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05 Apr 2012

Walkthrough: The Jets-Giants Axis

by Mike Tanier

Where does your team lie along the Jets-Giants Axis?

On the left are the Jets: bold, daring, reckless, brilliantly disorganized, arrogant, sloppy by design. Any team that thumbs its nose at convention more than the Jets -– the Buddy Ryan Eagles, perhaps, or the Jerry Glanville Falcons -– lies off the current spectrum of visible football. They are infrajets.

On the right are the Giants: buttoned down, conservative, implacable, disciplined, infuriatingly slow-and-steady. To the right of the Giants, in the ultraviolet range, are the Vince Lombardi Packers and some Jesuit prep academies.

You can line the other 30 NFL teams up at various points on the Jets-Giants axis. The Lions lie somewhere on the Jets side. The Steelers stand right next to the Giants, just a hair to the left. Some teams are hard to place right now, because of major coaching and personnel changes. Who knows where the Buccaneers now rank? There is probably a team smack dab in the origin, one that has created a precise blend of low- and high-risk personnel strategies, on-field tactics, and media relations policies. That team is also probably boring, like an over-blended mass market whiskey. It’s probably the Cardinals or somebody.

When evaluating prospects for the draft, it’s important to keep the Jets-Giants Axis in mind. I did so in an Alshon Jeffery scouting report for Yahoo!'s Shutdown Corner. Jeffery is a very talented receiver with great pure catching skills, but he gained weight and lost focus last year when South Carolina grew tired of giving their quarterback a breathalyzer before taking the field and switched to a power running offense. Jeffery pulled it together just enough to make a handful of big catches in the Capital One Bowl, then got into a donnybrook with Alfonzo Dennard and was ejected in the third quarter. He has since lost anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds, gotten his 40-time up, and looks like a great prospect as a possession receiver.

Take that resume and project it onto the Jets. Pass the lasagna, Alshon! Can you see a kid like Jeffery losing focus while blocking for Wildcat plays, learning bad habits from the in-house malcontents, and generally not developing while Rex Ryan does stand-up routines and Tony Sparano tinkers with unbalanced lines?

Now, put him on the Giants. One pound overweight is a fine. Two pounds is a severe talking-to. Three, and Ramses Barden is running your routes, no matter where you were drafted. Also, your role in the offense is well-defined, your expectations explicitly stated. Headcase receivers are tolerated to a degree, as Plaxico Burress can attest, but there are limits and parameters, and Plax had some pretty darn good years with the Giants.

The basic theory at work is that prospects who need more direction and discipline need to play for teams closer to the Giants side of the axis. Who would fare better on the Jets side? Disciplined players who could use some tie-loosening, or super-talented types who bristle and atrophy inside the box. The kinds of kids who thrive in Montessori schools, or young men who would perform great feats at Internet startups with pool tables in the middle of the production floor. Dont’a Hightower is going to be a fine linebacker anywhere, and with a Giants-type team he would play within the system and aid the cause. For a Jets team, he could become a holy terror. Chris Rainey would drive Tom Coughlin completely insane with his laid-back smart-aleckiness, and he wouldn’t be a great fit in a conservative offense. Put him in a sandbox environment, and he could gain 1,400 yards from scrimmage. He could also implode, or get forgotten as everyone lurches to the next paradigm, but that’s the nature of the Jets axis.

This is all an oversimplification, of course, but it is still useful for discussion purposes. The fact that the two endpoints of the axis share a stadium and a region adds a touch of irony. The Jets and Giants remind us that football teams can be as different from one another as any other pair of corporate entities, and just as Fortune 500 companies must attract employees who match their corporate culture, teams must be realistic about which players fit their system, not just strategically but as people.

Traditionalists will point out that the Giants have won two Super Bowls by adhering to their side of the axis. Further, football is such a team sport, and the salary cap such a harsh mistress, that teams are always wise to take the conservative path. I said something similar in Walkthrough a few weeks ago. On the other hand, the Jets have had some deep playoff runs doing things their way, the conservative approach has led a lot of teams into a .500 vanilla mush, and the Eli Manning trade was the kind of daring move that can make investors a little nervous. More importantly, those of us who advocate a slow-and-steady approach are often iconoclasts and risk-takers in our own lives. I would last three days working for Tom Coughlin. Trust me. I went to Catholic school. You probably excel in an unstructured environment, though some of your co-workers may not.

But then, what’s good for me or you might not be good for Alshon Jeffery.

So where does your team rank on the Jets-Giants Axis? And more importantly, where do you rank?

Packers Running Back Top Fives

1. Jim Taylor

The Emmitt Smith of the early 1960s. Like Emmitt, Taylor was one of the two best backs of his era, and while the other back was more impressive, Taylor got much more jewelry. Like Emmitt, Taylor gets folded into his system a little bit. NFL Network’s Top 10 is doing a countdown of underappreciated players, and both Paul Hornung and Bart Starr are on the list, because all of the classic Packers suffer from a case of Credit Jenga. If anything, Hornung is overrated, and Starr has plenty of loud supporters who want to push him ahead of Johnny Unitas because he won more championships. Taylor is the underappreciated one: second fiddle to Jim Brown, a shell of his former self once the Super Bowl era kicks in and the cameras flicker on, a player with an outstanding five-year peak whose success is rarely differentiated from his team’s.

It took Taylor four tries to reach the Hall of Fame. There is hope, Cris Carter.

2. Ahman Green

Green was the second-best back in the NFL in 2003, behind Priest Holmes. DYAR ranks him third in rushing behind Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson and third in receiving behind Moe Williams and Holmes that year. The rest of his career was a string of 1,200-yard, 50-70 catch years, which of course are very good, but they don't move the DVOA or DYAR meters as much as you would think. Green caught 72 passes in 2000, a season when Marshall Faulk, Tiki Barber, and a few others were setting the bar really high for all-purpose backs.

Green was only in a class with Faulk and Holmes-types for one year, but he had seven full seasons as the primary back in a great offense, so he really racked up the career value.

3. Clarke Hinkle

Hinkle retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, with 3,860 yards. He is a member of the 1930’s All-Decade Team and the Hall of Fame; he was an outstanding three-way player who played linebacker and kicked. I have the usual reservations about ranking Green ahead of him. It came down to a string of 1,200-yard seasons for great teams in modern football against strings of 380-yard seasons for great teams in Dark Ages football. Hinkle had more All-Pro selections and Green will never touch his Hall of Fame record but, you know, it’s not a nine-team league anymore.

4. Paul Hornung

The John Stallworth of the Packers: a guy who made the Hall of Fame because the voters had built up lots of Packers momentum and couldn’t stop themselves. Hornung’s All-Pro notice was as a kicker. He was a very good back from 1959 through 1961, though he was the second-best back on his team. It took 13 years for him to reach the Hall of Fame, a period during which the Lombardi Packers went from humans to mythical creatures and running back/kickers became exotic curios of yesteryear.

While researching Hornung for NFL Network, I came across this breakdown of the Heisman vote in 1956. Hornung won by a hair, beating John Majors, Tommy McDonald, Jim Brown, and Jerry Tubbs in a vote that clearly ran along regional lines. Hornung rushed 94 times for 420 yards and threw three touchdowns and 13 interceptions as Notre Dame’s leading passer. He was not an All-America selection: John Brodie was the quarterback, with Brown, Majors, and McDonald as the other backs. McDonald had more first-place votes. We were still five years away from the first black Heisman Trophy winner, so it is no surprise that most of the country left Brown off the ballot (ah, the splendid 1950s). Hornung won because he was the quarterback for Notre Dame, and when all else failed you'd cast a second- or third-place vote for the quarterback of Notre Dame back then, even if the team was 2-8.

Hornung’s Hall of Fame candidacy is a little like that. It’s not that he was bad -– he was very good –- but his contributions were diverse and hard to quantify, and when in doubt you always err on the side of the 1960s Packers.

5. Tom Canadeo

In baseball terms, Canadeo would be Bill Terry or Lloyd Waner, an old-timer who made the Hall of Fame in a particularly weak moment by the voters.

Canadeo had an All-Pro season in 1943, doing all-purpose duty for a 7-2-1 Packers team filled with guys who had deferments or whose draft numbers weren’t called yet. The Packers beat the Steagles that year, to give you a reminder of where we are in world history. Canadeo’s own draft number was eventually called, and when he returned in 1946 he was no longer a "quarterback" and the Packers were terrible. Canadeo had a few relatively strong seasons as a rusher, then suddenly doubled his established production and became the third back in history to rush for over 1,000 yards, gaining 1,052 in 1949.

I am going to bring up Beattie Feathers in a bit, wading into the controversy about his 1,000 yard season. Canadeo’s season is not in dispute, but it was achieved under some mighty hinky circumstances. The Packers were a terrible 2-8 team. They lost games 17-0, 45-7, 35-7, 30-0, 24-3, and so on. Their quarterbacks completed 30.4 percent of their passes and threw 29 interceptions. Their passing line in the season opener: 0-for-13, with four interceptions. They rushed 40 times for 187 yards in that game, and their blowout losses are filled with suspicious rushing totals: 188 yards in a 30-7 loss to the Steelers, 55 carries for 183 yards in a 35-7 loss to the Rams, and so on. Yes, teams ran more and threw less back then, but it’s not hard to imagine the Packers giving up and just pitching the ball to Canadeo over and over in search of a record, with opponents adopting the 1940s equivalent of a prevent defense and allowing some easy fourth quarter yards. Canadeo had 26 carries for 122 yards in that 35-7 Rams game (not all box scores are complete for that year), including a 45-yard run. On a better team, a lot of those Canadeo runs would have been passes.

Canadeo did average over five yards per carry, and I don’t want to take his accomplishment away from him, but the 1,000-yard season is just about the only Hall of Fame worthy achievement on his resume, and under scrutiny it looks more like a curiosity than a feat. There’s nothing else on his resume that looks superior to Bob "Hunchy" Hoernschemeyer or several other players from his era who will never get near the Hall of Fame and probably don’t belong.

Read Canadeo’s Hall of Fame biographies, and he is praised as an all-purpose player: he ran, caught, threw, returned kicks, and played defense! If you have been reading these Top Fives, you know NFL history is littered with these guys. Pro Football Reference is an invaluable aid in learning about them and sifting through them: we can put Canadeo and Hunchy side-by-side in a matter of seconds, line up Dub Jones on one side of them and Steve Van Buren on the other, and see who really matches up with whom. Hall of Fame voters could not easily do that in 1974, and the Senior Committee (which selected Canadeo) has never been inclined to do that sort of thing, anyway.

Canadeo was a broadcaster and popular figure in Green Bay during the Lombardi era. He was inducted into the Packers Wall of Fame, and that is exactly the kind of honor a player of his caliber deserves. In terms of wins and losses, I don’t think he ranks very far ahead of...

Honorable Mention: Dorsey Levens

Levens only ranked 14th in DVOA in 1997, his best season. His receiving skills added value, but not that much. Had he ranked higher in 1997, I would have ranked him above Canadeo. He was a very good complementary back in the years when he was not the featured back.

A long, rambling note about Beattie Feathers

I omitted Beattie Feathers from the Bears Top 10 two weeks ago because I got mixed up, not because of any sort of protest about his 1,000 yard season. He should probably have been at least ninth or tenth.

As many of you brought up on the message boards, Feathers was the first player ever to gain 1,000 rushing yards in a season, gaining 1,004, or so, in 1933. That number was a source of controversy for many years. Dr. Z found it suspicious, and wrote on several occasions that he believed punt or kick return yardage got merged into Feathers’ numbers accidentally. The crew at Pro Football Researchers Association had some serious debates about Feathers in the 1980s, which I will summarize:

Researcher David Neft, the mastermind behind the first generation of accurate football encyclopedias, was able to use independent newspaper reports to correct a few mistakes in Feathers’ record, but was left with the overall impression that Feathers gained 1,004 yards. Mark Purcell, a very respected college and NFL researcher in his own right, felt there were enough discrepancies and convenient "boosts" in Feathers’ numbers to suggest that the 1,004-yard figure was either an error or a bit of fudgery by a league looking to increase fan excitement about a new star. The late Bob Carroll, then the leading voice in football historical research, refereed the discussion, generally giving Neft the Jordan treatment. In 1992, the Elias Bureau changed Feathers’ attempt total from 101 to 119 but kept his 1,004-yard number intact.

The debate over Feathers gets into conflicting game-by-game accounts. Much of it is esoteric, even by our standards: NFL sources that don’t gibe with magazine sources, in-season totals mentioned in Feathers articles that do not quite add up, games for which only Feathers’ longest runs are known (because the reporter specified an 82-yard touchdown, for instance) from which we must extrapolate that the figures in a later source are more-or-less close enough. The debate grew a little unpleasant in the 1980s: some of the stronger PFRA personalities could be quite a handful, so there are instances in which half of Purcell’s article was published, with the other half abruptly replaced with an explanation that the rest was "essentially libelous."

At any rate, Doctor Z’s kick return theory from decades ago does not appear to hold weight; it would be an unprecedented, one-time error at a time when the NFL, for all its primitiveness, knew a punt from a scrimmage play. More concerning was a 20-yard discrepancy in Feathers’ favor in his final game, which he left early due to injury. Twenty yards would be enough to quietly boost Feathers past 1,000, except for one problem: early accounts gave him 1,052 yards, a number which was later revised down!

So what happened? My guess is that Feathers gained about 1,004 yards. He had an 82-yard run. He had an 18-carry, 140-yard game in which Neft was able to verify five carries and 99 yards. He had a 7-for-114 game which was also verified. Just by looking at those numbers, we know he must have had several runs of 40 or more yards. Top running backs of the era rushed about 130 times, so three or four big plays could cause an amazing data swing. History is full of pretty good running backs who cracked the 1,000 yard barrier by getting about 15 percent of the total from a few big plays and trudging along at an ordinary clip the rest of the time. Feathers happened to be the first player to do it, and then no one else managed the trick for over a decade.

The rest of Feathers’ career was completely unremarkable, which is what got the Doctor suspicious and sent Neft and Purcell on the trail. Ultimately, Purcell’s effort to clarify/refute the 1,004 yard number validated Feathers’ strange accomplishment: even if some extra yards appeared somewhere, Feathers still rushed for more yards from scrimmage than any running back before Steve Van Buren. As for the cause of football research, we have come a long way since 1985, but we are still dependent on the work of men like Neft who clawed through old microfilm to create the searchable databases we now enjoy, as well as men like Purcell who played Devil’s Advocate and like Carroll who provided a forum.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 05 Apr 2012

68 comments, Last at 15 Apr 2012, 10:35am by jebmak

Comments

1
by Mr. X (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 1:25pm

Tony was the second Packer to have his number retired.

53
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 3:45pm

Had srugery yesterayd so was loopy. Failed to note error by Tanier
. Feathers gained over 1,000 yatds 1934. Thoughf 1933 was wrong but then even made same eror myself when see what Tanier wrote and aped it. Well am unaping Tanier now and going on own like mean lion with full mane. Feathers 1,004 rushing yards 1934.

65
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:45am

Hope you're doing well RJ.

2
by Vic Tayback (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 1:26pm

Tony Canadeo, not Tom

3
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 1:29pm

"John Brodie was the quarterback, with Brown, Majors, and McDonald as the other backs. McDonald had more first-place votes. We were still five years away from the first black Heisman Trophy winner, so it is no surprise that most of the country left Brown off the ballot (ah, the splendid 1950s)."

That's an easy accusation to make (and the lazy one), but for 1950s college football, regionalism is probably the closer explanation. In an era with no cable television, no internet, no truly national college sports coverage, and maybe two televised college football games per week, one of which usually involved Notre Dame, voters just had no exposure to out of market players. (This is endemic in the pre-Depression college football rankings polls)

Considering Notre Dame had rivalries with Boston College and Army (NE); Navy (Mid-Atlantic); USC and Stanford (west coast); Pitt (Pittsburgh); U-M, MSU, and Purdue (Midwest), and frequently played in the Cotton Bowl (south and southwest), Notre Dame was the one team with whom all of the nation was familiar. The South never saw USC or Syracuse, the Midwest never saw the south or the northeast, the south never ventured beyond the Mason-Dixon or west of the rockies, the NE was never exposed to the south or the west. At least the Big Ten and Pac-8 played a bowl game together.

Until college football started getting TV ratings, most people just never saw players from outside their region.

15
by TomKelso :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:31pm

The South never saw USC or Syracuse or Big Ten teams in the 1950's because those teams were integrated -- to claim that race wasn't a factor by calling it the "lazy" accusation ignores the cultural and in some case legal barriers that made such exposure impossible.

National media in the 1950's was radically different from the "pre-Depression" era you reference -- as different as 1953 and 1928.

Southern teams didn't go north of the Ohio River or west of the Rockies because to do so would mean that they would be playing teams with black athletes. Even bowl games were fractious debates about whether or not to invite Northern teams, which led to such results as the Sugar Bowl rematch between LSU and Mississippi, gone over in great detail in the 100 Greatest College Teams thread on this site a few years back.

To state that isn't "lazy"; it's accurate. The SEC, SWC and Southern Conference -- the forerunner of the ACC -- wouldn't let Brown on their teams. Why would they or their media vote for him for awards? And why does this point still have to be made?

20
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 3:14pm

Southern teams were racist well into the 60s. This isn't a debated point. But to say that southern racism is the driving cause of pre-1970s Heisman voting is not just overly simple, it's incorrect. And even with no voting for black players by southern writers, that doesn't explain how the least populous region of the country could have swung that many Heisman votes to white players on integrated teams who would also not be invited to play in the south.

It also doesn't explain why, to this day, ACC and SEC teams (the non-former Big East ones, anyway) play vanishingly few games north of Maryland or west of Texas. Those teams certainly have a wealth of black players now.

16
by Travis :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:35pm

Pretty much. By NCAA rule, there was only one college football game on TV per week in 1956:

9/22/56: Kentucky-Georgia Tech
9/29: regional (midwest got Indiana-Iowa)
10/6: TCU-Arkansas
10/13: regional (midwest got Illinois-Ohio State)
10/20: regional (midwest got Notre Dame-Michigan State; Notre Dame lost 47-14)
10/27: Notre Dame-Oklahoma (Notre Dame lost 40-0)
11/3: regional (midwest got Notre Dame-Navy; Notre Dame lost 33-7)
11/10: Minnesota-Iowa
11/17: regional (midwest got Minnesota-Michigan State)
11/22 (Thanksgiving): Penn-Cornell (east) / Oregon-Oregon State (west)
11/24: UCLA-USC
12/1: Army-Navy
12/8: Miami-Pitt

Notre Dame had 3 televised games, which they lost by a combined total of 120-21. Even the early 2007 team wasn't that bad.

31
by Jerry :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 6:48pm

Was the Sunday Notre Dame highlights show on the air at that point? (I remember it from the '60s, with Lindsay Nelson at the mic.)

4
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 1:37pm

One last comment about Feathers vis-a-vis Canadeo -- Feathers wasn't a utility back who had one amazing season mid-career, which never returned. He isn't Brady Anderson.

Feathers was a rookie who did amazing things, but who never recovered from the injury which ended that stellar season. When healthy, he was unstoppable. He was just never healthy for his last 3.5 years in the league. He's more akin to Billy Sims or Gale Sayers.

61
by Mr Shush :: Sun, 04/08/2012 - 5:29pm

Or a running back version of Greg Cook.

5
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 1:49pm

Won't go through the whole spectrum, but by top 5 "Giants axis" teams:

Giants
Steelers
Bears
49ers
Patriots

Jets Axis:

Jets
Raiders
Cowboys
Lions
Eagles?

8
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:04pm

Top 5 Gants axis(the nerds)
giants
Steelers
Packers
Clots
Chiefd

Top 5 Jets axis (the cool dudes)-
Jeyts
Raiders
Bengals
Saimts
Redskins

9
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:04pm

I don't think I'd put the 49ers in the Giants axis; their existing Gm and coaching structure have only been in place for one year, which doesn't seem to be enough stability. They also run some weird stuff on offense and Harbaugh has a rather pugnacious reputation. Similarly for the Bears; they sacked Angelo a couple of months ago and just last year had the zaniest show on turf for an offense.

I'd suggest that the Packers deserve to take one of their places. They build through the draft and have stability both on and off the field. I think I'd put the eagles in that category too as the only odd thing they've done recently was last year's attempt to sign all of the available free agents, which is a blip among ten years of stability.

If you look at the teams at the ends of the spectrum it seems like the most prominent factor in determining whether a team is a Jet or a Giant is the ownership. The most stable and in my opinion the best owners tend to oversee the Giant-types and vice versa.

23
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 3:34pm

Yeah, I was thinking more of their current (as in this year) style of play - discplined, team-and-role centric, etc.

Historically, the Packers seem like they'd be there. I just saw their offense this year as more freewheeling - go out there, beat your guy, and let talent win out sort of thing.

29
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 5:42pm

I wouldn't regard the Pack as freewheeling. I think they operate according to a plan and it's a good one.

If you haven't seen it here's a link to Bill Walsh running a coaching clinic on his offensive system that forms the basis of the Packers offensive system (I posted this on another thread but it's top stuff). There's nothing random about it, it's all planned.

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=7109

54
by bravehoptoad :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 4:37pm

Thanks, Karl. I loved watching those videos.

13
by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:22pm

Does that make the Eagles Romania or Bulgaria? Or the Patriots? I get this whole Axis thing mixed up.

66
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:48am

I always think of the Eagles as Ireland - they just wear green and drink a lot.

67
by jebmak :: Sun, 04/15/2012 - 3:36am

Oh crap! I forgot to make my diplomatic rolls for this turn. Can I go back and do that?

14
by VarlosZ :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:24pm

As a Giants fan -- and one who actually attended a Jesuit prep academy here in the city -- I must say that it feels good to root for a classy, universally respected organization. And then seeing all those Jets fans roaming the streets ... such poor, pathetic creatures.

Anyway, as for Top five Giants-Axis teams, I agree with:

Giants
Steelers
Bears
Packers...

... and, then, how about the Baltimore Ravens? That they moved recently and have a new name implies otherwise, but everything else they've done since then is right in line with what we'd expect from a staid, conservative, traditional franchise. Right?

18
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:38pm

Good point on the Ravens, institutionally they're very dull.

21
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 3:20pm

Oddly, the Bengals. That's a staid, conservative franchise that just happens to be dedicated to losing.

The Lions are also remarkably stable and quiet internally, from an organizational standpoint.

25
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 3:59pm

The Lions are stable but only because the Fords have used their 'I don't give a s*&t' approach with both their football franchise and their business interests.

62
by Mr Shush :: Sun, 04/08/2012 - 5:33pm

Surely the Bengals are far too happy to draft and sign players with character issues to qualify?

44
by Scott de B. :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 10:25am

Surely the Patriots are more Giants-like than even the Giants.

52
by Dee Dee Ramone (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 3:38pm

This is fun. I think you have to distinguish between the personality of the players/organization and the style of offense or defense, which makes it tricky to locate the team on the axis. Tanier's description made it sound like he was talking about the personality aspect. Here's a couple of examples of the contradiction.

The Ravens run a conservative offense, yes, but the personalities involved are way on the Jets end. Defensive players openly criticizing play calling? Jets.

The Patriots use a Run and Shoot offense and go for it on 4th and 2. But their personalities are buttoned down and totally on the Giants end. Ochocinco admitting that he "learned [he] could shut the **** up." Giants.

60
by Jake (not verified) :: Sun, 04/08/2012 - 2:32pm

The Packers are another contradiction. As an organization they are clearly a Giants-axis team: button-down front office, heavy draft and develop emphasis, and the inherent diva-repellent that is living in Green Bay. However McCarthy's offense is one of the most diverse in terms of formations and personnel in the league. I suspect this is likely to increase, too, as Rodgers gets even more comfortable with McCarthy's demanding offense, and with the recent addition of Randal Cobb.

6
by ammek :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 1:55pm

When Canadeo retired, he was #2 all-time in rushing yards and #3 in attempts. The 1,000 yard season may look suspicious, but some of Canadeo's contemporaries (Charlie Trippi, Bill Dudley) who also made the hall of fame never even came close. Those runners who began their careers after the war made Canadeo's numbers look pedestrian. But strictly staying with his contemporaries, Canadeo was more durable and had a higher (if briefer) peak.

John Brockington over Levens?

19
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 3:14pm

I agree with you on Canadeo, that's an odd era with the war impacting a lot of careers and like you mention I try to keep those guys grouped up. So while I think Tanier under rates him, I also think general perception can over rate him and I think reality is somewhere in the middle. His 1,000 yard season was a bit odd. But there will be arguments in the future about Chris Johnson's 2000 yard season too, it's on record that he was fed the ball to get to the mark, though it wasn't a full season long. I agree that on a better team Canadeo might not have gotten to 1,000 but I still think he would have been better than his contemporaries. So he is pretty clear at 5 for me.

I also think I would put Brockington over Levens and if Grant sticks around for another year or two as a complimentary back I might even put him in front of Levens. I didn't really like Levens that much, though he was a solid receiver (better than Grant for sure), in watching those teams he felt like a slightly above average cog, much like Grant was the last few years.

I'd also like to point out that I feel Green is firmly #2 and can often be under rated as player. There was a draft thread, of all places, last year where I did some digging and I think I did a good job of using the numbers to show that he was likely a better back during the 3 year stretch that included their best seasons than either Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson. It wasn't a claim I expected to make, when I started but as I was pulling some numbers up it kind of presented itself. Of course Peterson has continued to put up impressive seasons and his pass catching has improved and I think he is clearly the better back, but it's closer than some might think.

That post for those interested can be found here http://footballoutsiders.com/nfl-draft/2011/2011-football-outsiders-draf...

24
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 3:51pm

I was also wondering why Brockington wasn't mentioned. He had three brilliant years in the early 70's, then burned out quickly. The baby bull backfield of Brockington and Lane was essentially two 70's fullbacks in the same backfield, and Lane was a legit receiving threat. Definitely better than Levens and arguably in the bottom of the top 5. Canadeo was before my time. I was too young to judge the all-purpose Hornung of the early 60's. By the time I remember Hornung, he was nominally the starter but Taylor was sharing the backfield with Elijah Pitts most of the time and Don Chandler had taken over his kicking duties. I think Hornung is overrated because he and Max McGee make all the Lombardi discipline problem stories and he was always a good interview. Still an excellent player, but I agree he got in because they were putting in all the big Packers names into the HoF.

28
by young curmudgeon :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 5:39pm

The absence of John Brockington jumped out at me, too. His career was short and he got worn down fairly quickly after MacArthur Lane wasn't there to help tote the ball, but, man, he ran HARD. When he was playing, I thought there was no runner in the NFL I'd less rather tackle than Brockington. (Of course, if I were to attempt to tackle an NFL runner, I'd need at least a bazooka for assistance.)

33
by Arnie Herber (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 7:07pm

Isn't quite the top 5 that I was expecting, but Tanier made a pretty good case for the slotting.

However, given how much he criticized Hornung and Canadeo, why not try to see where the Packers' other NFL Hall of Famer at RB, Blood McNally, might fit in on the list? (And while he's criticizing Canadeo, could've at least called him the Grey Ghost of Gonzaga to make up for it ;)

I agree that I'm unsure why Brockington didn't make the top 6, especially since lists seem to emphasize backs who contributed more than 'replacement back' did.kn

Its disappointing how the Pack doesn't have a lot of strong candidates like the Bears (who merited their extended list of 10) did. But if my list goes 1. Taylor 2. Hinkle 3. Green 4. McNally 5. Brockington 6. Canadeo 7. Hornung 8. Levens... who to put 9-10? Verne Lewellen? Grant? Ted Fritsch or Howie Ferguson? Bennett or Ellis? Perhaps best to stick with a solid 5 rather than try to sort through them.

35
by tuluse :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 9:01pm

I hope the 3 decades and counting of HoF quarterbacking makes up for it :)

55
by Ed Schoenfeld (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 6:44pm

McNally was more of a receiver than a 'Running Back' as the modern game understands it. Vern Lewellen is the Packer Old-Timer who deserves some print as a rusher, credited with 37 rushing touchdowns out of 49 total. McNally's Tds were in the opposite proportion, 5 rushing out of 44 total.

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/L/LeweVe20.htm

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BlooJo20.htm

For Modern players, PFR gives Gerry Ellis, Donnie Anderson, Edgar Bennet, and William Henderson all higher Approximate Values than Ferguson.

I think cutting the list at 5 is the way to go, too, but Llewellen deserves more press. :-)

64
by Arnie Heber (not verified) :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 10:39am

Good points, Ed.

McNally sounds tricky to classify - a back more known for receiving than running, a receiver who wasn't wide? Where do we rank someone like that today?

I'm not sure how much I trust AV to evaluate someone of Ferguson's era... but I was mostly including him to suggest that the cast isn't that jaw-dropping, anyway, so yea, not in the top 10.

(Also, in response to another's post: I wouldn't give Levens extra credit for being half of a backfield-sharing tandem on a Super Bowl winner... lest I need to vault Grabowski and Wilson up the list for their work on NFL champs. Not to mention Brandon Jackson's performance as the lead back for the 2011 SB winners...

And in response to another's question - yes, the QB history can make up for the RB list! Just kind of weird that we haven't had more great RBs.

So - cheers to Llewellen!

56
by Ed Schoenfeld (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 7:07pm

Regarding Canadeo, he was selected in 1974, before any of the Lombardi players, and was the very first Senior committee nominee. Cutting down his selection as mere 'Packer mania' seems somewhat of an overstretch.

Also, I am pretty sure the standard for a player getting their name on the wall at Lambeau Field back in the day was being in the Hall of fame *first* (Not sure when they put Reggie's name up). I suppose you might quibble about retiring the number, but I suspect Canadeo's contributions after his playing career ended (especially his role in getting Lombardi to Green Bay) may have had something to do with that. (Check the Lombardi Bio by David Maraniss for info.)

I am somewhat with you on Brockington over Levens, as Brocks peak was higher. But Levens won a ring . . .

57
by Ed Schoenfeld (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 7:10pm

I need to take back the bit about Canadeo being the first Senior nominee -- closer reading at the hall of fame website showed Ace Parker in 1972.

7
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 1:56pm

Think Frathets had 1000+ yards 1933 but havd not confirmed yer

10
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:06pm

Frathets = Feathers?

22
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 3:25pm

yes Frathers = Featgers

27
by BigWoody (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 4:31pm

+1 +1 +1 +1

68
by jebmak :: Sun, 04/15/2012 - 10:35am

Okay, that was *really* funny.

11
by socccer101 :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:10pm

The Giants have won 4 Super Bowls with their method, not 2. Parcells practically invented the current Giants' method. Recognizing of course that that "invention" was an improvement upon the school Lombardi invented as passed on to Parcells by Landry, but as a NYG fan no Cowboy gets credit for anything ever.

40
by JasonK :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 7:58am

In terms of organizational attitude, I'd argue that it has a lot more to do with George Young and Wellington Mara than Parcells. Tuna was frequently at odds with the GM and ownership over personnel issues.

(And a real Giants purist would point out that both Lombardi and Landry were Giants assistants before they made their reputations at head coaches.)

42
by Passing through (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 9:04am

So I know very little about football pre-1990s, but based on watching one episode of A Football Life featuring Tom Landry, I take issue with this phrase:

"Recognizing of course that that 'invention' was an improvement upon the school Lombardi invented as passed on to Parcells by Landry..."

My impression of Landry was that he was the calm, planning, systematic guy (a snazzier looking Belichick?). My impression of Lombardi was that he was more of a hard work and motivation/religion guy (a Mike Singletary type in the right era). I don't think their approaches were similar.

I guess both approaches fall on the Giants side of the axis if you interpret that side to mean both consistency (Lombardi) and systematic (Landry). I guess unpredictability and reactionary would desribe the Jets side.

12
by starzero :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:19pm

I would rank the Colts on the Giants' side. Irsay may believe himself to be a loose cannon, but in the past decade he built a team so dedicated to Professionalism that when it lost its key control freak the conservativism inherent in the system brought everything crashing down. Where the new team falls is anyone's guess, but I suspect it'll still be on the Giants' side. The Colts' disarray will have more to do with poor communication than a permissive atmosphere.

--
hail damage

17
by Led :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 2:37pm

I don't buy the Jets-Giants axis framing. It sounds too much like Grandpa Simpson comparing Namath and Unitas. The Jets are probably sui generis right now in terms of the openness of their media policy, which means everyone has a better look at the sausage making that goes on strictly behind the scenes with other teams.

On the other hand, the Giants have been disfunctional enough at times, despite the SB wins, that Coughlin has been on the verge of being fired in almost every year for the last 5 years. Plus we're not far removed from the Tiki Barner spectacle. But a SB win causes the release of that hormone that surges in new mothers to dull the memory of the labor pains, and rightfully so! And while Pittsburgh is obviously a well-run organization, it has been subject to the Big Ben circus and certain prominent defensive players appear to view themselves as at war with the league over player safety penalties. The Patriots are as slow-and-steady, rigidly structured as you can get from an organizational perspective, but bold, daring and innovative from strategic perspective. Where do they fit in on this axis? I think Tony Sparano is very much a "Giants-axis" guy in terms of discipline and organization, but his Miami staff introduced the Wildcat, he's now with the Jets and was a big proponent of the Tebow trade (a paradigmatic "Jets-axis" move).

I tend to think "culture" (like "chemistry") is over emphasized and that it can't even be measured accurately because our impressions are colored by the level of success on the field. What matters isn't whether teams wear ties or or start meetings 5 minutes early what the media policy is, it's whether they make good personnel decisions, manage the cap well, maintain continuity in the coaching staff and offensive/defensive systems and effectively teach players how to play those systems. These are all technical skills, not attitudes.

41
by JasonK :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 8:02am

Coughlin's only actual experience on the verge of being fired as Giants HC was after the 2006 season-- he had to can both his coordinators to keep his job. All the other rumors have just been the media stirring a story out of nothing.

45
by Dr. My Whole Life Ago, and Then Some (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 10:55am

Ah, December 16, 1968.

Lyndon Baines Johnson is president, though Richard Milhous Nixon has already been elected to replace him.

NASA is preparing for the launch of Apollo 8.

The film Oliver! is in its first week in theaters.

Elvis Presley is in the first month of his comeback.

The White Album is number one on both the USA and UK charts.

Also, it's the last day the Steelers had a head coach not named Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, or Mike Tomlin.

26
by KevT (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 4:30pm

I am not buying the Jets-Giants axis either. The Jets and Giants of today both coaching and management wise come from the Parcells tree. The Jets washed off the Rich Kotite era with Parcells and never looked back even with coaching bombs like Mangenius or Herm Edwards.

Mike Tannenbaum (aka Trader Mike) practically nursed from the teet of Bill "I want to shop for my own groceries" Parcells. Furthermore, Tannenbaum has been a constant in the Jets organization for several years and has built up a steady roster of homegrown starters and impact players along with the occasional free agent splash that grabs headlines.

Case in point: Tannebaum's first move as GM was to rebuild the line by taking two first-round picks on offensive linemen - D'Brickishaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. The Giants on the other hand assembled linemen from all over the place, including a raid on the Jets for Right Tackle (Kareem McKenzie). The Giants up and down performance over the years is in part explained by the Giants inconsistent approach at the offensive line.

30
by Kurt :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 6:24pm

I can buy the Jets side of that argument but jeez, is the Giants' "inconsistent approach at the offensive line" anything like the Patriots' commitment to the power running game or the Bears' lousy special teams? Kareem McKenzie is one guy. Go look at the offensive linemen the Giants have started over the last ten years and tell me where this "all over the place" is they've been getting them from.

32
by VarlosZ :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 6:58pm

Giants' up & down performance? Since '05 -- Coughlin's second season, and the last time they had a big Free Agency splurging off-season (acquiring MacKenzie, Plaxico, and Antonio Pierce) -- they've won 11, 8, 10, 12, 8, 10, and 9 games. That looks pretty damn consistent to me.

And while it's not unreasonable to tie the team's fortunes to the state of its offensive line, they've been extremely consistent there, too. Look at their rosters since '05 (starting below, just keep hitting "next season"). '05 and '06 the lines are identical. In '07 Luke Petigout is done so they slide Diehl over one spot from LG and promote from within to fill his spot (Rich Seubert). '07, '08, and '09 the line never changes. In 2010 Rich Seubert mostly plays Center, and they promote from within to fill his spot (Kevin Boothe). In '11 they promote their '09 2nd Rounder (Will Beatty) to starting LT (sliding Diehl back to LG), and make their only meaningful O-Line free agency signing in six years (C David Baas).

This is the very definition of conservative roster-building. They signed almost no free agents, and didn't even expend big draft picks (end of the 2nd Round was the highest they went). They just hung on to their veterans and developed (mostly) their own late-round picks to fill their spots as needed.

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/nyg/2005_roster.htm

43
by KevT (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 10:20am

I think you misunderstand my point. Conservative roster building begins with an emphasis on the lines. The Giants' line, while somewhat consistent in personnel, has largely been an after-thought as a priority, hence the lack of desire to improve by getting better vets and drafting higher for young guys.

The whole point is that to say that the Jets are flash in the pan in terms of developing young talent is to overlook the fact that they have groomed talented, young lineman into quality starters and a few all-stars -- the very epitome of what Tanier is calling "The Giants Way." By comparison, the Giants built their offensive line "The Jets Way" relying on older vets for the most part (whether acquired or retained).

46
by Dales :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 11:07am

"has largely been an after-thought as a priority"

I think the main reason it has been an after-thought as a priority has more to do with the fact that, until one and a half seasons ago, the offensive line was a clear strength. And after last season (not the one just completed), it would not have been too far of a stretch to imagine the tail-off at the end was possibly an injury-related abberation, especially if they had the comfort of being confident in the backups.

The only place it feels to me that the Giants have acted like the position is not a priority is linebacker, or perhaps running back.

51
by Cro-mags (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 2:37pm

I agree that the Jets do have a sound, home-grown core of players (Brick, Mangold, Revis, Haris, Keller) and have let some walk too in Abraham and Vilma. Unfortunately, those guys (except Revis) are always overshadowed by the media lightning-rod types they bring in like Holmes, Cromartie, Tomlinson, Burress, Braylon Edwards, and now Tebow.
Dustin Keller had a great year last year and led the team in catches and yards, but, I think, to the detriment of the Jets' public perception, the media-drama surrounding guys like Holmes/Plaxico/Mason defines the franchise.

34
by akn :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 7:14pm

There is no Jets/Giants axis.

There is only a Hot/Cold-as-the-season-ends-and-you-enter-the-playoffs axis.

36
by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 9:54pm

At the exact center of the axis are my Panthers. Considering where they were before Cam, this is a major improvement. I'm moving to Charlotte next week, though, so they need to get out of the 8-8 mire.

37
by Theo :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 10:14pm

Poor Browns. Wanna be on the Giants side - but always end up being on the Jets side.

38
by scottyB (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 11:49pm

Lawrence Taylor

David Harris

huh?

39
by scottyB (not verified) :: Thu, 04/05/2012 - 11:50pm

Lawrence Taylor

David Harris

huh?

47
by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 11:40am

Loved the info on Feathers. Never had heard of him before now, but it was all very interesting. I find it quite funny that the Pro Football Researchers apparently all but came to blows trying to finalize his numbers. One of those cases where you've got to decide that "close enough" really is close enough.

48
by johonny (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 12:26pm

The Dolphins are a team that seem year to year jumping on either side. One could say the fact their owner can't decide what type of team he wants is their whole problem. A few years ago they were a conservative defense first pass rushing team that ran the ball to shorten games. Then they wanted to go big and went out and traded for a troubled big name receiver, brought in a new offensive coordinator and moved to a style of ball that their coach wasn't exactly geared mentally for. They were going to be a darn the bad press as long as they play well type of team. They sign minor celebrity owners to bring press hype to the games. Heck they even honored the opposing teams starting QB because he was a popular state QB although not their region of the state. Now suddenly they have traded off the "bad" seeds and want to be a west coast dink-dunk passing team. Taking a bland new head coach and seem to want to go back to the back of press productive player not star pick ups. Back-forth. The last emotion swing lasted about two whole season. Who knows what team the Dolphins will try to building a few seasons from now.

49
by asdasdadad (not verified) :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 12:48pm

"[...] jets side [...] The kinds of kids who thrive in Montessori schools, or young men who would perform great feats at Internet startups with pool tables in the middle of the production floor"

If you believe this sentence or even spent a second of thought about it, and still wrote this superficial bull, you are an i#|0t.

There is a difference between attitude and creativity. And there is plenty of people performing at an extreme high level in creative positions who employ a conservative attitude and would want no part of this Jets hogwash.

50
by TomC :: Fri, 04/06/2012 - 2:10pm

Dude, lighten up. You have a halfway reasonable point, but nobody's going to hear it in the middle of your weird, over-reactive rant. You clearly lie way on one side of the take-a-humorously-reductive-conversation-starting-statement-far-too-seriously axis.

58
by RickD :: Sat, 04/07/2012 - 12:12am

My understanding is that a good part of the reason it took Hornung so long to get into the Hall of Fame was that he was suspended for the 1963 season for gambling on NFL football.

Surprised nobody has brought this up yet.

59
by PatsFan :: Sun, 04/08/2012 - 9:05am

Mike -- I saw the announcement over on "Shutdown Corner".

Will you be writing at both places or saying goodbye to FO?

63
by Mr Shush :: Sun, 04/08/2012 - 6:22pm

The Texans are most definitely a Giants side team. Through ten years of existence, despite going 65-95 with only one playoff appearance, they are currently on their second ever head coach, second ever general manager and second ever starting quarterback (with all three entrenched for the foreseeable future). The head coach gives precisely two different press conferences: the Loss ("It's all on me") and the Win ("it's all down to the players"). The star player is a wide receiver out of Miami . . . who runs immaculate routes but never his mouth and whose sole contribution to the news cycle off-the-field is an unending stream of stories in which his team-mates describe him as the hardest worker at the club. The resident maverick played for the league minimum uncomplainingly in a year which he entered as an all-pro the league's reigning champion in at least four major statistical categories, and his "wacky antics" consist primarily of inspirational tweeting and celebrating touchdowns by an Eastern gesture of respect and greeting, although he did cause a minor fuss by tweeting x-rays of his own knee and once turned up late for a meeting. For which he got benched, responding by saying that the sanction was entirely deserved and he would never be late again.