricks, Tyler Higbee) or Brock Osweiler (C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin). Tye was being targeted by Eli Manning, in an offense built around three talented wide receivers. Plenty of tight ends have flourished in worse situations (see DYAR leader Travis Kelce), whereas Tye and his -22.3% DVOA made just about the least of his opportunities.

Wide Receiver 1: Michael Floyd is going to the Super Bowl, just as we predicted before the season began. Of course, we predicted he would do so as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Floyd had a somewhat down year on the field in Arizona, catching less than half the passes thrown his way and ending up with a -5.7% DYAR -- a poor season, sure, but not KCW-worthy. No, he gets his KCW stripes after his December arrest for drunk driving -- his second DUI in five years.

Wide Receiver 2: There's only so much a receiver can do with Blaine Gabbert as his quarterback. That excuse only goes so far, however, to covering the performance of the 49ers receiving corps: even the Case Keenum/Jared Goff Rams managed to have one receiver who looked competent during this past season. Torrey Smith did not, and finished with the worst DVOA of the three 49ers receivers in the bottom five of our DYAR tables. From Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu to Smith and Jeremy Kerley; if rumors are to be believed, Kyle Shanahan has his work cut out in San Francisco.

Wide Receiver 3: Jermaine Kearse put up more OPI fouls (six) than touchdowns (one) this season. That's not good! He caught just 46 percent of his passes, ending up with a terrible, terrible -28.6% DVOA, which puts him firmly in the bottom five this season. Most of the bottom five come from terrible passing games -- all three San Francisco receivers and Tavon Austin dealt with extremely sub-par quarterback play this year. Kearse gets to play with Russell Wilson, and Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett didn't seem to have too much trouble putting up positive numbers in that offense. 2015 was a career year for Kearse, and the Seahawks rewarded him with a three-year, $13.5 million contract. Performances like he had this year aren't going to cut it going forward.

Offensive Line

Left Tackle: The Vikings offensive line was not considered a strength before the start of this season. Gone are the days of Matt Birk and Steve Hutchinson, with Matt Kalil and Joe Berger not quite up to the same standard. Still, plenty of other teams have been able to perform with merely below-average play along the offensive line. The problem comes when those below-average players get injured and have to be replaced with others who are even worse. Enter T.J. Clemmings, a below-average guard who was forced to move to left tackle after season-ending injuries to starter Matt Kalil, free-agent acquisition Andre Smith, and midseason pickup Jake Long. To call that move a disaster would be a disservice to most football disasters, which are nowhere near as catastrophic to their teams as Clemmings was to the Vikings this year. The Vikings could block nobody from doing anything they wanted, with teams regularly able to get pressure on Sam Bradford using only three pass rushers no matter what blocking scheme the offense employed. At least we now know Bradford isn't actually made of glass.

Left Guard: We could nominate most of Seattle's line this season and be done with it, but we're going to highlight Mark Glowinski here -- and he might be the third-least of Seattle's offensive line woes. Seattle gambled on an inexpensive, inexperienced, and young offensive line gelling together as the season went on, and it just didn't happen. We could have easily given this spot to rookie Germain Ifedi, who struggled moving from tackle to guard in the pros, or the ineffective J'Marcus Webb. Sometimes you get what you pay for, and the cheapest line in football finished in the bottom ten in both pass protection and run blocking.

Center: If you want a real versatile player on your all-KCW team, look no further than Zane Beadles. San Francisco's sole major free-agent signing last season, Beadles started at tackle, guard, and center this season for the 49ers, and was terrible at all three slots. SIS charted him with 21 blown blocks, among the league leaders, as he played a crucial role on San Francisco's last-ranked run blocking offensive line and third-to-last pass blocking line. And speaking of 49ers...

Right Guard: Josh Garnett gets a little bit of slack for being a rookie; even a first-round rookie sometimes takes time to adjust to the NFL game. But the growing pains for the 49ers were very painful indeed. Garnett blew 22 blocks, per Sports Info Solutions charting, including 15 in the passing game. This is despite only starting 11 games this season -- he's not a bust yet, but he'll want to put this rookie season well in his rear-view mirror. Sealing his spot on this team is the cost the 49ers paid to trade up into the first round to get him. The Chiefs got the 49ers' second-, fourth-, and sixth-round picks for Garnett, which they turned into Chris Jones, Parker Ehinger, and D.J. White. Jones and Ehinger were both better than Garnett this season.

Right Tackle: Four out of five linemen from the 49ers and Seahawks? It may seem excessive, but it's more than fair. The competition at both tackle spots was furious, but Bradley Sowell picked up a rare double, being benched at both left and right tackle for Seattle this season. Between Sowell, Clemmings, Cedric Ogbuehi, and Mike Remmers (who Ben Muth rated as the worst full-time starter he watched all season!), we saw some terrible play on the offensive line this season; a true tour de force of blown blocks, shoddy protection, and sacked quarterbacks.

Defensive Front Seven

Defensive End: Muhammad Wilkerson cost the Jets $14.75 million against the cap this season. In return, Wilkerson gave them 4.5 sacks and 33 solo tackles in the worst season of his career. He had just 14 quarterback pressures, down from 30.5 last season. It's possible he wasn't fully recovered from the broken leg that ended his 2015 season, but if that's true, the Jets didn't help by trotting him out for nearly all the defensive snaps early in the year. If anything, he was a defensive liability at times this season -- a shocking performance from a multiple-time All-Pro. We'd take odds on him bouncing back to form next season, because players generally don't fall off a cliff at age 27 like Wilkerson did.

Defensive Tackle: The Colts roster is not good. The offense has some pieces, certainly, but they remain devoid of a cohesive picture on either side of the ball. The coaching philosophy is reportedly to "run the ball and stop the run," but they really aren't built to do either. On defense, this shows in their ranking of 32nd in run defense DVOA. They similarly rank 31st by adjusted line yards, and 26th or lower by this metric in every direction except left end. Any player from their front seven could have been selected here, but run defense starts with the interior line and nose tackle David Parry.

Defensive End: Our token player from the Cleveland Browns is defensive lineman Jamie Meder. We say "token" because although the Browns weren't notably horrific at any one position, they were well below average at almost all. Meder is a case in point: his 26 tackles, one sack, one pass deflection, and three tackles for loss would be perfectly reasonable as a rotational backup interior defensive lineman, and that statline is only really a half-tackle per game different from his numbers in that role in 2015. This year, however, he was actually a 15-game starter on the worst run-stuffing defensive line in the league. A busy offseason beckons for the Browns front office.

Edge Rusher: The Dallas Cowboys defense is generally considered to be devoid of standout talent at most positions, with its respectable performance being more due to coordinator Rod Marinelli than any difference-making individual player. Defensive end Randy Gregory had the potential to be such a difference-maker leading into the 2015 draft. Instead, he failed the combine's drug test and fell to the second round, where the Cowboys took him 60th overall. He stayed clean, if ineffective, during his rookie season, but that all fell apart this year. Gregory was suspended three times in one season for failed drug tests: the first two during the offseason, and the final one in November. He did manage to appear in two games for the Cowboys between the end of the 4-plus-10-game bans and the start of the one-year ban, posting his first NFL sack against the Eagles in Week 17, but will now miss the entire 2017 season at the very least.

Edge Rusher: For the second straight year, we're going with Mario Williams and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad contract. By the end of the year, Williams was a healthy scratch for Miami, which is not what you want out of someone making $6.5 million. He had nine solo tackles per SIS charting -- and six missed tackles, which is not a super great ratio. Before the season was over, the Dolphins announced they would cut Williams, which is very rarely a good sign for your career prospects.

Linebacker: The New Orleans Saints could not cover receiving backs, allowing a league-worst 51.2 yards per game and 44.8% DVOA to running backs in the passing game. A big part of the reason was offseason acquisition Craig Robertson, who arrived from Cleveland in free agency with a positive reputation. Though a capable player against the run, Robertson was exposed in space -- and not only against the elite Falcons receiving backs. Even San Francisco's DuJuan Harris put up five receptions on six targets for 83 yards and a 47-yard touchdown against New Orleans. Against many NFL defenses, that's a career day. Against the Saints pass defense, it's just a day.

Linebacker: Tahir Whitehead is a good test case for why you should ignore tackles as a stat. Whitehead set a career high in tackles with 132 this season, but far too many of those tackles came significantly down field. Whitehead was terrible attempting to cover running backs down the field, and he's a big reason why the Lions had a 34.2% DVOA trying to cover running backs in the passing game. Whitehead also allowed 13 broken tackles and had a broken tackle rate of 12.6 percent -- not good at all. Too many missed tackles, too many times where he was simply outplayed.

Secondary

Cornerback: One of our good friends is a Tennessee Titans fan. As we were asking for nominees for this spot, he simply texted that Perrish Cox had probably had the worst season at cornerback in all of football history. This is hyperbole -- but not by much. Cox was so bad he didn't make it through the season, getting cut after Week 12. He combined an inability to cover (he had just a 42 percent success rate in coverage) with an equal inability to tackle (a 14.3 percent broken tackle rate). Cox was regularly and routinely burned for long touchdowns, and was a total liability on the field.

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis doesn't get this award for being the worst cornerback in the NFL. His level of play was very low, don't get us wrong. Revis' 39 percent success rate was fifth-worst among cornerbacks who started at least half the season, and he allowed 10.7 yards per pass -- not per completion, per pass. A solid ability to limit YAC keeps him from being one of the absolute worst cornerbacks this year, but his contract -- he counted $17 million against the cap this year -- simply demands more. The Jets may experiment with moving Revis to safety this offseason, but one way or another, it appears to be far easier to fly over Revis Island than it has been in the past.

Strong Safety: Our 2016 Keep Choppin' Wood lifetime achievement award goes to Buccaneers safety Chris Conte, whose team immediately saw a substantial improvement in its defensive play when they benched him for Keith Tandy in the middle of the season. Even Conte's good plays often had their downsides, as his pick-six against the Chicago Bears resulted in him splitting his coach's head open, but that was nothing compared to the headaches he caused when deployed in deep coverage. Tampa Bay's defensive DVOA when Conte started averaged out to -4.1%, which is massively boosted by games against the Blaine Gabbert 49ers and the can't-block won't-block Seahawks. Meanwhile, in the five games after he was benched, they averaged -11.9%. It's rare for one safety to make that big a difference, but Chris Conte is no ordinary safety. Kind of like Earl Thomas, only in reverse.

Free Safety: We noted earlier that the Colts defense can't stop the run. That's OK though, because they can't stop the pass either! The Colts defense also ranked 27th against the pass, and rookie free safety T.J. Green was widely considered to be the biggest culprit. We don't generally like to pick on rookies, but when everybody we trust who watches the Colts nominates him as the worst player in the secondary, it's tough to ignore the consensus. Sadly for Green, that also makes him our consensus pick in this spot.

Specialists

Kicker: Blair Walsh's shank at the end of Minnesota's loss in the 2015 wild-card game against Seattle ended up simply being the prelude for a disastrous 2016 season. Walsh missed four field goals and four extra points in just nine games. That placed him just out of the top ten for missed kicks this season -- and he only played half the year before being cut. He also was terrible on kickoffs, managing only 19 touchbacks in 41 attempts, kicking another out of bounds, and setting up opposing returners for 26.1 yards per return. It's not good, is what we're saying.

Punter: Drew Butler had an awkward season in Arizona. First, he was terrible; his 35.6-yard net punting average would have ranked last in the league had he had enough punts to qualify, as would his 42.2-yard average punt. Then he got hurt, with what Arizona deemed a "severely" sprained ankle. Then he was cut, released with an injury settlement. Then he was re-signed after six weeks when his replacement was also terrible. His punting did not show significant signs of improvement on his triumphant return, either. At least he didn't have a punt blocked -- for the first season in his career! Little victories.

Kick Returner: After being released by the Eagles in November following his arrest for DUI and unlawful possession of a firearm, Josh Huff joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just as they looked primed for a playoff push. In his first game with his new team hosting the division rival New Orleans Saints, he fielded a bouncing Wil Lutz kickoff ... with his face. The ball bounced out of bounds at the 1-yard line, leading to a safety on the next play from scrimmage. In his third game, again facing the Saints, he again muffed a Wil Lutz kickoff to set his team up inside their own 5-yard line -- leading less directly to a Jameis Winston interception two plays later. In between, he returned kickoffs from the end zone to his own 14 (against Dallas) and his own 15 (against New Orleans), meaning he somehow managed to average 12 yards per kickoff return for the Buccaneers while posting a 50 percent catch rate as a receiver. He was cut by his second team in December, after only three games.

Punt Returner: Patriots rookie Cyrus Jones has had the ball in his hands 19 times this season ... and fumbled five of them. Well, that's not strictly true -- he managed to muff a punt against the Ravens without ever getting his hands on it, as he lackadaisically allowed the ball to bounce off his foot and be recovered by Baltimore to spark a late rally. Still, five fumbles from only 19 returns, albeit only two of them were lost, is not what any team wants when it's meant to be getting the ball after a defensive stop. Needless to say, Julian Edelman is returning punts for the Patriots during the playoffs.

Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Jeff Fisher ran out of 7-9 bullsh*t this season. After years of coasting by on mediocre records in St. Louis, the bottom fell out in the Rams' first season in Los Angeles, with Fisher leading the team to a 4-9 record before being shown the door. Fisher likely ends his head coaching career one loss short of the all-time record. Don't worry, Jeff -- you have another, less reported record! Fisher missed the playoffs in 16 of his 22 seasons as a head coach. That's the most non-playoff seaons for any coach after the NFL/AFL merger, besting Dan Reeves by two. Jack Del Rio and John Fox become the active leaders in that category, and they're only at eight. Congratulations on ensuring those early January tee times, coach!

Offensive Coordinator: After a statistically excellent, if decidedly inconsistent, 2015 season, 2016 was meant to be the season in which Blake Bortles cut out the silly interceptions and became the first true Jaguars franchise quarterback since ... does David Garrard count? Byron Leftwich? Mark Brunell? Anyway, that didn't happen. Bortles and the Jaguars offense were a disaster, as the third-year quarterback instead cut out most of the exciting touchdowns and highlight plays and found even sillier ways to throw interceptions. The blame for that ultimately fell on offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who was deemed to be asking the quarterback to perform tasks to which he was ill-suited. (The jokes write themselves in Jacksonville.) Olson made way midseason for quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett, who then had to interview for his own job this offseason -- not exactly a resounding vote of confidence in the 37-year-old coach.

Defensive Coordinator Consultant: He wasn't officially the defensive coordinator, but Buffalo's defensive collapse had Rob Ryan's fingerprints all over it and he was removed early, along with his brother, as another disappointing season drew to a close in Buffalo. Rob is the classic example of a coach whose reputation is greater than his performance merits. He has been a defensive coordinator now for 13 seasons. In that time, he has had a defense finish in the top half of the league a mere three times -- which is the same as the number of times he's had a defense finish in the bottom three.


2016 All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team
Offense Defense ST/Coaching
Position Player Position Player Position Player/Coach
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick DE Muhammad Wilkerson K Blair Walsh
RB James Starks DE Jamie Meder P Drew Butler
WR Michael Floyd NT David Parry KR Josh Huff
WR Torrey Smith EDGE Randy Gregory PR Cyrus Jones
WR Jermaine Kearse EDGE Mario Williams

TE Will Tye LB Craig Robertson HC Jeff Fisher
LT T.J. Clemmings LB Tahir Whitehead OC Greg Olsen
LG Mark Glowinski CB Perrish Cox DC Rob Ryan
C Zane Beadles CB Darrelle Revis

RG Josh Garnett SS Chris Conte

RT Bradley Sowell FS T.J. Green

Staff Playoff League Update

Bryan: Your leader going into the Super Bowl proper is Sterling, whose all-Green Bay strategy leaves him with 236 points and a 25-point gap between him and second place. The thing is, however, now he's nearly out of players -- he only has the New England defense left to score, so he's not likely to get too much higher than he is now.

Still, Green Bay's success is probably enough for Sterling to guarantee himself at least a top-two finish; the Aaron Rodgers-Davante Adams combination paid off in spades. It may not be enough to hold off Aaron, though. Just 25 points behind, Aaron still has Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, James White, Chris Hogan, and Stephen Gostkowski. Even subpar days by all five players probably gets Aaron into at least shouting range of Sterling, and all it would take is one of those five players to have a good day to rocket Aaron to victory. Call him the favorite.

Everyone else is probably too far back to really contend. Vince is in third place, just 39 points back, but he only has Devonta Freeman and Taylor Gabriel at his disposal; he'll need a big offensive shootout that somehow doesn't involve the Falcons throwing the ball very much in order to win. Bryan has a better chance in fourth place; he's a full 80 points back, but has three Patriots and three Falcons remaining on his roster. Almost assuredly too little, too late to catch Sterling though.

Bringing up the rear, Scott's in fifth place, 91 points down. He does have three Patriots left, including the Tom Brady-to-Julian Edelman stack, but expecting all three players to score more than 30 points is quite the stretch. In last place is Andrew, 110 points off the leader. He still has Mohamed Sanu, so, you know, there's a chance! Sanu could be named MVP after a ten-touchdown performance from backup quarterback Matt Schaub. Stranger things have not happened.



Scott Aaron Sterling Vince Bryan Andrew
QB Tom Brady Matt Ryan Aaron Rodgers Russell Wilson Ben Roethlisberger Dak Prescott

49 71 86 38 42 28
RB Jay Ajayi Ezekiel Elliott Ty Montgomery Le'Veon Bell LeGarrette Blount Spencer Ware

4 12 26 47 13 9
RB Dion Lewis James White Lamar Miller Devonta Freeman Tevin Coleman Latavius Murray

17 7 21 32 24 10
WR Julian Edelman Julio Jones Jordy Nelson Doug Baldwin Antonio Brown Odell Beckham

31 42 13 30 41 2
WR Dez Bryant Chris Hogan Davante Adams Jarvis Landry Michael Crabtree DeAndre Hopkins

25 39 32 10 3 18
WR Cole Beasley Tyreek Hill Eli Rogers Taylor Gabriel Malcolm Mitchell Mohamed Sanu

4 3 7 9 0 21
TE Travis Kelce C.J. Fiedorowicz Jimmy Graham Ladarius Green Martellus Bennett Jason Witten

7 12 11 0 3 11
K Robbie Gould Stephen Gostkowski Mason Crosby Chris Boswell Matt Bryant Steven Hauschka

8 24 25 30 18 17
D New York Kansas City New England Seattle Atlanta Houston

0 1 15 1 12 10
Total 145 211 236 197 156 126

Best of the Rest

Bryan: The best strategy for the leaders, so far, is clear -- have Jared Cook. Cooks' 33 points leads all scorers in the Best of the Rest league, and each of our top six squads feature him prominently. Most have Alex Smith (10) and Thomas Rawls (25) as well.

The similarity among all teams means that this competition is essentially over -- BedfordP will almost certainly win their second consecutive Best of the Rest championship. While they only have a four-point lead over the field, all but one team left in the field have only Michael Floyd remaining, or are entirely out of players. No matter what Floyd puts up, BedfordP is protected from all of their closest rivals -- they've got Floyd. Only JW124164 has even a mathematical chance of taking first place; they're 28 points down, but do have Justin Hardy remaining.

Top 6:

  • 1. BedfordP (102 points, Michael Floyd remains)
  • 2. Sid (98 points, Michael Floyd remains)
  • 3. RFT (98 points, out of players)
  • 4. Damon Rutherford (94 points, Michael Floyd remains)
  • 5. Puffbronman (92 points, out of players)
  • 6. Michael in Melbourne (92 points, out of players)

Awards

Keep Choppin' Wood: In a weekend of nothing especially stupid happening on the field -- not counting Pittsburgh's defensive play-calls, discussed below -- this award goes to Green Bay's kickoff unit for managing to get a delay of game penalty on a kickoff. That's the sort of thing that only usually happens to bottom-feeders like the Jacksonville Jaguars -- and indeed had only happened to the Jaguars since 2005. No longer!

John Fox Award for Conservatism: Mike Tomlin punted. On fourth-and-7 at the New England 39. While trailing by 11 points. Midway through the third quarter. Your Scramble team can think of no excuse for any coach to do this, not even Jeff Fisher. We suggest, to deter this sort of behavior, that any coach who punts on anything less than fourth-and-10 in opposition territory while trailing by at least two scores in the second half immediately forfeits all game-extending time-outs.

Mike Martz Award for Confusing Coaching: Mike Tomlin's defense took an interesting approach to covering Chris Hogan -- namely, not covering him in any way, shape or form. Pittsburgh sat in a soft zone for most of the game, running the same coverages time and time again. Tom Brady and company were more than happy to pick the Steelers apart, and the Steelers failed to add any wrinkles to attempt to induce confusion -- no combo coverages, no traps, and no adjustments as the Patriots began to pick them apart. Against the Steelers, Brady is now completing 71.7 percent of his passes, with 21 touchdowns and no interceptions. That's not going to cut it, defensively!

'Injuries Suck' Fantasy Player of the Week: There was a chance, finally, for all three of Pittsburgh's big three to be together in one major championship gameā€¦ and then Le'Veon Bell was knocked out of the game with a groin injury. That meant a surprisingly large load for DeAngelo Williams, who put together 85 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. With only two games played, that's about as good as you get, here.

Jon Snow (We Know Nothing) Lock of the Week

Once again this year, all picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Records so far:
Bryan: 9-9-1
Andrew: 7-10-2

What? You're looking for picks here? Did you miss the Prop Bet Extravangaza from last week? Go! Now!

For the record, Bryan took New England (minus-3) and Andrew took Atlanta (plus-3).

Obituaries

The end of the line for Pittsburgh -- and possibly the end of the line for Ben Roethlisberger? Big Ben hinted at retirement plans after the loss to New England, and while the smart money is on him coming back, he's turning 35 in March and beginning to get towards the age where the team might want to start thinking about his replacement. More pressing this offseason, however, is bolstering the defense, which couldn't stop Brady at all. James Harrison is turning 39. Lawrence Timmons is headed to free agency and is declining anyway. On offense, Le'Veon Bell needs a giant new contract. Definitely some murky waters ahead for Pittsburgh, and you have to question how long their window will be open.

Green Bay seems to be in a better position, with more than $35 million in cap space to work with this offseason. Reports have them actually planning to use that money in free agency in a departure from their normal offseason strategy; it's a team that's reloading to improve the holes that led to their early season slump and to capitalize on the form that propelled them to the NFC Championship Game. That money would be well-spent on a cornerback, and then maybe a second cornerback and possibly a third cornerback. They also need to figure out what to do with both Julius Peppers and Nick Perry in free agency, and could stand to improve inside linebacker as well. Heck, take that $35 million, sign seven defensive players, and they're probably good to go as an NFC favorite in 2017.

Still, it hurts to get so close and come up short; it's not every year that you get to be one of the final four teams remaining, and you have to make the most of each of those opportunities. It's an offseason filled with what-ifs and shoulda-beens for these two teams, and the only way to make those really go away is to take a step further next time. It's Minneapolis or bust for these two franchises next year, which sounds like a terrible B-movie of some description.

Football Outsiders doesn't answer fantasy questions on Twitter, so if you don't have a Premium subscription and access to the 24-hour Fantasy Answering Service, the Scramble mailbag is one way to get a Football Outsiders answer to your fantasy questions! Email us with fantasy questions, award suggestions, crazy videos, outlandish conspiracy theories, memories of the '80s, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam at scramble@footballoutsiders.com.

Posted by: Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter on 01 Feb 2017

58 comments, Last at 04 Feb 2017, 8:23pm by MC2

Comments

1
by LyleNM :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 5:04pm

Mark Glowinski not Matt.

6
by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 7:37pm

Yeah, well, his lesser-known brother Matt was even worse!

((Thanks for catching that; it's been fixed))

8
by mcheshier :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 7:45pm

Also he was only bad, not putrid and awful like Sowell or Webb.

2
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 5:20pm

Osweiler seems like a better KCW pick than Fitzpatrick to me. The Jets are terrible everywhere. The Texans without a terrible QB are a legitimate superbowl threat.

Osweiler had a lower DVOA, similar cap hit, and did way more damage.

24
by SandyRiver :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 10:56am

Good points all. Looking from the other side, Osweiler's cap catastrophe was due to the team owner's stupidity. Brock was mediocre (or lower) in 2015 and probably could've been signed for much less. Meanwhile Fitzy's hit derived from his pre-season tantrums, and he (plus the team) had been pretty good in 2015 and thus fell off a much deeper cliff than a team that managed to sneak into the PS. And of course, Jared Goff might be in the conversation, though with limited snaps and for a team whose ship was already resting on the bottom.

28
by Eddo :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 12:27pm

"Brock [...] probably could've been signed for much less."

Actually, this is not true; the Texans paid Osweiler ~$18M per year, while the Broncos offered ~$16M.

34
by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 2:38pm

We did debate that. What swung it for me was not only the bad play from an expensive player, but all of the drama along with it: the holdout-that-wasn't-a-holdout, the whingeing before he was benched, the fact he somehow kept coming back into the lineup as everybody around him was injured. It was a truly glorious quarterback mess, even by Jets standards.

9
by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 8:15pm

I was wondering if anyone would challenge Cyrus for PR honors. It wasn't just the fumbles, either. For someone who has been an elite returner at lower levels, he looked decidedly unsure of himself even when the ball didn't end up on the ground.

3
by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 5:39pm

Between Chris Conte now and Sabby Piscitelli years back, I'm beginning to think at one point in the past a Tampa safety ran over some old Romani woman with his car and she cursed the position for decades to come.

5
by Eddo :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 7:36pm

Either that or a past Tampa safety made a deal with the devil that he'd one day get to ascend to a GM role without any qualifications.

No, certainly no team would do that - must be the running-over thing.

29
by BigRichie :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 1:27pm

Had to log in just to give many '++++++++' to this post!

Actually, Lynch has the one qualification. He will do anything a certain nominal-subordinate 'asks' coughcough him to do. Pretty much impossible to find an actually-qualified hire who'll so debase himself.

And now the Yorks also have justification for meddling however much they want. Possible-but-still-not-easy to find a yet-qualified subordinate who'll take such a position on those grounds.

And the race thing. I may be more Republican than Democrat, but I still can't help noticing that in the happily rare occasions that a totally non-qualified person gets airlifted from not-even-anywhere-on-the-mountain to the very mountaintop, it's always a white ex-player who's seen as possessing the special 'grit' and 'savvy' for the position.

31
by BigRichie :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 1:36pm

Hmmm. Considering this, and that we have team coaches, why couldn't you have a KCW GM and KCW owner, too??

32
by Will Allen :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 1:44pm

Why is Shanahan taking the job, then? The guy very likely had multiple options. Unless he has an unreported contractual guarantee over all personnel, why sign on with the dopes who own the team, and the bobo they just hired to be GM?

14
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 12:35am

The Safety KCW award should be named for Sabby Piscitelli.

18
by Theo :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 5:02am

I second this motion.

26
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 11:45am

Another fun offseason time-killer; come up with names to "honor" all the KCW positions. Guess there's a question as to how far you go back with that?

Reasonably recent choices:
Safety: Sabby, of course.

CB: Brandon Browner?

QB: Have to go with Gabbert; so many years of not-even-close-to-mediocrity. Fitzpatrick has traditionally been pretty mediocre and Bortles is making a strong push, but Gabbert has kept getting his chances to be awful and he's so "good" at it.

WR: Tavon Austin; he's done so badly so consistently.

Feel like I'm falling into the traditional trap of not calling out offensive or defensive linemen, as their lack of a contribution is harder to detect as they operate more as a group. I can think of lots of individual cases for terrible O-line play (T.J. Clemmings this year obviously, Anthony Collins in his utterly tragic stint at LT in Tampa a few years back), but I feel like a KCW namesake has to be both terrible and prominent for at least a few years to really count.

33
by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 2:34pm

Sounds like what you're really asking for is an all-time (well, Scramble-era) KCW select.

Positions could be named after the likes of Blaine Gabbert, Trent Richardson, Winston Justice, Jonathan Cooper, Samson Satele, Richie Incognito, Kwame Harris, Mario Williams, Randy Gregory (seriously, he got suspended three times in one season), Sabby Piscitelli...

Could be a fun article.

39
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 3:19pm

Well, from a football perspective, things do tend to get a bit slow after the Super Bowl, and making fun of bad football players is clearly more fun that talking about the good ones. I'm totally willing to volunteer you to do this. That's just the giving kind of guy I am.

48
by ChrisS :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 5:37pm

If you add a GM category it would have to be named after Matt Millen. I think there are way too many options for naming the owner category I imagine most every fan, except GB, has at least 1 despised owner. Perhaps call it the Not-Art-Rooney-KCW-Owner of the year.

53
by Levente from Hungary :: Fri, 02/03/2017 - 3:11am

Andrew,
I just happened to read the staff intro page again after many years and noticed you have some Hungarian connection. How come?

Sorry for the off-topic comment. You can reach me at levente at pallos.tk if you want to chat separately.

55
by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 02/03/2017 - 3:07pm

Hi Levente, I've sent you an e-mail.

4
by Otis Taylor89 :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 6:49pm

No Ty Sambrailo? No Donald Stephenson? Boy, if there are worse takles in the NFL, then...wow.

7
by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 7:42pm

Yeah, tackle was a very contentious position.

Donald Stephenson had the third-most blown blocks by our charting, so he was definitely in the conversation! Sambrailo didn't really have enough snaps; he wasn't good when he played, certainly, but his damage was relatively limited. That matters when there's plenty of high-level competition!

10
by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 8:17pm

You jerks cheated the Vikings out of their rightful third KCW starter, by not recognizing the genuine awfulness of right guard Brandon Fusco, who couldn't block a giant parking cone.

Has any team ever won 8 games with 3 KCW starters? You have cheated we Viking fans of trivial immortality!

11
by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 8:25pm

We could have gone for three on the line alone with Easton, Clemmings and Fusco. Add in a handful of options on the defensive side of the ball, and Minnesota had a surprising number of candidates considering they weren't a losing team!

12
by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 10:06pm

The non-woodchoppers are pulling a heavy load!

13
by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 02/01/2017 - 10:17pm

Counting playoffs, Seattle had 11 wins and a tie!

20
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 9:21am

I'm not sure it's entirely fair to blame guys literally signed off the street who were only starting because the original 2-deep would have been healthier had they been playing in Stalingrad.

30
by BigRichie :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 1:33pm

Yeah, I'll second this. KCW membership ought to require that the GM/coach made the choice with at least some semblance of hope, rather than 100% desperation.

35
by billprudden :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 3:05pm

This seems fair to me as well. UPS drivers and community college students don't deserve the abuse.

Further, then the list is about coach and GM abuse, which I am 100% in favor of!

38
by ChrisS :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 3:18pm

Agreed, being a 4th stringer should be a large mitigating factor. Tahir Whitehead is terrible and he plays almost every defensive snap. Reminds me of (the inverse/converse/corollary? of) the old joke. Person1 "the food at this restaurant is terrible", Person2 "yes, and such small portions".

41
by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 3:31pm

That's the idea -- if it's a comparison between "full-time starter who's really bad" and "overwhelmed fourth-stringer who is utterly terrible", we'll go with the full-time starter. Kind of a sliding scale to be judged on.

42
by Will Allen :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 3:58pm

Was digits lost to frostbite a prop bet at Stalingrad?

15
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 12:37am

Personally, I would have avoided names at CB and just awarded both positions to GB cornerback. After Shields went down, the position was a train wreck.

16
by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 2:23am

Definitely an argument for doing KCW units -- Packers at cornerback, 49ers at wideout, Rams at quarterback...

Maybe that's an article down the line. We're buildin' up ideas for the future, here!

21
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 9:22am

Not Jets at QB?

Your KCW winner wasn't even the worst QB on his own team.

17
by Cythammer :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 2:55am

"Fitzpatrick went back to being the terrible quarterback the Jets anticipated."

Fitzpatrick was really much worse this year than he's been in a long time, maybe ever. This was more a new low than a reversion to form. First year he's had more picks than TDs since 2010.

19
by James-London :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 7:45am

No Miami linebackers? ? Are writers drunk?

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

22
by DraftMan :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 9:40am

I wouldn't go so far as to say the Best of the Rest standings are set in stone "no matter what Michael Floyd puts up"--he could put up -5, after all.

23
by jw124164 :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 10:55am

So you're saying there's a chance? Hardy for MVP!

25
by Theo :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 11:13am

Didnt the Browns have a delay of ae penalty on kickoff AND an time out called before the game had even started??

27
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 12:17pm

In the Ravens TNF game ... on the first play after kickoff the Browns called timeout before Baltimore's 1st offensive play to avoid getting a 12-men-on-the-field flag.

(And then at the end of the drive had two plays fighting each other to return the ensuing punt)

36
by billprudden :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 3:08pm

Another variation-on-theme idea: Owner, GM, and coaches who have most damage to either (a) set a franchise back a decade or two (Dan Snyder) or (b) blow up a contender almost overnight (SF a few years ago)?

40
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 3:22pm

You could basically break up the owner list by decade:

1980s: Hugh Culverhouse
1990s: The Bidwills or Mike Brown
2000s: Snyder, with an honorable mention to William C. Ford.
2010s: Jed York appears to be making quite the push here.

43
by Will Allen :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 4:17pm

Some consideration for Red McCombs, please. He bought a strong championship contender, closing on the team just as Moss was drafted, and 8 years later, after deciding it was going to take too long to successfully lobby for a billion in stadium subsidies, he sold the team for a 350 million dollar profit, leaving a roster that swapped Moss for Troy Williamson, to cut payroll, the rest of the roster largely in shambles, the carpet at team facilities as threadbare as 20 year old U-Haul moving blankets, the building air conditioner non-functioning, and the head coach denied enough payroll to hire full staff. Rumor was the office employees had to bring their own coffee to brew. That was a lot of fun.

44
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 4:25pm

After posting, I considered going back to add on Red McCombs plus Senile And Completely Insane Old Al Davis to my list.

45
by LyleNM :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 4:30pm

Yeah, for as bad as Ken Behring was as an owner (with all his attempts at moving the Seahawks to his home state of California), truthfully he probably wasn't even in the bottom quartile of owners...

51
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 6:47pm

Still better than WC Ford.

He bought a team at the end of its dynasty phase, and 8 years later, he refused to sell it for a profit.

46
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 4:49pm

I'd say Culverhouse is unanimous for the 80s.

The 90s Bengals were just plain awful. They had top draft picks and were just awful. The Cards on the other hand at least tried to be good by employing a coach who'd had success ("got a winner in town") and winning their first playoff game in 50 years circa 1997.

The 00s - I'd have to give it to Ford for his persistence with Matt Millen culminating in the 0-16 years. Al would definitely be in a with a chance had the Raiders not been successful for the opening three years of the decade even if they did then trade their only decent coach to the team that beat them in the SB. Snyder was awful for five years but then actually buckled down and gave Joe Gibbs five years.

The 10s ... York is making a push but they were successful during the Harbaugh years. Haslam, Khan or even Kroenke appear to be the front runners for this decade.

47
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 5:08pm

I'm thinking there has to be a "meddling factor" or something where an owner has to be consciously screwing things up, which is why Snyder gets points; he's directly involved in lots of terrible decisions, which is why Al Davis needs consideration as well (he's fast! Draft him!). WCF I'm not sure was even paying attention.

Khan seems like a decent owner who's a bit too uninvolved, if anything. Kroenke I suspect will be good for the Rams in the long term, and just wanted to utterly screw St. Louis, so there was a certain method to his madness. Haslam . . . yeah, he definitely has a case. Weird coaching decisions, letting a homeless guy tell you to draft Manziel, loads of other things.

The thing is, Jed York's kind of chaired a plummet into the abyss, as opposed to just being awful in a somewhat different manner like with Haslam. I'm thinking ruining a good thing is probably worse than taking over a bad thing and keeping it bad.

54
by Jerry :: Fri, 02/03/2017 - 6:21am

winning their first playoff game in 50 years

...and three cities, all while owned by the same family. That level of awfulness deserves some sort of recognition, even if it's a lifetime(s) achievement award.

37
by jtr :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 3:12pm

In fairness to Revis, he got a hearty assist this season from a KCW-worthy rotation of no-name free safeties. There were several long TD's where Revis got burned down the sideline while the FS just stood there in the middle of the field.

49
by ChrisS :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 5:52pm

On an unrelated note (don't know where else to post this). One of the questions in the FO annual awards is
Who would you rather have as your team's quarterback for the next five years? :
Jimmy Garoppolo, NE
Jared Goff, LARM
Cody Kessler, CLE
Paxton Lynch, DEN
Marcus Mariota, TEN
Dak Prescott, DAL
Carson Wentz, PHI
Jameis Winston, TB

Are they trolling us with most (non-Dak choices) of these?

50
by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 6:10pm

Call it the "Remember RGIII?" award -- it's a grouping of all the young quarterbacks now, and asking people to Jump to Conclusions after a very limited sample size. In five years, we can go back and go "ho ho ho, we thought Cody Kessler was going to be bad, and here he is breaking every record in the book! Silly us."

52
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 6:50pm

It's not like RGIII was a flash in the pan who was suddenly figured out (Kaepernick). He suffered a devastating knee injury after his coach threw him in while injured and playing on the league's shittiest field.

It didn't work out, but he's not playing in the same body as he was in his first season.

56
by Eddo :: Fri, 02/03/2017 - 3:31pm

I wound up having a very interesting discussion with some friends about this list. Had Mariota not just suffered a fairly serious injury, he'd have gotten my vote (which ultimately went to Prescott). I think there are arguments you can make for Garoppolo, Wentz, and even Winston, as well, though Prescott/Mariota/Garoppolo was the heavy consensus top three among my friends.

57
by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 02/03/2017 - 6:43pm

Winston and Mariota both have two reasonable-quality seasons, and the capacity to be very good, plus the advantage of having played on some bad teams and still done pretty well. That's an issue with Prescott, obviously; how good would he be without that line, Elliott, and good WRs. Jimmy Garrapalo has to be somewhat covered with the stench of Matt Cassell and Brian Hoyer, and only has a few games of career, really.

I'm biased, but probably Winston, then Mariota, then . . . Garrapalo and Prescott are a toss-up for me. Carson Wentz is probably 5th, and Paxton Lynch, Jared Goff, and Cody Kessler just finished their first year, and nothing in that first year shows much.

58
by MC2 :: Sat, 02/04/2017 - 8:23pm

I agree about Garoppolo. No matter how much my team needed a QB, I'd be very hesitant to pay the hefty price the Patriots will reportedly ask for him.

I think Wentz is a guy who is being undervalued a bit, mainly because he played with such a terrible receiving corps. His top targets were a mediocre slot receiver, and a good-but-not-great TE who can't seem to stay healthy. If the Eagles can sign/draft a couple of guys for him to throw to, I think his future is pretty bright.

As for the guys on this list, I'd probably go Prescott, Wentz, Mariota, Winston, Garoppolo, Lynch, Goff, Kessler -- with a big gap between the first four and the last four.