Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Nov 2009

NY Times: Week 11 Matchups

This week in Mike Tanier's game previews: psychological analysis of Norv Turner, Rex Ryan, and Andy Reid, plus Jeff Tedford's Three Rules of Quarterback Robotics and how to avoid watching the Browns play the Lions.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 20 Nov 2009

21 comments, Last at 22 Nov 2009, 1:24pm by southpaw


by Temo :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 12:22pm

Every time the Cowboys lose, the answer is always to say that Garrett doesn't run the ball enough. I'm not sure which way the cause/effect flows here (maybe they lose because he really doesn't run the ball enough), but just once I'd like to see Garrett just slam the ball into the defense 40 times just so I can hear a different excuse.

by BlueStarDude :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 10:06pm

Mike is probably my favorite sports writer, but, like so many others, he's so wrong about this issue.

Dallas ran, I believe, 64 plays not counting punts or FG attempts. 31 of those plays came AFTER the score was 17-0 and 3 more came under 2 minutes to go at the end of the first half. Dallas DID actually do a decent job of mixing run and pass on their 30 other non-kicking plays from scrimmage, and they had mixed results with both.

Did Dallas use the shotgun formation too much? Yeah, probably. But there were no more than 2 or 3 plays you can argue strongly should have been runs, and you could argue that many (if not more) looking back at any game.

I hate this cliche possibly more than any other but this was truly a case of the offense just not executing and making too many mistakes (Roy Williams's drop and his fumble, along with Flo's failure to pickup Woodson's blitz, being the biggest).

by dryheat :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 12:44pm

So I guess the Bengals should give Travis Henry a call when he's a free man?

by Joseph :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 1:30pm

The line about the Monday morning charioteers second-guessing Pharaoh was fantastic. As a pastor, definitely one that I will (and can) repeat.

by nat :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 1:57pm

Yes, I got a chuckle out of this one, too.

But, strictly speaking, doesn't the Almighty play on the Colts' offense? Or are you implying that He is the referee who spots the ball? The Colts defense is generally considered more Hittites than Hebrews.

by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 4:11pm

Maybe the D are Hittites, but Polian (always thinking outside the box) recruited Shiva to play O-line. How else can they get away with holding so often, unless the ref sees two hands blocking legally and misses the two that are full of jersey?

by I am (not verified) :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 1:47pm

Oh, how can you be hatin' on Dhani like that?

The Uriah thing was pretty sharp, though. What a great set of links you have in this column.

by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 2:08pm

"The Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb era has had more false endings than a James Brown concert." A great image, but don't you mean "James Brown's 'Please, Please, Please'"? I was lucky enough to see James Brown perform three or four times, and don't remember false endings of the concerts themselves. However, the "being helped off the stage and comforted, with a robe thrown over his shoulders, then throwing off the robe and rushing back to the microphone to sing some more" routine, repeated a number of times, was always a crowd-pleaser, even when we all know it was coming.

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 2:32pm

Excellent column. Comparing the leadership of Norv Turner to a substitute gym teacher was brilliant, and loved the Bladerunner, JB, and Bible references. The Mora jabs were just icing on the petit-four.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 2:41pm

I think Jamaal Charles, if he can stay on the field (and with his build I do worry about whether he can), will be a pretty darn good back.

Mike Tanier will rue the day he insulted Jamaal Charles.

Excellent column, as usual. The James Brown joke was priceless.

by wr (not verified) :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 3:23pm

Mike, I am sorry to see you didn't properly run with the indulgence reference,
and have Mora nail 95 such complaints to the door of NFL HQ. Liked the fantasy game for the football players - how many points per suck up?

by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 4:04pm

Well, ya don't often see James Brown, Martin Luther and Uriah the Hittite in the same article - even in the NYT. Well played, sir.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 4:35pm

"Colts opponents are acting like Saturday-serial saloon-brawl stuntmen, standing around waiting for the heroes to punch them so they can crash into the piano."

"Bill Belichick has just weathered the longest week of second-guessing since Monday morning charioteers questioned pharaoh’s decision to go for it at the Red Sea."

"The team used the lull in the schedule to sign running back Larry Johnson as part of their effort to acquire one player to represent each of the seven deadly sins. Johnson will represent wealth, Chad Ochocinco, pride and Andre Smith gluttony; the injured receiver Chris Henry fills in for all uncommitted sins, while linebacker Dhani Jones only sins against fashion. The Raiders, always trend-setters in the field of vice, will provide the envy this week."

How does he do it? One brilliant column a month is great, but every week? Even twice a week? Can he truly sustain it over an entire season?

by DGL :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 6:22pm

I'm worried because Columnnist Outsiders' research has shown that if a writer gets more than 370 obscure historical and cultural references in one season, his performance the next year falls off a cliff.

by Noah Arkadia :: Sat, 11/21/2009 - 1:04am


Adam, of course, doesn't read Columnist Outsiders, and will write Tanier to the ground just to sell a few more articles to ESPN.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 5:38pm

"Late-game, fourth-down decisions straight from the Barry Switzer Book of Blunders"

You know, for a site that professes being for advanced statistics, you guys ignore probability quite a bit.

by MJK :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 9:35pm

First off...hilarious column. And insightful. I love Tanier columns.

That being said, I had to comment on this one:
The Buccaneers have fumbled 19 times this year, but they only lost three of those fumbles. Teams typically lose about half their fumbles, and the percentages usually even out as a season wears on. The Buccaneers don’t posses special “fumble scooping” powers; they have just been lucky. At the rate they cough up the football, there are a bunch of turnovers just waiting for central tendency’s invisible paw to swat them into opponents’ arms. That means the Buccaneers may actually get worse in the latter half of the season.

Mike, Mike, Mike...
I thought you were a math teacher. Maybe what you're saying is that, given the Buc's fumble propensity, they're likely to turn the ball over a lot from here on out just because they will lose half, but it really really sounds like you're trying to argue that, because they've been lucky so far, that they are MORE likely to lose fumbles later on than an average team. And that's obviously not true. Just because a coin I flipped 19 times only came up tails three of them doesn't mean that I should expect more than 50% tails on my subsequent flips...

by AnonymousB10Fan (not verified) :: Fri, 11/20/2009 - 11:15pm

It would seem pretty obvious that what he's trying to say is that if the Bucs fumble about 2 times a game the rest of the year as they have so far, they'll lose 1 per game instead of the 1 per 3 they've experienced to date, and that the four extra turnovers will cause a (further) deterioration of their performance.

by Noah Arkadia :: Sat, 11/21/2009 - 1:03am

Yeah. By "central tendency" I think he means regression to the mean, not that bad karma will come collecting. Not this soon, anyway.

by RMGreen :: Sun, 11/22/2009 - 11:45am

What I have a bit of a tough time understanding is how, regardless of how well Mike writes, he gets post after post of affection in the NYT comments section rather than the usual vitriol and hate that seems to come after any other sports column on a mainstream internet site. I suspect that Mike has a hand in 'moderating' the comments thread... ;^)

by southpaw (not verified) :: Sun, 11/22/2009 - 1:24pm

Matt Stover just called from his rest home and said he doesn't appreciated the implication that he is as old as the hills.

Great article, it's becoming a Sunday morning "must read" for me.