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25 Nov 2009

Scramble for the Ball: Coaching Carousel

by Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower


Mike: We got an e-mail last week that wasn't really fantasy football related, but nonetheless interesting. Since last week's installment was, as the golfer said, freagan' 'uuge!, It's definitely worth our (and your) discussion:

mrapollinax: Not really start-sit related, but definitely a football geek-related question: Out of the big name coaching free agents, which one do you think can pull off a Bill Walsh and at which franchise?

Tom: Bill Cowher apparently turned down an opportunity to interview for the Bills job.

Mike: My initial thought is that Mike Shanahan would be the only one that could because he's the only one that could reasonably expect GM power.

Tom: Mike Holmgren?

Mike: Perhaps, but I don't think anyone would actually give it to him.

Tom: I think he expects GM-type authority. Eric Mangini has a job. Norv was hired to run a team that went 14-2 and needed to get over a playoff hump. Matt Millen lasted eleventy-billion years. Never underestimate what an NFL owner can do.

Mike: I actually like Mangini in Cleveland. The Browns are a train wreck, and it's mostly not his fault.

Tom: Sure, the problems with the Browns aren't all coaching-related, but this team did go 10-6 two seasons ago.

Mike: Right, I'm not sure how, but they did. It's so surreal, like some kind of fantasy created in the head of a 1970s Cleveland Plain Dealer writer who had spent too much time staring at fancy stemware.

Tom: Anyway, I'd agree with Doug's comment that Holmgren may not deserve GM powers.

Mike: I'm not sure any of these guys really do, which leaves you in an interesting situation, because there are good coaches, but to turn things around you need personnel skills. It's the reason I have such mixed feelings about Cowher. I think he was an excellent coach, don't get me wrong, but he was just a coach.

Tom: I wonder how much he's part of the Fisher school; all you need to win is to run the ball a lot and play physical defense.

Mike: And how much of that is the coach, and how much is the front office.

Tom: Or Dick LeBeau.

Mike: LeBeau is a huge asset, yes, but even in the hellish, Bubby Brister-filled dystopia of the '80s, the Steelers still only had three losing seasons. That's a a pretty long chain of success, going back to the Steelers of the early- to mid-'70s leading the franchise out of the desert. I'm not sure how much success I can ascribe to any of the three Steelers coaches, or any coach for that matter, separate from a quality front office.

Tom: Nonsense. Like the quarterback, the head coach is always solely responsible for all wins and losses.

Mike: Shanahan is intriguing. He has his systems, which he has shown can work, and he's even pretty adaptable. I think he's the closest to the "complete package" that you need if you want to drive your turnaround with a coach.

Tom: I'm not sure how much I trust Shanahan. He apparently got fired because he didn't want to fire Bob Slowik, who only presided over one of the worst defenses in DVOA history. Bowlen fell in love with him or something, and Shanny kept getting him to fire defensive coordinators and general managers instead.

Mike: That is true, a turnaround GM/coach needs to be really ruthless. You see a lot of bad teams sticking by bad players and coaches and schemes because doing otherwise would be admitting defeat and they are far too much of manly men to show that kind of weakness.

Tom: Mike Lombardi had an interesting criticism of Shanahan: that in a way he'd sort of been corrupted by coming up in the Walsh system. Because Bill Walsh was a superlative talent evaluator, he could do things that weren't organizationally sound but worked anyway. But when you try doing things without that singularly skilled talent, you need to have more of a defined and firm organizational philosophy and method of talent evaluation.

Mike: Sounds like an interesting pet theory, and it may very well be true. We've seen what happens when your skills don't work anymore, or if their product isn't as effective as it was in past environments.

Tom: Like Germany's inability to play the same balancing game after Bismarck got kicked out, yes. Though if you think Shanny's a talented evaluator of quarterback talent, maybe you can hire him for that, then fire him after a year.

Mike: I'm not sure Shanahan does that, though. The hallmark of his tenure, as far as offense goes, was one of sound game-planning, good system coaching, and interchangeability of most skill players. It helped that he had John Elway, sure, but there was a while where Denver was essentially an assembly line. On that note, I'm increasingly convinced that you can't "train up" a star quarterback, that in the NFL it's really a lottery. I can't think of a good example of a physically gifted but fundamentally unsound quarterback being trained into something great.

Tom: Derek Anderson.

Mike: ... What.

Tom: He was terrible at Oregon State.

Mike: He's terrible in the NFL!

Tom: He played better as a rookie than I thought he ever would in the NFL. And he made a Pro Bowl.

Mike: After a half-year honeymoon fueled by an uncannily-successful "unleash the dragon" offense and opponents' lack of tape.

Tom: Anyway. Maybe Holmgren is actually the quarterback guru, after Green Bay and Matt Hasselbeck.

Mike: Entirely possible. But again, there are serious doubts he'll get a shot at any GM-ing, which I have to imagine would impair that ability. In all likelihood he'd end up with someone he doesn't like.

Tom: If you think he can develop a good quarterback, maybe you hire him to do that and hire an assistant GM to do the heavy lifting?

Mike: That's not a bad idea, actually. Wait, is Marty Schottenheimer still on the table?

Tom: He doesn't seem to have the same buzz around his name as other guys, but yeah. The other name is Jon Gruden, though the recent contract news does make me think he'll probably stay on TV for 2010.

Mike: I may actually end up going with Marty. He took some bad/mediocre teams and always turned them into contenders. Whether you think that he coached his untalented teams into good seasons or he couldn't get over the playoffs hump, you have to admit he put together some damn good teams. Seriously, how do you coach for 20 (non-strike) years and have two total losing seasons, and 15 out of 20 winning seasons? That's actually pretty insane.

Tom: I do think Marty would be a good option for a team that looks terrible ... Tampa Bay, maybe, if they're ready to admit Morris really isn't ready.

Mike: Tampa isn't a bad thought. It also depends on if you think Detroit is on the upswing or still in the basement. I think he'd be a great fit there, but I also think they're recovering slowly on their own.

Tom: I think Schwartz can be a good coach. They need to fix their front office problem; I don't think Mayhew is the answer in the personnel department, though.

Mike: I think I'll take a wait-and-see approach with the Lions. I think their offense will be elite in a year or two, so it's really a question of their defense.

Tom: It's also weird to think that some Titans fans were, six weeks ago, really ruing that Fisher was the head coach and Schwartz was in Detroit.

Mike: Fandom is a fickle thing. You can ask Marty all about that!

Fantasy Update

Tom: So, a week after watching Sidney Rice put up 20 points on my bench, I sit him again, and watch as he puts up another 20.

Mike: I did about the same with Miles Austin. You really have to spend a week or two feeling out players to make sure they're real. Unless you're desperate for help.

Tom: No matter, though, as Wes Welker put up 20 and LaDainian Tomlinson put up 13 in the flex position. I still finished on top of the league in points for the week. I'm pleased, considering this league is a tough one for start-sit. I cost myself 16 points thanks to Rice and playing Keller instead of Zach Miller at tight end. Thankfully, Rashard Mendenhall and Kevin Smith both had great days, along with Welker. That was the league where I was playing the other team tied for second, so I'm not in second place all by my lonesome.

Mike: I think the less said about my fantasy teams, the better. Half of my CBS team is injured, and I once again lost my Yahoo! game by single digits (four points this week). There's really not much to report, except hope that my luck changes in the Yahoo! league and admit that my CBS reign of terror is almost certainly over.

Tom: I lost again in the league where I'm not doing well, and well beyond the margin of any start-sit calls. My team just isn't good enough, particularly at wideout. I really wish I had done a better job of working the waiver wire earlier in the year.

Mike: I actually put a waiver claim in for Rock Cartwright. I'm certain I won't get him, as I wasted my top waiver position on Mewelde Moore the previous week. Go waivers.

Tom: In my other league where I'm not garbage, I also put up the league's top score. Philip Rivers had a disappointing week, but every player on my roster other than Dustin Keller outscored him: Steven Jackson with 20.6 points, Derrick Mason with 19.5, San Diego defense with 16, Robbie Gould with 15, 13 for Reggie Wayne, 13 for Santonio Holmes, and 13 for Pierre Thomas. I'm now 5-6 after an 0-3 start, sixth in a league where the top eight make the playoffs. To accommodate three rounds of playoffs, there are only two weeks left in the season, however, so I can finish anywhere from fourth to out of the playoffs. Thankfully, my total points are good so I have favorable tiebreakers.

Mike: I could probably salvage both leagues. My Yahoo! team is actually really good, just astoundingly unlucky. There's also some chance that my injured CBS players will come back quickly, although that's a long shot.

Tom: That's what you deserve for picking players from your favorite team for your fantasy team.

Mike: Troy Polamalu is the only one that's actually worrisome. Ben Roethlisberger will play. He probably shouldn't, but he will. Ronnie Brown is the one that sunk me, and he's done for the year.

Tom: It's more the principle of the thing. And yes, that's a big injury.

Mike: Losing time with Suggs, Julius Jones, Polamalu, Kampman, Clements and Mathis suck, it's true, but none are nearly so big as Brown. Defensive players aren't worth enough points that Polamalu and Suggs kill me, but it's definitely a sting. I have A.J. Hawk, so losing Kampman isn't a big deal at all. With Brown on IR and Jones out, however, I'm missing my Nos. 1 and 3 running back.

Tom: It's the volume; KUBIAK's value-based drafting is focused on points over baseline, because that's what's important. Brown is 10 points better than average, and that will absolutely kill a team. You have the full panoply of injuries: both the plus-3-point guys and the plus-10-point guy in Brown.

Mike: Yeah, I'm getting burnt on both ends. Astoundingly, I'm still second in my division. I can guarantee I won't get Cartwright, though, and I have no idea what to do if I don't. My RB/RB/flex will be Steve Slaton, Mewelde Moore and Nate Washington. That makes baby Lombardi cry.

Tom: I grabbed him in one league -- can you make cross-league trades after the trading deadline?

Mike: That would be an awesome league. You could stack your PPR team with 17 copies of Wes Welker.

Tom: I'll look into that when I set up my 17-player league next year.

Mike: 17-wide receiver league. Or make an all-QB/WR/RB/TE flex league. That would be one crazy draft.

Tom: Actually, running that through KUBIAK (with one QB and five flex, since KUBIAK has no QB/RB/WR flex option), it looks pretty much like normal KUBIAK.

Mike: No QB/RB/WR? An obvious design flaw, obviously catering to people with "normal" or "sane" leagues. Although it does make sense that KUBIAK would spit out similar results; there just aren't enough great running backs to make drafting six worthwhile. So, as in a normal draft, you'd exhaust the pool of good running backs, then move on to wide receivers, then to backups, then to tight ends and kickers.

Tom: That is true, but it would at least be fun to have the option of an all-running back team.

FO Staff Fantasy Update

by Bill Barnwell

Bill (8-3) 87, Vince (5-6) 69

Me and Vince each had one donut in our lineups, John Carlson for me, Jerome Harrison for him. Beyond that, it was a pretty bland matchup, no big games, no obvious weak points, I just scored slightly more than him across the board. My team apparently plays to the score.

Will (6-5) 77, Mike (3-8) 72

Will left Terrell Owens and his 25 points on his bench, who outscored his flex spot, both his wide receivers, and his tight end, combined. He still won because Mike got a combined one point from Devin Hester and Anthony Fasano.

Aaron (5-6) 127, Ian/Al (7-4) 93

Aaron wins the week with an enormous rush from his offense. He got at least 99 yards from each of his running backs and wide receivers, and picked up 19 points from the Patriots defense. Ian and Al had touchdowns from four of their running backs and wide receivers, but only got five points from Matt Hasselbeck.

Sean (4-7) 96, Doug (4-7) 88

Sean had three players with 19 points or more, with Matt Schaub clinching the win for him after a big Monday night game. The 49ers defense providing -2 points wasn't exactly helping. 

Rob (6-5) 87, Vivek (6-5) 77

In a fight for the second and final playoff spot in the Virgil Parks division, these two are now tied thanks to Rob's closely-fought victory. Vivek only got 26 points from his elite running back combination of Chris Johnson and Frank Gore, and for some reason, started the Lions defense and got a -6.

Elias (7-4) 120, Pat (6-5) 75

The leader of the Virgil Parks division, though, is Mr. Holman. Seven of his nine players were in double figures, paced by Ben Roethlisberger's 23, and no one had fewer than seven points. Pat had Eli Manning and Kevin Smith at 23 and 20, but only got 21 points from his four receivers.

With three weeks left in the regular season, here's how the standings break down:

Kubiak Division
Bill 8-3
Ian/Al 7-4
Will 6-5
Aaron 5-6
Vince 5-6
Mike 3-8

Virgil Parks Division
Elias 7-4
Rob 6-5
Pat 6-5
Vivek 5-6
Sean 4-7
Doug 4-7

The top two teams in each division make it to the playoffs.

Howie's Hairstyle Is Called "The Crossover"

Mike: Howie Long has all the trappings of a great spokesman.

Tom: He's famous, white, clean-cut, and never arrested for doing drugs?

Mike: Was going for "chiseled jaw, good hair, excellent diction and good posture," but I suppose that works, too.

Tom: Yup, he should be as good as, or maybe better than, Peyton Manning.

Mike: Indeed. But for some reason he's just ... annoying. For the life of me I can't figure out why.

Tom: I even don't mind him on the FOX pregame show, though I normally find pregame shows too annoying to watch. I think it's his grin. Peyton looks goofy when he smiles, Howie looks more creepy.

Mike: I understand why Manning is so great -- he has clearly embraced the absurdity of his commercials, and has a Tommy Lee Jones-style deadpan humor that put him at a huge advantage. I think you're on to something with the smile. Maybe Howie just takes it all too seriously?

Tom: I paused the video at :03; he seems like he could be the mild-mannered suburban dad who one day wakes up and kills his family for no apparent reason.

Mike: Yes. I feel like I'm being sold a car by parallel-Spock.

Tom: Yes, because real Spock wouldn't rely on a small child to pick out the best car.

Mike: True, he would either point out the illogic of her size-based assertions, or, if he was having a bad day, flip out and murder her. Because Vulcans only have two modes: Cool, reserved, calculating and batshit crazy.

Tom: "I'm a big girl." "No you're not, you barely come up to my waist. You are short, and must cease denying this fact."

Mike: The other odious part of this commercial is that it reminds us all of those crappy kid/adult buddy flicks, which are supposed to be family entertainment but really are just ways for aging action stars to try and stretch out their careers. Normal child/adult discussions on this subject would go one of two ways:

  • "I want a big girl's seat!" "You are not part of this discussion."
  • "I want a big girl's seat!" "Are you insane? You think I'm going to base a $20,000 decision on the size of a rear-middle seat?"

Tom: I like how Howie gratuitously holds her hand, as though this "big girl" is unable to walk six feet from the "little girl seat" to the wonderful "big girl car."

Mike: He's trying to steal her youth. Is this really the best Chevrolet could come up with? They do realize that the middle seat is really just the space in-between the left and right rear seats, right? And that they do, in fact, all overlap.

Tom: Oh, I like how they show us the middle row of the Traverse, rather than the cramped third row. If you put three rows of seats in a vehicle, either you have a long vehicle or you have small seats in at least one row.

Mike: Yeah. On that note, most of these cars are the same width, which is really what controls the seat size unless you have captains' chairs or bucket seats. They had this much money to throw around and that's what they come up with?

Tom: Oh, sure. I imagine they went to the ad agency, and nobody at the ad agency drives a Chevy. So they either asked Chevy people for talking points, or, more likely, went down to the Chevy dealer and looked around at the cars.

Mike: I imagine the ad agency, at a loss for anything, also said "uh, let's have one with a small ginger girl! People love small, plucky ginger girls!"

Tom: "Oh, look, she's almost like Pippi Longstockings!" Maybe she's just the grandkid of some Chevy exec.

Mike: This is just like E*Trade. Small, adorable children are powerful marketing tools, and must be used only for good, or in the alternative for awesome. Not to talk about how big your rear-center seats are. And very not to repeat carefully-clipped press quotes from random Web sites about your software.

Tom: Yes, but this kid isn't even adorable. She should be, but:

  • She's a redhead and redheads aren't adorable.
  • They seem like they're going for this weird look that doesn't look like a real kid, more like Brad Childress' some weirdo's idea of what Little Orphan Annie in the present day would look like.

I guess we're just lucky we don't have Little Orphan Annie's dog here.

Mike: I think that's where Howie comes in. For the dog, not the weirdo. I haven't as yet seen him take over any part of the Internet, much less one the size of Ireland. I think it's another one of those situations where what we think is endearing is different from 1950s England thought was endearing, and somehow, astoundingly, nobody notices the disconnect.

Tom: Well, we already have ginger kids covered. I also freely admit to being an Anglophilephobe.

Mike: This video title is awesome incidentally. "Employee pricing and 0% financing aren't enough to sell overpriced SUVs. So Chevy enlisted the support of a very smart girl to do their bidding." YES. GO FORTH, MY ADORABLE MINIONS. GO FORTH AND SELL! SELLLLLL!

Tom: One thing I just noticed was that the passenger seat behind the driver in the Traverse has a booster seat, which Maggie will almost certainly need to sit in under relevant state law.

Mike: I'm sure there's a lawyer behind that, somewhere.

Tom: Confession time: I own a Rav-4.

Mike: Rav-4's a car. A "crossover," just a car chassis with a bigger frame.

Tom: They're advertising the Traverse as a crossover.

Mike: ahahahahahahahaha


heeeeeee. Wait, they're for serious?

Tom: I actually think my Rav-4 has the same middle seat Maggie has decried as "too small." Three adults can easily sit in my back seat.

Mike: Of course, my definition of "crossover" isn't nearly official. I think it's one of those silly words that means whatever the speaker wants it to mean, like "swagger" or "progressive" or "drunk" or "Norv."

Tom: Oh, fine, go find me another definition of "Norv."

Mike: Sadly, A.J. Smith is no longer returning my calls.

Tom: I guess we need more AFC West coverage in Audibles...

Mike: Remember: You don't have to be faster than the Audibles commenters, you just have to be faster than your fellow Scramble writer.


Keep Chopping Wood: When your team is getting the ball back in the last minute of a tie game, what's the one thing you don't want to do? Apparently, if you're Andre Caldwell of the Cincinnati Bengals, it's protect the football. Rather than take a knee and let his team's star quarterback go to work against one of the league's worst pass defenses, Caldwell brings the ball out of the end zone. All the way out to the 17. Where he gets tackled. And coughs up the ball, setting up Sebastian Janikowski's game-winning field goal.

Mike Martz Award: In college football, "all plays" are "automatically reviewed" by the replay booth upstairs. If a coach wants to make a coach's challenge of his own, he first has to call time out, then issue the challenge. If he wins his challenge, he then gets his timeout back. Alas, John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens forgot he was an NFL coach and not a college coach on Sunday. With 2:19 to go in the game against the Colts and his team trailing 17-15, John Harbaugh used his second timeout to stop the clock after the Colts converted a first down, then decided to challenge the play. Which he lost, costing his team their third and final timeout. With the two-minute warning the only stoppage remaining, the Colts punted the ball away with :28 to go instead of 1:15.

Colbert Award: On fourth-and-7 from your own 38, with 5:28 to go in a tie game, most coaches, even the normally aggressive Bill Belichick and Sean Payton, would be content to punt the ball away and trust their defense to get a stop. Jeff Fisher, however, elected to call the direct snap to Donnie Nickey, who burst through the left side for a dozen yards and a first down. Pity the play clock had expired well before the ball was snapped, but Fisher deserves credit for his boldness. After all, only the most cynical Titans fan would suggest Fisher had his team intentionally snap the ball late and run the trick play, to preserve his reputation as one of football's bolder coaches by making that call on national television despite his general defense-first, don't-lose-the-game on special teams tendencies.

Loser League Update

Kicker: You almost feel bad for kickers on teams with struggling offenses. The penalty for missing a field goal is harsh indeed, and if you get limited attempts, your day can be seriously skewed. So feel pity for the winner of the Steve Haschka Memorial Kicking Loser Award for this week, Nick Folk, for his one extra point and one missed field goal for -1 points. Maybe he'd have better luck on a team that wasn't the most talented in the NFL?

Wide Receiver: Speaking of bad offenses, two of the top losers this week weren't even available for the contest, flash-in-the-pan Johnny Knox and person-who-plays-for-Jacksonville Mike Thomas. Unfortunately for your Scramble writer's popularity with Bears fans everywhere, the city of broad shoulders is adequately represented among the Loser League draftees with Devin Hester, who EXPLODED for 1 point. These luminaries were joined by Dennis Northcutt and ex-Bear Bobby Wade. I'll stop now.

Running Back: Given the day that Terrell Owens had this week, it's probably a given that the running game would suffer, especially if that running game is spearheaded by injury-prone Marshawn Lynch and the Bills' horrific line. Your Scramble writer is pretty sure that Owens didn't make Lynch fumble his way to -1 points, but as with all things Owens-related, one can never be completely sure.

Quarterback: Mark Sanchez puts on another masterclass on why it's important to wait on newly-minted quarterback starters before crowning any part of their anatomy. Coaches (especially the best coaches) are paid massive amounts of money to pick apart tape (or at least hire someone to pick apart tape) and figure out how to shut down their team's opposition. This is the latest in a string of embarrassing performances by "Sanchize," but your Scramble writer is certain he will adjust admirably in the years ahead, at least enough to avoid putting up many more 0-point games.

Scramble Mailbag

mrapollinax: PPR league, who to start at Flex? Brandon Jacobs vs DEN (Bradshaw might be out) or Roddy White vs TB? My other starters are: Brady, MJD, Benson, Colston, Wayne, Welker, Clark.

Tom: Keep an eye on Benson's injury status -- I assume he'll be back, but you may need Jacobs for the other running back slot.

Mike: I think this is clearly White. His low-water mark for catches this year is three.

Tom: Also, remember back when we did O/Us, when I said I'd say not-nice things about teams that just fired their coordinator? See Tampa Bay, Defensive Coordinator, this week.

Mike: Indeed. White will get a lot of targets, and he's got the skills to make something of it, like he did in San Francisco.

Tom: I'll probably start Jacobs this week, myself, but I'm holding off on declaring him back until I see it on the field for a couple weeks. Although, interestingly, Tampa Bay is No. 28 in passing defense DVOA, but sixth against No. 1 wideouts and 28th against No. 2s. The new coordinator will probably be good for Matt Ryan's play, however, and White's a clear No. 1. Go ahead and play him.

Mike: That is odd, don't the Bucs play "side of the field?"

Tom: I thought most everybody did. Maybe it's the safeties and Sabby Piscitelli getting exploited.

Devin McCullen: It's a 4 pt/TD, 1 pt/10 yds, 0.5 pt/reception league, we have to start 3 WR. My options are Steve Smith (North) at Denver, Pierre Garcon at Houston, or Patrick Crayton vs. Oakland. Smith's a major reason I'm currently in 1st, but he's definitely slowed down lately. Garcon had the monster game on my bench last week, and Crayton's got the matchup. Thoughts?

Mike: Dallas is a disaster area at the moment. Although Oakland does play matchups, if I recall, with Asomugha, which means their best defender will be on Miles Austin.

Tom: I know it's Oakland, but you're taking a big risk starting a non-clear No. 1 on a team that's scored seven points each of the past two games. Oakland is 15th in pass defense, 14th against No. 1 wideouts, and 32d (55.5%!) against No. 2.

Mike: 55.5%? Holy crap.

Tom: Is Crayton even the No. 2? This feels like the week Roy Williams gets to feel like a superstar wideout.

Mike: Williams/Austin/Crayton, technically, although Austin is clearly the top threat. Williams would actually be a good play, if anyone has stuck by him.

Tom: So it's Smith or Garcon.

Mike: I'm inclined to go with Smith. The Giants' offense hasn't been anything special lately, and Manning has made it a point to let all eligible receivers know they are beautiful, unique snowflakes who all deserve lots and lots of passes.

Tom: Garcon actually had five receptions for 60 yards the first game against the Texans, which is more than I remembered him having, despite watching most of that game.

Mike: Smith is a bigger piece of the puzzle for the Giants than Garcon is for the Colts, however.

Tom: That's true, Garcon isn't reliable enough of an option. Smith's been a little disappointing, or at least not as strong as his early performances, but he's less likely to put up a low point total than Garcon, I feel. Do you ever look at who your fantasy opponent has?

Mike: Just so I know who to keep an eye on while watching the game. I can't really control his team.

Tom: No, but I've noticed I'm looking at the Yahoo! projected points for both teams, and if I'm projected to get my butt beat and I need a win, I might start Garcon even if it's more likely he'll put up a mediocre total.

Mike: I don't really put much stock in projected numbers. Football is too random to predict with tools designed to perform as such. To predict not only a particular player's performance, but to predict secondary statistics derived from in-game events? Insane. I only really use the projections to double-check injuries in the CBS league, because the "player info" link doesn't create a floating frame, unlike same systems, and instead sends you to an entirely separate page.

DaveP: No PPR, need to start 2RB, 2WR, 1 RB/WR. Currently in 3rd, playing against the 2nd team and a win puts me ahead of him.
Starting DeAngelo @ NYJ
Then have Mendenhall @ Bal, Snelling @ TB, Maroney @ NO, Wells @ TEN (lots of waiver pickups when Ronnie and Clinton went down)
My thoughts: Snelling seems obvious given the matchup. Maroney would be a good matchup based on run DVOA, but will the Pats use him? Wells against Ten is a good matchup even if he does split with Hightower. Housh had that huge week against ARI and STL isn’t good against any receiver.

Mike: I don’t think the Patriots will have the luxury of trying to get use from Maroney. He’s not a good enough part of their attack to be part of any shootout game plan, and the Pats’ secondary isn’t good enough to stop New Orleans unless Belichick really gets into Brees’ head.

Tom: I don’t trust any Pats running back to get carries or points.

Mike: Yeah. I’m not convinced Wells is a good matchup.

Tom: Their DVOA doesn’t reflect it, but Tennessee has played pretty well against running backs this year.

Mike: Right, and Arizona isn’t a good running team, and he’s splitting carries.

Tom: Yup, and Hightower’s the option in the pass look, which should be where Arizona should spend its time. I agree with Snelling, who has a favorable matchup against the league’s worst rush D by DVOA.

Mike: Yes, which leaves Mendenhall for flex.

Tom: Baltimore’s rush D has been shown to be exploitable this year, so Mendenhall’s a reasonable option. What about wideouts, then?

Mike: I’d say Rice and Ochocinco. Austin’s going to get the Asomugha treatment, and Dallas’ offense has apparently decided Tony Romo’s December swoon starts early this year. Which is a shame, since Austin is a genuine talent.

Tom: Both Rice and Ochocinco are good options. And Seattle, like Dallas, falls into the category of "I can’t trust this team." In a matchup like this, you need guaranteed points, and you won’t get that from Housh.

Mike: Yeah, much to my chagrin, owning him in CBS. Who knows, maybe he’ll get enough touches to make it worthwhile.

Tom: I just don’t think Dave’s in a position to gamble on a start.

Mike: So go with your high-percentage guys, who are Rice and Ochocinco.

Tom: Agreed.

Send your questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com. What, you expected a joke?

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 25 Nov 2009

24 comments, Last at 30 Nov 2009, 10:47pm by DaveRichters


by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 12:18am

What evidence is there that Mangini is anything other than a terrible coach?

He wasn't even a good defensive coordinator.

by Phil O'sopher (not verified) :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 12:50pm

None, but a lot of evidence he is a terrible coach.

by starzero :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 12:55am

Brees or Brady?

Is Zach Miller worth giving up Benjamin Watson? Is there another under-the-radar tight end who might help me through the playoffs? Turns out I need every point I can get.

by Dice :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 12:57am

I feel very cynical about Fisher(not a Titans fan tho). Never thought he was a great coach, just workmanlike.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 3:16am

"I imagine the ad agency, at a loss for anything, also said 'uh, let's have one with a small ginger girl! People love small, plucky ginger girls!'"

This is just too fitting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1HXmYkxwSE

by Theo :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 6:27am

Don't forget that Derek Anderson had receivers and a tight end when he made the Pro Bowl.
They lost all of them, and now we see what happens when you take away all the receiving options from a 'talented' offense.

by Phil O'sopher (not verified) :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 12:48pm

DA really only had half a great season in 2007, then melted down when coaches had tape. Winslow was a huge part of that year. Braylon still dropped passes, but made some great plays.

DA came back to Earth the next year due to the fact that he isn't a good player and Winslow was hurt and Braylon decided to drop all TD passes and first down passes his way.

DA this year is the worst in the NFL, but a part of that is the Browns are the worst in the NFL.

Losing Braylon is being overated by the national media as he sucked 4 out of 5 years being w/ the Browns and never learned to play WR. Ask the Jets how he has been for their team. Losing Winslow really hurt as he was an over the middle impact WR/TE hybrid. I get it with the injuries and the contract demands and general locker room cancer that is Kellen "Solider" Winlsow, but it still hurt bad.

Could DA be good in Pitts, Indy, NE, or any other perennial great franchises; I doubt it. He could at best be replacement level.

by some_dude :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 1:35pm

Derek Anderson went to the Pro Bowl in 2007 because he threw to Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicious and Kellen Winslow Jr. Donte Stallworth took JJ's spot the next year; take a look at DA's 2008 stats, then look at something else really quick, then DA's stats again. Woo. In 2007 DA had JJ who personified grit, or left it on the field anyway, but nobody noticed except in hindsight and compared to somebody else like DS because, like love, you can only measure grit after you lose it. Think about DS and grit, then think about JJ and grit and it's pretty obvious the difference. Unlike talent grit's contagious for the entire offense, which means it's more important than talent and luck combined. DA's 2008 kind of suggested 2007 might have been a fluke, but once you ship out KWJr and BE then 2007 becomes the only year that couldn't have possibly been a fluke because DA's options in 2008 and 2009 lacked so much talent and grit relative to 2007 it doesn't make sense to compare any of them.

Meanwhile, four games into his pro career Mark Sanchez looked ready to single-handedly unshackle underclass college QBs from middling Lewin forecasts, since it only takes one exception to thoroughly discredit any projection system if and when USC, NYC or the Patriots factor in somehow. Unfortunately the Jets traded for BE, whose post-2007 involvement once again soiled a QB's data set before we could safely call that QB a perennial Pro-Bowler, regardless of what our eyes told us after watching the guy play a couple games here and there. BE's talent helped establish his reputation as a #1 receiver in 2007, but his subsequent failure to produce as such will hamper MS's development if that anomalous trend fails to reverse itself pronto. Unless BE's stats compare favorably with other All-Pro and/or #1 receivers MS will find it difficult to win in the NFL, but if a Pro Bowl QB (like DA) can't inflate BE's stats it doesn't make any sense to expect MS to do so as a rookie, therefore we should throw out the Lewin forecast system altogether for having totally unfair expectations of MS.

Bottom line, I agree that DA went to a Pro Bowl once, but I disagree about what happens when you subtract talent from an offense because of A. grit and B. MS and the Jets adding BE for kicks and losing games as a direct result (football is serious business, not for kicks); also I'm almost certain a replacement level QB like DA on a perennially great team would then be a perennially great QB by virtue of just winning games and the law of transitive properties, squared.

by bubqr :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 8:04am

Derek Anderson, Jay Cutler, Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton, Brett Favre. We have 5 clear examples this year showing us that QBs are way more environment-dependent that a vast majority of people see them. Still a team sport I guess.

by DaveRichters :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 9:32am

Those are examples that QBs are environment-dependent, but not that they are MORE so than the vast majority of people think. I don't know anyone who thinks that football isn't a team sport, and I don't think you should assume that most people are donkeys.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 4:45pm

QBs win the MVP every year. People make arguments about which QB is better based on who has more rings.

I think its pretty safe to assume that people think that everything around the QB is essentially ancillary.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 4:45pm

QBs win the MVP every year. People make arguments about which QB is better based on who has more rings.

I think its pretty safe to assume that people think that everything around the QB is essentially ancillary.

by DaveRichters :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 7:30pm

QBs probably should win the MVP every year because QB is the most valuable position.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 11/27/2009 - 1:42am

According to what?

Yeah, they get the biggest stats, but what evidence is there that they're more important than anyone else?

Kyle Orton is winning with the Broncos. Cutler is losing on the bears. In that case, clearly the offensive line and receivers are more important than the QB.

by bubqr :: Fri, 11/27/2009 - 5:10am


I do recall an Every Play Counts or Cover 3 on Derek Anderson, saying quite a lot of good things on this website. People were wondering if he was worth a 1st round pick, even 2 1st rounders, or just a 2nd.
Now, on this same website, people are just calling him the worst QB in the league, even behind Russell.

So well yeah, if even of this website, the change is so dramatic, I feel quite good saying what I said.

by ammek :: Fri, 11/27/2009 - 6:47am

But Peyton Manning and Favre make their lines and receivers appear better than they are; Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tarvaris Jackson make them look worse.

Of course football is a team sport, and teams can win with Kerry Collins or Jeff Hostetler under center, can lose with Favre (2005). But a consistent performer at QB is the single biggest individual factor on the field, improving the likelihood that a team will be average or better.

by DaveRichters :: Fri, 11/27/2009 - 2:27pm

QBs get paid the most. I'm not arguing that that QB performance isn't context dependent, I'm saying that most people are aware that it IS context dependent. If you want to believe that centers are on average more valuable than QBs, go right ahead.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 11/30/2009 - 11:17am

Julius Peppers and Larry Fitzgerald might disagree with the first sentence.

by DaveRichters :: Mon, 11/30/2009 - 10:47pm

The mean salary for QBs is greater than the mean salary of WRs or DEs. I suppose anyone could disagree with that, but it would make them look foolish.

by DaveRichters :: Sat, 11/28/2009 - 10:42am

Just to be clear, are you arguing that the offensive line (5 players) AND receivers (generously only 2 players) are more important that the QB (1 player)? Your response to my statement that QB is the most important position is that 7 players combined are more important. I think we actually don't have a disagreement and you are just being argumentative.

by mrapollinax :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 10:11am

Thanks for the input. I've decided to place Benson into my Flex spot and have MJD and Jacobs as starting RBs. Should Benson have a set back during the week I'll be playing White at Flex. I'm projecting that a healthy Benson will be just as productive as White. For me I was seeing a little too much Tony Gonzales and not enough White last game.

by Independent George :: Thu, 11/26/2009 - 3:28pm

I can't think of a good example of a physically gifted but fundamentally unsound quarterback being trained into something great.

Steve Young. Brent Favre. Randall Cunningham.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 11/27/2009 - 8:38am

I think Shanny's actually shown himself to be a pretty good evaluator of offensive talent - this is the guy who drafted Cutler, Clady, Marshall, Royal, Scheffler et al. I'd be happy to hire him as coach with final say over personnel and let him appoint his own GM, the one condition being that he was in no way allowed to hire Bob Slowik in any capacity.

by ammek :: Sun, 11/29/2009 - 11:46am

Slowik has proven to be a good — nay, excellent — secondary coach over several NFL stops. He's just hopeless as a coordinator, unless you enjoy watching nine-man blitzes that don't get anywhere near the quarterback.