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24 May 2012

The Walkthroughtape Letters

by Mike Tanier

The Walkthroughtape Letters, I

My dear Wormwood,

I note with concern your indecision regarding the Drew Brees situation. Your hesitation in this matter is puzzling, in that you so readily and effectively countered The Enemy’s gambits regarding Brees in the past.

Your positioning of Brees as a potential ancilary figure, or even an accomplice, in the Bounty scandal was clever master stroke. The swiftness with which you inserted the What Did Brees Know? meme into the public consciousness was exemplary; it was precisely the kind of maneuver that got you promoted from the social network adultery department in the first place. You handled it with appropriate subtlety, as well: a few sensationalized, incredulous articles and columns littered across our world wide web, some inflammatory Tweets, and soon millions of your patients began to doubt the virtuousness of one of our more troublesomely incorruptable athletes. I even sent notes on your success to our agent in charge of baseball fans, imploring him to find a way to apply the same treatment to that Jeter fellow before it is too late.

And now, here is our Brees again, refusing to sign a multi-million dollar franchise offer, missing offseason activities, and yet public sympathy is almost universally in his favor? We are giving back many of our gains. We need to act swiftly.

The difficulty caused by the Saints organization, which you outlined in your last report, is duly noted. No, there is no way the public will sympathize with them at this point, and their lack of credibility and moral virtue makes them natural villains. But here, you are naively resorting to logical reasoning: it is easy to position both sides as villains in a dispute such as this. In fact, it is preferable.

If we are to best use football fandom as an avenue for temptation, our first priority must be to make our patients, the fans, as jaded as possible. Jading them to the simple pleasures of sport opens their minds to our darker inventions: not just gambling or the lazy gluttony of all-day drunken viewing, but wrathfulness, and that creeping disatisfaction that robs them of joy in other endeavors and causes a ripple effect throughout their lives. In short, your duty in the sports department is to keep fans both disillusioned and habitual in their sport viewership. They must watch it more, and enjoy it less, in the tradition of our classic cigarette advertisments.

It is a tricky balance, but there are some simple rules. Every time we can lower our patients’ opinion of a genuine sports superstar, we must take it. And we must be proactive in smearing the reputations of the more blameless superstars. Fans close ranks against criminal types who play the game; in fact, some criminal acts, when punished or at least apologized for, activite our patients’ collective forgiveness reflex, and you know who is behind that little trick. (The Enemy!) But chip away at their heroes with innuendo, vague accusations, and petty resentments, and the fans will be left with a queasy feeling in place of the simple joy or excitement they once felt about that athlete, yet they will be left with nothing tangible to "forgive."

Brees should be positioned, in this case, as a man who has turned his back on both his struggling organization and his fans. What sort of sport hero misses practices when fans are craving a silver lining about a wretched offseason? What sort of employee turns his company’s screws when he knows that organization is in disarray? You can position Brees as not just a bad teammate but a bad citizen. And of course, these accusations do not have to stick to be effective. You just need to insert them into the marketplace of infernal ideas. Truth is not really our bailiwick.

On that count, I trust your instincts, as you are our best mass media demon. Go with your gut, as they say. Disillusionment makes a soul delectable, and you have hundreds of thousands to cultivate, simply by promoting our peculiar brand of football "appreciation."

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape.

Rams Top Five Running Backs

1. Marshall Faulk

Faulk finished first in the NFL in receiving DVAR for running backs every year from 1998 through 2001; one of those seasons was with the Colts. When evaluating running backs, we sometimes fall into "good receiver/bad receiver" thinking: he is either a big help in the passing game or he is not. It is easy to lose track of Historically Excellent receiving, like Faulk’s, and Remarkably Terrible receiving, like Michael Turner’s or late-era John Riggins’. We do the same thing with quarterback scrambling, to some extent. In Faulk’s case, his receiving capabilities take him from an obvious Hall of Famer to someone who should be included among discussions of the top-10 running backs of all time.

2. Eric Dickerson

The Rams won 9-to-11 games per year with Dickerson at running back and the likes of Dieter Brock, the decrepit Steve Bartkowski, broken-down Vince Ferragamo, and Steve Dils at quarterback. Just to pull up one game from 1986, Dickerson rushed 38 times for 193 yards and two touchdowns in a 16-10 win over the Cardinals, while Bartkowski finished 5-of-21 for 91 yards.

The Rams offense operated like this for four-and-a-half seasons, with Dickerson becoming more and more of a contract headache, no doubt realizing that the human body only has a handful of 400-carry seasons in it (one, in most cases). The Colts list will be interesting, because we may be seeing both Dickerson and Faulk again, though there is no guarantee that Dickerson will beat out some of the old-timers vying for space.

3. Steven Jackson

Jackson is nearly 2,000 yards ahead of Dickerson and Faulk on the Rams’ all-time rushing list. He now has more yards from scrimmage than Faulk with the Rams. In the eternal battle between peak and career value, Jackson is a predicament. Dickerson and Faulk have insanely high peaks Jackson can never match. How much career value must he amass to catch either of them? That’s a matter of individual preference, to a degree, but I would place Jackson ahead of Dickerson if he has a few productive seasons for some .500-plus Rams teams. The win-loss record matters in this case because it is hard to imagine the Dickerson-Dieter teams cracking .500 without Dickerson. Asking a running back to elevate his team to such a degree is a tall order, but Dickerson met it for a few years.

4. Lawrence McCutcheon

An outstanding running back who had four 1,000-yard seasons during the Dead Ball 70’s for a Rams team no one ever talks about. There is a great book to be written about the early 1970s Rams: McCutcheon, James Harris, Jack Youngblood, Fred Dryer, the old Joe Namath, the young Ron Jaworski, Chuck Knox, and annual 10-4 or 12-2 seasons, followed by disappointment at the hands of the Cowboys or Vikings. If someone has already written this book, please let us know!

5. Dan Towler

Deacon Dan was the best pure runner in the Bull Elephant backfield, a three-fullback attack the Rams used when Norm Van Brocklin was their quarterback and their passing game was the greatest show on 1950s natural turf. He shared the backfield with Tank Younger (a two-way player who earns Honorable Mention) and Dick Hoerner; all of them were in the 220-pound range. When Van Brocklin was not throwing bombs to Crazy Legs Hirsch, the Rams ran jumbo-type plays, with Hoerner and Younger lead blocking for Towler.

This video does not show any of those plays, unfortunately. It is a snippet of a completely bonkers 1950s version of Hard Knocks, without the "hard," and it is only for fans of ironic humor. Towler (who became a minister after his playing career) does get a few on-screen moments to stare at a Bible, look thoughtfully into the distance, then struggle to close a suitcase.

Dick Bass was a 1960s Steven Jackson, fighting the good fight as a rusher-receiver-returner for some terrible teams. But all of this talk of Deacon Dan has made my guest contributor a little nervous.

The Walkthroughtape Letters, II

My dear Wormwood,

Your efforts in the Junior Seau burglary case betray a disturbing lack of originality and focus. While I recognize the energy and initiative you invested in tempting some reprobates to burglarize the home of a beloved, recently-deceased football star, and I understand the theory behind your effort to wring additional evil out of that situation, I am worried about your unclarity of reasoning.

First, remember that your duty is to steer souls into our bellies by the thousands, not one at a time. When you were in the social networking adultery department, did you go door-to-door, asking bored housewives to switch on their webcams? Of course not. You helped develop software, and choice architecture, and social habits, and it earned you a promotion. This is the same principle: we do not descend into the dens of desperate people, then drive them to suitable locations to commit further crimes. That is Dark Ages strategy. And of course, the souls you tempted were already breaded and lying in the basket, ready for our deep fryers. An extra high-profile bit of evil was little more than a squirt of ketchup on their damnation.

Rest assured that I am not overlooking the second part of your report, in which you explain in detail how much despair and anger you hoped to instill in football fans, causing them to question the inherent goodness of society and the human soul, and so on. In fact, your actions had exacly the opposite effect. It galvanized righteous indignation, but of a sort that it is hard to exploit for our purposes. Righteous indignation is only an effective tool when directed against undeserved targets: people of slightly different lifestyles, values, or tax brackets. When directed against pondscum who comb the obituaries looking for houses to rob, it has as little temptation value as a momentary glance at a bikini on a beach: it is a simple impulse, too natural to provide much corruption value.

The burglary temporarily decreased the level of rancor and ill-informed debate in the football world, allowing fans to cluck their collective tongues and, worst of all, rethink their priorities. At no point do you want fans recognizing football’s proper place in their lives or in their society: as a thrilling past-time, an afternoon diversion, a harmless chance for vicarious glory. Your job is to lead them, constantly seething, from scandal to scandal, disappointment to disappointment, petty controversy to petty controversy, and to establish as much debate and as little consensus as possible, so their fandom drowns in a sea of meaningless-yet-hostile arguments. And in the event that a debate has real meaning, like the issue of head injuries and their health effects, we must proceed with extra care. We succeed by obfuscating, trivializing, and sensationalizing in equal measures, but never, ever doing what you inadvertantly did: sidetracking.

Remember that our goal is always subversion. Most pleasures are, by their essence, virtuous: such is the trickiness of The Enemy. Fine food and drink are good in moderation. Sexual pleasures are righteous and healthy between loving couples. And a Sunday afternoon of cheering for a football team, with hamburger and beer in hands and friends gathered, is in itself a wholesome and fulfilling act. You must make every effort to undermine that wholesomeness, by filling your patients’ hearts with anger, boredom, and unrealistic expectations that make their fan experience slothful, deadening, and prefuctory, a hollow spectre of pleasures past.

The burglary was, at best, tangential to our efforts, and at worst counterproductive. Please get your head in the game.

Your Impatient Uncle,

Screwtape.

49ers Top Five Running Backs

1. Roger Craig

In 1985, as you know, Craig gained over 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards. He caught 92 passes that year, for a team that had Dwight Clark and Jerry Rice at receiver and Joe Montana in his prime at quarterback. This team also had Wendell Tyler at halfback (Tyler split his career between the Rams and Niners; consider this his honorable mention for being exciting, productive, but fumble prone), the aging Freddie Solomon at receiver, an offensive line featuring Randy Cross, Bubba Paris, and Pro Bowl center Fred Quillian, and a defense with Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, and two players with double-digit sacks. Bill Walsh was the coach.

They finished 10-6.

What happened? Montana had a handful of weak games. Rice dropped a lot of passes as a rookie. The Niners schedule was very tough, with losses to the unstoppable Bears and a very good Broncos team. Walsh was transitioning from the Clark version of the Niners to the Rice version, so the team had a relatively down year, despite posessing the talent football dreams are made of and getting a historic season from a running back.

I see Craig’s 1,000-1,000 season through that lens: it was terrific, but it was as much a sign of confusion and transition as a feat. Craig caught 92 passes because the offense around him was finding itself. He was an even better player when he was catching around 76 passes.

2. Joe Perry

Perry had an incredibly high peak from 1952 though 1954 and an insanely long productive phase that extended from 1948 though the entire decade of the 1950s, then into a few final seasons with the Colts. I ranked Craig ahead of him because I remember Craig, and because the Pro Football Reference Approximate Value stat gives Craig an edge. Also, like Faulk, we run into the "historic receiver" versus "great receiver" debate. Calling these two backs 1 and 1A is certainly appropriate, and they would have made a fun backfield together, though Perry was never hurting for cool backfield mates.

3. Frank Gore

Gore faces the Steven Jackson dilemma: he gobbled up lots of career value for terrible teams, while the guys ahead of him had beautiful peaks for awesome teams. Now that the Niners are good again, Gore has lost most of his receiving value and appears ready to slide into more of a committee role, so he may be stuck in third place for a long time.

4. Hugh McElhenny

McElhenny shared the backfield with Joe Perry for many years; it was the Million Dollar Backfield, with quarterback Y.A. Tittle, John Henry Johnson and others in the mix as well. On separate teams, Perry and McElhenny would have come in first and second on a typical list, instead of second and fourth, but splitting carries has its effect on a list loaded with great players.

McElhenny was one of the most elusive backs in history, and some of his yards-per-touch numbers are just crazy: seven yards per carry as a rookie, eight in 1954. He can easily be placed above Gore, but we are dealing with a player who carried 10-12 times per game, even in his signature seasons. He was a great player, but Gore is pretty damn good, too.

5. Garrison Hearst

Hearst had one of the strangest careers in history. It’s hard to think of a player who was so completely written off because of injuries, twice, who then returned to have excellent seasons. Hearst got a boost by playing for the late-era great Niners teams quarterbacked by Steve Young and in-his-prime Jeff Garcia, but he also made major contributions to those teams.

Honorable mention to Ken Willard, a durable fullback with a long career in the 1960s, and to J.D. Smith, who in 1959 shared the backfield with Perry and McElhenny, as well as John Brodie. He gained 1,076 yards for a team that finished 7-5. Do the Niners historically get confused when they have too much talent?

Ricky Watters had several great seasons as a runner and receiver, helping the 49ers to the Super Bowl. But readers know that talking about Watters steers me toward … evil.

The WalkthroughTape Letters, III

My Dear Wormwood,

Perhaps I was not forceful enough in my last two missives. You lost sight of how precarious your position is, and how critical your assignment is. Our Master has taken note of your shortfalls, and has punished me for being too lenient with you, which is why I am forced to wear this Brandon Marshall Dolphins jersey for all eternity.

Your latest error, sadly, cannot be overlooked. Your ham-fisted effort to insert yourself into The Project was foolish, grasping, and worst of all, ineffective. You have set The Project back at least one year, and you came dangerously close to crippling it.

Some of the most venerable demons in the inferno have spent the last ten months on The Project. It was so rare an opportunity that The Master committed our greatest resources to it. As you know, there is no soul more nourishing, or delicious, than that of the hypocrite, spouting sanctimonious platitudes while behaving and thinking in manners which are an utter perverion of The Enemy’s perscriptions.

The Project was designed to create hypocrites by the millions. History rarely provides us with such a promising false idol to work with as The Knave, which is why orders came up from the lowest echelons to treat the subject with care, position him properly in a major population and media center, and use him as a tool of both devisiveness and the kind of foolish piety that undermines and makes a mockery of true faith. The Knave, himself merely an innocent, well-meaning manchild, is the ideal unwitting servant of our ends: we can surround his sloppy good intentions with the purest and most sublime evil, a black pearl around a harmless grain of sand.

Of course you were briefed on this, and I read your mewling justifications aloud to the other demons for a laugh. Your task was simply to work the bellows, on Twitter and the talk shows and the blogs. You simply needed to keep all religious talk thoughtless, superficial, and contentious, to make discussions of The Knave’s meager on-field accomplishments as silly and polarized as possible, and above all else to just rattle trashcan lids and make an unruly din. Eviler souls than yours would capably handle the theoretical matters.

All was going well into you threw those miseable tee-shirts into the equation.

Spare me your explanations about "blasphemy" and "naked commerce." Those tee-shirts shined a beacon onto the absurdity of The Project. Buffoonish blasphemy in the name of lazy greed plays right into The Enemy’s hands. It provokes righteous condemnation and consensus, two things I warned you about in our last letter.

Worse still, it trivializes the very issues we are trying to inflame. What Our Master hopes will become an surprising wedge issue in a destructive cultural war has instead become something corny and tangential. We are always forced to tiptoe around the self-awareness of our patients: any time you get them laughing at their own foibles, you have failed. Your tee-shirts have people laughing at their own devotion, chiding themselves for their own obsession.

Now, the Master is engraged that the sports department has potentially squandered an excellent opportunity. He assumed we could handle more after our triumph in the baseball steroid scandals and our continued success in the effort to erode the ideals of higher education. We were close to getting back privlieges and responsibilities that we haven’t enjoyed since in the Roman Colliseum! Now, he fears that we are too clumsy to handle tricky business. The Project will be assigned to another department. We are being downsized.

And you know what downsizing means around here? It means that your affectionate, ravenous uncle is about to enjoy a bacon-and-bleu cheese Wormwood burger. Perhaps your replacement, if we even get one, will understand his role: to use mass media to help make the football fan experience vacuous, prurient, dull, inisipid, rage-inducing, and soul-draining by focusing the fan’s attention on the negative, the irrelevant, the condescendinly addle-minded, and generally joyless ancillary elements of the game. If you are not replaced, we will simply fall back on humanity’s worst impulses, which have rarely let us down in the past.

Now, while you marinate, I must get ready for a talk radio sting.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 24 May 2012

67 comments, Last at 01 Jun 2012, 11:59pm by Intropy

Comments

1
by PatsFan :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 11:52am

This explains a great deal about Boston sports talk radio...

2
by PatsFan :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 11:55am

And what's next? Out of the Silent Coach, Stadiumlandra, and That Hideous Commissioner?

14
by SandyRiver :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 1:47pm

First and last are fairly obvious. Does the second refer to the Vikings?

Best Walkthrough ever, at least among those I've read (didn't come to this site all that long ago.) #2 was, IMO, a tad below the excellence of the others, but all good.

24
by wr (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 3:08pm

You win the thread, hands down.

3
by Bill (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 12:03pm

Someone clue me in about the T shirts?

37
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 6:40pm

That one got my head spinning, but given the current state of pop culture would that be associated with Tebow, the New York Jets, and a third party T-shirt infringing on the team's likeness? Link to PFT:http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/05/20/nfl-takes-steps-to-shut-down-my-jesus-t-shirts/

39
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 6:41pm

oops, that's what happens when you come late to the party. I need another drink

4
by Independent George :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 12:14pm

Marshall Faulk wasn't just a great receiver, he was arguably the best possession receiver in the league during that stretch. He was Wes Welker at tailback. And he could block, even if it was a waste of his talents as a receiver.

12
by Bill (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 1:41pm

Thanks, had slipped past me.

6
by drobviousso :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 12:34pm

This is just fantastic. The Screwtape Letters... I don't want to say it is one of the most complex books on morality I've ever read (hello Rawls), but it has it's own unique complexity. You really nailed it. "Most pleasures are, by their essence, virtuous." I can't even tell if this came right out of the source book or not.

This is right up there with your Watchmen parody as one of the best Walkthroughs, but I'm bias. I love Lewis.

8
by jfsh :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 1:01pm

For those, like I, who knew nothing about this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Screwtape_Letters

13
by rusty (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 1:44pm

Agreed! The quality of this parody is really, really high, especially given that it appears on the internet. And I say that as someone who dislikes adverbs.

51
by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 5:16pm

On Rawls, you may be confusing length with complexity.

7
by bubqr :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 12:44pm

Steven Jackson, in a good team, would be talked right now as one of the top 3 backs of his generation, a surefire Hall of Famer, etc. Right now, few barely even remember he exists. I feel so bad for the guy.

9
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 1:20pm

Ramms
List good.
49ers list oit of order

39ers
1. J. Perry
2 the King
3 F. Gore
4. Riger Craig
5.Johnson or Hearts probably Hearsy

Also honoravle mwntion Delvin Williams. Guy prwtty much forgotten about these days but hadd 1000 uard rushing seasons for 49ers and Folphina.

36
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 6:33pm

I'm 100% with your 49ers list.

I don't think I would even struggle with Hearst over Johnson, though. Johnson was only in SF for three years and in one of those he missed nearly half the season and only had 21 touches. Hearst played there twice as long and was good for almost the entire time, even excellent for a couple of years.

42
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 7:39pm

Agreed on your niner running back list.

10
by Eric (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 1:35pm

Wow. That was outstanding. What a perfect way to skewer the producers of irrelevant gossip and shame those of us who indulge in it.

11
by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 1:37pm

"It’s hard to think of a player who was so completely written off because of injuries, twice, who then returned to have excellent seasons."

Pretty short list... Terry Allen and anyone else?

Any thoughts on ranking the top RB's in order for each of 32 teams? that would be a good read as well.

15
by Travis :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 1:56pm

Willis McGahee? Chad Pennington?

16
by AJ (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 2:08pm

for those of us illiterate and uncultured folks, thank you for the link to the screwtape letters, makes things MUCH easier to understand.

I would argue faulk might have been the single most dangerous offensive skill player in nfl history or at the very least, its arguable. Certainly the usual names like rice, moss, Calvin Johnson, Carter, etc will come up, but i wonder if placed in a scheme like the pats or saints or even the packers-ie- all teams that rely on spread formations, scheme flexibility, and elements of hurry up- that faulk might have been the focal point in all three offenses. He simply was a complete mismatch covering him and unlike sproles or westbrook- was dangerous running the ball too and would've been especially capable of running out of shotgun or spread looks. In some ways, his time was a shade too early. I feel like had he come in this era with all the offensive innovations(remember, even the average teams are running spread formations now), he would've shattered the records even more than he had.

31
by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 5:27pm

Westbrook was nowhere as good as Faulk, but lets not pretend he wasn't an excellent runner as well. Advanced stats show he was most effective running behind his guards as an inside runner - and he ranked #1 in DVOA in 2007 as well as #2 in 2003 & 2006. In 2006-2007 he was easily the best RUSHING running back in the league, not even taking into account his substantial value catching passes all over the field like a WR. He's a borderline HOF candidate and if he had been able to stay healthy, he would have been in the conversation for best back of the decade. Sproles isn't in the same league with Faulk OR Westbrook.

(Again, Faulk might be one of the Top 5 best RB's of All Time, I'm not trying to take anything away from him. Just frustrated with the ridiculous persistent idea that westbrook was a glorified 3rd down back like Sproles or Reggie Bush.)

45
by AJ (not verified) :: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 12:16am

I am probably short changing westbrook some(alot ok), probably because my memory of the eagles in those days was more of a passing oriented style of team. As for the stats, the one thing i can point to in my defense is that its very very hard to know how much a good run game is o line versus rb. I think shaun alexander serves as a great example of that fact. With that said, you're right, westbrook probably was a very good back.

17
by Birdman84 (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 2:09pm

The Screwtape Letters homage (I can't really call it a parody) is brilliant. Maybe your best work, Mr. Tanier. You captured both the style and content of Lewis's book, and made some important and timely points on how we watch football. Just made my day.

25
by wr (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 3:09pm

What he said.

18
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 2:14pm

" . . . the Dickerson-Dieter teams . . . "

That should by "Dickerson-Dieter team." Dieter Brock only played in the NFL for one season.

19
by robbbbbb (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 2:14pm

Lewis called The Screwtape Letters the most difficult writing he ever did. Did you have a similar problem with it, Mr. Tanier?

Nice piece today. I hope it inspires some of the readers here to go out and find the original, which is a masterpiece.

20
by Dean :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 2:36pm

Great return to form. I was never a fan of the Screwtape Letters, but this is still a brilliant parody. Well done.

And you make a great case for Dickerson over Jackson, but I'll still flip them - and I'm usually arguing the case of the old timer. To me, as great as Dickerson was, he's one of those guys like Dorsett and Franco Harris - they all never met a sideline they didn't like. So I'll take Steven Jackson.

21
by big_jgke :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 2:37pm

I never understood why late-career Faulk wasn't simply transitioned full time to WR. He would have been devastating as the #3 for those teams, and it always seemed that they had backup RB's good enough to handle the role satisfactorily.

22
by Dean :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 2:46pm

Ricky Proehl. Az Hakim.

23
by tuluse :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 2:52pm

He didn't run routes like a receiver. Maybe he could have learned, but that's a big maybe.

It seems like he could have lasted for years more as a 3rd down back, just blocking and receiving with the rare draw, but I'd guess his ego couldn't take that.

26
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 3:17pm

Or, like Barry Sanders, he enjoyed a retirement spent with the ability to walk.

32
by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 5:31pm

Yeah, the difference between Faulk and Westbrook or Larry Center is that Faulk mainly caught the ball within a couple yards of the line of scrimmage - Westbrook ran WR routes and Faulk caught screen passes, swings and short underneath stuff after the WR's cleared everyone out. There's no reason to think he could have played WR even without the sort of knee injuries that slowed him down later in his career...

38
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 6:40pm

You weren't watching Faulk then. During the Greatest Show on Turf years, he frequently lined up in the slot and could run the entire route tree. He didn't go deep because the Rams had plenty of guys who could. At first it was Holt, Bruce, and Az Hakim, then Kevin Curtis replaced Hakim. He still ran deep outs and other mid-range stuff. Faulk was also like a coach or second QB on the field and knew everyone's role. If he hadn't gotten into the TV personality business, he'd might have made a great coach.

44
by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 11:42pm

I did see him play quite a bit, in fact I saw him in person versus the Saints 5 or 6 times, including the back-to-back games in 2000. He simply didn't run deep routes anytime I noticed - unless you're counting 10 yards down the field as a deep route. I did however see him get thrown swings passes and underneath stuff all game long. I believe he was like a coach, but he wasn't running TE routes like Centers or WR routes (like catching corner routes 25 yards down field) like Westbrook. I've just been trying to find any proof of either of our claims anywhere on the internet and I can't find it. He does have an extremely impressive 12 yards/reception in 1999, but that's not surprising to me - but he actually has very comparable yards/reception numbers when he played in Indy to when he was playing for the Greatest Show and there's no disputing he didn't line up as a WR there.

His average y/r in Indy is actually almost a yard higher than his career average in STL, but those STL include his decline years... again, the decline years and really pathetic y/r reception late in the final 4 years of career show that the idea of "switching him to WR" in his twilight years would definitely have been a bad, bad idea. By 2002, he was catching the same number of balls as 1999 for about half as many total yards. I also went through several highlight clip shows of him and the longest routes I could find him running with clarity as to where he lined up and what route he used to get there were 8/9 yards down the field versus Miami and a wheel route of similar distance vs the Titans. Both were typical out of the backfield stuff basically. There were also many, many clips of him taking swing pass and working it 50 ot 60 yards down the field. The most WR-y routes I saw him take were 2 bubble screens in the slot, but again right at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, too many of his reception clips started at the point of reception, so you couldn't tell where he lined up - several of them are sideline routes with an LB in coverage, so they just appeared to be more wheel routes. A few up the seam probably came from him lining up in the slot - but a "run straight down the field" route isn't exactly an amazing proof of WR ability. (Most hilariously, he beat the same Tampa DE in coverage apparently 3 times in one game - all coming out of the backfield on a wheel route - you would think that any team would know better than to have a DE covering Faulk...)

Anyhoo, my main impression from watching him play live and then sorting through clips is that he did essentially what I said he did: wait for the world-class WR unit to clear everyone out underneath then isolate an LB on typical out of the backfield stuff that all takes places around the line of scrimmage or at most 8 to 10 yards down the field. It's all screens, swings and wheel routes (with one or two likely seam passes thrown in.) He was a beast with the ball in his hands and unstoppable in open space, but his routes and success weren't really different from guys like Sproles and Bush, who might line up in the slot, but aren't really playing like WR's. Their game was to isolate him on an LB in underneath space - simple, basic RB stuff executed just brutally effectively...

55
by Vince Verhei :: Sat, 05/26/2012 - 1:34pm

Kurt Warner at 2:10 of this video: "We could split [Faulk] out like a wide receiver, and he'd run routes like a wide receiver." I could find lots of video of lots of players saying things that might not be true, but I'll trust Warner on this one. The video also shows Faulk catching a number of passes well beyond the line of scrimmage, although to be fair none of them specifically show him split wide.

We also have YAC numbers for Faulk and Westbrook courtesy of Yahoo!, and using simple subtraction (average yards - average YAC) we can see how far downfield each player's average reception came. Over his career, Faulk's average reception came 0.9 yards past the line of scrimmage, which is only slightly farther than Westbrok (0.7). What's notable, though, is how that number changed over each of their careers. Westbrook was over 2.0 in two of his first four seasons, but otherwise never went over 1.0. Faulk was over 2.0 in each of his first two years in Indianapolis, and over 1.0 in each of his first three years with the Rams. And then (likely due to age) he stopped going downfield at all. In each of his last four years his average reception came at or behind the line of scrimmage.

In other words, it looks like Faulk lined up wide a lot until about 2001, and then from 2002 forward he almost never did.

59
by AJ (not verified) :: Sun, 05/27/2012 - 5:23am

theres also an entire chapter in Games that changed the game devoted to bellichick's bullseye strategy on marshall faulk. He found the rams offense operated with faulk creating the spaces more so than the receivers giving the rb space. I agree its a tricky concept and in all honesty, only defensive coordinators will be able to say for sure which player(s) they are trying to stop first. But given that chapter, i think its safe to say faulk was more than a swing pass rb.

27
by J Steinkopf (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 3:45pm

Well done Screwtape stylings! Next Saints saga...maybe The Great Divorce?

28
by Hang50 :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 3:45pm

I'm far more familiar with The Screwtape Letters than some of the other pop-culture material on which you riff, but this was pitch perfect. I was particularly struck by the line about "meaningless-yet-hostile arguments," but the whole effort was tremendous.

29
by HR (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 4:23pm

Loved the C.S. Lewis parody.

Regarding your future effort for the Colts; please feel free to break them down as the Baltimore Colts and the Indianapolis Colts, since like the old players themselves many of us do not see them as the same team.

60
by BigCheese :: Tue, 05/29/2012 - 3:18am

Except that, unlike the Browns and the Browns 2.0, they actually ARE the same team.

I understand that the Baltimore fans were deeply hurt by the Colts, but that doesn't change the fact that it's the same organization. You don't see St. Louis or Chicago fans saying that the Cardinals aren't the same team. Nor the Raiders. Or the Rams, Chargers, Chiefs or Bears. Or even the Titans/Oilers. The only other place that happens is the Ravens, where the NFL MADE them a different team, even though they're still the original Browns.

Same owner, same front office, same coaches and same players. It's the same team.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

63
by RickD :: Wed, 05/30/2012 - 12:16am

By that argument, the Ravens are the Browns 1.0.

I don't understand why the Indy Colts get the Baltimore heritage but the Ravens don't get the Cleveland heritage.

64
by Jerry :: Wed, 05/30/2012 - 3:44am

In the particular case, the agreement that the league reached with the city of Cleveland specifically included the Browns' heritage staying behind.

The general question is more complicated. Obviously, the intellectual property is part of the franchise. Local fans are attached to their team, though, and long-time St. Louis fans didn't start feeling better about Cardinal losses to the L.A. Rams after the Rams moved. Jim Irsay may have whatever hardware the Colts won in Baltimore, but those championships still mean more to the Baltimore fans than to the people in Indianapolis (who have their own victories to savor).

67
by Intropy :: Fri, 06/01/2012 - 11:59pm

It's all in your head so you get to pick. Most of the time I don't think about it, but when I do, I do ascribe the Browns heritage to the Ravens rather than Browns 2.0.

30
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 5:17pm

M. tanier spell ancillary wrobg. Did not reaf whole article yet but saw that when scrolling down to see top 4 rams and 49ers runninh backa.

34
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 5:59pm

Pot calling the kettle balk?

33
by Coop (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 5:43pm

"In short, your duty in the sports department is to keep fans both disillusioned and habitual in their sport viewership. They must watch it more, and enjoy it less, in the tradition of our classic cigarette advertisements."

Wormwood must have been concentrating most of his efforts on us Browns fans for the past 20 years ...

35
by Rick Shoop (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 6:11pm

Fantastic use of the Screwtape Letters style. As effective for football as the originals were for decency. Wonder if you struggled with the thinking behind the perspective of the Uncle as much as Lewis did?

43
by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 8:08pm

Lewis did all the hard work. I just copied. Probably like the difference between discovering Calculus and doing a few derivatives.

41
by MooseisLoose (not verified) :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 7:01pm

Amazing. Each time I saw that there was more riffing on the Screwtape letters to come I giggled like a little child. Excellent work, Mr. Tanier. May I suggest Bartleby the Scrivener for your next homage?

46
by TomKelso :: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 2:08am

Breesleby the Scrivener? His basic approach right now, after all, is that he would prefer not to.

Two years ago, Who Watches the Walkthrough? Last year, "Ask Askia" and the Civ 5 riff. This year, Screwtape. Walkthrough makes the offseason bearable.

47
by Subrata Sircar :: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 4:55am

I tend to find Walkthough somewhat hit-or-miss (depending on my familiarity with the theme, I would guess; TheseDamnKidsNeedToGetOffMyLawn!), but this was a clear hit. The Screwtape Letters is my favorite CS Lewis book despite hitting several superficial warning signs (overt religion in a putative work of fiction, for example), because unlike, say, Ayn Rand, it manages to be entertaining and educational without lecturing (or in Rand's case, shouting at) the reader.

48
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 8:56am

I don't think you can call Screwtape a work of fiction. It's a collection of essays with a framing device.

49
by drobviousso :: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:49am

It's an apologetic that uses fictional essays.

It doesn't fit into your neat square boxes, man.

50
by erniecohen :: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 1:23pm

If the poor QBs Dickerson played with count for him, why don't Faulk's good QBs count against him?

52
by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 5:23pm

They do.

53
by Mr Tall (not verified) :: Sat, 05/26/2012 - 12:35am

Best Walkthrough ever, I agree. I'm a serious C S Lewis fan, and have read The Screwtape Letters many times. You've captured their spirit wonderfully in this post.

And don't be so self-deprecating, re comment 44. Lewis's satire seems like just a cute trick at first, but it's fiendishly subtle when you get into the book, with turn upon turn upon turn of thought and intent. Managing to hold that together in an homage on an entirely different subject is no mean feat.

54
by Intropy :: Sat, 05/26/2012 - 1:30pm

Suggesting an abandonment of modesty, who's the minor tempter now?

56
by MJK :: Sat, 05/26/2012 - 7:57pm

Fantastic Walkthrough. I think everyone should read the Screwtape Letters. Even if you're an atheist, it's still a delicously funny and yet disturbingly piercing examination of human tendencies and moralities. And Tanier did wonderfully with this. C.S. Lewis would be proud.

Thought the Niners list was a little odd, myself. But still good to read.

Some folks posted that the NFL is trying to legally force a cease and desist of the Jesus t-shirts. I'm not familiar with trademark law...do they have a case? If it was a copyright issue, the likeness to the Jets logo falls pretty squarely in the middle of "fair use" protection, and the NFL wouldn't be able to do anything about it, but I don't remember if "fair use" applies to trademarks as well... Still, those t-shirts are awesome in their absurdity. They're right up there with the stylized "YS" hats in the color and style of New York Yankees hats, where the "Y" and the "S" look like the "N" and the "Y". (Of course, "YS" means something different...)

57
by PatsFan :: Sat, 05/26/2012 - 8:52pm

Is there any concept of "fair use" with trademarks? Trademarks are not the same as, and are treated differently in many ways, than copyrights.

58
by MJK :: Sun, 05/27/2012 - 12:47am

That's basically what I'm asking. I don't know.

65
by nat :: Wed, 05/30/2012 - 8:53pm

According to Wikipedia, there is a concept of "fair use" for trademarks, although it has an entirely separate case law from copyright fair use. So don't just trust your instincts. I believe that there is a pretty broad allowance for satirical use of trademarks, too. Think "wacky packs" - if you remember those.

You also have some leeway to use trademarks to talk about a product or company. You could use a Jets logo in a graphic comparing teams in next week's games, for example. That's a "nominative" use, which is probably okay unless you give the impression you are speaking for the team.

My guess is "Jesus" sweatshirts are fine. But selling your own "Jets" sweatshirt is not. But IANAL, and the Jets can always sue anyway.

61
by BigCheese :: Tue, 05/29/2012 - 3:24am

How on earth would this ever fall under fair use? It's not using a part of it in order to make a comment or review of it. It's not satirizing it. It's designed SPECIFICALLY to make an allusion to the Jets brand and logo and proffit of its likeness.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

62
by MJK :: Tue, 05/29/2012 - 11:46am

With regard to copyright, I believe parody for the sake of humor is protected under fair use (see Campbell v Acuff-Rose Music Inc., where Roy Orbison's publisher tried to sue 2 Live Crew for their parody of "Pretty Woman", and the Supreme Court declared that parody, if it was mocking the original work, as opposed to satire, which was not, is protected "fair use"). Even though he attempts to get permission whenever possible, Weird Al is protected under fair use because what he does is parody.

These shirts certainly qualify as parody--the key legal point is that their resemblance to the Jets brand and logo is integral to the idea they are trying to convey (they are mocking the organization), and hence if it was a copyright issue, they would be protected even if they make a commercial profit.

However, I do not know if the same law applies to trademarks...hence my question. I actually suspect it might not, because a copyright is designed to protect content, while a trademark is intended to protect the brand identification itself. But I don't know...

66
by BigCheese :: Thu, 05/31/2012 - 12:08am

I guess you could see it as parody (I don't, but I wouldn't be shocked if others do). I didn't find anything in Trademark fair use pertainign to parody specifically, and I wouldn't be suprised if that was indeed very different from copyright parody fair use.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs