Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Nov 2010

TMQ: Hard Work Makes Great Receivers, Not Hype

Gregg Easterbrook looks at how guys like Wes Welker, Pierre Garcon, and Miles Austin have found success.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 23 Nov 2010

127 comments, Last at 29 Nov 2010, 6:07pm by AudacityOfHoops


by Boots Day (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:19pm

And here all this time I thought it was hype that made great receivers. Thanks, TMQ!

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:32pm

These days, it's probably Twitter.

by fek9wnr (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:26pm

TMQ reminds me of cable news. Factual, interesting stories that might tell us something about the game are shunted aside in favor of vapid populism (don't you hate millionaires who have everything handed to them?) and gotcha-sensationalism.

I understand the FO-TMQ connection, but really, is there a point after which FO has paid TMQ back and we can stop linking to this dreck?

by Not Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:43pm

Actually, Mr E makes a good point about Cher grinding ever onward. So for that, it was a good read.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:45pm

No. TMQ is exactly like his day job, the New Republic.

Facile platitudes in intelligent packaging. Both appear incredibly smart and refreshing if you are new to politics or football. Your impression will probably stay the same once the college freshmen who "discovered" TMQ and TNR graduate to yuppie jobs in boboland without any further intellectual growth.

Ten years later, they are still writing the same shit without so much as changing the vocabulary.

by piratefreedom (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:05pm

There is more insight in your post than anything written by Easterbrook in the last decade.

It embarrasses me admit that I was taken in many years ago when I first exposed to his autotext schtick.

(He did lead me to Football Outsiders so it wasn't all useless.)

by Pied :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 2:08am

That is exactly how I feel.
Gregg(gggggg added for taste) was one of the first I ever noticed who said much other than which teams had more 'moxie', 'swagger', and who 'wanted it more', so I thought he was great. Then next week's column was the same. And the next...
BUT, he led me to FO, back when the O was still entirely appropriate, and I led all my friends here in turn.

The foosball intarwebs are better these days.

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 2:02pm

I can't say I agree entirely, but if we aren't exactly in the same boat, at least our boats are adjacent.

Now... does anybody else read the header to say that "hard work makes great reacivers, but hard work does not make hype."??? Along the lines of "Brady makes $12M, not $10M." To put it in a more ambiguous context, how about "Brady does charity, not his wife." Does it mean Brady and NOT his wife is active in chraitable causes? Or does it mean he does charity instead of (fill in the verb here) his wife.

Wouldn't "hard work, not hype, makes great receivers" have been better?

by a reader (not verified) :: Fri, 11/26/2010 - 11:52pm

I read it the same way. You're right that the headline should read: "Hard work, not hype, makes great receivers."

by jebmak :: Sat, 11/27/2010 - 1:25am

"yuppie jobs in boboland"

Anyone else read that as boobland?

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:34pm

Thank you for showing me the light, Mr. Easterbrook. I can now discard my outmoded theory that rubbing unicorn poop on their heads was the secret of all great receivers. I can probably toss "ridiculous genetics", too -- right?

by Temo :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:10pm

If unicorn poop is the crucial ingredient in the Cream, then maybe it's not so outlandish.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 7:50pm

Unicorn pooop cosnidered aphordisiac in Belgium

by Ewout (not verified) :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 7:48am

not on the head though. Or actually...
no. let's not go there...

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 2:03pm

Explains Belgium's population implosion.

by B :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:46pm

A quick summary of Pierre Garcon's secrets to success: Step 1: Have Peyton Manning be your quarterback. Step 2: Voodoo curse to injure the other, more talented receivers on your team.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:56pm

Also: Garcon sucks. That's a nice little wrinkle in the theory: what makes great receivers great? If they are, in fact, not any good at all.

by Pied :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 2:16am

I really like him though?

He's a hardworking feisty underdog who's easy to root for. Maybe he'll earn it someday?

Did the earthquake kill all the unicorns in Haiti?

by jbrown (not verified) :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 11:40am

too soon?

I mean, everyone knows unicorns have been extinct for at least 30 years

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 2:04pm

Well, B, I don;t see how that contradicts Easterbrook. You think voodoo curses are easy? That's hard work, man.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:48pm

It gets to a point where you begin to suspect that Easterbrook is engaging in a sort of Joaquin Phoenix-style performance art piece. I expect any day now for NFL Films to announce that they are releasing a mocumentary about a NFL pundit who mumbles insipid truisms (Peter King will have a cameo performance) while a media conglomerate thinks it is all on the up and up.

by K (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:57pm

"Up and up" is relative. Pretty sure "page hits" is the only metric ESPN cares about for its Page 2 content. Are you not entertained?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:38pm

Mostly annoyed, to the point that I read his column about 20% as often I used to.

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 11/25/2010 - 6:54pm

These days I wonder if it's more like River Phoenix.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:52pm

I don't understand the flak that TMQ is receiving for highlighting the failure rate of high draft pick receivers and the number of successful lower drafted or undrafted receivers. I thought his point about college route trees was actually pretty good.

And lets not pretend as if people don't by into the draft day hype of college receivers. They most certainly do.

I don't agree with most of what Easterbrook writes, but he does tend to think out side the box more then most mainstream NFL analysts. I hate it when some posters on this site become all elitist and think that nobody from the mainstream has anything interesting to say.

by K (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:01pm

The issue people have is that higher round picks have a greater success rate than lower round picks, notwithstanding several counterexamples. Basing his thesis on exceptional cases is the hallmark of the sort of intellectual dishonesty that TMQ is regularly killed for in these comment threads.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:11pm

The article wasn't trying to make a statistical correlation. It was trying to give an explanation why one player with high expectations might fail while another with low expectations may succeed. I'm wondering if most commenting actually read the piece.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:15pm

Yes, and the explanation is as sophisticated as saying that past performance in college is at best a somewhat mediocre predictor of what will happen in the NFL, because what is required in the NFL is rather different.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:20pm

Does it need to be complex?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:26pm

Yes, I'd say a columnist who writes a NFL column for the largest sports media outlet in the United States, when the NFL is by far the most popular spectator sport in the United States, has a professional responsibility to do more than simply tell us that drafting NFL talent is hard.

by Lyford (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:44pm

I'd say a columnist who writes a NFL column for the largest sports media outlet in the United States, when the NFL is by far the most popular spectator sport in the United States, has a professional responsibility to do more than simply tell us that drafting NFL talent is hard.

Why? Where would that responsibility come from? Is his employer paying him to educate statistically sophisticated football fans by pushing the analysis envelope, or to produce a weekly column that draws a weekly readership, with associated page views?

There isn't a columnist anywhere, covering anything, that's going to present you with 100% previously unknown material in any column. It just doesn't work that way. And he cannot assume that every potential reader knows as much about football as you do, because obviously, that would cut down his potential readership significantly. He's just a guy writing about football, and getting paid for it, because someone thinks that he's worth what he's getting paid for the traffic he's driving. He's got no responsibility beyond churning that column out every week. And if he repeats himself, well, every week there's going to be someone who hasn't read it before...

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:01pm

Perhaps you are correct that Easterbrook is maximizing the potential of his platform. My inclination is to think otherwise, because he hasn't written anything new in an extremely long time, and I think it unlikely that such predictability retains or attracts readers as well as actually producing something good. GM stayed number one for decades despite producing crap. That doesn't mean the Chevy Chevette was the byproduct of responsible management. Path dependence can hide poor performance for a very long time.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:45pm

Nonsense. Right now there seems to be a bunch of retreads and low picks that are being thrust into the spotlight in New England, Indianapolis, San Diego and Denver and are performing well. TMQ's observation is in response to the focus on these often overlooked players and why they are succeeding. The fact that the answer isn't complex enough for you doesn't make it incorrect. As you point out, he is writing for the larges sports media outlet in the US to a wide national audience. He isn't going to write a technical thesis. Just look at the articles that FO writes for ESPN and tell me they are just as technical and in depth as the articles here.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:15pm

What is extremely nonsensical is to employ the term "bunch", as if it is meaningful, when discussing a very small number of players, for a very small number of teams, in a sport in which there is more interdependence, among a larger number of teammates, than any other sport. Being ridiculously simplistic may not be "incorrect", but that doesn't make it good. It would not be "incorrect" to say that it was cold in San Diego a "bunch" of times last summer. I wouldn't pay anybody to tell me that, however.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:54pm

No, you wouldn't pay anyone to tell you that. But ESPN might pay someone to write that in an article if it created traffic to the site and fans of the site.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:50pm

See my comment on path dependence. ESPN deciding give Easterbrook a job does not constitute evidence that Easterbrook achieves even a mediocre performance, any more than the fact that GM, when they were the market leader, decided to produce the Chevette (or many other models) provided evidence that those were good cars.

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 10:53am

And thats where you're wrong Will.

GM Produces a product that can be measured. Easterbrook produces hits for advertisers. Nothing more. As long as those hit numbers are good, so is Easterbrook's performance.

There's no second level here.

by dryheat :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 12:34pm

I don't know...Easterbrook could hand in a column of the top 25 women he'd like to see naked, with pictures, and it would generate plenty of hits for advertisers. Would we, the consumers, consider that a worthwhile football column?

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 12:36pm

The point: advertisers do not give a shit. The proof: Easterbrook's column. I think we can safely say "case closed."

by dryheat :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 1:07pm

And my point is that there are other ways to measure whether a football column is worthwhile or not than if it generates page views. Bill Simmons' columns are every bit as shitty and every bit as repetitive column after column, year after year, that Easterbrooks, and he's probably the most-read writer on ESPN.com. I know the advertisers will be happy if Easterbrook delivers page views regardless of content. I'm sure the companies that buy ad spots on the Real Housewives garbage are happy too. It doesn't mean that they should embed clips of last night's show at football outsiders.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 1:44pm

I was just joking. This column is crap and I literally cannot believe there is anyone defending it.

by Paul R :: Fri, 11/26/2010 - 6:50pm

If there are about fifteen more replies, this post could get interesting.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:56pm

Something does not need to be statistically relevant in order to garner media attention. It doesn't matter if its a "bunch" or just one. If its high profile enough it will draw public attention. That is the case here.

by Pied :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 2:25am

ESPN may or may not be justified in running his column. A perhaps more apropos question is whether FO is justified in linking it.

This gets to why people complain about the column here, in the comments of a link on FO.

by Boots Day (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:07pm

Is there any evidence that high-drafted receivers wash out at a higher rate than high draft picks at other positions, or that undrafted receivers do better than undrafted players at other positions? If there is, Easterbrook doesn't bother to present it.

All he does is throw out a few cherry-picked examples. Well, I can do that, too. Here are some of the best receivers currently playing the NFL:

Roddy White: 1st round draft pick, 2005
Andre Johnson: 1st round, 2003
Larry Fitzgerald: 1st round, 2004
Reggie Wayne: 1st round, 2001
Calvin Johnson: 1st round, 2007
Percy Harvin: 1st round, 2009

Clearly, the best way to get a top-quality wide receiver is to draft him in the first round!

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:12pm

Maybe he doesn't give any evidence because that wasn't the point he was trying to make.

by Boots Day (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:21pm

Well, I did read the article, and the points he's trying to make, near as I can tell, are that

(a) Players who work hard in the pros tend to do better than players who don't, because

(b) The pro game is played at a much higher level than the college game.

To call these observations banal is to give them more credence than they deserve.

So great, Easterbrook finds a specific reason why receivers need to work harder in the pros: their passing trees are more complicated. This is sort of a Mad Libs approach to analysis, as you could plug in any position and any scheme and get a similar truism. Offensive linemen need to work harder in the pros because blitzing schemes are more complicated. Linebackers need to work harder in the pros because blocking assignments are more complicated. And so on.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:38pm

Is that true? I mean I'm sure its true to a certain degree. But it seems to me that rookie WR often take the longest to pick up a system. I mean sure he could have gone into more in depth analysis but I think he was just working off the quotes by Branch and Brady in the video. I guess they were just being banal in their assessments as well.

by Boots Day (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:06pm

Maybe WRs do take longer to pick up a system; it would be interesting to see some analysis of that. I kept hoping, hoping for TMQ to put any fact at all in service of that opinion. It doesn't have to be sophisticated: Maybe X percent of first-round WRs wash out of the league within five years. Maybe there are Y undrafted WRs among the Top 20 leading receivers this year, but only Z first-rounders.

That might tell me something about the draft position of successful wide receivers. Saying "Danny Amendola is a good NFL player but Charles Rogers isn't" tells me absolutely nothing.

by Easterbook confuses me (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:16pm

Easterbrook's theory is a little screwey.

Is it that works harder than big school high draft picks? Small school
guys, late draft picks, undrafted guys? It's a moving target.

If his theory is "small school guys work harder than big school guys" he's lacking evidence and I think he may be just plain wrong and is simply imposing his quaint leave it to beaver morality on the facts. Who actually works harder at football, the Bowdoin left tackle who's a good student and active in community service or the stereotypical BCS player who doesn't take real classes, plays Madden and parties when he's not playing football, but who also who plays football year round in high school at an ultracompetitive high school, went to intense program like Miami with year round workouts and training table meals and modern facilities, has been watching film since high school, has a huge cadre of assistant coaches training him, plays a 12-14 game schedule, etc.?

If his theory is that late round picks and undrafted guys work harder than early picks, again, he has no evidence other than his say so.

There are obviously gifted knuckleheads who end up busting out of the NFL but I'm sure there are tons of lazy street free agents and late round draft picks, we just don't hear about them.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:57pm

Its not a theory. You are thinking about it too hard.

by Easterbook confuses me (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:27pm

So what's your point? We should stop trying to analyze what GE says about football?

by dryheat :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 5:22pm

Yes. A thousand times yes.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 5:34pm

I guess I would suggest not analysing a point that he wasn't trying to make. The point of the article wasn't that lower picks are better to draft as you suggest.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 5:43pm

And you're suggesting the article has a point?

by Easterbook confuses me (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 7:20pm

What do you think his point is? I think it's that a high percentage of high wideout picks bust and a high percentage of wideouts who get drafted late or don't get drafted succeed because the high draft picks are spoiled, entitled athletes who don't work because they feel they can coast on their ability while the unknowns work harder to hone their craft and learn the playbook-and that kind of work is particularly important in the pros.

And I'm saying his point is bullshit. There have been 93 wideouts drafted since 2000 in rounds one and two (65 have 1000 yards plus and 34 have 3000 plus yards). Most do a little bit and at least a third have a reasonably productive career-300 yards means you were at least pretty good for four plus years. There have been 174 wideouts drafted in the past ten years in rounds five-seven (18 have 1000 yards, nly four have 3000 yards, and almost half, 84, have yet to make a catch). There have probably been hundreds of undrafted wideouts who got training camp invites as well-two or three per team per year--and only a handful of whom have excelled. Highly drafted wideouts do pretty well so we really notice the flameouts like Charles Rogers; low picks and undrafted free agents ususally do nothing and we only notice the rare guys who excel, while ignoring the Onomo Ojo's of the world.

[There are other problems; he doesn't have an objective standard of what is a good or a bad receiver. Koren Robinson had more than 4000 career receiving yards and GE calls him a bust but he has more yards than all but 2 WRs (T.J. House and Colston) drafted in rounds 5-7 from 2000-2010.]

So I got his point and his point f'ing sucks.

by BSR :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 5:05pm

He didn't say there is a "high percentage of wideouts who get drafted late or don't get drafted succeed..." The article isn't about success rate. Its about why some low picks succeed while some high fail. There are plenty of reasons why NFL players succeed/fail, he is simply saying that often times the turning point for WRs is their ability to read defenses and know the playbook which requires more work then they are typically used to in college. You think that point sucks?

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 9:20pm

The point sucks because he's contrasting high round picks with low round picks AS THOUGH THAT MATTERS. The fact is that many high round picks suceed despite poor work ethic and many low round picks fail because they don't put in the work to pick up the pro game. That draft is full of guys whose draft stock drops because they are perceived as being lazy... and then they are lazy and wash out. That's what makes the point stupid: the comparison between the 2 implies a relationship. It's not even a vague implication.

Take the Eagles for instance, the have 2 highly touted first day picks as their strating WR's. Jackson is somewhat notorious for his lax work habits and imprecise route-running/attention to schematic detail. Jeremy Maclin is the definitive "first into the facility, last to leave" guy who works very hard to get the exact details of his routes, etc. correct. They have both been very successful at the NFL level. Both players went to reasonably large football factory-ish schools (Cal and Missouri, respectively.) Jackson has succeeded almost exclusively because of outlandish natural talent and has rode plenty of hype. Maclin is somewhat less heralded, but still very successful. In light of this info, what can you say to Easterbrook's very mild point? Nothing. That's what makes it such a stupid waste of time. Its details are so vague and there are so many counter-examples that making such observations is all but pointless.

And the idea that he isn't making a loaded statement is ludicrous: he's pretty clearly selling good ol' fashioned protestant work ethic and coming down on lazy me-first types who belong to an aristocracy of athleticism. But he's wrong: plenty of guys fail in the NFL at WR in spite of hard work and plenty of folks succeed at WR despite total laziness. What's the point?

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 2:10pm

Exactly! I once knew of a kid, let's call him Randy X. Damn, was he talented, but a bit unruly and a headcase. So when we graduated HS and he went off to a big school to play football, I figured he was toast because all he'd do is coast on his talent and not work hard. We all know guys like this. Never live up to their potential.

Then he bounced around a bit between schools and ended up at Marshall, where he learned to work hard and was eventually known as probably the hardest working WR in the NFL. Because it was the small school chip on his shoulder, and the fact that he dropped all the way to 21st in the draft, that drove him to diligently, obsessively work hard.

by Temo :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:22pm

Some other receivers that are currently high in DVOA/DYAR:

Hakeem Nicks: 1st Round, 2009
Kenny Britt: 1st Round, 2009
Michael Crabtree: 1st Round, 2009
Jeremy Maclin: 1st Round, 2009

Yes, the 2009 WR class is doing very well... all of the above are top 15 in DYAR.

Also... didn't we realize recently that Pierre Garcon sucks?

by RickD :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 6:22pm

"Also... didn't we realize recently that Pierre Garcon sucks?"

Only if 2009 counts as "recently". It was clear by the end of last season that Collie was the much better rookie WR on the Colts.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:11pm

And the high failure rate (if it is even sensible to speak of "failure rate involving small sample sizes; keep in mind that there has been all of 200 top 10 picks since 1990) of high draft pick offensive linemen, defensive linemen, running backs, linebackers, defensive backs, and, of course, quarterbacks. In other words, projecting college performance to the NFL is really hard. Truly, The Greggster is a sage.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:14pm

Again, not his point.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:22pm

The why did you write....

"I don't understand the flak that TMQ is receiving for highlighting the failure rate of high draft pick receivers and the number of successful lower drafted or undrafted receivers'"

....if, in fact, his point was not to highlight the meaningless "failure rate" of high draft pick receivers? Do you think pundits should not receive flak for highlighting meaningless failure rates for one position, that are no different than any other position? Should we all wait breathlessly for The Greggster to tell us next week that "Linebackers are muscular."?

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:27pm

Because I was expecting people to actually read the article and understand that his argument wasn't that high draft pick receivers have a high failure rate. His point was to highlight reasons behind some of those failures as well as some of the lower draft success.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:36pm

So you are now saying that a guy in Easterbrook's position should not be asked to offer anything other than to inform us that work habits and route running mean a lot to NFL receivers?

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:55pm

I'm pretty sure that won't be the last thing he ever writes so I guess he will offer more, but I think the object of that particular portion of his article was to highlight just that. I'm sorry that he didn't give you enlightening information but that doesn't make it wrong and it was possibly still interesting to many. I know I didn't know anything about the lack of complexity of college football route trees.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:20pm

"Not wrong" is an extremely low bar to set, and even then The Greggster very often fails to clear it.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:02pm

I will agree with you there. As a pats fan I hate the guy and some of his writing during the whole spy-gate fiasco was so blatantly unprofessional that the Ombudsman piped in more than once. However, if you want to bash the guy, I really don't see how this piece is the one to bash him on.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:44pm

Oh, it's not his worst piece. I just don't think telling the readership that work habits and route running has a lot to do with a receiver's success in the NFL, regardless of draft position, constitutes a professional effort.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 5:37pm

I respectfully disagree. I didn't think it was a great revelation by any means but I thought it an interesting point. I think overall people are being hard on the point out of spite rather than because there is something actually wrong with what he wrote.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 5:56pm

I'm really surprised. You really think it worth mention that a wide receiver needs to work hard, and run good routes, regardless of draft position, to be successful in the NFL? Frankly, this strikes me as worthy of mention as noting that a NFL quarterback needs to study film.

by BSR :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 5:21pm

How many times are the same facts about Manning regurgatated? Works hard, studies film for hours, great mechanics, accurate, blah, blah, blah. Same thing, every single broadcast. Its unessesary information to probably 80% of the viewing public, but if you are in the 20% its interesting.

Further, we often don't hear why a player may or may not succeed in the NFL. Was it size, speed, work ethic, intelligence? These aren't really broadcast facts although sometimes we can gleam it from what we see. I'm sure its different factors for different posistions. I'll bet Dlinemen is less about work ethic and knowledge of the playbook and more about basic size and speed. I'm sure there are many that think WR was maybe the samething which is why you had many clamoring for Dez Bryant despite the questions regarding his work ethic and intelligence.

What I really don't understand is all the angst. I don't go to read TMQ for insightful indepth analysis. I come here for that. I go to TMQ mostly becuase of the Sweet and Sour plays of the week and maybe some of the stat references to see if there is anything interesting. Check out the Cheer Babe. That's about it. Its about standard fair for an ESPN article. What did you go there expecting to read?

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 11:11am

Will, I don't think you have any idea what the average NFL fan is.

Yes, you and I know these things. There are plenty of fans out there who are pretty much only looking at 40 times.

by K (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:23pm

Is this his point?

"Receivers who were unknowns early in their NFL careers often outperform megabucks glory-boy high-drafted types."

Because in that case, pretty much all of the objections in this thread are germane. Yes, when you qualify your statement with weasel words like "often", your thesis is technically a true statement, but one devoid of actual meaning, and one at odds with a comprehensive view of the talent distribution among NFL wide receivers relative to draft position.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:30pm

Or maybe he just meant "often" and not most. The rest of his article would seem to substantiate that.

by ammek :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:26pm

He also changes his criteria as he goes. At the start, it's undrafted or low-round receivers. Then, to make room for Jerry Rice, it's undrafted, low-round or small-school receivers. Make up your mind, Gregg!

It may be elitist of me, but I can't find anything in TMQ's opening section that's both interesting and based on an argument that holds water. Thinking outside the box is easy when you don't hold yourself to a standard of intellectual honesty. That accounts for about 99% of opinion writing on the internet. Easterbrook could and should be better than that.

I used to read TMQ for the gags and his fogeyish take on the absurdity of modern life. After a while, I found myself skimming the sections about football — a bad sign for a football column. Surely after a decade of 'pointless punts' he can find a new donkey to beat.

by Easterbook confuses me (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:47pm

Another problem. At least three of his 14 great receivers supposedly from humble origins (Lloyd, Floyd and Colston) were great physical talents who got drafted as late as they did because they were perceived as lazy or assholes. Maybe getting drafted late was a wake up call for them, but they certainly don't fit the late drafted gritty player model.

by B :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:57pm

"3 of the top 8 receivers were small college players" So ... 5 of the 8 were large college receivers, then.

by Mort (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:57pm

I would rather read Peter King than TMQ.

There. I said it.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:00pm

Speaking of mainstream football writers, I really miss Dr. Z.

Haven't clicked on si.com once since his stroke.

by billsfan :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:03pm

His stroke was two swimsuit issues ago.

(I also like the Eagles)

by TreeRol (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:12pm

I want to make a joke using the words "stroke" and "swimsuit issue," but feel it would be in poor taste since we're talking about Dr. Z. You'll just have to imagine it.

by Temo :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:20pm

Nice try, but you were too lazy to think of one.

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:28pm

Don't let taste stop you.

circa 1982 joke

"What did Grace Kelly have that Natalie Wood could have used?"
"A good stroke."

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 11/25/2010 - 6:58pm

That's not going to float around here.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:07pm

Yeah, that joke was dead in the water.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:13pm

Don't worry, I blame Brooklyn Decker too.

by JoeHova :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:19pm

I really miss Dr. Z.

Me too. I wish they would hire someone new who puts that level of effort into his articles. I didn't always agree with Z but at least he did his best to gather information and have an informed opinion about things. Most sportswriters don't bother. The only current sportswriter who brings a similar perspective is Charley Rosen, but the downside is he, unlike Dr. Z, appears to be totally off his nut.

by Dean :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:21pm

Allow me to join the chorus. I suspect The Good Doctor will not write again, at least not full time, but I would love to be proven wrong some day.

The sad thing is, Z got routinely criticized around here (but certainly not anywhere near to the extent that King and TMQ get buried).

I might have to go to sivault and just read some of his archival stuff for a while.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:31pm

It pains me to be reminded of Paul Zimmerman in a thread where Easterbrook is the major subject. This is not a criticism of your post, but merely a commentary on the incongruity.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 6:25pm

I miss Dr. Z. horribly. Not only was he the best football writer in America, the attention he played to line play is essentially unique. Without his presence, we are subjected to uncountably many articles about Favre's grit, Moss's insanity, and Brady's hair.

by Crymeariver (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:57pm

Well, now, I like and miss Dr. Z as much as the next guy, but let's all not forget his deathless analysis of Marino on his draft day, which was, to paraphrase only slightly: Who's going to teach him how to play quarterback.

Which only goes to prove it's really not about being right or "insightful," it's about being readable and entertaining.

by Illuminatus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:35pm

My favorite part is where he compares James Hardy to Steve Johnson and then notes that Hardy went to a "football factory" (Indiana). Johnson must have learned the value of hard work while studying at the obscure, unheralded University of Kentucky.

by Boots Day (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:14pm

If Indiana is a football factory, some of the machinery must be on the fritz.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:39pm

Agreed. Apparently the factory makes edibles because the Hoosiers are getting eaten alive this season.

by NoraDaddy :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:20pm

I picture a Bugs Bunny like cartoon factory building football players with "Powerhouse" playing in the background.

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 11/25/2010 - 7:09pm

That might possibly be the least accurate thing he's ever said about college football. Indiana's had two great seasons in the history of its program, and for the most part, people in Bloomington couldn't care less. If anything, football just interferes with the start of basketball season.

I think that's just his AutoText entry that replaces "AQ school" with "football factory". He's become a caricature of himself, I think.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 1:48pm

Donald Driver is a 7th round draft pick out of Alcorn St. And nobody but Ron Wolf thought the guy would make the team much less be a quality receiver in the NFL for over a decade.

by DGL :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:06pm

OK, instead of simply bashing GE, let me ask a substantive question about something he writes:

"a player wearing 70, Penn's number, cannot line up in an end's position and then catch a pass first without reporting eligible. But it's perfectly legal for a player wearing 70 -- or any number from 50 to 79 -- to line up as an end, and then block. An offense could field an entire seven-man line consisting of players wearing numbers from 50 to 79 and they would not need to report to officials, so long as they only blocked for rushes. That Penn went to the officials to report as eligible -- something unnecessary if the play was a power rush -- should have cued San Francisco that the call was a trick play to Penn."

First, is this true? I was under the impression that, except on punts, FGs, and PATs, a player with an ineligible number had to report in order to line up in an eligible position, not just to catch a pass.

Second, even if it is true, isn't it the case that players with non-eligible numbers always report eligible if they're going into an eligible position? I noticed in Sunday's PIT/OAK game that the ref kept announcing that Barnes reported eligible, so I looked it up in the Gamebook; he reported eligible in nine plays. Three of them were runs and six were passes to players other than Barnes. Going by GE's logic, the Steelers should have been cued for a pass to Barnes on those nine plays...

(Sorry, I couldn't resist a little bit of bashing.)

by B :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:34pm

Well, they toss the flag for illegal formation before the ball is snapped, so I would say that TMQ is wrong in this case.
I don't know for sure, though, because the NFL rulebook is beyond my comprehension.

by Travis :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 4:11pm

First, is this true? I was under the impression that, except on punts, FGs, and PATs, a player with an ineligible number had to report in order to line up in an eligible position, not just to catch a pass.

You're correct, Easterbrook's wrong.

Rule 8-3-1: "An offensive player wearing the number of an ineligible pass receiver (50-79 and 90-99) is permitted to line up in the position of an eligible pass receiver (1-49 and 80-89),... , provided that he immediately reports the change in his eligibility status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team."

There is no provision for only reporting for pass plays; Easterbrook's confusing this with the ineligible receiver downfield rule.

For punts, field goals, and extra points, the same rules apply, but a list of the ineligible players who will be lined up eligible positions is usually given to the referee before the game. (As best I can tell, this doesn't appear in the rulebook. There was much discussion about it after the 2002 49ers-Giants playoff game, in which the referees failed to realize that #69 Rich Seubert was eligible on a pass out of field goal formation, and thus didn't call pass interference.)

Second, even if it is true, isn't it the case that players with non-eligible numbers always report eligible if they're going into an eligible position?

Yes, even if the otherwise-ineligible player stays on the field for multiple plays.

same rule: "[The otherwise-ineligible player] must participate in such eligible ... position as long as he is continuously in the game, but prior to each play he must again report his status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team."

by jmaron :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:37pm

His comment about Viking fans chanting fire Childress was hillarious:

Yet Childress is scapegoated while Favre floats above it all. The Metrodome crowd chanted, "FIRE CHILDRESS!" They should have chanted, "PROTECT THE FOOTBALL!"

Reminds me of Duke's Cameron's Crazies:

Perhaps the most famous example of the Crazies' creativity happened in 1984. Maryland's Herman Veal was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student, and when the Terrapins came to Cameron, he was showered with over 1000 pairs of panties, as well as a number of crude cheers and signs. This incident received national attention and caused school officials, including Coach K, to ask the Crazies to be on their best behavior for the next game. The next game on the schedule was against UNC, and the students held up signs such as "A Warm and Hearty Welcome to Dean Smith," and "Welcome Fellow Scholars." Some wore halos made out of coat hangers. Questionable calls were met with shouts of "We Beg To Differ" (instead of the normal "bullshit") and instead of harassing Carolina free-throw shooters, students merely held up a small sign reading "Please miss."

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 8:11pm

That= greta.

Also great when UW coem there when habe Detlef Schrempf and myabe some other German guy and fans hld up sign htta say 'UW basketball: as American as apple streudel"

by John (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 8:50pm

Way off-topic, but I delivered pizza to Detlef Schrempf once during his Pacers days. Ah, fleeting glory.

by Crymeariver (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:02pm

Off topic? I thought the topic was Pierre Garçon.

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 2:14pm


(make that LM gosh darn AO)

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 3:41pm

It's too bad his examples are so awful.

Pierre Garcon may actually be the worst starting wide receiver in the NFL who has had a job as a starter since the beginning of the year. Welker is obviously not the same receiver he is when the opposition isn't double covering Randy Moss, and Miles Austin isn't even the #1 target on his team (which is 3-7).

by Temo :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 4:30pm

and Miles Austin isn't even the #1 target on his team

Yes he is.

by Thok :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 6:59am

Not in the last few weeks. Dez Bryant has been targeted a lot more once Romo got injured and was replaced by Kitna.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 6:31pm

Welker's performance hasn't dropped off since Moss left, has it? Not appreciably, though there was a 3-week lull, he had big games against both the Ravens and the Steelers.

I would submit that his lower performance this season compared to last season also has been influenced by his ACL injury. Sure, it helps to be lining up opposite Moss, but Welker is still a great possession receiver.

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 11:23am

Yes, it has.

First 4 games:

6.5 receptions per game, 55 yds per game, .75 TD/g

Last 6:

5.1 receptions per game, 47 yds per game, .167 TD/g.

Prior to this year, in NE:

7.2 receptions per game, 76 yards per game, .3125 TD/g.

Right now, Welker has a -2% DVOA despite playing in what may be the best offense in the NFL.

The knee probably has a lot to do with it, but so does Moss. I'd guess that not having pre-2010 Moss has more to do with it than the knee.

by dryheat :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 12:30pm

I would put the emergence of Aaron Hernandez as the main reason...as well as Branch coming back. Right now, Brady has three similar receivers to distribute passes to, and a lot more WRs he trusts than in the recent past. The last couple of years it's been Welker, and to a lesser extent, Faulk, catching the screens and other short passes.

by BSR :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 5:27pm

And don't forget the emphasis on the running game. The offensive philosiphy in general seems to be moving away from an emphasis of a handfull of players other than QB. All of it is contributing in the decline of Welker's numbers but I think the main is still his knee.

by brooksiedj :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 4:12pm

Of the top 17 receivers in grabs this year:

1st rounders: 9 players
2nd to 3rd rounders: 3 players
4th round plus: 5 players

Majority is still first rounders. Suck it Easterbrook.

by ChicagoRaider :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 4:16pm

It seems to me that wide receiver success is much more variable than for other positions. Yes, all have undrafted players, or sixth-seventh round players who do well.

And Easterbrook is not talking about dominant players. He is talking about successful players. There are probably at least 100 wide receivers with significant playing time in the league. Talking about the top 15 does not do much to tell me about what makes the wide receivers who are not consigned to special teams. He says it is work, not where you are drafted. Are the successful 1st round picks doing it without working as hard as anyone else?

Lots of teams need a fair number of players who make serious contributions on less than a million dollars a year. That is what makes teams winning teams.

I think that in this league, apart from QB, the depth of your team is what facilitates success in a long season as much, if not more than, the excellence of 1-3 non-QB stars.

by Xian :: Sat, 11/27/2010 - 1:16pm

It seems to me that wide receiver success is much more variable than for other positions. Yes, all have undrafted players, or sixth-seventh round players who do well.

Are you sure that's not confirmation bias? Perhaps WRs are just more noticeable because they tend receive more press?

Pulling examples from the Packers' opening day (and current due to IR) starters because I'm a homer (though I'll admit that their example could be non-representative, I don't have the time for the other 31 teams right now):

Pos - Name (Round[, Team if not GB])
WR - Jennings (2), Driver (7)
LT - Clifton (2)
LG - Colledge (2)
C - Wells (7)
RG - Sitton (4)
RT - Tauscher (7) IR, Bulaga (1)
TE - Finley (3) IR, Lee (5, Dolphins)
QB - Rodgers (1)
RB - Grant (UFA, Giants) IR, Jackson (2)
FB - Hall (6)

LDT - Pickett (1, Rams)
NT - Raji (1)
RDE - Jenkins (UFA)
LOLB - Matthews (1)
LILB - Hawk (1)
RILB - Barnett (1) IR, Bishop (6)
ROLB - Poppinga (6) IR, Zombo (UFA)
LCB - Woodson (1, Raiders
RCB - Williams (UFA)
SS - Burnett (3) IR, Peprah (5, Giants)
FS - Collins (2)

Of the 22 opening day starters, 8 (Driver, Wells, Sitton, Tauscher, Hall, Jenkins, Poppinga, Williams) were drafted in rounds 4 or later or went undrafted. The Packers might seem to be a prime example for your argument, as Driver is a 7th round pick and has been very successful. The rest of the roster, however, is just as varied, with the CBs representing opposite ends of the draft spectrum, along with the OL, RBs, DL, and LBs.

by AT (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 5:14pm

So here's a theory: Wide receivers arguably need to learn and understand just as much information as QBs and OL. But as a position group wide receivers score near the bottom on the Wonderlic (about one standard deviation below QBs and OL positions):

* Offensive tackle – 26
* Center – 25
* Quarterback – 24 (Most teams want at least 21 for a quarterback.)[7]
* Guard – 23
* Tight end – 22
* Safety – 19
* Linebacker – 19
* Cornerback – 18
* Wide receiver – 17
* Fullback – 17
* Halfback – 16


With lower average intelligence plus the need to absorb as much information as the other more knowledge-intensive offensive positions, it may be that extra study and hard work are *especially* crucial to the success of NFL receivers. Perhaps a topic worth exploring further.

by jmaron :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 5:45pm

I am highly skeptical that what Wonderlic measures transfers onto the field in the form of intelligence. There is a sports intelligence that has nothing to do with Wonderlic tests.

Percy Harvin is reported to have scored 12 on the Wonderlic. But anyone watching him can see his football intelligence. Brett Favre commented last year on that very fact.

Dan Marino is reported to have scored a 15. Alex Smith scored a 40.

It means nothing.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 11:21pm

Even more evidence. According to Wikipedia (a bastion of misinformation), Ryan Fitzpatrick and Benjamin Watson both scored a 48 on the Wonderlic. Workout wonder Mike Mamula allegedly scored a 49. While all are/were OK players, I don't think any of the three will make the HoF anytime soon.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 6:34pm

GE has provided us with a column whose headline is so ludicrous as the impeach the credibility of its author. The words "Pierre Garcon" and "great receiver" should not be used together unless "not" is floating around somewhere.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 6:43pm

The most interesting thing in the column, I thought, was the discussion of how stadiums and other large builds can take themselves off the power grid by buying their own generators. If the utilities start another round of rate-rigging a la California 2001, I could see that becoming a popular trend.

by towishimp (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 7:37pm

I don't know why i read this thread every week, because I always end up writing the same thing: "Relax, he's a not a super-serious analyst like you all fancy yourselves, and if you don't like him, don't read it." Also, every article doesn't require a "methodology" section to be worthwhile.

Also, he does have some insight; I know plenty of fans to whom it would be news to learn that college and pro route trees may be very different. Just because you already knew that doesn't mean that everyone else in the world did, and that the author is wasting everyone's time by writing it. I think we've hit the definition of elitism.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 7:44pm

That still doesn't explain why lower drafted receivers would be more successful than higher drafted receivers. Plus, they're not. The route tree information might be useful, but the notion that lower drafted players out perform higher drafted ones is disingenuous.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 8:06pm

Is that the definition of elitism?

by billsfan :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 10:03pm

I only read peer-reviewed football articles.

(I also like the Eagles)

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 12:34pm

Look, I don't complain about Peter king because he actually does what you are describing. But the whole problem with Easterbrook is that he wants to present something like sophisticated analysis (or at least cultivate that air) and he stinks at it. He's terrible. Just the mildest amount of thought or research shows him to be entirely wrong. When Peter King says "I think Sanchez deserves MVP consideration" that's just a jocular, ill-informed opinion and not based on any particular analysis. It's fine, who cares. But when Easterbrook says stupid shit like "I have studied the film and teams that blitz too much are doomed!" he's saying something stupid and attempting to use facts to back it up. He's demanding that his audience take him seriously and look into the facts for themselves. And like this idiotic WR article here, he's so wildly wrong and stupid and nonsensical that you can't ignore his know-it-all, "I've got the facts, I looked at the tape!" tone.

If his point is "route trees are different in college versus the pros" then he should say that and provide some examples of highly drafted players screwing up their routes or QB communication. What he shouldn't say is "lower drafted players work harder than those spoiled high round picks and, as a result, are better at learning routes tree - which incidentally, are very different in the college and pros." The reason he shouldn't write it is that it's an idea pitched somewhere wrong and incoherent and smug.