Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Sep 2011

MMQB: Week 1 Around the NFL

In this week's MMQB, Peter King hits the high points of Week 1, including Bill Polian's history of quarterback acquisition and Ray Rice's apology to Troy Polamalu. Caution: Rex Grossman is one of the Offensive Players of the Week.

Posted by: Tom Gower on 12 Sep 2011

61 comments, Last at 15 Sep 2011, 11:24pm by BigCheese


by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 10:28am

How is the Rex thing shocking at all? I've found his playing offensive most of his career.


by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 10:36am

Grossman looked decent at times, but he was still doing the typical things that bad quarterbacks do; refusing to just throw the ball away, and refusing to take a sack when there's no other option.

Sometimes just wrapping both arms around the ball and going down is the best option. Its certainly better than running 10 yards backwards and getting strip-sacked.

by mattymatty :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 5:00pm

In fairness that only happened like three times.

by jebmak :: Thu, 09/15/2011 - 6:47pm


by B :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 10:42am

On the high number of kickoff return TDs, remember that the first couple weeks of every season, kickoff TDs are way up, as special teams have the least practice in the offseason. That said, while the total TDs is probably lower than it was last year, I think the percentage of TDs for kicks returned is much higher. I think that part of that is selection bias as only teams who have a good return man and good special teams blocking will attempt returns, and teams that aren't good at kickoff returns will just take the touchback.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 10:56am

There have been 3 kickoff return TDs (Cobb, Ginn, Harvin) and 4 punt return TDs (Ginn, Sproles, Jones, Peterson) so far in Week 1 (14 games). Last year, there were 23 kickoff return TDs and 13 punt return TDs all season (256 games). If we keep up this pace, would have 55 kickoff return TDs and 73 punt return TDs this season, so the total number of TDs is significantly higher as well.

Of course, if returns keep up this pace, Tedd Ginn would set a new NFL scoring record, which highlights the fun that can be had with small sample sizes.

by B :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:11am

Yes, but how many were there week 1 of last year? I'm too lazy to look it up. My point is not the small sample size, but kickoff and punt returns are always high the first couple weeks.

by DavidL :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:31pm

Last year there were four return TDs in week 1, one of each kind - a pick-six and a kickoff return for TD by New England against the Bengals, a fumble return for touchdown by the Redskins against Dallas and a punt return TD by the Chiefs against San Diego.

by graywh :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:32pm

1 of each. Do you have any data to back that statement up, or is it just a feeling?

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:58pm

Last year there was 1 KO TD (Brandon Tate) and one PR TD (Dexter McCluster) in week 1

by B :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 10:44am

Polian's franchise QB acquisition: Jim Kelly, Kerry Collins, Peyton Manning.
One of these things is not like the other, one of these things is not the same ...

by Southern Philly :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:26am

Kerry Collins has had a longer career than Kelly, and like Kelly he's 0-for in the Super Bowl. Obviously he's not at the level of Kelly or Manning, but it's not like Polian's track record is Kelly, Manning and JaMarcus Russell.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:59pm

Who should he have drafted over Kerry Collins that year?

Todd Collins?
Kordell Stewart?
Stoney Case?
Eric Zeier?
Rob Johnson?

Given those choices, who should he have taken? If he were omniscient, who would he have taken?

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 2:48pm

If he were omniscient, he would have traded back to #11 to take Warren Sapp and then moved up from #36 to #27 for Brooks. Or if he was dead set on a quarterback, he'd have traded up for McNair. But yes, Collins has had a perfectly solid career for a #5 pick - it's just a pity most of that value wasn't for the team that drafted him.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 9:15am

Carolina didn't have to trade up to pick McNair. They had the #1 pick in the draft, and exchanged picks with Cincy before picking Collins. The Bengals really wanted Ki-Jana Carter, who unfortunately suffered a devastating knee injury his first game and never had the career many expected.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:45am

He was a Penn State RB. He had exactly the career everyone expected him to have.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 12:03pm

You mean like Lydell Mitchell, Curt Warner, or Larry Johnson? Despite Blair Thomas, Penn State running backs have had their share of success in the NFL.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 12:33pm

How do you remember Lydell Mitchell and forget his Penn State teammate, Franco Harris?

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 1:58pm


by Dean :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 2:46pm

Maybe he was looking on the field of play instead of looking for guys who made a career of running out of bounds?

by Marko :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 5:57pm

Zing! Don't forget Curtis Enis. Bears fans wish they could.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 11:30pm

Double zing! And as for Harris, I don't remember him running out of bounds exactly, but I remember my family griping about how he always ran out of bounds. Either way, he wound up in the HOF, so he must have done something right.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 09/14/2011 - 1:39am

RB is synonymous with HB, right? Franco Harris was a FB.

by Jerry :: Wed, 09/14/2011 - 3:18am

In fact, the league went to designating backs as "running backs" because the line between halfbacks and fullbacks became so blurred. (I think it was the very early '70s, and flankers and split ends became "wide receivers" at the same time.) In the standard pro set with two backs, teams may have had different (asymmetrical) responsibilities for the internally designated HB and FB, but it wasn't obvious from the outside. As the I-formation became more popular, the roles became easier to distinguish, and the trend brought us to the specialized fullbacks that we have today.

So to whatever extent Franco was the fullback, it was a minor distinction. I'll add that in his first couple years, he ran over a fair number of defenders. As he got older, he started avoiding some contact, although he'd still take it into the pile on third down.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 09/14/2011 - 8:08am

If you differentiate between running back and blocking back, Harris was the running back and Rocky Bleier the blocking back.

by Jerry :: Wed, 09/14/2011 - 6:43pm

Yeah, but from 1974-78, when Bleier was second on the team in carries each year, he averaged 150 carries a year to Franco's 274. (Thanks, p-f-r.) The roles were much less rigidly defined than they are now.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/15/2011 - 9:00am

Actually, I'd say that sounds like a sizeable chunk of teams right now. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if at least a third of the league had a RB with 100+ carries as the #2 RB on the team.

The difference between now and then is that both guys were on the field at the same time back then and blocked for each other when they weren't carrying the ball.

by Jerry :: Thu, 09/15/2011 - 5:57pm

You nailed the difference. Now it's HB1 and HB2 in at different times with a FB whose job is blocking; then the HB and FB would both get carries, and (as I said above) the distinction between the two positions wasn't obvious outside the playbook.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:55am

Ah, of course. Well, in that case the answer to the earlier question is probably "stand pat and take McNair".

by apk3000 :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 10:50am

Kind of interesting that Peter didn't mention this paragraph from the Washington Post Sunday about the courting of Shanahan:

"After the tail of the Redskins plane was spotted at the Denver airport, there was immediate speculation about a secret meeting between Snyder and Shanahan. The Redskins put out a story saying the plane was on loan to a private company, and that Snyder was not on it. Local media in Denver and Washington, including The Washington Post, and national media outlets bought the story — and the rumors quickly died down.

“Everybody bought it,” one of the participants said. “I still remember [Sports Illustrated’s] Peter King calling Vinny on his cellphone, telling Vinny he knows we’re in Denver. Vinny says, ‘Peter, we’re not in Denver. We’re at Redskins Park right now. Go look in the parking lot. All our cars are there.’ And I hear Peter on the other end say, ‘Oh yeah, I didn’t think you guys would be so [expletive] obvious.’ And he hung up.” "

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:11am

"But if the Colts finish 2-14 (and that has a snowball's chance in Phoenix of happening"

I don't think it will happen. I'd peg them for about 4 wins. But 2-14 really isn't completely out of the question. That offensive line is bad.

"Ben Tate, Houston, 24 carries for 116 yards. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."

Tate looks good - he has decent vision and excellent speed and power. He'll hit the hole hard and break some tackles. And he gets to run behind a very good offensive line. But he has a long way to go to be the kind of all-round player Foster is. Foster is a remarkably agile runner, able to change direction at astonishing speed for such a big man, and an exceptional receiver. Tate has none of that.

by nat :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 12:52pm

I think the Colt's OL is not as bad at pass protection as pundits would have it. Yesterday they gave up three sacks (slightly worse than average for the day) and 9 QB hits (about halfway between average and worst for the day). That's with a replacement-level QB in his first start with this team, against a defense that was average in adjusted sack rate last year.

We can expect some improvement as Collins and the line get more time in games together. The result won't be the ridiculous protection numbers this line has had in the past with Manning. But it will be better than league average, because they are in fact a decent protection unit, despite the whining from spoiled fans.

The same cannot be said about their run blocking. They were put together with one thing in mind: protect Manning. Run blocking is an afterthought. And it shows.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:09pm

I think Collins is a lot better than replacement level. Curtis Painter would be replacement level, and the Colts realized there is no way he would cut it. You really underestimate how bad QBing can get.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:31pm

In 2011 collins is replacrment level. Guy is el stinko. Painter crap too. Old crap vs young crap, Clots went with old crap. Heard collijns had 2.3 espn tot qbr. That is like worse than Brain Matuz era on the crap scale of sports sytats

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 3:04pm

Always go with old crap - it's dried out and much easier to clean off the sidewalk.

P.S. Congrats on the Denver game. Don't drink all the Sierra Nevada in one sitting, though.

by nat :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:35pm

I don't think you understand what 'replacement level' means. It's not 'what my team has as a backup'. It's 'as good as the next available starting QB'. That's either the best remaining free agent, or the best backup QB you could acquire at market value, or - if you are very lucky - your own backup QB.

Painter ain't it. Collins might be it, or he might be below replacement level. He might even be slightly above replacement level - if you believe some teams are stupidly stuck in long term contracts with very bad QBs.

Think of 'replacement level' as 'Plan B'. When Brady went down in 2008, the Patriots' Plan B was Matt Cassel. But when Manning's rehab went sour, the Colt's Plan B was 'hire a free agent'. Unless they hired badly, that's around replacement level.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:46pm

I guess since Collins was available, by definition you could say he is replacement level. However, I don't think there are many free agents as good as Collins out there. Right now there is Garrard, but after him who is left? I think Collins is way better than any non-Garrard free agent.

"Think of 'replacement level' as 'Plan B'." To me replacement level is plan C. Teams should have 2 QBs better than replacement level on their roster. The Colts didn't (I really have no idea why Painter is still on the roster). Ideally, the best 64 QBs should all have jobs as starters or 2nd string backups. Then after that is when replacement level starts. I think Collins is around the 40th-50th best QB, which makes him better than replacement level.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 2:12pm

Isn't this the sort of situation Jeff Garcia lives for? I know he's 3 years older than Collins, but if I needed a veteran qb to come in and run a complicated offense with minimal preparation and keep my team at least somewhat competitive, I think 41 year old Garcia would be my guy over 38 year old Collins.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 2:18pm

To me it says a lot bad about the Colts that the immediate reaction was to go outside the organization and look for a replacement. No knock on Collins, who knows the division and has played very well in the past, but he was retired, which says something. Even on a team with Mr. Reliable like Manning has been, I think you need a backup you'd be willing to start for at least a few games. They clearly viewed Painter as nothing more than an emergency QB who could hand off a couple times while Manning got his chin strap repaired.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 2:59pm

I think it's a bit of an unusual case: normally when a starter goes down, there isn't a street free agent as good as Collins available, and Collins was only kind of available. He wanted more money than any team could realistically pay a back-up, was quite happy to stay retired if no-one would pay it, and may only have come out of retirement because he misjudged both the severity of Manning's injury and the Colts' overall talent level and thought he might be getting a last chance at a Superbowl ring. By FO's numbers, he was worth about 30 yards a game more than a replacement level quarterback (as they define it) in 2010, and I don't see anything special about the Titans offensive supporting cast that would lead me to dramatically adjust that. Yes, threat of Chris Johnson, but on the other hand questionable receiving group.

To me, replacement level is embodied by Josh McCown. I think Collins is better than that.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:18pm

3 sacks in 34 dropbacks is a raw sack rate of 8.8%. I don't know whether the adjustments in ASR will move that up or down, but an ASR of 8.8% would have been 29th in the league last year. It's also worth noting that the Texans were playing a very soft zone for much of the game due to their massive lead - I'm not sure how representative you can take performance in a blowout situation as being.

And I really think Collins is still quite a bit better than replacement level. Not actually good, but he's a legitimate NFL starter. 20th-25th best quarterback in the league, something like that.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 4:55pm

agreed. He looks like an older QB adjusting to a new offense, which is exactly what he is. There were other QBs in the league who had worse debuts than he did: granted, these were situations where we could probably have guessed they'd not start well (Jackson, McNabb), but then that's the case with Collins as well.

I'm just not sure that the rest of the team can help him enough. I'd trust Collins to run the offense when the defense and special teams are doing their share of the work, but that's about all he's going to do.

by Ranccor (not verified) :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 5:11pm

I can't remember the 3rd sack, but I clearly remember two of the sacks where DIRECTLY related to having Dallas Clark blocking Mario Williams 1-on-1 and getting embarrassed. That adjusted sack rate will look horrible all year if the they continue to employ a strategy of having one of the best best pass-catching TE in the game used as a 1-on-1 blocker against opponents best pass rushers. Simply astounding. That is a match-up the Colts are going to lose every time.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 6:21pm

I can't say I think it's a great plan either, but I wonder to what extent it was deliberate play design and to what extent it was inexperienced tackles missing assignments because they were shaken by the constant problems Watt and Smith were causing them.

by bubqr :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:18am

Maybe it's because english is not my first language but:
"The under-the-radar, terminally underappreciated Grossman -- rightfully so "

How can you be rightfully underappreciated ?

by bubqr :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:29am

"Williams was in the backfield as much as the Texans hoped he'd be when they moved him to linebacker. " It's been 2/3 times today I've seen someone praising Mario's move to LB by talking about his 2 sacks/FF - From what I remember of the highlights, those 2 sacks came on him rushing the passer on a 3 points stance, how is that proving that the move to LB was a good one ? If you tell me he's been moving well space, looking good dropping back I might have at least understood the point (but argued it might even look better rushing the passer), but now this is a bit ridiculous.

Edit: My bad, later on King is saying the first sack was from a standup LB position. Doesn't entirely justify it though(against Dallas Clark he would probably have had a sack even from a 3 point stance).

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:05pm

A more tenable argument: as a 3-4 OLB, it's easier to move him around and create mismatches, which is why he was twice being blocked one-on-one by Dallas Clark. Your average 3-4 OLB does not have that kind of size advantage against a TE.

by Anymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 5:52am

hah, if you want to improve your english, don't read Peter King.

by sam :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 7:13am

I can only assume he meant terminally-unappreciated. Which could have been "rightful."

But under-appreciated, to my mind, literally means "not as appreciated as he rightfully deserves" so... I don't know what to tell you except PK is a lot more about quantity of writing, and quality of league "connections", than he is about quality of writing.

sam! or the original sam from the old FO

by CoachDave :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:45am

Colts = 4 wins...and that's assuming Manning comes back with 5 games to go.

That defense is attrocious and as Mr. Shush said...their offensive line is sieve-like.

If anyone thought Manning was overrated before...dear God...that team without him is a bottom-five NFL for sure.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 4:08pm

It's the post-Steve Young 'Niners all over again.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 5:31pm

Curtis Painter is Jeff Garcia and Pierre Garcon Terrell Owens?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 6:33pm

More post. Like now-ish.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 12:23pm

All I know is that I, for one, am glad that PK explained how and why he changed planes in Chicago to take a puddle-jumper to Milwaukee.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 12:27pm

"but the thing I like about the Sanchize (26 of 44, 335 yards) is he doesn't let four or five bad series carry over to late in the game"

four or five bad series? Talk about damning with faint praise!

by BigCheese :: Thu, 09/15/2011 - 11:24pm

Also, let's look at Sanchez's stats "late in the game." Let's say... after the Romo fumble (8:59 in the 4th):

4 of 10 for 54 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 1 FL and 2 Sacks.

So, 40% completion with a turnover, and not being able to advance one single yard to help your kicker attempt the winning Field Goal WHILE FACING A TEAM WITHOUT IT'S THREE TOP CBs (!!!) is considered "[being good] when he knows he has to be good" now?????

I knew that people would somehow translate that HORRIBLE Sanchez game against underwhelming competition into a "he just wins argument" but I never dreamed that even Peter King could describe the above stat line as "being good when he needs to be!"

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:27pm

Best game of eeekend ciwnoys vs Jets. Best game for Raiders- bills stampede Chiesf . Raiders goumg to show Chiefs how to play toniht. So watch eson tinite, Cjiefs. Raiders 30, btoncos 13. McFadden 113 rush yarda, Bush 75

by GlennW :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 3:39pm

Tony Dungy pays tribute to Lee Roy Selmon and PK wants credit for the quote? Seriously? (Journalistically speaking, is that even standard and proper for such an innocuous quote? We're not talking Deep Throat here-- and I notice that PK later quotes Sidney Crosby without attribution, for example.) Every once in a while the ego creeps through...

by mathesond :: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 4:18pm

My impression was that King wanted the quote to be attributed to Dungy. I make it a point to skip all pre-game shows, so not sure if that's how it went down

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 5:06pm

"Moon lit sky, free I lay. These words kiss thoughts and walk miles for you. We own the night."

RB haiku?

Tweet my MRI/
Anti Awesome white stuff shows/
Please don't hit my leg/

by nat :: Tue, 09/13/2011 - 6:59pm

Belichick's my coach.
If you tweet your MRI,
I'll tweak your hamstring.