Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Oct 2006

Manic Monday: The Real Rookies of the Year

In which the Seahawks and Saints win last-second nail-biters, Ed Hochuli gets one right and Mike Carey probably doesn't, the Raiders hit a new high in low, that guy in Dallas finds his place, Kyle Boller and Philip Rivers live up to FO projections, and “Failure to Launch� develops an entirely new meaning.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 16 Oct 2006

57 comments, Last at 21 Oct 2006, 4:25pm by morganja


by Josh (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 3:54am

"St. Louis, at 8-8, beat the Seahawks in the wild-card round, becoming quite possibly the worst team ever to win a playoff game."

Sorry, the worst team ever to win a playoff game was the Cardinals team a few years ago with Jake the Snake that beat Dallas in the first round. This is just another sign of the continuing anti-Rams bias here.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 4:11am

Yep. Linked in my username are the DVOA stats for 1998. Arizona went 9-7 and actually won a playoff game, despite being 4th from last in total DVOA.

Dealing with the angry trolls from our power rankings would have been a nightmare.

by Lou (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 4:34am

According to the announcers the penalty on Larry Johnson wasn't for pulling Polamalu's hair (which is perfectly legal and should be) it was for taunting after the play was over.

by the K (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 6:14am

I didn't see that play or that game, but I know that Ricky Williams used to get tackled by the dredds a few times and it's not a penalty.

by Ben B. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 6:45am

I think the characterization of the Denver-Oakland game was a little off. Sure, there was little doubt that the Broncos would win throughout, but the Raiders outgaining the Broncos was not a result of garbage time yardage. The Raiders coughed up the ball in Denver territory with 4:24 left in the game down by 10; sounds like they were still competitive at that point to me. In fact, the Broncos then went on to gain 60 yards to end the game, which is definitely more garbage than any of the Raiders' yardage.

In the 49ers-Chargers game, I would say the story is the opposite of what is suggested: the real reason the Chargers lit up the scoreboard was Marty turning Rivers loose and some fine work by Rivers, Gates, and the wideouts. Also, the Chargers defense did not easily handle the 49ers' offense. Alex Smith looked pretty sharp, and it looked like he rarely had to progress through his reads as his primary receiver was usually open. This might just have been a 4th quarter thing, but the Niners scored 17 first half points on that vaunted Chargers D.

by brin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 7:07am

i wonder if saban thinks he made the right decision in the offseason

by Eric (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 9:21am

Since the '98 Cardinals were 4th from the bottom in DVOA, and the '04 Rams were 3rd from the bottom, it still looks like those Rams were at least as bad.

by Lou in Cincy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 9:41am

The roughing the passer call on Justin Smith, a call that probably cost the bengals the game, was one of the worst pieces of officiating I've ever seen. Somebody's got some 'splainin to do.

That being said, what is wrong with the Bengals offense?

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 9:57am

Yaguar (#2 )--
Dealing with the angry trolls from our power rankings would have been a nightmare.
Are there really enough Cardinal fans to generate an angry troll mob?

by Kalyan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 10:01am

1. Wonder what TO will say to the press this week

2. Colston is not the first 7th round pick to find success in WR spot. David Givens, Donald Driver come to mind. That said, why are the scouts getting it wrong missing these folks

3. While Mario Williams might one day turn up to be a pro-bowler, he is not the second coming of Julius Peppers, he is not even the second coming of Ty Warren (who in my opinion, is a good but underrated DE)!

4. Reggie Bush is on a bubble. Unless he finds a way of having a 15 carries, 100 yds, 1 TD game - there will be no clear winner between MW & RB

5. Wouldn't it great to have Rams and Saints be the 2 wildcard teams in NFC - chances are, they will be there.

by yunzer (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 10:26am

Re: 3

The way I heard it, it is allowable to tackle by the hair. But the penalty was for when Johnson picked up Polamalu by his hair after the play.

by billvv (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 10:41am

Does anybody ever say that in picking the Dolphins to challange the Pats "Boy was I wrong." Nope, probably just hype what they got right! Jets playing for next years draft pick? Won't hear that apology either.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 10:48am

Are there really enough Cardinal fans to generate an angry troll mob?

According to Black's Law Dictionary, all you need for a riot is three people, so there might be enough Cardinals fans for that...

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 10:54am

Saw two of Boller's TD's on the highlights. Both passes were deflected high into the air - fortunately in the direction of Ravens receivers (one in the end zone and the other able to run 60+ yards untouched because of the misdirection caused by the deflection). Unless Boller has truely mastered the art of the bank shot, I'm not sure he's much different than the guy we saw for the past several years.

by admin :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 10:59am

In thinking that the Dolphins would challenge for a wild card spot, boy, I was wrong.

by kleph (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 11:00am

anti-rams bias is the new black.

by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 11:15am

...and I wrote in the Scout.com 2006 Fantasy Football Annual that the Jets were a "three-win rebuilding team". Therefore, I was also wrong, unless they go 0-10 from here on out...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 11:27am

I have no idea how Mike Carey grades out compared to other zebras, but that idiotic call makes me wonder again if the officiating would improve if the bottom 10 percent were canned each year. Of course, this assumes that there is a long enough line of competent guys who want in, and I have no idea of whether that is the case. It just seems to me that NFL officiating would benefit like most organizations do when their worst performers regularly exit.

by calig23 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 12:02pm

Why can't we just clone Ed Hochuli?

I mean, would anyone have a problem with that? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 12:02pm

2004 Rams: -23.0 DVOA, 30th of 32
1998 Cardinals: -18.7 DVOA, 27th of 30
Winner: Doug Farrar.

by hrudey (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 12:14pm

18: The problem with canning the bottom 10% of officials is that you would then have to replace them... and any cursory review of Saturday television is all that is needed to verify that there isn't a great pool of applicants waiting in the NCAA.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 12:20pm

Mike Carey hasn't had a bad crew until this year, at least I haven't noticed that his crew is bad until now. Everyone used to say he was one of the best.

I think Larry Nemmers has the best officiating crew right now.

by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 12:30pm

Did KUBIAK predict that not only would Boller have a breakout season but he'd be ridiculously lucky on two TD passes that weren't actually to the target he was throwing to?

Cause if so...wow, that KUBIAK, it rocks hard.

by Kevin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 12:44pm

#10... Let's calm down before we annoint the Saints to a playoff position. Have you seen their schedule after the bye? They play seven TOUGH games and two of the other three are at TB and home against WASH.

The Rams will probably be under .500 after their next four games... at SD, KC, at SEA, and at CAR.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 12:53pm

This article reminds me that maybe an adjustement to the off-season projections is needed. I know there's a penalty for 1st year coaches, and there should be, but maybe that penalty should be offset with a replacing a really terrible coach bonus, which would apply to NO and StL this year. Green Bay too, so maybe the theory isn't that great.

by Not saying (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 1:02pm

Re: 25

Don't forget the Vikings.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 1:14pm

Re #25
Easy: you take care of GB by giving them a penalty for hiring the guy who'd been the OC for the worst offense in the history of DVOA the year before you hired him.

by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 1:18pm

"It isn't your fault that your owner is the central character in 'Weekend at Bernie's — The Home Game,' nor is it your fault that your offensive coordinator is the NFL's version of Basil Fawlty."

But is it his fault that his offensive line coach is Manuel?

by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 1:32pm

Ed Hochuli is getting way too much credit for getting a call right. This is not some obscure rule. If you take a false start penalty, the clock stops. Therefore, teams without timeouts can be tempted toward the end of the game purposely to commit false start penalties in order to stop the clock. Consequently, the rules impose a 10 second runoff if a team commits a false start at the end of the game if it is out of timeouts.

Mere illegal formation, in contrast, does not stop the clock. Therefore, there is no potential to abuse the illegal formation rule to stop the clock intentionally. Hence, no clock runoff is imposed. To me, this is pretty common sense stuff, and I honestly believe that just about every ref in the league would have gotten this call right without difficulty. I think that the only reason for the confusion among some fans and media is that the hand signal for the two penalties is the same.

by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 1:47pm

Re: 29

You may be right that this is a more common sense call than the fans realize. But as a 'Hawks fan who has seen a whole host of game-influencing gaffes by the officials over the past few years go against my team, I was happy to see Hochuli get one right. And it happened to work out for my team.

It may be common sense (although Linehan and the Rams sure looked like they were ready for the runoff), but I don't share your confidence that most of the crews in the NFL would have gotten it right. And, as someone noted, the sight of Hochuli talking to a crowd of 50K fans like they were a 9-year old was priceless.

by Dr. Fan of Sportsmanship (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 2:15pm

I'd just like to salute Troy Polamalu for his reaction to being picked up by his hair: ignoring it and running back to his own sideline.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 2:34pm

Therefore, teams without timeouts can be tempted toward the end of the game purposely to commit false start penalties in order to stop the clock.

It's a bit more than that. If the center and QB go over to the ball and snap it without any of the other players being set, that's a false start, not an illegal formation. Illegal formation implies that the offense was set, and that the alignment just wasn't right.

So you penalize false starts because otherwise you can false start faster than you can line up illegally. The clock can stop on an illegal formation (and it did in this case) because illegal formation doesn't result in the play being blown dead, and the result of the play was a spike to stop the clock.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 2:36pm

Re: 31

Not to dismiss the sportsmanship involved but I think it's a bit overstated to say that Johnson 'picked up' Polamalu by the hair. Johnson did tug up on the hair (obviously increasing Polamalu's urgency to get back up) but certainly not with enough force to pick him up.

But speaking of getting tackled from behind, did anyone else think that the tackle on Joe Horn (after his long touchdown) in the end zone was a 'horse collar'?

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 2:40pm

That being said, of course, if what I said is true (and I'm pretty sure it was, considering the clock did stop) it makes me wonder why teams, when they're spiking the ball, don't have everyone except the center and the QB set themselves immediately, the center and QB run to the ball, and snap and spike the ball. It's an illegal formation penalty, so no clock runoff, and the 5 yards honestly wouldn't matter, because if it's accepted, you save the down. Plus you can do it a hell of a lot faster.

by Smeghead (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 2:45pm

I'd like to thank the anti-Rams bias for the non-runoff and the subsequent field goal. FO message board curse rocks!

Can you work in some Chicago disrespect come January?

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 2:48pm

These shots at Mike McCarthy are somewhat puzzling in that the following has happened in the first five games:

Given the task of overhauling the interior offensive line McCarthy has developed a unit that has both protected its QB and ran the ball ok the last several games. Some of the holes created against the Rams were two yards wide. If the Packers had a running back with actual speed instead of Noah Herron the team might have rushed for another 50 plus yards.

Two new kickers in place for this season with no dropoff whatsoever. And the punter is clearly an improvement. The actual kick coverage squads however, still need to get better.

A rookie wide receiver has been inserted into the offense and has quickly become a strong contributor.

The veteran quarterback is taking much, much, MUCH better care of the ball relative to last year's "Throw it among six guys and see what happens" approach.

The d-line and linebacking units are improved over last year with respect to minimizing the big gashing run and tackling.

The primary issue is the secondary. With Kurt 'I have a job because of my brother' Schottenheimer in charge this unit has been beyond horrible. If the bye week doesn't produce a better approach don't be surprised if Kurt gets fired in mid-season.

Look, I wasn't thrilled with the McCarthy hiring. But any Packer fan who looks at the crap team that finished the season last year and looks at THIS team and thinks there is no improvement then they are being pigheaded or dumb.

Guard Will Whittaker had 16 games to get better and was bad from start to finish and was cut this training camp. Daryn Colledge was horrible his first start and by start three was blowing people off the ball. It's a gross oversimplification but it is STILL a LOT MORE evidence of progress then anything Sherman did last year. I continue to become of the belief that Ted Thompson set Sherman up to fail, Sherman realized it, and so everybody did their best to tank on the season.

by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 3:32pm

Re: 32, 34

Pat, I agree with everything you said in 32, and that's what I meant. Obviously, the clock will always stop on an incompletion, whether or not a penalty is committed on the play. I meant that the illegal formation penalty itself doesn't stop the clock the way a false start penalty does.

As to your suggestion in 34, I think that's a great idea, and teams should try to do that in some circumstances, unless we're missing something.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 3:33pm

McCarthy also did a good job with the Aaron Brooks led Saints offense before going to SF...

by DGL (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 4:06pm

34, 37:

Furthermore, if one or more of the defensive players was still on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive offsides would offset the illegal formation, so there would be no loss of yardage and no loss of down.

I think you've hit on something, Pat.

I wonder what the rule is if one of the offensive players is 20 yards downfield when he comes set a second before the snap. Offsides? Illegal formation? If he's set, it's not a false start.

by Lou (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 4:44pm

I don't think it was a horsecollar because Horn wasn't pulled down backward.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 5:21pm

Alex Smith last year look like he deserved to be the #1 pick in the NFL draft about as much as I did. On his very first drive of the preseason(!) this year, he was making good reads and throwing accurate passes to receivers. From the look on his face, you could tell he was very happy, like he finally undertsood what was going on. While he hasn't had the same look of elation since then, and he's still clearly a young QB in need of seasoning, he no longer looks like he could become the worst QB in NFL history, and I think he'll be a very good QB as soon as next year. Now, it's possible Smith's failures last year and his improvement this year had nothing to do with Mike McCarthy, just as it's possible McCarthy did an excellent job as OC in New Orleans despite never finishing higher than 12th in offensive DVOA and only once having a QB rank in the top 10 in DVOA/DPAR (Brooks was 6th in both in 2003). I'm not trying to deny the improvement you see in the Packers this year, but their DPAR is worse than it was last year (-12.9 v. -20.6, and yes, I know it's early). I'm not trying to say that the Packers would have a winning record, or contend for the playoffs, or be a good team if they'd hired Linehan or Payton instead of McCarthy; I think they have too many holes for that. But looking at the numbers, I don't really know why Mike McCarthy is a head coach in the NFL.

by Kaveman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 5:57pm

#5: In fact, the Broncos then went on to gain 60 yards to end the game, which is definitely more garbage than any of the Raiders’ yardage.

Er, I think they are called garbage yards when the team gaining them cannot win, and the winning team's D goes into a prevent to stop big plays. So, Denver's yards in the 4th quarter cannot be given that label. On the contrary, at a point in the game when you'd think a D would be trying its hardest to get the ball back, those are hard earned yards.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 6:42pm

it's good to stop once in a while and give someone like Hochuli praise for correctly implementing a penalty that half the officials in the league could easily get wrong.

I agree it's good to give kudos to Hochuli, but the notion that "half the officials" might get that call wrong is the kind of ridiculous, nonsensical slur I expect from O'Reilly, not FO!

The only calls that Refs get "wrong" are where they don't see what we see, either live action or via replay -- these human errors are unavoidable. They never err b/c they don't know the rules(okay, you can maybe come up with an example or two per season)!

The other calls that people complain about are the ones where the rules are in fact "standards" not rules and hence screw the refs, by requiring them to apply split second subjective judgment on what I'd call "excessiveness" of otherwise ordinary football conduct. Rules such as offsides, false starts and delays of game are easy: no judgment (you just need to see the infraction), just apply the rule.

Standards such as Roughing the Passer, Horse Collar, Pass Interference, Holding... these are impossible to "get right" 100% of the time.

Anyway, where's your evidence that suggests half the refs wouldn't have known how to apply the 10 second issue?

by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 7:31pm

Re: 43

Carlos, it's not a specific instance of this particular rule being called incorrectly, but I have an example from recent Seahawks history which I think illustrates the fact that not all of the refs know what they're doing at all times:

Closing minute of a 2003 game between Ravens and Seahawks, 'Hawks clinging desperately to a 7-point lead as they're running out the clock. I don't remember specific details of why the clock was stopped when it was supposed to be running, but the net result was that the Ravens were given approx. 30 seconds by the officiating crew. That 30 seconds was enough for the Ravens to complete their improbable comeback and then win in overtime.

The league issued an official apology to the Seahawks for the officiating error, and the lead official was docked some pay. But it didn't change the outcome.

The Seahawks aren't the only team in the league to get jobbed by the refs, and they won't be the last. But as a 'Hawks fan, it's refreshing to see an obscure rule applied correctly in a game situation, and having my team benefit from the correct application of said rule.

by Flux (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 7:53pm

SF scoring 19 (in the first half!) on SD isn't really a surprise; aside from SF's wipe out in KC they've put up at least 20 every game this year, including 24 and over 400 yards against Philly a few weeks back. They've got a good running back, decent O-line, and good passing attack, and any team that can throw the ball can score on SD, if the pass rush is at all contained and the play calling is competent. (No Martyball, for instance.)

SF's problem is clearly defense, in just 6 weeks they've lost games in which they allowed 34, 38, 41, and 48 points, and how many teams in the league wouldn't be 2-4 with that pedigree? Against SD, SF's defense was simply woeful, and the 48 points are probably an understatement. SD had no defensive or kick return scores, and their shortest drives of the day were 35 (TD) and 38 and 45 yards for field goals. SD had 4 TD drives of over 70 yards, most of which seldom saw a 3rd down. SD moved the ball pretty much effortlessly in the 1st half, scoring 5 TDs on 6 possessions, and if Marty hadn't called off the dogs to a large extent in the 2nd half, SD could easily have been up in the 50s or 60s. Safe to say, if SD had gameplanned anything like this in Baltimore, they'd be sharing all of the historic hype the undefeated Bears are now enjoying.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 8:16pm

They never err b/c they don’t know the rules(okay, you can maybe come up with an example or two per season)!

You're joking me, right?

The Troy Polamalu interception in the playoffs last year is the best example, but I can come up with a ton of others.

They make mistakes like anyone else, and the NFL rules are very complex. It happens.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 8:55pm

44: so the clock was stopped when it was supposed to be running. that sounds like an oversight, not the refs not knowing the rules.

46: but I can come up with a ton of others.

Well, you actually named one, but, one... a ton... same difference in your book I guess.

by Ben B. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 9:51pm

42: You are right with the clarification there. My point was that the Raiders' yardage had more meaning in the context of the game, but you make good points about defensive intensity and schemes. It makes sense that the Broncos' D would be playing mainly a prevent D for most of the end of the game and just waiting for the Raiders to beat themselves.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/16/2006 - 11:14pm

47: The Hasselbeck block in the Super Bowl. A pass interference call last week against the Eagles after a ball was tipped (no PI after a ball is touched). That's three, literally off the top of my head.

by RecoveringPackerFan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 2:38am

41-The McCarthy decision shocked me as much as anyone. That said, I have some hope that he can be just good enough to be replaced by someone better and the Pack can have a revival under the tutelage of some old crafty veteran/brilliant young kid (whichever cliche Thompson can find).

by Jerry (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 5:37am

Re #34 et seq:

Would the officials spot the ball as ready to play and allow a snap with the offense scattered around the field? This may be a question for Jerry Markbreit.

by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 11:42am

50 - They had the veteran. . . his name was Bates.

by SOW (not verified) :: Tue, 10/17/2006 - 10:29pm

"Quite possibly" and "continuing anti-Rams bias" are completely different things.

by NoJo (not verified) :: Wed, 10/18/2006 - 11:05am

re: 49
They clearly showed a replay of the tipped ball PI w/ the Eagles where the penalty was, and the PI was before the ball was tipped. The call was correct.

by Bjorn (not verified) :: Wed, 10/18/2006 - 12:52pm

RE: Kyle Boller

Everyone is so eager to rip on Kyle Boller, but his first TD pass bounced off Derrick Mason's head. He should have caught it in the first place.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Wed, 10/18/2006 - 3:30pm

> They clearly showed a replay of the tipped ball PI w/ the Eagles where the penalty was, and the PI was before the ball was tipped. The call was correct.

And ascertaining the timing sequence on such a call is clearly a subjective judgment in any case, as was the bad call on the Hasselbeck tackle in the Super Bowl (the official observed Hasselbeck going low, but incorrectly identified his target as a blocker, not the ballcarrier). Officials will also occasionally make mistakes with the rules, but that's fairly rare, and in this case I agree with Carlos that the interpretation was an easy one. The Seahawks weren't scrambling around the field to stop the clock whereby the officials cut them a break by calling illegal formation instead of offsides, illegal procedure or false start (dead-ball penalties where the runoff would apply); the 'hawks had just intentionally executed a line plunge to set up for the FG and afterwards simply didn't line up properly. A no-brainer, really.

by morganja (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 4:25pm

Actually all three of Boller's TD passes shouldn't have scored. His third one to Heap in the back of the endzone was caught out of bounds but inexplicably scored a TD. It was unchallengable because the ref claimed Heap was pushed out of bounds although the replay clearly showed that he wasn't. Blown call, two tipped passes for TD's, Boller must be living right.