Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Impact of the NFL's Kickoff Rule Change

After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?

03 Jul 2012

Walkthrough: Tsk-Tsk

by Mike Tanier

Aldon Smith committed the worst possible NFL crime on Saturday: he was involved in a violent incident during a slow news period.

Smith received minor injuries as the result of a stab wound during an out-of-control party at his San Jose home. Two people were shot at the party, but they are expected to pull through, and Smith is not a shooting suspect, but a stabbing victim. Still, the first rule of Internet sports writing is to identify the most famous sports person involved in any scandal, then vilify him as quickly as possible. So I am four days late in saying tsk-tsk at Smith, though it is really just sour grapes because I don’t get invited to this kind of party anymore.

Didn’t Smith learn anything from the Rookie Symposium? Several early-response bloggers asked that question on Sunday, before cooler heads set the record straight. No, he did not. There was no Rookie Symposium in 2011. Remember the lockout? The NFLPA held a similar event, and 23 of 32 first round picks attended. Smith, and any other rookie with time on his hands (all of them, last June), probably should have gone to the NFLPA’s "The Business of Football: Rookie Edition" program, but none of them had the chance to go to the Rookie Symposium, which was cancelled.

If they had, they would have learned that the very first PowerPoint slide says "Don’t Get Stabbed."

Actually, the speakers tell rookies to avoid places where there are lots of guns and intoxicants, like nightclubs, parties for famous people, or any of the other places wealthy 20-somethings like to hang out. Because, otherwise, what’s the point of being a wealthy 20-something?

"Don’t host a gun-filled party" is darn good advice for anyone, of course. So is "don’t drink and drive," something Smith did a few months ago. I’m not saying Smith used excellent judgment, just that our collective tsk-tsk is a tad self-serving. May those of us who are without fault throw the first tsk. If we followed all the prudent advice we are given at various times in our lives, there would be no high cholesterol, no upside-down mortgages, no happy hour specials. I prefer to live in this world of messy people who do foolish things.

Emerging from a gun fight with a minor knife wound shows a degree of resourcefulness and restraint, I think. It is not quite like coming away from a Vegas weekend with wrist lacerations from wearing too many chastity bracelets, but if this were an actual scandal, Smith would be on one or the other end of gun violence. Some sources claim he was breaking up a fight, and some of my fellow writers have taken him to task for this, because the right thing for him to do would be to walk away. That’s on Day Two of the Rookie Symposium: suppress all human emotions and reactions.

We actually know few details about the Smith party. The police themselves asked witnesses to come forth on Tuesday, more than three full days after the event. Nothing gets society’s shadier elements in a confessional mood like hearing the police admit that they have no leads whatsoever after days of investigation. If you have reliable details of what happened at the 2 a.m. party, please come forth, though I regret to inform you that you are doing 2 a.m. parties wrong.

Smith was allegedly wounded with a pocket knife. A pocket knife? Who was hanging out at this party: Mark Trail? It wasn’t a Swiss army officer, because everyone knows that the corkscrew is the best weapon on those bad boys. In my version of events, Smith heard gunshots and immediately went to rescue two Cub Scouts who were working on their knife safety merit badges, but one of them inadvertently jabbed him. Tsk-tsk to anyone who believes otherwise.

The Smith incident, what with its gunshots, 100-person parties and pocket knives, would merit a little attention any time of the year, but it got undue play in the NFL press because there is nothing else to talk about right now. The league goes dark in late June, and desperate writers resort to gimmicks like Best and Worst Free Agents and Top Five Running Backs in Houston Texans History, often pre-written before much-needed vacations. All of us hope that Smith is okay, that the gunshot victims are okay, and that nothing else happens until after the Fourth of July, or preferably Monday, when we return to work mode.

Smith’s party took place during the quietest part of the American sports schedule, which is a good time for a football player to throw a party, if you think about it. As usual, baseball is trying to pick up the slack with the run-up to the All-Star Game, because in baseball’s paradoxical world shutting the league down for three days increases excitement.

Major League Baseball is having a hard time getting players to participate in the All-Star Game. They should threaten them by making them attend the Pro Bowl instead. All of the guys who really want to play are being snubbed by Tony LaRussa, so the leagues have resorted to gimmicks. The sport’s latest gimmick involves in-game Twitter: once players sub out, they are allowed to Tweet their thoughts.

Now, there’s an idea the NFL should steal. If Arian Foster and Chris Kluwe were Tweeting from the sidelines, I would watch the Pro Bowl. Chad Ochocinco could Tweet pre-snap if he ever makes another Pro Bowl. I would vote for players solely on their Twitter skills. Pete Carroll would coach both sides.

Baseball’s plan is doomed to backfire because the sport’s best social networker, Brandon Phillips, is being snubbed by Tony LaRussa. Baseball traditionalists hate the Twitter idea, which means I love it, because nothing entertains me more than baseball traditionalists going tsk-tsk, which is the sound they make while breathing.

If Smith had waited two days, the Tour de France might have diverted some of us from his incident, though it is admittedly hard for someone to schedule when he is going to be stabbed. Unfortunately, the Tour de France start was delayed for 45 seconds because a train was going by. Or maybe it wasn’t a train: maybe Lance Armstrong has really been hitting the stuff. French officials were very cross at the train for causing confusion and delay, but luckily, no one was hurt. Train delays are one of many reasons why there is no Tour De Secaucus.

Speaking of Twitter, North Jersey, and linebackers putting themselves close to precarious situations, Mark Herzlich Tweeted this last Friday night: "Anyone in Belmar wanna let me park in their driveway?" Surviving cancer and winning the Super Bowl are easy compared to Jersey shore parking. Day Three of the Rookie Symposium explicitly covers parking in strange driveways, if you get my drift, but Herzlich could not attend it, because he wasn’t drafted, and there wasn’t one. Tsk-tsk, Mark. Just drive down to Atlantic City and park in a casino lot. The further south you come, the less filth you are swimming in, though you probably do not want to think about that.

Speaking of swimming in filth, Olympic hopeful Nick Symmonds is dating Paris Hilton, who has weeks two through five of the Rookie Symposium all to herself. Symmonds, from Boise, was so smitten by Hilton that he asked her father for permission to date her. That must have been the greatest conversation ever, with Rick Hilton wondering who this nice Martian boy is who has never seen the Internet. Symmonds sounds like the kind of a guy who waits for the third date to go all the way, five dates longer than the usual Hilton paramour. She is probably charmed and bored by him. No word on whether Symmonds has parked in Hilton’s driveway yet.

I happened to be down the shore the day before Herzlich, when the beach was so hot it burned through the towels, the water was hot enough to melt medical waste, and the greenhead flies were big and ornery enough to brandish pocket knives. Having had my fill of that, I took the family to the Williamsburg Family Vacation Demilitarized Zone, which was actually more fun than I thought it would be. If you are going to shake me upside down until every last dime flies from my pockets, at least give my kids a fun roller coaster, me some decent food, and mention a historic event once in a while so we can pretend it was educational. The folks in the Bermuda Triangle of Water Parks and Reenactments did just that. A bear was captured outside the grounds a few days after we left, probably looking for a parking spot.

While driving through Family Fun-or-Else Land, I noticed many SUVs with stick-figure stencils on the backs. The stencils were all cute caricatures of the happy families inside, but surly after hours on the road and in coaster lines, I liked to pretend that they were all that vehicle’s victims. "Let’s see, while driving this smallish locomotive through suburban cul-de-sacs, I clipped a guy with golf clubs, a woman who wears trapezoidal skirts, some cute kids, and a dog. I also delayed the start of a bike race 45 seconds."

When couples divorce, do they fight for custody of the stencils? When the dog passes away, does dad have to go out there with a pocket knife and tearfully scrape poor Rover’s caricature from the back of the family truckster? Maybe I watch too many ironic family dramas, but I assume the happy stencil family is a sign of a miserable real family, the matriarch breaking down over her second martini at a backyard barbecue and pointing at the little white drawings while sobbing: "this is how we are supposed to be, damn it!" Or maybe I am trying to justify my sloppiness and lack of decorating skill as a sign that I am happy.

Wholesome family events are a far cry from raucous Aldon Smith gun parties. Or are they? My father liked to fire his .357 Magnum every Fourth of July. He would take my brother and me to the back of the yard and let us watch him fire it into the ground. He was a responsible man, I guess, as he did this before my unpredictable uncles arrived or the Carling Black Label was chilled. He would then put the gun back in its top-secret hiding spot, which was his sock drawer, which eight-year-old me could only reach if I got on my tippy-toes or used a stool. Those were the first parties I attended at which shots were fired.

Granted, inviting a hundred of your rowdiest friends over for a party isn’t quite the same as a father taking his two young sons to the back of a suburban yard to show them just how thrilling and fun firing a weapon can make a celebration. When you think about it, the latter is far, far stupider. Right now, I am deaf in one ear, because I got wax-and-Jersey-seatoxin sludge in there, then sent the Starship Q-Tip in to investigate under yellow alert with phasers on stun. The wax is so lodged that the nurse couldn’t remove it. She looked at me as if I were an idiot for using a ramrod-shaped implement to try to remove something from one of the two matching orifices in the male body into which we should never, ever jab something but are likely to try. And of course, I am an idiot for doing this. How can I judge anyone else?

Mining a violent incident at which several people were injured for laughs is in dubious taste. Mining the same incident for prefab moral indignation against one of the victims of the violence is in worse taste, and is also boring and unoriginal. Once you read the (scant) facts of the Smith party, do you really need someone else to provide "he should know better" contextualization?

Trust me: I take violent, alcohol-fueled incidents very seriously. Too seriously to casually blame the one person we can safely identify as a "victim," and too seriously trivialize them by folding them into a "potential distraction for the 49ers" storyline. These aren’t Aldon Smith problems or NFL problems, but human problems. Those problems are out of my jurisdiction. Everyone appears to be okay. Smith won’t even miss work. We breathe a sigh of relief, and we chuckle at our foibles. Everyone knows they should know better, with or without a symposium.

This year, there was a Rookie Symposium, and Pacman Jones told the rookies that he spent one million dollars in one weekend. I want details. And receipts. It takes a staggering amount of drinks, wagers, and loose women to spend one million dollars in one weekend. Giving Pacman 5 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, with no sleep, that comes out to over $16,000 per hour. Forget making it rain, that’s typhoon season. That’s a movie plot: Pacman’s Millions.

Jones set the modern benchmarks for wild behavior and gun violence by associates. He is paying for it with $11.6 million in lawsuits. It’s hard to separate yourself from your rowdy friends when your rowdiest friend is yourself. If I have learned anything from this business, it’s that I get older and wiser, while football players remain 20-something dudes with lots of money and sex appeal and the commensurate judgment of 20-something dudes. Dumb things will always happen, and you’ll work your poor high horse to death if you make it gallop every time a player, or any young person, does something stupid.

But I have always been permissive on such matters. Tsk-tsk.

So Much to Shill, So Little Space

Football Outsiders Almanac 2012 will be out next Tuesday, and the final edits are trickling forth from HQ. Apparently, I described some player as having a "36-inch wingspan and a 10-foot vertical leap." Can you imagine such a stubby, dexterous creature? I made that correction, but that gives you some idea what stage we are at.

If you are an Eagles fan looking for something to tide you over while we terminate the grasshopper people, check out The Eagles Almanac. It contains a big chapter by me, which does not duplicate anything in our book, because I did not write our Eagles chapter. (Okay, some of the Asante Samuel stuff finds its way into the Falcons chapter, and you will recognize some Audibles rants). Other writers include Tom McAllister, author of Bury Me in My Jersey, and several of the writers for sites like Bleeding Green Nation and other Eagles blogs. It’s a fun mix of analysis, opinion, and humor, a little like our book, but it’s all Eagles. Oh, and it is cheap, and like FOA, most of the money goes to the guys who wrote it.

I just finished Chris Brown’s The Essential Smart Football and realized that I have not plugged it, and it is probably too late because you guys have been talking about it on the comment boards, so you all know about it.

Brown is one of the top football strategy experts working in the media today. He may be the top college football strategy expert of all, because he does not have to compete with Jaws and Company in the college realm. Brown follows strategic threads through history like no one else, and he can tell you which coach learned what from whom and when, while at the same time explaining the plays themselves. He also explains some over-arching football philosophies that are rarely explained to laymen.

There are not enough books like this on the market, and we need to support the heck out of all of them so publishers can see that there is an audience. Brown’s book makes a great companion to The Games That Changed the Game because Ron Jaworski and Greg Cosell focus on many games from yesteryear, while Brown spends more time on recent innovators. The Essential Smart Football will help get you ready for both the college and NFL seasons.

Oh, I am supposed to keep previewing my FOA chapters, right? Here goes:

Miami Dolphins: This essay began as 1,700 words of Jeff Ireland jokes. We went back to the editing room with it because the DVOA projection for the Dolphins is not terrible, and at some point piling on poor Ireland gets a little tiresome. There is only one recent team executive I can think of who was as clueless, and as prickly about his cluelessness, as Ireland. When not breaking down Ryan Tannehill’s merits, we compare and contrast Ireland to that legendary character.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The first half of this essay was written just before the Combine, when Greg Schiano cobbled together his band of unlikely coaching misfits. There’s Butch Davis, whose job title is carefully crafted so he can double dip on his North Carolina University severance. There’s Jimmy Raye, last seen mumbling into a headset and losing a power struggle to Alex Smith in San Francisco. There’s Bill Sheridan, who was so terrible with the Giants that he was fired before season’s end in 2010 by the most patient organization in the NFL. This is one garbled mess of a coaching staff, with guys like Davis and Raye holding vague titles that all but guarantee chain-of-command questions.

The second half is more optimistic, because the Bucs had a solid draft, made wise free agent acquisitions, and appear to have a decent young nucleus in place. The coaching staff may have some hiccups, but the Bucs will be better than they were in December of 2011. To get any worse, they would have to have all the bones from their bodies removed and live on as jellyfish people.

New Orleans Saints: I spend 1,700 words scornfully condemning the Saints and offering my solemn moral judgments on the Bounty situation. Kidding! Kidding! The Saints chapter accepts the bounty penalties for what they are, and tries to move forward and really analyze the implications.

When we get down to it, the Saints lost a head coach, a star linebacker, a general manager for half a season, and some ancillary pieces. The defensive coordinator was out the door anyway, so all the sound and fury about Gregg Williams amounts to nothing. The Saints have a veteran offensive roster and an experienced offensive coordinator, so how much will really change without Sean Payton? Jonathan Vilma was nursing an injury anyway, and Curtis Lofton provides an adequate replacement.

So everything is fine and dandy, except for the matter of not having a general manager early in the season. That has bigger implications than a casual fan might think. The Saints are in a truly unprecedented situation, and no one would claim that the losses of Payton, Vilma, Mickey Loomis, and Joe Vitt don’t matter at all, or matter in a way that is easily quantified. But our best methods suggest that the biggest threats to the Saints are not bounty repercussions, but the Falcons and rising Panthers.

Texans Top Five Running Backs

1. Arian Foster

A very good back, and a tremendous system fit. Those of us who don’t watch a lot of Texans football don’t think of Foster as a receiving threat, but he had three 100-yard receiving games last season, which helped him finish fifth among NFL running backs in receiving DVOA.

2. Domanick Davis (Williams)

Memory wipe! I forgot this guy existed! Williams will remain the Texans all-time leading rusher until about the fourth quarter of the Texans’ first game; he is 98 yards ahead of Foster. Davis earned Pepsi Rookie of the Year honors in 2003, was better in 2004, injured his knee late in the 2005 season, suffered complications in camp in 2006, and has disappeared. A Google search offers the option "Whatever Happened to Domanick Davis?" which I plan to use as the title of my first screenplay.

3. Steve Slaton

A plug ‘n’ play zone-stretch back in the fine Alex Gibbs tradition, Slaton finished ninth in the league in DYAR in his signature come-from-nowhere season in 2008. He then got all fumbly, and Gary Kubiak reached into the bin for the next one-cut guy.

4. Ron Dayne

Dayne actually ranked 16th in the NFL in DVOA and fourth in Success Rate in 2006, showing just how amazing the zone-stretch rushing concept can be. His 2007 season was not as good, but it was not a train wreck: 15th in Success Rate, 34 DYAR, a slightly-above-replacement performance for a guy who flirted with replacement level for his whole career.

I try not to write much about the random fact that two future first-round NFL picks sat in my classrooms when I was a teacher. I mention Joe Flacco often enough, but Dayne was in my very first homeroom when he was a freshman at Overbrook High School in 1992. He was the most amazing high school athlete I ever saw, including Flacco, and I will always remember the pudgy, silly 14-year-old who could somehow run hurdles even though he had not yet turned his baby fat into muscle (which eventually came lined with a little too much man fat, but I am trying to be sweet and nostalgic here). That I taught or otherwise supervised two future first-rounders is incredibly random, because South Jersey is not Dade County, and we don’t produce much NFL talent.

5. Ben Tate

Tate could get to No. 2 on this list in about three years while never supplanting Foster for the starting job. Averaging 5.4 yards per carry will help.

Colts Top Five Running Backs

1. Edgerrin James

Arguably the best running back in the NFL in 2000, 2004, and 2005. He finished second or third in rushing DYAR in each of those years, fifth, fourth, and third in receiving DYAR for a running back, and his Success Rates ranged from 55 percent to 62 percent, always among the top percentages in the league.

Being a cog in a tremendous offense helped, of course. There are many great running backs who did not have great quarterback teammates: Walter Payton, O.J. Simpson, Jim Brown (though he had some pretty good, underrated ones), Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson. There are a few greats who appear to be unduly helped by the system around them: late-era John Riggins tops the list, with Paul Hornung and Roger Craig as other possible candidates.

In between there are players like Edge, Emmitt Smith, Franco Harris, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk, and many others who were paired with great quarterbacks during their best years. How you assign credit is largely a matter of taste. I tend to give Franco a little more credit for his teams’ success, Edge a little less, but if I locked myself in a room with game film and stats I might change my mind.

The next guy also had the help of a great quarterback.

2. Lenny Moore

During the Colts’ late 50’s glory years, Moore and L.G. Dupree or Alex Hawkins were listed as halfbacks, Alan Ameche as fullback. If you ever watched footage of the 1958 NFL Championship, you know that the Colts used a two-back set, with Moore lining up as a flanker on many snaps, Dupree on some others. In the 1960s, the Colts and most other teams stopped pretending that they were using a three-back backfield, and Moore was listed as a flanker, though he still carried the ball 90 times per year. By the mid-60s, Moore was the halfback, with Raymond Berry and Jimmy Orr as the wide receivers, which is a hell of a receiving corps, particularly with John Mackey at tight end. Oh, and Johnny Unitas was pulling the trigger. Don Shula, the team’s coach by this point, started using some single-back sets, putting Moore in something similar to the slot so he could run up the seam.

Moore often averaged over seven yards per carry in those early sort-of three-back seasons, catching 40-50 passes in the process. He and Frank Gifford each had skill sets well suited to that brand of football, which is one of many things that made the 1958 Championship so special. In modern football, Moore and Gifford would excel as featured backs for wide-open teams. Both would fall somewhere close to the Marshall Faulk side of the spectrum from Brian Westbrook to Marshall Faulk.

Late in his career, Moore became the 60s version of a committee back and short-yardage specialist. A few years later, the NFL became so power-based that 190-pound speedsters like Moore would have a hard time standing out.

3. Marshall Faulk

Our stats hated Colts Faulk as much as they loved Rams Faulk. He posted negative rushing DYAR in 1995 through 1997, two of them 1,000-yard seasons, and his receiving DVOA-DYAR were nothing special before 1998, even though his raw numbers were pretty good. Our stats had no idea that he was trying to supply all of the offense for an often terrible team that considered Sean Dawkins a No. 1 receiver. Faulk could easily rank fourth on this list, but that doesn’t feel right.

4. Lydell Mitchell

We are the 70s Colts Preservation Society! God save Baltimore, and Bob Irsay’s rare sobriety!

For the 1970s Colts, Ted Marchibroda ran an offshoot of the Sid Gillman offense that was almost, but not quite, as innovative and exciting as the ones Don Coryell ran in St. Louis and Bill Walsh ran in Cincy. Mitchell was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this offense, gaining over 1,000 rushing yards from 1975 through 1977 and catching 60-72 passes per season. These are incredible numbers for that era, and these years are on a par with the best Roger Craig years.

We tell 1970s Colts stories a lot at Football Outsiders. Bert Jones’ 1976 season was one of the greatest statistical seasons a quarterback ever had, though the numbers are suppressed by the Dead Ball Era. These Colts teams were very good, going 10-4 or 11-3 every year, but they always lost to the Steelers or Raiders in the playoffs. Then, Jones got hurt and Robert Irsay’s financial problems and drinking became big issues. One by one, the Colts’ biggest stars were salary dumped, including Mitchell, who was out of the NFL by the time the Colts went 1-15 and allowed 6,973 yards from scrimmage in 1981. The Jones-Mitchell-Sack Pack Colts were one of the NFL’s forgotten Really Good Teams, though we do our best to remedy that.

Mitchell and Franco Harris were teammates at Penn State, and they now run a food services business together.

5. Eric Dickerson

Dickerson had two truly outstanding seasons for the Colts: strike-shortened 1987, when he rushed for 1,011 yards in nine games, and 1988, when he pounded out 1,659 rushing yards. As Nate Dunleavy wrote in his book Blue Blood, Dickerson was the first true star the Colts acquired after moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis; before Dickerson, the team won 12 games in three years and was still in the throes of the mismanagement that had plagued the team since the late 1970s.

As important as Dickerson was for legitimizing the Colts to a fanbase of lifelong Bears and basketball fans, he brought diminishing returns, and his constant salary demands overshadowed his production in the second half of his Colts tenure. I would rather have Mitchell or Faulk in their Colts primes than Dickerson, on and off the field.

There are a lot of honorable mentions. Tom Matte was an important all-purpose player for the entire decade of the 1960s. He played halfback, returned kicks, and even filled in for Unitas at quarterback at times. Matte started a playoff game at quarterback against the Packers in 1965, going 5-of-12 for 40 yards but rushing 17 times for 57 yards. The Packers needed a fourth quarter comeback and overtime field goal to beat Matte and the Colts 13-10 (Bart Starr was also injured for most of the game). Matte also rushed for 115 yards in a losing effort in Super Bowl III. Star-crossed career, I guess, but a very good one.

Joseph Addai was a fine player for several years and helped the Colts win a Super Bowl. Alan Ameche was thunder to Lenny Moore’s lightning. Ameche and teammate Gino Marchetti founded the Gino’s hamburger chain. In Philly in the 1970s, Gino’s was a worthy competitor for McDonalds. They served Kentucky Fried Chicken and hot dogs (unusual for fast food joints, then and now) and had an endorsement deal with the Phillies. There was a Gino’s four blocks from my house, near the youth baseball fields, and my buddies and I would go get Gino Giants and sodas after practice, assuming we could scare up three bucks each, plus some quarters to play Wizards of Wor on the game machine. Is this sounding enough like an old guy story to you? How about now: my glove was "autographed" by Dave Rader. That did it.

Anyway, Ameche will always be part of any list I make, thanks to all those Gino Giants and hot dogs. And Colts running backs clearly have a knack for the food services industry, so ten years from now we may be all pigging out at Addai’s.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 03 Jul 2012

80 comments, Last at 26 Jul 2012, 8:33am by bengt

Comments

1
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 10:55am

Slaton's pro career was entirely predictable if you were even passably familiar with his college career -- an excellent first two seasons, followed by bafflingly underwhelming junior and senior seasons. This was then mirrored in his pro career -- great early success, followed by later under-performance. Slaton was one of those guys who couldn't handle success.

2
by Anony-mous (not verified) :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 11:37am

Slaton was one of those guys who couldn't handle success.

Or perhaps he was a guy who couldn't handle the workload that comes from having success as a running back.

6
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 12:05pm

Right. I couldn't speak to his college days, but as a pro Slaton was derailed by injuries, and to a lesser extent fumbling. He never really got his quickness or lateral agility back, and might have done better if the team had only ever asked him to be the THIRST back they originally drafted him to be.

11
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 1:24pm

My memory is that he handled the workload fine, he just handled the football as though it were precious seed that needed to be planted carefully in the ground, preferably at the two yard line.

12
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 1:25pm

S. Slat on injured a lot at WVU. Always banged up. Also had fumbling problem only made worse when one time get hand injury. Thought would he a good 3rd down back and thought if ever had to get 20+ carries for gull season he would break down pretty quickly.

15
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 1:46pm

Slaton only missed the bowl games in 2006 and 2007. He had a wrist fracture in his stellar 2006 season, but was healthy for most of his odd 2007 season, where Noel Devine basically ate his lunch. (It was Pat White who kept getting hurt in 2007)

Devine seemed to have had the same college career as Slaton -- huge early season, followed a wet fart.

21
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 2:38pm

But he was always banged up . Didn't he have a big fumble vs Louisville?

34
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 5:20pm

He did indeed. If memory serves, he put the ball on the ground a couple times that game, partly because of an arm injury.

35
by Rivers McCown :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 5:23pm

Slaton was never the same back after his neck surgery.

Then again, who would be the same back after a neck surgery? That's scary.

52
by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 4:35am

Are you talking about Peyton Manning too now?

3
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 12:00pm

Addai's - Looks good and is in a great location but ends up being rather mediocre.

I also have difficulty believing that people were buying Carling Black label in the US, it was bad enough that they were selling it in the UK.

13
by Verifiable (not verified) :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 1:34pm

I still remember the Carling jingle, "Hey Mabel, another Black Label, Carling Black Label beer". In the US this was (still is?) vile swill. But living in Detroit I had access to the Canadian version which was on par with Molson and Labatts, which were better than any US beer until the advent of microbreweries.

16
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 1:47pm

Yuengling has been around for quite a while.

27
by Verifiable (not verified) :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 4:06pm

Yuengling is a fine beer, I don't remember it being available in the pre-Microbrewery days in Michigan so I was unaware of it at that time.

32
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 5:06pm

I was merely addressing this line, "which were better than any US beer until the advent of microbreweries," by pointing out that Yuengling has kicked the pants off Labatt's or Molson since 1829.

38
by Jerry :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 5:54pm

Yeah, but it wasn't distributed very widely (like not even to Western Pennsylvania) before the craft brewing era.

Stroh's was probably my favorite of the American beers that were available in Pittsburgh in the '70s.

39
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 6:00pm

Labatts has the taste, aroma and consistency of piss.

Though you could substitute 'Labatts' for pretty much any mass brewed lager.

40
by tuluse :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 6:19pm

Sam Adams?

42
by Marko :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 7:33pm

I shudder to think how you know what piss tastes like.

51
by rfh1001 :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 3:26am

Which one of you guys is Peter King? I've always known he's one of you. And I know it's not you, raiderjoe, so don't try to pretend.

58
by Dean :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 10:36am

I thoguth we figured out that Pete is Honest Abe?

56
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 5:25am

This is how all English people start the day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK3LduV4-tg

63
by Verifiable (not verified) :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 12:16pm

Which is why I drank Labatts's 50 which is an ale. Honestly though I have not had a Labatts in 20 years so I am probably romanticizing it being significantly better than other mass market American beers.

25
by jw124164 :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 3:20pm

I LOL'd. Good one.

4
by Carter (not verified) :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 12:02pm

Jeff Ireland is clueless? Really? Not sure I can agree with that. That roster has come a long way from what it was when he took over.

28
by Insancipitory :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 4:11pm

Describe in W-words only the good things that come into your mind about your mother.

29
by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 4:21pm

I agree. I think he means clueless not in the sense of building his actual roster, but in his personality and his media image. Where it is hard to argue Ireland and the whole current Dolphins franchise is having a hard time.

64
by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 1:20pm

I gotta agree. He's unpopular, but not incompetent.

------
We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

5
by RickD :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 12:04pm

I feel like you're measuring Eric Dickerson on the Colts against Eric Dickerson on the Rams, and not against Lydell Mitchell on the Colts.

I would certainly take Dickerson's three year peak on the Colts over Mitchell's three year peak. On rushing alone, Dickerson is far better - only receiving yards bring Mitchell near Dickerson's production level.

As for James, I hate the word "arguably". It seems like a way of saying "this is my opinion, but I'm going to hedge just a little bit." You could argue that James was the best RB in the league in 2000, but is it a good argument? The FO stats have him at #2 behind Marshall Faulk, which is about how I remember things. Marshall Faulk was still transcendent in 2000, while James was a mere mortal. In 2004 James is behind Curtis Martin and Corey Dillon and in 2005 he's behind Larry Johnson and Shaun Alexander. Excellent RB? No doubt. Good choice for Colts #1? Yeah, I can accept that. But #1 in the NFL? Not for any of these years.

The weird thing about the Colts' RB list is that clearly (IMHO) the two best RBs are Dickerson and Faulk. They are the two no-brainer Hall of Famers. But both had their best years for other teams.

7
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 12:10pm

I'd definitely rather have 2005 James than 2005 Alexander, and I'd probably rather have 2004 James than 2004 Dillon, and maybe even 2004 Martin. 2005 Johnson, no chance, and Tomlinson should be in the conversation for both years. Holmes was also better for the half of 2004 when he was healthy.

9
by Eddo :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 1:12pm

"The weird thing about the Colts' RB list is that clearly (IMHO) the two best RBs are Dickerson and Faulk. They are the two no-brainer Hall of Famers. But both had their best years for other teams."

And, oddly enough, they had their best years for the same team.

8
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 12:15pm

Foster is an absolutely outstanding receiver - not in the sense of being able to line up in the slot and run downfield routes, but in that his excellent hands and elusiveness make him a massive threat on screens, swing passes and even checkdowns. He routinely takes 3rd and long give up dumpoffs for first downs, even when TJ Yates is in at quarterback and the defense knows all they have to worry about is Foster.

I would rank Tate's extra 1.4ypc ahead of Dayne's extra 400 yards and 2 fewer fumbles.

53
by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 4:36am

I think Yates was actually a strong QB and teams couldn't discount him to focus on Foster, the way a team could if their QB was Tim Tebow or something.

57
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 7:04am

He was far better than could reasonably be expected of a fifth round rookie, and better than Blaine Gabbert, but I think "strong" is seriously pushing it. He generally threw the ball well, and avoided turnovers, but he was very slow through his progressions and lacked pocket awareness, so he took a lot of sacks. He was also running a very simplified version of the playbook. FO's numbers say his production was almost exactly replacement level, in a pretty good situation. He completed 30 passes to Foster, 9 more than to anyone else, and as many to Foster and Tate combined as to Johnson and Walter combined.

In fairness, it got a lot better once Johnson came back, but "Look at Andre first and throw him the ball if he's even vaguely open" is not that demanding a game plan. He's got the arm to execute it, though, which I suppose not all third stringers do.

59
by peterplaysbass :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 10:44am

I don't get that theory. McGahee thrived while Tebow was at QB, and I think Shonn Greene will do the same this year.

Although teams sure did stack the box against AP when Tarvaris Jackson was at QB for the Vikings.

10
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 1:23pm

Bougt he Chris Brown book. Read couple chapters when appear on website. Will read rest of book this.moth

80
by bengt (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2012 - 8:33am

I ordered FOA 2012, Essential Smart Football, and Games that Changed the Game on Sunday, read Tanier's plug on Monday, and got the books delivered on Tuesday and Wednesday.

14
by wesd (not verified) :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 1:39pm

I always refer to those stencil stickers as "lobotomy stickers". Just look at the faces of the people on them

17
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 1:49pm

I recently saw a minivan where the dad stencil on the back window had been semi-scraped off, little bits of him still hanging on. Somebody was apparently in a hurry to get rid of him.

18
by MJK :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 2:01pm

though it is really just sour grapes because I don’t get invited to this kind of party anymore

Mike, does this imply that you used to get invited to wild, 100+ person parties full of rich and famous, gun-toting 20-somethings? I thought you went to school at Brown...

19
by MJK :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 2:02pm

because nothing entertains me more than baseball traditionalists going tsk-tsk, which is the sound they make while breathing.

Best line I've read in a long, long time...

24
by tuluse :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 3:00pm

Agreed, I was also partial to the self effacing "Top Five Running Backs in Houston Texans History."

20
by The Anti-Dave (not verified) :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 2:20pm

The Colts were 2-14 in 1981.

22
by Dean :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 2:47pm

Please tell me this means you compare Ireland to Rich Kotite?

26
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 4:03pm

I thought that comparison had to be Matt Millen. As a Packers fan, I actually felt sorry for Lions fans who endured his reign of error.

30
by Dean :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 4:57pm

You're probably right, but Tanier is a Philly guy, and Kotite was something less than media savvy.

33
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 5:08pm

While I like "reign of error", I'm more partial to the expression "The Matt Millen Error."

I also like the overfeated season.

50
by AJ (not verified) :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 12:27am

i was thinking...it takes a very special brand of gm mismanagement to actually field a roster incapable of winning even a single game. As the woeful colts showed this year, even a team that gets beat 62-7 should win at LEAST one game just from sheer turnover luck alone. That detroit managed this feat is a true testament to a job done poorly.

But then again, how do you expect to field a competitive defense when all of your picks are receivers and runningbacks and your qb is john kitna?

60
by ErikKramer1GameWonder (not verified) :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 11:42am

"Competitive defense"? I would have settled for "defense not comprised of special-teams castoffs from other teams".

65
by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 1:23pm

Either way, I just can't see it. Both those guys sucked. Ireland is a guy people don't like, but he doesn't suck. That's a big difference.

------
We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

23
by Dean :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 2:50pm

I would have loved to have seen you work a Tennessee Williams reference into the part about the dysfunctional family masquarading as happy - but the line about the Tour de Secaucus more than makes up for it.

It's the offseason, there's nothing going on, and you're still funny. Jerry Seinfeld would be proud.

31
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 5:05pm

My paramedic friend always used to say "Never stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ears"

36
by JimZipCode :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 5:23pm

Disappointing not to see Curtis Dickey, Randy McMillan, and the Waterbug Joe Washington, even mentioned on these lists. :-(

I guess it's because they all sucked. Man, it was not fun to be a Baltimore Colts fan, 1979-83.

37
by AJ (not verified) :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 5:32pm

Did anyone actually go to the beach this 4th of july in the northeast? It was apparently a super scorcher with tons of crowds and lots of congestion on the streets. Who in the world wants to go through that on a day off?

Its funny that the entire country is going through a heatwave and yet northern california has had pretty mild summer temperatures so far.

41
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 7:17pm

You'll make up for it during your next three seasons of Earthquake, Mudslide, and Wildfire.

44
by jimbohead :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 8:34pm

Lived in Northern California over 20 years, never experienced any of these first, or even second-hand. Just sayin.....

45
by MJK :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 10:29pm

I've only lived here 6, but I also haven't felt any of those. The mudslides are (primarily) a souther california issue. Also, a lot of us live in sparsely wooded grassland, so wild fire isn't really a danger. The fault lines, on the other hand...

49
by AJ (not verified) :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 12:21am

Ive lived here my whole life, went to college in la and moved back to northern cali. Fires are generally in the sd and la area but the earthquakes ive experienced have been barely noticeable. As for mudslides...never heard or experienced one ever.

55
by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 4:41am

You should read The Control of Nature by John McPhee

43
by zlionsfan :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 8:03pm

it's only funny until the kid with the magnifying glass points it at you.

47
by dbostedo :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 11:22pm

"Did anyone actually go to the beach this 4th of july in the northeast? It was apparently a super scorcher with tons of crowds..."

Was that supposed to be one of those "...no one drives in New York City, there's too much traffic..." kind of jokes?

48
by AJ (not verified) :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 12:19am

No,

Between reading tanier and the news about the heat and traffic of this week, i was just wondering if anyone actually went.

79
by tgt2 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:11pm

So, you think the stories were made up?

62
by SandyRiver :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 12:12pm

Quibble on the "decreasing filth". That only extends to about Tuckerton, after which proximity to Atlantic City ratchets up the undesirable ingredients. And when the sea breeze is switching over to land breeze just before sunset, the calm allows the greenheads to carry machetes.

46
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 10:32pm

This was the best Walkthrough of the offseason so far.

"Nothing entertains me more than baseball traditionalists going tsk-tsk, which is the sound they make while breathing." Absolutely perfect.

54
by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 4:40am

Agreed, the first section averaged more than a laugh per paragraph!

66
by bradmerrill :: Sat, 07/07/2012 - 3:54pm

here here. Well written, insightful, and entertaining. Without getting all preachy, it nicely brings out human aspects of the humans doing the writing and the reading about the world of sports.

61
by kps43 :: Fri, 07/06/2012 - 12:00pm

Catcher's glove? Dave Rader was a catcher, Doug Rader a 3rd basemen for Hoston

67
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 07/09/2012 - 9:23am

Gino's was terrific! I used to go to the one on Roosevelt Boulevard in the northeast all the time. When it closed, they turned the building into a bar. Then it was a strip joint. Today it's an outpatient clinic. Ironic if that place catered to people with STDs, rehabers and diabetics, wouldn't it?

68
by JonFrum :: Mon, 07/09/2012 - 9:25pm

Tanier's articles write themselves. A (black) NFL player involved with a party where knives and guns come out? Blame the media! Yes, Tanier, you're a good little liberal, and when the revolution comes, a black man will put a dab of paint on your door to mark you as a 'good' white person and spare you.

I'm 57 years old, and somehow I've avoided getting stabbed at my own parties, or being around guns going off. Two people shot at his house? Tsk-tsk... nothing to see here, move on...

69
by Jerry :: Mon, 07/09/2012 - 11:12pm

The difference is that, in the unlikely event that there was a violent incident at your party, nobody would pay any attention to it beyond it being part of local news' rundown of that day's violent crimes.

70
by LionInAZ :: Tue, 07/10/2012 - 9:43pm

Indeed. If you're a white man, you can plug a few 9-mm rounds into your daughter's computer (showing good judgment by doing it in a populated area, and wasting the money you spent on it), post it on Facebook (meanwhile providing a good example by smoking like a chimney), and then get praised as showing "tough love". Tsk, tsk, nothing to see here... Those poor sorry liberals would only be wondering if the daughter would be the next target of this angry man who takes out his frustrations by shooting off a gun. And I can't help back to a recent US president who couldn't be bothered to address questions about his "youthful indiscretions" while he was sending other youths to prison for the same thing.

Tanier's point is that Aldon Smith did not shoot off any guns, and was a victim himself. I agree that he might not have shown the best judgment in having this party (were there bouncers to keep weapons out, for example?), but it's neither illegal nor against NFL rules to host parties in your own home. People who live in glass houses and all that.

71
by AJ (not verified) :: Wed, 07/11/2012 - 12:38am

I always feel like wagging my finger when i hear ppl use their personal life as a sort of moratorium on behavior. "well i grew up and avoided gangs so theres no reason others cant..." I mean, are you really comparing yourself to aldon smith as if the circumstances were identical or even semi identical? For that matter, what if violence at party's was pretty typical, but you happened to get lucky or the reverse, aldon smith just happened to be unlucky?

I find personal experiences form narratives that tend to dominate logic and lead to incorrect conclusions more often than not.

72
by Intropy :: Wed, 07/11/2012 - 3:30am

I realize the overall point you're making is a general one against personal anecdotes. But do you have real doubt that gun violence is not a typical party activity? Or even if you stipulate that it is common for the devil's advocate, can we agree that it is bad?

73
by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/11/2012 - 1:55pm

What he's saying, which is fairly indisputable, is that some parties are more likely to have guns and, therefore, gun violence at them than others. A gigantic factor in whether or not a party will be replete with guns has to do with the background of those at the party. It's easy to live in the suburbs of Los Angeles and not see a gun at a party. It's slightly harder in South Central. If you're importing from friends from South Central into Burbank, the odds of seeing a gun shift once again.

I don't agree seeing guns at a party is bad, either. My father and grandfather were both hunters and having a few rifles around while you have some beers by campfire at the end of the night with your buddies seems perfectly fine to me. I think violence at any party is bad, but again I've seen plenty of young men get drunk and start fights coming from any background. Saying drunken rage is bad is in the neighborhood of saying any party featuring men under 25 is likely to be a little bad.

Anyhoo, this all reminds of what happened with Sean Taylor's death where pundits (such as myself!) immediately chimed with "well, you reap what you sow" type sentiments before the whole story came out. Smith was a victim in this party, there's no account that he did anything wrong other than have his friends over. Save the tsk-tsking for those who earned it - and there are plenty of them in the NFL.

76
by Intropy :: Fri, 07/13/2012 - 12:09am

I very specifically did not call having or seeing guns at a party atypical. Indeed, as a gun owner every party I throw has guns present in the house. I claim only that gun violence is not a desirable party outcome.

I'm also not making any claims as to the specific actions of the people involved. For all I know Smith was throwing a low-key Parcheesi tournament that got hit by some very lost bank robbers whereupon Smith dove in front of a bullet about to hit a child. In that case Smiths actions would be commendable, heroic even. Through no fault of his that would still be a bad party.

The only claim I make is that while I agree that using your own personal life as a standard for "normal" can lead to misunderstandings, I think it's fair to say that the hypothetical "what if violence at party's was pretty typical, but you happened to get lucky or the reverse, aldon smith just happened to be unlucky?" does not represent the norm unless your threshold for what constitutes "violence" is way below what happened at this party.

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by chemical burn :: Fri, 07/13/2012 - 12:52pm

I think drunks getting violent, throwing punches and getting in each others' faces is extremely common at parties that aren't explicitly family-oriented. i think the difference tends to be that in, say, NYC it is extremely unlikely any of the belligerent drunks will have firearms, while in South Central it is extremely likely they will. Similarly, I think that in Southern Chester County, PA, it is likely the drunks will have guns around, but the parties will be much more likely to fairly small because of how the population is distributed. All of these are factors in how and why the extremely, extremely common drunken belligerence escalates. Drunk young men yelling and wanting to fight at a party is as normal a circumstance as I can think of at a party serving alcohol to primarily young men. The gun violence is not normal because the mitigating cultural factors play a huge role.

What I'm saying is this: there were likely to be drunk men with guns threatening each other at Aldon Smith's party because of his background. It would have been fairly difficult for him to ensure that there wouldn't be. There's no account of Smith having done anything wrong himself - the only thing he can currently accused of thus far is not making an effort to be someone different and reject his cultural background (and we also have no evidence that he didn't make a good faith effort to do so but failed.) Cutting who you are and where you come from out of your life might sound easy enough, but I highly doubt that would be something any of us here could successfully accomplish.

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by LionInAZ :: Thu, 07/12/2012 - 10:48pm

I suspect that the sheer size of the party was part of the problem. A party that size attracts all sorts of people who might or might not have been invited -- bad friends, bad acquaintances, bad friends of good friends, party crashers, etc. I don't know the details of whether the shooters were actual friends of Aldon Smith, but I do know that in my city there are plenty of parties that get out of control simply because they're too big and too many uninvited people show up and cause trouble -- they're pretty typical of off-campus college parties here in Tucson.

78
by chemical burn :: Fri, 07/13/2012 - 12:55pm

This is exactly right - and even the college example is spot on. Ask any police officer in a college town what their biggest problem is and they'll tell you it is parties that got too big so there was no one in control and no way for anything to be controlled.

To me, it sounds like Smith was probably trying to take charge of his party, didn't realize it was no longer "his party" in any meaningful sense and got stabbed for his efforts.

74
by alljack (not verified) :: Wed, 07/11/2012 - 2:39pm

Three days off in the middle of a 162-game schedule? Whose idea was that?