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UCLA's quarterback clearly has the talent to succeed as an NFL starter. The question is whether or not he can avoid enough mistakes to become a superstar.

23 Feb 2010

Four Downs: NFC North

By Ned Macey

Chicago: Can Mike Martz save the Bears offense?

Five years ago, Mike Martz was considered by some to be the top offensive mind in football. How times change. He was fired by the 49ers following the 2008 season and only got the Bears job after about a dozen people turned it down, fearful of head coach Lovie Smith's long-term status. Now Martz is tasked with helping Jay Cutler find the form that led the Bears to trade multiple first round picks for him only a season ago.

In some ways, the hiring of Martz is downright bizarre. Cutler's primary problems last season were his propensity for interceptions and his lack of protection behind a shoddy offensive line. Cutler threw a league-high 26 interceptions last year and got sacked a career-high 35 times. Martz has long encouraged his quarterbacks to play freely and not fear interceptions, and his focus on deep passing and multiple receivers leads to large numbers of sacks. Jon Kitna was sacked more than 50 times in both of his two years as a starter in Martz's offense. Considering the poor talent on the Bears offensive line, Cutler will be hit a bunch next year, risking the health of the Bears' largest investment.

Martz's reputation has understandably taken a hit in recent seasons. His tenure as a head coach in St. Louis ended poorly, his Detroit teams never had good offenses, and in San Francisco, the ill-fated J.T. O'Sullivan experiment was a complete disaster. Still, while the addition of Martz will not lead to a return of the Greatest Show on Turf, the offense should improve. The 49ers improved from the league's worst offense to a little below average in Martz's one season as the offensive coordinator. In Detroit, his offenses were below-average both seasons, but the Lions still played much better than the year before he arrived or the year after he left.

Martz is far from a panacea, but he should put Cutler in the position to have some success. Martz's offenses run up a ton of negative plays, but he does allow his quarterbacks to attack down the field. Cutler has a strong arm that he was not free to use last season because the Bears were so concerned about him being hit. Additionally, Martz uses running backs well in the passing game, and Matt Forte has proved to be an adept receiver. The Bears offense will not be good next season, but it should be better.

Who could leave?

The best free agent the Bears have is Danieal Manning. Thanks to the failure to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, he will be a restricted free agent. It seems unlikely that the Bears would let such a critical part of their defense leave. The losses are more likely to come from the defensive end position. Veteran starter Adewale Ogunleye is an unrestricted free agent. Mark Anderson, Ogunleye’s backup, will only be a restricted free agent. Anderson has disappointed since his breakout rookie year in 2006, but he still has some pass rushing skills and should be retained for a reasonable price. The Bears could also take a hit on special teams. The other Adrian Peterson is a free agent, as is tackle-machine Jamar Williams. Williams, like every over-performing special-teamer, longs for more meaningful playing time on defense, which he is unlikely to get as Lance Briggs’ backup. Williams and fellow linebacker Nick Roach are both restricted free agents. The Bears will probably keep only one, and Roach is a better candidate for strong-side linebacker.

Who could they sign?

The Bears are traditionally quiet in free agency, preferring to pick up secondary targets later in the process. Devoid of draft picks in the first two rounds, the Bears may be inclined to be more aggressive. The obvious hole is the offensive line. A plethora of young tackles will be restricted free agents, but can the Bears afford to give up a future draft pick to sign a Marcus McNeill or Alex Barron?

Detroit: Is Matt Stafford ready to take the next step?

The Lions remain a team in absolute shambles. They are the only team who don't deem a 2-14 season a disappointment. The Lions have massive problems on defense, the league's worst unit according to Football Outsiders' DVOA the past two seasons, so most of the offseason attention will likely be on that side of the ball. Still, any chance at respectability (which for Detroit may be six wins), is dependent on last year's first overall pick Matthew Stafford emerging as a quality quarterback.

Stafford flashed serious potential at times in his rookie season, but his overall stats were extremely poor. According to Football Outsiders DYAR rankings, only JaMarcus Russell had a lower value than Stafford. DYAR is not really telling us something that conventional stats could not. Stafford completed only 53 percent of his passes and had a 13-20 touchdown to interception ratio. He only played one game all season where he completed 60 percent of his passes and threw more touchdowns than interceptions, his signature game against Cleveland.

Stafford was only a rookie, but the odds against him emerging next season are long. Since 1994 (the first year for which DYAR has been calculated), only one rookie has had a worse season and emerged as a very good player, Donovan McNabb. McNabb improved radically his second season, but he is definitely the exception to the rule. Among the current top quarterbacks in the league, only McNabb and Eli Manning had debut seasons even in the same ballpark as Stafford.

Quite simply, nothing about Stafford's rookie season suggests that he will play at a high level in 2010. Obviously, if the Lions get a great second receiver to pair with Calvin Johnson, it would help Stafford immensely. Still, any hope for the Lions having a successful season next year is predicated on an assumption that Stafford will become a competent quarterback. In general, quarterbacks as bad as Stafford was as a rookie simply do not suddenly emerge as competent. He may develop into a star, but it will take more than one season if it happens.

Who could leave?

The Lions tried to achieve respectability by adding a number of veteran free agents last offseason. It didn’t work, and many of those veterans will be free agents this year. Linebacker Larry Foote, cornerback Will James, and offensive lineman Jon Jansen are all likely to move elsewhere. Backup quarterback Daunte Culpepper is an unrestricted free agent. He was upset at how he was treated at times last season, and a return seems unlikely. The Lions attempts at supplementing at wide receiver with Dennis Northcutt and Bryant Johnson didn't work, and one of the two may be sent packing. One potential decision the Lions have to make is whether to keep linebacker Julian Peterson at his $7.5 million salary.

Who could they sign?

The Lions are really bad, and it just makes little sense to add veteran free agents. The no-CBA adjustment to free agency really hurts a team like Detroit, as a four-year veteran is only 26 or 27 and could still be in his prime when Detroit may be good again. A six-year veteran could be in his 30s by the time the Lions become competitive. Still, with so many holes, the Lions will not be silent in free agency. They could look at Kyle Vanden Bosch, whose best days are behind him but who would immediately be the Lions' top defensive end. The Lions will also look to add a veteran quarterback with Culpepper's likely departure. One possibility is a Charlie Batch return. Obviously health is a question, but Batch, who debuted with Detroit, is an ideal backup to the young Stafford. The Lions also would be well served to add a wide receiver, someone like Jason Avant, a Michigan grad who is a restricted free agent. Avant should have a manageable tag (how many wide receivers does Philadelphia need) and would provide a solid possession receiver opposite Calvin Johnson.

Green Bay: Is the pass defense good enough to get to the Super Bowl?

Under first-year coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers defense was a surprisingly effective unit last season. A solid pass rush and great play from Charles Woodson helped turn the defense into a real strength for the Packers. In the playoffs, however, Green Bay got shredded by the Cardinals. Was that a one-game aberration, or did the Cardinals expose holes that can be exploited by opponents in 2010?

For the season, the Packers ranked second in our DVOA rankings, so they certainly appear to be in good shape for next season. A closer look at how the high ranking was built up leads to possible concerns. The Packers feasted on a plethora of poor pass offenses. The Packers only played six games against offenses in the top half of the DVOA rankings (not counting the meaningless Week 17 contest against Arizona). In four of those games -- both losses against Minnesota, the Pittsburgh loss, and the Arizona playoff loss -- the Packers defense got blasted by their opposition. Our DVOA ratings adjust for opponent, but maybe not enough in Green Bay's case. The Packers were particularly good against their worst opponents and particularly bad against very good quarterbacks.

The Packers are understandably a chic pick to win the NFC next season, and the offense should remain potent with Aaron Rodgers continuing to develop. The defense, as constituted, will likely be good enough to return to the playoffs, as it can continue to dominate the Bears and Lions of the world. If the Packers really want to compete for a Super Bowl, however, they will have to be able to slow down top opposing pass offenses.

The Packers have internal hope for improvement. Cornerbacks Al Harris and Will Blackmon, both lost to injury last year, could return this season. Still, Harris is basically ancient at age 35, and his return to elite level is highly doubtful. Even more troubling, it's hard to imagine that Woodson, who turns 34 next season, will maintain the same high level of performance. Safety Atari Bigby has improved in coverage but remains a liability. Good opponents were able to successfully attack down the middle of the field, and Bigby gets lost sometimes as he gets farther from the line of scrimmage. Absent some major moves in the defensive secondary, it is hard to imagine the Packers will have solved these problems next year.

Who could leave?

The best player likely to depart is Aaron Kampman. The great pass rusher was better in the 3-4 than general news reports have suggested, but the scheme does not feature his strengths. Perhaps more importantly, he is old and coming off a major knee injury. Perhaps even more crucial to the Packers' success is the status of their aging tackles, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. The mid-season re-signing of Tauscher last season was a crucial move taken to salvage what was a disastrous offensive line. Tauscher is not a long-term solution, so the Packers could try again and go with T.J. Lang at right tackle. At left tackle, Clifton only played 12 games last season and will be 33 this season. The Packers should retain him if possible, as losing Clifton and Tauscher would be a major cause for concern. Further complicating matters is that Jason Spitz and Daryn Colledge are both restricted free agents, potentially hurting their depth. Elsewhere, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett is an unrestricted free agent, and Johnny Jolly is a restricted free agent. The Packers will need to retain at least one of the two. Likewise, both starting safeties are restricted free agents. It would be interesting if the Packers let Atari Bigby test the waters, as he's not really worth a huge investment.

Who could they sign?

The Packers have not been particularly active in free agency under Ted Thompson. With the team poised to contend for a Super Bowl, they should only tinker at the margins. In the event they decided to go with a big impact signing, Richard Seymour would obviously be a nice addition for the defensive line. The Packers are unlikely to pay big bucks plus draft picks for the top restricted free agent offensive tackles, with the draft the more likely source to address offensive line depth.

Minnesota: Will the Vikings aging Pro-Bowler retire or return?

A vital cog to the Vikings team has said it is 50-50 whether he will return next season. And his indecision has yet to be parlayed into lucrative marketing opportunities. Veteran defensive tackle Pat Williams, perhaps worn down by the physical season, indicated he might not return next year. While maybe not the difference-maker Brett Favre is, Williams is an invaluable piece of the Vikings' dominant run defense.

Williams is one of the most successful free-agent signings of recent years. In the 2005 offseason, he left the top-ranked run defense in Buffalo to join the league's worst run defense in Minnesota. The next season, Buffalo dropped to 31st in DVOA against the run, and Minnesota improved to the league average. In the past four seasons, the Vikings have ranked first, second, fourth, and first in our metrics for run defense. Williams certainly does not do it alone, but he is the preeminent run-stuffing defensive tackle of this generation.

The Vikings appear unconcerned that Williams will really retire, assuming that his comments reflect the emotions of losing the NFC Championship game. Still, even if Williams returns, he will turn 38 this season, and his best days are behind him. The Vikings are simply not prepared for the loss of Williams. Backup Jimmy Kennedy is a serviceable journeyman, not a regular starter. Nothing suggests that the younger Fred Evans is going to be anything more than a rotation guy. The Vikings' single biggest defensive advantage is that they do not have to play a safety in the box to stop the run. Without Williams, that will certainly change, and the Vikings' often leaky secondary will be even more exposed.

In any event, keep track, to the extent you can tolerate it, of the news coming out of Mississippi regarding a certain Hall of Fame quarterback. Just remember that the Vikings fortunes do not rest only on his retirement decision. While it will get one percent as much coverage on SportsCenter, the decision of Williams is nearly as important for the team's chances.

Who could leave?

Besides Williams and Favre's possible (albeit unlikely) retirements, the Vikings are in very good shape this offseason. Ray Edwards is a restricted free agent and will presumably be kept. The trickier questions are running back Chester Taylor and cornerback Benny Sapp. The conventional wisdom is that Taylor should be retained as a good second-fiddle to Adrian Peterson. The truth is Taylor was woeful last season. Taylor will turn 31 next season, and the Vikings might be better served picking up a back in the draft to spell Peterson, unless Taylor is willing to return for a very small salary. Sapp is a different case because the Vikings already have depth concerns at cornerback with the late-season injury to Cedric Griffin and the season-long injuries to Antoine Winfield. Also, the Vikings will have to make a decision on Tarvaris Jackson, a restricted free agent. If they place any sort of restriction on his movement, it is hard to imagine that another team would pay the price, and it seems sensible to keep Jackson as a solid backup option.

Who could they sign?

It has been fun to ignore the elephant in the room, but truth be told, the Vikings have to make a decision at quarterback. The likelihood that Favre will return despite his protestations to the contrary means that retaining Jackson could be all that is required. The Donovan McNabb rumors are mostly dying, although it strikes me as a very sensible move for Minnesota if Philadelphia would listen. Otherwise, nothing on the quarterback market is particularly worth pursuing, so the Vikings will have to stick tight. Outside of quarterback, the Vikings should sift through the cornerbacks for added depth, and they should consider an upgrade at right guard.

(Portions of this article originally appeared on ESPN.com Insider.)

Posted by: Ned Macey on 23 Feb 2010

46 comments, Last at 26 Feb 2010, 5:18am by HYATT™


by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 1:49pm

I'll assume the article was written before Pat Williams announced that he would play next season, and not edited before being posted today.

I agree that Sapp is more important to Minnesota than Taylor in 2010, especially early in the season. I don't like the LT rumors. A draft RB (or even Young, who looks OK) seems like the logical choice. RG is an interesting proposal - I'd like to see some more talent/depth at safety (and no, Frampton-like ST fodder doesn't count as depth).

by Marko :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 1:56pm

"In this NFC North Review: Mike Martz tries to resuscitate Jay Cutler, Matt Stafford tries to resuscitate the Lions, Green Bay completes a quick transition to the 3-4 defense, and two important Packers contemplate retirement."

That last part should refer to two important Vikings (or one important Viking and one important ex-Packer), not two important Packers.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 2:08pm

Vikings: The Minnesota franchise has drastic needs in the defensive secondary and an aging, if still effective, front seven. If they could trade up in the draft, Suh or McCoy (or one of the lesser prospects in a draft stacked at the position) would make a great replacement for Pat Williams and could rotate in and out in Year one while learning the ropes. Minnesota has a lot of money invested in the offensive line and the RB position; investing more makes little sense. The way to go there is to use late draft picks on depth players and see how they pan out. Keeping Sapp is probably important, keeping Taylor is probably a mistake.

Bears: Offensive line. They need to draft a left tackle first and foremost, but every position is going to need work in the next few years. With a great offensive line, Cutler can probably succeed, although while he could be a great Martz quarterback, his receivers are not obvious fits for a Martz system. Chicago has a lot of small, waterbug guys without good route running skills or hands. The defense is falling apart as the 2005-6 heroes age, but protecting Cutler has to be the first priority.

Lions: Where to start?

Packers: Green Bay is a talented team, but their defense has a lot of holes and a lot of aging (the entire secondary) or departing (Pickett, Kampmann) stars. Dunta Robinson would be a good FA pickup, and getting some linemen in a decent draft at the position wouldn't be a bad idea.

On offense, the line needs work but Rodgers has proven his ability to produce without it; every other position is pretty much set, although Ryan Grant is a placeholder, not a star. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 2:39pm

One player among the Vikings front seven is rightfully considered aging, especially given how much Brinkley showed as a rookie after Henderson was injured. Jimmy Kennedy actually showed signs of career resucitation this year, although he'll never be a Pat Williams style run-stuffer. Kennedy appears to have been playing about 25 pounds too heavy for most of his career, and if he maintains his conditioning, he'll be a player with value.

The Vikings have zero chance of making a trade for Suh or McCoy. If they could acquire a corner with talent, and convince Winfield to move to safety, that might make them much better.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 5:30pm

I agree that Minnesota would never trade up (and if they did, they'd probably take a quarterback...ugh), but I think it would be a better call than a lot of things they could do. If Berry falls at all, he'd be interesting.

Kevin Williams is no spring chicken, and Edwards and Allen are probably only good for a few more years at end until they're Freeney's age and declining talents. More to the point, as KW, Allen, and Edwards age, they'll need to be spelled more often to be effective.

I agree about Jimmy Kennedy; if his conditioning stays good he'll be a useful piece (although he'd probably be even more valuable as a 3-4 end a few pounds lighter still). The good teams run schemes based around being good at things; the Colts have stud DE's, the Ravens have their linebackers (and Ed Reed). Minnesota ought to consider how they'll stay good at what they do before worrying about their third cornerback or whether Winfield would make a better Safety.

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 5:32pm

Isn't Ray Edwards like 26?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 5:54pm

I'd wager that Kevin Williams has at least three more highly effective years, while Allen and Edwards have at least five. If that is "aging", well the word's descriptive value is of a limited nature. No team ever, and I mean ever, has too much depth on the defensive line, especially pass rushers.

If you can acquire a ggod corner, move an existing corner to safety, and end up being as good at corner, and much better at safety, that is a smart move.

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 5:29pm

I disagree with your Bear's assessment. They already drafted their LT of the future two years ago, in Chris Williams.. He looked OK in the role at the end of the year too.

They need a RT, and an upgrade in play from center (I think the Bears are banking on Kreutz providing it). Omiyale has the physical ability to play in the NFL, but he looks so lost out there. Maybe Tice can teach him.

by TomC :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 2:44pm

The Bears WR comment made me laugh, too. Since when do "small, waterbug guys" not fit Martz's system. Were Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Rickey Proehl actually 6'5" 220, and I'm just mis-remembering?

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 3:05pm

I wasn't drawing a distinction between guys who are big and guys who are fast, I was drawing a distinction between guys who are fast and guys who run crisp and perfect routes. The ideal Martz receiver is emphatically -not- Devin Hester. But you don't have to be big - I shudder to think what Wes Welker would have done in the Greatest Show on Turf.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 9:27pm

Suh and McCoy would both be replacements for Kevin Williams, who shows no signs of needing replacing any time soon, not Pat, who does. They would both also cost the earth to acquire. Cody, on the other hand, does the same job as Williams the Elder, and is probably not an unrealistic use for their first round pick, though they might have to move up a few spots to get him.

by bingo762 :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 2:13pm

Detroit can have Kevin Curtis and/or Reggie Brown. They can't have Avant

by DavidL :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 2:27pm

Indeed. I expect Brown to be gone the instant the salary cap expires.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 2:29pm

"Cutler threw a league-high 26 interceptions last year and got sacked a career-high 35 times. Martz has long encouraged his quarterbacks to play freely and not fear interceptions, and his focus on deep passing and multiple receivers leads to large numbers of sacks."

I wonder if this is a planned, aggressive strategy. The Bears might be thinking that Cutler will throw an above-average amount of interceptions no matter what, and that their conservative offense only made the inevitable interception that much worse.

A high interception count is less detrimental if the QB is also moving the ball downfield; think a young Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, or Peyton Manning this past season.

Of course, as noted, it makes Cutler much more susceptible to getting hit, so I'm still a bit skeptical of the Martz hire. I'm cautiously optimistic only because the Bears have not had an aggressive coordinator like Martz in recent memory.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 2:45pm

Let it be noted again that hiring Tice to coach the offensive line may be just as valuable, if not more so, than hiring Martz. If Tice and Martz can co-exist, and there is any talent on the offensive live, Tice will extract it. The guy was ridiculed a lot as a head coach, sometimes rightfully so, but he was tremendous as an o-line coach for the Vikings, oftentimes with guys who were late round draft picks, undrafted free agents, and guys picked off the waiver wire.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 7:07pm

Will, good observation concerning Tice. But in all fairness, Tice also had some pretty talented OL in Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christie, Korey Stringer, and Todd Steussie.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 2:45am

Jeff Christy was a 4th round pick. He was never considered exceptionally physically talented. Other late round and undrafted guys who ended up being pretty productive for the Vikings, with Tice coaching them, were Matt Birk, David Dixon, and Chris Liewinski.

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 5:19pm

I was thinking the same thing. Yeah he's going to throw picks, lets maximize the passes where he isn't throwing picks.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 3:00pm

The thing which excites me most about Martz is that he is going to push Cutler relentlessly to get every last drop of talent out of him. There will be no coddling and Cutler will have no option other than to get with the program and start doing what Martz wants. He might even get the QB and the WRs on the same page, although as a Bears fan I am not sure what that would look like.

I don't know how many people watched the JT(i) Sullivan experiment in SF but my memories of it are that it looked like a pretty whizz bang offense for two or three plays in which they moved the ball down the field followed by JT(i) holding the ball for a good seven or eight seconds which was somewhat predictably followed by a strip sack. If you didn't see it you simply wouldn't believe how long the guy would stand back there patting the ball it made Rob Johnson look skittish by comparison. He would then throw a great pass 35 yards down the field, but then repeat his ball patting trick. I strongly suspect that if Alex Smith's shoulder had been in decent shape he would have gottne the job.

by Johnny (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 2:47pm

Did this site post a link to an interview with Jaws who studyied all of Cutler's interceptions and he found out almost all of them were NOT a result of pressure/bad o-line.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 5:11pm

Yes, I read that claim, but if you actually look at Jaws' analysis, he credits a lot of the interceptions to pressure. It was shoddy journalism -- did he think no one was going to actually read the analysis?

by Marko :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 2:54pm

"The best free agent the Bears have is Danieal Manning. Thanks to the failure to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, he will be a restricted free agent. It seems unlikely that the Bears would let such a critical part of their defense leave."

Manning is not a critical part of the Bears' defense. He has bounced back and forth between safety, cornerback and nickel back. They keep trying to make him their free safety, but he lacks instincts and never makes any plays there, so he gets shifted somewhere else. He has never done well at cornerback, but he has had his moments as a nickel back.

His biggest contributions to the Bears have been as a kick returner. Of course, the Bears have others who have excelled as kick returners.

by muteant :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 3:46pm

Chester Taylor may have been woeful running the ball, but he was very effective as a receiver out of the backfield on third down.

"We're the worst thing since sliced bread" - Steve Francis

by Dan :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 4:01pm

Chris Williams seems pretty much locked in at LT for the Bears and they don't have the draft picks to go after a RFA, so McNeil and Barron don't look like real possibilities for them. If Chicago makes a move this offseason, it's more likely to be for a defensive player, probably either DE (Kampman?) or FS (maybe Rhodes, if he becomes available).

They seem pretty content with the OL they had at the end of the season, except for Shaffer at RT - they're talking about moving Omiyale out there. I'd bet that at least 4 of their 5 OL starters are already on the roster in Williams (LT), Omiyale (LG/RT), Beekman (LG/C), Kreutz (C), Garza (RG), and Shaffer (RT).

by GoVikes (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 4:25pm

The Vikings are in no position to make a play for Suh or McCoy, but there should be other big bodies that can spell Williams that can be drafted in the 1st Round - I can't see any other position the Vikings should draft for above that. If I recall correctly, DT has a lot of depth in the draft.

The bigger question at QB is not Favre's return, but whether T-Jack is the long-term answer. Favre's only got one more year in him at this rate, and banking on anything beyond that would be irresponsible of management. Unfortunately, I think Childress is too hard-headed to admit that he made a mistake drafting him so highly and at some point the Vikings will waste a year with him at the helm. I just can't be convinced at this point that Jackson can carry the team. There's a lot of decent quarterbacks who will likely be available in the later rounds - Tim Heller and Tony Pike come to mind - and it will be interesting if the Vikings take a flier on one to groom as competition or if they'll hand the keys over.

by Joe T. :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 4:27pm

What happened to Sage Rosenfels?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 5:57pm

He was, in the pre-season games last August, identified as, well, Sage Rosenfels. Shocking, I know.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 9:32pm

If the Vikings release him, I doubt there is a single Texans fan who wouldn't be delighted to have him back, helicopter and all. If I never see Rex Grossman take the field again it will be too soon.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 2:53am

Oh, I'd take him over ol' Rexy as well, as damning with faint praise as that is.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 4:53pm

A nitpicky comment in the context of this article, but I'm always disappointed to see a FO article cite a QB's TD-interception ratio -- I have never understood what these two measures have to do with one another, other than most QB's accrue totals for each in roughly the same ballpark over the course of a season, and what meaning comparing them is supposed to convey. Yes, TD's are good and interceptions are bad, but do we cite batters' RBI-to-strikeout ratio in baseball? (For that matter, QB touchdowns, like RBI's, are incredibly overrated and mostly team-dependent stats that we like to assign to individuals). I expect FO not to fall for such convention, and refer to more meaningful stats like interceptions/passes thrown (and never refer to a QB's touchdown passes.)

There, I'm done.

by HYATT™ (not verified) :: Fri, 02/26/2010 - 5:18am

RE:Bjorn Nittmo said, "A nitpicky comment in the context of this article, but I'm always disappointed to see a FO article cite a QB's TD-interception ratio -- I have never understood what these two measures have to do with one another, other than most QB's accrue totals for each in roughly the same ballpark over the course of a season, and what meaning comparing them is supposed to convey."

Given that Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, & Randall Cunningham are the only QBs who have thrown over 200 TDs and have a better TD/INT ratio than Brett Favre, (followed by Jim Kelly, Sonny Jurgenson, Boomer Esiason, & John Elway) - the idea that the TD/INT ratio is a meaningless stat is itself a meaningless comment.
QBs neither throw "in the same ballpark" over the course of a season, nor do they throw "in the same ballpark" from season to season - unless one considers 33 TDs and 7 INTs to be "in the same ballpark" as 26 TDs and 25 INTs. When they have a high TD/INT ratio, they end up in the playoffs more often than not. As the value approaches 1, they generally do not.
It is an "indicator", as are all stats, but it is one of the more important ones in rating QB performances on the season, along with completion percentage & 3rd down conversion rate.

by ammek :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 5:07pm

All things are relative, but is it fair to describe Kampman as "old"? He's 6 weeks older than Peppers, 10 weeks older than Dwight Freeney, 2 months younger than Seymour and Pickett, and only 8 months older than Kevin Williams — all players who I'd think of as still being in their prime.

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 5:26pm

Once the first digit in your age is a 3, you're old in the NFL.

by verifiable (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 8:23pm

Is this analysis going to be redone now that, thanks to extra points, we know the Lions released Jared DeVries?

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 9:43pm

I did a search on p-f-r regarding Stafford to see what would happen with a larger sample size (though obviously no DVOA): http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/lo3gn

Obviously, ANY/A+ is not as good of a measure of performance as DVOA, but since it can go back to 1969, it can give a much bigger sample size. By the way, only five guys come up before 1978, so it's easy enough to ignore them if you don't think they should count.

It actually has the entire range of QBs, from great (John Elway, Steve Young) to average (Brian Sipe, Erik Kramer) to awful (Akili Smith, Craig Whelihan). There are more of the bad-to-awful QBs than good-to-great, but it interestingly is not very clear-cut.

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 1:05am

Kampman was lost in run defense in the 3-4 where previously he was lights out anchoring the corner. And his pass rush exploded once Capers let him put his hand down on obvious passing downs.

Will Blackmon is an injury waiting to happen. It's silly to even list him as an option. Better to think of Pat Lee, the second round pick who the Packers put on IR at the start of the season. He is the guy the Packers brass hopes is ready to replace take a spot. The Packers dream scenario is that Lee/Tramon handle the corners and Woodson becomes a safety paired up with Collins.

With Jolly's court issues no opposing team will risk targeting him in any way. That allows the Packers to focus on Collins and Pickett. It would be colossally stupid of Thompson to let his cheapskate ways get in the way of re-signing the guys who actually perform on the field. Then again, this is the guy who threw cash at now part-timer Brady Poppinga so go figure.

Green Bay needs to find a real punter and invest in special teams. All this fussing over defense would be mitigated if the team didn't surrender a field position advantage every d*mn game.

by Dave In Tucson (not verified) :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 1:45am

Was [the Packers pass defense getting shreded by the Cardinals in the playoffs] a one-game aberration

Did you see the Packers play the Steelers? Week 15? Roethlisberger put up 500 yards passing? That was the game the Packer's pass defense got exposed.

by Rax Grissman (not verified) :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 1:54am

Sure, Stafford's season was bad. But were the teams that McNabb or Manning on as bad offensively as the Lions, in terms of positional talent? I doubt it (I could look it up but I'm guessing right now that it would be difficult to be worse than the Lions). The only competent receiver is triple covered half the time. Until they get some offensive talent it's hard to gauge his play.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 2:15am

The Colts were really bad when they got Manning, but they did have Faulk and Harrison.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 10:37am

Tarik Glenn too.

by Led :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 11:13am

"Since 1994 (the first year for which DYAR has been calculated), only one rookie has had a worse season and emerged as a very good player, Donovan McNabb. McNabb improved radically his second season, but he is definitely the exception to the rule. Among the current top quarterbacks in the league, only McNabb and Eli Manning had debut seasons even in the same ballpark as Stafford."

FO writers do it all the time, but I don't find this type of historical analysis particularly compelling. The differences between the "comp" players and the context in which they played may be far more significant than their similarities. It may be that Stafford won't be very good, but that's because his team is likely to continue to be terrible and not because his performance as a rookie on a terrible team reveals tells us what we need to know about his NFL potential.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 11:33am

Ahhh...nature v. nurture.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 6:20pm

Exactly. The idea is supposed to be that at this point, when we talk about Stafford's DYAR, we mean "the DYAR for Matt Stafford as the QB in Detroit's 2009 offense." In that context, you might as well be saying "Among the current top quarterbacks in the league, only McNabb and Eli Manning had debut seasons in an environment anywhere close to Stafford's environment."

I think it would have been more meaningful to refer to Lewin's forecast for Stafford, perhaps suggesting that Stafford had not shown much in 2009 to indicate that the forecast would be inaccurate, and that the surrounding cast would likely not improve to the point where it would be significantly more helpful to him.

Another approach might have been to look at the personnel (and changes) around McNabb in Philadelphia and Manning in New York, and then to estimate what might be necessary to produce similar changes in Detroit.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 1:48am

Nicely articulated

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 3:20pm

"What might be necessary to produce similar changes in Detroit:"

An offensive line.

by lionsbob :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 11:10pm

What makes Stafford different than Sanchez?-I guess their raw stats are similar (though Stafford played in fewer games) and Stafford didn't apparently have an all-world line/running game to lean one either.