Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Oct 2006

FOX Blog Wrap-Up, October 21-27

Here's a catch-all thread for discussion of this week's posts on the Football Outsiders FOX blog. Covered this week: Cleveland firing Maurice Carthon, does Dallas really have a top five defense, Terrell Owens as the Cowboys' number two receiver, teams with top ten players on both sides of the ball, and an update on the NFL's new quarterback hits statistic.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Oct 2006

34 comments, Last at 30 Oct 2006, 10:54pm by jim's apple pie


by DavidH (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 3:41pm

Love the comments on the TO post. Paraphrasing:

1st comment: Nobody cares about TO. Write about something people want to read about.

2md comment: You suck. You're only writing about TO to get more people to read your blog.

by zip (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 3:48pm

re: QB hits

Leonard Little plays for Buffalo now?


by michael (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 3:53pm

it's classic "how dare you force me to click on your links!" stuff. I know I'm trying to make a concerted effort to comment over there, and I think the tide might be starting to turn. The TO post only really has 2 (out of 22) posts that are arbitrarily negative, which, really, is a huge improvement.

Only real shame is all the people who claim they'll never read/comment on the blog again keep coming back.

"Augh! There's that link again.. must.. not.. click... OH NO IT'S TOO LATE!"

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 4:11pm

I'm dismayed, but not surprised, to see the NE offense so high on the hits list, since it always seemed to me that Brady got decked a lot after he threw. But geez, off the top of my head, the company NE keeps in that list looks like:

1) bad offense (CLE)
2) bad offense (BAL)
3) bad offense (BUF)
4) Martz offense (DET)
5) good offense with O-line injuries and a QB recovering from a bad knee injury (CIN)
6) Brady (NE)
7) bad offense (OAK)
8) deep passing offense that takes time to develop (CAR)

Now, I'm not sure about my characterization of Carolina's offense, but it looks to me like every offense on this list is either downright bad, or has some mitigating circumstances that would cause the QB to get hit alot, either due to injuries (CIN) or scheme (DET and CAR if my characterization of them is right). It's not good for NE to be on that list.

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 4:16pm

This blog got me thinking how hard it is to determine the top 10 defensive players. Peppers, Seymore, and Bailey I think few people would argue with.
I think at least half of the best defensive players list would likely be D-lineman, or is it just me?
Is it wrong of me to consider Casey Hampton as the Steeler's best defensive player? Maybe I have too much respect for run-stuffing 3-4 tackles (like Jamal Williams). Despite the fact that the Ravens are so far the best D in the league, I can't think of any of their players that would be in the top ten, especially after Ed Reed blew his coverage of Steve Smith. Bart Scott or Adalius Thomas are probably the next best defenders on that team.
Urlacher had too many mediocre years on mediocre teams to be considered top ten in my opinion, and Totupu just had a good rookie year, but please.
And Faneca as one of the 10 most important offensive players in the league is a joke. He's not even the best guard in the league, and LTs are a more important position anyways.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 4:22pm

In the QB hits list, which is very cool, BTW, that's Robert Mathis, DE for Indy, I assume, and not Rashean mathis, DB for Jax. (Expected to see Freeney up there, since he's sack free but still in the backfield a lot. oh well.)

Wow, to non-Browns watchers, the Carthon TSC issue is a new one, but very interesting. Had no idea. Glad Indy doesn't suffer from it.

by dbt (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 4:24pm

How many mediocre years did urlacher really have? 2004 he was hurt. 2003 and 2002 were on some really truly godawful teams. 2001 he was good. 2000 he was good and a rookie.

Does two bad years mean you suck forever?

by Dagagad (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 4:26pm

Warren Sapp and Randy Moss...oh.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 4:55pm

I think at least half of the best defensive players list would likely be D-lineman, or is it just me?

You know when defensive linemen are doing their job. When defensive backs are doing their job well, you never see them. That, and defensive linemen are involved in every defensive play. Defensive backs, not so much.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 5:03pm

What about teams that have two top-10 players on the same side of the ball? San Diego has Tomlinson and Gates is close enough for them to at least make the also ran category.

by admin :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 5:25pm

I should point out that I mean top 10 players in football, period, not top 10 players on one side of the ball.

You know how everybody has one or two things they just can't fix about themselves, a word they always misspell or a fact they always get wrong? I have two: I never seem to remember how to spell "recommend," and I constantly confuse Leonard Little and London Fletcher-Baker. That's not a joke. I really can't tell them apart for some absurd reason. I've made the mistake on the site or in rough drafts of the book, like, 10 times or something. I'll go fix that.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 5:53pm

I think it's better to first decide who your top ten players are, and then see what teams have them, than to pick a team and try to force the issue.

Also, I have no idea why Aaron would describe New England as "the only team that features two of the top five players in the league, one on each side of the ball." They're clearly one of two.

1. WR Steve Smith
2. QB Peyton Manning
3. QB Donovan McNabb
4. QB Tom Brady
5. LT Walter Jones
6. TE Antonio Gates
7. WR Torry Holt
8. RB LaDainian Tomlinson
9. LT Orlando Pace
10. RB Larry Johnson

1. DE Richard Seymour
2. DE Julius Peppers
3. CB Champ Bailey
4. DT Tommie Harris
5. NT Casey Hampton
6. LB Keith Bulluck
7. DT John Henderson
8. LB Brian Urlacher
9. S Troy Polamalu
10. LB Jonathan Vilma

On my list, the Patriots and the Panthers are the only ones with a top ten player on both sides of the ball. I think the Chargers could have joined the club if not for Merriman's suspension. The Chargers have two offensive players on the list, though, as do the Rams. The Steelers and the Bears both have two defensive players. (I actually considered giving the Steelers a third in Joey Porter.)

I think once you make a list, you realize that the competition for top ten on one side of the ball is pretty tough.

by Malene, cph (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 5:57pm

I think going through teams trying to find players who might be top 10 is the wrong way to go about it.

Rather: make a top-15 - to account for legitimate differences of opinion - THEN check if the same team appears twice on that list. When doing the 'maybe this team'-thing, it's way too easy to forget that if you say "this guy is almost top-10", you have to bounce someone else downwards.

I'm guessing we have a general consensus that these players belong to the top 10?

Peppers, CAR
Seymour, NE
Manning, IND
Tomlinson, SD
Brady, NE
Smith, CAR
Jones, SEA
Bailey, DEN

that leaves 2 spots - Two!

So before you get creative with Tatupu or Freeney - you have to ask: "are there no two players better than these guys?"

by Malene, cph (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 5:59pm

ok, two minds one thought.

However, Yaguar, I'm pretty sure Aaron meant top 10 in the whole league not top 10 offense/defense.

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 7:44pm

Re: 9
Its true that a great CB is less visible, but I'm also thinking that DL are a lot less scheme dependent that LBs and CBs, and thus easier to judge. Take Vilma for instance, he was a very good Mike LB, but now in the 3-4 not so much. A CBs effectiveness is tied so much to the pressure a front 7 brings that after Bailey its really tough to evaluate who is next. Especially given the sample size of an NFL season; I loved the game charting info on the DBs, but having only 60-100 plays to analyze means that you really can't come up with any definite evaluations regarding quality.

by undethebus (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 8:22pm

Being from SF, this had me thinking about our beloved 49er Superbowl teams.

Young/Rice & Sanders '94
Montana/Rice & Lott '88 & '89

I guess it wouldn't work for all Superbowl teams. But can anyone think of other past Superbowl tandems?

by undethebus (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 8:35pm

Others I could think of:

'85 Bears Payton & Dent/Singl
'95 Cowboys Aikman & Sanders
'96 Pack Favre & White
'04 Pats Brady & Bruschi?

by undethebus (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 8:48pm

'08 49ers Gore & Lawson

...sorry I'm bored...

by Malene, cph (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 9:17pm

don't think Bruschi ever was a top 10 player. And Seymour didn't play in XXXIX. I don't think he was top 10 yet in XXVIII.

For Dallas in XXX, I'd pick Emmitt and Deion, not Aikman.

I'd make a case for Baltimore in XXXV: Ogden / Ray Lewis

a weaker case for DEN XXXII-XXXIII Terrell Davis (or Elway) / Atwater (or Mobley)

WAS in XXVI and XXII: Joe Jacoby / Darrell Green

Maybe even Giants in XXV: Bart Oates (or Jumbo Elliott) / LT

AH well, I guess most SB teams can make a case.

On non-superbowl teams, I'd say 97 SF: Stubblefield / Owens - and a lot of Buffalo teams: Thurman Thomas / Bruce Smith

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 10:32pm

19: 2003 was statistically Seymour's best year as a pro, and I think it was the first time he made the all-pro team. That doesn't necessarily make him a top-10 player, but I think that year was the first time he got consideration in that regard.

by kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 10:38pm

The only players on Denver who would even be in the discussion for top-10 in the league would be Lepsis or Nalen. Nalen's probably not going to be considered, since he's a Center, but I think Lepsis at least has an arguement as the best LT in the league you've never heard of. According to Dr. Z, he charted every play of every elite LT in the league last year and Lepsis was #1... so I think an arguement could be made.

Also, I don't get all of this talk taking it for granted that Seymour is one of the top 10 players in the NFL. If we're just talking about a 1-year deal, I'd take both Strahan and Peppers over him without even hesitating. If I was running a 3-4 defense, I'd take Hampton over Seymour, too (although I haven't seen Hampton play since week 1 vs. Miami this year). If you're the 4th best D-Lineman in the league, how can you be one of the top 10 players in the league?

by kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 10:39pm

A note- I meant that the only Denver OFFENSIVE players who could even be in the discussion for the top-10. Clearly Champ Bailey is pretty much guaranteed a top-10 spot on defense.

by CA (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 11:25pm

Re: 21

I lost a lot of respect for Dr. Z's judgment of offensive linemen when he came out with a column a month or so ago talking about how people pay too much attention to pass blocking and not enough to run blocking when judging the play of tackles. I used to tend to defer to him on the grounds that he watches these things more closely than I do, but that column showed me that he doesn't have his priorities straight. I have no reason to believe that Dr. Z can't spot a good run blocker from a bad run blocker and a good pass blocker from a bad pass blocker, but I do have reason to believe that he overrates the importance of the former relative to the latter. I interpret Dr. Z's ranking of Lepsis as the top LT in the NFL last year as mere evidence of Dr. Z's bias toward run blocking over pass blocking, despite the fact that pass protection is a much more significant component of a left tackle's job. I'm not knocking Lepsis, mind you, but I am knocking Dr. Z.

With regard to the discussion of the top ten players in the NFL, no interior offensive linemen, TEs, FBs, or safeties, not to people who play only on special teams, deserve to be in consideration. The positions they play simply are too limited in their importance to the team, and the quality of athletes at those positions is generally less than that at the other positions. I know some people don't like to hear that, but that's the way it is in the NFL today.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 12:15am

23: I'd agree to no interior linemen, fullbacks, or special teamers. I'd maybe even agree to no safeties, although Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu have at times looked incredibly valuable. I don't agree that a tight end can't be a top ten player. Antonio Gates is an exception.

Look at the DVOAs of the San Diego wide receivers over the last two years. This year Parker and McCardell rank 1st and 6th in DVOA, respectively. Last year they ranked 3rd and 2nd.

Gates draws so much coverage to the middle of the field that San Diego can put a fairly nondescript wide receivers out there and throw easily to them.

Look at it another way: Drew Brees was incredibly bad in early 2003, so bad that he was benched for the ageless Doug Flutie. His promise from his rookie year was all but gone.

Late in the year, the Chargers let him finish out the season. Surprisingly, he put together three good games, and the trend continued for the rest of Brees's tenure in San Diego.

What happened while Brees was benched? Undrafted rookie Antonio Gates cracked the starting lineup mid-season, and became a primary target. The rest is history.

Gates makes everyone around him so much better. His contribution to the Chargers extends way beyond the 1000 yards he's good for each year.

by Steve Sandvik (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 12:48am

5- I thought Casey Hampton should have been the Super Bowl MVP. I don't know how he plays every week, since I'm out here on the left coast (and a new member of the Seneca Wallace fan club, I hope...), but I thought that he was one of the few players in that game that played up to the game hype, when so many players underperformed (including, for the most part, Hines Ward, one huge catch notwithstanding)

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 1:10am

No safeties and no tight ends are a bit much. Safeties can be a nondescript, unimportant player, sure, but a great safety can allow you to play an entirely different game than you normally play. Three good linebackers and two good corners can make one safety irrelevant. One great safety can make three linebackers and two corners irrelevant.

Yaguar made the TE argument for me. :)

by Dagagad (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 3:14am

Didn't the last 5 or 6 superbowl winners have arguably the top SS in the leauge.(top3 maybe) Maybe its an under rated position.

by Dagagad (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 3:14am

Didn't the last 5 or 6 superbowl winners have arguably the top SS in the leauge.(top3 maybe) Maybe its an under rated position.

by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 7:36am

Aaron, am I crazy for thinking that Dwight Freeney belongs nowhere near the top 10? I'm not sure why he's even considered to be a better player than Derek Burgess. Burgess has outsacked him this year and last despite playing on a team that has had far less passes attempted against it than Freeney. Burgess is pretty bad against the run but he's not worse than Freeney.

by stan (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 7:44am

Does Brady make this list on the basis of Super Bowls past? Because his play this year might not rank him in the top 10 QBs in the league, much less top ten players.

by Malene, cph (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 9:11am

Re 23 et al on safeties:

I don't think it's too much to say that safeties like Ronnie Lott (in 86), Ken Houston (in 71 & 73) and Larry Wilson (in 66) - and maybe Steve Atwater and Cliff Harris, Mel Renfro (in 69), - was at some point one of the top 10 players in the league.

Well, guess I'm just a big safeties' fan.

by Jim Haug (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 11:20am

As a Steeler fan, I can respond to a few of these comments.

first, Hampton IS that good. He usually collapses an entire side of a line with the help of Aaron Smith. The usual Steeler run defense plan is to have those guys create the holes for Polamalu, Foote and Farrior to fill into the backfield. They worked this to pefection against Atlanta, even in the second half with Hoke in for Hampton. Late, a fresh Norwood took advantage of a tired and overexposed Hoke.

Second, Faneca has had two bad games, against Jax and Atlanta. He absolutely caved the Chiefs and Dolphins.

Last, the Steelers have had a very odd season, where their hideous special teams have placed the defense under the guns time and time again. The Falcons rarely had to start a drive in their own half. this is the true difference between a deserved 4-2 and the actual 2-4. The offense and defense have usually played more than well enough to win.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Sun, 10/29/2006 - 4:24am

hmmm not sure you can really pick the top10 players. Seems like the criteria shift around too much. I know I would never take gates over say brady/barber/holt if I could just take 1 player onto my offense.

It is so hard to compare across positions though. I guess I wil just slap something together.

S Smith
Best LT (after seeing him without S Hutchinson I am not convinced W Jones is it)


by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:54pm

While looking through the 2005 FO awards to see who we thought played the best last year, I came across this little gem:

"This is the second time in three years that Oakland’s head coach has won this award. I’ve been pushing Art Shell as a head coaching candidate since FO came online three years ago. Come on, Art, prove me right, and coach those boys up."

I bet Aaron wishes he could have that one back.