Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Clutch Encounters: Week 4

Blowout week, but not for the Steelers. Do they play down to the competition? Also: bad Foles, Bridgewater's debut, and did J.J. Watt just end EJ Manuel's career in Buffalo?

02 Dec 2010

Walkthrough: Nullified

by Mike Tanier

Derek Anderson is guilty of many sins against the football universe. Laughing in the face of failure is not one of them.

A Tuesday morning Google search of "Derek Anderson" and "laughing" yielded a phrase I never cease to find fascinating: "View all 1,596 news articles." Anderson giggled at a Deuce Lutui joke on the sideline, the television cameras caught it, Anderson got testy with a reporter after the game, and 1,596 public opinions spontaneously generated in 12 hours. Pure alchemy.

Everything I have ever read or seen about Anderson suggests that he's dedicated and level-headed. You don't have his kind of career unless you are a pretty straight arrow. There are two kinds of quarterbacks who bounce from roster to roster, surviving multiple controversies: super-talented nitwits and bumbling try-hard guys. Super-talented try-hard guys make the Hall of Fame; bumbling nitwits go into politics. One nanosecond of Anderson game film proves that he is not super-talented, therefore he is a try-hard guy, the kind who wins starting jobs away from geniuses like Matt Leinart.

My God, imagine if that had been Leinart laughing on the sidelines. Forget 1,596 articles in 12 hours; the sports blogosphere might have become sentient and eaten us alive. Leinart would be accused of huffing nitrous oxide balloons on the sidelines.

I am surprised that the cameras cut away from knuckle shots long enough to show Anderson laughing. Knuckle shots have replaced extreme quarterback close-ups as the new cinematic cliché of televised football. I am game-charting the Colts-Patriots game from two weeks ago, and I now know Dwight Freeney's knuckles better than my own. The director of that game must have a finger fetish; I am sure there's a niche for that. Every time Freeney dropped into a three-point stance, there was a gratuitous close-up of his manly digits digging into the turf. It was like "Gardening with the Colts." (Coming up next, Clint Session shows you how to build a water feature that will beautify your backyard while keeping your rhododendrons extra moist and verdant.)

Occasionally, the director woke from his knuckle gazing to show the snap. The only money shot that trumps knuckle footage is the coordinator still-life -- that glimpse of a middle-aged man seated behind a thick glass window, muttering into his headset. For this, we miss formations and pre-snap motion.

Anderson is a victim of our hair shirt mentality: We think the best way to solve major problems is to run around acting as worried as possible. Level-headed, well-prioritized action plans have nothing on hand-wringing and acting hyper-concerned. As long as we make a big show of suffering, we're doing our part to solve the problem. A nearby school district canceled all Halloween parties this year because the school's test scores were too low. Read that last sentence again. They didn't cancel the parties because of budget concerns, or because dentists and religious zealots formed a strange alliance, but because the third and fourth graders aren't properly filling in bubbles on a standardized test. Which is given in March. If that happened at my kids' school, I would dress them as Mario and Luigi and make them throw paper fireballs at the superintendent until he came to his senses. Robbing children of joy won't make them learn more. And robbing Anderson of a few seconds of mirth won't help the Cardinals.

Once Anderson's laughing face appeared on television, he was trapped in a kobayashi maru. Brush off the incident, and he's accused of not taking his craft seriously. Flip out like he did, and he just ignites a bigger controversy. Anderson apologized later in the week. (I am writing this segment on Tuesday morning, so he hasn't apologized yet, but news cycles are so predictable that I feel confident that he will apologize and I won't have to edit this.) Of course he could have handled his post-game questioning better, but are we shocked that he was angry and defensive? Does a five-game losing streak and a blowout loss really take away a man's right to smile publically without accounting for his actions to the media?

If so, then I propose that the NFL provide quarterbacks with a series of emoticons to help them navigate the now treacherous waters of sideline facial expressions. When losing by more than seven points, these expressions are forbidden:

J ... 8-) ... :D ... :^) ... :-D

You get the idea: anything that ends in the closed parentheses or a capital "D" is right out. These expressions are OK:

:-/... = / ... : {

Once down by 16 points, only open-parentheses and sad-eyed emoticons pass muster:

L, (^o^)

If this doesn't work, teams can hire Get Frowning coaches who roam the sideline during games making sure that everyone is projecting an air of game-serious misery. Finally, the league can fine players who appear too pleased on the sideline during losses: $10,000 for a smirk, $20,000 for a guffaw, $50,000 for a full-fledged belly laugh. It's not that implausible. If sideline silliness really makes fans think that players don't care about the outcome, then such behavior reflects poorly on the league itself. They might as well regulate it.

It makes as much sense as canceling a Halloween party.

Burn This Play!

Ah, the simple screen pass. It's great at punishing defenses who blitz recklessly, and it gives the running back in a pass-oriented offense something to do. A well-executed screen is a thing of beauty.

The screen I am about to diagram was not well executed.

The Bears beat the Eagles on Sunday, but their offensive line had its usual protection issues. On second-and-8 midway through the second quarter, Mike Martz called a screen deep in Eagles territory. It wasn't a bad call -- the Bears had a big play on a screen earlier in the game -- but the offensive line experienced simultaneous mental decompression on the play.

Figure 1: Garza Blocks Nobody

Figure 1 shows the carnage. After the snap, Frank Omiyale (68) and Chris Williams (74) peel left to block in the flat for Matt Forte (22). They are in an awful hurry. On a typical screen, blockers drop and set as pass protectors, engage their pass rushers briefly (usually counting one or two beats in their mind), then leak into the flat. There are other blocking patterns, but I am not familiar with any screen-blocking assignment that says "act like the center just set off a stink bomb and sprint full-speed into the flat, ignoring any 300-pound linemen right in front of you." Granted, I am no Mike Martz or Mike Tice.

Center Olin Kreutz (57) delivers a blow to the defensive tackle, then also races to the flat before all the Cyber Monday deals are gone. Kreutz is acting more like a traditional screen blocker, though his blow doesn't slow his defender down as much as it should. Right tackle J'Marcus Webb (73) rides his defender wide to the right, then releases. This play appears to be a double screen. Had it ever developed, Jay Cutler may have faked to Forte before tossing to Brandon Manumaleuna (86). We will never know.

The Eagles aligned two linebackers in the A-gap. I moved them back a bit to make space in the diagram, but they were bunched close to the line. There's a saying in pass protection: Don't block ghosts. When a blitzer threatens a gap but drops into coverage, the blocker cannot just stand there and block his ghost. Roberto Garza plays the part of Doctor Spengler on this play. He releases to his left, looks for a linebacker to block, stands there for a second scratching his helmet, then decides that since all of the cool kids are blocking for Forte, he might as well go with the flow.

So who was supposed to block Mike Patterson? Probably Garza, though, in all fairness, Kreutz should have made a call at the line. Garza was probably assigned to the first pass rusher to his left. With the Eagles crowding the A-gap, he had no choice but to release left and prepare for a linebacker blitz. Kreutz needed to change assignments, taking the first blitzer through the gap himself, leaving Patterson to Garza and the other defensive tackle to Williams. If everyone held their blocks for a split second like linemen are supposed to do, then Cutler could have made a classic last-second toss to Forte or Manumaleuna.

Instead, it's a fiasco. Three defenders, including blitzing cornerback Joselio Hanson, encircle Cutler before the sack. Even if Cutler escapes somehow, two Eagles are battling for position to stop the screen, as if something tipped them off it was coming (maybe it was that stampede into the flat). If this was a funky double-screen, then there was just too much going on for it to work.

The Bears keep winning despite these comic lapses in basic blocking principles. Despite some big plays and a few great red-zone defensive performances on Sunday, I think their 8-3 record is an amazing smoke-and-mirrors routine. However they are winning, one thing is certain: Their playoff chances will improve if they Burn This Play.

Autotext

As a labor-saving feature, some word processing programs now come with templates for writing common documents, like memos or thank-you letters. I stumbled upon another template recently: It's for writing the boilerplate column about a new quarterback after his first win. I think some of my colleagues must have known about this template for years, but I just found it. Take a look: Do you think it's a potential Walkthrough labor saver?

Headline: New Quarterback Has What it Takes to Win.

Body: There's no big secret about home team's turnaround in the last few weeks. The difference maker has been new quarterback. He has provided the necessary intangible that has turned the team around. And he has made believers out of everyone in the locker room.

"I've been pleased with new quarterback's performance," said head coach after Sunday's victory. "Obviously, he gives us a chance to win. He gives a good effort. I can provide other non-committal compliments if you need them. Or just cut and paste them from back when old quarterback first won a starting job and I said the same things."

New quarterback's stats have not been very impressive. In Sunday's victory, he completed shockingly low number of passes in depressingly high number of attempts for random number between 75 and 175 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. (Note: Do not mention the six sacks or three aborted snaps). Those numbers won't make the super-duper-nerdy fantasy football geekity-geeks drool.

But new quarterback isn't a stat guy. He's all about pick three of the following: heart, effort, energy, fire, moxie, plunk, spunk, passion, drive, leadership, grit, guts. Those things can't be measured by stats. They can only be measured by a veteran football writer on a deadline.

New quarterback made the plays that had to be made. There was the very ordinary scramble to set up a field goal in the third quarter. There was the only third-and-long conversion to set up another score. There was all of his heartfelt cheering on the sideline during the three punt return touchdowns that fueled the 27-24 win. These plays, though they were routine and can be made by any NFL-caliber quarterback, proved that new young quarterback knows what it takes to win.

Teammates have taken notice of new quarterback's leadership, especially teammates who have been asked carefully directed questions about his leadership. "Yeah, he commands the huddle," said company-line spouting veteran tight end. "He really lifts us up in the locker room. He does all of that stuff you asked about."

Despite his recent success, new quarterback will remain grounded. He was raised in romanticized-but-ordinary location, and he retains the no-nonsense attitude instilled in him by his parents. "My father taught me to work hard and believe in myself," new quarterback said. He's a rarity in today's world: A young man who got generic advice from his parents and says blandly nice things about them.

New quarterback has fans buzzing. He's something special, and while it's too soon to polish his bust for Canton after a few games, the best is yet to come. Really, how often does a young quarterback come off the bench, complete a few passes, scramble once or twice, win thanks to a great defensive effort and a custom game plan, then go on to a lackluster career? Maybe it happens occasionally, but it won't happen to new quarterback: he has too much insert any leftover intangibles. "I think he has a bright future in the NFL," coach said on Sunday.

I tend to agree.

End.

Wow, if I can just use that instead of writing about Troy Smith and Max Hall, I will have that much more time to play Civilization V! And then I can try the other templates I found: "Interim Coach has Changed the Locker Room Culture," "Short Caucasian Running Back/Receiver Becoming Fan Favorite," and the Football Outsiders-customized "Eagles Top DVOA Despite Four Straight Losses."

The Null Set

A 75-yard Ray Rice screen pass touchdown against the Buccaneers was called back on Sunday because of a ticky-tack block-above-the-waist penalty on Anquan Boldin. The play got me thinking about nullified yards. Do some teams have more big plays called back than others because of flags? And if some teams have bad "nullification luck," is it affecting their records?

We have a penalty database, of course, but we don't keep track of nullified yards, for a variety of reasons. First, the penalty that negates a big play is often the very foul that made it possible. Remember when Doug Free held Brian Orakpo to erase a game-winning touchdown in the Cowboys-Redskins season opener? Without the hold, Orakpo sacks Tony Romo, and there's no touchdown. Keeping track of nullified yards means keeping track of some garbage-type numbers. Second, there's the thorny issue of what to count. Should we keep track of sack yards lost because of roughing-the-passer penalties? Finally, there's limited predictive value -- penalties themselves are volatile statistics with very little year-to-year correlation. Piling the nullified plays on top of them won't make them any more useful.

Someone else does keep track of nullified yards: The NFL Game Statistics Information System, a media-only stat site filled with odds and ends. They started keeping track of nullified yards on offensive penalties this season. Just because stats aren't useful doesn't mean they aren't interesting, so I hunted through their database of "nullified yards" to see which teams have had the best and worst luck with plays getting called back.

Here are the five teams with the most and least nullified yards this season:

Most

  • Bears: 331
  • Redskins: 320
  • Lions: 271
  • Steelers: 262
  • Bills: 258

Least

  • Packers: 58
  • Browns: 62
  • Colts: 68
  • Jaguars: 77
  • Chargers: 81

The Packers are at the bottom of the list, which is shocking. Remember that defensive penalties don't count in these numbers, and the Packers are far more likely to sabotage themselves with a pass interference penalty than with offensive holding.

The teams at the top of the list have one thing in common -- bad, holding-prone offensive lines. They also have pretty good quarterbacks, for the most part, and the teams are pretty pass-oriented (the Eagles and Broncos are just down the list). It all adds up: Holding is the most likely penalty to negate a big gain, and a good quarterback behind a bad line is likely to complete some significant passes while his blockers grab and pull to protect him. The Steelers have committed 27 holds that wiped out 256 yards, and the Bears have had 25 holds erase 273 yards. Again, many of those yards would actually be sacks without the holds, but some smarter line play (or a little better luck) could have benefited Ben Roethlisberger and Jay Cutler to the tune of almost a game's worth of yards.

Nullified yards correlate rather directly with penalty yards themselves, which makes sense. If a team is penalized a lot, it will have more good plays wiped out. The five most penalized teams in terms of yardage are the Raiders, Eagles, Lions, Titans, and Jets. Add penalty yards and nullified yards together, and the five worst self-saboteurs are the Lions, Eagles, Raiders, Titans, and Jets. The Ravens, with 171 nullified yards and 487 penalty yards, are near the middle of the pack. The Dolphins rank last in the league in penalty yards and have lost just 124 yards to flags, proving that there are advantages to having a really boring offense.

The statistics appear to contain a mixture of random noise and the residue of design. I don't see any evidence that the Bears or Redskins will start getting better "nullification luck" late in the season, or that the rent will suddenly come due on the Chargers, who rarely have a significant play called back. There is some explanatory power here -- knowing that the Lions have a lot of big plays called back fills in one of the details of their snake-bit season -- but there's nothing obviously useful here. Saying that the Bills and Bears will get better if their offensive lines improve is stating the obvious.

While sorting this data every which way, I isolated the holding penalties and found one interesting nugget. A typical Bears holding penalty negates an average gain of 10.92 yards. A Bills hold erases a whopping 11.4 yards. A similar Chargers penalty negates an average gain of 1.28 yards. There's a wide range of figures in between. There's something meaningful in here, but I am not sure what. Any ideas?

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 02 Dec 2010

102 comments, Last at 07 Dec 2010, 2:49pm by RichC

Comments

1
by Theo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:38pm

"The director of that game must have a finger fetish; I am sure there's a niche for that."
Rule 36: If it exists, someone has a fetish for it. No exceptions.

13
by dryheat :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 1:22pm

One of the great consequences of the internet. I think it was Richard Jeni who remarked that you could search for "People who like to have sex with goats on fire" but in order to narrow down the results you'd have to specify which kind of goat.

15
by Temo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 1:33pm

I think you'd also have to specify whether the human or the goat is on fire.

20
by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 2:08pm

In both computer science and kinky sex, having a clear order of operator precedence is VERY VERY important.

81
by TreeRol (not verified) :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 5:43pm

"I type in porn, and porn comes up. I type in breakfast, and porn comes up. It's the perfect system!" ~Michael Swaim

94
by Dean :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:54pm

I forget who said it, but "if someone hadn't figured out how to post naked photos on the internet, it would still be 200 nerds playing Doom on a bulliten board."

2
by tbwhite :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:39pm

This is a bit off-topic but what the hell...

Why doesn't the NFL get rid of the half the distance to the goal line rule when enforcing penalties ? In a situation where you would normally use half the distance to the goal, don't change the line of scrimmage, instead just move the first down marker the appropriate number of yards further downfield. So, when Jason Peters gets called for holding on his own 5 yard line instead of 1st and 12.5 from the 2.5 yard line, make it first 1st and 20, but still from the 5.

7
by DGL :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:51pm

I like the idea of moving the first down distance, but I wouldn't get rid of the half-the-distance. After all, first and 20 from the 9 after a holding penalty is quite a bit different from first and 20 from the 18.

12
by cfan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 1:16pm

So how would you replicate that for fairness as far as defensive penalties? For instance when DPI would award a touchdown.

24
by tbwhite :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 3:12pm

DPI never awards a TD, but I'll assume you mean DPI in the end zone.

Why not use the same principle, half the distance to the goal, plus and automatic 1st down, plus an additional automatic 1st down to be used at the team's discretion sort of like a timeout. Any ball that results in a DPI in the end zone was probably thrown from at most the teams own 40, so that would be a 30 yard penalty that would put the team in FG position with a 1st down, plus the additional first down that they could use at any time.

54
by mm (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 8:32pm

A bit to powerful, I think. The team would have a good chance at a touchdown on this series, and an increased chance to score on a subsequent series.

Following the concept a little more, just declare it 'Zero Down' or 'Null Down'. The subsequent play would be 'First Down'. Thus, with no further penalties, a team would have 5 downs to try and score. If the defense keeps up the penalties, you can continue 'Negative First Down', 'Negative Second Down', etc.

3
by Jimmy :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:44pm

The Bears hod on passing downs, the Chargers hold on running downs? Does that make sense?

16
by stephenbawesome :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 1:47pm

Going a step further, maybe some of it has to do with offensive lineman mobility or ability to play in space. The plays that most likely result in the most nullified yards are screen passes and attempts to pass the ball deep down the field.

In both situations, I would imagine a slow-footed lineman is more likely to grab onto a defender than someone who can shift his feet accordingly. If the lineman is not adept at playing in space, the scramble to lead block on a screen pass would see them wrapping up smaller defenders rather than just knocking them out of the play.

Just a hypyothesis.

4
by swami :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:46pm

Your generic article bit was hilarious, especially the closer about the Eagles topping DVOA after four straight losses!

5
by DGL :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:49pm

Don't new quarterbacks have swagger? Or is that just for defenses?

53
by JPS (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 8:18pm

Yeah, I noticed that "swagger" was missing as well.

58
by coboney :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 10:58pm

Tanier was hiding it for when he has to do one to have his special addition at the last moment to replace the list of other intangibles.

6
by The Powers That Be :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:50pm

"Remember when Doug Free held Brian Orakpo to erase a game-winning touchdown in the Cowboys-Redskins season opener?"

As a Cowboys fan, I wish I could forget the Alex Barron Experience as easily as you have.

8
by Temo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:55pm

Also feel like it's not foregone that Romo would have gone down if he hadn't held Orakpo. More likely to go down than not, but Orakpo wasn't coming from the blind side, and Romo's escaped shit before.

11
by Spielman :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 1:11pm

As a Rams fan, I'm still traumatized by our much more long term Alex Barron Experience.

14
by Temo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 1:32pm

If the Alex Barron Experience was anything like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Rams got the the '66-'69 Experience that created some of the finest music [or in this case, spirit crushing, game ruining penalties] of the century, while the Cowboys got the short-lived '70 reunion tour.

69
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:21pm

Barron is a first ballot mortal lock for the KCW Hall of Fame, and the starting right tackle for the KCW Team of the Noughties (Kwame Harris is on the left). There's something truly wonderful about these guys who suck with such awesome putrescence and still manage to be long time NFL starters. Barron, Harris, CC Brown, Brian Russell, Jason David . . .

95
by Dean :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:56pm

He has all the talent in the world. He just has this sad propensity to take a mental journey at what always seems to be the least opportune moment of the game.

75
by Staubach12 :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 2:53pm

Agreed. It took me a moment to realize which play he was talking about. Then I realized he just got the lineman wrong.

9
by Temo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:58pm

Weird, I feel like Miles Austin alone has had like 400 yards nullified this year (through illegal blocks on runs/screen passes and OPI).

Also, Civ 5 ftl. I played it for a couple weeks and felt like going back to Civ 4.

35
by Sophandros :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 5:07pm

And he had a long touchdown run on Thanksgiving due to a missed holding call...

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

52
by Temo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 8:13pm

Complaining about missed holding calls is like complaining about fraud in FIFA.

56
by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 10:08pm

Civ 4 is the better game, just as halo 3 is better than reach and Madden 10 is far superior to Madden 11. Bring back the Vision cone!

68
by Lebo :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 10:56am

The Tekken and Tony Hawk Pro Skater series were similar for my money. Every other title was awesome but the ones in between we not real improvements over (or sometimes were worse than) the previous version.

77
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 4:25pm

Reach is better, by and large. The über-weapons have been toned down a bit, the compass is a godsend that should have been implemented years ago, and the powerups create additional tactical wrinkles. I would agree that the Halo 3 maps were generally better, though.

80
by mawbrew :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 5:09pm

Glad to see I'm not the only one having a hard time liking Civ 5.

83
by tuluse :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 7:12pm

I don't care for it either. They tried to make the game appeal to a larger market and removed so much depth from it.

Did the culture system need some work in civ 4? Yes. Did it need to be scrapped all together for some simple model? Not at all.

If you want to get more life out of civ4, check out this mod Legends of Revolutions. It's like a full expansion pack worth of stuff.

96
by Dean :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:56pm

Never did get into IV. I still play III every now and again. I suppose I'm due to try V.

100
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:04am

I found III the worst of the series. There were huge balance issues, with it being almost impossible to launch attacks without overwhelming superior numbers.

101
by kps43 :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:16pm

The leader in nullified yards has got to be Rashard Mendenhall. He's had at least 3 long runs called back by holding penalties.

10
by NewDadNH (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 1:00pm

"There's something meaningful in here, but I am not sure what. Any ideas?"

The Chargers can't hold worth a damn

86
by countertorque :: Sat, 12/04/2010 - 1:04am

Bad coaching do you think? Or do they need to draft some players who are better at holding?

87
by countertorque :: Sat, 12/04/2010 - 1:04am

Bad coaching do you think? Or do they need to draft some players who are better at holding?

17
by I got shoes :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 1:48pm

Plunk = pluck?

18
by Panthers83 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 1:52pm

Maybe the Bills' and Bears' linemen hold more often on passing plays and the Chargers linemen are better pass protectors but hold more often on run plays? It seems to me that holding on pass plays often prevents a sack and allows for a big play downfield, while holding on run plays happens a lot when the play is bottled up and not going anywhere anyway. Of course, I don't have any data to back that up, it's just what I've observed.

19
by Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 2:06pm

The Derek Anderson story is by far the biggest nontroversy of the year.

30
by Lebo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 3:47pm

I'd say it's up there with 'Mark Sanchez insults the opposition by eating a hotdog on the sideline'. Or was that last year's nontroversy?

32
by Nathan :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 4:34pm

nothing i've ever seen competes with the hotdog nontroversy

33
by Temo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 4:40pm

I think people were just surprised that the Jets were facing the Raiders, and the starting QB taking a snack break wasn't Jamarcus.

(Or Rex Ryan, or Tom Cable)

51
by dmb :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 8:06pm

Anderson's post-game response was moderately amusing, so I can see why it got some attention. But I completely agree with Tanier's view on the laughing itself -- why on earth should we care? -- and can thus understand why Anderson would get frustrated when some idiot reporter refused to move on to a new subject. Obviously, it was still a poor response, but I can understand why Anderson would be annoyed at dealing with those questions after a bad loss.

97
by Dean :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:58pm

To be fair, I didn't think the reporter was unprofessional or baiting him. The reporter asked a legitimate question, and when he got a bullshit answer, he pressed the issue. It's a rare case when a reporter did their job.

102
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:49pm

I disagree that the reporter asked a legitimate question.

21
by John (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 2:15pm

I watched the end of the Derek Anderson blowout ("All I want for Christmas is a QB" sign included) and it occurred to me:

The worst starting QB in the NFL, whoever he may be, is surely still one of the 50 or 60 best quarterbacks in the world at any given time.

We as fans really need to get a grip. How many of us are going to be the 50th best in the world at anything?

28
by MattR :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 3:38pm

Your comment needs to be put on every sports comment board in the country.

I cannot understand how sports fans can become so insane with rage or render such harsh judgments while watching other people aspire, dare, and compete in the arena.

To further your point on needed perspective: The people outside the Top 50 should realize that the difference between Derek Anderson and Manning/Brees/Rivers is still just a matter of degree.

Immature fans have no idea that their skills and mindset are inferior by an order of magnitude to those competing at the highest level.

29
by dbostedo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 3:42pm

That applies for everyone in professional sports everywhere. They are clearly way better at what they do than most of us will ever be at anything. And it would be nice if everyone acknowledged this.

But I'm not saying that you can't say that someone is terrible (i.e. I don't think fans have to get a grip) simply because there's context involved in what fans say. You can say Derek Anderson is terrible because, in the context of comparisons to other NFL QBs, he IS terrible. That context part is just implied.

Sure, compared to everyone who has ever played QB Derek Anderson is one of the most phenomenal players ever. But he's still terrible.

31
by tbwhite :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 3:52pm

We don't need to get a grip. We invest our time and money following these teams and athletes not in the hope that our team or favorite player will be the 50th best in the world, but that they will be the best in the world. That's what we are paying for, that's what is interesting, that's what matters. What you are saying is completely true and utterly irrelevant.

No one cares who is the 50th or 51st best QB in the world, or which team is the 50th or 51st best team. It doesn't matter. That's why the BCS Championship game gets big ratings while no one watches the Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Bowl.

37
by tonic889 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 5:15pm

So can anyone explain to me Anderson's 2007 season? Why was he decent for one season in 2007 (3700 yards, 15th in DVOA) and terrible ever since? Change in scheme/surrounding talent? Luck? Has he been "scouted out" by the rest of the league?

39
by B :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 5:54pm

He was playing on a team with a couple really talented receivers who kept bailing him out from bad throws. Also, a lot of that value came in the first half of his starts. As defenses started adjusting to his tendencies, his performance really nosedived.

49
by dmb :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 7:58pm

IIRC, most of those big early-season performances also came against some of the league's worst defenses. I know that the "D" in "DVOA" stands for defense-adjusted, but it's also reasonably likely that the adjustments weren't as strong as the actual effect was in those particular games.

79
by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 5:07pm

The Scott Mitchell effect.

82
by drobviousso :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 5:56pm

Athletes don't perform at a constant level their whole lives, or even seasons. Sometimes, a guy just plays better for a few weeks.

67
by NewDadNH (not verified) :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 8:18am

I don't agree that what he's saying is totally irrelevant. There's insight in "I cannot understand how sports fans can become so insane with rage or render such harsh judgments while watching other people aspire, dare, and compete in the arena," esp. in reference to tanier's original point, that is, a player on a losing team should be able to crack a smile for a second without getting ripped.

It's not just sports. It's how we the masses treat anyone in the public eye, really. We really do need to get a grip. But it's hard to.

34
by dryheat :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 4:52pm

While true, in a 32-team league, being one of the 50th or 60th best QBs in the world is woefully insufficient, and not an acceptable management decision.

Is Derek Anderson a better quarterback than me? Of course. Who cares? Is he a good enough quarterback to win the Super Bowl? Of course not. That's what's important.

I think every NFL fan is cognizant that the men playing on Sundays are better football players than they are.

36
by Sophandros :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 5:10pm

If that were true, then "Pros vs Joes" wouldn't exist.

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

40
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 6:14pm

I think every NFL fan is cognizant that the men playing on Sundays are better football players than they are.

I think you are way off.

41
by Nathan :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 6:21pm

I'd bet a year's salary that I'm better at clock management than Andy Reid

45
by John (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 7:36pm

And I would bet a much, much smaller amount that you're not.

I bet if you took all of Reid's other responsibilities away from him and had him just manage the clock, he'd do just as well as any fan.

I bet if you were on the field, under the stress of a running clock with critical decisions to make every single play, you'd discover that Reid coaches circles around you.

47
by Eddo :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 7:56pm

A mark of a good coach/CEO is delegation, as well. It baffles me that a coach like Reid has never hired a clock management coach, much like he has hired a linebackers coach, and a receivers coach, and a training staff. Is it hubris on his part? Ignorance of his own deficiencies in this area?

59
by John (not verified) :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:15am

Yeah, I'm definitely not defending Reid's strategic or tactical decisions in this regard, just pointing out that it's easy to watch TV and think you could do it better.

I imagine part of the problem with delegating clock management is that the task is heavily integrated into play-calling and influenced by variables that change during and after each play.

61
by Independent George :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:35am

Yeah, because that worked out really well for Herm.

Then again, if Sean Payton has a guy on gum duty...

71
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:27pm

Hmm. A keen Madden player has managed the clock in many, many more "games" than even the most experienced NFL head coach. In this specific area, it really is quite likely that a considerable number of people who are not in any way involved with professional football are more experienced and better than any NFL head coach.

Of course, Andy Reid is a far, far better coach than anyone on this message board. That doesn't mean he's a better clock manager.

88
by krusty (not verified) :: Sat, 12/04/2010 - 9:38am

Really? Madden? Wow. Hey, I'm really good at killing people on videogames, guess that makes me a qualified candidate for the Navy SEALs without having to go through BUD/s

92
by Mr Shush :: Sun, 12/05/2010 - 10:36am

Killing people in a computer screen requires an almost completely different skill set to killing people in real life.

Managing the clock in Madden requires exactly the same skill set as managing the clock in the NFL. That doesn't mean that a good Madden player would be a good NFL coach, it means that NFL teams should hire clock management specialists and make them dedicate significant time to training by playing Madden.

Let's go back to the Navy SEAL analogy. Shooting a pistol accurately is undoubtedly part of a SEAL's job, and you would expect him to do it well. You still wouldn't expect him to do it as well as Ralf Schumann. That doesn't mean Ralf Schumann would be a good SEAL - for one thing, he's nearly 50 years old.

93
by dryheat :: Sun, 12/05/2010 - 10:40am

I don't see why not. I plan on joining a Formula One racing team next year based on my video game proficiency.

98
by Dean :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:00pm

Barnwell? Is that you?

Madden IS NOT football.

99
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:03am

No it's not, but the time managing aspects of it are very similar. Unless you think forming your hands into a T is much more difficult that pressing the select button.

50
by jfsh :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 8:01pm

How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?

55
by Marko :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 8:47pm

Calm down, Uncle Rico. Better you should work on apologizing like a man to Jeff Fisher.

22
by Marko :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 2:25pm

The Bears have also had some pretty significant yardage nullified on kickoff and punt returns, although I suspect most teams could say the same. Some of those calls seemed to be ticky-tack and/or really were unnecessary, as they were behind the play or far enough away that the illegal block or hold had no impact on the return. There was one such play last week against the Eagles. Of course, they probably have had some uncalled blocks in the back that helped some of their long returns, so we can't complain too much about this.

Some of the Bears holding penalties on offense were similar in that they were away from the play and had no impact on the result, such as the holding penalty on Olin Kreutz that nullified a TD pass on a TE screen to Greg Olsen. The hold was completely unnecessary, as it occurred when Olsen was about to walk into the end zone. At least the Bears scored a TD on the next play on another pass to Olsen.

23
by JasonG (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 2:57pm

I was amazed to see the Bears at the top of the list because though I could remember a lot of penalties, I couldn't remember a lot of huge plays coming back. So, the point about ST is a good one I think (and am curious if that's what's included in these numbers).

If they have a huge chunk of ST yards nullified, do you look at it as a negative for the Bears ST? On the contrary, I would speculate (again would love verification) the main reason they have so many yards nullified is not because they commit so many more penalties, but because they have so many more long returns.

27
by Marko :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 3:34pm

I assumed the special teams yards weren't included, as those aren't offensive plays. But you are probably right that they are included, because I can't remember too many big offensive plays nullified by penalties other than the Olsen TD I mentioned above (which I forgot to mention above came against the Vikings a few weeks ago).

Looking at the list of teams on top makes me even more convinced that special teams yards are included. The biggest ST play that the Bears had called back was a kickoff return for a TD by Danieal Manning against Seattle. I read that the Redskins had a long punt return TD called back this week against the Vikings, so that would account for a significant amount of their nullified yardage.

25
by Jimmy :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 3:25pm

I sort of remember reading something on this site back when Hester was setting league records his first two years (I can't recall who it was but it might have been Aaron or some other FO writer) that looked into the 'all returners have TDs called back' and found out that it really doesn't happen all that often. The implication was that these penalties happen all the time - which seems true, every game has the block in the back or punting by the holding team flags - but that normally they just negate a small return and cost field position instead of points.

The article does say that the stats are for offense. Does that include returns?

26
by mm (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 3:26pm

Expanding on what you said about the teams that get a lot of nullified yards, the stat might say something about your skill position players.

If you have a lot of nullified passing yards, you probably have at least a decent QB, but need to replace your O-line.

If you have a lot of holding penalties on passing plays but not much nullified passing yards, you need to replace your QB and your O-line.

Something similar might be said for RBs and holding on running plays.

38
by TomC :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 5:29pm

The BTP segment brings up a point that I've been curious about all year: How much of the Bears' horrible blitz recognition falls on the individual O-lineman who stands around blocking nobody and how much falls upon Kreutz or Cutler for not pointing out the necessary scheme change at the line of scrimmage? I personally suspect that Kreutz gets off way too easy, but it would be great if someone who knows more about O-line play than I do could chime in.

42
by Mike B. In Va :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 6:56pm

...and here I was hoping for a column on the glory of being Keith Null. Oh well.

44
by Dan :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 7:30pm

How glorious is Keith Null? Let me count the ways:


46
by dmb :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 7:55pm

(/)

48
by dmb :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 7:56pm

{ }

65
by dbt :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 4:27am

(void*)0;

72
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:35pm

On the contrary: ∃x{x is a way in which Keith Null is glorious}

Specifically, Keith Null gloriously enabled the Rams to secure the #1 pick in the draft with the best quarterback prospect since at least 2004 and quite possibly 1998. Rams fans should be eternally grateful to Keith Null.

43
by casino (not verified) :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 7:20pm

Any ball that results in a DPI in the end zone was probably thrown from at most the teams own 40, so that would be a 30 yard penalty that would put the team in FG position with a 1st down, plus the additional first down that they could use at any time

57
by Will S :: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 10:15pm

When a sports fan calls an athlete terrible, its implied that it is in the context of the professional level. Being the 32nd best starting qb in the league means exactly that: They are the worst starter in the league. The people responsible for the BP oil spill might be better than 90% of the world at building rigs and drilling for oil. They certainly know more than I do about it, but should we celebrate them for being better than most? No, because the end result is what matters.

Regarding holding penalties, I think adjustments made for referees should be factored in too. Ron Winter's crew is going to call more penalties than the average one, so those might be factoring into it. Holding happens on every play, but only acknowledged holds are factored into the data. Perhaps making a nullified yards+ stat (kind of like yac+, which provides a more accurate picture) would provide more useful data, assuming certain teams see certain refs more often than others (I don't have it in me right now to look up such things, but that's the beauty of assuming)

60
by John (not verified) :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:22am

In every sport we root for the underdogs, we applaud the over-achievers, we celebrate tenacity. Or we should.

Every game (discounting ties) has a loser. When did winning become the only criteria that matters?

No wonder youth sports are filled with bullying, demanding parents.

62
by John (not verified) :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 1:02am

Ach. "criterion". Crikey.

63
by Harris :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 1:20am

Pee wee football is not the NFL. "He tries hard" isn't good enough at the professional level.

Hail Hydra!

64
by tbwhite :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 2:49am

When did winning become the only criteria that matters ?

Whenever professional sports were invented.

In my experience as a parent youth sports aren't at all filled with bullying, demanding parents. There is a lot of awareness of those types of problems and a lot of effort goes into preventing them. I've been through at least a dozen youth sports seasons and I can only remember one incident with an adult ruining things for kids, and that was the adult who supervised the youth referees. He intervened and took over a game from the kid who was reffing it when there were no problems and proceeded to make the single worst call I have ever seen in sports. I have never seen a parent make a spectacle of themselves at one of my kids games.

Now when I was growing up things were very different, but there seems to have been a real shift in attitudes, or maybe it's just because I live in California now and no one really cares about anything. Growing up in Philly, people did take their youth sports more seriously. Although, people here in Calif take it seriously in terms of training and lessons(I had an 8 year old tell me that HIS hitting coach didn't want him to do what I was advising him to do), they just don't care who wins the games.

78
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 4:32pm

“Not the victory but the action;

Not the goal but the game;

In the deed the glory”

73
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:45pm

Interestingly, the same doesn't hold for successful professional actors. When I say Freddie Prinze Junior is a terrible actor, I don't just mean that he's significantly worse than Philip Seymour Hoffman, or even that I could place an advert on Casting Call Pro for a job paying £200 for a month's work now and have fifty people better than him apply before lunch time tomorrow. I mean that if I selected a random dude in the street and gave him a script and a couple of days to learn his lines, then shoved him in front of a camera, it is quite likely he would be better than Freddie Prinze Junior. Not certain, I admit. FPJ is a plank, not orange juice - and believe me, there really are people out there who are orange juice - but then I don't think someone's footballing ability has to be comparable to that of a multiple amputee before you can describe them as terrible in an absolute sense.

85
by BigCheese :: Sat, 12/04/2010 - 12:38am

As someone who spent over a decade acting and sometimes directing in amateur theatre groups, let me assure you that, while FPJ is indeed an awful, awful actor, whom many an amateur can out-act in his sleep, your odds of getting a better performance of random guy off the street aren't that great. Put the average person in front of a camera and you'll see some very, very strange things...

- Alvaro

66
by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 6:56am

I have to say, I'm a little disappointed that the Andre Johnson fight didn't prompt Tanier to do a take-off on "Finnegan's Wake".

70
by Sid :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:25pm

Funny template, but I have a feeling "Really, how often does a young quarterback come off the bench, complete a few passes, scramble once or twice, win thanks to a great defensive effort and a custom game plan, then go on to a lackluster career? " would not be included by said veteran football writer.

74
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 1:51pm

If Null married jon Voiight marriage would be Null and Voight.

76
by MCS :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 3:34pm

beautiful

84
by BigCheese :: Sat, 12/04/2010 - 12:24am

Sublime even.

- Alvaro

89
by Hurt Bones :: Sat, 12/04/2010 - 9:51am

It would depend on what state they were in.

90
by mathesond :: Sat, 12/04/2010 - 1:54pm

A state of bliss?

91
by D. Tremens (not verified) :: Sat, 12/04/2010 - 6:22pm

I would proudly wear a t-shirt bearing the phrase, "Is Poster Drnuk?"