Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

06 Sep 2010

ESPN: Dallas Troubles Begin Up Front

Today's preseason debate on the ESPN.com NFL page is "Will Dallas become the first Super Bowl home team?" As a sidebar, we've contributed this Insider piece about the Cowboys' Achilles heel, the aging offensive line. Nothing new really, if you've already read FOA 2010. By the way, the line "In other words: the Cowboys are due" was added by the editors; no, we don't think that a very healthy team is more likely to be injured the next year. The issue is that a very healthy team is just as likely to have average health the next year.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 06 Sep 2010

14 comments, Last at 08 Sep 2010, 9:02pm by sherritp


by Temo :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 6:43pm

Cursed editors!

by Key19 :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 9:00pm

"Left guard Leonard Davis, center Andre Gurode, right guard Kyle Kosier and right tackle Marc Colombo were all born in 1978, and are 32 or will turn 32 this season."

I'm sure the editors are to blame for not knowing who plays what position too, eh?

"Jared Allen destroyed Free last year when Adams left the playoff game against Minnesota with an injury. (Admittedly, Free did look better in the preseason than he did when forced into the lineup in 2009 -- and as bad as Free was attempting to block Allen, tight end Jason Witten was even worse.)"

Wow, I'm done reading right here. Feel free to watch the game. Free might've missed an assignment on the Allen strip-sack, but he never got "destroyed" even once. Free played well all freaking season and played pretty well against an elite pass rusher in the playoff game too.

This is why I'm so frustrated as a Dallas fan to read many things about the Cowboys on this site. You can't even get the positions of the different O-linemen right, and you make ridiculous generalizations about one offensive lineman based on a small sample size and downright ignorance. Doug Free was arguably the best OL on the team from the moment he stepped in last year, and it's only the mainstream idiotic media that seems to be unaware of his abilities. I thought you guys were better than that, but I guess not.

The sad part is that I actually agree with you guys that the OL is a problem this year. But to say Doug Free is or ever was part of the problem is just ridiculous.

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 9:50pm

Here's a link to the depth chart that may be helpful for future articles regarding the Cowboys...


by Venger :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 9:58pm

Allen manhandled Free that game. I didn't even realize that was up for debate. And I thought the reason Davis was playing RG was that Kosier was injured and they were swapping the positions around?

by Temo :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 10:42pm

If you watch the game, Allen had most (all?) of his success against Jason Witten. Columbo was the one who got abused all game long.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 12:58am

What kind of fool blocking scheme puts a TE only in front of Jared Allen? Even one as skilled at blocking as Witten is.

I'm phrasing that like a smartass, but I'm honestly surprised that would get called.

by Temo :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 12:03pm

I don't really know, though I suppose one of the Cowboys fans who've actually watched that game again (I haven't been able to make myself do so all offseason) could tell you.

Also, like Staubach says below, Allen in general didn't have a great game, it was the other side of the line that was leaky.

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 10:58pm

Wow. Everything in your post is incorrect (as, apparently, is everything in the linked article). For example, Davis has played nowhere but RG since he joined the Cowboys.

by Staubach12 :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 1:57am

Free came in after Adams's injury and struggled on his first two plays of the game. After that he settled down. Free gave up no sacks, no QB hits, and 2 pressures during the entire game. Colombo, on the other hand, gave up 2 sacks, 2 QB hits, and 6 pressures. It's pretty clear which OT got manhandled during that game.

Davis has always played RG with dallas.

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 10:05am

The LG/RG thing is just a typo based on copying a list that I thought was in order but wasn't, and not thinking about it much. Chill.

by GhettoBear04 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 11:12am

Perhaps if you or your staff actually responded to some of the criticisms, often made using your own terms or evaluations, and fostered intelligent debate in the comment sections instead of consistently ignoring good points, people would feel less vitriolic when posting.

I love snark as much as the next sports internet addict, but I think your easy dismissal of some fairly decent points has resulted in analysis-oriented people being turned off of your work and rooting for you to fail.

by Jeff Fogle :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 1:56pm

"The LG/RG thing is just a typo based on copying a list that I thought was in order but wasn't, and not thinking about it much. Chill."

Aaron, this is going to sound like I'm aiming for "Nitpicker of the Year," but you have to admit it's kind of funny that you made an additional mistake in trying to explain the mistake.

There weren't any typo's. Raiderjoe makes typo's (in artistic fashion). Your defense is that you correctly copied something that was in error at the original source. Which, is a lousy defense for somebody writing for ESPN and the NY Times as an expert with a unique perspective, but obviously isn't a typo.

As wordIQ says: ""typo" is a mistake made during the typing process. This excludes errors of ignorance, rather being the result of slips of the hand or finger, or in some cases, mechanical failure."

If I was writing about the San Diego Padres infield defense (five guys counting the pitcher) for ESPN or the NY Times, and I had the shortstop playing second base, and the second baseman playing shortstop, that would be a fairly significant error. Padres fans in particularly would be right in thinking I had my head in my small intestine. And, any sort of "I copied it down from an incorrect source" explanation wouldn't be much of a defense. I'm supposed to know who plays shortstop and who plays second base for the Padres without copying it from somewhere...if I'm writing an article for ESPN or the NY Times.

If a decision-maker at ESPN had asked you about the error, would you have said "I wasn't thinking about it much. Chill."

Journalists offer up corrections, then apologize for the errors. Scientists correct errors once they've been discovered. Businessmen pushing a product try to gloss over negatives or misdirect consumers' attention once a problem has been noticed.

If this is a science...
"we will attempt to bring objective analysis to football that matches the revolution in baseball writing and analysis over the past 20 years."
...then correct the errors when they happen.

If this is journalism...
"We don't just have reams of stats, though; we'll also have in-depth articles explaining these statistics as well as articles to answer specific questions and challenge conventional wisdom about the game. We'll also have articles that aren't necessarily based on statistics, but still give a more intelligent viewpoint on professional (and college) football"
...then try "we regret the error" when people point them out.

Over the last year...when people point out errors, or question theories that respected analysts believe have alternate explanations...you guys have largely responded, in my view, like businessmen worrying about the product you're pushing (outside of Connelly and Fremeau in the colleges who seem to have captured the spirit of science and journalism when readers disagree with them).

I get that FO is a brand...and that you're pushing products. But, you're supposed to be pushing analytical thought with an intelligent viewpoint. You were copying somebody else's list...so it was their fault? It didn't strike you as odd that the list was obviously wrong because you weren't thinking about it much? In an article you're writing for ESPN?

It's a big year. Last year's assessments didn't go well...and now you're on public record with new predictions for 2010 that are a bit out on a limb. Not the time to give critics arsenal like "Schatz got the Cowboys alignment wrong then called it a typo."

I know...you inadvertently called it a typo because you weren't thinking about it much.

It's a big year. Hit a home run.

by Never Surrender (not verified) :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 2:48pm

Apparently quick dismissals are just what come with the territory. I think FO is a great website, and this is one flaw that continues to hold it back. Tactics like labeling dissenting ideas "irrational" (sometimes before any real debate begins) or beating dead horses. Or having a personal reaction to someone's pointing out an error.

But that's what happens when you presuppose your own objectivity and (in some cases) rightness. It doesn't make FO's work any less great, but it is an annoying feature of the website.

All that said, I hope this criticism is heard, and not merely screened out as irrational jabber by the experts.

by sherritp :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 9:02pm

Nice post, Jeff. Thanks for the thoughtful criticism and positive tone.