Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Aug 2005

TMQ: Only Jackson Browne Should Hold Out

Gregg Easterbrook makes the case this week that rookie holdouts might be penny wise but pound foolish. The thinking is that if a player like Phillip Rivers had reported to camp on time last year, he might have been given the Chargers' starting job immediately and ended up making more money in the long run as a starter than he will now that he's going into his second season as a backup.

TMQ also notes that Buffalo Bills cheerleaders are not permitted to have pierced tongues. That's an important piece of information you won't get elsewhere.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 16 Aug 2005

51 comments, Last at 22 Aug 2005, 11:40am by Drew


by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:23pm

i haven't finished reading the article yet, but i've noticed that easterbrook constantly refers to what will be the ravens' new "4-6 front". if the FO article on the subject is accurate, the 46 defense actually has nothing to do with a "4-6 front".

is this going to spark a football geek war? please say yes. please.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:53pm

Once again, TMQ shows his cluelessness when he asks about Lavaerneus Coles "Why did Jersey/B want him back?"

If he would've spent 5 seconds doing some research on football instead of Star Wars, he'd know that Coles and Chad Pennington had a great rapport during Coles' last season with the Jets.

by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:16pm

Surely someone has done (or can do) some simple analysis, by position, on whether rookie holdouts affect longterm performance.

by carl s (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:22pm

I like how #2 finds one factoid in the entire article that he disagrees with and then uses that to insult the author. Such chivalry is rare on the interweb.

Pretty good one this week.

by Theo (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:23pm

The name of the 46 defense comes from the jerseynumber used by a Bears player and has nothing to do with who lines up where. It's NOT 4 down linemen and 6 linebackers... (uh, duh)
It's more a filosophy, not an alignment.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:30pm


TMQ kindof mixes "46" and "4-6". I think it might be more sloppy typing (and c'mon, when you've got 4-3 and 3-4 as the main defensive types, it's easy to slip) than lack of knowledge.

Besides, I think that must be one of the most common slipups, other than the West Coast Offense.

by Domer (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:38pm

Good point - the #46 referred to Fencik or Plank, I forget which one.

by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:38pm

i honestly don't think it was a typing error. he repeatedly refers to it as a 4-6 front, talking about buddy ryan's "bizarre" 4-6 front vs. rex ryan's "mild" 4-6 front. when he refers to it as simply a 46 defense he always puts in quotes ("46"), where as he leaves 4-6 out of quotes. this suggests that he thinks 46 is just a cute nickname for what is really a 4-6 defense.

i love TMQ, but we all make mistakes sometimes.

by Led (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:00pm

Isn't the average NFL career shorter than the length of an average 1st rounder's contract? If so, 1st rounders may be better served maximizing the value of their first contract rather than gambling on a big second contract that may never materialize. A bird in hand....

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:15pm

I don't know if anyone followed the link to the Bills cheerleaders information, but I think it's pretty crappy that the Bills charge these women $35 just to audition. I mean, how much money is Ralph Wilson worth? Somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion? I don't think he needs to grab some 20-year-old hairdresser's tip money.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:26pm

Within the current CBA, though, how much can a rookie actually improve his contract?

by Theo (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:26pm

@ Domer,
Yeah, it was named after Doug Plank's number, for his style of play. (he was a 12th rounder and is still HC of the Georgia Force, AFL.)

by SLB1 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:37pm

Re: Post 10

That is the funniest post I have ever read. What, are you interested in trying out for the squad? If applicants are willing to give it go, who cares if they are charged to apply? Maybe you should start a union for cheerleaders!

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:39pm

Cheerleaders are people too. If we can spend all this energy debating how much TO is worth, why can't we be concerned about the cheerleaders' audition fees. I think I will start a cheerleader's union. I can charge $30 to join, it'll seem like a bargin, and just imagine the dress code requirements.

by SJM (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:46pm

Re: 9
Yes, the average 1st round contract is longer than the average NFL career, BUT it is most certainly NOT longer than the average 1st rounder's career. I don't have the figures in front of me, but the average NFL career is between 3-4 years and 1st rounders average way longer than that.

by HLF (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:55pm

Gross generalization here, but... NFL level cheerleaders are seriously "hot chicks", and as such have generally had much much much much much better treatment and opportunities from life than most folks. Cry me a river, especially when getting the job will almost always lead to financial opportunities for the women that they likely wouldn't have without the job.

It sure seems worth $35 to me.

by Trolling for Concubine (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:04pm

Uh oh! I smell varmint poontang....

by Johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:06pm

It seem to remember that the DAlals Cowboy cheerleaders got paid 15 $ a week yet generated millions a year for the team and charities. To me it's a disgrace the way the NFL treats these women and why I have huge repect for the NYG.

by Melish (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:08pm

Re: #2
Lots of QBs have good relationships with their receivers; that doesn't mean they still can't be a headache, which was TMQ's point. But I guess it's easier to pretend he doesn't have a clue what he's doing if you ignore the entire substance of his argument.

by Mahatma Kane Jeeves (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:17pm

Seems to me there's a WR holding out right now who worked very well with his QB last year. What the heck was his name again?

by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:20pm

Cheerleaders for any sports team, regardless of what league they are in, usually do not make much money by doing the actual cheerleading, although I sincerely hope that they have increased pay from $15 a game. They make most of their money doing special appearances("have the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders at your bachelor party/corporate event/whatever") and things like the swimsuit calendar. I don't really know much about it, but apparently being a cheerleader is a pretty good gig, even with the crappy per-game pay because of all the moonlighting you can do.

I don't think it's terribly unfair to have a tryout fee - $30 is honestly not that much and it's to separate out the serious applicants from people who are not serious about it rather than trying to line the owner's pockets. A team can expect hundreds of applicants for a couple of dozen positions - you have to cull the field somehow.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:25pm

Coles didn't put up great yards/catch stats last year, and of course that can be blamed on the system in Washington. I did read somewhere, though, (apologies, I forget where) that he led the league in passes attempted in his direction (I believe it was in the region of 170 passes) This makes his actual reception total of 90 seem less impressive.

I know that this passes attempted to a receiver stat is kinda difficult to keep track of and not a particularly "clean" stat, and shouldn't necessarily be seen as a negative against the WR if the receptions/attempts ratio is low (could also be the result of good defense or bad throw by the QB), but it still surprises me that it isn't well documented or publicized. Seems like there are a lot of other ratios out there that we pay attention to to gauge the quality of performance as opposed to just quantity (eg. yards per pass attempt, yards per rush attempt, completion percentage etc)

As a Bengals fan I hate to acknowledge this, but Chad Johnson was second with 160+ passes thrown to him. Puts his reception total of 95 in a slightly different perspective.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 6:47pm

The potential upside for the typical first rounder's initial contract, to be achieved by staying out of camp, and given how the slotting system works, would seem to be dwarfed by the potential upside of being seen as an elite player at that position, by the time the first contract is drawing to a close. Richard Seymour got a a nice taste last week, and his first contract still had some ways to go.

by Mike (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 6:54pm


Yes, but a QB is more likely to heave a desparate throw at an above average reciever, and that throw might be very difficult to catch, so that weighs it a bit the other way. If you have Randy Moss on your team, you're going to throw the ball his way even if he's well covered, because there's some chance he can make a play on it. Whereas if you're throwing to an Eagles reciever not named T.O., well, let's just say you might be more careful.

It's kind of like a shortstop who is very athletic getting more erros, because he gets to more balls and tries to make a play on them.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 7:27pm


Surely someone has done (or can do) some simple analysis, by position, on whether rookie holdouts affect longterm performance.

Good idea. Probably tough to find holdout data, though.

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 7:31pm

Scouting note: Usually running back Jamal Lewis comes out on third-and-more-than-3. But if he stays in, it's always to him.

I like that part.

by Zac (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 7:33pm

Baltimore was 31st in passing last season, and Boller ranked 30th in passer rating.
20th in Passing DVOA, and 20th in Passer DPAR. But I guess you don't bother using those new-fangled statistics if they don't help your argument as much.

Also someone mentioned how he differentiates between Buddy's 46 and Rex's. But if you give the full quote that changes the perspective. "The old Buddy Ryan 4-6 fronts were bizarre, such as all four defensive linemen on one side of the center and all three linebackers on the other." He knows it's not a 4-6 front.

by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 7:54pm

But I guess you don’t bother using those new-fangled statistics if they don’t help your argument as much.

or if the use of those new-fangled statistics is a blatant ripoff of FO, especially considering that most readers of TMQ will have no idea what the hell he's talking about if he tries to bring DVOA or DPAR into it.

Also someone mentioned how he differentiates between Buddy’s 46 and Rex’s. But if you give the full quote that changes the perspective. “The old Buddy Ryan 4-6 fronts were bizarre, such as all four defensive linemen on one side of the center and all three linebackers on the other.� He knows it’s not a 4-6 front.

on the contrary, he acknowledges that it is not actually a package of 4 defensive linemen and 6 linebackers, but he still refers to a "4-6 front" twice. it's also interesting that he talks about "all three linebackers", because (according to that FO article at least... i haven't watched those old games myself), the 46 defense would include 4 linemen and 4 linebackers.

by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 8:48pm

to clarify, my point is not that easterbrook suggests that the 46 defensive package is composed of 4 linemen and 6 LBs, since he obviously isn't. rather, i'm just pointing out that he really does make the mistake of implying that the numbers 4 and 6 denote something about the defense more specific than that old guy's jersey number, by repeatedly referring to a 4-6 front, and that it probably wasn't a typing error.

by Bad Doctor (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 10:26am

In defense of #2, TMQ does seem to be excessively hard on Coles. He claims that Coles has had "bitter departures" from his last three teams ... what was bitter about his departure from the Jets? That he had the gall to seek a bigger contract for his true market value? (In fairness, TMQ gets his claim from a Washington Post article.)

I really like TMQ's article and never miss it. But one disappointment is that such a bright guy automatically favors management over players. Asking for players to say "yes sir" and "no sir" and honor the letter of their contracts is a populist stance that will appeal to a great number of football fans, but it ignores the complexities of the relative bargaining strength of owners vs. players, the quality of the players' union in getting to this CBA, etc. TMQ has a great head for analysis, and for him to ignore all of this is disappointing. (Another great example is last week, when he said Troy Brown, who he picked as his player of the year for selflessly contributing to another NE title, had "bad luck" from winning the award, because he was subsequently released and resigned for a smaller salary. Just bad luck, no question of NE's motives or tactics.)

If you consider all the aspects and still favor management, hey, great. For example, I hate it when commentators (Mike Wilbon only said this just about every day last week) say, "Why does T.O. have to honor his contract when owners don't have to?" Well no, if a contract allows one party to get out of it at their whim, and that party bargained for that benefit, then they are not dishonoring the contract by exercising that right. But Wilbon is a talking-head sportswriter. I would expect more from Easterbrook.

by X (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 11:54am

"If "hut" on average twice per snap is replaced by "go" twice per snap, that saves 2,000 letters over the course of the season; presumably the Titans will donate the letters to charity."

That's classic. And this change is absurd, unless the goal is simply to be different. "Go" and "hut" both have the same number of syllables--one--and so changing "hut" to "go" effectively changes nothing.

As for the 4-6, I realize the name originally came from that dude's number, but from playing Madden, it seems that it could also correlate to the defensive alignment. Could it perhaps have a double meaning?

Allow me to explain:

A safety is brought into the box to serve as, essentially, a fast fourth linebacker, and because the two corners are close to the line, the defense has four linemen, six people on the second, linebacker/cornerback, level, and only one safety. So it's not so much about how many linbackers/linemen there are, but the depth at which players are lined up. That's just how I interpreted it from playing Madden, and it makes sense. It may not be right, but it's all I got. So, under this naming system, I suppose the 4-3 could be called the 4-5, the 3-4 could be called the 3-6.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 12:10pm

I always thought the reason it's written 4-6 instead of 46 is because it's not called the "fourty six" it's the "four six"

by zach (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 12:32pm

no, it's called the "forty-six".

X, i was thinking the same thing. but since nobody ever refers to conventional defenses as either 4-5 or 3-6, i still have to believe that gregg's just a little confused. defensive scheme naming has to describe personnel, not position on the field; otherwise, when an LB in a 3-4 defense shows blitz, it has to be considered to temporarily switch to a 4-3 defense. and any number of other needlessly confusing name changes as the defense shifts.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 1:52pm

Honestly, though: calling the 46 defense the 4-6 defense, or saying 4-6 front, has got to be one of the most common mistakes in football. Look around - everyone does it. Former coaches do it. FO staff has done it.

Trying to find real, consistent information on it is near impossible. See here, where it's described as having 3 linemen (a nose tackle & 2 DEs) and 2 LBs+a "rush backer" on the line, with the MLB and SS in coverage.

Whereas here it's described as having 4 linemen, 3 linebackers, and 4 defensive backs, with one of the DBs playing as a surrogate linebacker.

And here, it diagrams a 46 defense as 3 linemen and a MLB behind the nose tackle.

IGN's Madden 2003 guide lists it as a 4-6 defense, rather than a 46 (does Madden?). And also describes it as having 8 men in the box.

The Washington Post has screwed it up here, and it's been screwed up huge numbers of other places as well.

Confused yet? Well, if I didn't know anything about football, I would be.

Anyway, all I'm trying to say is that this is a little silly to be berating him on. It's got to be one of the most confusing topics in football (other than maybe the West Coast Offense).

by Keith Cockrell (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 1:59pm

I think Easterbrook is funny, but nothing like you guys. Only on Football Outsiders could you find two or three VERY serious discussions started by TMQ. And that's not a put-down. It's why I read the posts even on things like TMQ.
(By the way, humorists are allowed more leeway on things like 4-6 versus "46" than regular columnists.)(I started to say "boring" columnists.)

by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 2:07pm

20th in Passing DVOA, and 20th in Passer DPAR. But I guess you don’t bother using those new-fangled statistics if they don’t help your argument as much.

To be fair to TMQ, I don't think those stats really diminish his point all that much. 20th in DPAR ranks him between Aaron Brooks and Drew Bledsoe, which is to say, not so good. And unless I'm misreading the table, he was 21st in passing DVOA at -2.0%, tied with Bledsoe. Considering (as TMQ mentioned) that Baltimore has a good O-line, a great running game, and a defense that consistently gives him the ball in good position, these numbers are very unimpressive.

by Josh (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 2:09pm

I've been a Madden advocate for years. The "46" defense first appeared in Madden 2003 if I recall correctly, but in the game it was named the 4-6. In Madden, this formation features the same personell as the 4-3, except that the SS is moved the box outside the OLB, and the CB's are pressed into tight coverage. Also in Madden there is a 4-6 Bear variant which features a shifted line with 4 down lineman and two OLB on the line and the MLB and SS in coverage behind the line, essentially creating a 6-2. I think the the current confusion about the 46 comes from Madden

by zach (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 2:49pm

yeah, in ESPN NFL 2K5 they just called it the "Bear" defense.

obviously it's confusing and i'm not berating easterbrook. i love his column. i was just pointing out for fun, "hey look, here's something he messed up on." then i felt the need to defend my point, well, because i like to argue.

BTW, what exactly is the west coast offense? ;)

by TMK (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 4:51pm

TMQ is a little wrong about Baltimore's offensive line; while it is very good at runblocking, its pass protection has been adequate at best for years. This goes back to the 2001 season, where they never found a true replacement for Harry Swayne off the Super Bowl line.

And they've tried a lot -- Orlando Brown is only the most recent, and his skills at pass protection have never been good. Right tackle has been a problem for four seasons now, and the current hope is that Tony Pashos can grow into the position. One of the reasons that teams like Pittsburgh (even when the Steelers weren't very good) had success gainst the Ravens is that the line is not very good at picking up complicated blitz schemes.

This isn't meant to give Boller carte blanche, but it's easy to overthrow someone when you're trying to escape whomever "Zeus" missed THIS time.

by Fast Eddy (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 6:10pm

How about another topic? Gregg said something about maybe Oakland will be the worst team in the NFL this year? I'm no great Oakland fan, but that seems extremely silly. They have a passable QB in Collins, who can throw deep. They have Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry AND Doug Gabriel, for maybe the best 4 receivers in the league. (Well, Indy has a few as well.) They now have LaMont Jordan, who seemed a fair RB when he got the ball with the Jets last year.

Admittedly their D sucked last year, but this year they're moving from the more difficult 3-4 to a 4-3, which may suit Sapp better. So, overall, I doubt if they'll win the Supe but...the Worst Team in the NFL? How about SF? Or Cleveland? Or Miami if Ricky has a nervous breakdown and Frerotte doesn't make it happen? I can see Jax or Tennessee not doing very well either.

by Adam H (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 7:37pm

Agreed oh speedy one. Oak-town wasn't the worst team in the NFL last year and should be a good bit better this one. At the least they should be fun to watch, unless your an afficionado of good D. They should hire Coach Carter, I think we'll see alot of running up and down the field.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 8:39pm

Tennessee or Cleveland will be the worst team in the league this year. They were bad last year, and they actually got worse in the offseason - Tennessee jettisoned large numbers of veterans, as did Cleveland.

I think it's likely that San Francisco will still be bad, but they've at least got consistency in their favor. Ditto with Miami.

That's not to say Tennessee/Cleveland made the wrong decisions. The Titans had to, and Cleveland will be better in the future, but right now I don't think they'll be better than last year.

by Fast Eddy (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 8:56pm

Adam H and Pat: Brilliant observations! (People who agree with me are generally brilliant.)

I'm actually looking forward to the first game of the season, Raiders vs. Patriots. My incredibly sophisticated software (say that 10 times real fast) at NFL Edge predicts a tie. Personally I think that the Pats will win it in a squeaker, because they always win. But it'll be a fun game.

Sept. 8: Get it on!

by Paul (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 9:26pm

TMQ wonders why the PA legislature did not institute a helmet law after Roethlisberger's declaration that he would continue to not wear a helmet while riding his motorcycle, legal in PA.
Well the main reason is that the governor is a big Eagles fan, and was going to avoid some major political event if the Eagles had won the Super Bowl so that he could be there for the (also admittedly major) planned celebration parade.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 9:40pm

He did avoid the political event. He postponed it. Click my name for the link.

by Daneel (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 3:25am

Re # 37

I have a "vintage" edition of John Madden Football (and by "vintage" y mean system requirements of CGA monitor and D.O.S. 3.0).

Anyways in the playbook it says:
"Plays 14-16 are risky gap control and blitzing plays using the famous Chicago "46" defense."

by Wyote (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 10:51am

I used to enjoy TMQ, but I've gotten tired of him. He makes the same 6-7 points every couple of weeks. Also, he uses stats in ways that ought to make readers wince. An exceedingly simple example: Alex Smith's 24 million is "close to" Tom Brady's 32 million and "far above" Pace's 18 million? I guess TMQ thinks 8 million is chump change but 6 million is a big deal. I'd like to be his credit card company.

He also does the Nostradamus routine, making a lot of vague predictions, and later mentioning only events that fit them.

For instance, his blitz tirades. Every week, there are hundreds (thousands?) of blitzes; of course several of them give up big plays. It reminds me of my uncle complaining about prevent defenses.

He likes the power running game so much, he oughtta be a rugby commentator. Listen for him to say a good thing about a pass-first team.

Can you hear that?

That's silence.

I'd really like to see him try to explain the success of Jim Johnson and Andy Reid. Cap management no doubt; they win despite their strategy.

He's got a nice vocabulary, and there's some interesting political or cultural info on there. But really, he doesn't know much more about football than most fans out there. It's tiring: I want football insight if I'm going to read that much.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 11:33am

Re #19: To add to what #30 said, Coles wasn't a headache with the Jets. The Jets wanted to keep him but couldn't afford what he was asking and the Redskins gave it to him.

So here's a receiver who performed really well for you 3 years ago and has a great relationship with your quarterback, and left only because another team gave him a lot more money than you could afford. Why wouldn't you want him back?

by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2005 - 1:01am

At least this week's version was longer than last week's...

It seems ridiculous that Smith, who's never done squat, just signed a deal that guarantees him about $24 million -- close to the $32 million guaranteed in the new deal signed by Tom Brady, the NFL's best player, and far above the roughly $18 million guaranteed in the deal just signed by Orlando Pace, a very accomplished player who is a likely Hall of Fame entrant.

When did Tom Brady become the best QB, let alone the best player?

Name note: When the Browns returned to the NFL, yours truly dubbed them the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0). When they briefly became a winner again, I dubbed them the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1). Now that the roster, coaching staff and front office have all been torn up with the whole enterprise restarting from scratch, this season they will be the Cleveland Browns (Beta Version).

Ummm, the Cleveland Browns (Beta Release) was a long time ago, when the original franchise just started. Currently, they continue to progress in version number, but they are working on some bug fixes.

Last year during the regular season, cornerback Champ Bailey played pretty well.

Were you watching the same games as the rest of us?

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2005 - 9:39am

When did Tom Brady become the best QB, let alone the best player?
April 16, 2005. Didn't you get the memo?

by Drew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/22/2005 - 11:40am

I used to enjoy TMQ, but I’ve gotten tired of him. He makes the same 6-7 points every couple of weeks.

Well, that's not entirely accurate. Many people think it's "6-7", but it's actually "67".