Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Nov 2005

TMQ: Greek Mythology Warns Favre

This week Mr. Easterbrook wonders if Mr. Favre angered the football gods, thinks Antonio Gates might be the best receiver in the league, has some thoughts on how the CBS Evening News might reinvent itself now that Sean McManus will head both sports and news at the network, and posits that Martians are even dumber than humans (at least those not believing in DVOA). The most eye-opening tidbit from this week's column is Stats of the Week No. 2, which goes a long way in explaining the NFC North.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 01 Nov 2005

43 comments, Last at 02 Nov 2005, 6:00pm by asg


by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 3:58pm

I thought that also about stat #2. First thing I noticed when I read the article.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:01pm

Missing stat of the week #1.
Jacksonville rushed for over 200 yards and lost.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:06pm

TMQ failed to mention the Preposterous Punt the Elvii launched Sunday night, when they punted from the Buffalo 35. I was at the game and turned to my wife and said "Time to write 'game over' in the notebook." Luckily, the Elvii's opponent was the Bills.

by Duane (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:14pm

Didn't the sinister enslaving computers in The Matrix utilize the electricity incumbent in a human body, and not the heat?

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:16pm

I'm normally a defender of Easterbrook, but today I really disagree with him. More than usual, he seems to be trying to stretch reality to fit his theories, instead of looking at the actual situations. I know that's kind of the point to much of the column, but usually it's a rather plausible fit. This week, I just don't get it.

First, in MIN-CAR, I see nothing wrong with punting from the 48 in the 2nd quarter. This isn't maroon zone - this is MIDFIELD, and the MIN O-line is terrible (heck, even if it were the Steelers, I wouldn't go for it). Punting was definitely the right call.

RE: the Steelers/Ravens, Baltimore was routinely putting 8, sometimes 9 men near the line of scrimmage, and routinely stuffing the run. Continuing to run in that situation is just plain dumb. Just before the Pittsburgh's game-winning FG, they chose to run Bettis on 3rd and short despite 10 guys crowding the line. A quick hitch or TE flat gets them the first down, and the game. Instead, Baltimore has over a minute left to drive the field.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:19pm

In his "Harmonic Convergance" note on the Pats-Bills game, TMQ's scouting note repeats the mention of the Pats' throwing a wide-receiver hitch left, claiming "defenses still haven’t caught on."

Of course, the Patriots usually line up in red-zone and short-yardage situations with a lone wideout in an otherwise-heavy formation. Do you double the outside guy and let the heavy set pound you, or single-cover and have Brady audible to the hitch?

(Bear in mind that the Patriots did not score on the play, although they did get the first down.)

Defenses know what the Patriots like to do in these situations; it's just a hard play to defend on a short field. The problem was not so much what Buffalo did to defend the hitch -- it was that New England had second and four from the 6. The likely outcome of the drive was a touchdown, regardless of what Buffalo did.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:31pm

For the first time in recent memory, I am not going to read TMQ. From the comments, it looks like I am not missing anything.

by Larry (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:31pm

Enough with the science critiques, already. It's like he doesn't even try to understand how science is done or what it means. Which I suppose is good for his spiritual progressive ideal or something. But it is also ridiculous.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:35pm

#7: Well, the cheerleader pic is nice.

Seriously, I'm not trying to be too harsh - I still like the column. I just think he's flat-out wrong on his calls this week. (except the part about the Sci-Fi. Strangely, I usually disagree with on movies/TV, and agree with him on the football. Bizarre).

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:41pm

Re #4: The Explanation given to Neo by Morpheous is that the computers use the body heat. Of course, whether it's body heat or electricity, people make lousy batteries. If they had to use organic flesh, it'd be better to use cows instead of people. However, if you include what happens in the 2nd and 3rd movie, it's suggested that the battery explanation is bogus, and the machines have some other reason for keeping humanity enslaved.

by zip (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:50pm

Why would you criticize defenses for not stopping the oh-so-deadly New England quick hitch when you could point out that Tomlinson has thrown what, 3 or 4 TDs now this year? Somehow he took the ball rolling right, and NO ONE covered Eric Parker in the end zone. At this point the Chargers have run that play in 50% of the games they have played...

So I dunno, I think the fact that it worked YET AGAIN is more noteworthy than this quick hitch BS.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 4:53pm

The thing that always bugged me about the human battery premise is that it seems to violate the laws of thermodynamics.

by tom (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 5:06pm

re #9, I was rather nonplussed by his shocking opinion a few weeks back that Star Wars wasn't entirely realistic.

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 5:09pm

#12 In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

Regarding Antonio Gates, can any Chargers fans weigh in on how much he is responsible for the success of Drew Brees? What happens if San Diego releases Brees and he plays for a different team next year? Still successful, or does he plummet back to earth? Inquiring Purdue fans would like to know...

by tom (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 5:09pm

Oh, and my housemate has often made the rather pertinent observation that the Matrix would have worked much better for the machines if they'd just used cows instead of humans. no need for that fiddly city; just simulate a field!

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 5:19pm

By the way, where was the love for Spenser's favorite player (Ernest Wilford)?

by Pat F. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 5:42pm

I don't know, I thought this was one of TMQ's better efforts of the year. He still tries to read "immutable laws" into things too often, and thinks he's smarter than he is(see the NE hitch piece as people have noted), but there was much less of that than usual. His football analysis seemed pretty good in general; pointed out a lot of things I missed, like Merriman's move, though I didn't see much football this weekend(stupid never-ending midterms).

I thought the bit about the scientific papers was amusing, and rather than leave things at that he did point out that there is in fact a decent reason that 200+ people might get authorship for a 2200 word paper.

The thing about TMQ that's really annoying me more than anything is his constant sportsmanship obsession. The openning piece would have been a good place to discuss how much blame could be attributed to Favre's fading talent vs. the decimated line and receiving corps, but he instead drives it into his quasi-joke about he Football Gods and then again bashes the 52-3 game. Come on, I doubt high schoolers, much less paid professionals, really have their self-image damaged by losing by a huge margin. In fact, losing a squeaker at the end might be worse in a number of circumstances. And what of the psychology of the team that is "running up the score"? If a team is playing down to the competition and losing some tough games, mightn't beating someone by a huge margin help the offense gell or "figure some things out" or build "confidence",etc., providing a bit of a boon for the near future? Seems to me that if you're going to look at this from a psychological perspective, it's worth recognizing that there are two teams involved.

by TAQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 5:46pm

Scouting note: TAQ has done not one, not two, but three items on the fact that New England hands the ball to Corey Dillon at the goal line. Yet defenses still haven’t caught on. Trailing 16-7, New England had first-and-goal on the Buffalo 1. Handoff to Dillon, who scores a touchdown.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 6:33pm

Beyond the first few authors, it often depends on someone's research philosophy as to whether or not they grant coauthorship to another - I've known people that granted co-author status to everyone they consulted with on their research (people they emailed, etc.). Others I know only list people that actively worked on the project, and don't bother with people they asked minor questions to. It's often just a question of philosophy of the first author. Sometimes, the generally-accepted procedure for giving coauthorship credit varies from one field of study to another.

While 200 authors does seem like a lot, I've been a part of a number of works that had double-digit authors, and I could explain the contribution that each of them made to the work and why they were listed.


by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 7:22pm

I have to agree that Gates has incredible hands. I can't remember another big player having that good a hands. Winslow and Sharp certainly were as good a reciever, but they didn't have the vacuum hands Gates has. The closest I can think of was Keith Byars but he was a fullback.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 7:27pm

Yeah, he really needs to start watching the shows he criticizes. On Threshold:

"All we are sure of so far is that aliens are obviously attacking, yet government is doing nothing."

The entire premise of Threshold is that the government has given a corps of scientists and agents pretty much free reign to do what they want to stop the alien threat. In one of the first episodes they release a massive electromagnetic pulse over the entire city of Miami to stop an electronic virus. They get the EMP and permission from the government. I usually like the random criticisms of shows, but it's just getting stupid now. I also wonder if he even watched War of the Worlds or if he was too busy reading Bill O'Reilly for Kids in the theater.

by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 7:46pm

Tarrant, doesn't having so many co-authors cause problems if there's an error (or a particularly important finding)? Let's say there's 200 co-authors, and one of them plagiarized something. Won't the other 199 be wrongly tainted?

by jim\'s apple pie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 7:48pm

Re: 14

I think Gates is an integral part of the offense, but I don't think that he is completely responsible for turning Brees into a good QB. That credit should go to the OL. Brees has only truly been awful in one year of his career, 2003, when he was behind a horrible pass protection unit. Seriously, the 2003 Chargers OL was such a disaster that none of them were brought back for 2004. They were all very good run blockers, which is why LT had such a great year rushing, but they allowed pressure almost immediately when trying to form a pocket, which is why LT also got 100 receptions that year. Most of my memories concerning the 2003 offense revolve around a DL getting pressure up the middle and Brees dumping it off to LT in the flat before he can even glance at a WR. Damion McIntosh = lead feet.

Gates is that oft-used cliche of "security blanket" for Brees. He is great on 3rd downs, and he excels at knowing where the first down is, which is why the stats love him so much. He never seems terribly fast, nor is he a great route runner, and yet LB's and safeties have trouble covering him. CB's have trouble because he knows how to keep his body between them and the ball, and he has fantastic hands.

Brees has shown marked improvement in his accuracy, but he is still so-so in the deep game. He tends to under-throw receivers deep and often gets under the ball too much, which results in high passes. Brees rarely throws the ball too short. The KC game illustrates another of his problems, in that his throws are rather easy to bat down at the line of scrimmage. He is relatively short for a NFL QB at 6 feet, so he needs his OL to open passing lanes for him as a general rule. If he was taller, he would be an excellent WCO QB because he is very accurate in the short to med. ranges.

Brees does better when he can get in a rythym. He likes the no-huddle and the hurry-up. He gets in trouble if you start going run-run-pass.

Brees is pretty durable, and moves well in the pocket. I've never really been worried when he gets hit that he'll get injured. He's not a scrambler, but moves well enough that he doesn't get sacked too often, and throws the ball away at the correct times.

From what I can tell, he has the leadership qualities needed for a QB. His teammates have faith in him.

Overall, he's just solid. He doesn't have any real drawbacks, except for his height. He and the Chargers in general need to work on punishing the blitz. His one real strength is that he is accurate in the short and medium ranges, and he throws a ball that is easy to catch. I don't really think of him as being spectacular, just solid. If you're looking for somebody who can carry a team on his own, look elsewhere. But most QB's can't do that anyway.

If I was a team that was interested in Brees and had the chance to get him, I would go for it, with only one caveat. Look at your OL first, and make sure that they can give him some good protection, because that is what he needs the most (plus some passing lanes).

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 7:54pm

I always said from the first matrix movie that a much much more elegant justification of the matrix was that we programed the robots to attmept make us happy and to prevent us from harming each other. Once they became intelligent enough they figured out subjugation + the matrix was the solution. Its more interesting in every way philosophically (which is I think the feel they were shooting for) and is not scientifically ridiculous.

As for TMQ every year i read him the first 3 or 4 weeks and then get sick of him and just skim lightly. I actually like reading the comments on TMQ here more than TMQ itself :)

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 8:00pm

I'm a little upset that he accuses Denver of running up the score. First he sets the threshold for "running up the score" as a 31 point margin- Denver never led by more than 28. Then later in the column he mentions football teams that have scored 27 points in 79 seconds and 21 points in 75 seconds. And finally, he doesn't even mention the fact that, from the moment Denver took a 35-21 lead with 8 minutes to go (and the game still very much in question), they didn't call a single forward pass for the rest of the game. Denver scored 2 TDs on 11 straight running plays.

By the way, here's a stat of the week for you. Last season, Drew Brees threw 7 INTs and the rest of the AFC West combined for 59. So far this season, Drew Brees has thrown 7 INTs and the rest of the AFC West has combined to throw 8. Collins, Plummer, and Green were first, first, and fifth in total INTs last season. This season, among QBs with more than 4 games played, only Big Ben has fewer INTs than Green and Plummer (three apiece), and he ties Collins mark of 2.

by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 8:09pm

TMQ rules.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 8:48pm

re #3: or how about Ben Roethlisberger's preposterous punt from the Ravens 34 yard line last night. It was downed at the one, and when Lewis fumbled on the next play for Baltimore the Steelers ended up picking up an easy FG.

by Joey (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 9:58pm

Thanks for the great stats on the interceptions, Kibbles. GE should take that for next week and give you credit.

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 11:00pm

#23 Thanks!

by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 11:14pm

I don't put too much faith in interceptions anymore, because it seems like too many times whether a pass is intercepted or not has nothing to do with the QB. For example, a QB could throw it right a receiver and have it bounce off his hands. On the other hand, he could make a horrible throw and have the DB just drop it.

Maybe we should have a new stat that ignores interceptions that bounced off a receivers hands? And adds in any balls that a DB just drops but should have caught? I realize that it is subjective, but I think it would give us a better idea of how accurate a QB has been. Maybe we could call it Int+.

As an example, Brees had only 7 interceptions last year. This stat is highly misleading, because I remember a LOT of balls that I thought should have been picked. Basically, he got lucky last year, and I wouldn't expect him to repeat such a performance. And this year he hasn't. Although I can think of at least 2 of his interceptions this year that bounced off of his receivers.

Of course, in the end we would probably find out that the drops and tips cancel each other out.

by Israel (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 8:53am

#14 (Todd S.) writes What happens if San Diego releases Brees and he plays for a different team next year?

Perhaps someone with a good TE (Todd Heap comes to mind) picks him up.

by Israel (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 8:56am

#20 (johonny) writes I can’t remember another big player having that good a hands. Winslow and Sharp certainly were as good a reciever, but they didn’t have the vacuum hands Gates has.

Good things are being written about Heath Miller. Early to say for sure, though.

by Israel (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 9:01am

#27 (Ryan Mc) writes how about Ben Roethlisberger’s preposterous punt from the Ravens 34 yard line last night.

I suspect that TMQ would change his attitude to maroon zone punts if they were reliably put inside the five yard line with no return.

by McDaniken (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 11:55am

Anyone surprised that GE didn't comment on the effectiveness of Denver's blitz?

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 12:09pm

Re #25: TMQ accuses the Broncoes of running up the score cause they tried to score with 30 seconds left in the game. He's wrong, though, because it was 4th down, so taking a knee isn't an option.

by walter (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 12:11pm

I've finally lost all respect for TMQ. In the opening of this week's piece the only way he supports his assertion is by referring to three different sets of mythical deities(football gods, greek pantheon, judeo-christian god). Since when do we let fictional characters make our arguments for us?

by walter (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 12:16pm

"He’s wrong, though, because it was 4th down, so taking a knee isn’t an option."
Taking a knee, punting, kicking a field goal, all of those were available options at that point. Turning the ball over on downs inside the opponent's 10 yard line with under a minute left while leading by 21 points wouldn't harm Denver's chances of victory in the slightest.

by Matt Weiner (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 1:38pm

I think the battery thing in the Matrix is a metaphor for the Marxist concept of stored labor-power in the worker's body. No, really.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 4:08pm

B #35:

"TMQ accuses the Broncoes of running up the score cause they tried to score with 30 seconds left in the game. He’s wrong, though, because it was 4th down, so taking a knee isn’t an option."

Sure it is. Pittsburgh did it last year against the Eagles on 11/7/04. here's their last series:

1-10-PIT44 (6:44) J.Bettis left tackle to PIT 48 for 4 yards (D.Jones, M.Lewis).
2-6-PIT48 (6:01) V.Haynes left tackle to PHI 48 for 4 yards (J.Trotter, N.Wayne).
3-2-PHI48 (5:18) V.Haynes up the middle to PHI 45 for 3 yards (I.Reese, M.Lewis).
1-10-PHI45 (4:34) V.Haynes up the middle to PHI 41 for 4 yards (S.Brown).
2-6-PHI41 (3:52) W.Parker right end ran ob at PHI 31 for 10 yards.
1-10-PHI31 (3:45) W.Parker right guard to PHI 29 for 2 yards (J.McDougle).
2-8-PHI29 (3:03) W.Parker right tackle to PHI 27 for 2 yards (I.Reese).
3-6-PHI27 (2:55) V.Haynes right guard to PHI 24 for 3 yards (S.Brown).
4-3-PHI24 (2:48) B.Roethlisberger pass to M.Cushing ran ob at PHI 7 for 17 yards (S.Brown).
1-7-PHI7 (2:48) B.Roethlisberger kneels to PHI 8 for -1 yards.
2-8-PHI8 (2:00) B.Roethlisberger kneels to PHI 10 for -2 yards.
3-10-PHI10 (1:19) B.Roethlisberger kneels to PHI 12 for -2 yards.
4-12-PHI12 (1:19) B.Roethlisberger kneels to PHI 13 for -1 yards.

The Broncos could have started taking a knee immediately after the 2 minute warning and run the clock down just as well, and turning over the ball on downs with around 30 seconds left.

Shanhan just sometimes wants to run up the score. He was still furiously passing and running trick plays on 2nd down like a wide receiver reverse trying to run up the score against Kansas City several weeks ago, when the Broncos were up by 27 points with less than 9 minutes left to play. Then he challenged Eddie Kennison's TD to try to take it away with around 2:25 left.

This was supposedly "revenge" for Kansas City putting in its 2nd and 3rd stringers in a game last year and allowing them to pass 4 times against Denver's first string when Kansas City was up 32 points. By definition, 2nd and 3rd stringers like RB Omar Easy and QB Todd Collins and WR Sammie Parker getting a couple of real game series in the 4th quarter of a blow out is not "running up the score".

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 4:29pm

The best choice for the Broncos would have been to tell Bell to run forward two yards and then down himself. That way they could have bled the last 30 seconds off the clock, and not given the ball back to the Eagles at all, which is the only way to guarantee a victory.

by big_adventure (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 4:45pm

People talking about the Matrix movies - reeeeee-laaaxxxxx! These weren't even particularly clever sci-fi; you are giving WAY too much credit to the authors when you try to explain away things they flat out said.

Check the link for fun reviews of the physics of Matrix movies and others.


by MCS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 5:12pm

It seems like 2-3 times per year that the TMQ thread ends up linking the Stupid Movie Physics website.

by asg (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 6:00pm

The cheerleader pic was easily the hottest one yet this year.