Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

by Aaron Schatz

In the AFC East, just one game in the standings separates all four teams. While the Jets and Bills face each other in Buffalo, their division rivals each must take to the road to face a surprising 4-1 team.

MIAMI (2-2) AT TAMPA BAY (4-1)

The biggest storyline of this game is the return of Dolphins running back Ricky Williams after a yearlong "retirement" and a four-game suspension for drug use that he had to serve in order to restart his NFL career.

Nobody can really guess how good Williams will be in his return. Will he be the broken down Williams of 2003, who managed just 3.5 yards per carry? Or, with a year of rest and recovery, will he once again be the powerful Williams of 2002, who set a franchise record and led the NFL with 1,853 yards on the ground?

The answer is likely somewhere in between, but Williams probably won't add much to the Dolphins offense because rookie Ronnie Brown has already resuscitated the ground game. That's the real story of this game: the battle of two great run defenses and two talented rookie runners who were teammates at Auburn just one year ago.

After struggling to just 92 yards in his first two games, Brown put together games of 123 and 97 yards against the Panthers and Bills, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Meanwhile, his college backfield partner, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams flew out of the gates to start the season, becoming the first running back in history to begin his career with three 100-yard games. But Williams hurt his foot at the end of his third game, and then was limited to just 13 yards in 11 carries by the Lions in Week 4. A hamstring pull kept him out of action last week, but he's expected back to face Miami.

Making the Brown-Cadillac match up even more interesting is the fact that these teams rank one-two in stopping the run so far this season. Both have allowed just 2.9 yards per carry, nearly half a yard better than any other defense.

If you don't enjoy defense and teams that grind out yards on the ground, this is not the game for you. Football Outsiders' Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) ratings -- which break down each play of the season and compare it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent -- rank Tampa Bay and Miami as the league's 22nd and 24th best pass offenses, respectively. Bucs quarterback Brian Griese and Dolphins quarterback Gus Ferotte both have a reputation for making mistakes at exactly the wrong time.

Tipping the scales in favor of Tampa: Miami tends to of allow big plays by speedy receivers like Carolina's Steve Smith and Buffalo's Lee Evans; Tampa's Joey Galloway -- who has replaced Michael Clayton as Griese's favorite receiver - fits the same mold.


This game features a showdown between two once-strong units that have fallen on hard times in 2005: New England's secondary and Denver's receiving corps.

DVOA ratings ranked the Patriots pass defense third in 2003 and 11th in 2004. So far in 2005, that ranking has slipped to 26th. The problems go beyond the season-ending injury to safety Rodney Harrison. Starting cornerback Randall Gay is also injured, and the veteran cornerbacks brought in to provide depth, Duane Starks and Chad Scott, have been wretched replacements. (Scott has been declared out for the year in what can only be called a mercy killing.)

On the other hand, Denver's passing game ranks 20th in DVOA this year after ranking 10th last year. A big reason is Ashley Lelie, whose third-year breakout has become a fourth-year breakdown. Last year, Lelie caught 53% of passes thrown to him, averaging 20.2 yards per reception (22.7% DVOA, 18th out of 84 WRs). This year, he is catching just 31% of those passes, and averaging just 10.2 yards per reception (-50.4% DVOA, 63rd out of 66 WRs). Veteran receiver Rod Smith and tight end Jeb Putzier have also seen noticeable drops in yards per reception. Unable to gain yards through the air, Denver is depending on its running back committee of fast, shifty Tatum Bell and strong, steady Mike Anderson, who are combining for 116 yards per game on the ground.

But while the Broncos will look to run, the Patriots will look to pass. For the third straight year, Denver has a top 10 run defense. The Patriots finally were able to move the ball on the ground against Atlanta last week, but running back Corey Dillon is nicked up once again, while his backup, Kevin Faulk, is out entirely.

With their defense and running game in peril, quarterback Tom Brady has the fate of the Patriots in his hands more than ever, and he should be able to make some big plays against the Broncos.

Last year, Denver had a top pass defense, but with a strange split: They shut down passes to tight ends and running backs, but gave up big gains to wide receivers. This year, Denver is still having problems stopping wide receivers, meaning they'll get a healthy dose of Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch. But now they're having problems with tight ends as well. Giving up yards to San Diego's Antonio Gates can be excused, but last week the Broncos let Washington's Chris Cooley catch eight passes for a career-high 92 yards and a touchdown. Given that the Patriots finally got tight ends Ben Watson and Daniel Graham involved in the offense last week, the Broncos secondary could be in for a long day.

So Denver can run, and New England can pass. If Jake Plummer can avoid mistakes and get the passing game going, the Broncos will add a win over the defending champs to their growing resume. But better passing teams usually beat better running teams, so if the New England defense can straighten itself out, the Patriots will head into their bye week at 4-2.

Denver DVOA vs. Types of Receivers, 2004-2005
TEAM vs. #1 WR vs. #2 WR vs. Other WR vs. TE vs. RB
2004 7.4% 19 14.4% 22 16.4% 23 -43.6% 2 -48.8% 2
2005 8.3% 16 13.8% 21 -65.2% 4 26.2% 20 11.5% 26

Five Years Later, Dilfer Returns to Baltimore as the One Who Got Away

by Michael David Smith

Of the 39 teams that have won a Super Bowl, only one -- the 2000 Baltimore Ravens -- informed its quarterback after the season that his services were no longer needed.

That quarterback, Trent Dilfer, will lead the Cleveland Browns onto the field against the Ravens Sunday, starting in Baltimore for the first time since that championship season. For Ravens fans, Dilfer's presence will be a bitter reminder that their team threw away a competent quarterback in a futile effort to find a star, wasting draft picks and millions of dollars in the process.

Since 2001, when the Ravens signed Elvis Grbac to a five-year, $30 million contract, Baltimore quarterbacks have played so poorly that, even with one of the NFL's best defenses, the Ravens haven't finished better than 10-6. Grbac left after one disappointing year, and the Ravens' other starters have been a mishmash of washed-up veterans and disappointing youngsters: Randall Cunningham, Jeff Blake, Chris Redman, Kyle Boller, and Anthony Wright.

Dilfer, meanwhile, spent the last four seasons as a backup in Seattle before joining Cleveland this year. He has started 12 games since Baltimore let him go, performing much the same as he did in the Super Bowl season: far from great, but certainly capable -- and available for far less salary cap space than Baltimore's subsequent quarterbacks. If they had kept Dilfer, the Ravens could have used the money spent on quarterbacks to retain valuable free agents like running back Priest Holmes, center Jeff Mitchell, safety Kim Herring, and linebacker Edgerton Hartwell.

A first-round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1994, Dilfer was inept early in his career, throwing five touchdowns and 24 interceptions during his first two seasons. After a slight but steady improvement -- including a respectable passer rating of 82.8 in 1997 -- the best deal he could find after his Tampa Bay contract expired was a one-year pact to back up Tony Banks up in Baltimore in 2000.

Dilfer started 2000 on the bench, but when Banks proved ineffective, Dilfer took the helm halfway through the year and led Baltimore to seven straight wins to end the regular season, then three playoff wins, and a Super Bowl victory over the Giants. Only two players have quarterbacked their teams to the championship after entering the season with a career resume as unimpressive as Dilfer's -- Jeff Hostetler, who took over for an injured Phil Simms and led the Giants in 1990, and Kurt Warner, who went from ex-grocery store clerk to league MVP with the Rams in 1999. Both players were awarded the starting job the following year.

But Ravens coach Brian Billick wasn't satisfied winning the Super Bowl behind a great defense. Billick had come to Baltimore with a reputation as an offensive mastermind, and he wanted a quarterback who could excel in his system. After Grbac, Billick used draft picks on Redman and Boller, but despite all his efforts, he has consistently presided over some of the worst offenses in the league.

After four games in Cleveland, Dilfer looks like a great fit for a rebuilding team. Cleveland won't be playing in January, but at 2-2 the Browns have played better than most expected. Dilfer deserves a lot of the credit. His completion rate of 66.7% is excellent, and his average of 7.5 yards per pass is better than that of Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre, and Drew Brees. (He's done this against a difficult early schedule, and currently ranks eighth in the league in DPAR, or Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement.)

The Ravens would kill for numbers like that from their quarterback. They drafted Boller out of Cal in the first round in 2003 largely because of his arm strength, but he rarely puts that attribute to use in throwing downfield, preferring instead to dump short passes to covered receivers. In three seasons, Boller has 20 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, and an average of only 5.6 yards per pass. After Boller went down with a hyperextended toe in the season opener, Wright hasn't performed any better.

On Sunday, the Ravens will have the superior star power at most positions; linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed, running back Jamal Lewis, and left tackle Jonathan Ogden are among Baltimore's Pro Bowlers, while Cleveland's roster is devoid of such big names. At quarterback, however, Dilfer gives the advantage to Cleveland.


29 comments, Last at 16 Oct 2005, 11:34pm

1 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

I'm always glad to see Dilfer getting more recognition. He has always gotten such a bad rap (worst qb to win a super bowl!) and I really feel it is undeserved. When Cleveland got him for a low round pick, I couldn't believe it. With all the teams desperate for a qb, there wasn't one contender willing to offer a measily 4th rounder? I mean, you're telling me Dilfer is worse than guys like Joey Harrington, Jeff Garcia, and Kyle Orton??? If you watch him play, he does a good job and really seems like a guy that teammates respond to. Ironically, you have to wonder if that super bowl year has actually held him back by saddling him with the bad qb label.
Also, to me at least, he is one of those guys you just want to see succeed. He always comes across really well in interviews and the tragedy with his son just makes you feel for the guy. There is almost this underdog quality about him. Anyway, hope he keeps up the good play and shows everyone what they're missing.

2 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Trent Dilfer is my favorite player in the league. I tried to find a Dilfer Ravens jersey on Ebay a few weeks back, but no luck. I suppose I could have one custom made, but that takes all the charm out of it. Plus, the NFL might not allow 'Dilfer' on the back of a Ravens jersey, just like 'Mexico.'

3 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

About Trent Dilfer in 2000, his DPAR in 2000 was below replacement level. He's actually doing considerabley better this year then in 2000.

Looking at Kyle Boller's career stats, I can'r help but wonder if in the offseason, the Ravens should draft a quarterback, sign a veteran free-agent QB, and trade Boller for whatever they can get. Is there any reason to believe that Boller will ever be a good QB? It's hard to believe that a QB can be a starter if he throws as many interceptions as touchdowns.

Lastly, for two years various writers on this site have been saying that Ray Lewis has declined from great to merely good or average. A big problem with the Baltimore Ravens at this point is that the team may not have only quit on Billick, it may be in open revolt. If he wanted to light a fire under the team, the defense especially, he could unofficially make public that the commitment (or something, it doesn't really matrter waht) of Ray Lewis is lacking, and that the team is considering trading him unless he improves his performance. This would be an actual ultimatum. If Ray Lewis has really declined that much, he will be replaceable.

If Billick shows that even Ray Lewis is not safe from being removed from the team, then no one on the defense is safe. The only way this doesn't motivate the players through concern for their job security is if they actually want to leave the team. If that is the case, the only solution for the managmement is to fire Billick, promote Jim Fassell to interim coach, and hope that restores some sort of accord to the team. This is essentially what Miami did last season, except Wannestedt had the common sense to resign. So is Baltimore the new Miami?

4 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Yes, I've got a lovely creamsicle Trent Dilfer jersey myself. Plus I'm a Vinny Testaverde fan...and I don't even like the Buccaneers.

The job that Dilfer has done to this point in the season really does bear mentioning, and all the numbers would suggest that he's going to get a much-deserved win this Sunday in Baltimore.

6 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

NF is absolutely right about Dilfer's 2000 numbers. It's not that he was a good quarterback at all, it's just that he was willing to come back to Baltimore for the league minimum and the Ravens turned him down. So the right comparison isn't Dilfer to a replacement-level player, it's Dilfer at the league minimum to Grbac at a huge salary (I believe he took up more than 10 percent of the Ravens' cap for the one year he played there). And that's just for 2001. They've also spent draft picks and money on Redman and Boller, and that also could have gone toward other players. Even if you believe that Grbac, Boller and the others have been better than Dilfer would have been, I don't think anyone could honestly say they've made the Ravens better when you add in the extra draft picks and cap space they would have had if they had kept Dilfer around.

7 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

I'm sorry for the off topic, but can anyone tell me where the information is on how defenses do against 1st, 2nd, or 3rd receivers? I've seen people make comments, but I can't seem to find it.

8 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Several years ago whem Tony Banks was the qb in Washington Seattle came to town with Dilfer. Some reporters asked Banks about the switch in 2000. Banks really praised Dilfer a lot. One of the things he said was that when Dilfer was the backup he would do whatever he could to epl banks. Things like putting film together on the opponents blitz packages or 3rd and short packages. OK not that this has anythinmg to do with perfermancebut Banks seemed to genuinley like having Dilfer as a teammate

9 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Good article.

Regarding Denver's pass defense, it is worth noting that Champ Bailey has been out the last two games--two rookies have been starting at CB and a third is the dime CB. This is bound to have an effect, especially early on when the rookies are still raw. Of course, Champ may not play against NE either.

Broncos coaches claim that big plays through the air have been clicking in practice and it is just a matter of time before people see it happen in a game. They also have pointed out in one news report that quite often when the team has had over 400 yards of offense, it has been in games that they've ended up losing.

There's an interesting subject for an article: is there any actual correlation between passing yards and wins? I know there has been an analysis on the correlation between wins and 100 yards rushing which pointed out that teams don't win because of 100 yards on the ground, but tend to have many yards on the ground when they are protecting a lead. What about through the air? Is the converse true?

10 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Re comment 7: I've had a lot of requests to make this a regular part of the stats pages, so I've put up the 2005 numbers on the team defense page (click link on my name).

11 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

It’s not that he was a good quarterback at all, it’s just that he was willing to come back to Baltimore for the league minimum and the Ravens turned him down.

no, no, no, no (and no)

why don't people remember this?

the MAJOR problem with the Ravens keeping Dilfer is that he was demanding "starter money" to re-sign. Less than what they ended up spending on Grbac, but a LOT more than he got in 2000.

Trent is a nice guy, but in 2000, he ranged from barely competent to awful

And ALL the sportwriters, at the time, said that

it wa only after he left Baltimore that people began to claim he was a good QB.

12 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

#9: There’s an interesting subject for an article: is there any actual correlation between passing yards and wins?

One could certainly argue that if a team is really bad and always gets behind early in games, it's bound to rack up a lot of passing yards.

On the other hand, insane pass-attacks like the Rams or Colts would tend to pull the correlation in the other direction. Same goes for the unrelentant bashing of teams like Green Bay's victory over the Saints the other day, although there are likely not too many of these in pro football.

This is one of those stats that are going to have a lot of noise. Were it not for the small sample size, a per team correlation would be the way to go.

What about a compromise? Type cast each offense and calculate the stat by offense type.

13 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

princeton73, you're just plain wrong. Dilfer signed a one-year, minimum salary deal with Seattle on August 3, 2001. Dilfer waited until August to sign because he was hoping the Ravens would give him a chance, and no one from the Ravens would even talk to him, except Matt Cavanaugh, the offensive coordinator, who informed him that Billick had made it clear they wouldn't be bringing him back.

14 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

several years ago i saw a stat graphic on tv talking about 300 yard passing games. From 1970 to 2002? I think the winning percentage of teams with 300 yard passing games was exactly 50 percent

15 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Going through my notes...

Grbac played one year for the Ravens and cost $7.5 million against their cap. The major Ravens who went elsewhere after the season were Dilfer, Kim Herring, Priest Holmes, and Jeff Mitchell. Those four guys combined had a cap value of $3.7 million for their new teams in 2001. To reiterate: Instead of signing Grbac, the Ravens could have kept Dilfer, and the savings would have allowed them to keep their other free agents.

16 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Dilfer is quite underrated. Guy has steadily improved his entire career. That says something about his desire to win. He's still got the tools too. He looked good in Seattle whenever given the chance. Now he looks good in Cleveland. I doubt he loses that starting job anytime soon either unless Frye really steps it up (which he might).

18 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

RE: #11

They don't remember that because it doesn't fit with the "Billick is an egomaniac who made a bad decision for the wrong reasons" line. That's because replacing Dilfer with Grbac was tne RIGHT decision -- it just didn't work out.

The reason it didn't work out was that Jamal Lewis went down with a knee injury on the first day of training camp. The choice was to replace an adequate quarterback -- and Dilfer was that, but he was already regarded as suspect -- with a 4,000 yd QB who had just played in the Pro Bowl. Yes, KC was willing to let him go, and we found out why during the course of that seasaon.

The cost of the replacement was a second-string running back, a center with injury problems, and the worst player on the defense. Because, you know, Kim Herring has just lit the world on fire everywhere he's been since, and Jeff Mitchell is an automatic Canton inductee 5 years after he retires. Mitchell has done alright, but not spectacularly, in Carolina. Herring was regarded as a weak spot on the Ram defense.

Yes, Priest Holmes has turned out to be a major regret -- that's from Billick's online diary, by the way. But that's not what he was perceived as at the time -- Holmes is unique in what he has been able to accomplish in KC, because statistically, he should have been on the downside of his career when he left the Ravens. That's about as much gravy as any one team can expect in its lifetime, but KC deserves all the credit it gets.

So let's see, Kim Herring versus Ed Reed or even Will Demps -- advantage Ravens.

Jeff Mitchell versus Mike Flynn -- wash at best.

So we're left with Grbac and Lewis versus Dilfer, Lewis and Holmes. Hindisght being the wondrous thing it is, that would have Dilfer and Hollmes against Grbac, but most of us have regrets. To build a whole article section on it is really specious at best.

And, oh, by the way, I think Dilfer would have done no better that wright did in his playoff season either. And if you tell me that you wouldn't have siad the Ravens needed to develop a QB to replace Dilfer during the last five seasons, you are lying. So Redman and Boller (a Tedford product like Dilfer) would have still been around, probably.

19 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE


Seymour, Troy Brown, Tyrone Poole, Guss Scott, and Marquise Hill have all been downgraded to out. Together with already out Matt Light and Kevin Faulk, and sure-to-be 3rd QB Matt Cassell, that sets the eight inactive players.

20 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

TMK, can you point to even one Football Outsiders article that criticized Billick for anything in which you didn't post a comment coming to Billick's defense? I can accept that the Ravens are your favorite team and that you can't stand to hear anything bad about them. What I can't accept is your refusal to consider the substance of the article because it goes against your preconceived ideas.

21 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Yes, MDS, I can. I have posted to threads saying that this year's team is headed for the first draft pick, and I posted that last week's game was a disgrace and embarrassment.

That doesn't mean he made the wrong decision in letting Dilfer go, and it doesn't mean he is any more egotistical than any other NFL coach. So I do point out those canards when they show up, because it is a fraud that bears knocking down due to its virulence. That princeton pointed it out first, and that you chose to build your section of the article on it, is not my doing. I might also note that I confined my commentary to your transaction analysis, adding in certain factors that you neglected, such as whom actually replaced those departed players.

I think Billick has gotten a bum rap on that score over the years -- you don't. You also are obviously aware of that, but with this whole cock-and-bull "oh, what might have been" hook -- something Trent has gone out of his way to deny, I might add -- you surely expected a response, so what gives with the "do you have to say something?" approach? It's at best disingenuous.

A correction -- Herring wasn't replaced by Demps or Reed in 2001. He was replaced by Carnell Lake, who was replaced in 2002 by Demps. Reed replaced Rod Woodson. What was Lake's cap value, or Flynn's? Those need to be considered too. Please note that I'm questioning your analysis here.

And, if you do such an "analysis" on Mike Sherman, surely you expect a response from Kibbles, right?

22 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

"Ravens coach Brian Billick wasn’t satisfied winning the Super Bowl behind a great defense. Billick had come to Baltimore with a reputation as an offensive mastermind, and he wanted a quarterback who could excel in his system. After Grbac, Billick used draft picks on Redman and Boller, but despite all his efforts, he has consistently presided over some of the worst offenses in the league."

That is the only thing I can see that MDS said about Billick, and while it might be a bit snide, to the best of my knowledge its true.

I do agree with you TMK that at the time bringing in Grbac looked like a good idea. It didn't work out. I think the wisdom of that decision depends on exactly how much they would have had to pay Dilfer (I doubt any of us know for sure except Billick and Dilfer), and whether it was at all feasable to hold onto Dilfer AND Grbac.

Finally TMK, I would recommend against ever using anything sportscasters say as evidence for an argument. They are universally retarded (I really mean that I am not trying to be funny).

23 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

#21: I think Kibbles is a Broncos fan, actually. Starshatterer, him and myself... the brave few FO readers who are rooting against NE today... ;-)

24 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

That's what happens when you write posts at that time of night, with three kids finally in bed -- you mix up Sherman and Shanahan.

From looking at the cap, I think it's safe to say that Grbac AND Dilfer was not an option -- this is a team that basically gutted its roster after that season, due to a cap hit that every one knew was coming -- much of 2001's roster was there due to a "one last, best shot" idea.

And I agree in spirit if not in letter with your opinions about sportswriters -- they've been pushing this whole "egotist" line ever since Billick started telling them where they were wrong. That's why I don't quote them; it's as pointless as trying to make Trent Dilfer look like "the one that got away."

You see, I'm not the one that says that Kyle Boller was #20 out of 32 starters in the league last year -- something being borne out by the abysmal Anthony Wright Experience. This site's stats say that, for a QB that had played basically a season and a half. Part of the "Boller is a bust" scenario comes from the assumption that he was in as good a situation for an unproven QB as you can get -- good running game, strong defense. It seems that the decline of the O-line, and to a lesser extent, the defense was ignored to pursue the "he stinks because he's a Telford product / Billick protege (and you know what an ego HE has)" line.

Well, now we're seeing some things. The line is a mess -- Ogden & Mulitalo are aging, right tackle has been unresolved for years, and valuable depth was let go for folks who haven't stepped up yet. The defense gives up too many plays -- see Cincinnati, 4th quarter, last year. The QB? He stinks right now, but he's not Boller.

In his last eight games before the injury, Boller threw 10 TD's and six picks (I'm counting the one against the Colts; I don't know if MDS is or not). Seems like there's some improvement there -- a conclusion borne out by the evaluations on this site. That couldn't be due to coaching, could it? No, then we would have to give Billick some credit (and you know what THAT would do to his ego).

And don't tell me you didn't bring that subject up, Michael. "Billick wasn't satisfied winning the Super Bowl behind a great defense" is a purely subjective statement, borne out by nothing either in the record or any form of analysis. It's a personal opinion based solely on wriitngs by people whose ox got gored.

In effect, you're saying Billick replaced Dilfer because he wanted to win with offense. As proof, you're offering that he replaced Dilfer. That sort of circular reasoning flies in Mike Preston's columns, but FO is a little different, isn't it?

25 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Saying "'Billick wasn’t satisfied winning the Super Bowl behind a great defense' is a purely subjective statement, borne out by nothing either in the record or any form of analysis." is innaccurate. Maybe it is an opinion thing, but Billick obviously wasn't happy with his adaquate QB, Dilfer. Instead, he wanted a star QB. Over 4 years of free agents, drafts, Billick has failed to get a star QB, spending prime draft picks and millions of wasted money. He spent money replacing a good enough QB with a terrible one. He one the Super Bowl with a defense, nd he could've tried to do it again. He wanted an offense full of studs, but he didn't need one. He wanted to win with his offense. True, it is a matter of opinion, but if you think about it, your opinion should be that Billick wanted to win with his offense.


26 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Re #21: I'm assuming you meant Shanahan instead of Sherman. And yes, the answer is that I can let criticisms of Shanahan slide if I think they're fair criticisms. For instance, he gets too conservative in the red zone. I think that's a very fair criticism. The problem with Mike Shanahan is that the vast majority of criticisms against him are UNFAIR criticisms.

For instance, there's the criticism that he can't win without Elway. Okay, fine, what has Bellichick done without Brady? And what did Walsh ever do without Montana and Young? How about Chuck Noll? What did he ever do without Bradshaw? All the criticisms surrounding Denver's SB wins are ridiculous. Elway isn't that great because he never won it without Davis. Shanahan's not that great because he never won it without Elway. Perhaps Shannon Sharpe was the only great player on that team, since he's the only one who has won a superbowl with a different supporting cast? Maybe nobody on that team would have been great without Shannon Sharpe?

I also think all of the criticisms of Mike Shanahan as a GM are ridiculous. Yes, he's blown some draft picks on CBs in the past (although how have those recent CB picks been working out? Against Washington they were #1/2/3 on the depth chart). Great. What they don't mention is that Shanny also brought in Walls and Herndon as UFAs and Bailey through a trade. A GM's job is to get talent on the team, regardless of how it comes in. I don't care if a player comes in through the draft, free agency, or gets raised from infancy in the training room, as long as he gets on the team.

I really think Shanahan has to be the most underrated coach and/or GM in the entire NFL. I mean, a GM's job is to compile talent on the team, right? And in football, the more talented team *usually* wins, right? Well, Denver's among the top 10 teams in the NFL in winning percentage since Elway left, so wouldn't that make Shanahan a top-10 GM? And if he's not a top-10 GM, let's say he's a bottom half of the league GM (like everyone claims), then Mike Shanahan the coach has put his team among the top 10 in the NFL in wins despite the fact that they're one of the least talented teams in the league. Wouldn't that make him the best coach in the league? I mean, he HAS to rank in the top 10 either as a coach or a GM. He simply HAS to, nothing else makes any sense. But he never ranks among the top 10 on either list.

Getting back to football, though, does anyone else think it was a huge mistake for NE to kick the extra point on that first TD? They were down by 16 points. If they kick the XP, then they're down by 15 and they NEED an XP and a 2PC to tie it. If the 2PC fails, they lose. If they go for the 2PC instead of the XP, and they fail, then they're down by 16, and 2 TDs and 2 2PCs will do it. What I'm getting at is if you go for the 2PC and fail, then you still have a chance, but if you kick, then you absolutely HAVE to convert the 2PC later. I understand not wanting to lose momentum, and I understand that it didn't wind up being a factor, but any way you slice it, I think it was just a big mistake.

27 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

from Mike Preston, Baltimore Sun writer who DESPISES Brian Billick:
"But during the following offseason, the Ravens decided to sign Elvis Grbac, and not Dilfer.
Dilfer wasn't great. In fact, the team won despite him, but he was tough and made occasional big plays in his only season here.

The Ravens made the right decision in not re-signing him. His arm was dead near the end of that season, and the Ravens even had to cut short Super Bowl practices because his passes were often short, easily getting intercepted by defensive backs.

If running back Jamal Lewis and right offensive tackle Leon Searcy hadn't gotten injured in the first week of training camp and missed the entire season, the Ravens might have won a second title with Grbac as the starter."

[end of quote from Preston]

yes, in hindsight it seems silly not to have signed Dilfer; but I urge you to go back and read what PEOPLE WERE SAYING AT THE TIME--there was an absolute consensus that the Ravens could not hope to repeat solely on the strength of the D--it was too much to ask, even for that defense. And it is absolutely false to say that Dilfer was ready to sign for the minimum to stay in Ballmer. He signed for that amount in Seattle,beacuse that's all he was offered anywhere. There wasn't a great call for his services

29 Re: Game Previews: MIA-TB, NE-DEN, BAL-CLE

Several points regarding Dilfer.
In 2000 he played very poorly in his first two games and poorly in two others, in five he played well.
In the playoffs he played well three times and kind of sucked against the titans. The titans had an awesome defense that year, number three in opponents passer rating.
In hindsight the non resigning of Dilfer looks pretty dumb, based mostly on the play of boller and redmond.
However I think it comes down to this, how hard is it to replace an average qb.
I don't really know, but to tell you the truth in my own mind I immediately think of the really successful instances like Brady and Rothlesberger.
They made it look way way too easy.
But there are so many failures around the league
ny giants
tampa bay
ok you can argue with me on any of these teams, especially the giants.
But doesnt it seem very hard to get a capable NFL qb?
Billick said he wanted a qb who could complete more than 55% of his passes.
He decided Dilfer wasn't the guy. Fair enough, he knows more than me.
It just seems to me very hard to find that guy who can do that for three years in a row. That is where I think Billick went wrong. I think he did a fantastic job with Cunningham. I think he did a good job with dilfer.
Hell I am more than happy to give Norv Turner credit for Troy Aikman. Turner did not do so well with Frerotte.
Its pretty hard to catch lightning in a bottle
What was my point?