Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

14 Dec 2005

Blame Rests with L.J.'s Ole

Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star blames Sunday's loss on Larry Johnson. What, you say? Johnson, the guy with the three touchdowns? Yes, because Johnson neglected to block Cowboys linebacker Scott Fujita on a play at the end of the first half, leading to a fumble in the red zone which was returned for enough yardage to give the Cowboys a shot at their own touchdown before halftime. So quick, choose option A or B:
A: It's nice to see a columnist paying attention to that neglected part of a running back's job, blocking
B: It's ludicrous for Jason Whitlock to not only blame the entire loss on one missed block, but to take that missed block and turn it into an indictment of Larry Johnson as a human being, calling him selfish and immature, questioning whether he's a winner, and saying that Johnson only cares about himself, his own contract, and his own stats.
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Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 14 Dec 2005

51 comments, Last at 15 Nov 2008, 2:28pm by top99


by B (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 12:00pm

I'm just releived he doesn't use the oppurtunity praise Jeff George.

by DNL (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 12:10pm

It's nice to see Whitlock blaming LJ. Given all the white people he could have blamed -- Tynes for missing a figgie, Green for being the QB, Vermeil just because, or Drew Bledsoe for signing a pact with the Devil -- it is honestly shocking that Whitlock chose to put the blame on LJ.

by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 12:26pm

I gotta go with both A and B.

by Hector, Paris (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 12:35pm

Ok, Johnson missed a block (or didn't try to make a block) and so ? There were still a full half-time and there are eleven players on the field. You can't blame only one player.
Now it's nice he decided not to praise Johnson because of his missed block(s).

How this kind of stuff can be reflected on the DPAR of a player, especially now everybody knows how blocking and blitz pick-up is important for a RB (and I don't think that thanks to this article but thanks to all the preview of how Reggie Bush is a good blocker and so he is ready to play pro) ?

by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 12:41pm

I think you'll agree that there are few people who write about football who pay more attention to blocking than I do. And yet...

If you watched that game and came away from it thinking the loss was Larry Johnson's fault, well, then you headed into that game wanting very much to find a reason to fault Larry Johnson.

To put it another way, let's say the Chiefs benched Johnson for a guy who's a league-average runner but great at blitz pickup. Anyone honestly think they would have won?

by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 12:47pm

B. Oh, and C: Jason Whitlock is a racist moron.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 1:01pm

#2 & #6 you are aware that Mr. Whitlock is African-American.

by Hector, Paris (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 1:02pm

Thanks MDS.
Johnson missed a block. It can happen.
Topic closed.
(Note, is it "hype" to go against the "hype" ?)

by Dman (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 1:11pm

Whitlock is an african-american racist. Wasn't he claiming that tyrone willingham was fired because he's black and they gave charlie weis all that money because he's white and won with ty's players.

by DNL (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 1:40pm



by SJM (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 1:51pm

Re: #9

That would be a reasonable position to take, if one ignored the threat of Weis jumping back to the NFL, which was not a risk with Willingham.

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 2:07pm

RE: #8

I agree. Reducing wins and losses to one play usually misses the point. Since Whitlock didn't look at LJ's blocking throughout the game, or more deeply examine the Chiefs' blocking scheme on the play, this article comes off as a hit job.

It's also a bit harsh to call Priest Holmes a "special-needs running back," no?

by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 2:08pm

RE #6:

I don't think he is a racist moron. He does have his moments, but he is not as bad as, well, Alan Grant.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 2:29pm

Most sportswriters have the analytical skills of your average 2nd grader, and that may be a little unfair to the kids. Whitlock is just another in a long line of dolts, as is just about anyone who tries to put the blame for the loss of a football game on one player, or who attempt to sum up the character of a human being based upon a football play.

That said, there still are way too many people writing about football who don't pay attention to the pass blocking of running backs, and for all I know Larry Johnson is a jerk. Whitlock's analysis, however, doesn't illuminate very much.

by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 2:48pm

I often wonder how media types get their jobs.

After reading this article... I'm still wondering.

Is being a stupid moron a requirement? I mean- how come I'm not getting paid to write that, say, the Bears lost to the Steelers because of Kyle Orton's 'stache? What a selfish, immoral jerk Orton is for trying to look like an adult film star! He should be kicked out of the league immediately!

by johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 2:58pm

Isn't the point of newspaper writers to get you to read the paper. Since we all read the article just to see how stupid a thing Jason Whitlock could write, I see how he got his job. I call this the Skip Clueless approach to journalism which sadly is expanding well beyond the sports section these days.

by TheWedge (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 3:17pm

I met Larry Johnson once at Penn State and he was actually a pretty cool guy. There's really no point to that story but I just loathe Jason Whitlock because he is a terrible writer, whose only journalistic talent appears to be playing the race card (which he doesn't even do all that effectively).

by Mikey (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 4:07pm

MDS, could not agree more. Classic example of a writer reaching for a contrarian angle.

"Johnson has all the power." Is he serious? The Chiefs can cut him at any time for any reason and never pay him another nickel. If Johnson has any leverage at all it's because he GIVES THEM THE BEST CHANCE TO WIN.

Why doesn't Whitlock take his analysis to its logical conclusion and call for Johnson to be benched, or just cut?

I also enjoyed the statement that it's fair to question whether Johnson is a winner. KC is 4-2 with Johnson as the starter and in the two losses LJ averaged 175 yards of offense. Looo-ser!! Speaking of having the character of a winner, Jason Whitlock quit his college football team as a fifth-year senior when it became evident he had no NFL future. Now that's the spirit!!

by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 4:28pm

Truths don't sell papers. Hyperboles and criticisms do.

by st pete, FL (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 4:41pm

I hate the Cowboys, but I loved the flea flicker!!!

Why don't I see more flea flickers?? Seems like they have such a good shot at freeing up the receivers and working so well..

by Mikey (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 4:46pm

You know what? I shouldn't bring up Whitlock quitting his college team. That's bush even for an internet message board. It's not relevant.

The fact remains that he's a poor columnist. He and Bayless are the worst of the nationally known guys, in my opinion.

by kim jong il (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 5:13pm

"I hate the Cowboys, but I loved the flea flicker!!!

Why don’t I see more flea flickers?? Seems like they have such a good shot at freeing up the receivers and working so well."

If you saw them more often they wouldn't work. Maybe they would in the NCAA where defense usually boils down to "hey guys run fast towards the ball" but not in the NFL.

by Ted (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 8:08pm

I've got to go with both A and B here. It wasn't just that one block Johnson missed, he missed quite a few on the day. And how many of his yards were due to his offensive line's dominance? With that said it is ludicrous to use what happened on Sunday as a character indictment.

by Loophole (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 8:28pm

#22 says "If you saw [flea flickers] more often they wouldn’t work."

I agree with #20. Coaches should keep using flea flickers until they stop working. And then they should take advantage of the anti-flea-flicker defensive scheme by NOT flea flicking!

It would work against the Lions.

by Josh B. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 8:34pm

Well, for what it's worth, Larry Johnson *does* seem to have character issues. He's been involved in multiple accusations of beating women, and he has openly said that he would rather be a great RB than a winner. He is not well-liked at all in KC for those reasons...NOT because they're all Bush Republicans scared of a black guy with tattoos (yes, he actually said this recently).

Remember those Budweiser commercials with the running back Leon? Well, some KC fans call LJ "Leon" because, according to them, said commercials pretty much sum him up.

Also, I was listening to this game on Sirius, and after that play the announcers immediately blasted the coaches for not using Tony Richardson on a passing play. As a Browns fan myself, having been stuck with the likes of Doug Dieken, it was refreshing to hear local guys actually paying attention to things like that.

by stan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 9:05pm

FO ought to start a weekly rundown of the really stupid stuff sportswriters put out.

Examples recently would include the Boston area writer who wrote that Brady deserves the MVP in 2005 on the basis of the Pats winning 3 super bowls in past years, the writer who wrote that Manning is handing the ball to Edge more this year because he stopped being so selfish (defensive adjustments apparently had nothing to do with anything), and the writer who wondered what the Colts talk about in the huddle if Manning audibles all the time (answer -- they don't huddle, stupid).

Oh -- and the sports editor who wrote that Peyton had "never won a significant game in his entire life."

by Gatts (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 9:19pm

Not only is Whitlock annoying, he's a damned idiot, too.

He accused Donovan McNabb of being the real reason the Philly locker room split, saying many Eagles were "in-the-closet McNabb haters."

In the same column (right before Thanksgiving) he said "Vegas blows another one," the amazing Denver O-Line would be sacking Bledsoe all day, and Denver would win by at least two touchdowns.

Yeah... how did that work out for you?

by Gatts (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 9:20pm

Denver... *D*Line.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 9:32pm

Stan (#26 )--

You forgot one: the College of Cardinals didn't beatify Peyton Manning yet.

by Tim L (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 9:50pm

The fascinating thing for me about the play is how it highlights what Aaron has been preaching for some time, which is the randomness of fumbles. Early in the fourth quarter, with Dallas leading 24-21, Jared Allen sacked Bledsoe to force a fumble, which was recovered by Marion Barber. Hardly anybody remembers that play, since no harm came of it. But Green's fumble was not only recovered by the opposing team but returned for almost 60 yards, leading to a probable 14 point swing at a critical time in the game. Those two bounces of the game could have just as easily gone in different directions, giving Kansas City a 42-24 victory.

by Ted (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 10:12pm

Re #27, Denver was a two point favourite in that game. Since they won by 3 points they covered the spread. Whitlock may not technically have been right but I'm guessing it worked out pretty well for him.

by Mike (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 11:24pm

In all honestly, it was a terrible whiff on the block. I remember the play very well. Johnson put his head down and didn't even get a piece of the defender. That ended up being a huge swing in points and momentum.

Now is it his fault entirely? Of course not, but in the world of fantasy football stats determining wins people tend to overlook the little things. Trent Green gets sacked and loses a fumble, so it's his fault right? Actually it has more to do with Johnson who was in perfect position to make the block and didn't even slow the guy down. It's the same arguement that people use to say quarterback A is not as good as quarterback B because he doesn't throw for as many scores because his team runs the ball at the goalline. Look beyond the stats. LJ might not have cost the team the game, but that one play was on him and it was a HUGE turning point.

by RCH (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 12:03am

I think that you guys are giving Whitlock a raw deal. Sure, he is guilty of hyperbole, but what columnist isn't.

I agree w/him on the McNabb take. Of course at the heart of the issue it is Owens *fault*...but McNabb is so much a part of that team's administration that he might as well be minority owner. As such he was on board with bringing Owens in. He knew that to make it work he would have to be the adult in the relationship. At some point Owens crossed a line and McNabb couldn't overlook Owen's transgressions. At this point McNabb put his own interests in front of those of the franchise. Sure, this line of reasoning expects much more from McNabb than 99% of NFL players would be expected to give, but he is much more than a hired hand in Philly. He has reached icon status like Manning/Brady/Jeter etc.

by Gatts (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 12:39am


I meant the prediction. He went into detail - Bledsoe would be sacked countless times and fumble at LEAST twice. The Broncos would win by AT LEAST 2 touchdowns. Etc. I guess as a someone who takes gambling seriously, anyone that thinks Vegas are idiots annoys me.

by Ruben (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 12:57am

Don't forget Whitlock's "People hate the Olympic basketball team because they are no white guys on it" column from last summer.

Seriously, he needs to get a new schtick; his annual "hire Jeff George" column was good for a chuckle, but his habitual race-baiting of the past 1-2 years is just tired.

by Ruben (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 1:02am

*"there", not "they"

by slthree (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 1:34am

Why is Whit-less still being quoted? he is ignorant and talent-less. He resorts to tabloid like writing because he lacks substance. He just is not relevant anymore, as if he ever was.

by FastEddy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 2:30am

I have a real problem with the whole LJ missing a block thing. I mean, you're 2nd and goal from the Dallas 9. Why are you passing anyway, when LJ is running so well? I put this decision on Vermeil. I think it was a stupid decision. Vermeil also knows that LJ isn't good at blocking, so why put him in a situation where he has to make a critical block?

I certainly see now why Priest was #1 until he got hurt, presumably because he could block. But Vermeil has to adjust and realize that he can depend on LJ to run the ball, very damned well, but not to block effectively.

You're 2nd and goal, you have LJ, RUN THE BALL 3 TIMES! Geez, it's pretty easy.

by chase (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 3:17am

I like Jason Whitlock. He's funnier than Greg Easterbrook and he's a more astute judgme of football than Bill Simmons, and he manages to be even more controversial than FO!

I think FO should start linking to Whitlock's "10 NFL Truths" column that they have on ESPN.com's "Page 2".

by Tracey (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 7:06am

I think most of the people on this message board are morons.

There are some nice examples in previous posts of Whitlock being a moron (see #35), but this article isn't one of them.

It's a reach to say that the play decided the game. But the nature of the play DOES call for hyperbole. Johnson is a 6'1" 230lb athlete with amazing skills, why can't he pass block? Desire, sacrifice, character, etc. There can be no other explanation. How can anyone try to defend this? Whitlock's statement, "it’s criminal for a player to give an effort that weak on such an important play.." is dead-on.

Johnson has a previous record of character issues, but this play is all the evidence you need? There's no excuse for that type of effort, and there's only one explanation.

by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 10:55am

29 -- Starshatterer,

If some dumbass writer wrote that, it would indeed, be worth including in a compilation of really stupid things that sportswriters write. But it appears that you are trying to be humorous. I guess you just need to work more on your delivery.

by Hector, Paris (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 12:52pm


Peace on Earth and in your hearts...

It's just football.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 2:51pm

Stan (#41 )--

Why would I need to work more on my delivery? You got it just fine.

Why do you need to equate criticism (unduly harsh criticism, many would say) of Larry Johnson, with failure to blow sufficient kisses to ol' horse-face?

In other news, the Hall of Fame left him off the ballot again -- have they no shame?

by FastEddy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 10:22pm

#42: "Just" football? Spoken like a true mincing, ruffled-shirt-wearing, cheese-eating surrender-monkey. I could see it if you referred to your national pastime as "Just" futbol. But NOT NFL Football!

Can we ban anyone with a French IP address from posting on this site?

And yes, I AM just kidding. :)

by Hector, Paris (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 5:25am


(Ps, there is a Paris, Texas...)

by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2005 - 12:26am

RE: 7

Did you recently pass a law that blacks can't be racist? Whitlock is extremely racist.

by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2005 - 12:39am

Isn’t the point of newspaper writers to get you to read the paper. Since we all read the article just to see how stupid a thing Jason Whitlock could write, I see how he got his job. I call this the Skip Clueless approach to journalism which sadly is expanding well beyond the sports section these days.

It's the same thing in radio and in print. They hire idiots who say/write controversial things so that they attract attention.

People with brains or people who can actually write rarely get these jobs. Another interesting thing to note is how little sports broadcasters and journalists actually know about sports.

by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2005 - 1:27am

RE: 31

They were a 3 point favorite on the spreads I saw.

by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2005 - 1:54am

RE: 39

The guy is a race-baiter, though, and that doesn't take any talent. Just accuse everyone of being racist, and frequently.

RE: 40

You clearly don't know much about this site or its readers.

by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2005 - 1:55am

RE: 43

To stan, everything he sees is just more reason to praise Peyton Manning and bash Tom Brady.

by top99 (not verified) :: Sat, 11/15/2008 - 2:28pm

Larrty Johnson is a thug, lying, roiding, piece of shit.
Also Willingham, offensive "genius", sucked with his players and the offense COULD NOT SCORE A DAMN POINT.

Weis came in and almost beat USC in 05' and went to a BCS bowl, something Willingham never could do. NOW "Ty" is sucking ass in Washington....proving his fluke at Stanford which was REALLY REALLY FLUKY to be not in any way shape or form his doing...his team lucked out.