Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

03 Sep 2012

MMQB: Wrapping Up the Preseason

This week, PK has gloom about the replacement officials, but sunshine for the paying fans who have to endure the final preseason game. He also posits that the Ravens offense may be better than their defense this year.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 03 Sep 2012

62 comments, Last at 07 Sep 2012, 4:42am by Andrew Potter


by Nathan :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 11:53am

What's with teams deluding themselves that they're going to operate strictly out of the no-huddle in the offseason? It seems every year there are 3-4 teams who claim to be switching to it and it never seems to manifest on the field.

by Briguy :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:43am

I think the obvious and over-simplified answer to this is "quarterbacks." Off the top of my head, Manning (P.) and Brady are the only QBs I've seen use it as the base offense effectively. I'm guessing Brees or Rodgers could do it, but I don't watch as much NFC as AFC, so I don't know how often they do. Other than that, I doubt there are a lot of QBs who have the pre-snap reading ability and system mastery to run the no-huddle without getting too predictable.

My guess is that what happens to teams who say they want to run no-huddle is exactly what will happen to Baltimore this year. A couple series in, they're going to look around and say "well, crap, Joe Flacco isn't Peyton Manning" and scrap it.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 1:25pm

There is another problem. In Brett Favre's 2010 season, he was way more effective running no huddle than he was when Childress was calling the plays. However, he only ran his 3-4 favorite plays, and defenses would catch on to what he was doing and then start jumping routes because they knew what was coming. This didn't happen in the first game, but over the course of a season you really expose your own tendencies if you run a lot of no huddle. So it can lead to a short term payoff, but long term can hurt the offense.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 3:04pm

No-huddle doesn't mean hurry-up, or really any system change in the nature of incoming calls and reads. It just means you don't huddle.

Manning ran the world's slowest hurry-up offense for years.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 3:46pm

NE's no-huddle is similar. Brady will often take the play clock all the down to :00. Definitely not hurrying most of the time.

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 4:27pm

Briguy didn't mention hurry-up, though. His points still seem valid - the no huddle requires a high level of football intelligence from the QB.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 9:39am

So does huddling.

Not huddling need not change the QB's reads or calls at all. The only difference is that play calls are made without the circle 10 yards behind the LOS.

by dryheat :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 12:31pm

Well, that and the defense can't effectively substitute. Brady's not trying to score quickly, he's trying to catch the defense with the wrong personnel on the field when they morph formations.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 4:27pm

Huge difference between no-huddle and the QB calling his own plays. (And Brady seldom call his own plays, btw.)

by nflenthusiast :: Thu, 09/06/2012 - 3:58pm

As a Ravens fan, perhaps I can add some insight into this. Since Flacco's rookie year, we fans have heard management say they will open up the passing game more, etc., but I cannot remember them ever running the no-huddle so much or so well in any preseason. Basically, I don't think you have to be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning to make good reads and call good audibles at the line. I think it has more to do with the team's philosophy and the offensive coordinator. They are probably only doing this now because of Jim Caldwell and the realization that their play calling was awfully predictable. I don't think it's as easy to say, "the no-huddle is superior to all other styles of offense, so any team would run it if they could, but to be able to do that they would need a really intelligent quarterback and most qbs don't meet that standard". The Ravens have also shown way different packages than their typical I-formation and ran very few plays with two backs in the preseason. They were by far the team that used the most two back formations last year, which was another part of the predictability that led to the stagnating offense. I think that they looked at Flacco as a developmental project and he surprised them by starting every game as a rookie, but they still wanted to ease him in. Also, John Harbaugh's pedigree and the Raven's MO since drafting Ray Lewis was not to have a high-flying offense. They wanted to move the ball, get field position, avoid turnovers, and let the defense/running game run the show. Maybe they read the FBO's fantastic almanac and realized they were stalled as a good team that couldn't get over the hump because of predictability and blandness in the play calling. This has a lot to do with Cameron, by the way. Brees was a very similar QB to Flacco (number wise) when Cameron was his coordinator as he came into the league. Sean Payton is the kind of coach who will take advantage of his player's ability, and now you see what Brees can do in a system that fits him. That's what I think is going on here. It's not that one system is better, but only afforded to the teams with the most intelligent/talented QBs. It's that the smart coaches play to their strengths. Not that Brady and Manning are just "better", but their coaches put them in systems that fit their strengths. I think that (1) the Ravens didn't realize how much of a strength Flacco could be in a no-huddle/multiple receiver system, and (2) Cameron is a stubborn and narcissistic guy. I think King made a good point in that you typically throw yourself more into the things you enjoy. Flacco has publicly said that he doesn't like Cameron's system for years and there always seemed to be friction, with Joe begrudgingly going through the motions of Cameron's system during games. Flacco ran the no-huddle in college, he really likes the system, so it makes sense that he tries harder, gets more pumped, has more urgency, and generally plays better when they use it. Now, this could all get poo-poo'd when the regular season starts and the coordinators get cautious, but I think they will utilize it to a great degree and they've realized that if they want to take the leap they have to think outside of the typical Ravens' style of play, and I think that Flacco will take to it very well and outperform his past seasons. Then again, I am a homer.

by David :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 11:54am

Nothin' to do with football, but the note about the five-six year old having an iPhone - a friend of mine's son is two and a half, and has an htc Desire - the phone doesn't work as a phone, but is a great all-around entertainment device

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 12:08pm

As a parent of a toddler, so is a cardboard box.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 1:21pm

Especialy with the way some people insist on getting whatever brand new phone is on the market as soon as it comes out (for reasons that pass me by entirely). If you do have spare phones why not give them to your kids to play with so you don't have to buy them gameboys, psps and the like?

by Paddy Pat :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 2:42pm

The electric magnetic field radiation coming from an iphone is bad news for a little kid. Not a lot of research on this coming out of the U.S. of A. because we repress it, but there's some good stuff coming out of Europe. It hurts the gut flora pretty badly. Adults can seemingly handle it, but for people who are not fully developed, it might well cause developmental harm. Obviously, there are no longitudinal studies done on this kind of thing...

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 3:23am

Magnets? How do they work?

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 4:29pm

It's all ball bearings these days, anyway.

by Bill Walsh's Holy Ghost (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 5:21am

Let's see some citations Pat. Otherwise peddle your peusdo-science crap elsewhere.

by akn :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 8:20pm

Unless the infant is literally swallowing the iphone, you need more than unsubstantiated assertions and allusions to vast scientific conspiracies before I believe anything is happening to his/her gut flora.

by TomKelso :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 12:54pm

Sure, the NFL owners are just going to give away income...

Despite all the complaining, there is not enough evidence that charging full price for exhibitions is causing any ill effects to their business -- so there is no reason for owners to stop doing it.

Join the real world, Peter. Businesses change their operations to increase their revenue and profit -- not decrease them.

by Nathan :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 1:08pm

I wonder if $10 a ticket would even pay for the overhead of opening, staffing, lighting and cleaning the stadium.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 3:42pm

The issue is not the profit the owners are making. The issue is that the complaint is that season ticket buyers are "forced" to pay full price for crappy pre-season games.

However, for most (all?) teams, buying a season ticket includes all regular and pre-season games, for one total price. So if you think the pre-season games aren't worth anything, you're essentially saying you're willing to pay the whole price just for the regular season games.

So in that case, if the team was previous charging $100 a game, for a total of $1000, the team could lower the preseason to $20, and raise the regular season games to $120, and the total would be the same, and the season ticket holders would pay their same $1000.

There are PR and psychology issues which would affect actually doing that for the team; But overall, pricing the pre-season lower shouldn't do a thing to make season ticket holders spend less money. It might make them happier to think they aren't having to pay for pre-season, but over time, the prices would adjust and I doubt they'd really wind up spending less.

by Marko :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 5:49pm

Completely agree with all of the above. If a team changed its pricing in the manner you suggest so that tickets to preseason games cost substantially less than tickets to regular season games, I wonder if the real effect would be on the secondary market for tickets.

by Jerry :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 1:30am

Many teams are selling single game tickets as well as season tickets, so it's not just a matter of creative accounting.

Take a look at the Browns. They're not a solid sellout, and there's a discount for season tickets. But even with that discount, it's still cheaper to just buy the eight regular season games than a season ticket. And if you don't really want to see the Bills and Chiefs, it's even cheaper.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:59am

I guess my bigger point was that I wish people would quit complaining (Peter King especially) about being "forced" to pay full price for pre-season; The presumption, I think, is that season ticket holders should be paying less overall - but that's not how it would work in practice, so why complain?

The fact that single game tickets are priced differently and available for certain teams gives those fans even more options, and less reason to gripe about pre-season prices.

by wr (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:05am

I'm glad you put 'forced' in quotes, because no one is forced to pay
for anything w.r.t. NFL season tickets. If people don't like the fact
that preseason games are part of the season ticket package (not exactly
a closely guarded state secret), then they should refuse to buy season
tickets, as that is the only way they're going to get the teams' attention.

by JonFrum :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 12:43pm

This is the point I always make. If you're buying season tickets, just consider yourself to be paying for regular season games, and getting the preseason games for free.

This is the equivalent to players complaining about not getting paid full salary for pre-season games. They're getting paid by the year, not the game. NFL players do not punch a clock - they're on salary. Just because the team doles out most of the money during the regular season, that doesn't mean they get paid by the game.

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 1:51pm

Yes, I've made this point to my father, a season ticket holder, multiple times.

Let's say season tickets cost $800. That comes out to $80 per game, including the two preseason games.

Complaints are generally along the lines of "$80 for a preseason game is ridiculous!"

But, let's say you cut that in half, and charged $40 for the preseason tickets. The season ticket plan wouldn't drop to $720 total. Rather, they $80 trimmed off the preseason tickets would get added to the regular season games, which would now cost $90 each.

So just think of it as paying $90 for each regular season game, and $40 for each preseason game. Not as bad any more, right?

by SWW #41 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 3:13am

2 things:

Have FO announced the list of articles they plan to run weekly throughout the season?

Anyone got any thpughts on the UK having no coverage of sunday NFL games planned?

How can they hope to expand to the Uk with limited TV coverage. As it stands only 1 game per week will air in the UK

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 3:34am

Anyone got any thoughts on the UK having no coverage of sunday NFL games planned?

I only found this out last week. If I'd known it at the time, I'd have cancelled my Sky Sports package in May and given this as the sole reason. I'm disgusted by it, especially when Sky in the same year agreed a deal to literally hurl billions at the most overrated sports league on the planet - and are increasing subscription prices as a result.

by Sophandros :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 8:13am

Out of curiosity, but what it the most over rated sports league on the planet, in your opinion?

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by wr (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 9:46am

Almost has to be the Premiership.

by Sophandros :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 11:44am

I assume that's what he's talking about, so I want to see his reasoning behind this.

Granted, I only get snippets of Sky Sports stuff when I'm watching the Premiership or rugby union on one of the Fox Soccer channels, so I'm not sure what they're doing.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 12:11pm

Yes, I meant the Premiership.

What reasoning are you after, Soph?

by Sophandros :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 1:11pm

Just curious about why the Premiership is over rated.

BTW, just heard from another site that Sky Sports and the NFL have reached a three year agreement, so you guys WILL have games this year!

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 1:41pm

The Premiership is constantly spoken of as the best league in the world, most exciting sports league in the world, and so on, when it certainly isn't. Spanish football's better technically, Italian football better tactically and technically. Recent results in European competition demonstrate fairly conclusively that the Spanish clubs are objectively better than the English clubs too, whether at the top (Barçelona, Real Madrid) or middle (Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid) of the table.

The only factor which makes the Premiership competitive is the Sky Sports money, and even that is a debt-serviced bubble waiting to burst. Most of the top clubs are only kept competitive either by wealthy benefactors (Chelsea, Manchester City) or debt (Liverpool, Manchester United). I like my sports leagues to be decided by sporting merit, not simply who has the richest owner or the most generous bank. I realise that isn't limited to the Premiership, but it's comfortably the most egregious example. The ridiculous situation at Manchester City, coupled with the absurd money-driven mess that was Scottish football this summer, has utterly ruined my enjoyment of the sport and made me appreciate the NFL's salary caps and parity-based approach even more than I already did.

That's why.

(Bear in mind I freely accept that the word "overrated" is subjective and typically means I don't think it's as good as most people do, whereas "underrated" is just as subjective and typically means I think it's better than most people do.)

by Sophandros :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 1:54pm

I agree with many of those points, particularly the comment regarding "overrated" and "underrated".

City has become one club that I actively hope to see lose these days because of how they've gone about things. Prior to that, Chelsea was that club for the same reason. I don't want to have this morph into a political discussion, so I'll just stop there...

I still enjoy the Premiership a great deal (finally got to see a couple goals from the Gunners on Sunday!), but I make no claims that it's the best top to bottom, as some fans do.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Chris UK :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 2:08pm

The Spanish national team are arguably the greatest of all time. I think they probably are.

That said domestically in the champions league go back ten years. You have 3 Spanish 3 Italian 3 English and 1 Portuguese winner. That is not dominance by anyone unless you lump England Spain and Portugal together.

Saying most exciting, but comparing tactics and technique seems a little unfair as well. Tactically, more technically sound sport isn't necessarily more exciting. Bernard Hopkins is a technically outstanding boxer, and his bouts are not considered exiting, even by the majority of hardcore boxing fans.

And don't forget Real Madrid were in deep financial trouble when Madrid council paid an astronomically over the top amount for their downtown training ground for development; which not only allowed them to build a new state of the art complex, but spend as they have the last few years.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 2:33pm

Association Football on the whole is a financial mess. As I said, that isn't limited to the Premiership - it's just (in my opinion) the most egregious example.

As for the rest, I freely admit that it's my subjective opinion. English commentators continually claim that it's the best league in the world; I strongly disagree, greatly preferring La Liga.

(It's also true that however much this rhetoric annoys me, it's nowhere near as bad as Scottish football commentators when, say, Allan MacGregor makes a save a pub team keeper would make and it's hailed like Banks from Pelé. Being Scottish, I know a thing or two about overrated footballers.)

by Chris UK :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 2:52pm

Yeah, it is a bubble. One I don't see bursting on the top clubs, but a lot of smaller clubs will lose everything soon. Rangers doesn't even seem to be a wake up call to the English leagues.

I grew up on the premier league so I like it. But it isn't technically superior to Spain.

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 11:20am

I only have a passing interest in European soccer, but a quick glance at the standings makes me wonder how anyone could enjoy La Liga. It's like a league with the Yankees, Red Sox, and then 10 copies of the KC Royals.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 12:37pm

The EPL isn't much better. History suggests that there will be at most two teams that compete with Man U, the rest play for scraps.

by AB (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2012 - 1:35pm

Some real nonsense here. The Spanish league may be slightly better but on any footing the Premier League is the second-best in the world. It also (generally) has a more exciting style of play. And in terms of lambasting the money-bags clubs and lack of competitiveness, the Barca-Real duopoly is equally (if not more) financially distortive as the big spending of Man City and Chelsea.

On UK TV coverage the real NFL stuff-up this year is that they have given MNF to the BBC - but it is being put on the red button so people won't be able to record it!

by SWW #41 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:43am

I'm just hoping for some kind of annoucement today.

Cynicall, I wonder if this is a money grab by the NFL to force us to buy gamepass

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 5:31am

I can live without sky's coverage even though I will keep up my subscription for the cricket. No NFL on sky just means no blacked out games on game pass. I've got my HDMI cable at the ready for some dual screen fun anyway.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 4:46pm

Regarding the lack of NFL games in the UK, I've given up trying to figure out what the NFL is trying to do on that front. It'd be one thing if they were simply delusional, but they're also totally counterproductive in many aspects of whatever they consider their "strategy" to be.

The Rams were going be London's team, which made no sense. Their ownership finally saw that and pulled out, leading to as equally a nonsensical team as the Jaguars. Clearly, no single team should be playing there every season; they should alternate so English fans get the chance to see all the great teams and players. That'd be better for everybody involved.

And while it is all ancient history now, their handling of NFL Europe was bizarre. They're so fixated on London these days one could easily forget they shut down London's team prior to the league being shuttered, and moved the league offices out of England at the same time. I'm sure NFL Europe cost plenty to operate, but if their goal really is to have a team (or teams) over there, it'd have been money well-invested to have kept it alive.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 5:28pm

The one thing about the Rams playing over there that made some sense was that Stan Kroenke was the owner. He also owns Arsenal, so he'd know as much about English sports fans as anybody associated with the NFL. The fact he was the guy to pull the Rams out of that deal says an awful lot.

by Tony D. (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 11:09am

Maybe just me, but I find it funny that the NFL's idea of winning over UK fans is having them adopt the teams who are least popular with their home fans. Maybe that's why there's so little TV coverage. The NFL is hoping the UK won't figure out the Rams and Jags are lousy and unpopular.

by Honest Abe (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 4:10am

Sky is Murdoch --- 'nuff said.

by Paul-London UK :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 9:47am

Sophandros, that would be the Premier League or the EPL as ESPN insist on calling it. Not only is it overrated but also unbelievably deluded in it's own self-regard.

Regarding the impasse between Sky and the NFL, I recall this happened last year but with less brinkmanship.

I originally took Sky for the NFL and like Karl Cuba, will keep it for the cricket even if no deal for the NFL is done. Their “expert” analysis has been woeful and for years I had to put up with the buffoon Halling. I now start watching it about two hours late on Sky+ to avoid the adverts and studio talk.
Karl, does Game Pass have commercials and would you recommend it?

(Is it possible that the somewhat belligerent nature of the corporate NFL since Roger Goodell took over is to blame for the lack of a deal? Despite the official line of massive growth, American Football is still a minority sport in the UK.)

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:03am

Game pass has some ads when you watch it live, normally you get the american adverts for a while and then it starts showing an NFL shield during the breaks. It does include a DVR function though so you could just start late as you currently do, if you watch the game later the adverts are cut out completely and you also have the option of watching the condensed footage with only the presnap movement and the play, which is so fast that it can become difficult to follow.

I would recommend game pass for any committed fan, you get to choose the game (other than a game sky have picked) and it's all in HD. Football Nirvana.

by jimbohead :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 1:48pm

Does game-pass also give you wide-sideline and endzone camera angles after the game, like game-rewind? US based, just want to know that you foreigners are being treated right.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 2:37pm

Yes it does. If however they still insist on blacking out any games being shown on Sky then no, we aren't being treated right. Still waiting to find that one out.

by SWW #41 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:45am

SKy have proved with the cricket coverage that they can assemble knowledgable, informative experts (apart from beefy!). Wish they could get a similar cast for NFL coverage

by Jimmy :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 11:26am

Botham is actually a good commentator as long as he is on before lunch. I suspect that 'lunch' is actually two bottles of red wine which explains why the rest of the day he is a belligerent arse who spend the rest of the afternoon complaining about everything.

by Chris UK :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 2:09pm

David Lloyd is terrible.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 12:35pm

David Lloyd is awesome.

by Paul-London UK :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 1:23pm


by Chris UK :: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 5:46pm

So I'm told sky have agreed to a deal to do exactly the same as last season for the NFL in the UK. Anyone else confirm this?

by AB (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2012 - 1:37pm

On UK TV coverage the real NFL stuff-up this year is that they have given MNF to the BBC - but it is being put on the red button so people won't be able to record it!

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 09/06/2012 - 5:31pm

The red button? Don't know what that is, but it interests me for some reason.

by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 09/07/2012 - 4:42am

In UK television, the red button on a handheld remote control is usually the means by which to access interactive services broadcast digitally in tandem with the basic channel. During sports events this is often used to access alternative feeds of the broadcast such as camera angles, alternative commentary, match statistic overlays, or sometimes even alternative matches which are being played concurrently with the match on the main channel. (This a particularly frequent and brilliant use of the red button on Sky Sports, where during their Champions League coverage every match to which Sky Sports has the rights - usually seven or eight games per night - is broadcast simultaneously via digital TV, and the end user can watch any of them by pressing the red button on their remote control and selecting from a numbered list.) The downside is that the red button content can't be paused, rewound, or recorded on a device such as a Sky Plus box, though it could be recorded on an external device such as a VCR (remember them?) or PC. Even then, however, the user needs to be present to activate and select the desired service. Given that Monday Night Football begins at approximately 1am and ends at approximately 5am UK time, this is a particularly salient disadvantage to many NFL fans.