Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Dec 2010

TMQ: All-Unwanted All-Pros

TMQ has combed the league to find the best unwanted players in football. Defined:

My All-Unwanted roster celebrates those who got where they are based on hard work and determination. In most of life, hard work and determination are more important than social status or God-given talent. That's why Tuesday Morning Quarterback lauds hard work and determination on the part of football players who were not born into success, but reached success through constant effort. They set a good example.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 28 Dec 2010

56 comments, Last at 02 Jan 2011, 10:32pm by tuluse


by Doug Farrar :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 3:53pm

Some interesting stuff in there, but the logic on the Flozell Adams pick ("waived by the Cowboys; since that moment the Cowboys have been losing and the Steelers winning") may have given me brain damage.

Also, the hit on the Dolphins seems gratuitous; if you're going to bang on them for dismissing Drew Brees as "too short", you might as well mention the severe shoulder injury Brees suffered in 2005. That might have had something to do with it.

by Marko :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 3:59pm

Yeah, but you absolutely can bang on the Dolphins for choosing Daunte Culpepper. While you can understand their decision to pass on Brees because of medical concerns, I don't understand why they thought Culpepper was a good choice instead. Also, while Jake Long is very good, I wouldn't have taken him over Matt Ryan. So they could have had either Brees or Ryan, and instead they still are looking for Dan Marino's replacement.

by TayloreatsBrady (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:07pm

Both Culpepper and Brees were coming off major injuries when the Dolphins were making their decision. Brees had a shoulder injury, Culpepper had a knee injury. The Dolphins (Nick Saban) obviously made the wrong decision, but not sure if it was a horrible error in judgment.

The Jake Long vs. Matt Ryan debate is another animal altogether. Jake Long is arguably the best LT in the league. No one would claim he isn't in the conversation. Matt Ryan seems to be destined for greatness. We'll see how he performs in the long-run. He sure came up small last night.

by Marko :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:33pm

My point about Culpepper is that I just don't think he was a good QB. I wouldn't have signed him even if he were fully healthy. The fact that he was coming off a major injury only made it even more of a bad decision. Again, I understand the decision not to sign Brees in light of his significant injury. So I think the error in judgment wasn't not signing Brees; it was signing Culpepper.

As for Long vs. Ryan, I don't disagree with anything you said, including the comment that Ryan came up small last night. I still would rather have him than Jake Long. Considering how hard it is to get a really good QB, I think having Ryan plus a serviceable LT would be better than having Long plus a terrible QB.

by Sander :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 6:26pm

The year before he got injured he had a ridiculous year, with Randy Moss not making much of an impact (missed 3 games, ended with 700-odd yards). Culpepper nearly broke the completion percentage record that season, threw for 8.6 yards per attempt, 39 touchdowns (and ran for 2 more) and 11 interceptions. He was 2nd in passing DVOA and passing DYAR that year. If it wasn't for Peyton Manning having his 49TD year then, he would've been MVP. While Culpepper looked much worse in the year he suffered his injury, it's easy to see that as a fluke at the time. If you look at Culpepper's career, he had 2 bad years - 2--2. amd the year he suffered his injury. And in both years he was still fairly productive. He also had two amazing seasons, and 2 more good but not great seasons.

Drew Brees's best year at that point didn't really come close to Culpepper's best year. Yes, the decision looks bad in hindsight, but if you look at the numbers it's hard not to see Culpepper as the superior QB. Plus, he suffered a knee injury while Brees suffered a rotator cuff injury to his throwing shoulder, which is usually a lot more serious. So in summary, Culpepper not only had had the better career up to that point, his injury was seemingly less serious and he added value with his mobility and size. The only thing Brees had going for him over Culpepper at the time was that he was 2 years younger.

by Nathan :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:11pm

Especially considering Culpepper had also suffered a major injury. So they chose the big-armed mobile QB with the catastrophic knee injury over the pinpoint accurate QB with a serious shoulder injury... and ended up with Chad Pennington, a pinpoint accurate QB with a number of serious shoulder injuries.

by Sander :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 6:27pm

Culpepper had actually been more accurate than Brees throughout his career.

by Nathan :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:10pm


by shelterdog :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:41pm

Sure but the point isn't to bag on the Dolphins. The point is that the "unwanted" list includes a player who was given a 5/50 million performance based contract by San Diego and then was actively recruited by at least Miami and New Orlans. Brees wasn't "unwanted" in any normal sense of the word.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 1:53am

But since when did TMQ let facts tand in his way?

- Alvaro

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 4:39pm


BAsed on the above article, I think you already had brain damage.

by Marko :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 3:51pm

"Last season, Jersey/B cornerback Darrelle Revis was one of the league's top performers. But since he was rewarded with a big bonus check for skipping much of training camp, Revis seems to be celebrating by taking the 2010 season off. On Sunday, he basically stepped out of the way of the Bears' Matt Forte at the 3-yard line, as Forte scored a touchdown. Later, Revis was singed for a touchdown catch by Johnny Knox of Division II Abilene Christian."

While he's absolutely correct about Revis' "effort" on Forte's touchdown run (he gave Forte a less than half-hearted shove when he could have made the tackle), he is making stuff up about Revis being singed for a TD by Knox. Knox's first TD was when he was covered by Dwight Lowery and his second TD was against Antonio Cromartie. Maybe he thinks Revis was burned on the first TD because he was on the same side of the field, but on that play he was covering Greg Olsen, who was lined up outside. Knox was in the slot and was not Revis' responsibility.

by Eddo :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:01pm

Par for the course for Easterbrook. For a guy who loves to point out the smallest mistakes of others, he sure has a lot of factual errors and omissions in his work.

He also totally left off the 1994 Wyatt Earp film starring Kevin Costner. But that's understandable, it's not like it was called Wyatt Earp, or anything.

by Boots Day :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 7:25pm

Stuff like the All-Unwanted All-Pros is Easterbrook at his best, but there's also a lot of typical TMQ sloppiness in here. He seems to think that because he's an NFL expert, he's not required to do little things like check his facts. For instance:

"Singletary mainly seems an example of a common NFL phenomenon, the guy who's qualified to be a coordinator but in over his head when in charge of the whole team."

Singletary has never been a coordinator, so who has any idea how good he'd be at that job?

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 7:59pm

Particularly bizarre he missed Wyatt Earp because there was tons of press associated with it because it came out right after Tombstone. Interestingly enough, it often seems he's more up on movies and pop culture stuff than football. Not so in this case.

by Stephen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:31pm

Remember, this is the guy who spent a couple paragraphs ranting about The Dark Knight and how the movie was unrealistic because how did the Joker afford all of the equipment he used?

Never mind, of course, the fact that HE ROBBED A FREAKING BANK IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES.

by otros :: Sun, 01/02/2011 - 10:22pm

Not to defend TMQ, but the joker burns the money stolen from the bank.

by tuluse :: Sun, 01/02/2011 - 10:32pm

I thought that was the money he had recovered for the mafia.

by JimZipCode :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 5:29pm

Has Hollywood really seemed to give up on Westerns in recent years? Is he sure there hasn't been a mini-revival among Westerns in recent years? With films like 3:10 To Yuma and Appaloosa, to go with True Grit? Jonah Hex? Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford? The TV series Deadwood?

by Mikey Benny :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:03pm

Compared to yesteryear, yes, there have been a dearth of Westerns.

Keep in mind that the highest grossing Western of all time for YEARS was Blazing Saddles, a parody.

My theory is that Westerns are based on personalities -- the Duke, Clint Eastwood, etc. No such larger-than-life personalities in Westerns today.

by tuluse :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:10pm

It depends how you define "yesteryear." The 60s and 70s? Yeah there are way fewer westerns now. Compared to the 80s? I think there are many more.

Also, there are a lot of movies that use the structure of a western, but don't take place in the Wild West these days. No Country for Old Men and Inglourious Basterds come to mind.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 5:00pm

At least he didn't blame him for the "high school mistake of looking into the backfield" on a called zone defense, where it is the corner's JOB to look into the backfield...

by are-tee :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 11:16pm

Aside from the fantasy of Revis being "singed" by Knox, saying that he has taken 2010 off is crazy. Since he's gotten healthy, Revis has shut down receivers the same way he did last year. The difference is that quarterbacks have avoided throwing at him this year.

by B :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 3:57pm

Who better to be an All-Unwanted MVP than a guy named Grimes?
Grimes, undrafted out of Division II Shippensburg, lives in an apartment over a bowling alley and under another bowling alley.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:11pm

Hey, Grimey!

by Darin (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:33pm

So Shippensburg is the de facto Division II football factory? John Kuhn is from there as well.

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 4:18pm

Can I have one of these pencils?

by Arkaein :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:13pm

Tramon Williams should be first team. No way I'd take any of the other first team DBs over him based on this season.

Also, since when is BJGE a FB? Considering that TMQ likes to emphasize non-glory positions it seems like he is squeezing an extra RB onto the roster in the FB slot.

by Nathan :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:16pm

not only is BJGE not a fullback (they play Morris as the upback in the I), Kuhn has been MAULING teams the last few weeks. And Peyton Hillis started as a FB.

by vague (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:46pm

I looked to see if there was any reason Arian Foster was a runner up to Woodhead. I see none other than Woodhead somehow has more "unwanted" to him? Foster is by far the most productive player on this list and possibly in the NFL.

Not that Woodhead isnt great but its sort of the Mugsy Boges(sp?) effect. Being small makes you better somehow? No it doesnt. Woodhead is a very good player but no GM or coach would trade Foster for him.

by Eddo :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 5:00pm

To be fair to TMQ, Foster's on the first team, Woodhead's on the second team.

by Zach (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 1:11am

Yeah, but doesn't that make it even more mindbending? If Woodhead was the All-Unwanted MVP, why isn't he at least on the first team? Because he plays for the Patriots?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 6:01am

While I like the idea of the All-unwanted All-Pros, I find that it can conveniently forget about free agency and the salary cap.

Take Charles Woodson who makes his team at CB ... the Raiders only lost him because they got into a sticky issue with his salary. He broke his leg twice in two years and he came up for free agency. The first time they franchised him and had to pay him around $10 million as that was top 5 CB money. Then it happened again. What does a franchise do? Woodson went to free agency, the Packers got to negotiate a new deal with him. (7 years, $52 million - probably backloaded). Woodson would not have been willing to take a lower contract from the Raiders because they were his existing club and he expects them to reward him for their previous experience and loyalty.

Another example ... and I'm surprised to see him missing from the list with 914 yds and 6TDs is what happened between the Chargers and Tomlinson.

Another reason teams cut players is because they already have enough talent at the position.

by Mikey Benny :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:54am

Not really -- Woodhead was unrecruited out of high school, while Foster played at Tennessee. I see the award more about overcoming adversity to do well/the best story rather than solely about production that year.

by The Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:23pm

Strange to see more Redskins in the "current team" column than in the "waived by" column. I'll second the shout-out to Lorenzo Alexander, who outplayed Haynesworth this year by a factor of inverted salary ratio.

by Steve Chung (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:53pm

Panera Bread sucks.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 5:06pm

But it's oh-so European! Easterbrook is like a decades-old caricature of a snooty blowhard.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 8:08pm

That was actually one of the more interesting bits in the column. Almost certainly not legally binding, but they put language like that in their disclaimer, anyway?

by Mikey Benny :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 11:08am

Panera Bread is *awesome. (FTFY)

Their mac and cheese, their bread, their chicken noodle soup, their paninis... yum.

On a side note: I'd agree European food is overrated in general (better pizza IMO in New York or Chicago or friggin' Papa John's than in Italy, for example). But, TMQ got this one right. The one thing I miss about European food, is that the ability to get fresh, amazing bread and other baked goods at every street corner in France or Italy. This is something the U.S. would do well to have more of, and Panera is probably the closest thing we've got going right now.

by Kirt O (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 5:46pm

So...he derides the NFL for granting a guaranteed playoff spot to each divisional winner (and its logical outcome that every so often the winner of a bad conference will be let in with a subpar record). He then offers as a good counterexample the NCAA mens basketball tourney...that also gives out guaranteed spots to conference winners. I am confused... How often is the winner of the Patriot conference more deserving than the first teams out in the ACC, Big-12/10, and Pac-10? I know... we just need to include 64 (err...68 teams) in the NFL playoffs then we will be sure to do it right.

by Athelas :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 6:46pm

I read that as his saying the division winners should be in, but the teams should be re-seeded once in.

However, I have a hard time paying attention because in general I find him to be overly verbose, so I could be completely wrong.

by Dennis :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 12:43am

Yes, you are completely wrong. To quote: "Use divisions and conferences to organize schedules and rivalries. When the postseason arrives, seed the teams 1-12 in order of finish, regardless of conferences."

He is clearly stating that the teams with the top 12 records should be in the playoffs.

by robbie (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 5:25am

Not sure he is that clear. (Often.) I think this sentence on its own can be read as seed simply according to result, but reading the whole thing it looks to me like he is saying choose teams like NFL does now, and then re-seed those.

Incidentally, how outraged are people really - really - by having a ropey team in the play-offs? It's a bit silly, but there's so much luck in such a short season anyway, and injustice (one injury; three inches in three games; whatever) that it seems like one of the things that give the NFL its spice.

It's not like, but it's a bit like, when the entire golf commentariat gets its knickers in a twist about a tournament being ruined by being too difficult (Carnoustie in Scotland in driving wind with abominable rough), but every time they tried to find an outraged fan, the outraged fan was loving it. No one wants everything to arbitrary, but that's not the case. The best teams usually win, but sometimes they have to face an underdog which suddenly has a chance to get to the dance. The Rams/Seahawks might get blown out, but we all know they might not.

by Agamemnon :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 10:11pm

"With Indianapolis needing a win to keep alive its playoff hopes, the Colts..." is probably better said "With the outcome of the game having no effect on Indianapolis' playoff hopes, the Colts..."

by graywh :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 11:36pm

Beating Oakland meant the Colts continued to control their own destiny. If they'd lost, they would need to beat Tennessee and for Houston to beat Jacksonville to make the playoffs.

by Agamemnon :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 8:44am

Not true. Had the Colts lost to Oakland, they would need to beat Tennessee in order to win the conference based on division record, if Jacksonville should win. As it stands now, the Colts need to beat Tennessee in order to win the conference outright. If they should lose and Jacksonville win, they would lose the conference based in division record.

So it's the same thing regardless of the Jacksonville result last weekend.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:58am

I think I agree with your basic premise (your use of conference and division confuse the heck out of me in that first paragraph) but your last sentence seems wrong to me.

Let me try to simplify:

  • Going into last weekend, the Colts needed to win at Oakland if Jacksonville won the early game
  • Once Jacksonville lost, the only advantage to winning was in keeping open a shot at the #3 seed
  • This weekend, the Colts need a win or a tie to claim the division
  • Alternatively, if Jacksonville loses again, the Colts win the division
by are-tee :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 11:25pm

"Mike Westhoff called the worst-designed fake punt in football history...Nobody was fooled... The pass fell incomplete.."

You can argue with the decision to run a fake at that point in the game, but the pass only "fell incomplete" because Smith dropped it, past the first down marker. The design was actually pretty good.

And does anyone have any doubt that if Smith held on and the Jets happened to win the game, Easterbrook would talk about "Fortune going to the bold", citing that as a "sweet play of the week"?

by Dennis :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 12:45am

Of course he would. My favorite TMQ-ism is when he talks about a team going for it on fourth down and failing, but it motivated them to go on to win the game. Then he neglects to mention the other teams that went for it on fourth down and still lost.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 2:01am

What? No, of course not!

It's not like we have actual evidence or anything, like him critizising the Chargers for trading down from their #1 pick instead of picking Vick or Manning, repating for at least two years "If you keep trading away the #1 pick, you'll kepp having the #1 pick," only to heap praise upon praise on the Chargers for trading down from their #1 pick as the absolutely correct way of stockpiling more weapons once San Diego started winning. No sir!

Used to love the guy. Pretty sure found FO because of him. Gave up on him completely this season when I caught him just making stuff up about games I actually watched.

- Alvaro

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 2:39am

Like you, I found FO because of him and I loved his old columns with the Lord Voldermort and Skeletor references. Funny, irreverent stuff that's long-gone now that he essentially works for the league. (Or close enough, given ESPN's desire to keep the league as happy as possible.) And even putting that point aside, he's slipped badly. As you note, he now routinely misremembers (at best) or outright makes up (at worst) stuff about games to fit his arguments.

Any more most every column contains outright factual errors. This week he lists movies about Wyatt Earp and misses the one actually named "Wyatt Earp." The same film that routinely gets compared to Tombstone because they came out at the same time. NOBODY with even a passing interest in Westerns would have made that mistake and certainly any editor should have caught it. By all appearances, his stuff gets thrown together and posted without an outside eye seeing it ahead of time.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 2:02am

"This season, he leads Atlanta in interceptions and is the team's No. 2 tackler; it's rare for a cornerback to be a top tackler."

Well yes, because if they keep getting tackle oportunities that usually means they keep letting people complete passes on them, which means they don't often stay on the field.

- Alvaro

by Mikey Benny :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:59am

But he's also considered to be a good CB, meaning he isn't just letting people catch passes on him game in/game out.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 2:46am

"I noted that for the past four years, Brett Favre's final play of the season has been an interception or a sack."

Sure! Except that Favre's final play of 2008 was an illegal forward pass, not an interception (although the one before that was an interception):

(:17) (Shotgun) 4-B.Favre pass short left to 29-L.Washington to NYJ 5 for 4 yards. Lateral to 4-B.Favre to NYJ 7 for 2 yards. 4-B.Favre pass incomplete short right to 89-J.Cotchery. PENALTY on NYJ-4-B.Favre, Illegal Forward Pass, 3 yards, enforced at NYJ 7.

But again... facts... way...

- Alvaro

by Stirling Newberry (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:14am

Easterbrook knows about football? If you say so. My time reading him led to insights as to why sports writers often love bad football - it's so much easier to write pseudo-smart snarky things about teams that make big gambles and chuck the ball down the field. It is a no lose proposition: if they gamble and win, he gloats about how conservative coaches are, if the gamble and lose, then he gloats about how the team failed. His "4th and go for it" crusade was part of a conventional wisdom, that has led to dozens of horrible decisions, in part because the two halves of the logic do not fit together. The steriod era was the era of teams that were masters of third and short, who could "get one yard when they need it." However that was also not the speed era of the present, where throwing offenses of rather average calibre could pick up yards in big chunks. So Easterbrooks common refrain about how few pass plays it took to overcome a punt's yardage, missed that the more teams go for it on 4th and something, the more often they will be stopped, since this isn't a power running era.

His other one, the anti-blitz crusade, was even more foolish, as many teams that bring more guys for pressure have continued to do well. It is also important to be able to blitz, to make the offense respect the blitz, in the same way that even Manning needs to have a running game, so that people will respect it on the play action pass. One doesn't need to blitz often, to get the effect. Easterbrook never compiled good numbers on either of these obsessions, merely cherry picked anecdotes.

The pretensions nicknames gave nothing back to the game, in the sense that they were merely jejune takes on logos, rather than clever send ups of the soul, or lack their of, of various organizations. Like many bad sports writers, Easterbrook was very good at predicting last week's game. But football, more than any other American sport, has difference every week injuries, preparation, match ups make comparison of records less useful than in baseball, where teams are less prone to injury, more statistical in nature.

Football outsiders has had its ups and downs, but at bottom, the writers here know players and football plays. One Words of Muth column will do more for your football knowledge than a season of Grog Leasterbrook, who writes badly on every topic he touches. Aaron and the other regulars here know players, not merely star players, but down the depth chart. They watch every game more closely than almost any other group not employed as scouting organizations. There are certainly things to criticize about the site and its writers, and they've been mentioned. But they are writing about football, as opposed to doing a gloss on entertainment.

You need to walk the walk, but Easterbrook doesn't even talk the talk.

Anyone writing during this last decade, the golden age of the Superbowl, and in the hey day of players who have revolutionized the game in the post-steroid era, is truly privileged. People are going to ask what it was like to watch many of these players live. Sadly, there's not an ounce of the speed, vivid motion, impact, or abandon in Easterbrook's prose, nor is there any real appreciation of preparation or execution. One would think from him that the offensive coordinator just called "run, short pass, trick play, kick, bomb" from a set of flash cards.

The trolls are crass, the outsiders can be stubbornly off the mark, the guy at advanced stats often misses the strategy of football, but all three are essential reading for the real football follower, where as Easterbrook can't even be useful to people who own a bird, or forgot to do a grocery run before going to the smallest room in their house.

by ghinterm :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 9:05pm

I enjoyed this comment from TMQ:
"Michael Vick's comeback the previous week was enabled largely by too much Jersey/A blitzing."

Only hours later the Vikings seemed to blitz way more than normal - I did no charting and I did notice many fake blitzes but it sure seemed like the Vikings caught something on tape because they sure seemed to blitz a lot and got to Vick many times.

But that probably won't get mentioned in the "Stop me before I blitz again" part of his column next week. That's okay, though, because I'm sure some grocery store has spring beer out before March or some other travesty.