Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Sep 2008

Any Given Sunday: Bears over Colts

The first Any Given Sunday of the ESPN era looks at the differences between Super Bowl XLI and this week's Chicago victory over Indianapolis.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 09 Sep 2008

64 comments, Last at 14 Sep 2008, 4:15am by Subrata Sircar


by Jay (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:09pm

Link comes back here...

by Jesse (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:13pm
by Micranot (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:27pm

Maybe its the new look, but does the content and level of depth in this new version of Any Given Sunday pale in comparison to last year's? Or is it just me?

by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:34pm

To give details to what I was saying:

"Need an even quicker and easier way to see how good a player was? Use another stat we call Effective Yards (EYds). Effective Yards takes the player's performance, adjusted for situation and opponent, and puts it on the exact same scale as standard yardage. If a player has more Effective Yards than Yards, he was better than standard stats make him look. If he has fewer Effective Yards, he was worse than standard stats make him look."

OK, so if EYards>Yards, player was better than standard stats made him look. Check.

"Although Manning threw for 257 yards, it took him 49 attempts, much of his yardage was gained when he dumped the ball underneath coverage for short, ineffectual gains"

OK, that reads to me like Manning was worse than standard stats made him look.

But his EYards were 40% higher than his yards, which isn't just better, but much better.

I am not finding this intuitive, at all.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:35pm

Gosh darn it-- wrong thread.

by Jesse (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:48pm


I was thinking the same thing. AGS is usually a fairly thorough breakdown of the game that looks in detail at how Team B was able to upset Team A. This read like your average columnists summary of the game. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as impressiave as AGS usually is.

by scott (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 10:25pm

Oh jeez, this clearly seems like ESPN is putting a word limit on this feature.

Any chance that they would allow a much longer article, or could the "full-length" version appear on the FO site (perhaps just the Premium site if ESPN has rights to the free content)?

by Seab (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:06pm

WTF? Was that meant to be done by FO staff, or is that an AP wrap of the game?

by Leo (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:14pm

Easily the shortest and least insightful AGS I have ever read. If this is the direction things are going with the ESPN partnership, I'm going to be very disappointed.

by Joshua (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:27pm

Alas, I have to agree with the rest of y'all. This column was not very enlightening. FO columns are supposed to reference specific plays with some depth that indicates greater understanding of the game than your average viewer can achieve by simply watching. This column was quite disappointing--hopefully more depth next time.

by Tom D (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 12:05am

I'm going to join everyone else in saying this was a disappointing AGS. The only glimmer of something interesting was the Bear's linebackers crowding the line, only to drop way back in coverage.

by mikeabbott (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 12:09am

sorry man, it is what it is.

by Stuart (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 12:37am

I understand why you had to do it, but it's disappointing nonetheless.

by Terry (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 12:52am

A disappointment.

Please let us know if there is a way we can get back the AGS of old.

by Enoch (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 2:55am

This AGS at ESPN was about 1/3 as long as AGS was last year. I think it suffers from the lack of the additional content. You guys have great things to say, don't let the worldwide leader crimp your style.

by thestar5 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 3:03am

Not to beat a dead horse but I have to repeat the echo here. AGS is usually one of FO's best features, but this one was really lacking.

At first I thought there was an error with how short it was and there were no play diagrams or any of the usual breakdowns. Hopefully going on ESPN doesn't lead to the downfall of this great feature.

by Frick (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 8:29am

I'll add my disappointment in the amount of detail in the article. I come here instead of ESPN because I want more details and explanations. I think the reasoning was good, but I'm guessing it was cut down to more closely resemble the yelling, chest-thumping crap most ESPN readers want. I hope this isn't a sign of what to expect in future articles.

by nate (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 9:54am

yeah i want to express some disappointment in this as well. if this is what we are going to get from fo.com on espn, no thanks. im chuffed that fo.com has been getting more and more mainstream coverage, but if the price is the quality content ive come to expect, then whats the point?

by billsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 10:10am

Me too.

by Tom D (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 10:18am

Sporting News has much better breakdown of the game for those interested. Link in my name.

by Sandman (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 10:43am

I just want to concur with all the above comments. I'm a Bears fan, and I was sooooo looking forward to this, too...

by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 10:59am

What they said.

by Marko (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:17am


by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:18am

I'm a big supporter of this site and have been reading since near the beginning, but I have to agree with the above as well. Outside of mentioning DVOA once, it reads like a Don Banks article.
I'm glad FO is making more money, and I'm even more pleased that they allow us to comment on this stuff, but if "FO Goes Mainstream" means that FO is going to write like the mainstream, that stinks. Please stick with what you do best, which is provide some of the most in-depth analysis on the web.

by AmBentdonkey (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:21am

What all those other guys said.

by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:28am

Chiming in to join the chorus. The length and lack of in-depth analysis made this a fairly weak AGS.

I didn't watch the game and was really excited to read about exactly how the "Bad New Bears" managed to beat the presumptive SB favorites (at least, the presumptive now that Brady is out). What I got was a recap and "analysis" that amounted to:

*The Bears' LB's played well
*Orton didn't have to do a lot
*O-line injuries are bad.

Ummm, OK?

I'm curious about how Saturday's injury in particular affected the Colts, other than the Bears able to dominate the inside of the line (How did they dominate? Were they dropping runs in the backfield? Pressuring Manning and forcing him to throw early? Flushing him out of the pocket? Able to get pressure with zone blitzes up the center and hence able to drop extra bodies into coverage on the outside?). Did not having Saturday in there affect Manning's ability to audible at the line? Were the Colts forced to abandon their typical fast-paced no-huddle? How about their patented stretch play...did missing Saturday retard that?

These are the questions I was hoping to read the answers to in AGS. And I"m still waiting...

by Cabbage (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:31am

I call shenanigans.

by Kellerman (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:32am

Wow, that's one of the only times I ever read an FO article that didn't teach me something. There was nothing there that you didn't see with your own two eyes.

by Marko (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:38am

MJK: I think the answer to all of your questions is basically "Yes." If you have NFL Network, you can watch the game on NFL Replay tonight and see what you missed.

by lofistew (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 1:25pm

I have to agree with the others: that's some pretty thin gruel you're passing out there. Very disappointing.

by Brett (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 1:38pm

Not to beat a dead horse, but I, too, am disappointed. I initially thought the column on ESPN was some sort of teaser for a meatier version to be found on this site--guess not.

There were a lot of key plays that could have been analysed in that game. I would have liked to know what the Bears' supposedly woeful line was doing to open holes for Forte and how their defense was frustrating Manning. I guess I'll need to do my own analysis from now on.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 2:26pm

From the Article,

"their reserve linemen seemed unable to run their patented stretch play."

The Colts didn't even try to the run the stretch play. They did this to protest wear and tear on Peyton Manning's knee. It had nothing to do with the interior line.

They replaced the stretch with the toss, which served the same function without the Play Action which is huge.

Further, the toss was basically successful because they were packed so far into the interior line. The Colts should have went to it more.

Worst AGS ever.

by Ben Stuplisberger (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 2:28pm

Say it ain't so FO!

by Marcumzilla (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 2:34pm

I read it on ESPN and thought, "that was short; surely the longer version is back on the site." So throw me in to the mix of those who miss the old version. I was excited to see it listed, even though as a Colts fan it hurts some to think about it again.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 4:11pm

Read more like a recap than game analysis.

But we still love you Ned.

I noticed the Bears linebackers creeping shallow and deep constantly. I knew it was a ruse, Peyton Manning doesn't fall for that sort of stuff. Because Peyton is a god, and Lance Briggs is a mere mortal.

Hey, I should write for ESPN!

by Joshua (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 5:39pm

It seems to me like a pretty strong endorsement of FO overall that so many of us would take the time to voice our disappointment with this column. After all, you have to set a bar first before you can be let down. That said, I wonder if there's going to be a reply. Is this much diminished, watery version of AGS what we have to live with from here on? Is this really what sells? If so, it's really sad. I've used FO as a launching point to get some pretty eccentric people interested in football - using it as a forum for stats discussions and psychological modeling, and FO has always set the bar.

by Nate (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 6:18pm

Please tell me that ESPN edited a longer article, and not that FO's new 'mainstream' pieces are going to be this short and uninsightful.

by Lou (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 6:18pm

I thought it was odd that espn would let an outsider do the kind of analysis AGS usually does. I mean how many former players and coaches are on the espn payroll? any they're going to let someone no ones ever heard of break down games?

for the record i'd take Ned's breakdowns over anyone espn has short of Jaworski, and maybe Hoge or Steve Young

by Nate (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 6:20pm

Too many "Nate"s posting here now. I should be the only one allowed, as I have the "Nate" username on the forum.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 6:37pm

Also disappointed, but that Sporting News piece (linked above) was really good.

by Ned Macey (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 7:03pm

So you guys thought this was a great AGS? Is that what you're trying to say?

Anyway, obviously this remains a work in progress. ESPN does have a word limit, but they have no other restriction on content/use of stats or anything like that.

My job over the next couple of weeks is to find a way to make that format work for them and for longtime readers. I'd hoped that the word limit would just tighten my sometimes wordy style without losing a lot of analysis, but apparently not so much.

Aaron and I have discussed putting extra research/analysis into this thread, which I think we'll try next week.

Also, it was sort of a perfect storm of issues. AGS is supposed to use the micro, one game, to show the macro, season-wide trends. In a Week 1 upset of a team that was infinitely better in 2007, there aren't a lot of numbers there. The best I had was the Bears' weighted defense, which we used. Also in National Jump to Conclusions week, I hesitate to make too many strong conclusions on a defense dominating an offensive line with two rookies and another reserve.

Also also wik, Aaron is traveling on the book tour, so I didn't pester him for our normal exchange of potentially interesting splits.

Anyway, at this stage of my life, much as I'd like to, I can't spend the time I'd like on this for minimal remuneration, so if ESPN wants to pay, at least you still get free content, even if you get a word limit too.

At the same time, it obviously isn't acceptable to disappoint apparently every long-time reader. So as I said, we'll try and make this work for all parties. Let me know what you think of the next couple articles as we try and get you a format that delivers the level of analysis you come to FO to read.

by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (aka SJM) (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 7:10pm

I agree with everyone. What's the point of ESPN hiring the Outsiders if they're just going to edit everything to irrelevance? I mean, ultimately it's a bad business decision. You hire Ned Macey to write something, but then you edit it down to where it becomes indistinguishable from something anyone else could have written. What are you paying Macey for if you're not going to let him do his thing.

It would be like Sports Illustrated hiring away Bill Simmons, and then telling him he's going to be their NBA beat reporter and by the way play it straight, please. Sure, he would do a good job, but so could a lot of people.

by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (aka SJM) (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 7:17pm

Sorry Ned, didn't see your comment. Mine was pretty pointless. (Of course it was a good business decision for you, and I wouldn't suggest that you refuse a bigger paycheck over something as benign as a word limit. But I still think ESPN is making a mistake, unless they can bend the rules to let you write longer.)

by Joshua (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 7:54pm


Let me apologize in advance for offering some unsolicited advice. I am an editor and writer by trade, and I say that when you have to go shorter, always try to err on the side of concrete instead of general. What makes AGS and FO in general great is the attention to detail. The numbers are great, but the discussion of specific plays and specific player-on-player match-ups is also what makes the analysis so unique and stimulating to read. I would try to overload the details and not worry if it comes out sounding a bit choppy. Looking forward to future weeks, and it certainly is cool to see that FO is getting some serious recognition/sponsorship.

by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 7:58pm

44 comments over 2 days, the majority of which are voicing dissapointment and yet no response from any of the FO staff? what gives?

by Micranot (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 8:10pm

Sean, see comment #41.

by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 9:31pm

right you are Micranot. i was looking for the red text that i've seen denote FO staffer comments.

by AmBentdonkey (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 10:47pm

How does the website that publishes TMQ have a word limit? Why does any website have a word limit?

by Enoch (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:08pm

Why does a website have a work limit? That is a good question.

My advice, leave out any general recap of the game and stick with a few specifics on what a team was trying to do in the game and how it actually worked.

by DrObviousSo (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:11pm

Ned, I hope you are able to figure out how to work within the confines the Worldwide Leader sets out for you. EPC is/was one of my favorite features of this site.

That said, can anyone lay out a good business argument for a word limit for an online article? Just doesn't make any sense to me, but I'm not a 'business guy'.

by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:47pm

Dr. ObviousSo, the only somewhat reasonable explanation I can come up with would be server space and bandwidth considerations. A longer article takes up more server space, and each hit on the server for that wordy article also consumes bandwidth on the network. If you're ESPN, you'd be expecting a lot of hits on your content, so that may be a way of managing overhead associated with the website.

Of course, if you're ESPN, I'd think you've got the $ to cover the incremental overhead. I'm not sure I buy my own reasoning really, but I suppose it's plausible.

by Tom D (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 12:09am

Re 51:

Text uses so little server space and bandwidth it's not worth mentioning. If ESPN was worried in the least about bandwidth they wouldn't have 50 flash movies playing on every page of their website. The only reason I can think of for a word count is trying to increase accessibility. They don't want people clicking on a article and then being scared away by massive blocks of text.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 8:04am

Greg Easterbrook writes a novelette every week...much of which is pointless filler and not even pertinent to football.

I don't buy ESPN's word limit line...you guys should call them on it.

by A. Diggity (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 8:45am

Yet another ditto. What was the point of this? How did it add anything to the standard AP (fish) wrap?

by M (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 9:51am

About the only lasting good thing I've ever seen from Easterbrook was pointing me toward FO. I've seen more substance from Kelly on "The Office".

by bman (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 10:03am

I think you have it all wrong on the word limit. It's not that they want to limit how much space is used. It is proably more due to how much they want to Pay FO. Usually they get payed by the number of words.

by Sociojoe (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 10:22am

I agree with some of my fellow readers. Make it choppy if you have a limit to how much you can write, and if it ends up looking like a powerpoint, that's not so bad either.

You're not going to win a Pulitzer, but it's better than simply spouting the same generic stuff we see at every other analyst. Maybe just isolate more plays if you ahve to. Find stats on how many blitzers Chicago showed, etc...

by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 11:23am

Easterbrook lives on Page 2, which maybe has different rules, and has his own little cult following.

I'm guessing ESPN wanted to showcase AGS and Ned, and was maybe worried about scaring away potential new readers by having too long of an article.

Just a guess, but maybe all of their "front page" articles have word limits?

by DGL (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 2:03pm

I would guess that ESPN.com has word limits not because they pay writers by the word or because of server or bandwidth issues, but rather because they think their readers are looking for "short, punchy" analysis.

Of course, you would think that their editors would have done some research into what they were buying. If AGS ran around 1500 words every week, it seems a bit odd of them to ask for the same thing, only 500 words.

If I walk into a Lexus dealer, I'm not going to ask for a $15k car with cloth seats and a 1.5l 4-cylinder engine. And if they gave me one, I'd probably be disappointed in it.

by CoachDave (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 2:06pm

Just another example of how Disney/ESPN ruins everything it touches in the sporting world.

by raffy (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 3:35pm

I smelled a rat when Aaron announced that ESPN was the new partner. I do not like ESPN.com and only clicked the link because of my affection for the FO staff's obvious skills. Ned, I hope you do solve your connundrum. The readers on this thread are pulling for you.

by SuperGrover (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 4:27pm

Let me get this straight...the Bears did a better job Sunday than in the Super Bowl? I am shocked!

Count me in as disappointed with ESPN. Why must they ruin everything?

by SuggestionsRUs (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 4:55pm

Perhaps AGS should go to a different format for word limit reasons? If it's focusing on a single game, reading more like a play-by-play might help. E.g.:

"1st and 10, Colts 45. Manning wiggles fingers for 27 seconds, takes snap, is sacked when backup-backup-backup lineman wanders off to chase shiny object. Manning still awesome. Line maybe not."

That way you can toss all that bothersome intro, conclusion, and prose crap that pads out wordcounts.

by Subrata Sircar (not verified) :: Sun, 09/14/2008 - 4:15am

I can understand having to adjust to the new restrictions on content and timing. From my own perspective, one of the things I most loved about past AGS articles was the detailed examination of some parts of the game. If you have to limit it, perhaps it would be worth it to focus more on one aspect. For example, looking at how many of the Colts drives were ended on plays by the linebackers would have added some punch to that point. Even just noting that the linebackers ability to drop into coverage foiled the Colts 2nd drive when Urlacher faked a blitz then dropped back and picked up the hot receiver before Manning could hit him would have at least brought up the level of detail that we've come to expect from FO.