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The question is not whether Saquon Barkley is the best running back in this draft class. The question is whether any running back, even one as good as Barkley, warrants a top-five draft selection in the NFL in 2018.

28 Dec 2009

Audibles at the Line: Week 16

compiled by Vince Verhei

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. (The FNIA stuff below is an exception; that was specifically written for this column.) We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.)

Friday, December 25

San Diego Chargers 41 at Tennessee Titans 17

Tom Gower: Well, I think I've seen that first half before, or at least something close to it. I was there, even -- the game in Indianapolis. Opposing team moves the ball pretty successfully, Titans play reasonably well on offense but end two drives with turnovers, one a fumble and one a pick, one fluky and one not, before recovering with a touchdown in the two-minute drill to go into half down 21-10. The difference? Vince Young's fumble (which Jeff Fisher should have challenged) was fluky, rather than the pick. The Colts mostly avoided Cortland Finnegan, while the Chargers haven't really bothered to -- reasonable, since Philip Rivers is relying on the size difference with Vincent Jackson, an advantage Peyton Manning didn't really have. The Chargers don't seem to have game-planned to exploit Colin Allred and Gerald McRath at outside linebacker quite as much as I expected (I thought they might really hammer that), but haven't bothered to in the passing game. It's been more evident in the rush defense -- slow or bad reads, not a surprise. Fish even screwed up the challenge in the precise way I thought he would.

And LaDainian Tomlinson takes it in from a couple yards out for his second score. Even as a Titans fan, it's almost painful to watch him, partly because of how good he used to be, partly because he's still a little bit effective, too effective for people not to make excuses for his limitations (*cough*LenDale White*cough*).

Bill Barnwell: Shouldn't Tennessee be better running the ball at a defense that's without Jacques Cesaire (and Shaun Phillips?).

And could Chuck Cecil look any worse?

Tom Gower: No. Jim Schwartz pioneered the red hat to help him stand out on the sidelines. Cecil has added the red shirt to the red hat, and it hasn't been a positive. I hope you missed the first-quarter shot of him yelling at an official and spitting out his gum.

And, yes, you might think Tennessee should be better at running the ball against a mediocre run D, but Chris Johnson still has 12 carries for 75 yards and the big stops have come in obvious run situations. Tennessee is 26th in ALY and 19th in Power; no, those aren't perfect statistics, but they do accurately reflect that the offensive line, while still pretty good, isn't a dominating unit.

Bill Barnwell: It was kind of like spitting. More like ejecting. Maybe Fisher will throw him onto the field next time he wants to challenge something.

Doug Farrar: Sanders Claus needs to tell the kid version of Chuck Cecil to shut his trap and book some early time in the film room. Nice Todd Haley impression there, dude.

Speaking of the run game, I'm very surprised, given the scenario Tom has painted and San Diego's weakness in run contain on the edges, that the Titans weren't running option stuff with Young and Johnson back when this game was competitive. With all the talk about how quarterbacks like Young need to learn to stand in the pocket and make traditional throws, there are times when you just need to play to the obvious strengths.

Tom Gower: Good point. They did run the counter-option once, and VY had maybe a dozen on a keeper (and would've had 15 more if he had the same bubble wrap other quarterbacks got -- homer rant), and did the shotgun read option once, less productively, but they could do more of it. Of course, when the defense has played like this...

Millen comment: "Where in the world is San San Diego?" GROAN. At least I don't recall having heard "man under, two deep."

Tim Gerheim: "San San Diego"? I heard that live but couldn't understand what he'd said because it made no sense. Turns out I was right. I think he must have an inanity checklist that he has to get through each game. One of the items is a botched pop culture reference, ideally to something that was only ever moderately salient and preferably that occurred before 2000 (which I guess in his "What Lions?" universe would be "lately").

Doug Farrar: He said his usual amount of preposterous crap, though he spent this last week coming up with new stuff. My personal favorites tonight were his praise of San Diego's offensive line as one of the five best in the NFL (25th in ALY, dead last in Power and Second-Level Yards; both LDT and Darren Sproles averaged 3.3 yards per carry coming into this game) and his insistence that Norv Turner is one of the best play-callers in the NFL.

Tim Gerheim: In fairness (not that anyone likes fairness to broadcasters like Millen), Turner has long been one of the best offensive coordinators in the league. I don't actually even know for sure that he calls the plays as the head coach. Maybe Millen doesn't know he's the head coach (honestly, it's not that easy to tell); he could be so wrong that he's right.

Doug Farrar: He's wonderful with quarterback development and play design. Had Millen mentioned either one of those traits, I would have credited him with rare insight, considering the source.

Tom Gower: C.J. ended up with 142 rushing yards, so he only needs 128 yards against Seattle next week for 2,000, 233 for the record. Exactly how badly have the Seahawks given up now?

Tim Gerheim: How many points did Houston put up against Seattle in the first half? That badly, plus three weeks.

Doug Farrar: Tampa Bay 24, Seattle 7. I rest my case. We're talking Appomattox-level surrender here.

Sunday, December 27

Outsiders Go Insider Again

Aaron Schatz: So, I figure I should start out today's Audibles by saying a little bit about my Sunday. This week I had the opportunity to sit in on preparations for NBC's Football Night in America and watch the games with the whole staff, including Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy, Peter King, and a bunch of very knowledgeable producers whose names you don't know. Many thanks to the executive producers for giving permission and to Peter King for setting it up. Unfortunately, the whole day had to be "off the record," which means that I can't specifically tell anyone "Tony Dungy said this" or "Rodney Harrison said this." However, rest assured that a lot of little things I picked up will show up as background in our analysis over the next month as well as the offseason and in Football Outsiders Almanac 2010.

I can tell people a little bit about the show production itself. The whole staff gets together in one room to watch the games on a big screen, split into nine parts with each game in one section. (You think nine TVs is hard to follow in a bar, try one TV with nine games.) However, it's amazing how much it ends up being like any other group of knowledgeable fans hanging out on Sunday watching football. Lots of "Whoas" for good plays, and "You've got to be kidding me" type exclamations when some defender tries to tackle the ballcarrier using only his shoulder. In every group there's one guy who makes fun of dumb commercials and bad on-screen graphics and puns on player names. In the NBC group, that guy is of course Keith Olbermann. (Please, no debate about his weekday job, okay? The guy knows sports and is hilarious, with probably the best mind for puns of anyone I've ever met. Just ignore the other stuff on Sundays.)

By the way, you may remember Olbermann giving us a promotional quote for selling KUBIAK in the preseason? Well, like everybody else who bought KUBIAK, Olbermann stashed Jerome Harrison away on his roster with a late-round pick... and left him on the bench last week when he scored something like 50 fantasy points. I would bet 90 percent of people who bought KUBIAK or FOA 2009 had Harrison on their benches last week. That includes me in one of my two leagues.

What's most remarkable about FNIA is the change when you hit the afternoon games. The room is almost two-thirds cleared out by 5pm, because people are off writing scripts and preparing highlight packages. The on-air talent is getting dressed and getting TV makeup, Peter King is calling half the PR guys in the league to get comments from players and coaches, etc. There's actually one producer specifically assigned with closely watching the late games for interesting plays and strategic decisions for Dungy and Harrison to dissect. They pre-tape some of the highlight segments in the 6pm hour, and then the live stuff starts while the late games are still going, so they've got to put together everything they say about the late games on the fly, during commercials or when taped packages are running. Pretty crazy when you have big news like the Colts sitting guys with their former head coach sitting right there to give his opinion, or a game that drags on and on like the Eagles-Broncos game. (I don't mean "drags on" in a bad way, unless you are a television highlight-package producer.)

In order to do coaching breakdowns on plays, by the way, NBC gets live feed of the all-22 coaches' film camera angle from something like two-thirds of all games. I will now slobber all over myself just thinking about it.

One other fun fact: Football Night in America tapes at 30 Rock on the eighth floor, which it shares with Saturday Night Live. Makes sense, since Sunday is the SNL staff's day off, but walking through the hall to the studio you get to see autographed photos of the last few years of SNL guest hosts (the ones that SNL shows on-screen when they return from commercial).

Oh, and nothing to do with football, but 30 Rock has an elevator where you put in the floor you want when you call the elevator, rather than pressing up or down, and there are no floor number buttons in the elevator itself. I've never seen that before.

Anyway, thanks again to everybody for being really nice and friendly, and for a great day of football-watching. And yes, you can go ahead and start the "When are you changing the name of the website" jokes.

Buffalo Bills 3 at Atlanta Falcons 31

Aaron Schatz: I'm in a room with a bunch of football professionals, watching all nine games. Not once has anybody said anything about the Atlanta-Buffalo game. Terrell Owens has officially fallen into a black hole of inconsequence.

Rob Weintraub: I was in a sports bar with all nine games on in Atlanta, and not once did anybody say anything about the Bills-Falcons game.

Vince Verhei: No comments on Brian Brohm's first regular-season game? That's too bad.

Bill Barnwell: He's only throwing short stuff. One deep pass I saw was picked off. Not good.

Kansas City Chiefs 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 17

Bill Barnwell: Bengals are being played to a draw by the Chiefs, with Cincy leading 3-0. They thought they scored a touchdown on a pass to Chad Ochocinco, but Ochocinco had stepped out of bounds while making his cut. Tamba Hali -- who is quietly having a great year, picking up a ton of hurries and hits to go along with his 7.5 sacks -- then forces Carson Palmer into a near-pick on third down before they kick a field goal.

Rob Weintraub: Congrats to my Bengals for winning a division title. Cedric Benson isn't particularly impressive these days, but any banner is something to celebrate, especially for this franchise. It's the second playoff appearance since 1991, so I'm not taking it for granted, believe me.

Still, today may have set a new record for expletive-ridden rants. Cincy played the first half as though they were still at Slim's funeral -- utterly uninspired. Their only points came thanks to a comically high snap on a KC punt, giving the Bengals first-and-goal at the 6. They had to settle for 3.

The first drive of the second stanza was seemingly the result of a tongue lashing by Marvin Lewis, and the team went 98 yards for the winning score with an excellent run-pass mix that was totally absent for 3 1/2 quarters. The penalties were reduced a bit, but there were still inept efforts at sending in plays, false starts, and dalliances with delays of game -- the sort of stuff no team with dreams of a playoff run can tolerate. And they were mostly held in check by a KC defense that was shredded for three and a half bills by the Brownies a week ago.

Nothing fancy on either side -- mostly it was a case of Chiefs defenders shedding blocks and making plays. Granted, it was very windy and wet, but the Cincy offense is very predictable, very basic, and scares few.

And Rey Maualuga broke an ankle, a severe blow.

Oakland Raiders 9 at Cleveland Browns 23

Mike Kurtz: Oakland-Cleveland starts out with a blown-up quick slant. Charlie Frye throws it straight at the cornerback underneath.

Revenge game FTW.

Doug Farrar: Ladies and Gentlemen, Jerome Harrison is out to kill the AFC West.

Mike Kurtz: Charlie Frye just got two great opportunities to Chaz Schilens. The first was an overthrow and the second a few feet out of bounds. The bobbleheads are saying that more air is good for the Browns, but a few feet on each play and they'd be saying the exact opposite.

Browns are just smacking Oakland with Harrison, and Oakland thus far doesn't have much of an answer. Robert Royal is down, which I don't imagine will change much.

The Browns apparently haven't figured this out, as they got to the 27, then had a completely disastrous pass about a mile behind the receiver. Next play, Derek Anderson turfs a running back screen, then a 5-yard pass on third down. Well done, Cleveland Browns.

Summary of late first quarter and early second quarter in Cleveland: ANDERSON'D.

Oakland has inexplicably gained solid defense as the second quarter wore on, and Charlie Frye has settled down after his putrid first few series. It's now a much less exciting but probably better (now just garden-variety bad) game.

Two fights in three plays in Cleveland. Anderson pulled an opposing player off the pile, and the guy spun around and clocked him. Prior to that, Alex Mack just flat-out punched some guy. Absolutely insane.

End result of that second fight: two offsetting personal fouls, followed by an unsportsmanlike enforced. Five personal fouls in the past two minutes, per announcers.

Next play, Harrison runs in-bounds for 4. Two flags fly, unnecessary roughness, headbutt, Stanford Routt ejected from the game. Up to seven personal fouls on this drive alone.

The end result of all this is the Browns go from their territory to throwing a 19-yard touchdown to Mohamed Massaquois.

Sebastian Janikowski kicks a 61-yarder right over the crossbar as time expires in the first half. Insane.

The other crazy thing is that I don't think he put his whole leg behind it, because it was straight down the middle.

Bill Barnwell: It's really remarkable how good Janikowski is and how little attention it gets. I mean ... how many players can do something that no one else in the league can do? Is anyone better at any single skill, compared to the rest of the league, than Janikowski is at kick length?

Mike Kurtz: I was going to ask, incredulously, if you read Scramble this past week, Barnwell, but then I thought about it for a bit and remembered it would be too credulous.

Bill Barnwell: I was actually wondering who you are and how you got on our e-mail list.

Rob Weintraub: I don't know -- I think Rob Bironas and Stephen Gostkowski, to name two off the top of my head, have legs as strong as Janikowski's. What they don't have are coaches who allow them to try 55-plus-yarders with regularity.

Mike Kurtz: Oakland tight end Tony Stewart just ejected. This game is crazy.

Really iffy unsportsmanlike on a "taunt." Jeff Triplette's crew has taken the gloves off; nobody is getting the benefit of the doubt.

I was going to say that Oakland, after a defensive pass interference in the end zone down by 15, was still in it. Frye then throws a fade, which is either an incomplete or an interception. But in any case it is ugly.

And in Cleveland, there is "some kind of precipitation." Come on, guys, Lake Erie isn't THAT bad. Anymore.

Doug Farrar: Awesome Stat of the Week: Charlie Frye -- 45 passing attempts, 0 touchdowns.

Seattle Seahawks 10 at Green Bay Packers 48

Vince Verhei: Seattle has a promising opening drive thanks to a surprisingly effective running game. Then on third-and-1, Matt Hasselbeck fakes a pitch, rolls right, and throws a perfect pass just beyond the first-down line into the hands of a Green Bay linebacker. There was no Seattle player within 5 yards. That may have been the worst interception of the year.

Bill Barnwell: I loved Aaron Rodgers' work on the screen pass for the Packers' first touchdown. Some teams absolutely telegraph their screens and draws with unnatural motion -- watch Tony Romo gaze into outer space before his draw plays as an example -- but Rodgers looked downfield like he was considering throwing there, stayed in the pocket instead of running backwards, and got the ball to Brandon Jackson in exactly the right spot. It was an easy score.

Doug Farrar: Bill, he's playing the Seahawks. The screen would have worked if Rodgers taped a sign to his helmet that said, "HEY! HERE COMES THE SCREEN! BE READY!"

Woof. I haven't seen Charlie Frye's opening pick, but it will have to go a ways to be as bad as Hasselbeck's. If that was an actual play call, someone forgot to draw the potential receivers on the right side.

Vince Verhei: If you want to see some poorly executed screens, Bill, keep watching the Green Bay game -- Seattle is sure to run at least a half-dozen before the game is through.

Doug Farrar: That was the Unintentional Swinging Gate play. I don't think Hasselbeck has thrown a ball past the line of scrimmage through the first quarter. Greg Knapp has designed an offense that might literally disappear up its own a**hole.

Marcus Trufant was burned twice by Greg Jennings on the same receiver screen near the end of the first quarter. Trufant was playing off, and he backpedaled at the snap. Rodgers threw underneath, leaving Trufant to come up and whiff on the tackle in a way that would make Brian Russell very proud.

I think it's pretty clear that we're looking at the worst team in the NFL here. If I was Mike Holmgren, I would have gone to Cleveland, too

Vince Verhei: I don't think they're the worst team in the league. I do think they have the worst game plan, particularly on offense. Just a never-ending series of screens that never catch the defense off guard and never set anything up. That and an addiction to pointless trick plays. They ran one a few weeks ago with Seneca Wallace at quarterback and Hasselbeck at wide receiver. Wallace faked a lateral to Hass, then stood in the pocket and looked downfield. In other words, they got the defense thinking pass ... and then they passed anyway. I just don't understand Greg Knapp.

Bill Barnwell: Do you really think they have the line to allow anyone to get downfield? And ... they don't exactly have deep burners with T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch as their starting wideouts.

Vince Verhei: I think the line is bad, but not horrible. They're not the Bears or 49ers. Also, you are allowed to use running backs and tight ends to help your linemen. I'm not sure Knapp realizes this.

But more importantly, I'm not asking for the 2000 Rams. You can't tell unless you're charting games just how many screens they run, in all situations. I'd just like to see an occasional slant route. Or a quick out. Or a curl.

And then Hasselbeck throws an interception in the end zone on a quick slant, so what the hell do I know?

Doug Farrar: They lost to the Buccaneers by 17. They were down 17-0 to the Lions before they woke up and figured it out. There may be teams with less talent, but I don't think there's a team that gets less out of its talent than this one. Maybe they're the weighted worst team in football -- they're certainly looking worse down the stretch.

Vince Verhei: I can't really argue with any of that.

Bill Barnwell: Just saw the Ryan Grant long touchdown run. What an awful route to Grant by the safety.

Doug Farrar: Deon Grant has been pretty horrible all season. I've seen him pull up on plays he could have made, and he's turned into one of those post-play camera guys -- he's in the picture after the fact.

Vince Verhei: The sad thing is, Grant may be the best player in the secondary. I'm not really sure if Jordan Babineaux has been an upgrade over Brian Russell, and we've covered the cornerbacks this season better than the cornerbacks have covered anyone. Can we agree that this is the worst defensive backfield in the NFL?

Hasselbeck throws what I think is his 37th interception of the day. He passed Dave Krieg for the all-time Seahawks yardage record today; I think he wants to pass him on the turnover leaderboard too.

I'm starting to come around to Doug's way of thinking on this. This team has a pretty good front seven, and then ... blech.

Houston Texans 27 at Miami Dolphins 20

Vince Verhei: The Dolphins can't cover anyone. Houston is up 17-0. Matt Schaub is 10-of-11 for 201 yards and two scores, and five different players have caught passes. His only incompletion was a drop by a wide-open Kevin Walter.

With 9 minutes and change to go, Dolphins score a touchdown to pull within 17-27 and officially make the game interesting. Most of the yards on the drive came when Dolphins wide receivers were isolated one-on-one and winning battles for jump balls.

They just cut to a blimp shot of the Miami game. I think there are more people on this e-mail list than in that stadium.

Miami dinks and dunks their way to a field goal, making to 27-20 with 2:33 to go. Houston's offense really needs to take over here and make sure the Dolphins don't get the ball back, but unfortunately that's exactly what their offense is not built to do.

Tom Gower: I saw a little bit of this game over lunch, when Houston was dominating offensively. Somebody, who may have been but was probably not Sean Smith, badly missed a tackle on Jacoby Jones, I believe, and nobody else was close to him on his way to the end zone.

Jacksonville Jaguars 7 at New England Patriots 35

Aaron Schatz: CBS comes back from commercial... "And here's the lovely, snow-covered campus of Harvard, which is of course NOWHERE NEAR where this game is being played."

Bill Barnwell: Can you blame them? What are their other options? The brighter sights of Attleboro? A tour of Providence's best strip clubs?

Aaron Schatz: Curry College is nice. Stonehill College, too.

Mike Tanier: Curry College: an Indian Culinary School?

Doug Farrar: Note from Foxboro: Laurence Maroney hasn't played since his goal-line fumble. Sammy Morris representin', y'all.

Aaron Schatz: Why, oh why, is Tom Brady still in a 35-7 game with two minutes left?

Oh, wait. With 1:20 left, the Patriots have discovered that Brian Hoyer also has the ability to hand off to Fred Taylor.

Doug Farrar: Is Wes Welker to catches what Ichiro is to hits? I think so.

Vince Verhei: If he can keep it up for another six years, then yes.

I didn't realize that Welker actually started his career with San Diego. I realize that his New England tenure has been pretty much great for everyone involved, but can you imagine what the Chargers would be like if they still had him?

Bill Barnwell: The problem is that they had a similar, superior (at the time) player in Eric Parker. So he wouldn't have gotten any playing time.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 at New Orleans Saints 17 (OT)

Bill Barnwell: Tampa Bay's battled back from 17-0 halfway through the second quarter and have tied it up in New Orleans.

Vince Verhei: And their first five plays in overtime are all rushes, producing three first downs, including a Josh Freeman scramble on third-and-long.

Tampa Bay wins in overtime. The winning field goal drive: ten runs, no passes, three first downs.

Carolina Panthers 41 at New York Giants 9

Bill Barnwell: Giants are trying to blow their season with an awful opening drive. Eli Manning's 8-for-8, but a touchdown pass to Steve Smith on a great corner route (and throw by Manning) was nullified by holding, and when Manning converted a third-and-long to Mario Manningham three plays later, Manningham fumbled and it was recovered by the Panthers.

Speaking of Manning, his breakout this year has been impressive -- he's up across the board statistically. Can that put the "The Giants missed Plaxico Burress" debate to rest?

Doug Farrar: The Panthers are doing a good job blocking up the middle and upfield. Brad Hoover saved a play on Carolina's first drive by picking up a single A-gap blitz perfectly.

Bill Barnwell: Panthers are up 10-0 thanks to a running game that's been taking off chunks of yardage at a time and the presence of Kevin Dockery, who has been the nearest defender on virtually every one of Matt Moore's completions.

Also need to give the Panthers' downfield blocking respect.

Aaron Schatz: Notice the subtle push by Muhsin Muhammad on Terrell Thomas to create just a little bit of separation on his touchdown catch. That's the kind of thing that a veteran receiver knows how to do just subtly enough so that the refs don't notice and don't throw a flag.

Bill Barnwell: It wasn't THAT subtle. I'm surprised they didn't call it.

Eli with an ugly throw on a quick slant for another interception. Giants are now down 17 and the Panthers have the ball in the red zone. This could be a three-touchdown game by halftime. This is terrible.

This is just putrid. Another megasack and a bunch of checkdowns give the Panthers the ball back again before halftime, and the Panthers convert on ANOTHER third down to keep their drive going, this time with a draw. No matter what they do on third down, they're just eating the Giants' lunch.

Awful play to end the half. Giants line up for a Hail Mary from midfield and the pass rush prevents Manning from getting a solid place to set and throw. He scrambles, and then scrambles forward, and goes to throw ... until he realizes that he's five yards ahead of the line of scrimmage. He gives up and just scrambles, and as he's about to be hit, he looks backwards to lateral and promptly fumbles, costing fantasy owners the points that he'd gained with the nonsense scramble. It also gives the Panthers a chance to score, although they only return it 30 yards before the boobirds get to come out in full voice.

Aaron Schatz: Holy fucking fuck. Steve Smith just caught a touchdown pass EVEN THOUGH Michael Johnson slammed into him and broke his forearm on the play. He somehow held onto the ball in his right hand while the left was hanging there from his body. Just unreal. I got to see the FOX feed without commercial and they were going back to get replays to show. I don't know if they'll show this footage in the broadcast, but you can actually hear Smith saying "it's broken" to the people on the sideline.

OK, now Brad Hoover is running all over the Giants. Oh, man. Not a good day for Big Blue.

Fun facts: Carolina has a +17 turnover margin since November 1, and a +12 turnover margin since Matt Moore became the starting quarterback four weeks ago.

Tom Gower: I presume New York had the ball at some point during that game, but I never saw them with it. I didn't see Smith's touchdown grab, but he had a clean and hard downfield block on Stewart's 29-yard touchdown run.

Baltimore Ravens 20 at Pittsburgh Steelers 23

Aaron Schatz: Steelers break out the mustard helmets.

I just noticed that on top of all the defensive back injuries, the Ravens are missing Tavares Gooden at inside linebacker and have to play undrafted rookie Dannell Ellerbe.

Michael Oher has moved over to the left with Jared Gaither. His replacement at right tackle, Oniel Cousins (the pride of Fullerton, California, apparently), just got Joe Flacco killed on Pittsburgh's first defensive play. Flacco gets whacked, ball up for grabs, Pittsburgh interception. Just a brutal blown block.

Bill Barnwell: Baltimore's offensive line is playing way worse than it was a year ago.

Doug Farrar: You know, for a midrise apartment building, Haloti Ngata is pretty fast. Gets into the backfield, blocks Rashard Mendenhall into Ben Roethlisberger and gets the first-quarter sack. Yow.

Are they keeping Todd Heap into chip with Oher, or is Oher pretty self-sufficient on the left side at this point?

Mike Tanier: It's almost 2 p.m., and I haven't seen enough Ravens offense to answer that question about whether Oher is getting chip help or not.

The Ravens special teams are imitating the Steelers special teams. Sam Koch has a 20-yard punt, and Stefan Logan from the Steelers has a long return. The good field position on both plays has led to 10 points.

Six offensive linemen for the Ravens on the Todd Heap touchdown. Cousins was to the left of Oher.

The Ravens are using lots of six-OL sets, and they are also moving Oher to the right sometimes. When, on third-and-6, they spread the field, a blitzer comes untouched (not Oher's man) and sacks Flacco.

Mike Kurtz: The other AFC North teams use that look a lot against the Steelers, as it goes a long way to neutralizing the element of surprise and speed involved in Pittsburgh's scheme.

Vince Verhei: Well, the Bengals use that look against everyone.

Aaron Schatz: Wow, just an embarrassing, embarrassing drive for the Baltimore defense. They've got Pittsburgh backed up third-and-12 on their own two-yard line. They jump offsides, letting Pittsburgh have a free play, and the Steelers go deep to Mike Wallace when he gets past Frank Walker and then reverses to come back and catch the ball without Walker able to get in front. Then they march downfield with the highlight being the weird decision to have Dannell Ellerbe, an undrafted linebacker, covering Hines Ward. And for the final touchdown, a cornerback blitz with Dewan Landry, a hard-hitting (not good-covering) safety, trying to get over to cover Santonio Holmes. It's pretty easy for Big Ben to find Holmes before Landry gets there, but Landry's nice enough to slip on the grass anyway, so Holmes scores easily. Man, just some bad defensive play-calling.

Bill Barnwell: Was it out of trips bunch? Steelers probably just got the Ravens in an awful matchup. I mean ... it can't be designed that way defensively.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure about the Ward-Ellerbe play. The Wallace deep play wasn't trips bunch, and the Santonio Holmes touchdown against the corner blitz was definitely not trips bunch.

Oniel Cousins just got a late hit penalty for Baltimore that took them out of field-goal range. How on earth does an offensive lineman get a late hit penalty? This guy has done a lot to lose this game for the Ravens. I would say "single-handedly" except for the egregious drop by a wide-open Derrick Mason in the end zone on that same drive.

Mike Kurtz: The Steelers shut down the Ravens on their drive near the end of the game, then get the ball and proceed to "run the clock out." Which is running the clock out only in the sense that they are running and the clock does actually go down by some amount.

Ben then goes into full-on crazy mode, throws a deep interception that leads to a big return which is called back by illegal contact. Insane.

Aaron Schatz: The Ravens apparently decided today that they needed to make the case that DVOA does not do enough to include penalties. Baltimore overcame bad drops, they overcame injuries in the secondary, they almost even overcame a horrible performance by backup right tackle Oniel Cousins. But they couldn't overcome a ton of really ridiculous penalties that kept canceling big plays, or taking them out of field goal position, or both. Egads.

St. Louis Rams 10 at Arizona Cardinals 31

Vince Verhei: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's leaping interception early in the fourth quarter is the all-time example of "going for the ball at its highest point." That was superhuman.

I've seen Kurt Warner throw a few jump passes in this game, almost Tim Tebow-style. I'd like to explain why, but I am a human being with a soul, and therefore have not been watching too closely.

New York Jets 29 at Indianapolis Colts 15

Bill Barnwell: Reggie Wayne is getting the better of Darrelle Revis so far. He just drew a penalty on Revis, caught one pass against him, dropped another pass in the end zone on a play where he'd gotten open against Revis, and had a long pass that would've likely been a touchdown against a beaten Revis go off the edges of his fingertips.

And count me as utterly confused about the Jets' offensive game plan. They're running the Wildcat and a bunch of stretch plays and end-arounds. The Colts are only one of the fastest teams in the league; I can understand misdirection, but what's the point of having Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, et al., up front and not running behind them at an undersized front?

Aaron Schatz: You know, considering how many column-inches have been devoted over the last couple of weeks to the fact that the Colts would rest their starters, isn't a little odd that, with 12 minutes left in the third quarter, we're still wondering when the Colts are going to rest their starters?

Doug Farrar: Well, so much for those scouting reports saying that Donald Brown, running back, UConn, couldn't pass-block. He went across the backfield and blew Jim Leonhard all the way up early in the third quarter. Peyton Manning fed him the ball on the next two plays, including a touchdown.

Vince Verhei: Mark Sanchez is sacked by Dwight Freeney, who came free completely unblocked because the Jets were confused by Indianapolis' zone blitz. A zone blitz! By the Colts! Earlier I saw an I-formation on third-and-short. It's a whole new world out there, I tell you.

Doug Farrar: Three-man fronts, consistent blitzes ... it's madness, I tell you!

Vince Verhei: Curtis Painter takes over for Manning, up 15-10 with about 20 minutes left in the game. This is notable because at this exact moment, the Jets control their own destiny -- beat Indianapolis today and Cincinnati next week, and they're in the playoffs.

Aaron Schatz: Oh my. New Indianapolis third quarterback Drew Willy IS Richie Cunningham!

Mike Tanier gets a new iPod Touch and begins to use it with questionable results...

Michael Taniet: Colts defense has gotten more creative. Are they lining up the defensive tackle as a middle linebacker this week?

Aaron Schatz: The funny thing is, through Week 10 at least, they are still last in the league when it comes to passes sending six or more guys (according to game charting). But unlike past years, they aren't last in sending five or more guys, they're about 25th.

Michael Taniet: They use the blitz like Angostura Bitters.

Mike Tanier: Boy, as soon as Painter came in things changed, eh?

Vince Verhei: It is truly amazing how the entire Indianapolis team completely shuts down whenever Peyton is out.

Aaron Schatz: Well, this Jets victory is, shall we say, "tainted," but on behalf of statisticians everywhere, I would like to thank Jim Caldwell for sitting down Peyton Manning in the third quarter today. I really wasn't looking forward to having the "Are the 19-0 2009 Colts the best team of all time?" discussion. I'm much, much more comfortable having the "Are the 18-1 (or 17-2) Colts a really good Super Bowl champion?" discussion. For people who are obsessed with the 1972 Dolphins, I guess, this changes their opinion of how good the 2009 Colts are. But let's be honest, this really does nothing to change any of our opinions of how good the 2009 Colts are, right? Not the best team ever, but very possibly the best team of this season.

Ned Macey: I was traveling today and haven't got a chance to read other comments, but I thought the Jim Caldwell decision (or should I say Bill Polian decision) deserved a comment before I retired for the night.

I am about as big an apologist for the Colts as anyone, I think their record speaks for itself, but today was just ridiculous. To me, the decision was pure arrogance. We always sit our people, and we're not going to let some outside record get in our way. They played everyone for 40 minutes, but the last 20 is too much? You are 20 minutes from having to go to the Brian-Brohm-led Bills to finish out a 16-0 regular season, but you refuse to play it out as if to prove that the perfect record doesn't mean anything to you, that you're too focused on championships.

The misconception is the idea that somehow this decision about whether to play the players really matters for the postseason. Football teams and media have a terrible time with causation, when the truth is that too many variables are in play for one little thing to matter. It would be devastating to lose Manning or Wayne, but what really are the odds; are they better or worse than your starting cornerback getting stabbed the night before the game or somebody getting injured in practice, which happens all the time?

At that point, they had to play a little more than a quarter of football, and they'd try and melt the clock for most of it. Then, they would have a game against Buffalo, where they could step on the gas and bury the team early.

Instead, they effectively give the game up by putting in Painter. I know they were winning at the time, but they made Painter, a sixth-round (or undrafted or whatever he is) rookie play with Hank Baskett and Jacob Tamme against the league's best defense. That's a joke, and he had no chance of succeeding.

It just strikes me that the odds of winning the last two games where the Colts stood at 5:30 remaining in the third quarter were extremely high. The odds of a key player getting lost for the season are low. I agree with sitting people like Robert Mathis who are dinged up, and I'd be OK with this if they went into the game at 13-1, but a shot at 16-0 is different and to pretend it isn't is an attempt to be too cute, too faux-focused on the prize. I don't believe the chances of the Colts winning the Super Bowl varied in any meaningful direction by their decision today, but I do know that they gave up their chance at history.

Denver Broncos 27 at Philadelphia Eagles 30

Mike Kurtz: Holy crap. Brandon Stokley flagged for what I call "whining," then waves his hand in front, smacks the ref in the hand as he's pointing. Ejection. The Broncos have three active wide receivers now.

Doug Farrar: Phil Simms must be drunk. He just pronounced Asante Samuel's name correctly.

Michael Taniet: I just wanted to comment using iTouch. It is a business expense. You are all witnesses.

Bill Barnwell: I hope the IRS doesn't mind you spelling your name wrong.

Michael Taniet: The bad spelling proves it is I.

Aaron Schatz: "That's Mike Tanier. S-A-M-U-E-L-S. Tanier."

Big touchdown pass to a wide-open Brent Celek on a delayed blitz. Looked like Cover-1, and the free safety followed all the wide receivers who went over to the left side of the field. Unfortunately, the strong safety also followed all the wide receivers who went over to the left side of the field instead of man-covering the tight end, who happily went deep on the right side. Sorry your return to Philly didn't go as planned, Brian Dawkins.

Mike Tanier: Never throw late across the middle, Donovan.

Bill Barnwell: But if McNabb didn't throw late over the middle, he wouldn't be Donovan McNabb.

Michael Taniet: Hey I can get scores on this thing!

Aaron Schatz: Did somebody get a Christmas present?

Mike Tanier: How the heck did this Eagles-Broncos game turn back into a game?

On third-and-25, McNabb remembered that he can run.

If Andy Reid wants the call overturned on the booth review of Jeremy Maclin's catch, he shouldn't pat the ref on the butt on the way to the booth.

Of course, Chris Clemons got a Broncos penalty declined by folding his hands and praying to the official, so anything is possible.

Doug Farrar: It just depends on how much facetime Mike Carey wants.

Mike Kurtz: Mike Carey loves him some facetime, if his gesticulating is any indication. I bet he practices at home. In front of a mirror.

Mike Tanier: Dude does lead the league in "flags picked up," as if he threw it just to get on TV.

Here's the David Akers field goal ... good. I assume nothing until 10 minutes after the gun.

Doug Farrar: Welcome to the latest installment of Stupid Things Phil Simms Says. Phil on David Akers: "Whether it's an extra point or a 50-yard field goal, it's all-go. That takes some of the pressure off." Right, Phil. As opposed to all the dumbass kickers who kick with only half their leg strength, thus making their tries that much tougher to covert.

Aaron Schatz: One more comment: I thought Akeem Jordan played a heck of a game. Always seemed to be around the ball.

Dallas Cowboys 17 at Washington Redskins 0

Mike Tanier: So who is watching Sloppy versus Quitty in the Sunday night game?

Doug Farrar: Every time I see Washington running five-man protections with a line straight out of The Replacements against this front seven, I wonder which of the Redskins' 14 offensive coordinators is responsible for that brilliant plan.

And Reed Doughty gets hurt on his first career interception. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Washington Redskins!

I will say this about Campbell: If he wants to survive the rest of this season, he'd better dial up a new setting on his "Oh, crap -- here comes the defense!" sensor. His pocket presence has never been what I'd call great, but at this point, it's gonna get him killed.

Mike Tanier: You'll forgive me if I review tape of Steelers-Ravens for a bit instead of watching this nonsense.

Doug Farrar: You are forgiven, Mr. Taniet.

Bill Barnwell: I'm excited to read about Toethlisbetget and Tay Tice.

Mike Tanier: Worst part is I don't know how to fix it.

Tom Gower: Empty backfield = Jason Campbell getting destroyed on the blitz. Every single time. I can see it. You can see it. Why can't one of the Redskins' many offensive coaches see it?

Mike Kurtz: You can extrapolate that for the rest of the league. The empty backfield is generally a disaster, and I'm astounded every time I see it.

Doug Farrar: And when they take Mike Sellers, their best blocking back (maybe the team's best blocker overall), and split him into the right slot, well, I don't know what to say.

The Ridiculous NFL Playoff Races

Mike Tanier: So, is anyone eliminated? I saw a graphic and I think it said the Dolphins are still alive. Is that true? Jaguars too?

Mike Kurtz: Per Travis' exception ("simple") playoffs chart: AFC and NFC.

Mike Tanier: Wow. I mean, wow. I swear I saw the Chiefs at the bottom of that chart somewhere.

Vince Verhei: Yes, it's true, Miami and Jacksonville are still alive at 7-8. I can't WAIT to read their clinching scenarios Monday morning, or whenever they come out.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 28 Dec 2009

269 comments, Last at 12 Jan 2010, 12:44am by Andy


by t.d. :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:22am

and after all the craziness this week, it's going to be the ravens and the jets by default next week. the jets could coast in against two teams playing scrubs. if i were the bengals coach, i'd start jordan palmer.

by B :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:24am

The Bengals still have something to play for. If they win next week, they clinch the #3 seed and avoid having to play Baltimore in the first round.

by Slomojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:26am

Not if the Pats win too, I think.

by B :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:29am

True. I thought Division record was the tiebreaker, but it's "strength of victory" which the Patriots have the lead in.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:22pm

Pats currently hold a 4½ game lead in strength of victory 65/85 to 60/89, but the Bengals could pass them

Pats fans should be rooting for the Vikes tonight and Bengals fans for the Bears (if being the 3 seed is important to you).

The games next week which are important to their respective strengths of victory are:


* result is a two game swing as NE swept Buffalo
** result is a three game swing as Cincinnati swept Pitt and Cle

by t.d. :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:26am

pretty sure baltimore is currently the sixth seed

by Slomojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:34am

Right. If Cinci loses, I think it pretty much guarantees they play the Jets again one week later. And the Pats get either Baltimore or Pitt or Denver or - unlikely - the Texans. That's good enough for Cinci to rest, if they don't mind going to Indy rather than SD.

by jklps :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:29pm

So Week 17


NE plays @ Houston - NE wants to win to be the #3 seed over Cincy - say NE wins..


Baltimore wins @ Oakland, making the playoffs

8pm FLEXED Game

Cincy, which now has NOTHING TO PLAY FOR, tanks it and the Jets make the playoffs after TWO TEAMS TANK FOR THEM IN A ROW.


Should have just flexed Cowboys vs. Eagles.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:08pm

Good point. I hadn't thought of that. From New England's standpoint, they really don't have much to play for regardless...in the 1:00 PM time slot, there is no way of knowing how the SoV tiebreaker with Cincy will go, since it depends in part on how the concurrent and later games play out. Plus there is no way of knowing how the 5 and 6 seeds will play out, so New England can't try to win or intentionally go easy to try to lose (as they did a number of years ago when they WANTED the 4 seed instead of the 3 seed...that was the "Flutie Drop Kick game") in order to game the system.

But in either case, everything that determines Cincy's fate will be known by the late game.

The only scenarios where Cincy would try would be if (1) Cincy decides they actually WANT the 3 seed (not necessarily a foregone conclusion), and either (2A) NE wins but the other games play out so that Cincy would own the SoV tiebreaker, or (2B) NE loses but the tiebreaker scenarios still mean that a Cincy loss gives NE the 3 seed (not sure if this is possible).

But in any case, I totally agree. The Jets could get a free, and very undeserved ride, into the playoffs.

And the Broncos and their fans (the team that most likely will be screwed by this, although Pittsburgh and Houston have a chance at being screwed by it as well) should be mad.

by jklps :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:14pm

The other interesting fact for conspiracy theorists is that the Giants aren't making the playoffs, but if things work out this way the Jets would, ensuring at least one playoff game for the NYC market...

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:35pm

Somehow it's hard for me to get too worked up about which 9-7/8-8 team down in the mud "deserved" to make the playoffs or not. Of course, it'll be pretty funny if the Jets then go on a miracle run to the SB.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 7:28pm

On the Boston.com blog, the writers just made several good points as to why Cincy might want to tank the Jets game, or at least just play their backups and run completely vanilla offense and defenses, REGARDLESS of what the Patriots do:

1). By losing, the Bengals ensure that they deny the Steelers a playoff birth (I imagine because any scenario where the Steelers make the playoffs involve the Jets losing?) Given the rivalry and bad blood between the two franchises, this puts the Bengals effort on Sunday in an interesting light. But there's more:

2). By losing, the Bengals make it probable that they will have the #4 seed, and the Jets will have the #5 seed. Which means that they would get to play a team with a rookie QB instead of possibly a division rival (BAL or PIT, both of whom, incidentally, have a higher DVOA and weighted DVOA than the Jets).

3). Furthermore, given that they would probably then play the Jets in the first round of the playoffs, they would have seen the Jets best plays (the Jets will be pulling out all the stops to get the win, since they need it), and expose their likely round 1 opponent's starters to injury risk or at least increased tiredness, while revealing nothing about their own strategy, since they will be playing vanilla, and while resting and protecting their own starters.

In fact, an unethical coach could even order his backups to play especially rough and dirty, since he would want to lose and penalties would assist that, and he would also beat up to his first-round opponent's starters. Not saying that the Bengals are likely to do this, but I do have a devious mind.

4). Plus it gives them some control over who they will probably face in Round 1, allowing their scouts to start working on them far sooner than teams like the Patriots, who won't know who they might face until late Sunday night.

5). Finally, assuming they win on WildCard weekend, having the #4 seed would mean traveling a very short distance on the road to face the Colts (who historically have struggled in their first playoff appearances, especially when they have rested their starters at the end of the regular season) on the divisional weekend, instead of having to fly all the way across the country to face San Diego.

I think it's likely the Jets will be gifted a playoff birth once again by scheduling circumstances.

by Happy Fun Paul :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 8:55pm

Wow, I think you just gave new meaning to the phrase "control their own destiny". :-)

by B :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:18pm

I think the biggest advantage for Cincy, assuming if they lose, they face the Jets the following week, is they would get a great look at the Jets, and see exactly what they can expect to see the following week, as the Jets will be going all out to win, regardless of whether or not Cincy pulls their starters.

by Yuri (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:23am

Did not Chargers play the team other than the Bills?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:58am

I think the Titans should feel insulted.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:33am

Doug: How is Norv Turner not a good caller?
- There was criminal holding on the Titans first offensive play by Alge Crumpler on the backside that allowed C.Johnson to cut back and make a big gain. The SD defender threw his hand up showing the holding but there was no call. It was blatant.
- I caught on with the Millen San Diego O-Line comment, he was apparently thinking of the O-Line from a few years ago.
- Millen was talking about the "intensity of the coach. This goes back to the whole point where football is more like a chess match and not just the bigger/faster guys wins. It's not that the "more physical team" wins the game, and Millen hired Rod Marinelli... a yeller, a "man hood" guy, and was praising another "man hood" guy. The tougher team doesn't always win, yeah it sounds nice, it's something you can SEE, but being smart and breaking down X's and O's matter.

- I think the thing with the Colts is that Manning, Wayne, Clark, Freeney, Mathis etc. have already won a super bowl... They had a chance to chance to go down in history as one of the best teams ever... Coach Caldwell doesn't have anything under his belt as a head coach... He wants to win a super bowl... and rested guys. Manning spends more time in prep and is ultra competitive and was obviously pissed off, the Colts would have won the game. It was a case of Caldwell's self interest getting above the team ( who already has rings) and was chasing immortality.
- Curtis Painter is only going to help the Jets defensive DVOA...

- Ravens had WAYYYYYY too many penalties.

- Can't believe they won, hope the game is on NFL replay

- It just wasn't mean to be this year, better off getting better draft position. This will be Eli Manning's first year as the starter NOT making the playoffs, and that's been in a tough NFC East the last 5 years.

- I was glad to see Collinsworth ( who I normally dislike) do his condescending routine on Jason Campbell. At one point they made some remark about throwing the screen pass on 3rd and long and the whole stadium know it was coming.
- ABC also had a stats that Jason Campbell only threw 1 pass through the air more than 10 yards... ( but you say he's not a backup quarterback?)
- I was also glad to see Al Michaels pile on about seeing more hockey jerseys walking around Washington than Redskins Jerseys.
- They said last night that the Redskins are the 3rd lowest scoring team of the decade, and have been led by coaches with offensive pedigres 9 of the years...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:49am

Again, football will become a chess match on the day when the players can execute the same moves equally. You can't play chess when 90% of your players are pawns, and the other guy's players are only 50% pawns.

Bill Walsh, who got the "genius" label assigned to him more frequently than just about anyone, understood this quite well, and expressed this idea very concisely, when asked about his first starting qb with the 49ers, Steve DeBerg, and he said "He's just good enough to get you beat". Walsh had no illusions about being able to play chess with guys who couldn't make the needed moves, even guys who were otherwise good enough to stay in the league a very long time.

Coaching makes a difference, but most of all in the area of talent evaluation.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:05pm

Football is not about the "biggest guy wins", or the "toughest guy wins though". Intelligence matters. Coaching matters ( more than any other sport), you can scheme your way around things.

Do you think Matt Schaub is as good as his numbers or that he's in a scheme that works and can be executed by reasonable quarterbacks.

Yes, having talent helps, but dude, every team has talent. The difference in talened between... say the Saints and the Bucs isn't as large as you think. It's not like Tampa can't beat the Saints or anything.

The NFL is designed ( yes designed) with a salary cap, draft process etc. to help the weaker teams and hurt the stronger teams. Yes, sometimes that doesn't work out as some teams manage money ( evaluate players) better, and keep coaches, but the talent gap isn't as large as you think.

Good QB play is a big difference, and that has nothing to do with " out physicaling" the other team the way say a High school football game might be where the kids can't pass as well, and you will frequently see option and wing T offenses.

Yes, having Alex Smith as your quarterback is a disadvantage to the other guy coaching Tom Brady, but you make it seem like one team is playing with 1/2 a deck against another team.

The big pep talk, "we don't lose at home", "this is our house", "the more physical team is gonna win this game" argument is overrated. Having an all braun no brains coach just means your players are going to get yelled at a lot and not that you are locking up wins. The " they are running a lot of cover 2, so we need to attack the middle of the field and sidelines past the first level of defenders argument works. There IS strategy in football you know Will. Smart teams win. Teams with good QB play win. Teams with good coaching will win more often than not ( because the talent gap isn't as large as you think and stategy matters more than any other major sport).

Matt Millen hiring a vastly unqualified coach who'se lone attribute was "intensity"... having a historical failure, and then going off and praising another guys "intensity" seemed comical to me. It's not all about getting players to "play hard", there is strategy and thinking in football.

It's like prasing the QB with the big arm... Heyyy, look at Jamarcus throw that deep ball 75 yards... he's got a lot of potential, we better sign him!

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:19pm

Bill Walsh didn't think he could scheme around Steve DeBerg, a guy whio was good enough to play in the league for a long time. Bill Walsh said the key factor to winning NFL games against good teams was a 4th quarter pass rush. Is it your contention that you grasp the game better than Walsh did?

The analogy to chess is a poor one. That has nothing to do with whether coaching and intelligence matters. Intelligence matters in most things. That does not mean that most things are analogous to chess.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:32pm

Yes, some teams have more talent than others. It's not my equal chess board against your chess board but it's a thinking man's game. It's about strategy and not " getting your guys to play hard". That's a silly stereotype. How to you feel about the west coast teams scripting plays, or Bellicheck teams starting games off well, and coming out of the half time locker rooms and adjusting well ( although having problems this year)? How about quarterbacks looking at screen shots on the sidelines. Why not just say a play is a play and go " try hard" and win or lose which is predetermened from being more/less talented than the other guy?

"Is it your contention that you grasp the game better than Walsh did?"

That's a silly and borderline arrogant thing to say. Bill Walsh said you draft defense because you need talent, but that you can manufacture offense ( with good scheme). Offense... ( the passing game) takes a lot of brains to play, defense is much more cut and dry. " The defense is the guys with the messy lockers, the offense is the guys with the clean lockers".

The NFL is more chess than arm wrestling. You use some plays to set up other plays. You use strategy... So and so might run a kings indian defense or a 3-4 defense and you know going into battle that certain things work well/don't work well against it. It's a mesh of styles and adaptation. Football is a thinking mans game.

"Coaching makes a difference mostly in talent evaluation".
Silly. So a coach's main function is a talent evaluator? Bring in the most talent and then you win a championship? It's that easy? So what's the GM's job? So should teams be drooling to bring in Terrell Owns and Pac Man jones because all that talent will get them closer to a super bowl win?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:55pm

Uh, no. Walsh specifically said he could not manufacture sufficient offense with Steve Deberg as his qb/chess piece, for the simple reason that football is not chess. It ain't arm wrestling, either, which would be an equally poor analogy.

Look, you continually prop up this strawman, where there is some supposed line of thought that says strategy and intelligence are unimportant or secondary. You aren't arguing with anyone, or at leat not very many people. That doesn't make football a chess match. Football isn't a monster truck contest either. So what?

Yes, Parcells made a poor talent evaluation choice with Bledsoe, likely the single worst thing he did in his time with the Cowboys, absolutely dwarfing any errors in gameplanning. Thanks for confirming my point.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:24pm

Just because he was a great coach doesn't mean he's always right on every comment he's made. Tony Dungy thought the Dallas Cowboys had no chance to beat New Orleans, and some fan in Texas called the upset, does that mean they know more about football than Dungy?

You CAN manufacture offense... Walsh was able to get more than expected out of guys and ( others have a record for doing the same), but he argued that it was harder to do that with defense. Yes, 4th quarter pass rush matters, and so does having a QB who can run the 2 min drill... At the time of the comment Walsh probably didn't like Deberg, who stuck around the NFL for a while.

Football is like chess is an analogy Will. Football players aren't plastic, they don't play on a 64 board square, yes there are differences... The " we need a yeller to motivate our team" is faulty logic at best.

Most coaching errors are not talent evaluator errors. You don't have to be a genius to see that Brett Favre ( even 40 years old) is better than Tavaris Jackson. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that Adrian Peterson is better than Chester Chester Child Molester.

Do you think Kubiak is a good coach because he starts Matt Schaub over Rex Grossman, or because he created a good offense?

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:44pm

The "Tony Dungy was a good coach" argument is incredibly weak. He was average, at best. In Tampa he was carried by defensive talent and Monte Kiffen, in Indy he was carried by Peyton Manning, and only was able to win a Super Bowl while going up against his equally incompetent understudy Lovie Smith.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:31pm

Yeah, that Dungy, who managed to coordinate a Vikings defense to high ranking, despite overall mediocre talent, with Kiffin as linebackers coach, was "carried by defensive talent and Kiffin". Newsflash: every coach with an outstanding record is "carried by talent". One of the harder things to do in sports is for a coach to oversee a perpetually losing franchise's turnaround. To attribute that to luck is incredibly weak.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:44pm

Dungy wasn't a great coach, more on the average or if you really want to say he was slightly above average fine... It wasn't that he had "good" talent, it's that his GM's... good GM's gave him super bowl caliber talent every year, with either the best defense of the best quarterback...

Every NFL team has talent... Not every NFL team has the best QB in the league or 7 pro bowlers and 3 potential HOFers on an 11 man defensive roster.

I think turing around a perpetual "loser" into a winner is overrated. It doesn't matter who was on the team 20 years ago, 10 years ago, but what they have NOW when the new guy comes in. Tampa would have likely got better with any 1/2 decent coach with the stacked roster and Kiffen in place.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:40pm

Yeah, you have asserted that Kiffin was critical, and Dungy was not, in transforming that team. There is little evidence to support that assertion, however.

Can I prove Dungy is a great coach? No. I can observe a .650 winning percentage, over a sample size of 227 games, with two different franchises, and then ask myself whether that record is more likely merely the byproduct of luck, or more likely the byproduct of a being a significantly superior coach.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:21pm

Don't forget the massive 180 in Tampa, a city with loserdom deeply ingrained.

He went to a good Colts team with some stellar talent and improved them, made them more consistent, and better overall. But in Tampa, he made silk purses out of sows' ears. Uh, well, maybe I better dig deeper into my cliche box.

Dungy is maligned as a D-only guy by people who forget he was a QB through college before being converted to a DB by Noll. He had skills on both sides of the LOS as a coach--one might look at Manning's INT totals before and after his arrival as an indication.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:21pm

What about Manning's experience level?

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:23pm

In fairness, Will, the knock on Dungy (at least as far as his Hall of Fame case goes) is that unlike most of those who are regarded as great coaches, he was never responsible for acquiring the talent he won with. If that really is the most important part of a coach's job, that fact has to count pretty heavily against Dungy. If I were to list the people involved with the 2000s Colts in order of my perception of their Hall of Fame worthiness, there is no way Dungy would be ahead of Manning, Polian, Freeney, Harrison, Wayne or James and I'm not especially convinced I'd put him ahead of Saturday or Glenn, either (which is to say I wouldn't put him in). Given the talent of the teams he coached, I'm not sure we can say with confidence that Dungy was much more than "above average"

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:14pm

Shush, I'm liking you more and more every day! No, I don't dislike Will Allen, I just diagree with him on a few things, I usually enjoy his commentary on the Viqueens as well.

To sit back and cite Dungy's impressive win percentage is unfair. He was not only coaching talented teams... but super duper talented teams. It would be like quoting Norv Turner's record with the Chargers... Isn't he supposed to have a better than average winning percentage with better than average talent? He couldn't win the super bowl with the Bucs and he was fired.

Dungy won 1 super bowl, and he might end up having his replacement win the SB with the same talent the year after he left TWICE. Gruden won with that talent, why couldn't Dungy? Caldwell might win it all with the exact same team going 1/1, why did Dungy only win 1 ring?

As subjective as it is, I think he was an ultra conservative coach that wasn't built to take chances/make adjustments and win with the money on the line in the playoffs. I'd watch those underdog Eagles teams beat the Bucs in the playoffs and just see the ultra conservative cover 2 over and over and over again, and it would match Dungy's ultra conservative personality. Marty would get laughed at for playing "Marty Ball", " Andy was known for having games won and then playing ultra conservative ball, but Dungy was also ultra conservative but didn't get nearly the crap that they got.

It's not like the Bucs suffered when Dungy was fired and Gruden replaced him, and it's not like coach Caldwell has been some big drop off when Dungy left. The important part of the Colts ( Manning) is why they win games.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:25pm

But guys, how many times have we seen talented teams, even "super-talented" teams fail? How many years do the Redskins win the offseason? The Seahawks had a pro-bowl QB, MVP RB, HOF LT, and a bunch of other good talent and they had a stumbly plateau during that time, with one nice peak, and then fell the hell apart. Many other examples of teams who, on paper, should be a lot better. What Dungy did was make the Colts consistently excellent.

Blame the other teams' players, injuries, the coaches, whatever, but Dungy got HIS guys on track for an unprecedented 6 consecutive 12-win seasons.

And that's in Indy--he probably did his most remarkable work in Tampa.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:29pm

I would argue that a coaches' replacement winning immediately after said coach leaves actually speaks in favor of the talent of the departed coach, not against it. Pete Carroll had a pretty good record with the Pats in 1997...largely with the team that Bill Parcells had built. Switzer had a couple of good years with the team that Jimmy Johnson built, but you can't really say that that means that Johnson was a bad or easily replaced coach. Your point seems to be "because Dungy's teams did OK the year after he left, he obviously wasn't the reason why they succeeded". That rings false to me...

What I would look at is what the overall trend under Dungy was (i.e. did said team go from bad to good or good to bad, stay good or bad, or just hover around mediocrity the whole time), and what the trend under his successor and/or predecessor was. I haven't done that, and subjectively I'm not the biggest Dungy fan, but I don't think you can argue that, just because someone won with the team you built a year after you left, that you're an easily replaced coach. I think coaching effects have more inertia than that.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:44pm

Agreed. You can't pin it all on Dungy's replacements have done well, but if he has had good teams that can't win the big one... and they win the big one the year after he left....

I don't think looking at the following coach's record is fair either. What if the key players hit their walls, or were plucked away in free agency etc. If Peyton Manning were older, or retired before this year, then you can't look at Caldwell and say that he was a bad coach and that's the reason why they went to 4-12 under Curtis Painter.

It's hard to statistically evaluate a coach. Just citing his winning percentage isn't good enough for me, especially when he had obviously stacked rosters and possibly the best QB ever working for him.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 8:33pm

But Carroll and Switzer (and George Seifert) won with teams which the previous coach had built in the sense of acquiring the players. I think there's a pretty convincing case to be made that Caldwell is inheriting the team Bill Polian built, not Tony Dungy.

It's much easier to attribute a team's record to the head coach if that coach was ultimately responsible for every aspect of the football operation. Belichick drafted Brady. Walsh drafted Montana and acquired Young. But Polian drafted Manning, and Freeney, and Wayne, and James, and Sanders, and signed Saturday and countless others. Rich McKay drafted Sapp, and Brooks, and Rice, and Lynch, and Barber . . . Undoubtedly Dungy had a hand in the development of all these players, and in getting them and their team-mates well prepared to play every Sunday. There is no way he could have led such consistently successful teams if he did not perform these roles well, so he must have been at least above average. But how much of the greatness of these players is down to Dungy and the men he hired to work under him, and how much down to their own natural talent, it is not easy to tell. Personally, I suspect that Manning, Freeney, Sapp, Brooks, Rice and Lynch, at least, would all have been great players wherever they had landed, and whoever had coached them. Regardless, the buck never stopped with Dungy, so it's hard to give him full credit for his teams' successes.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 10:25pm

Dungy won a Super Bowl with Polian giving him the great CB tandem of Nick Harper and Jason David. That has to count for something.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:29am

To be fair, that's hardly the only time in recent years that a team's won a Superbowl with questionable corners, and the defensive system Dungy favoured is one that is comparatively undemanding of CBs and well suited to the skill-sets of those players. David wasn't a disaster in Indy, or anything resembling one, because the scheme doesn't require top tier talent at his position and played to his strengths - which is why they drafted him in the first place, presumably.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:26pm

You don't need Champ Bailey and D. Reeves if you are just going to play zone. The Colts play zone defense.

Should Brian Billeck get credit for being an offensive genius and winning a superbowl with Trent Dilfer at QB? I guess Ozzie didn't do a good job stacking the shelf with talent. Billeck was just so handcuffed without a quarterback and all.

by Alexander :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:07pm

Exactly, in fact one of my biggest indictments of Dungy is he continued to insist on employing the Cover-2 throughout his tenure.

I think it is a great defense, possibly the best kind of defense available, IF you have the talent. The Colts have always ha 1 piece, a rushing end (Freeney), but when Bob Sanders wasn't playing they got thrashed time and time again. Dungy's inflexibility is what makes me question him so much.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:07pm

Walsh himself argued that he was unable to manufacture offense sufficiently well with certain players. Why are you arguing with Walsh? Yes, football as chess is analogy. A bad one. What do you think finding a qb, who can competently run a two minute offense, is, if not a talent evaluation task?

Why on earth do you keep putting forth the ridiculous dichotomy of "football is chess" vs. "we need a yeller to motivate our team"? Both are poor ways of looking at the game.

Interesting that you raise the Vikings as an example, given that a talent evaluation error is likely going to be their biggest roadblock to playoff success. They made a bet on a sixth round draft pick, now a 2nd year player, being able to handle the middle of their offensive line. It looks now as if that was a bad bet, and the result has been a very significant decline in their ability to run between the tackles, and in offensive line coordination in general. If they lose to the Bears tonight, which is a real possibility, or when they lose in the playoffs, which is very, very, likely, people will somewhat pointlessly yap a lot about playcalling and scheme, and igniore the fact that their largest miscue took place many months previously.

I think trading for Schaub is more integral to the Texans' offensive success than the plays Kubiak has called.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:52pm

I'm not arguing with Walsh, I'm arguing with a Vikings fan named Will Allen.

The point is that the Matt Millen ( dumb) school of thought is that you need an angry guy like Rod Marinelli to come yell at your team to play hard. Then a soft team like Detroit that wastes it's picks on WR's every year will get in the image of their "tough" coach and they will play hard blah blah blah.

BB is a good head coach not because he gives the best pep talks, or has the best sound bytes. He's the best coach in the NFL because he's the best schemer and understands offense/defense in and out. It's about STRATEGY and not yelling at your guys 5 minutues before the game to pump them up. Bellicheck could get more out of his talent than say Mike Singeltary.

The Vikings have enough talent to win the handful of games they need to win the super bowl. When they lose, to come back and say they lost because of their 2nd year interior offensive lineman is false.

BTW, do you know what a GM's job is? Not every head coach is out there drafting players.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:17pm

When you say football is like chess, and offense can be manufactured, you are arguing with Walsh, because Walsh specifically stated that he could NOT manufacture offense with certain players. Please explain how you are right, and Walsh was wrong. Jimmy Johnson has stated that the biggest factor in his NFL success was a dumb GM who, via a stupid trade, allowed the Cowboys to stockpile talent. Playcalling and scheme were of lesser importance. Please explain how you are right, and Jimmy Johnson is wrong.

The fact that Millen is an idiot has exactly nothing to do with the quality of the assertions and analogies you have made.

When a team loses, and the biggest factor in their loss is the failure of certain players to execute their tasks, and they do not execute those tasks well enough to have long and productive careers, for any team, then it is entirely reasonable to say that the largest error was the installation of that player to begin with.

If Bill Belichick had coached the Rams this year, they would not have won 6 games. You keep making statements as if someone has said pep talks are a critical factor in coaching. No one has. Start arguing with real people for a change.

BTW, do you understand that all coaches have some input on draft day, and that talent evaluation doesn't stop with the draft?

by Temo :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:31pm

Jimmy Johnson has stated that the biggest factor in his NFL success was a dumb GM who, via a stupid trade, allowed the Cowboys to stockpile talent.

Jimmy is also on record saying, "We would have won anyway, it would just have taken a little longer."

He was a cocky ass, that one.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:15pm

Well, he was cocky for good reason. First and foremost, he was a terrific talent evaluator. I always like Johnson. I despised Jones, because he really underestimated what Johnson did, and thought he could replace him without huge difficulty. That sure worked out well.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:28pm

I love Jimmy, obviously. He deserved to be cocky.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:38pm

I am not arguing with Bill Walsh, I am arguing with WILL ALLEN who now thinks he knows what Walsh shoulda woulda coulda said. Walsh and others were able to manufacture offense and get more out of players than was expected. It was his actions not his words that you should look at. Just because he didn't like some guys doesn't mean it's not true. If Mike Shannihan said he couldn't have a good offense with Jamal Lewis at running back, does that mean he doesn't know offense or doesn't like a washed up Jamal Lewis?

A minor pet peeve of mine is a coach getting credit with bringing in players and "building" a team. It's usually the GM that's pulling the trigger and bringing in those players. Credit the Scott Piloi's, Bill Polians, John Butlers, AJ Smiths, Ozzie Newsomes, Bruce Allens... Not the Dungy, Bellicheck, Marv Levy's, of the world. They coached... They had GM's picking their players ( and doing a darn good job). Coaches coach, players play, and general managers ( and their scouts) pick players.

Matt Millen was highlighting the intensity of a defensive coordinator... He likes that in a coach... He likes intensity so much that he hired a vasly unqualified D-Line coach to be head coach ( and broke NFL Rules to do so and was fined). This site is all about it's own statistics and assigning "true" or a more true value to aspects of football. I could see Matt Millens little pea brain thinking outloud there.

So when the Vikings get knocked out of the playoffs you are going to say that it was the GM's fault for his interior O-Lineman selection??? Who'se job is it to find tasks that are do-able and make players execute their tasks?

It's impossible to know how many games the Rams would have won if coached by Bellicheck. If somebody would have told you the Parcells/Sporano Dolphins would make the playoffs after a 1-15 season you probably would have thought they were crazy.

Most coaches do have some input on draft day. I seem to remember it leaking that Lane Kiffen didn't want Jamarcus Russell, or Josh Mcdaniels telling his GM that he'd prefer Kyle Orton over Jason Campbell when trading Cutler... That doesn't mean they are picking the players. Running a front office and scouting pro/college players is a full time job. Plus there is a conflict of interest as coaches usually have a shorter tenure than GM's, and might want to take the team a different direction ( let's trade picks to win now), when it might hurt the team long term.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:09pm

No, you are arguing with what Walsh said, not with what I stated Walsh coulda, woulda or shoulda said. Walsh stated that he could not win with Steve DeBerg at qb, because the talent was insufficient. You think coaches can manufacture their way around insufficient talent. You are wrong. Walsh was right.

Every team is different in how it assigns responsibilities. In the case of the Vikings, Childress has significant input regarding drafting players and what veterans are on the roster. I can nearly guarantee that he had great input as to who was on the top of the depth chart at center going into this season. If weakness in the middle of the offensive line is a major problem in the playoffs this season, that is in good part on Childress, just as weakness at qb last year was in good part on Childress. People who don't know much about the game will complain about Childress' scheme and Bevell's playcalling. People who understand the game know that Childress' biggest weakness is talent evaluation, at the qb position in particular. He actively supported trading up for Tavaris Jackson, and he thought he could get good offensive line performance with a guy at center who is now getting overmatched. I hope that changes starting tonight, and into the playoffs, but if the Vikings get 3 yards per carry, and don't get the right coordination from their offensive line in mid January, it won't be because the wrong plays are getting called. It'll be because the talent is insufficient.

You keep writing as if Millen's actions have anything to do with what we are discussing. They don't.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:24pm

We are talking about a number of different things.

You seemed pretty hyped up last week when I was talking about Singeltary being overrated early in his young coaching career. I just think it's so easy to see a guy yelling and thinking he's doing something, when in fact you can have focus eyed guy in a hoodie walking around quietly drawing up things on a black board and he can be much much more effective. Millen loves intensity, and Millen was a loser. Fans want to see SOMETHING being done.

Side note, I used to coach basketball for little kids and I took my job seriously and read some manuals on coaching. The books all said that the best coaches had prepared teams. They weren't screaming orders out there on the sidlines " Johnny, run to the ball, Johnny Pass pass pass, shoooooot!".

Bill Walsh Not liking Steve Deberg has nothing with his ability to manufacture talent ( or the idea that offense can be manufactured). Look, if you gave him Tavaris Jackson he'd probably say he couldn't manufacture anything with HIM either. That doesn't mean if you gave him say Jake Plummer he wouldn't be able to make his numbers look good.

You are right, different teams do give coaches different responsibility and Childress did have a say in bringing in No action Jackson. I think he should be fired for THAT stupid move alone.

I disagree with the idea that the Vikings don't have the talent ( especially because of 1 player). He has enough talent to win with plain and simple. The difference in talent between the Vikings, Saints, Eagles, Dallas, Colts, Chargers, Patriots etc. is small enough that any of those teams could win the super bowl with good play, good planning and execution. There is no clear cut favorite this year by the way.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:48pm

Is seems to have escaped you that talent is a huge part of what produces good play. If this was not the case, Bob Kraft could cut payroll a ton, and expect the same results. I don't know who will win the Super Bowl this year. I can guarantee you it won't be a team whose interior offensive line gets physically overpowered. Please stop arguing with things I have not written. I did not say that the Vikings did not have talent. I wrote that they may a have huge talent and experience gap in the middle of their offensive line, one that may so damage their overall offensive line play that it will render other factors moot in the playoffs. Tom Brady and Randy Moss did become less talented when the Patriots inserted less talent in the middle of their offensive line, due to injury, during the Super Bowl against the Giants. However, the Patriots did get overpowered, and lost. In this case, the Vikings may have doomed themselves to getting overpowered in the playoffs, when they built their offensive line last spring.

Bill Walsh said he was, first and foremost, dependent on having better talent than his opponents, and that no amount of mythical chess playing could overcome that consistently.

I have no idea what you keep referencing yelling by coaches. It truly mystifies me, since I have said exactly nothing on the topic.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:10pm

You don't need "good" everything to win the super bowl. If an entire offensive line is getting overpowered, that's hardly the starting center's fault alone.

I wouldn't say Brady & Moss were less talented because of who was lining up in the trenches. Less productive, yes, but I don't think it made Moss any slower, or Brady any less intelligent.

My post last week concerning Singeltary, and this week concerning Millen was about coaches that yell being overrated ( by Millen) and others. You respond, and we get into a coaching, GM, talent, manufacture talent debate etc. and you've been saying that you have no idea why I was talking about Millen/Singeltary. Dude, if it angers you enough just send me a PM so this entire audibles isn't about you and me.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:25pm

Dude, I responded to your use of a poor analogy of football as chess. You start writing about Matt Millen. I have no idea of what you are talking about.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:39pm

Are you my wife?

by CoachDave :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:39pm

You are married? Dear God. That poor woman.

by HostileGospel :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:15pm

I hereby nominate this three-comment sequence for The Year in Quotes.

Overall, I'd be kind of embarrassed to critique something when I didn't know what the hell I was talking about, but then, oh yeah, my NAME is on what I write, isn't it?

-Les Bowen

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:31pm

I like Schaub, and think it's pretty clear that was a good trade, but given the success the offense had with Rosenfels under centre, and the success Kubiak's Broncos offenses had with Griese and Plummer, and the team's contined ability to move the ball through the air in 2007 when Andre Johnson went down for 9 games, I think it's fair to say that the Shanahan/Kubiak/Gibbs offense is one that can move the ball pretty effectively with pretty limited talent. Talent certainly helps - and the overall job of talent evaluation Kubiak and Smith have done has been excellent and lies at the heart of the Texans' ongoing emergence as a pretty decent team - but I think it's hard to look at Kubiak's body of work as a whole and 2007 in particular and not conclude that his offense does a pretty good job of getting worthwhile production out of pretty limited talent.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:44pm

Thank you. Exactly. Kubiak manufactured offense. Shannihan can manufacture offense. You give a team Sage Rosenfelds, Brian Griese, Jake Plummer and say build an offense. Most of the time it doesn't work out so well, and the offensive coordinator doesn't get blame because hey, "these guys aren't that good".

Then you have these guys that run offenses that are more on the simple side, and not only have good offenses, but the Plummer, Griese, Rosenfelds can put up some pretty good freaking numbers, and you have yourself an "offensive" team.

Some people now argue that Cutler was "manufactred" by Shannihan.

BTW Shush, stop arguing with Bill Walsh.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:27pm

It's really hard to take you seriously when you continuously misspell Shanahan's name. It's not hard.

Why does it have to be an either/or thing? I don't get your argument. Wes Welker is an excellent receiver, but Bill Belichick has found the way to make him most useful. Without the underlying talent or the coaching, he is not a pro-bowl receiver. The Arizona Cardinals don't move the ball well with Matt Leinart at quarterback, but it also wasn't this explosive with Dennis Green at the helm. Talent plus coaching equals more wins.

You're arguing only with Matt Millen. It's like Cosmo Kramer fighting an 8 year old. No one is really winning.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:38pm

I always spelled Byron leftbitch's name wrong too. That doesn't mean the analysis on the long delivery, poor pocket awareness, and simple offensive scheme wasn't there.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:24pm

What success with Rosenfels under center? 280 pass attempts? Yes, Kubiak is a good offensive coach. No, he can't manufacture wins with insufficient talent.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:36pm

Nobody said "WINS". Nice try at the strawman argument Will Allen. It only goes further to the point that you can manufactor OFFENSE, but you need guys on DEFENSE. Kubiak knows how to run an OFFENSE, and he can have a very good offense with less than very good talent.

Have you watched the Texans secondary the last few years? Is that Kubiaks fault?

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:43pm

I would hope that if your defense and offense are playing well, you would win more. That's kind of the point with the coaching and talent argument. I didn't say anything about the Texans.
I'm a big fan of you not understanding what a strawman is. That's exactly your strategy in debate, and you followed up calling out someone else's "strawman" by creating your own.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:48pm

Who said the Texans defense was playing well?

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:53pm

Do you read comments before you respond to them? I only said that I DID NOT mention the Texans in a previous post.
Saying "Leftbitch" also does a fantastic job of undermining your argument. I'd rather read Raiderjoe drunkenly ramble on about how JaMarcus Russell can be a hall of famer than you take credit for accurately determining the career path of Leftwich and Jason Campbell. Really, that's a great feather in your cap.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:56pm

Then stop writing about it and do it.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:14pm

C, being accused by you of using a strawman is like being accused of being out of shape by Jamarcus. "Wins"' in this instance, is used in the same context that Walsh employed "getting beat", that is, being able to, or unable to, manufacture the offense one needs. Kubiak holding things together for 280 pass attempts by Rosenfels doesn't say much.

I really don't get it. You concede above that even proven Hall of Famers like Walsh can't succeed with people like Tavaris Jackson, but you insist that chess is a good analogy to football. Have you ever played chess?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:28pm

You said WINS, I said OFFENSE but you made me laugh with the Jamarcus analogy so it's all good.

What about with Jake Plummer in 2004-2005? Did people have tape on him? 27 TD passes, 90ish QB rating? Is that the real Jake Plummer?

Walsh can't succeed with Tavaras Jackson, just like he couldn't with Brock Berlin or any other bum quarterbacks. You can only SCHEME so far, it doesn't mean you can plug in bums and expect results...but that doesn't mean you need John Elway back there to have success.

Look at the production Kubiak/Shanny have got churned out, and look at the guys they've had.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:39pm

When Sage frickin' Rosenfels is 7th in the league in QB DVOA (on 246 attempts, so this isn't a tiny sample), I think it's fair to say the offense is producing above its talent level. Certainly I don't think Kubiak does anything much to engender defenses playing above their talent level (arguably from 2006 to 2008 he caused them to produce below their talent level by employing Richard Smith), and the reason the 2007 Texans were a below average team was their utterly shoddy defense, not their above average offense. One approach to building a winning franchise (the one which many would say the Colts have employed over the last decade) is to attempt to mask talent deficiencies on one side of the ball through scheme while devoting cap space and draft picks to procuring superior talent on the other. I think some schemes (eg. Shanahan/Kubiak WCO with zone blocking and PA bootlegs, Tampa-2) are better suited to this approach than others (eg. Mike Martz's offense, 46 defense) which might do a better job of getting the most out of elite talent.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:53pm

Maybe Sage Rosenfels is the 7th best QB in the leauge Shush {sic}?

Exactly, the Texans had a good offense ( thanks in part to Kubiak doing what he does), and they had a crappy defense. It's not his forte. I'm not sure how much of it he outsourced, but the defense was not good, and they've been spending high round draft picks to make it better.

I agree with the blueprint some winning franchises have run... and that if you run schemes that require less popular players... smaller more agile lineman, or undersized LB's, or a 3-4 defense when most of the league is running a 4-3... Then you can aquire the players you need more freely and cheaply. Shanny can get his guys on the offensive line and craft together a strong run game year in and year out in Denver...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:02pm

Well, I tend to think of anything less than a full season as a pretty small sample. The bigger the film library grows on a qb within a system, the better the chance the guy's weaknesses, especially if they are significant, will get ruthlessly exposed. It doesn't strike me as a large ample size.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:14pm

In the past, you had rookies like Mark Sanchez, Matt Stafford, or Josh Freeman play poorly and people would use youth/inexperience as an EXCUSE why they didn't play well.

I think it's funny that now when a young/inexperienced QB plays well, people fall back on the inexperience/lack of playing time as an excuse of why he played well.

Look at the history of the coach. Look at Plummer after years in Arizona... after people DID have film of Jake the snake.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:20pm

Logic 101 wasn't your best course freshman year, was it?

by Todd S. :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:28pm

Just wanted to comment how much I enjoyed this exchange. (Only reading Mr. Allen's posts contributed to the enjoyment.)

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:35pm

Gamblers and Stat model Nerds usually don't get along well. We know everything and they know everything.

You guys hate me... true, but I'm sure the guy going to the gamblers board saying that Tom Brady is having the best season in the NFL because of the stats I've invented isn't going to be terribly popular either.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 8:11am

Aren't they the same people?

by Spielman :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 2:58pm

I, on the other hand, blame this thread for the fact that my brain has started dribbling out of my nose, and I now thoroughly dislike both the principle participants. Yeesh.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:32pm

No need to be rude.

I just think it's funny that in the past people used to use being a rookie as an "excuse" for bad play, but now you are out here saying that Sage benfited from DC's not having film on him.

Do you think most people want to bet FOR or against rookie/inexperienced QB's? Do win expectations increase or decrease for inexperienced/rookie guys?

but ahhhh, anything but giving Kubiak some credit. It must just be a small sample size and not yet another job well done.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:32pm

If you think rudeness is to be avoided, go back and read some of your earlier posts. I haven't any criticism of Kubiak. I merely think the talent level of his qb is more important than his playcalling, in regards to the chances of the Texans winning, and that 280 pass attempts doesn't say much about being able to manufacture around deficient talent.

I think small sample sizes don't tell us much. I think extreme inexperience increases the odds of really bad decisions by a qb. I think the more film of a qb becomes available, the greater the chance there is, up to a certain point, that an opposing defensive coordinator can clearly identify what a qb does well or does poorly, and can scheme with that in mind.

I don't think any of these things are mutually exclusive.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 8:21pm

Well it's not like the Sage of Iowa is the only guy Kubiak ever coached.

Will it seems like you are pretty stuck on talent, here are some questions for you.
1) Do (young) players ever improve
2) Do you feel NFL teams play at an optimal or peak level ? The Chess post further down shows that top Chess guys ( say Kasperaov) can play at a peak level, but in other activities people aren't even close to playing at their potential peaks
3) Are you impressed with Kubiak's & Shanahan's offensive results resumes?

I think a lot of the young QB success ( and later failure) can also be attributed to giving the young guy a simple easy game plan ( he might look ok), and then later on expanding the playbook/responsibilities and then not seeing him do as well. If you give your QB WR screens, checkdowns, an occasional deep pass, max protect throws and he does OK... but then you ask him to play REAL QB and he doesn't...

I think if you want nice big sample sizes to make nice truisms in the NFL then you'll have problems. How many throws do you want to see from Sage before you get your large enough sample size to be impressed with what his coach got out of him? There are so many variables on every single play... Further up people are talking about was Tony Dungy really that great of a coach, and there are years of data... but it's not so simple. There really are a lot of moving parts on an NFL team and it's hard to quantify everything ( that's why we are all here right?)

Using stats are great, but sometimes good old fashioned scouting works too. It's not like those numbers live in a vacuum. It's all in fun anyway, there is no need to insult people and get upset.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 8:46pm

If being "stuck on talent" means that I think football as chess is a bad analogy, then, yes, I'm stuck on talent. If being "stuck on talent" means that I think coaching is unimportant, then no, I'm not stuck on talent. When several Hall of Fame coaches tell me that the secret to their success lied more in obtaining the right players, as opposed to making chess moves with whomever is on the roster, then that tells me that football as chess is a very poor analogy.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:04pm

I feel we may all have got stuck on whether Chess is a good analogy. Upon review, that sentence may appear to imply that I think we're discussing the utility of a musical by Tim Rice and half of ABBA as an analogy for football. That's not the case, but I don't feel like editing it.

In the interests of sanity, I think we should note the following:

1. There is no such thing as a perfect analogy (sports coach and theatre director is the closest one that springs immediately to mind, or perhaps cricket captain and actor-manager), and no-one here thinks chess is even a very deep one for football. "X is like a chess-match" is in any case a cliched shorthand for something like "X involves two parties attempting to outwit one another", which football clearly does.
2. Analogies aside, I think everyone here agrees that both scheme and talent are important for success in football.
3. Points of genuine disagreement include how responsible Tony Dungy was for his teams' success, to what extent the over-performance of a mediocre quarterback is likely to be due to a lack of game-film as opposed to the offense into which he is inserted, and what constitutes an adequate sample size on which to base a somewhat informed evaluation of a quarterback's productivity in an offense. These seem like things on which reasonable people could disagree.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:20am

"X involves two parties attempting to outwit another", which football clearly does. I think Will Allen just wanted to object with anything I said because he doesn't like me. Let's attack that annoying guy and automatically disagree with anything he says regardless of what he says.

- Sage was did well because of Kubiak, not because coordinators didn't have enough film on him.
- I highly disagree that when the Vikings get knocked out of the playoffs, it will be because of 1 personel decision of drafting John Sullivan two years ago. When the Vikings get knocked it it will more likely be because Brett Favre turned the ball over too much, or Adrian Peterson fumbled at a bad time, their pass defense got beat too much, their kicker missed field goals, the other team just outplayed them... I don't even like playing that game because as the chess guy pointed out, you can always do better and better optimize your play. To pin a loss all on the field goal kicker is silly. What if the QB would have made that 3rd down throw and scored a TD instead of having to settle for the FG attempt? You win as a team and lose as a team...

So if it's all John Sullivans fault, then what would have happened if the Vikings kept Matt Birk, and he got injured in week 1? If the Giants lost the super bowl to the Patriots could you have said it was all Jermey Shockey's fault for getting injured? It's every team in the NFL's fault for not being good in the 90's because they all passed on Tom Brady in the draft multiple times?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:33pm

and Bill Parcells thought he had a better chance of winning in Dallas with a washed up Drew Bledsoe than Tony Romo. It doesn't mean they are always right.

by Still Alive (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:48pm

I tend to find mid-level chess players think everything is a chess match. Even things which clearly are not chess matches, like football games. There is room for strategy and intelligence in pretty much every competitive endeavor, that doesn't make them all analogous to chess.

It is sort of like the folks who have just read The Art of War and suddenly think everything is a war.

They also dislike even the slightest contention that chess is not the highest and most complicated competitive endeavor one can undertake.

This whole argument reminds me of a time I was trying to explain to a chess player that chess is in the grand scheme of games, very simple. A fairly modest hex based computer game is orders of magnitude more complicated than chess. Chess appears complicated because compared to most other games it has an amazingly well developed theory behind it. The top level players in chess are playing at near optimum levels. Whereas in many other games people don't even have the slightest feel for what the optimum levels are. One of the main reasons chess has such a well developed theory is because it is simple and somewhat tractable, not because it is complicated (as so many mistakenly contend).

All this is of course not to knock chess, it is a great game.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 8:48pm

So you're saying football is more like World in Flames? And drafting Peyton Manning is like picking a 10 strength panzer unit out of the force pool?

No, wait. Drafting involves skill, as well as luck. So . . . maybe some game like Ascendancy, or Alpha Centauri, where you can design you own units? That doesn't seem right either. Got it! The NFL is . . . Designasaurus II.

The only question is, who is Max von Fusion?

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 10:27pm

If you have a Staunton set, everything looks like a chess board.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:04am


by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 10:35pm

Even things which clearly are not chess matches, like football games. There is room for strategy and intelligence in pretty much every competitive endeavor

I think when most people say "it's a chess match" they really mean "it's a strategic game" - which is another way of saying that multiple choices are defensible (assuming decent plans back those choices) and the optimum choice really depends on knowledge of the opponent as well as the game. Chess is, as you note, one of the simplest strategic games out there - so I'm not sure the phrase "it's a chess match" means that people are really comparing it to chess, so much as the concept of a strategic game in general.

It's actually an important point, because a lot of people treat football as more of a pure game of chance (i.e. all of the "coaches should go for it more on 4th down" and "teams should pass more" analyses) when there's plenty of evidence that it isn't.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:25am

Right, try telling that to the reincarnated Bill Walsh spirt who took the form as a Vikings fan.

I wasn't literally comparing football to chess, it's a strategic game with the optimum choice depending on opponent knowledge ( defensible choices) etc.... Not just 22 knuckle heads ramming into each other out physicalying each other... It depends on knowing your opponent, strategy, game theory, knowing yourself & your opponent and it's NOT a pure game of chance.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:43pm

I was glad to see Collinsworth ( who I normally dislike) do his condescending routine on Jason Campbell. At one point they made some remark about throwing the screen pass on 3rd and long and the whole stadium know it was coming.

Are these comments intended to be linked? Why do you think that Campbell chose the play? I think it's well-documented who calls the plays in Washington.

ABC also had a stats that Jason Campbell only threw 1 pass through the air more than 10 yards... ( but you say he's not a backup quarterback?)

Do you honestly, seriously think that it's Campbell's choice where to throw the ball?

Seriously? You don't think that Campbell is running exactly the plays that the bizarro-committee is calling on the sidelines, and not deviating one bit?

They said last night that the Redskins are the 3rd lowest scoring team of the decade, and have been led by coaches with offensive pedigres 9 of the years...

Yup, that's what happens when you've got an owner with no patience. You try to fit players built for one offense into a totally different one, say "hey, these guys were good then, now they're not, it must be the coach," fire the coach, lather, rinse, repeat, until the players who were once good are old and injured, and you're left with giant contracts on players who aren't worth a fraction of them.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:35am

After weeks of resigning myself to semi-rooting for the Bucs to lose for the sole purpose of draft position, I take it all back. Beating the Saints? Yeah, that's worth dropping a few draft slots. Seeing my seven-year-old so excited he was jumping up and down basically hyperventilating pretty much made the season worth it in and of itself.

By all that is holy, Michael Spurlock should never, ever, in any circumstance, have to buy a meal in Tampa again. First, he breaks the "Tampa has never returned a kickoff for a TD" curse two years ago, meaning I never have to hear announcers say that at the start of EVERY STINKING GAME ever again. Then, he gets re-signed, and, in no time, scores that punt return TD to essentially allow the Bucs to beat the Saints. I should set him up a trust fund now at local restaurants.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:35am

Has any franchise been harder to figure out, for the better part of a decade, than the Panthers? They did seem to finally stumble onto the discovery that Jake Delhomme is not a irreplaceable component to a winning team. Better 20 million late than never, I suppose.

The Colts pulling Manning and Co. is indeed the type of non-story that gets talked about incessantly, except for the fact that the opponent was in a fight for the playoffs. As much as I sympathize with fans of teams who are trying to beat out the Jets for a spot in the tournament, if the Colts management really thinks their interests are best served by taking this course, so be it. The best case I can make for it is that, short of the mega-disaster of losing Manning completely, losing Manning for a quarter or half of playoff football would be really, really, bad, and if you are running the Colts, you may want to get some notion, against a good defense, whether the back-up is capable of anything, even if just for a series or two. I guess they have their answer.

by Trevor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:28pm

why John Fox deserves to be fired and replaced with Bill Cowher. I still have hate in my heart for how he torpedo'd this season by sticking with Jake at least 4 extra games. Just WHY?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:35pm

Probably because he, just a couple months prior, had told his owner that guaranteeing a boatload of new cash to Delhomme was a good idea.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:57pm


To be fair to Colts management, the backup QB was IRed a few weks ago. He's actually pretty decent and as Manning's "man in the van" with the headset on, a key component of the O. Painter, Sunday's final QB was a 6th round rookie this year who probably had very little practice time until November.

For his sake and the sake of a lot of chattering fans and analysis, they might have been better off not inserting him vs the Jets on his own 9 yard-line.

Now to be critical of Colts management, why not sign a veteran in the past few weeks? They brought a few in, but signed nobody. My guess is the offense would have to be retooled to let them run it on such short notice. They probably figured that even with less experience and rougher skills, Painter is at least familiar with the book and terminology, sight reads, etc.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:47pm

Bobman, I really do think it was entirely reasonable for Polian and crew to think that seeing what Painter looked like against a good defense at full intensity was in the best interests of the Colts.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:55pm

Yes, in the event that Manning might be forced out of a playoff game even if if only for a series or two, the Colts would not want it to be the first time Painter played at full intensity.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 10:38pm

To be more critical of Colts management, why draft a guy who struggled to manage the same offense both Brees and Orton ran very well? (Mostly the same: Tiller tried to insert some option stuff, but that pretty much failed, partly because Painter was about as well suited to the option as, well, Peyton would be.)

I did not believe Painter was a particularly solid quarterback at Purdue; I have even less reason to believe he will be anything but a career backup in the NFL, and in fact, I wonder if he will be anything other than a third-string QB.

Putting him in against the Jets was a remarkably poor decision in any event. If Peyton goes down, the Colts are screwed anyway: Painter is as ready to run this offense in a playoff game as any average or below-average rookie QB would be. Don't bother with getting him "meaningful" reps this year.

Is there a difference between punting on fourth and one and punting a game in the third quarter?

by Some_FF-Player_in_nawlins (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:39am

So, Buffalo played a game on Friday against the Chargers and then again on Sunday against the Falcons...

Methinks you have mislabeled the Titans on that Friday game...

by Shawn :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:47am

Well, the Bills certainly played Sunday like they had played a game on Friday night. That was ugly.

by Anger...rising (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:41am

The guy knows sports and is hilarious

If you like easily-debunked received wisdom and the same jokes repeated ad infinitum.

by Flounder :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:42am

The GB screen pass for a touchdown to Jackson was I believe their first well run screen pass of the entire season. They have been horrible at the RB screen all year.

The juxtaposition between Barnwell's comments on Revis and PKs in MMQB is interesting.

by coltrane23 :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:15pm

Many's the team which has been horrible at executing some basic play, until they meet the Seahawks. When playing the Seahawks' defense this year, all things are possible.

(Really, REALLY hoping that Mora & co. are replaced, but not really getting the sense it'll happen.)

by Jetspete :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:45am

Lost in the Colts' resting of starters discussion, by the "insiders" on espn at least, was any analysis of a pretty good football game for two and a half quarters. It is worth noting the Jets had a lead in the third quarter before a masterful Manning drive. For me, the first game that ended 15-10 came down to a few factors:

- the Jets key stop on a first and goal from the five in the second quarter. Game easily couldve been 13-0, in which case the Painter led colts might have held off the Jets.
- the Jets inability to lay a hand on Manning. If anything, I thought Caldwell would be forced to pull Manning because the Jets would be in his face all game. Turns out the opposite occurred and caldwell should've kept him in the game because the Jets could not get a hand on him.
- Whenever the jets ran empty backfield sets, the Colts used this as an opportunity to tee off on the Sanchise, sacking him twice.

by Led :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:23pm

Sanchez should've seen that Freeney would be unblocked on those plays, but that doesn't make Schottenheimer any less of an idiot. He's an affable guy, comes across as smart in press conferences and his play design is interesting. But he calls plays like a drunk chimpanzee. If I see an empty backfield on 3rd and short one more time....I'm going to sulk and complain anonymously on the internet.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:31pm

Joe Gibbs acolyte that I am, I also get perturbed every time I see an empty backfield.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:40pm

Actually, the drunk chimpanzee called for a stretch play with a fullback in. Schotty overrode him, and went with the empty backfield.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:02pm

I guess it was close to that point, but don't kid yourself. Indy was sitting a pro-bowl DE, pro-bowl S, starting CB, and LT. It was not a team in sych.

It was surprising that with Charlie Johnson out at LT, the Jets did not have better success with pressure. Manning did hit some intermediate passes, so it wasn't all super-quick stuff.

by Led :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:55pm

Unfortunately, the Jets usually don't get pressure from edge rushers. It's almost always through overloads or other blitz schemes to get a free runner. With due respect for Calvin Pace, who is a solid player, they have no one who can consistently win one on one battles rushing the passer. The fact that the Jets are #1 in pass defense DVOA is a tribute to 2 guys: Darrelle Revis and Rex Ryan. Probably in that order.

by huston720 :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:49am

The guys apparently missed the modern update on the fumblerooskie (sp?) in the Browns/Raiders game. The browns lined up in a conventional set with Jerome Harrison offset to the right, but they had Anderson lined up wide to the right and Cribbs under center, though he made sure not to put his hands under center. Then Cribbs ran right as if he had taken the snap, but in reality he was only going in motion and they snapped it to Harrison direct and he ran left for a 17 yard td. Of course the td was called back by a block in the back at the goaline, tough it still gained enough to be a first down. Then Harrison fumbled a couple plays later.

It was still a cool play design, and one I hadn't seen in a while. Though I remember the Colts trying a similar play with mannin walking away from center. But I think they got caught with the rule that once a player puts his hands under center that player has to take the snap.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:11pm

I think Kurt Warner ran that back in the day too. Where the QB walks to the sideline with his hands up and a confused look on his face when Faulk or whoever gets a direct snap.

That play wouldn't be so believable with Peyton Manning since he's calling his own plays and doesn't need that sort of gimmick.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:54am

Olbermann may be funny off the air, but I find him mostly tiresome on Sunday Nights. I mostly haven't watched cable t.v. news shows in about a decade, so I don't think my views are influenced by his other job.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:49pm

Agreed. I don't watch his political stuff, but the turning football into dry humor comedy isn't funny. Dennis Miller comedy didn't work either.

I think a lot of fans actually appreciate the game ( and good anaylsis), and don't need more jokes for "entertainment". People want to see the highlights, see how their team did, their fantasy team etc.

The ABC crew is a mess, with Olberman not being funny, Patrick the know it all, Peter King the blithering idiot, Bob Costas thinking he's bringing us some dramatic insight, Dungy is meh, and Harrison's the best but they don't let him talk.

I think fans more appreciate Rod Woodson, Cris Carter, Merril Hodge, Steve Young talking about the X's and O's and what's going to happen, and why stuff did happen, then seeing cheesey dry humor.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:05pm

NBC, not ABC.

I find the segments with Dungy to be particularly strong. He brings more to the table than any other ex-coach I can think of. It's like Bobby Knight for college basketball or John McEnroe for tennis, but without the anger management issues.

I have to admit I liked Olberman and Patrick a lot more when they were on ESPN than I do now. Perhaps that's partly due to their need to pack all of their flair into such a short time period now.

On the whole, I like the NBC group simply because they don't feel overstaffed like so many of the networks do.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:13pm

I like Dungy, and particularly like Harrison, though he often seems to be going out of his way to say something controversial. Still, I like the way he presents things.

One thing I like about NBC's group is it lacks the excessive "LIGHT IS FLASHING, COMMENTATORS LAUGH NOW" forced humor that CBS and Fox throw out constantly. I can't watch either of those shows anymore.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:53pm

I vote YES on Football Night in America. Since the expansion of cable TV and internet, I never thought I would enjoy a "highlights" show as much as this. FNIA has changed my mind. The pacing of the show is good. Most of all I like that Dungy and Harrison provide insight without feeling the need to be loud and/or funny (I'm looking at you Bradshaw, Keyshawn, Deion, Jimmy Johnson, etc..)

by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:57am

I have to vote NO on Football Night in America. I've never watched Olbermann's political stuff, but his segment last year (?) called "The Worst Person in the NFL" was a huge turnoff. How do you even come up with such a terrible idea (I'm going to do a segment where I label someone as a bad person every week, doesn't that sound like fun)? Honestly, he just gets under my skin and gives me the creeps. The guy's humor doesn't work on the show and he offers no insight.

Harrison and Dungy bring very little to the table (though I think both would be good in a different format). I love Patrick's radio show (listen to it most mornings), but he sucks on FNIA, and I think the blame for that lies with the directors and producers since DP is immensely talented.

In my opinion, the pacing is all wrong, the analysis is worthless (usually), and the show simply uses its on-air talent incorrectly.

by DavidL :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:56am

The AFC playoff picture is completely open, while the NFC's six teams are set in stone but not a single seed is remotely close to safe. The Eagles are alive for a first-round bye or to be a sixth-seeded wildcard. This is great.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:10pm

Gosh, if any situation called for tossing the conventional wisdom out the window, it may have been the fourth and short the Broncos faced, deep in their own territory, on their last possession. Are their odds of converting that to a first down really lower than the Eagles' odds of getting a field goal after a punt? Toss in the fact that failing to convert at least forces a resolution, with how the Eagles do with their possession, with non-trivial time left on the clock, and I thought the Broncos should have tried to keep possession.

by P (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:24pm

I agree completely. I think their chances of converting a 4th and 2 were much better than preventing the Eagles from moving 15 yards, despite their numerous 3-and-outs in the 2nd half.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:29pm

What semi-surprised me was that I thought a Belichick disciple would have been more likely to agree with us, and would have been brash enough to go down that path.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:34pm

Could you imagine the outrage if they didn't convert, though? McDaniels doesn't have any super bowl rings to fall back on like Belichick. As Deion would say, he made a "business decision".

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:52pm

Or how about Denver tries letting Philly score quickly once the Eagles are in fieldgoal range? Would've been better to be down by 7 with 55 seconds to go than down by 3 with 3 seconds to go.

by B :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:35pm

How do you "let a team score" though? What would have stopped Westbrook from taking the handoff and running untouched to the one yard line, then downing himself, which is something he's done before. The only effect there would be turning the game winning field-goal from a 40 yarder (or so) to a chip-shot.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:17pm

Good point. I suppose I was assuming the ball carrier would score instead of making a smart team play.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:27pm

It was already a chip shot: it was a 31-yarder after Maclin's catch.

Westbrook or Weaver could've easily downed himself at the 1, but hoping that the ballcarrier didn't was still Denver's best shot at winning the game. In that case they would've had about 40 seconds and two timeouts - not good odds, but a lot better than a Music City Miracle hope.

by NoraDaddy :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:43pm

An odd thought. Would it be legal to pick up the ball carrier and carry him into the endzone to make him score?

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:51pm

If the player is laying on the ground, he'd be "down by contact" when the defense tried to pick him up.

by Dennis :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:23pm

Plus the play is dead as soon as the ballcarrier takes a knee and declares himself down. But if the defender can pick him up before he goes down, then it seems like it should be a TD.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:32pm

1) I dunno, if Maclin's catch had been a few inches more out of bounds, it's 3rd and 8 and the Eagles are still outside of field goal range.

2) Don't forget that Denver's last punt absolutely sucked - it netted 25 yards. Add in an additional 15 more yards for an average-ish punt, and realistically, Denver should've been able to hold Philly.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:13pm

If Olbermann left the 'news' and went back to sports, it would be like the Okies migrating from Oklahoma to California. Everybody wins.

by Armchair QB (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:15pm

Re: The Jets getting in playing second string teams ... we'll see a lot more of this phenomena in a 17 or 18 game season!!! Can we honestly say the Jets belong in the playoffs ahead of Baltimore, Denver, Houston???

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:40pm

Well the Jets D shut out Houston's offense and Denver lost to Oakland at home. So New York has as much claim as either of those two.

Don't like the Colts laying down? Play better.

by Dennis :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:41pm

Not to mention Denver has lost 7 of its last 9. Is that a team that "deserves" to get in?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:59pm

As a Pats fan, I find it particularly annoying that the Jets get to play the Colts in Week 16, when the NFL makes sure that the Pats-Colts game is during the November TV sweeps every season.

by Lance :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:16pm

Tanier's homerism makes me laugh.

by Special J :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:23pm

Vince Verhei: It is truly amazing how the entire Indianapolis team completely shuts down whenever Peyton is out.

Don't you mean "whenever Peyton, Dallas, and Reggie are out?" We can't really expect Painter to look like Manning when he's throwing to Hank Baskett and some guys named Tamme and Santi, whom I'm pretty sure the Colts pulled out of the stands during halftime. I mean, they couldn't even have let Painter have Austin Danger-Fricken' Collie to throw to?

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:19pm

If Peyton isn't in, the Colts are either so far ahead as to be uncatchable, or so far behind as to be unwinnable. Considering they've come back from being down 21 in the 4th, I'm not sure that there's any game you'd consider "unwinnable" at this point.

Also, Painter had Collie. He just didn't have anyone else. Tamme and Santi are the Colts other pass-catching tight ends.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:00pm

Prior to this season, no one had heard of Austin Collie, or Pierre Garcon. That they are now household names is either testament to:

1. Manning's ability to make anyone look like a pro-bowl WR, or;
2. The Colts brain trust knowing how to find/groom young WRs.

If it's the first, then it wouldn't have mattered who Painter is throwing to, because it's a function of Manning's ability. If the latter, then one could probably assume that the Colts didn't just say 'make sure the first 3 WRs are talented, and fill the remaining slots with crap', but rather that Tamme and Santi also have some talent (evaluated, selected, and trained by the same group).

And yes, that goes for Clark as well. He appears to be a good pass-catching TE who has a great rapport with the game's best QB. But based on sheer talent, he's not the best in the league, or even 2nd or 3rd best.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:19pm

TP, Garcon is a 2nd year player from a small school who had about 4 catches last year, so yeah, nobody heard of him (until the Jets game earlier this year, which he won by taking a WR screen 50 yards to the house). But, with all due respect, Collie led the NCAA in receiving yardage last year. I don't follow college football that closely, but I suspect most serious fans heard of him. He's the 4th receiving target after Wayne, Clark, and Garcon, but he's still managed about 50 catches, 7 TDs and 700 yards as a rookie. So somebody should have heard about him. Or as the cliched warning to DCs might go, ignore him at your peril.

Clark is a deity. If you are not aware of that you have not been paying attention. It's not just rapport--he has made big, finger-tip catch after catch for 5+ years, and taken a lot of punishment as well. He had one year with a fair amount of drops (2 yrs ago? Three?) but that season aside, he has shown great hands consistently, and good speed, route running, and body control. Add in the outside threats the Colts have to draw the D's attention, and Clark's rapport with the best QB in the land, yes, he is set up for success by externnal factors as well.

But don't discount his talent--the presence of Reggie Wayne does not allow him to snag these 8 ft high TD passes with 4 finger-tips, or the one-hander he had a few games ago. As a college jr he won the Mackey Award, named for the Colt TE whose records he's erased. It's not just Manning throwing to him.

Keep in mind that a few of the other "best TEs in the game" tend to be their team's primary receiver--Gates and Gonzalez for years got the lion's share of their teams passes, and also had MVP-level RBs keeping the LBs and safeties occupied.

by Phil Osopher :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:26pm

Wes Welker; "The problem is that they had a similar, superior (at the time) player in Eric Parker. So he wouldn't have gotten any playing time. "

Hahahahahahhaha Eric Parker hahahahahahahaha At least Brees vs. Rivers has been a wash overall and Brees was coming back from a serious shoulder injury.

I don't remember him on SD either, but he was very productive for a god awful Miami team for BB to trade a second rounder for. Welker has been one of the best pure slot WR's to come out in a long time. Even on sucker teams, he still was very productive (not NE super offense productive, but still showed a lot of promise productive)

6 more years of 100 catches and the guy will "be off the charts"....lol

by Temo :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:31pm

It's well documented that WRs usually need a bit more time to develop than other positions. It's very possible that at age 23, Welker looked inferior to the older Eric Parker.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:51pm

I wonder how many talent gems go undiscovered because coaches are so often in a "win now" mode (and rightly so, given how fluid NFL rosters are) that they will almost always play the veteran with the lower ceiling but higher average production than the youngster who is less developed but has the potential to be a star. (Unless of course, the youngster was highly drafted and they need to justify the pick/money by giving him playing time). Maybe we can call it the "Harrison Effect"?

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:19pm

but a Bird in hand is worth 2 in the bush.

A young guy with potential is redudent. You need to pick and choose your spots carefully, you don't have unlimited roster space to have developmental guys.

I do sometimes wonder about the undiscovered... Look at the QB position and some of the colleges/NFL Europe route some of these guys went. It's probably even more so in college with potentially really good QB's slipping through the cracks only to have the guy who is tall with a big arm get the job at state U.

Unless you are looking at a polished 3-4 year starter, QB's are huge risky crap shoot. Some might be good, most will be average/bad. I like the idea of later round picks... seeing in practice if a guy understands it/grasps it, and letting him sit on the bench a few years. I also like the idea of coaching stability.

by tally :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:15pm

At the time, Parker was indeed a superior player with a higher DVOA and DYAR than Welker those years. Welker was cut from SD, played for MIA primarily on special teams for his first couple of seasons, and was nearly cut from MIA before his third season. Meanwhile, Parker was a first-down machine in the mold of 2007-2009 Welker.

Parker's 2004-6 seasons have similar DVOA to Welker's 2007-9 seasons, while the DYAR is lower in part due to fewer passes thrown his direction (LDT was the focus of the SD offense those years) and a slightly lower catch rate.

23rd in DVOA, 33rd in DYAR with a 66% catch rate in 2004:

4th in DVOA, 15th in DYAR with a 71% catch rate in 2005:

10th in DVOA, 27th in DYAR with a 69% catch rate in 2006:

After 2006, Parker's career was basically ended by injury, as I recall.

by apk3000 :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:34pm

Was that the year the Chargers wanted to keep 4 QBs or something? They tried to do a waive and sign to practice squad with Welker but Miami claimed him.

by Marver :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:11pm

Yep. Welker had a special teams touchdown (either kick or punt, can't entirely recall) that preseason too, but it still wasn't enough.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:29pm

Oh, and nothing to do with football, but 30 Rock has an elevator where you put in the floor you want when you call the elevator, rather than pressing up or down, and there are no floor number buttons in the elevator itself. I've never seen that before.

The Times building in NYC has a similar system. The guy I was visiting there said it was a "green technology", though it's hard to see how.

by huston720 :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:43pm

My understanding is that it allows the elevators to work more efficiently, thus reducing energy use. It allows the elevator to map out the most efficient path for everyone involved by grouping people going to floors close to each other in the same elevator. In most older high rise buildings this is done by simply banking floors, i.e. one elevator only goes between floors 10-20, etc.

by Special J :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:44pm

Helps prevent unnecessary trips by empty elevator cars.

by JasonK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:07pm

It also prevents people who are in the building to be in the studio audience of a show from stepping off at a different floor and screwing with some other taping.

by mediator12 :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:53pm

Couple of things:

1. Aaron, the BAL backup LB is Danell Ellerbe, not Daniel Ellerbe. Ellerbe Was a highly Talented player coming out of Georgia, but he went undrafted due to the Character red flag and Serious injuries moniker of scouts. However, watch him actually play and he had a late 1st round talent grade by a lot of people....

2. Nothing like Watching the Real live Coaches tape. It makes a huge difference versus the substandard Network feeds. I hope you can give more examples of things you saw versus what the rest of us did!

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:54pm

I didn't get to watch live coaches' tape, alas. They have access to it, but we were watching the regular game feeds. The way it works is that they have one monitor with the access, and when they see a play they might want to highlight on the show, they can call up the digital recording from the all-22 feed on that one monitor and edit for broadcast.

by coltrane23 :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:33pm

Although I'm green with envy seeing your increased exposure over the years, it's also been fun watching this site develop from a true outsiders' perspective--using stats from the PBP and watching the games on TV and publishing numbers on what amounted to a blog--into a full-blown website with the same analytical basis but informed by insider knowledge.

I recall once that there was some article posted in the XP forum where Belichick walked media types through coaching film to demonstrate what his staff sees and how they react. Did FO ever get to join those impromptu coaching sessions?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 12:51pm

'Can that put the "The Giants missed Plaxico Burress" debate to rest?'

Strange thing to say after a game in which the Giants scored 9 points and were eliminated from the playoff picture.

by Dales :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:42pm


But it was not a strange thing to say *early* in the game when Manning had yet to miss.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:59pm

But a sensible thing to say after a season in which the Giants are 8th in scoring offense (4th in passing touchdowns) and 28th in scoring defense. If the Giants score 40 a game next year from weeks 1-15 and score 9 again in week 16, does that resurrect the whole stupid Plaxico debate?

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:52pm

The Giants' passing offense DVOA has improved from 35.7% to 40.6%. Their run offense DVOA, meanwhile, has declined from 20.7% to 0.6%, leading to an overall offensive decline from 23.7% to 17.1%. My recollection is that the more sophisticated adherents of the thesis that the loss of Burress was/would be a major problem argued that he had a major impact on the running game by drawing safeties out of the box. His loss is of course not the only thing that's changed, and it's far from clear that it is the (or even a major) reason for the decline seen above, but I don't think the events of this season are enough to completely settle the case in favour of the "Burress doesn't matter that much" notion.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:55pm

Fair point. But given that the clear context of Barnwell's comment was Manning's play over the course of the season, RickD's response was a lot stranger than the initial statement.

I certainly hope nobody thinks the Giants missed the playoffs because they didn't have Burress.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:20pm

Sure. Burress may or may not have had a significant impact on the offense, but the offense is still very good regardless, and Burress certainly didn't shoot the defense in the leg - apparently it just got prematurely arthritic.

Just remember, kids: if you're not good this year, you might get up next Christmans morning and find Ceandris Nehemiah Brown in your stocking. Which is still a much better place for him to be than your starting secondary.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:01pm

OK, so if I was a Colts fan, I would be mad as hell right now. Agree with Ned that you just don't do that. It would have been slightly better if you'd come into the game with your backups. I could totally see doing that if you already had a loss. But to throw Painter to the wolves in the 3rd quarter of a close game, at the same time as you put in backups on defense, on the verge of making history, is unforgivable.

As a fan of a rival team, I root against the Colts, but have a grudging respect for them. But now I really want them to go one and done in the playoffs just to punish Caldwell for this.

I think Colts fans should be very angry now.

I think the Colts players should be even angrier. Only two teams in history have ever had a perfect regular season. Only one has done it in a 16 game season. Only one has ever gone a season without a loss. No team has ever gone a season without a loss in a 16-game season and modern playoff format. The Colts now won't get the chance to try.

I think fans of the NFL in general should be annoyed. They were deprived of seeing, potentially, history made. And Mercury Morris will remain a jackass.

I think fans of Baltimore, Denver, Houston, and Pittsburgh should be absolutely outraged, because one of those four teams will now probably miss the playoffs when they would have made it, all because Caldwell decided to roll over.

I do agree that Caldwell probably did it because he's a rookie head coach. For him, getting a SB win under his belt, in his first season at that, is probably tantamount in his thinking. And the amount of flak a rookie head coach would get if his star was injured in a "meaningless" game and he then lost a playoff game would be large (although I think Caldwell's job security is good enough so that he could weather it). But I think this was about Caldwell protecting Caldwell, not doing what could have been best for his franchise.

by patriotsgirl :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:15pm

Well, the Colts win wasn't guaranteed. It wasn't like they were stomping NYJ - the defense kept it close - and they did start the drive deep in their own territory.

All of those other teams have been choking lately anyway; had TEN won, I'd have felt bad for them, but if you can't beat OAK (like PIT/DEN) or win a must-win game (like HOU or BAL), you can't expect other teams to help you. (And I can't stand the Jets.)

That said, I think the worst part of the decision is the timing. Halftime, or after the first quarter, kind of made sense (if you buy into the Colts' philosophy). But having Painter start deep in his own territory with a few minutes left in the third seemed almost random.

I have a pet theory that Caldwell and Polian decided in advance to pull Manning after X series in the second half, and didn't take the situation into account. We might never know.

(And does anyone think this is just about Caldwell? Polian had to have buy in, and may even have dictated the decision.)

by Purds :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:03pm

Here is what might have been the thinking by the Colts staff: They're up 9-3 at the half, they want the first string to get a chance to try out the half-time adjustments, and then get off the field and rest. (They play them at the start because if they don't play at all, then it would be four weeks before a meaningful game situation--NYJ, BUF, Bye, playoffs). The Colts staff hopes that they get a stop with the first string D, and that should be easy, as the Jets have done nothing so far. Then, the staff hopes the Colts get a TD, and leave with a 17-3 lead for Painter and co. to nurse to the end.

Instead, the Jets take the kickoff for a TD, and then when Indy does score but fails the 2-pt conversion, they are up only 15-10, not 17-3. But, they stick with the plan, as they knew going into the game that there would always be a reason to change the plan based on spur-of-the-moment emotion, and that's not the Colt's way.

Think that might have been their thoughts? (And this after having blown a couple of chances to get more points in the first half on some missed passes, to Wayne and Clark.)

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:26pm

Purds, sounds about right, though it shows a bit of "tin ear" insensitivity regarding the exact time and place to insert Painter. Looking at the field position and the score they could well have said "one more series" and nobody would have complained (unless everyone blew out an ACL on that last series). Then we'd all be storming their offices today with flaming pitchforks.

by patriotsgirl :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:45am

That could be, Purds. The biggest criticism I have is the situational inflexibility, present in either of our scenarios; putting Painter in at his own 9 was pretty risky, and I thought so before the fumble. If anything, they could have let Peyton get a couple of first downs to give him some room.

I think the Colts just wanted it both ways - win, then rest - and were eventually forced to realize they couldn't have it all. I just would have been inclined to go for one or the other more decisively. But I'm not that worked up about it, I just find it interesting.

(I was, strangely, defending the Colts thinking in the game chat. It was like Bizarro World.)

by Slomojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:22pm

I don't think Caldwell would have done it without Polian's and Irsay's approval. They must have told him that a shot at the SB was more important to them and the team than a shot at history.

Personally, I think it's a fair choice, especially since, unlike the Pats two years ago, few would have argued that these Colts are one of the best teams in history, even if they made it unbeaten to the end. In the big picture, however, it seems like a shortsighted choice, not worth of a candidate for "team of the decade".

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:28pm

It's a minor pet peeve, but I am very very sick of all the "Team of the Decade" talk that the networks were bombarding us with.

THE DECADE DID NOT START IN 2000. IT STARTED IN 2001. The year 2000 was part of the 20th century, last millennium. The Colts do not have 115 wins this decade, the most of any team. They have 105 wins this decade, the second most (behind the Patriots at 106).

Now it is true that the Colts have 115 wins in a 10 year period from 2000 to 2009, which is indeed a record. They have the most wins of any NFL team in history over any given 10 year period (four ahead of the #2 team, the Patriots, who have 111 wins over the same period). And both franchises rank in the top five for aggregate win percentage over any 10 year period (allowing comparisons to be made to earlier days with shorter seasons). So much for the theory that the salary cap would eliminate dynasties...the Colts and the Pats in the last 10 years have been as or more successful than any dynasties in the past.

But this "decade" isn't over yet.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:54pm

You're fighting a losing battle.

The following are all considered "decades".

The 50s.
The 60s.
The 70s.
The 80s.
The 90s.

Sense a pattern?

by Derek1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:55pm

No offense, but shutup with the whole decade starts in 2001 crap. Everyone knows this and no one cares. It just convenient to think of the decade in terms of 00's, 10's, 20's, etc. If you don't like it, go live in a forest somewhere.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:15pm

Another option to living ins a forest (pretty inconvenient for anything but bathromm facilities), is to make up your own measurement of time.

For example, as far as I'm concerned we're at the end of the 287th septade. Yes, it was an interesting 7 years, 2003-2009.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:10pm

Outrage is hilarious when it's misplaced.

The year 2000 is part of the 20th century because it's called "the twentieth century" - meaning the 20th century since we started keeping track of years A.D. - obviously the first is 1-100, etc., so the 20th century is 1901-2000.

When people say "decade," however, they don't typically mean "the 200th decade," which would be 2001-2010 - they certainly don't say the 200th decade. They typically say something like the "1990s", which is not 1991-2000 - it's 1990-1999, which is a period of ten years, which is also a decade. This is the same thing as if someone had said "the 1900s" - the 1900s is a century, going from 1900-1999.

Since things like "200th decade" are almost never used, the common usage of "decade" means the "1990s"-like definition - that is, 2000-2009.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:32pm

(stupid correction: 2001-2010 would be the 201st decade, obviously)

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:59pm

I found it mildly amusing to see you correct your own error Pat.

by MurphyZero :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:23pm

Bingo. I've had to reconcile this myself, as I recognize the millenium and century issue. Obviously we tend to only use the second millenium (not the 1000'ss) and the 90s not the 200th decade, but we use both the 20th century and the 1900s. As long as it is clear which is in use and it is correct it is fine. It is that flexibility that allows someone to choose which version.
So in this case, the standard use of decade is from 0-9, therefore the decade is ending.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:45pm

I wouldn't call it outrage, especially when I prefaced my comment with "this is a pet peeve".

But your point is taken. If you want to define "decade" differently from "century" and "millenium" to mean "an arbitrarily chosen period of ten years that all have the same digit in the tens place", then fine. I guess this is the more mainstream approach...

(Although, interestingly, I would consider 1940 to have more in common, culturally, politically, and socially, with what folks think of as the "thirties", 1960 with "the fifties", 1970 with "the sixties", 1980 with "the seventies", 1990 with "the eighties", and 2000 with "the nineties").

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:05pm

"If you want to define "decade" differently"

A decade is ten years, a century 100, and a millenium 1000. That's the only definition in play. The point is 'what's the most commonly used period of that length?' For century and millenium, it's an ordinal count from year 1. When people say "the 20th century" they specifically mean 1901-2000. When people say "the second millenium" they specifically mean 1001-2000. No one says "the 200th decade."

an arbitrarily chosen period of ten years that all have the same digit in the tens place

Right - exactly like when you say "the 1800s," which is 1800-1899. It happens that for century/millenium, the ordinal count is most common, whereas for decade, it's not. The same usage is present for centuries, though.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:14pm

It's probably true that we tend to remember decades more for what their later years were like than their earlier ones, which would explain why the years ending "0" tend to seem more like the nine years that went before than the nine that followed, culturally speaking. I would also point out that in a very large part of the world, 1940 seems a hell of a lot closer to 1941 onwards than to 1939 and back . . .

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:42pm

So the year A.D. 5 is part of what decade?

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:59pm

The original aughties. Caesar Augustus was Tempus Magazine's man of the decade. IIRC

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:42pm

What years were part of the century prior to the 100s? Same problem.

by AndyE :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:48pm

The year 5 CE would have been in the DCCL decade, as the Gregorian calendar, marking the start of the Christian Era, had not yet been adopted.

by B :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:26pm

The decade started in 2000, actually, although the Century and millennium did start in 2001. We refer to decades like the 90s or the 80s as the years 90-99 and 80-89, respectively, so this decade, the "00s" or whatever would be 2000-2009. Of course, a decade is any 10 years, it doesn't mean just those with a common tens digit, so by that logic there could be one team of the 2000-209 decade, another of the 2001-2010 decade, and another for the 2003-2012 decade.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:58pm

I once had a history teacher who told us that the 20th century didn't start until WW I and the 60's didn't start until Kennedy was shot. Now THAT'S confusing.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:02pm

"I think fans of Baltimore, Denver, Houston, and Pittsburgh should be absolutely outraged, because one of those four teams will now probably miss the playoffs when they would have made it, all because Caldwell decided to roll over."

Fans of Baltimore should be outraged they let go of Stover and lost several close games.

Fans of Denver should be outragedthat a 6-0 start was pissed away to their current 8-7 record.

Fans of Houston should be outraged that their team rarely finishes games.

Fans of Pittsburgh should be pissed that they lost to Kansas City, Cleveland and Oakland.

If you whine about not getting help from other teams in order to make the playoffs, then be good enough that you don't NEED help from other teams. Every team is in control of its own destiny in the beginning of the season.

I have a ton of sympathy for the Patriots (a team I mostly loathe) missing the playoffs after going 11-5 with a backup QB last year. I have ZERO sympathy (concerning the Colts' behavior) for the teams you mentioned above.

by Michael19531 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:59pm

Amen brother

by jebmak :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:10pm

You don't loathe them nearly enough. As a Dolphins fan, I got almost as much enjoyment from the Pats missing the playoffs at 11-5 as the Dolphins making it (I probably would have had more Fin enjoyment if I had thought that they were good enough to do anything there).

I found the Pats missing the playoffs hillarious.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:20pm

Vikings fans only loathe the Patriots for the Monday night embarassment that happened a few years ago. Well, that and the fact that Minnesota has zero SB victories and NE wouldn't vacate the headlines for a while, there.

As the fan of a divisional opponent, I don't blame you for loathing.

by rk (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 10:04am

"I think fans of Baltimore, Denver, Houston, and Pittsburgh..."

"be good enough that you don't NEED help from other teams."

Wait, the fans need to be better?

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:15am

A lot of Houston ones sure as hell do, if the comment boards at the Chronicle online are anything to go by. A couple of tough losses against decent teams and they're all screaming for the coach's head.

by The Blow Leprechaun (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:36am

As a Texans fan, I was disappointed, but not angered in any way by it. I think the NYJ-IND game was about the only one that didn't go exactly the way we needed to try and sneak into the playoffs this weekend. The Texans were a longshot anyway, so it doesn't really upset me if we don't end up making it, but it would have been hilarious.

by Todd S. :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:22pm

I'm a Colts fan, and I am mildly irritated that the starters played as long as they did. And I couldn't care less about the concerns of Baltimore (ha!), Denver, Houson, and Pittsburgh fans.

However, I am definitely in the minority in the city. Most fans are indeed very angry. I think maybe I enjoy being a contrarian a bit too much. (Bonus outrage: I find myself arguing with people and thinking to myself, "I'll bet this person doesn't even know who Antoine Bethea is.")

Also, I'm a Purdue fan. Curtis Painter sucks. He'll be lucky to be a backup in the NFL. You can't ruin him any further.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:14pm

I spent a lot of time figuring out tiebreaker scenarios last night (my wife got me surprise tickets to the Baltimore game for my birthday, and we were trying to figure out if it was meaningful).

It's confusing right now because "if the season ended today" standings are NOT representative of which teams control their own destiny in the AFC wildcard.

Currently, "if the season ended today", the Jets and Broncos would be in. However, that's because there haven't been enough common games for the "common game" tiebreaker to kick in. Once Baltimore plays Oakland, there will be enough games, and if Baltimore wins, they will hold the common game tiebreaker.

So the big picture is this.

The Jets and Baltimore both control their own destiny. For both teams, if they win next week, they're in.

Denver needs to win and have either the Jets or Baltimore to lose to make it.

Houston and Pittsburgh need to win and need two of the Jets, Ravens, and Broncos to lose. However, which two and the specific scenarios get kind of complex.

Miami and the Jags are still mathematically alive, but I think any scenario that allows them to make the playoffs also involves Ann Coulter and Al Franken getting married.

by Thok :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:59pm

If Baltimore wins, they will hold the common game tiebreaker.

Huh? The relevant common game tie breaker is Baltimore/Jets/Denver (they all played Oakland/Cincinnati/New England/Indianapolis), which the Jets win 4-1 (Denver would be 3-2, Baltimore 2-3). Baltimore's advantage over Denver comes from the head to head win.

As for the rest, here's the situation

Denver needs 2 of the following 3 to happen if they win (they also have tiebreaks over everybody but Jacksonville at 8-8)
a. Jets lose
b. Baltimore lose
c. either Pittsburgh loses or Houston wins

Houston needs to win and have 2 out of (Jets/Baltimore/Denver) lose

Pittsburgh needs either Houston and one of Jets/Baltimore to lose, or all of Jets/Baltimore/Denver to lose.

Jacksonville needs to win and have at least four of the five 8-7 teams lose. It doesn't matter which four. Having the best conference record of the 8-8 teams helps.

Miami needs to win over Pittsburgh, and have Houston, Baltimore, the Jets, and Jacksonville lose.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:32pm

Let me be the first to reach across the Colts/Pats divide to with you a happy natal day.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 7:15pm

Thanks, Bobman. I just hope it's an entertaining game.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:16pm

I have to agree with Ned Macey's comments regarding the Colts essentially intentionally throwing the game against the Jets. If the Colts were really concerned about Manning, Addai, Wayne, and the rest of their elite starters, they wouldn't have played them at all. Playing them for 2/3 of the game makes no sense.

Let's put it this way:

S1 is the strategy for minimizing the chance of a crippling injury.

S2 is the strategy for maximizing the chance of going 16-0.

These two strategies require rather different behavior. By going halfway in the middle, the Colts aren't optimizing anything. Even if you think that Peyton Manning needs some work to stay fresh (a contention I would seriously doubt), he certainly didn't need to be playing in the second half at all.

I don't agree that Caldwell did it because he's a rookie head coach. Dungy would have done the same thing (and did so in years past). It's the "Colts way" of doing things.

by B :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:30pm

I don't remember Manning ever playing 2/3s of a game in a meaningless situation. As I recall, Dungy would always start Manning so he can keep his consecutive game streak alive, and have him play a series or two, sometimes the whole first quarter, but he'd definitely be out of the game by halftime.

by Jeremy Billones :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:57pm

Last year, Manning played one series in game 17. (Taking an intentional delay of game penalty mid-drive, finishing with 95 yards passing on the drive and 4002 for the season.)

He then spent the rest of that game wearing a headset, engaged and clearly acting as the de facto OC. This game, he and the rest of the Colts offensive players were just sulking.

by Nick Warino (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:40pm

"Oh, and nothing to do with football, but 30 Rock has an elevator where you put in the floor you want when you call the elevator, rather than pressing up or down, and there are no floor number buttons in the elevator itself. I've never seen that before."

The Marriott Marquis in Times Square has the same thing. I stay there a couple times a year for nerdy Model United Nations stuff, and every year when there are 4000 students going up and down the elevators, they inevitably break down. Interestedly, before staying there, I had never seen such a system before and thought it was unique to that hotel.

Oh, uh, go Patriots go.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:56pm

Must be a Times Square thing then, as the Times building is just a couple blocks down and has the same system. Some local developer must specialize in it.

by AndyE :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:08pm

I've also seen elevators like this in England (the Melia White House does).

by jebmak :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:57pm

Mike Kurtz: ...
And in Cleveland, there is "some kind of precipitation." Come on, guys, Lake Erie isn't THAT bad. Anymore.

My extended family went to Lake Erie when I was a kid (sort of a middle spot). The beach was covered in dead fish. It would have been tricky to make it to the water without stepping on one.

We met there again three or so years later (I guess that the parents didn't swim much). They had fixed the ton of dead fish on the beach problem. Now they were all in the water.

by jebmak :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:07pm

Aaron Schatz: Holy fucking fuck.

I can honestly say that I never expected Aaron to say that (in writing). Fair enough though.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:22pm

The situation warranted it. Steve Smith is a bad mother (shut your mouth!)

by NoraDaddy :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:54pm

The rule is 89.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:05pm

I'm just talkin' 'bout Steve Smith.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:30pm

And we can dig it.

by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:08pm

Just a thought about the Jets:

This will be the 6th time this decade the Jets have played a week 17 win and in playoff game. That seems like it has to be unprecidented.

2000 - @ Baltimore 12-4 (Loss: 34-20) (Testaverde throws awful pick before halftime, passes for 480 yards)
2001 - @ Oakland 10-6 (Win: 24-22) (John Hall 53 yard field Goal to win game)
2002 - Vs. Green Bay 12-4 (Win: 42-17) (Pats Beat Dolphins, Jets cruise, loudest crowd at a Jets game)
2004 - @ St. Louis 8-8 (Loss: 32-29) (Jets limp in anyway)
2006 - Vs. Oakland 2-14 (Win 23-3) (Jets cruise)

I guess that points to something, but I'm not sure what. Just an above average team in the decade

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:36pm

Are you sure that's this decade, or is it another one? Just checking... ;-)

by Led :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 7:32pm

I'd note that I bought a TV for my in-laws for Christmas just so I could watch the Jets/Ravens game in 2000. We had committed to go to their house for dinner and their TV went on the fritz, so my wife and I picked up a TV on the way. One of many almost comical bad memories for this Jets fan.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 10:48pm

And look, you can make it six times in a different ten years if you drop this year and add ... hold your breath ...

1997 - @ Detroit 9-7 (Loss: 13-10) I believe Bryant Westbrook intercepted a pass in the end zone late in the game to preserve the Lions' win, putting Detroit in and New York out.

(looks it up)

Ah, not quite right. Westbrook intercepted a Leon Johnson pass to end a Jets drive, but the Lions still had to come back and score to take the lead. Kind of the same effect, though.

by Led :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:45am

Ah yes. Neil O'Donnell was actually playing well, but Parcells took the game out of his hands. I'm pretty sure Westbrook was out of bounds when he caught the INT, too, which adds a special layer of bitterness to that memory.

by nat :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:08pm

Our orders were not to give up a turnover, not to give up a kick return for a touchdown. There's not many games, under any circumstances, that you win when you have turnovers and give up a kick return for a touchdown.

Yup. Peyton blames his teammates. Again. Never mind he managed just one TD in the first half, and couldn't get his team into the endzone on a 2-point conversion.

I'm guessing that it's disheartening for a backup QB to be told, "you're going in now to 'win' the game, but we're taking away all the players that make Peyton Manning look good. Good luck with that, kid.

And, oh, yes, we'll only do that after Manning gets his 50,000 yard milestone. Because winning doesn't matter to us, but Manning's stat-padding does."

What a class act Peyton and the Colts are.

by merck (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:52pm

Hehehehe. That quote from peyton caught my attention as well, but i'm not willing to go nearly as far as nat in ripping manning. I think he was trying to express solidarity for his coach and support for his coach's strategy, but he actually did end up (unintentionally, i think) throwing some of his teammates under the bus. Peyton is a good guy, but I bet he would like to have that statement back.

by nat :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:59pm

A-yup. You're probably right. I don't actually think he's that much of a jerk. And he's Peyton-flippin-Manning. Of course he's full of himself.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:38pm

This again? What are you guys, morons? Please return to your caves to work on your photoshopped Manning tattoo that reads "It's everybody else's fault but mine."

by nat :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 10:50pm

Sorry, Bobman. But it's a correct quote, and in context. Manning blamed the loss on the special teams and the backup QB, despite his own less-than-stellar performance. In his defense, he was probably trying to cover for the coach. So maybe he's not the self-centered jerk he sounded like.

Maybe he's just a suck-up.

by Purds :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:43am

Nice cherry picking of the quote there, Nat. You find that on "PatsAreTheBest.com"?

Manning was responding to a question asking him if he was upset that Caldwell pulled the starters from the game. He said:
"Until any player in here is the head coach, you follow orders and you follow them with all of your heart," Manning said. "That's what we've done as players. We follow orders. Our orders were not to give up a turnover, not to give up a kick return for a touchdown. There's not many games, under any circumstances that you win, when you have turnovers and give up a kick return for a touchdown."

Boy, Manning really threw the rest of the team under the bus there, because that loss was so dramatic, so damaging to the psyche of a fragile Colts team that hasn't been able to find a way to win at all the whole season, that any talk by Manning about how they, you know, actually lost would destroy team unity and shake the very foundations of Western Civilization. In fact, I'd venture so far as to say that Dan Brown should make Manning the subject of his next novel, The Mannings: Demonic Demon Denizens of Destruction. It can go into the folklore of Manning's #18, how it is really three numbers added up, 666, and how the good fairy, Tom Brady, wears #12 because that adds to 3, the Holy Trinity itself. How Boston Harbor, Fenway Park, and the old Sullivan stadium were on the "England" line, the magical path of pilgrimage so many New Englanders followed in misery until the new Kraft (note, meaning "craft" because the family builds things with such integrity, just ask Hartford and the NFL commish's office) put his Gilette Stadium offline, to change the mojo of an entire region of the world.

Wow, you're really onto something here, Nat. Brilliant!

by nat :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 8:02am

This would be the only time I've ever seen quoting two relevant sentences in full, with a simple explanation of the context (trying to cover for the coach) called "cherry-picking". You had no problem finding it. Is there even a site called "PatsAreTheBest.com"? I wouldn't know. I don't read slanted crap.

The quote, of course, was from the "full story" game write-up on nfl.com. It was from the first quote in the article, the only quote from Manning. About as mainstream as you can get.

Compare it to this from the same article: "I don't blame them a bit, man," three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday said. "I probably would have booed, too. I don't blame them. They pay to come see us win games, and we didn't get it done."

Notice the "we". Saturday gets it. The Colts as a team lost. They would have been in a dogfight to the end of the game if Manning had stayed in. It would have been an exciting game. The Colts might have won. Or they might have lost with Manning at the controls; He was not having a stellar day. But, to be fair, it was against the best pass defense Manning faced all year.

Persoanlly, I think Manning has nothing to complain about. They did leave him in to get his milestone. They took him out with a small lead. They sabotaged his backup by giving him backups to throw to, so there was no chance Manning would be shown up.

Boy, you Colts fans are fragile.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 4:29am

It was not the quote from this weekend that bothered me but the header, clearly referring to the 2005 playoff loss presser after the Steelers sacked him about 5 times and pressured him all day, during which he said "we had some protection problems" and blowhards across the Internet somehow construed that as him as burning his OL at the stake. Did anyone who saw that game NOT think they had protection problems? And who calls those? Him and his work wife, Jeff Saturday. It starts with them, ergo he was part of the problem. He never said "Jake Scott sucks." He used a very general but accurate phrase that not only got blown out of proportion, it's getting new life by reference here. That is my primary obection and the reason for the use of the term moron.

And so this week, he could have said "they made fewer mistakes than we did" regarding the KO rtn or fumbling in the EZ, but did anybody watching the game think that those were not the reasons for the loss? Did anyone think the coaching staff told them to let Smith return a kick 106 yards and to fumble on purpose? Did anyone think he was he was pinning the entire game on anyone? He identified one specific mistake and one collective one that everyone was well aware of, and then pointed out the obvious, that when you look at broad trends and a basket full of data, if that stuff happens, the chances of winning are pretty low. The rookie 3rd string QB who fumbled into the EZ was considerably harder on himself, I am sure, and the kicking team (which had been having a stellar year by Indy coverage team standards) on themselves. Manning takes "credit" over and over for INTS, even when they are tipped or off his guys' hands. His strange phrase for that is "I've got the check on that one" or "I'll write the check for that one." i.e. claiming responsibility.

The perps knew they messed up, Manning knew they messed up, you and I and everyone else knew they messed up. Yet he did not directly blame them--he said when that stuff happens, you don't usually win. Again, something everybody knows already.

You are demonstrating Florio-like instincts. There is no story here.

by nat :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 8:10am

I had forgotten the "protection problem" incident. I was thinking about "liquored-up" kickers. But, hey, the man has a pattern of bad-mouthing others when his guard is down. Character is destiny, as the saying goes.

Did anyone think the Colts would lose? Sure. Only their defense was playing particularly well. Their game plan (run up a big lead with Manning and have the backups run out the clock) failed in its first part (run up a big lead with Manning) before it failed in the second part.

The biggest problem in that game was that Manning only managed 9 points in the first half.

by AndyE :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 8:40am

Conspiracy theory warning:

Polian/Caldwell, foreseeing the perfect season about to go down in flames, act to forestall discussion of "are the Colts vulnerable?" by pulling the zeroth string, creating conversation of "are the Colts going to be well-rested or what?"

by Purds :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:02pm

"the man has a pattern of bad-mouthing others"

Okay, Nat, stick to your pre-set narrative. You can be just as lazy as a journalist that way, and fit reality into your preconceived notions. Hell, you don't even need to watch the games --Manning probably can't win the big game either (AFCC and SB not withstanding), and the Colts are soft (Saturday pancaked the great Wilfork on winning play in AFCC), and Brady always is team first and would never try to improve his stats (like breaking the TD record for a single season) and never has any talent to pass to (Moss and Welker) and just throws to the open guy (Brady's thrown more than 50% of his passes to Welker/Moss) and will take a below-market contract ($14.6M cap hit this year and last, 2nd and 5th overall) because he's such a nice guy (dumping a pregnant girlfriend), and defense wins championships, ydad, yada, yada.

Boy you Peyton haters are persistent.

by nat :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:27pm

I'm glad you (tacitly) accept the main points, though. Manning did blame his offensive line (rightly, but that's not the point, is it?), did bad-mouth his kicker, did rip his backup and special teams. It's just who he is, and you don't deny it. Heck. Manning is really, really good. It's no surprise that he thinks a lot of himself. Lots of other people think a lot of him, too.

Gosh, Purds, I never said any of those things you attributed to me, though. Were you involved in a helmet-to-helmet collision? Hearing voices in your head might be a sign of brain injury. At least sit out the next game or two to be safe.

by Purds :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 1:54pm

Boy, he really ripped them one good. You're so right, Nat, and you understand sarcasm so well, too. You're awesome.

by nat :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 2:24pm

I'll tag it so you don't miss it.

/sarcasm/ That was sarcasm? I thought it was bringing up unrelated and infantile whines to try to change the subject! Or maybe a sign of head trauma! /end sarcasm/

It remains the same: Peyton Manning has a history of very, very, very publicly blaming or otherwise ripping his teammates after emotional losses. Although to be fair, in one case Vanderjagt started it by questioning Manning's intensity. Which, although possibly accurate at the time, was a rotten thing to say.

Which is the point, isn't it. You (as a player) don't blame your teammates or rip them in public. Even if they really were to blame. Not if you have any class.

You certainly don't rip your backup-backup. That's just so gonad-free.

by jedmarshall :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:20pm

Special teams were the reason the score was 15-10 instead of 17-3 when Manning went out. I don't understand where this perception of Manning wasn't having a good game has come from. He was in for 6 drives where he gained at least 20 yards on every series, and scored 3 times against the league's number one defense. I'd call that a pretty good day.

by nat :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 1:57pm

For the record, I (at least) never said Manning had a bad game. Teams average a shade less than 8 points per half against the Jets - averaged over all conditions with teams alternating the opening kickoff, half home, half away.

Manning and the Colts got 9 points in the first half, receiving the kickoff, in idea conditions, at home, in a game where the primary receivers did not need to hold anything back for the fourth quarter. That's pretty much dead-average for what you'd expect from a dead-average QB. Not a bad half. Not a good half. An average half for an average QB with an average line, and average receivers.

Less than an average Colts half (14 points) or what you'd expect from this matchup on average (about 11 points).

Of course, points aren't everything. (Aren't they?) Manning had 131 yards passing and the team had 12 first downs overall in the first half. That's better than Jets allow on average. Call it an above average but not great half, statistically speaking.

Verdict: good QB stats, average QB results. Decidedly not what the Colts expected or needed in order to both win the game and rest their starters, as was their plan.

So don't fool yourself. Manning didn't have a good day. He just avoided having a bad one.

by mediator12 :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:18pm

I love all the speculation nationwide about the Colts "tanking", "Throwing", and/or "giving" the game to the Jets. It assumes one thing, that by resting the starters that automatically hands the game to the Jets. Here, on a site that basically is the "Mecca" of Statistical measure and Probability, no one is saying that all it did was reduce the likelihood of a victory. I mean seriously, why is everyone getting worked up over this?

Several wrong Reasons:

1. Expectations. The mother of all controversy. Fans in INDY were cursing obscenities at Caldwell. All with young children around. Nice. Glad you feel that way.

2. Competitive Fairness. This one is just way too difficult to actually make an argument. Not with the NFL Franchise and Playoff Structure as it currently is. In Fact, this is the Opposite of the BCS competitive argument. EVERY game counts in the college season. You have to play everyone, and try and blow them out to stay ranked high enough to compete for the national title game. Say what you will about not having a playoff in College football, but it keeps games like this from ever happening in college.

As the NFL Championship goes right now, the Colts earned the ability to do what they did yesterday. They took advantage of what they had earned to this point. Do I agree with it? NO. However, I do understand it.

The Colts have no responsibility to the other teams competing for the playoffs in any way. In fact, Losing to the JETS actually may help them get a weaker team into the AFC playoffs! Anyone who watched that game yesterday was reminded of how non-threatening the JETS were versus INDY with the playoffs on the line. Outside of the ST's and fumble recovery TD's the JEts were not doing anything ever mildly threatening to a defense playing without 4 starters and playing several third string players on the depth chart in meaningful minutes. In fact, until the defense really was playing the third string the JETS running game was going nowhere.

Also, INDY still played the game. It's not like the record breaking Michael Strahan sack of Favre that is still so controversial. INDY did not just let the Jets score, they made them earn it. (Yes, having those backup players in the game made it that much easier to execute every play, but they still had to do it!)

3. A chance at History. History is always written by the victors and in the new information age the dissidents as well. History is a great thing, but not winning the superbowl has been the downfall of the Colts Franchise with Manning this past decade. People outside INDY soon Forget the 41-0 playoff loss to the JETS. The Missed FG by Vanderjagt against the Titans in 200. This team has lost more than the rested players Playoff games in the Manning era. In fact, they got hammered instead of having close games in those where some key players were not 100%. This team wants another SB very bad. And, they want a healthy team going into the playoffs in order to have the best chance to accomplish just that.

So, where is the balance between playing players and taking them out of games? The answer is, NO ONE REALLY KNOWS! What I see from reading others opinions is that those 3 elements above severely bias people to the point of anger and deep seeded frustration in discussing it.

I know Polian and Caldwell both site Research on players not getting meaningful play for over three weeks suffer some in performance. IMHO, I think that is magnified at this level. I think they wanted a lot of the healthy players to get meaningful snaps against that JETS team. I think they may allow more people to rest versus BUF, but i think they need to play at least a Quarter if not more. It's not like Peyton was as perfect against the JETS as he was against JAX 10 days earlier. He missed several TD's and 3 deep balls to open receicers.

In the long run, its completely a judgement call. We all know the odds of getting injured are the same every play you take. We know not to get sucked into the base rate fallacy of saying playing less snaps increses your chances of not getting injured. What really is the question, is WHY do you care so much?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:36pm

Yeah, I mostly agree, and would also note that it isn't unreasonable for Polian and Co. to think that their interests are served in that situation by seeing their backups, especially their backup qb, play several series against a good and motivated defense.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:43pm

Nicely said. I'd also add two things:
1) Five starters sat out the game entirely. I have yet to hear complaints about that. Why?

2) The reserves who finished are paid professional athletes--the entire team did not walk to the locker room and forfeit. Motivated men played and tried to win. Nobody "gave" anything away. They lowered their chances for winning, sure, but the Jets were active participants in this as well.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:49pm

Oh, and I want to thank the Rams for continuing to make it likely that the Vikings won't have to play The Tackle Named Suh at least twice a year. It'd be better if he ended up in the AFC, but I'll take what I can get.

On the bright side, Rams fans, losses and stats aside, that club already has defensive line talent. Throw a Kodiak bear in the middle, and a decent defensive-oriented head coach, and that team could become fun to watch, if completely opposite from the last good teams in that city.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:36pm

You had me at Kodiak bear. I promise I'd watch that.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:03pm

Don't be so sure - the Rams might trade down.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:47pm

A polar bear would be better. They're more aggressive, and don't mind playing outdoor games in December. Height might be a problem, though.

by R O (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:53pm

Wow. Just Wow.

How could the Chargers hate be any more obvious on this site. Not one compliment of the Chargers after that total beatdown?

This is getting disgusting. I can't wait to see how far the Chargers drop in DVOA this week. LOL

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:12pm

It was the "ugly delivery game". The two quarterbacks with the ugliest throwing motions in the league.

But it's better than hearing the boiler plate stuff...
- Tomlinson is washed up
- Norv is a bad coach
- Merriman is good
- The team misses Jamal Williams

by TomC :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:18pm

Wow. Just Wow.

How could the Patriots hate be any more obvious on this site. Not one compliment of the Patriots after that total beatdown?

This is getting disgusting. I can't wait to see how far the Patriots drop in DVOA this week. LOL

Even better: There's a compliment paid to the Chargers in the Patriots' game summary.


by jayman4 :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 6:26pm

Not quite the same. NE at home against JAX, NE was the 4.5 pt. favorite, being undefeated at home and clearly the better team. Also, in DVOA, NE is 3rd in Weighted DVOA and 4th in Unweighted.

SD was on the road, 3 point underdogs, against a team that looked to be playing very well (7-1 in last 8 games). They are the #2 in AFC despite being 8th in Weighted DVOA and 14th in Unweighted.

Enough differences to make your "moron" comment both unfair and unneccesarily petty.

Yes I am a Chargers fan, no I don't think DVOA is purposefully biased against SD, but, yes, I think SD has been playing very well. I am waiting for Norv to turn back into a pumpkin, but, so far, he has not.

And in terms of DVOA, I think there is an overlooked facet in the comments on this site. From the methodology page:

The biggest advantage of DVOA is the ability to break teams and players down to find strengths and weaknesses in a variety of situations. In the aggregate, DVOA may not be quite as accurate as some of the other, similar "power ratings" formulas based on comparing drives rather than individual plays, but, unlike those other ratings, DVOA can be separated not only by player but also by down, or by week, or by distance needed for first down. This can give us a better idea of not just which team is better but why, and what a team has to do in order to improve itself in the future.

So the strength of DVOA is its granularity, not it in the aggregate. I am not saying it is inherently inferior in aggregate, but that is not how it is designed. I think this based on the methodology page. But people seem to jump onto the idea that a team's performance in DVOA for a game automatically trumps other metrics for team success.

by randplaty (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 8:13pm

Well the thing is that FO writers often use DVOA to measure overall team performance and they cite it in their articles that way.

From the week 14 DVOA rankings, "Still, even if we only consider the Chargers of the past eight games, we don't get a great team that should scare everyone come playoff time. We get another pretty good team in the year where there are lots of pretty good teams, about as good as Minnesota, Baltimore, or that Dallas team they just beat by a field goal."

Saying "we don't get a great team..." or "We get another pretty good team..." are evaluations of overall team performance using DVOA.

by jayman4 :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 8:40pm

You are correct, they do. But if someone were to say, "Hey, there is this other (reasonably rigorous) aggregate metric which shows this team is actually stronger than DVOA suggests" the authors should not dismiss that metric. DVOA is the only aggregate statistic that allows the drill down to explain the variation in team performance, but it is not necessarily the best at predicting total performance. But they seem to do that often, which seems a little at odds with their methodology explanation.

I like the way SD is playing but would be holding my breath against any of the AFC playoff teams. But, having watched them beat some good teams (Dallas, Cincy, Eagles) and some solid teams (Tenn, Denver, NYG) and lost to a good team by a close margin (BAL; 5 points but they had 4 FG's of 30 yards or less, 3 25 or less) they appear to be a good team, personal bias aside.

The thing that triggered the original poster's message is that despite the good performance, SD continues to be in the middle of the pack in DVOA and the general tenor of the messages discounts SD and especially Norv Turner's ability as coach. I am still nervous about Norv, but there is no doubt that this team has been playing very well for an extended period, something that is mostly ignored or dismissed on this site.

by Led :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:41am

Dude, did you read this site at the beginning of the year, when they projected the Chargers to be one of the best teams in the DVOA era?

by morganja :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 2:55pm

It seems like some kind of cosmic justice for Steve Smith to catch that touchdown against Bill Barnwell' Giants after that cheap shot Barnwell took at him last week. If one needed any more evidence of how hyped up Steve Smith is during a game, catching a touchdown pass with a broken arm after that hit should qualify as case closed.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:10pm

Good point, it just sucks for us other Giants fans who have to suffer as well.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:38pm

*restraining self*

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:03pm

Best part:

Mike Kurtz: I was going to ask, incredulously, if you read Scramble this past week, Barnwell, but then I thought about it for a bit and remembered it would be too credulous.

Bill Barnwell: I was actually wondering who you are and how you got on our e-mail list.

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:05pm

"Mike Kurtz: I was going to ask, incredulously, if you read Scramble this past week, Barnwell, but then I thought about it for a bit and remembered it would be too credulous.

Bill Barnwell: I was actually wondering who you are and how you got on our e-mail list."

by Thok :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 3:51pm

Nobody watched SF-Detroit, I take it. You missed the play where the 49ers had 4th and 1 around the 50 up 13-3, and the announcer claimed that the Niners should a. punt, and b. if they went for it do a sneak.

The Niners cleverly ignored the announcer, did a play action pass to Gore for a 48 yard gain and scored soon afterwards. And that's why you ignore announcers.

by Dean :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:11pm

This is fairly buried at this point, but I think it's right. I used a bit of PFT, a bit of some hometown newspapers, and a bit of Quirky Research, and tried to consolidate it...

Titans (7-8): Eliminated yesterday.

Jaguars (7-8): In via win (vs CLE), plus losses by 4 of these 5: Steelers, Ravens, Broncos, Texans, Jest
Eliminated with loss.

Dolphins (7-8): In via win (vs PIT), plus losses by Jest, Ravens, Jaguars, Texans.
Eliminated with loss.

Texans(8-7): In via win (vs NE), plus losses by all 3 of Jest/Ravens/Broncos.
Eliminated with loss.

Pittsburgh (8-7): In via win (vs MIA), plus losses by Houston and either Jest/Ravens or losses by Jest, Ravens and Broncos.
Eliminated with loss.

Denver (8-7): In via win (vs KC), plus loss by two of Jest/Ravens and Pittsburgh.
Lose and in IF: Pittsburgh loses, and 3 of Bal, Hou, NYJ, and JAX lose. OR NYJ, Bal, Hou lose and MIA & JAX lose or tie.

Jest (8-7): Win (vs CIN) and in.
Lose and in IF: Pittsburgh beats Miami; Jax loses; 2 of Balt, Hou & Den lose (or if all 3 lose).

Ravens (8-7): Win (vs OAK) and in.
Lose and eliminated. (It appears that they would win tiebreakers if they were tied at 8-8 with Denver and either Tennesse or Houston, but in order for that to happen, both the Jest and Steelers would have to win, and that would eliminate them.)

Please feel free to correct any mistakes.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:26pm

The Texans need losses by any two of NYJ/BAL/DEN, not by all three.

by Dean :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:55pm

Hard to keep it all straight, but you are correct.

Now, if PIT wins, THEN they need all 3 of the others to lose.

And I think my head is about to explode.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:46pm

No, the Texans have the same conference record as the Steelers, but are 3-1 against common opponents (OAK, @CIN, MIA and TEN), whereas the Steelers are currently 1-2, with Miami still to play. I don't think there's any scenario under which the Steelers win a tiebreaker against Houston.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:13pm

The Titans were already eliminated after Friday.

If the Jets lose and Pittsburgh beats or ties Miami, the Jets need Jacksonville to lose or tie and all 3 of Baltimore, Houston, and Denver to lose. Otherwise, the Steelers and the 9-7 team among the three are the two wild cards.

If the Jets lose and Pittsburgh loses to Miami (or Jacksonville wins), the Jets are eliminated.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:50pm

(duplicate comment deleted)

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:24pm

I pine for the days when Macey and Levine were regular contributors to the site and this feature. Oh well, take the good with the bad. At least Will Carroll wasn't around this week (my couch knows more about football than that assclown).

by sporadic commentor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 7:04pm

Rob, your comment about a non-threatening Bengals offense is right on, and I'm pretty sure the answer is Bratkowski. There was a sequence where KC CB Flowers got injured trying to tackle Chad85. Every other coordinator in the NFL would immediately attack the substitute, but no. Brat calls two stuffed runs in a row, and Flowers comes back in the game. Conversely, in the 4th, either Hall or Joseph was out of the game, and in came CIN DB Jones. Cassel attacked the sub right away, and I think twice in a row with nice gains. And what was the point of the reverse in the first quarter? I think Brat overthinks the situation and doesn't trust the talent on this offense. Get back to basics!

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 8:18pm

Rob's comments on the Bengals all year have been a treat. I look forward to them every week.

by F. Leghorn (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:43pm

I must say, it hurts my heart a bit when I read the chiding of Chuck Cecil. I went to the University of Arizona when Chuck was an All-American safety, and we worshipped him. He was an amazing player to watch, a true bone-crusher both on special teams and on defense, and his 106-yard interception return in his last game against Arizona State, which knocked ASU out of the Rose Bowl, still remains the most cherished football memory of my life ( just beating out the Broncos finally winning the Super Bowl over a highly-favored Green Bay ). The stadium went berserk when he was running it back, and when he returned to the sidelines, the entire place was chanting his name. When he turned and acknowledged the crowd, it was with a look of delight that reminds me still why I love sports.
It's too bad that he doesn't appear to be much of a coach.

by @nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:54pm

I'm wondering why Brandon Stokely gets ejected for touching the ref, but Andy Reid doesnt. If he doesnt at least get fined its not fair to Stokely, or Chad Ochocinco in my opinion. Or does that rule apply only to players?

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 4:37am

On an only slightly related note, in the MNF game when Favre was sacked for the last time resulting in 4th and about 20, he got up and spiked the ball in disgust. It was clear in the replay. On the field.

Isn't this a 15 yard penalty? If the Bears ended up losing, I'd say they had a right to claim screw-job. Minn should have punted from their 5 and not their 20 (or 10 if it was half the distance). I'm not usually this picky, but they tend to call some really silly celebration penalties, or extremely ticky-tack fouls, and then right in front of a ref, on field, in OT, they ignore a fairly blatant (but also harmless) one.

And Stokley, if you're gonna get nailed for hitting a ref, make it count, man.

by MJK :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 1:38pm

I think spiking the ball is only a 5-yard delay of game penalty, unless you spike it at the feet of a player who you just outplayed, in which case it is considered "taunting" (and then it is a 15 yard penalty). Given that Favre spiked hte ball in frustration and not an attempt to taunt anyone, it should have just been a 5-yard penalty. Which probably wouldn't have made any difference in the long run given that it was 4th and a parsec.

I do think that maybe the announcers were (sadly) correct in that it wasn't called because Brett Favre was Brett Favre. But it likely could have been not-called, in part, because the refs decided it wouldn't have made any difference at all.

Still, rules are rules and you're right...the Bears got a bit jobbed.

by Temo :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 1:51pm

The spike is delay of game, 5 yards. If spiked it at a player/official or whatever, it would have been unsportsmanlike conduct, 15 yards.

by HostileGospel :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 11:35pm

Millen comment: "Where in the world is San San Diego?"

Tim Gerheim: "San San Diego"? I heard that live but couldn't understand what he'd said because it made no sense. Turns out I was right. I think he must have an inanity checklist that he has to get through each game. One of the items is a botched pop culture reference, ideally to something that was only ever moderately salient and preferably that occurred before 2000.

I'd like to point out that "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?" fulfills both of those criteria nicely, and is quite probably what Millen said- additionally, it makes no sense in any football context that I can imagine, for bonus Millen points. (Google as needed.)

Overall, I'd be kind of embarrassed to critique something when I didn't know what the hell I was talking about, but then, oh yeah, my NAME is on what I write, isn't it?

-Les Bowen

by packerpalooza (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 8:48am

Watching Favre's overt exasperation with his head coach's playcalling is amusing.

Of course, if I were a Viking fan I would be alarmed on several fronts.

First, that yes my head coach is indeed something of a doofus.

Second, that the team's most visible player recognizes aforementioned doofery.

Third, that said player feels comfortable telling not only his teammates but the outside world that the head coach of the Vikings is something of a doofus.

Fourth, that said visible player has had his share of bad moments as a caller of plays.

Finally, that the veneer of respect and professionalism has been stripped away.

Favre joined the Vikings for the sole purpose of winning a championship. Favre sees Childress as not only not helping but as an impediment. The desperate force within Favre will cause him to take actions that exceed his abilities. And it will not end well.

Been there Vikings fans. Sorry.

I do not make the future. I merely foretell.................

by packerpalooza (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 8:52am

By the way, I openly admit being stunned at Favre's effort in Chicago last night. Given that he has completely laid down in such conditions the last few years I was surprised as well as latently disappointed. Where was THAT ability to endure the environment in 2005-2007?

by packerpalooza (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 8:54am

And I will save the resident Vikings fan here the effort of pointing out that since I was completely wrong about Favre and the late season cold then of course post 238 is without foundation and cannot happen.

Feel free to keep that faith. It sustained Packer fans.

by Kal :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:48pm

Out of curiosity - what was the playoff situation (the likely one) if the Jets lose that game? As it stands (and assuming Baltimore and the Jets win), the seeding looks like this, right?

1st: Indy
2nd: SD
3rd: NE
4th: Cinci
5th: Jets
6th: Balt

So NE plays Baltimore, and Cinci plays the Jets. Right?

Now in theory that's not a horrible set of matchups for the Colts. They can't avoid playing the winner of SD/NE (assuming that happens), but they can get NE beat up via Baltimore. And it's definitely a better matchup for the Colts to play Cinci or the Jets than it is to play Baltimore. What I"m curious about is what the seeding would have been had the Jets lost; would it likely be Baltimore and Denver? And who would likely play whom?

by MJK :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 2:01pm

Not sure if this is completely right, but here's my guess. You would have had 4 teams tied at 8-7. Let's assume that all four win next week (Baltimore is vs Oakland, Denver is hosting KC, we'll give Pittsburgh the benefit of the doubt versus Miami, and assume NE rolls over for Houston).

The Ravens still would have the tiebreaker over the Steelers. Of the remaining three teams, head to head doesn't apply since the Ravens and Texans never played. Conference record knocks out Houston, and the Ravens beat the Broncos, so the Ravens would get the 5 seed. Then, the remaining teams (Denver, Pittsburgh, and Houston) are all tied at 9-7. Again, head to head doesn't apply since Houston didn't play Denver or Pittsburgh. Conference record knocks out Houston and Pittsburgh (good thing for Denver, who lost to PIT), and Denver get's the 6 seed.

On the other hand, if NE beats Houston, taking them out of the picture, then the Ravens still get the 5 seed (Ravens have tiebreaker over Steelers, and beat Denver). Pittsburgh also beat Denver, and so head to head does come into play and Pittsburgh gets the 6 seed. Of course, if Pittsburgh can't handle Miami, then Denver can get in by beating KC.

So, here's the scenarios. If NE rolls:


If NE doesn't roll and could beat Houston:
Denver/Pittsburgh (depending on if Pittsburgh beats Miami).

I don't know which scenario is more likely--New England would probably rest any even slightly injured players in either scenario, but would probably play to win with all the rest of their players (Belichick tending to follow Parcells' philosophy about resting starters unless there was a clear path to a better matchup by getting a lower seed). So by losing to the Jets, Indy made it more likely that NE would play Baltimore instead of Denver or Pittsburgh in round 1. Baltimore is probably the worst matchup for New England (despite the fact that they beat them in the regular season and lost to Denver), so maybe losing hurt New England a little bit? But it's very hard to say.

by armchair journe... :: Wed, 12/30/2009 - 10:26pm

"You know, for a midrise apartment building, Haloti Ngata is pretty fast. "

I'm not sure exactly why, but this made me laugh louder than anything on FO in weeks. Thank you, Sir.

armchair journeyman quarterback

by Andy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/12/2010 - 12:44am

Umm, any more questions about Ellerbee? Ellerbee has been coming on since camp....