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Do defenses really wear out over the course of a game? Do defenses benefit from long drives that give them more time to rest on the sideline? Guest columnist Ben Baldwin investigates.

08 Aug 2012

Scramble for the Ball: AFC/NFC East Over/Unders

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: Well, Mike, it's time for another season of Scramble for the Ball. And, in the grand tradition of Scramble for the Ball, that means another season of over/unders to start off the year.

Mike: Our poor, poor readers. Although, considering the Olympics are on and water polo basically starts with a scramble for the ball, maybe we should do something ... you know, water polo-ish?

Tom: Our readers wouldn't be nearly as poor if they stopped subscribing to your lottery tout service that you base on fortune cookie numbers. Then again, maybe they wouldn't be. Also, the only things I know about water polo are (a) Blood in the Water and (b) Doc Emrick was doing the play-by-play this year.

Mike: What can I say? Sun Wah is really good. I have way, way too many fortune cookie slips. We need to do our part to transition our fans to water polo, because it is the only Earth sport that will survive the apocalyptic war.

Tom: Anyway. As we have in the past, we're using over/unders provided by Bovada, f/k/a Bodog. And while their over/unders come with wagering-related numbers, we are instead using their over/under lines as a sort of prediction for how many wins a team might end up with. We are then passing judgment on that team's fate, not wagering real or pretend money on the team.

Mike: Sometimes our numbers will agree with that hallowed tome, Football Outsiders Almanac 2012, and sometimes they won't. Nothing we say here should be used against our fellow FO writers. They probably don't agree with us, either.

Tom: The FO hivemind at work! Okay, Mike, where shall we begin our season's journey?

Mike: 1d4 says ... 1. Which in alphabetical order is ... the Eastern divisions. Coin flip says ... tails. Which, again, in alphabetical order, means NFC. And the first team in the NFC East is ...


Tom: FOA 2012 says 7.5. Under. Next team.

Mike: Did you not read our own intro?!

Tom: I had to go get chicken off the grill. It was done.

Mike: We just said we would disagree with FOA to stir up controversy express our independent football acumen! On a more serious note, it's interesting that Dallas' Pythagorean projection last year was 8.6 wins. Our line is set assuming Dallas performs at basically the same level from year to year. From last year to this year, at least.

Tom: Their right tackle is now their left tackle, even though he's never played left tackle in the NFL and didn't play it in college. Their left tackle is now their right tackle. They're pretending their interior offensive line was good even though it wasn't. They have two real receivers, one of whom got into a fight with his mother this summer. Brandon Carr was a big signing, and I like the drafting of Morris Claiborne. As we pointed out in FOA, however, cornerbacks, even ones who end up really good, are rarely really good as rookies. The offense is theoretically pretty good, but I see a lot of ways for it to have problems, and the pass defense, while better, still isn't that good.

Mike: I'm not entirely convinced that the line is going to be a tremendous problem this year, considering their schedule.

Tom: I'm not following you. I see the Giants and Eagles in the division, and a couple teams with potentially pretty potent pass rushes.

Mike: While they do have to face the likes of New York, Cincinnat i and Baltimore, the New York Football Giants are the only team in their division with overpowering pressure. The rest of their schedule is mostly the NFC South. I do not believe in the Eagles' defense this year, at least not in their ability to get to the quarterback.

Tom: We'll get to the Eagles in a bit.

Mike: Right. So, while I agree that they will have some issues with their line, I don't think it will be crippling to the offense, and I think the offense should be pretty good. My main problem with 8.5 is the fact that Dallas's schedule is pretty brutal. We have them with the second-most difficult schedule in the league next year.

Tom: The NFC East should be very competitive.

Mike: It's always difficult with marginal teams like this, but I just don't think they get past .500. Under.

Tom: There shouldn't be many pushovers in the NFC South, or the AFC North. I could easily see them passing it, especially with some good luck on offense, but I'm sticking with my initial Under call.


Tom: The Giants were, as you may recall, outscored over the course of the regular season last year. The defense was at times pretty lousy. Interestingly, though, the offense had five games where it was at least 10 percent worse than average, in DVOA terms (DVOA -10% or lower). The defense only had four such games (DVOA +10% or higher). As we note in the chapter, those poor defensive games, especially the worst of them, came when both Michael Boley and Osi Umenyiora were out of the lineup. Osi has a new contract and should be happy and healthy, and ditto for Boley, minus the new contract. Cover linebacker, beyond Boley, seems to be a particular weakness. They seem to recognize that with their propensity to play the Big Nickel 4-2-5, playing that over twice as often as base 4-3. Like the Cowboys, I question their receiver depth, especially their ability to employ Victor Cruz in the slot.

Mike: New York's defense is an interesting case because it is, on paper, an extremely dangerous bunch with next to nothing backing up their starters. I'm not sure it really matters how happy Umenyiora is. He can still be injured, and so can any of the team's other quality lineman. I'm wondering what happens if, instead of Umenyiora, they lose Jason Pierre-Paul for an extended period of time, considering the post-Umenyiora injury collapse from last season.

Tom: Isn't that true of every team with a particularly good player? We'll have a sort of test case this year with the Ravens minus Terrell Suggs. But I posit that for every defense if you strike down their best player, they'll be worse.

Mike: That's a fair assessment. I just think that most good teams have a backup with some amount of upside waiting in the wings for that eventuality. The Giants have Rocky Bernard in the middle and .. some guys who to step into their rotation on the edges. That is a massive dropoff in quality.

Tom: They do get D-tackle Marvin Austin back after he missed his rookie season with an injury. Of course, he came from North Carolina and got caught up in their scandal, so it's now been a while since he's played football. They do have Justin Tuck, Pierre-Paul, and Osi at d-end, so I'm not too concerned about the fourth end. Instead of Dave Tollefson getting 20 snaps a game, Mathias Kiwanuka plays more at DE in rush packages and some player like Justin Trattou or Adrian Tracy gets 10 snaps a game or something.

Mike: The fourth end is going to get a lot of snaps. I'm not sure why you are so insistent that he isn't.

Tom: If we're talking about a fourth end, we're talking about a relatively minor concern.

Mike: It wasn't a minor concern last year.

Tom: I care more about Hakeem Nicks' foot, and the development of a guy like Rueben Randle. Prince Amukamara is healthy and entering his second season, when corners normally improve. They might have Terrell Thomas for some of the year instead of none of it, as we thought might be the case when he went down. Given the Giants' schedule is once-again backloaded, that's a good thing.

Mike: While Nicks is a concern, I think their offense can improve a little over last year. Most of the skill position players are going into their prime or still on the tail end of it, so while I don't think there will be any massive breakouts (running back is still going to be a mess), I think we'll see moderate improvements. Hopefully on first down, but I suppose mentioning that will draw the ire of a great many Giants fans exasperated with aforementioned running game.

Tom: Sure, but with a team that went 9-7 with 7.8 Pythagorean wins against our fourth-hardest schedule, what do moderate improvements result in? And I like David Wilson, too, but I don't think he fundamentally changes anything for their offense.

Mike: If the defense stays healthy? Another 9-7. If not? Someplace ugly. I think they get to 9, though. Over.

Tom reminds Mike the line is 9.0. Mike lets out several expletives.

Mike: Must ... resist ... picking ... push ... Under.

Tom: I was worried you were going to steal my thunder. I like the defense a little more. I like the offense a little less. Overall, I think they finish right where they do last year. Push.

Mike: Boooooo.


Mike: Oh, man.

Tom: You have strong feels about this line, I take it?

Mike: I really do. This is the same freaking team.

Tom: They're a very similar team. To last year's version that finished with 9.8 Pythagorean Wins.

Mike: Same Juan "I Once Was an Offensive Line Coach" Castillo running the defense.

Tom: The Eagles' defense was better the second half of last season. Watching their defense the first half of last season was insanely frustrating, especially as a fan who had seen the wide-9 implemented successfully. They were playing the linebackers and back-seven defenders all wrong. That got better as the season went on, and they added DeMeco Ryans, who's sound, and Mychal Kendricks, who looks like a nice player.

Mike: The Eagles' defense in the second half of season featured: Chicago, Arizona, Seattle, Miami, the New York Football Jets, and Washington. I'm not sure it would have been possible to be as bad as the first half against that spread.

Tom: Their defensive DVOA against the Jets was -48%. That's the sort of thing they were SUPPOSED to do. Last year's team, yes, it was a train wreck, but they worked on fixing the problems. This year's defensive issues will be subtler and/or of the non-obvious sort. You can have your generalized Castillo dislike for that, and I won't object too loudly, but they're now built in a much more theoretically sound manner.

Mike: I will give you that.

Tom: My bigger concern is of course Michael Vick, who's still too much of a week to week player.

Mike: I do wonder if the wear and tear of last year will cause him to change his game, which actually could be a positive, considering the way defenses focus on him and the weapons that offense (probably) has.

Tom: Change his game in that he stops sometimes throwing inaccurately on short passes for no apparent reason? I'm skeptical.

Mike: Hey, you're the one trying to make me be optimistic.

Tom: I'm debating whether talking myself into a zillion wins is a good idea. We both went over on the Eagles last year and got burned.

Mike: Indeed. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Under.

Tom: I'm drinking the Kool-Aid. Over.

Mike: You poor, poor sap.


Mike: Honestly? I have no idea what to think of Robert Griffin III.

Tom: I like his long-term future, and he seems like a great guy.

Mike: This O/U basically hinges on how well you think he'll perform.

Tom: There is a whole rest of the team out there, plus Mike Shanahan's occasional run-blocking wizardry. The bar for performance was set by your long-time nemesis, Rex Grossman, which means it's not that hard to be an upgrade.

Mike: I feel like Grossman and I should do a heartwarming cereal commercial like McEnroe and whatever that Gerry Anderson stand-in was supposed to be. And while you say the is a whole rest of the team, if you'll allow me to be a slight bit hyperbolic; is there? Really?

Tom: They're planning on fielding an entire team this season, as far as I know. I like Trent Wililiams' potential. Brian Orakpo is good outside of GEICO commercials. They signed Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather.

Mike: I mean, obviously they're fielding enough players, but what real talent is there? Their platoon of running backs is below 50 percent success and the entire team only managed to score 8 rushing touchdowns combined. Run-blocking wizardry can only get you so far, and the scary part is the Redskins were actually pretty dark good at run blocking, 10th in the league by ALY. Eight team touchdowns. Sub-50 percent success rate. Negative DVOA. Sorry, I just can't get past this.

Tom: We did do some research a while ago that suggested running quarterbacks like RG3 do tend to boost how effective running backs are.

Mike: That is true, but then that leads us back to Griffin.

Tom: They re-signed Adam Carriker, which was a good non-sexy signing. You're right, though, it's hard for me to really like this team's overall talent level. And while trading up to get Griffin was a much smarter move than trading draft picks for veterans, they'll still have to build around him. If he pans out the way most of us probably think he will, they can be Super Bowl contenders. That's 2017, though, not 2012. Under.

Mike: I don't think they're going to light the world on fire. I think their defense is ... respectable. I think their running game might, might go from very bad to merely bad with the Griffin boost. Like I said, I think the line is so low that it comes down to how you feel Griffin does, and I get the feeling that a dynamic quarterback like him will be able to pull some stuff on teams this season due to a lack of tape. I think that seven wins isn't an insurmountable goal, so I'll go with Over.

Tom: On to the American Football Conference!


Mike: The football gods really hate us, don't they?

Tom: Yes, they do. Though still not as much as they hate Buffalo. Or have you forgotten they last made the playoffs following the 1999 season?

Mike: How could anyone who has read anything about the Bills forget? Sorry, I'm a Pirates fan. We haven't had a winning season since 1992.

Tom: I think I once wrote about the Bills without mentioning it.

Mike: This would be a great new show: Myths of the Greater Midwestern Sportswriter. All of this is just dodging the fact that we have to, as with the Eagles, basically make the same call we did last year. How did we do last year, anyway?

Tom: We did awesome last year. You got 3 of the 4 AFC East teams right, and I got all four correct.

Mike: That is my favorite kind of doing!

Tom: The Easts were actually our best collective performance last year. 7-1 in the AFC and 5-3 in the NFC (you 2, me 3).

Mike: Wow. That is impressive. Unhelpful, but impressive.

Tom: Sadly, we counterbalanced that with some less impressive performances in other divisions. Unless I miscounted, we both went 16-16 overall.

Mike: All right. So, what has changed about the Bills? There's no real reason to assume Ryan Fitzpatrick will be injured again.

Tom: They added Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. They may keep a second viable receiver healthy. They re-signed Stevie Johnson. Kyle Williams is healthy. Marcel Dareus is entering his second season. They drafted Stephon Gilmore, which should pay off in the future more than this year.

Mike: While David Nelson didn't impress last year (I believe he was featured in the Loser League a few times), I think he's in a good position, with a salaried and happy Johnson and probably a healthy Fitzpatrick, to turn into an actual useful No. 2 receiver going into this third year in the league.

Tom: I ended up watching a fair amount of the Bills last year, and found them a frustrating team, offensively.

Mike: Flashes of brilliance mired in a morass of ineptitude?

Tom: It was a horizontal stretch offense, like the Patriots', only not as good and less versatile. I was selfishly hoping Stevie Johnson would leave and go to a team with a quarterback that could complete a pass 25 yards downfield once in a while.

Mike: I suppose the question is whether Chan Gailey can learn from last year and play more to his offense's strengths. He has a decent amount of talent and a serviceable quarterback with a glaring deficiency, so as you said, trying to be a crappier version of the Patriots isn't a great plan for the encore.

Tom: Of course, to win games in the NFL you don't have to be a great team. You just have to outscore your opponents.

Mike: I'm willing to just wash my hands at this point, say that he does and go with an offense that is "pretty good but not great."

Tom: The Bills and the rest of the AFC East get eight games against the AFC South and NFC West, two divisions with teams FOA 2012 mostly projects to be not that good.

Mike: The addition of Williams should immensely help improve the Bills' abysmal pass rush from 2011.

Tom: 2009 was the last year the Bills had a decent pass rush, and a decent defense. Williams (Mario) and Anderson, plus the return of Williams (Kyle), should help.

Mike: Which should take a bit of pressure off a somewhat sketchy secondary. Maybe I just like Fitzpatrick too much, but I have a good feeling about this team. Over.

Tom: I wouldn't expect the same tipped passes interception luck they had early in 2011, but I like them against the schedule just enough to go Over.


Tom: Die whole number lines, die!

Mike: I think what we're seeing is that the bookie has absolutely no idea what is going to happen this season.

Tom: I'm not sure anybody knows who's going to start at quarterback for the Dolphins this year. David Garrard is currently the top quarterback on the unofficial depth chart. Matt Moore has played semi-competently at times in the NFL, which is mostly where Garrad's been. Ryan Tannehill was of course the eighth pick in the draft, so he'll start sooner or later.

Mike: Miami's problems go well beyond quarterback, though. Like the Redskins, this is just a team devoid of talent.

Tom: Are you saying you have no interest in playing wide receiver for the Dolphins this year? Might your daughter have any interest?

Mike: One of her favorite words is "water," and as LeBron reminded us, Miami does have nice beaches. She is a natural fit!

Tom: Wonderful. We should let Jeff Ireland know.

Mike: I guess Miami at least has its draft picks going forward? But probably no weapon of nearly the same calibre as Griffin. I hate to be so superficial, but this team is just bad.

Tom: Well, there is that. The Dolphins' big weakness by DVOA last year was the running game on offense. That despite the good year by Reggie Bush. Daniel Thomas, of course, struggled, but seemed to come on some later in the season, I thought.

Mike: That is surprising, considering Bush had a good year and the team has a genuine rock star in Jake Long. Well, "good." "Good for the Dolphins."

Tom: Honestly, this may be the team in the league I know least.

Mike: Part of the problem is that, despite having little recognizable talent, the Dolphins are actually basically average by almost every metric.

Tom: They had this weird mid-season stretch where they won three straight games by a combined score of 76-20 after starting 0-8 with a number of close losses. Often that kind of Pythagorean wins-real wins gap (8.5 v 6 real wins) results in a jump the following season, but I'm having a hard time justifying that to myself mentally.

Mike: They're going to be starting a very marginal rookie quarterback, and they no longer have even a passable running back, so their biggest weakness is going to just get worse. I think the AFC East is soft this year, but not that soft. Under.

Tom: Their quarterback play wasn't great last year, and we've noted the soft schedule. I hate this line, but the schedule is only soft in comparison to good teams. That doesn't include the Dolphins in my book. A reluctant Under.

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Tom: From FOA, 2012 Mean Projection: 12.0.

Mike: Never have we seen a team emulate so well a rival against whom it had such great success. I understand that Belichick isn't actually trying to recreate the Colts teams from the mid-00s, but he's managed to put on a very good show.

Tom: I guess it wasn't that Peyton Manning was a complete choker, but that the quarterback for that kind of team must be a postseason choker.

Mike: Oh, we're getting hate mail over that one. The strange part is that those Colts defenses were never actually this bad. They were just run of the mill, ordinary, Diet Coke bad. This Patriots defense was comic book villain bad.

Tom: I would defend Diet Coke, my beverage of choice, except that I started drinking Diet Coke because I didn't like it. Anyway, the Colts' defense the year they won the Super Bowl was almost this bad. DVOA of 8.5%, 25th, compared to 13.2%, 30th, for New England last season.

Mike: That's over half again as bad!

Tom: And the run defense was even worse than the Patriots' defense was last year at 14.9%.

Mike: Anyway, we can both agree that the Patriots' defense last year was really bad. We can also both agree that they will probably field another top-five offense.

Tom: Given general defensive inconsistency, and the picks the Patriots have thrown at the defensive side of the ball, shouldn't they be better defensively? No great shakeout, just more talent and a bit better luck. Or is Bill Belichick no longer good at evaluating defensive players?

Mike: Well, that's the real question.

Tom: Exactly. It's just fascinating to me that you have probably the most written-about team in the NFL the last decade, probably the best team in the league over that span. And they've fallen apart in this way on the side of the ball that was their strength and their head coach's forte. And I haven't seen a good explanation of just what the heck has gone on. This past season, I saw things like, "Well, Ras-I Dowling got hurt." Yeah, sure, and he got hurt all the time in college. That's why he was drafted where he was. Dowling getting hurt wasn't a big surprise. Plus he's a second-round pick. An early second-rounder, but still.

Mike: Right, when you find yourself saying "Just wait until Patrick Chung comes back," you're not in a happy place.

Tom: Rookie second-round picks aren't really the difference between a great defense and an awful one. Maybe they just got lucky in 2003 when Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson turned out to be key contributors as rookies.

Mike: That is definitely part of it, but the rest of the defense was solid. Constant average- or above-average rushing defense DVOA paired with elite pass defense DVOA, helped by a solid pass rush. It wasn't a great defense, but it was a very good defense that worked largely because of Belichick's ability and an overall level of talent.

Tom: Oh, absolutely, though they were only 13th in defensive DVOA when they won their first Super Bowl. The defense really took the jump in 2003 and 2004.

Mike: Considering this site was founded in part to grapple with the Patriots' 2001 aberration, that shouldn't be surprising at all. The team became dominant when a lot of foundational work came to fruition those years. The problem is that we really don't know, and can't know. We can't gaze into Belichick's mind and see if the bits that provide insight into talented but underrated defensive players are cobwebbed over, but looking at what the Patriots have, they look on defense very much like a well that has run dry.

Tom: Maybe it's as simple as the proliferation of 3-4 defenses, increasing the price for the veterans supplementing the existing players.

Mike: But we're seeing a contraction on the 3-4 front.

Tom: That wouldn't get at why the draft picks per se haven't been better, but it would indicate a harder time covering up for losses. So should that indicate that the Pats should improve? Then again, looking at the defensive personnel groupings in FOA 2012, 4-3 was their most common defensive look, followed closely by 3-3-5 and 4-2-5.

Mike: I think all we can do is look at the players they have, be extremely unimpressed, look at their offense, be very impressed but wary of their tight ends now that the cat is out of the bag, and then move on to their projected schedule. Which is the fourth-easiest in the league.

Tom: And FOA sees that, and still projects 12.0 wins. To pick over means they can only lose three games.

Mike: 13 is a lot of wins. I would take the under if it was at 12.5. I'm not going to call for a push. I'll bite the bullet. Over

Tom: Even really good teams can lose four games pretty easily, through some combination of off weeks and bad luck in close games. Still, I like the defense just enough and the offense will still be great. Over. Shoot me as well.

Mike: Why is the AFC East so difficult?

Tom: Football gods trying to smite us after going 7-1 last year?


Tom: I feel like just completely omitting the Jets from the column would have been a merciful act. I'm tired of hearing about this team already, and it's August 6 as I write this. Their best pass-rusher was Aaron Maybin, and I'm having a hard time believing he's now a very useful player. Their right tackle is still Wayne Hunter. I like Santonio Holmes as a receiver on the field in the abstract, but there's a whole other package that goes with that skillset that's much less attractive. They have a quarterback controversy because neither one is particularly proficient at throwing the football. Shonn Greene's absence helped cost them the AFC Championship Game against the Colts, but he's been mediocre at best most of the time since then despite an offensive line that, Hunter excepted, is pretty good. Eric Smith is still on the team, and Jim Leonhard is not.

Mike: The Jets are a maddeningly frustrating team.

Tom: And, yes, they signed Yeremiah Bell. He's still Yeremiah Bell. We just dealt with what I found a very frustrating subject. This column is reminding me why I don't pay as close attention the AFC East as I do to most other divisions.

Mike: More than perhaps any other team in the league, they have strong foundations. The offensive line is definitely above average. The defensive secondary is superb and the front seven, which not amazing, is devastating against runners. This seems like an amazing team, until you get to the skill positions and do a double-take.

Tom: Don't disrespect Dustin Keller, man! Keller had a worse DVOA but wasn't nearly as big a distraction. As Keller's player comment notes, he shouldn't be thrown the ball 115 times (more than Holmes!). That's not his fault.

Mike: Keller was worse than Holmes! Actually, this is insane. But their receivers and running backs are awful, but they have a very good line, 8th by ALY last year. Mark Sanchez is awful. Tim Tebow is awful-er, but he can at least run. They should really just go with Tebow from the start and shove the ball down everyone's throats. Use the passing game as a way to loosen up the defense for the running game. Now, this won't win them a Super Bowl, because most teams that aren't the Patriots can completely shut down a one-dimensional team with little difficulty.

Tom: At this point I have to remind everyone the Jets fully guaranteed Sanchez's salary this year and next year.

Mike: Oh good lord, they did, didn't they.

Tom: As Sanchez was a high first-round pick under the old CBA, that's over $20 million combined. I will also note Chris Brown of Smart Football and Grantland has noted Tebow is actually a surprisingly mediocre decision-maker on option plays, despite running a boatload of them over the years.

Mike: I have occasionally considered that the importance of quarterbacks in the NFL is greatly overstated. I really should slap myself next time I have that thought, or at least hire a tenor to remind me of my foolishness.

Tom: The Jets maybe should put him at quarterback, and just run run run, but that dooms them short of the ultimate prize barring a heaping helping of horseshoes.

Mike: I have never seen a team so talented and so complete but so utterly incompetent at positions where they could almost certainly fish out replacement-level talent. While, due to institutional incompetence, they are in no position to do so.

Tom: This isn't new. As the saying goes, you are what you repeatedly do. This is the New York Jets of the Rex Ryan era.

Mike: No, but it has finally come to a head, here. This is probably simultaneously the best and worst version of the New York Jets we have seen to date.

Tom: The Jets versions don't seem all that different to me, though I suppose that's part of who they are as well. I feel like this may be the version of the Jets with the best chance at a complete implosion.

Mike: I agree, but I wouldn't bet on it. I'd bet, instead, on a very good defense propping up an offense that manages to come up for air just enough to make them dangerous. With this schedule, I think the Over is easy, but I don't like their chances against anyone with any real championship designs.

Tom: I actually concur with you, though. This is a largely similar team to last year's 8-8 team. They play a relatively easy schedule. They should be slightly better. At 8.5 wins, that's Over. And tune in next week as we tackle another cardinal direction.

Mike: Likely a less insane one.

Tom: Fortunately, Charm and Strange aren't NFL divisions. Yet.

Mike: Unfortunately, the NFL's voracious apetite for expansion will probably lead to the Shinobuden division sometime soon. We can only sit and wait in horror.

Tom: The horror, the horror.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 08 Aug 2012

101 comments, Last at 24 Oct 2012, 11:45am by Prosolution


by Will Allen :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 12:47pm

I wonder if Belichik will wind up his career when Brady does, or whether he'll try to win the hard way in the modern NFL; without a great qb. Then again, maybe the Pats will get lucky like the Packers did.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 1:30pm

If Mallett has his head together it could happen.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 1:32pm

If Brady plays three more years, than Mallet's rookie deal will end (it might end after 2013, not sure what his contract was). If that's the case, I can't see the Pats resigning him. They might pick another Mallet-type, but that was probably a pick to trade off for more value (or use in case Brady gets hurt/retires/wildly declines).

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 6:04pm

Mallett's on a four year rookie deal. If he looks good, do the Pats still go with a 38 year old Brady or a 27 year old Mallett? Mallett was considered a first round talent with off-the-field issues (that were largely rumor). The Packers letting go of Favre turned out OK. I'm not predicting a Rodgers level of success for Mallett. Just something to think about.

by RickD :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:13am

You guys are really speculating about who the starting QB will be three years from now???

Another thought: you think the Pats will stick with Brady forever because the Pats never get rid of aging stars passing their prime?

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 11:51pm

At least our tangent is still football-related. I can't say the same elsewhere (see most any off-season PK thread).

by db :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 11:46pm

Lame. The Packers didn't get lucky. They planned well. The Patriots were lucky that Brady was there at 199 but they had a scout advocate that had been lobbying for the selection since the third round. It isn't luck unless you lack talent as an organization. Most teams do, these teams don't.

by Lance :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 12:04am

Bah. It's never a given that a player is going to be a success, regardless of the organization. The Pats have wiffed on players, and so have the Packers. (The year before they picked Rodgers, the Packers' first round pick was CB Ahmad Carroll, who didn't amount to much-- that wasn't due to planning, well, right?) That Rodgers turned out to be as good as he is is, to some degree, just plain luck. Likewise, there's no one who honestly thought "That Brady guy we picked at 199 is going to be our quarterback of the future and an all-time great" when ol' Tom was drafted. That he turned out to be as good as he did was not something that was "planned".

by db :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 12:25am

Bull sauce. So to speak. Or at least as it will be printed here. If random chance were the norm then there would be no above replacement value overall gains from year to year. The last roster breakdown that I saw here was for 2005. For that year, 33% of the starters were UDFA. This indicates that the ability to draft talent is a crap shoot. The ability to recognize and develop talent is organizational skill. The difference from Warren Moon or Cameron Wake (with so many in between)not being drafted as NFL caliber players and Rodgers and Brady being picked up below their currently proven value is the same. If it were just chance, luck or astrology the Browns would have at least been to the SB once in these last many years.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 1:59am

Make up your mind, will you? Were the Packers skillfull in obtaining Rodgers where they did in the draft, or was it, in your words, a "crap shoot"? Hell, the Packers were lucky just to have Rodgers fall as far as he did; in most years the 2nd qb taken doesn't fall to 24. Add in that nobody drafts perfectly and, yes, the Packers got lucky.

by dryheat :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 7:53am

Yeah....that's where the luck kicks in. The 49ers were going to draft whichever QB they could get to agree to a contract before the draft. Smith was the first to accept.

Of course, it's entirely possible that if Rodgers signed the deal, he would have been the starter that the 49ers try to replace every year, and Smith would have sat on the bench for most of his rookie deal with the Packers and then take the league by storm.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 8:27am

To be fair, that is where the skill comes in; Rodgers recived excellent, consistent, coaching.

by Lance :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 12:42pm

Look, let's agree that not every QB picked in the first round turns into a Pro Bowl-caliber player. But let's also agree that no team drafts a QB in the first round with the idea that he could very well be a bust. Therefore, it is true that sometimes when a team drafts a QB in the first round-- even when they think he's going to be good-- he isn't.

So the question is if Green Bay has some special talent to draft first round QBs that other teams don't. Unfortunately, teams don't often draft QBs in the first round, and Green Bay is no exception. But they have drafted other QBs before. In 2006 (the year after Rodgers was picked), they took a guy named Ingle Martin with the 148th pick. He did exactly nothing in his NFL career. In 2008, they drafted Brian Brohm with the 56th pick. He's done slightly more than nothing, depending how one views playing in 3 games for the Bills and throwing 5 picks against 0 touchdowns. This year, they took another QB with the 243rd pick. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he's not going to turn out great.

We could also look at other first round picks by Green back and see how they've turned out. In 2004, they took Ahmad Carroll, who really wasn't that good. In 2006 they took A.J. Hawk. He's turned out to be quite good. In 2007 they took Justin Harrell. He hasn't turned out so well. In 2008, they took Jordy Nelson, and he's also turned out to be quite solid-- especially last year.

In all, it looks like Green Bay has been more hit than miss with their first round picks, so indeed, the assessment of Rodgers seems valid. But as someone has noted: they had to count on him falling to the 24th pick to nab him, which is quite lucky.

As for Tom Brady: no. The same team that took Brady at 199 took Michael Bishop the year before at 227. A few years later, they picked Kliff Kingsbury at 201. No serious person can say that the Brady pick was a sign of some genius on the part of the Patriots staff in light of the fact that in the surrounding years they made similar late-round QB picks that were, for all purposes-- busts.

So sum up, it seems likely that the Packers have a solid scouting staff and make good first round picks. So in that respect, they "planned" well. But it was not "planned" that he would fall to the pick that he fell, and if he'd gone earlier it is unclear what the Packers would have done to address the post-Favre era. Conversely, that Brady turned out to be as good as he was is just dumb luck as the Patriots hardly have a stellar record of picking great QBs in later rounds.

by dryheat :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 1:17pm

I agree for the most part. One thing that's worth mentioning is expectations of a 1st round QB vs a Day 3 QB. You can't really fault the Patriots for that drafted guys like Kingsbury or Kevin O'Connell didn't pan out. There's only 96-ish jobs for NFL quarterback, and only 30-ish people who can perform them at a high level. Drafting a QB that late is a gamble on upside -- maybe a guy was injured for long stretches in college. Maybe he went to a small school. Maybe he was overshadowed at school, such as Patriots 7th round draft pick Matt Cassell, who has become at minimum a creditable NFL starter, and maybe his physical gifts were sub-optimal, despite the winning at the NCAA level, like Packers late draft pick Matt Flynn, who cashed in last year and Patriots undrafted signing Brian Hoyer, who will get some attention next offseason as a free agent. Kellen Moore also fits nicely into that category.

I guess the point is just to point out that when an NFL franchise picks a QB in the first round, they are banking on him to be a long-term solution at the position. When one drafts one in the sixth round, they're really not expecting that much. Is it luck that the Patriots got a Hall-of-Famer in the 6th round? Of course. Is it luck that they drafted Tom Brady and not Todd Husak, JeJuan Seider,Tim Rattay, Jarius Jackson, or Joe Hamilton, who all got drafted after Brady? Not at all, it was astute scouting and the belief that he had the best chance to be an NFL contributor, if not a superstar.

by Lance :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 12:12pm

I agree, mostly. Though, again, I'm not convinced in your argument that there wasn't some luck involved in picking Brady over Todd Husak, JeJuan Seider,Tim Rattay, Jarius Jackson, and Joe Hamilton. I obviously wasn't there in the draft room, and I don't know how the Patriots (or anyone for that matter) structure their scouting staff, etc. But at some point, you have a collection of QBs and perhaps you've seen some limited film of them, and you have some numbers and whatnot, but was there really a quantitative, noticeable difference between Brady and, say, Tim Rattay coming out of college? My guess is that at pick 199, the Patriots GM was thinking something like "we need a QB-- who's the best one on the board" and scouts checked their spreadsheets and saw a list with scores like 4.3, 4.3, 4.2, 4.1, 3.9 and whatever, and they said "let's take the Michigan kid" and that was that.

I could be wrong-- it could have been the case that the Pats had Brady grading out at like 7.9 and thinking "I can't believe he's still on the board... we have Bledsoe, but we have to take this Michigan guy-- our proprietary advanced scouting metrics for this kid are off the charts! It's a steal!!!!"

Drafting is so inexact. I know someone's written on this, but a person's NFL career is not independent of anything else. Joe Montanta drafted by the New Orleans Saints doesn't turn the Saints into a dynasty. it's not like if the Pats take Rattay and the 49ers take Brady, all of history is re-written so that the 49ers come to dominate the NFL in the 00's and the Pats mostly wallow in obscurity.

Obviously a team can't ignore the data. But after watching drafts since college (over 20 years now-- ugh!) and following the careers of players, I am more and more convinced that luck plays a bigger role than people are willing to say.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 3:08pm

From what I remember, it's been widely reported that the Patriots had about a 3rd round grade on Brady. Obviously they had no idea he'd be a Hall of Famer, but they thought at the time they were getting a bit of a steal, and at least some people in their war room were somewhat in love with him. I think they probably did have him graded significantly higher than Tim Rattay. They probably thought he had a good chance of having a career a bit like Orton's or Cassel's, and some chance of a career a bit like Schaub's or Hasselbeck's.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 3:20pm

From what I've read, I think it was the QB coach who sadly died that was the true believer in Brady, but the organization as a whole had him graded about the same as Rattay. I really doubt that they had a 3rd round grade on Brady. Any way you could verify that? Because, if that was the case, why wait until Round 6?

by tuluse :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 3:52pm

Not just that, but their 2nd pick in the 6th round.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 3:56pm

Bill had them specifically focus on Rattay and Brady as possible developmental QBs, so he wasn't out of the loop or anything. But, yes, Rehbein preferred Tommy and that's why they went in that direction.

I know that Pioli has admitted that they had Brady rated too low and it would hard to believe that Bill would say otherwise.

by dryheat :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 4:20pm

Because they had a quarterback whom they had recently signed to the richest contract in NFL history.

I don't know what kind of grade they had on him, but it certainly would have been downgraded due to Bledsoe's presence. I find it plausible to think the 6th round was the earliest they decided to take a quarterback. I also find it plausible to think they had Brady rated as the 3rd best QB or so. Remember that only 3 QBs were drafted in the first 3 rounds that year. This in itself seems fairly ludicrous, but in the end, Pennington, Brady, and Bulger (another 6th rounder to a team which had an established star QB) were the only three to ever make a career as a starting QB.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 4:52pm

Jeff Blake was an established star QB? Or did you mean Aaron Brooks?

But yes, this is the point, or a substantial part of it. QB was not a priority, because the Patriots had Bledsoe.

Equally, I don't suppose it's that unusual for teams to draft guys they have third round grades on in the sixth round. Most teams probably have pretty similar ideas about who belongs in the first, and even to some extent the second. But the idea that the guy one team rates 90th might not be in anyone else's top 160 or so is hardly outlandish. The difference in expected AV between the 96th pick and the 199th is only 9 (see here). It just doesn't seem that unlikely to me.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 6:40pm

I do want to point out that Carrol was drafted by a different GM (Sherman) who wasn't a bad head coach but was awful as a GM, that is a huge mistake that the management council admits too. Also while Nelson was the Packers fist pick in that draft he was taken in the second round because the Packers traded down.

However your general point isn't really affected by this. In hindsight Rodgers (2005) was a great pick. AJ Hawk (2006) was over drafted, if he had been drafted 25th overall vs 5th it would have been a solid pick, so he's not a bust but he's not really a hit either. Harrell (2007) was awful. Raji (2009) and Matthews (2009) were good to great picks and Bulaga (2010) looks like he was a good pick (at least I think the 23rd overall pick being used on a RT who looks like he will be a possible pro bowler and a starter at RT for 5+ years at least is a good pick). Tough to say on Sherrod (2011) yet.

As you mentioned if you expand this to first two rounds you add data points of Nick Collins (2005) who was a good pick though his career is now over. Murphy (2005) also had his career ended by injury so I rate that as bust. Colledge (2006) was OK but looks like he was over drafted (like Hawk). Jennings (2006) was a great pick. Jackson (2007) was solid but again appears to be a bit of an overdraft. Nelson (2008) was a good pick, Brohm (2008) was an awful pick, Lee (2008) was also a poor pick 2nd round is too high for a guy who ended up being a spot dime back and only so-so special teams. Neal (2010) unless he breaks out this year looks like a bad pick as well.

It's a pretty mixed bag.
Good (6): Rodgers, Matthews, Bulaga, Collins, Jennings, Nelson
Meh (4): Hawk, Raji, Colledge, Jackson
Bad (5): Harrell, Murphy, Brohm, Lee, Neal

So I think scouting and personnel development group does have some skill and the misses, with the exception of Harrell, were picks that the had the chance to be hits. Murhpy was playing much like Cobb did last year before he got injured if you don't hold injuries like that against the team he was a good pick. Brohm had great pre draft hype with only a handful of detractors. Lee looked like he would at least be a good return man if he didn't work out as a corner but just failed (some of it injury related). Neal is always injured too, as was Harrell. I don't can't give an injury pass on Harrell though as he was injured when drafted and I still think he was a panic pick because a trade fell through after the player they wanted had been taken. That shows poor front office planning too.

But yes I agree with you. There is skill but there is a lot of luck (especially with Rodgers). Though I do think good planning allows you to take advantage of luck. Rodgers, Nelson, and Matthews are examples of that. They knew their board well enough that they felt they could take Rodgers when he fell, they felt they had enough on their board that they could trade back and still get Nelson (or another good player if they didn't have the luck for him to still be there), they didn't feel Matthews would last so they traded up to get him. Harrell is a great counter example to that as is Brohm. But there are more examples on the good side.

Like most other things in football skill has an impact and so does luck.

by The Powers That Be :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 12:59pm

Oops, never mind.

by Led :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 1:15pm

Hmm, the disdain for the Jets receivers seems unwarranted. Holmes is good, albeit not great. Hill is a Speed Score star and likely to be at least a credible deep threat as a rookie (plus he's a good blocker). Kerley is one of FO's potential breakout players. Schilens had a very respectable 14.5% DVOA in Oakland last year. When healthy, he's a competent receiver. White is another Speed Score star. I appreciate FO isn't a hive mind, but this is a very FO-friendly, low cost WR corps with a fair amount of upside. Of course, none of this matters if Sanchez doesn't improve, but there's been enough written about him.

by CeeBee (not verified) :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 1:40pm

I long for the day when FO doesn't project amazing things for the Eagles and horrible things for the Giants.

Ya know, just to be different.

by Dales :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 9:47pm

Bite your tongue. This has been working wonders for Big Blue.

by DEW (not verified) :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 1:58pm

In honor of the astonishing Ninja Nonsense reference making its way into the Jets summary, I can say that it is astonishingly easy to imagine Rex Ryan as Onsokumaru, Mark Sanchez as Shinobu, and Tebow as Kaede. After which I will now hang my head as having so firmly established my uber-nerd cred, but hey, that's what life is like as a Dolphins fan during the Jeff Ireland years.

(While the Jets receivers may inspire disdain, the Dolphins receivers inspire...silence. I'd have to know who they are to be able to comment on them. Is there an equivalent of Hole in Zone for the offense, 'cause the 'Fins WRs may pull a Jason David and somehow be worse than no player at all this year.)

by Dean :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 2:05pm

Voracious appetite for expansion?

They've added 4 teams in the last 35 years. 0.36% annualized growth is voracious?

by Mike Kurtz :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 2:25pm

The phrase was inapt, I agree.

What I was trying to convey was the NFL's desire to proselytize American Football to foreign audiences, as part of an excuse to make a Shinobuden joke. In my defense, that just must be made.

by Dean :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 3:36pm

I had to google Shinobuden. I'm still not sure I get the joke. But that's a fairly common thing these days.

by Phrim :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 3:02pm

Don't really understand Mike's disbelief that the Eagles can get to the quarterback, when that's the one thing they did well last year (tied for the league lead in sacks with 50).

by canofcorn66 :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 3:52pm

My thoughts, too. It's reasonable to think the defense as a whole won't be good because of linebacker/secondary play, but the line is the same - maybe even a little deeper with Vinny Curry and Fletcher Cox. They'll get to the quarterback.

by bubqr :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:15am

I agree on this. Rushing the passer was the main strength/satisfaction last year along with Lesean, and with more time in the system, addition of 2 good pass rushers (Cox and Curry) in the first 2 rounds of this draft, I can't imagine why Mike could think that. They have the potential to be the best in the league at this along with the Giants and Bills.

by theslothook :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 3:29pm

Lol, mike kurtz comment number 9 should somehow make it into the column or at least into next week's.

The patriots defense sucked because the draft picks they started getting were later and later and natural attrition kicked in. Of course its more to it than that, but remember who the elite talent the pats were built around in the early part of the decade. They were seymore, law, harrison with bruischi, vrable, wilfork, samuel, and warren as the second tier. Now every single person save wilfork is gone and the late rounders cannot possibly sustain the defense's success. This phenomena actually extended to the offense as well, where a slew of wr and running back picks essentially led to nothing. Of course, then came the 2010 draft and the pats landed the bonanza with hernandez and gronk.

More interestingly, the pats free agent/trades have been the ones that have really kept this team afloat. Brian waters, wes welker, and randy moss filled out the skill position talent before gronk and hernandez emerged, providing a wonderful bridge that I have to believe was anything but designed.

Moral of the story, when you're good AND you get lucky, you look great!

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 4:25pm

Only Seymour was a top ten pick, Warren was 13 if I remember correctly. Wilfork slid in a strong draft, while Harrison and Vrabel were free agents. Samuel was a 4th rounder while Bruschi was a 3rd.

They've never built the defense out of high picks but they used to have a veteran coaching staff that did a better job of developing talent and they used to find better players. I get the impression that while Belichick is very good at finding smart people who excel at scheming and breaking down film they might not have the technical know how to improve their players.

by James-London :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 3:39pm

A completely different take on Miami from Bill Barnwell over at Grantland. He thinks that if 1) Miami's Front Office & owner can get out of the way and 2) they go with Matt Moore at QB, Miami are potentially a good team.

Leaving aside 1 isn't going to happen, anyone else want to argue that Matt Moore is the key to Miami making some noise?

Thought no. God, it could be depressing this year... again

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 4:12pm

Lot a smiliraties between Moore coming into this year and Moore coming into 2010. He had a better year at the end of 2009 for the Panthers than he did last year for the Dolphins (in less games), and proceeded to be horrible for the Panthers. I could easily see something like that happening again.

by t.d. :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 7:00pm

I actually think Barnwell undersells Garrard. Sure, he was league average in 2010 in Jacksonville, but everybody saw what Blaine Gabbert did with the same supporting cast last season- the Jaguars under Del Rio were awful on offense,with a bad line and no receivers, and Garrard always made them look passable. Too bad Miami doesn't look much better on the receiver front (and Garrard is coming off missing a season due to injury and is 34 years old)

by johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 7:43pm

If you believe there rating system then Garrard is not a very good QB and has never been more than replacement level QB. At his age he is unlikely to step up in value. At his best he was about as good as Moore was last season. Sadly Henne generally preformed better by their rating metrics than either QB and is at the age and number of starts he might of shown a step up in improvement. Moore also is in the game start range he might improve slightly. The problem with the Dolphins is according to the sites rating system they are neither good or terrible. They are likely a 6-10 to 9-7 team depending on injuries. However to bet the over on 7 wins you have to feel they won't say give the rookie QB a try in a few games. Given the Sybil like nature of the front office, I don't think anyone wants to take that bet.

by tuluse :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 12:05am

Which rating system is that?

DVOA has Garrard with 34.3% DVOA in 2007, higher than Matt Moore has ever been.

Moore has as many career attempts below -40% DVOA as he does with positive DVOA. That is a not a pretty picture.

Also, Moore is under-performing the QB he replaced, while Garrard outperformed both the QB he replaced and the QBs who replaced him.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 9:50am

The QBs who replaced Garrard were Blaine Gabbert and Luke McCown, so I don't know how much credit you can give him for that . . .

Agree that he's probably better than Moore, though.

by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:35am

My opinion:

Garrard will win the spot. Moore is a good backup and a terrible starter. His numbers last year were inflated against some bad defenses. Garrard is more of an unknown quantity at this point so I'd rather see him in there. At least that's something to be excited - well, unsure - about. Unless Tannheill gets a whole lot better over the preseason (and I don't see it happening) he'll be #3 and I don't expect him to play at all this year.

Their run defense will be very good. Their pass rush will be good. They drafted a guy (Olivier Vernon) who can be a great pass rusher on the other side of Wake assuming he gets 1 on 1 matchups. Their secondary is not good. CBs can be good but are inconsistent and the safeties are a bunch of guys in battles where no one can separate from one another so they're all pretty much backups. They will get beat a lot.

RB will probably be Bush and rookie Lamar Miller will probably overtake Daniel Thomas at some point. He's had good reviews in training camp but beat reporters always build up the team before they play any games. WRs will positively blow other than Davone Bess and he'll probably be blanketed in the slot because there is no threat to get deep and still catch the ball.

I see a typical Dolphins season - A lot of punts and field goals. Few TDs. A very good run defense with a pass defense that gives up TDs. I'm taking the under and not looking back.

Fire Jeff Ireland.

by tuluse :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:49am

Still better than getting benched for Jimmy Clausen and not being able to significantly outperform anyone but the dessicated corpse of Jake Delhomme.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:36am

I think Clausen's probably better than Gabbert, but I admit it's a close-run thing . . .

by t.d. :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 1:15pm

I think that, too, is unlikely. Gabbert has the tools you look for in a quarterback, and was widely considered the safer bet/a comparable prospect to Cam Newton just over a year ago. Obviously that was crazy, but it was a widely held opinion among scouts leading up to the draft. I live in Jacksonville, so i see my share of Jags games, and i don't think it can be emphasized enough how terrible the jags offensive personnel has been for the last few years. Garrard was a freaking miracle worker. in 2010, he got solid to excellent performances from Mike Thomas, Mike sims-Walker, and Marcedes Lewis. Off of that, Lewis got franchised, then disappeared w/o a quarterback, and Sims-Walker got a free agent deal from the rams before getting cut by mid October /by the Rams/. Garrard did this with an offensive line that is likely to give Gabbert 'David Carr syndrome' in record time. Without looking at the numbers but having read the book and Muth's observations, I can tell you that the Jags had more 'blown blocks' sacks than any team last year with the possible exception of the Bears. Gabbert could only dream of having offensive teammates as good as the Bears have had since they acquired Cutler.

you don't give up on a first round quarterback prospect after 15 games (without training camp and with a lame duck head coach who couldn't hire any decent assistants because everybody knew he was a dead man walking). They give him all of this year to get better, and then, if they have a top three pick in the draft they should try to replace him (like the Panthers did with Claussen) Claussen had a loaded offense when he flopped (as Newton showed)

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 8:39am

Oh, don't get me wrong - I think Clausen's awful. But as a Texans fan I've seen both quite a bit of Gabbert and quite a bit of David Carr, and Gabbert strikes me as being essentially a worse version of Carr, without even the nice deep ball and with even worse pocket presence. I guess Jacksonville have to find out what they've got, but I'll be staggered if that guy is ever even a good NFL backup.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 2:19pm

Gabbert just looked unable to perform anywhere near the NFL level last year. You're right, he looked worse than just about every back-up in the league and the numbers back it up - some guys with higher DVOA than Gabbert include A.J. Feely, Tyler Palko, Mike Kafka, Ron Bartel, John Beck, Kellen Clemens... and we'll let this one stand alone: Curtis Painter.

Only a few QB's had worse DVOA: Hanie, Whitehurst, Gradkowski, J.P. Losman, the McCown bros. and Kyle Boller. Personally, I think Gabbert looked worse than his numbers - he had a world-class RB and high level defense to take the heat off, at that. Only Hanie could have been said to have had an equal supporting cast to Gabbert and that's only if you buy into Matt Forte (which I and DVOA don't.)

by db :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 11:59pm

Jaws loved Matt Moore coming out of college. He did very well last year once he got his rhythm down and if the Phins don't want him I wish him well in his new city. Miami hasn't done anything right at the position since Wannabe let Huard walk. They deserve to suck.

by MpM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 12:17pm

Let me get this straight. You're saying that all the Phins problems at QB don't exist in a universe where Damon Huard stayed on as their QB?

by dryheat :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 2:15pm

Exactly what I was thinking. A guy who lost his job to Jay Fiedler, and was never to become a starting NFL QB again, probably wasn't the answer.

I think most of Huard's bona fides come from that ridiculous comeback victory against New England back in 1999 or so. The game where New England was down to two linebackers -- Tedy Bruschi and special teamer Vernon Crawford (Lawyer Milloy manned the other spot) by the end of the 3rd quarter.

Come to think of it, I believe most of Karim Abdul-Jabbar's bona fides came from the same game.

by sjt (not verified) :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 4:04pm

Diet Coke bad.

How dare you sir! Call Peyton a choker all you want, but I'll not have your soda slander.

by Shattenjager :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 4:34pm

I think that phrase should be used far more often, throughout society. The only question is what should be used as the similar go-to phrase for something really awful, since Diet Coke bad means just sort of generically bad.
Diet Dr. Pepper bad?
Mr. Pibb bad?
Pepsi Blue bad?
New Coke bad? (That one is probably unfair since New Coke was meant to taste like Diet Coke and therefore was most likely not actually notably worse than Diet Coke bad, but it's also rather funny. I note that I have to speak hypothetically here, because, having been born four days after New Coke's launch, I never drank it and do not actually remember its existence.)

by Ivarsson.se :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 4:23am

Vanilla Coke bad?

by dryheat :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 7:50am

I thought New Coke was their attempt at re-creating Pepsi.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 2:04pm

As I recall from Thomas Oliver's book The Real Coke, The Real Story, the idea was that people were preferring Pepsi for being sweeter. Since Diet Coke is itself sweeter than Coke, they based the New Coke formula on recreating the Diet Coke flavor.

by Marko :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 8:55pm

This doesn't make any sense to me. Diet Coke is sweeter than Coke? It sure as hell doesn't taste sweeter to me. I can't stand Diet Coke or any diet soft drink. And I can't believe that the New Coke formula was based on recreating the Diet Coke flavor.

I am old enough to remember the buzz around the introduction of New Coke and of Crystal Pepsi (which is mentioned below). Crystal Pepsi indeed was awful. New Coke tasted OK, but it just wasn't as good as the original Coke (which is now known as Coca-Cola Classic).

Does anyone here remember Pepsi Light?

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 11:44pm

IIRC, New Coke came out in April 1985. I was in the Navy & stationed on Diego Garcia until August. Supply lines being what they were then, I only had to deal with the new Coke for about a month. While it was sweeter than the original, it wasn't the same as Diet Coke. It wasn't very good. I can still enjoy Diet Coke. I switched to RC for that month.

by Shattenjager :: Sat, 08/11/2012 - 12:43am

April 23, 1985.

by akn :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:24am

Crystal Pepsi bad!

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 2:06pm

I had never even heard of that one.

by akn :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 3:45pm

The only reason I know about it is because I went to high school with a kid whose father was one of the central inventors of the Crystal Pepsi formula. I can't be sure if he kept his job much longer after that.

by dryheat :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 3:57pm

And a good friend of mine from college was one on the initial marketing campaign. The Zima of soft drinks.

by Dean :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 4:17pm

That was the era of clear cola and dry beers. Not a high point in beverage history.

by PatsFan :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 4:31pm

But it did bring us one of the all-time funny SNL skits...

by nuclearbdgr :: Tue, 08/14/2012 - 9:36am


one of my personal favorites as well

by tuluse :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 4:40pm

Slander is spoken, this would be libel.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 5:00pm

"I will also note Chris Brown of Smart Football and Grantland has noted Tebow is actually a surprisingly mediocre decision-maker on option plays, despite running a boatload of them over the years."

Relative to what? I only recall seeing the sprint option a handful of times in the NFL in the last 25 years.

by tuluse :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 5:04pm

Is what relative to what? Tebow's decision making? Why does it have to be a relative scale? If he's making bad decisions what does it matter if another person would make worse decisions? Why can't his decision making be measured on an absolute scale?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:02am

What is the context for poor decision making? Basically -- we will never know how the play would have turned out had the other choice been made, because the defense reacted to the choice that was made. Unlike passing decisions, running choices are more of a binary matter, because the time element is so compressed.

Also, Tebow is basically the only QB who has run the sprint option in living memory, outside of the occasional Drew Stanton Experience. Even if you want to go w/ read-option QBs, your choices are basically Newton, Vick, and Wildcat "QBs". There isn't a large sample of comparative choices with which to compare Tebow.

by tuluse :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:05am

On the contrary I think while watching a play unfold it's pretty easy to tell if a QB should pitch it or not.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:35am

Again, just because the other guys who are running it aren't in the NFL doesn't mean you can't compare their decision-making to Tebow's.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 1:53pm

Why not? Wasn't the argument that NFL defenses are too fast (and hashes too close) for the option to work? If that's the case, then you cannot compare his decisions to the NCAA, because the nature of what the defense is doing is different.

by dryheat :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 2:23pm

No, the argument against the option is that quarterbacks are not indestructible. If the quarterback is running the option correctly, he's taking a big hit almost every play.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 4:29pm

I thought it was both.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 6:34am

Well, you can always look at his NCAA tape too. But differences in quality of competition just make comparisons more difficult, not impossible. I reckon it probably is possible for one or two teams at a time to have reasonable success running the option in the NFL, if they commit to it. You'd have to sign multiple appropriate quarterbacks with elite physical tools, but it really wouldn't require a massive investment of picks or cap room to put, say, Tebow, Vince Young and Joe Webb on the same roster, and that gives you room to absorb an injury or two.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 08/17/2012 - 10:46am

Now, THAT would be something

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 08/18/2012 - 7:04am

Wouldn't it, though? I'd love to see that offense on the field, and I don't think even NFL teams would have an easy time stopping it, especially if coupled with a hyper-aggressive approach to fourth downs.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 7:51pm

Relative to other college quarterbacks who run a lot of that stuff, I presume.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 5:17pm

Mike, I can't believe you let Tom get away with making the statement "they signed pro bowl safety Brandon Merriwether". (Unless I misssed sarcasm?) Brandon Merriwether is to safeties what DeAngelo Hall is to cornerbacks. They both gamble a lot in order to inflate their interception totals, but the amount they get burned more than negates that.

If I'm an offensive coordinator on a team playing the Redskins with that duo, I call like 5 hitch-n-goes or out-n-ups per half.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 7:54pm

Pretty sure that was a joke.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 8:59pm

Okay, guess I'm the only one who missed it.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 9:18pm

It was indeed a joke.

by Alternator :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 7:19pm

I think a large part of the Patriots defense dropping off is weaker coaching. The Patriots coaching staff has been picked over repeatedly, and while the offense has Brady to smooth over any coaching weaknesses, the defense really does not have anyone similar.

I suspect Crennell deserved a LOT more credit than he was ever given, and worked better with Belichick than generally believed.

by theslothook :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 8:48pm

then why hasn't the same been true for their offense- which has lost crennel, mcdaniels(until his return) and bill obrien. The weakness on defense has strictly been a draft failure. Again, no team has shown has a consistent ability to hit on draft picks and thats why they aren't a great defense. That and their once great veterans that made their defense great are no longer there anymore.

by Shattenjager :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 9:49pm

While I suppose it's technically true that the offense also lost Crennel, he was the defensive coordinator. The offense "lost" Charlie Weis.

by dryheat :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 7:49am

The #1 reason, IMO, is that the NFL went from 3 or so teams playing the 3-4 as a base defense, to about 14. Greater competition for those types of players in the draft and free agency. The Patriots could rely on finding 6-3, 305 lb DEs and 6-4, 260 lb OLBs at every point in the draft and in free agency while the majority of the league could fight over the 6-2, 250 lb 4-3 DEs and LBs.

It took until last year, but Belichick has zagged now that more teams are zigging, and building up his defensive talent to play more 4-3 and 4-2-5 defense.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:04am

Except at the moment, there are as many of those as there are 3-4 teams.

by dryheat :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:53am

Yes, but there is also enough talent to populate those teams. As of two years ago, there were only 3 NCAA D1 teams that played a 3-4 defense. So it's not only a problem of body type, it becomes a problem of having to try to project players who haven't played the position before and hope they have the capacity and desire to be coached up.

I will note that the Wade Phillips 3-4, favoring smaller, quicker players, doesn't suffers nearly as much from a lack of body types. It's Planet Theory...there are only so many people in the world that are over 6-3, over 300 lbs, and athletically gifted enough to play football at the NFL level...and most of those migrated to the offense over the course of their careers.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 1:55pm

There may not be many 3-4 teams in the NCAA, but I seem to recall quite a few 3-3 teams, who have similar defensive linemen to the 3-4 requirement.

by Alternator :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:26pm

I'd say three reasons why the offense hasn't suffered while the defense has fallen apart, beyond simple drafting:

1) An elite QB covers a multitude of sins, and Brady has been consistently elite since 2004. Witness the dropoff from 2007 (elite among the elite offenses, against a very good schedule) to 2008 (a good offense, but against a very easy schedule) with Brady as the only significant loss. His replacement was a league-average starter, too, so it's not even a dropoff to an average backup--it was a dropoff to possibly the best backup in the league, at least that year.

2) Dante Scarnecchia is a wizard with the offensive line, seemingly able to turn anyone into at least a competent starter, and the Patriots scouts seem to be excellent at identifying prospects for Dante to work with.

3) Better success with veteran pickups. Compare Adelius Thomas to Randy Moss and Wes Welker, the two of whom helped turn a mediocre set of receivers into one of the league's best for a few years.

That's not to say that the draft is the only thing, but they haven't been especially good on the offensive side, either, apart from the offensive line.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 2:04pm

When you compare Pees vs Bill O'Brien and Josh McD, you'd definitely give the offense an edge in coaching.

However, the reason why the defense tailed off is almost entirely due to personnel. Rodney, Willie, Tedy and Vrabes all got old in perfect time with a lousy stretch of drafting from 2004-2008. Add in Seymour being traded and the defense in 2008 and 2009 lacked athleticism and elite talent.

Bill has orchestrated a pretty solid rebuild-on-the-fly the past couple years, but the new squad is lacking in experience and cohesiveness, which is critically important for Bill's defense. Ever name mentioned above had at least 6 years of NFL experience before Bill arrived, aside from Seymour. In 2010, the entire starting 11 had one player with that much experience - Wilfork. In fact, Other than Vince, Meriweather and Mayo, every other starter had two or less seasons of experience.

I suspect we'll see an improvement in defense this year, simply by the players knowing each other better. If they can stay a little healthier, all the better.

by dryheat :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 3:19pm

Ever name mentioned above had at least 6 years of NFL experience before Bill arrived, aside from Seymour.

What? That's not even remotely true. Neither Tedy nor Vrabel had 6 years in before 2000. The only regular defenders with that much experience from the first Super Bowl team were McGinest, Otis Smith, and Bobby Hamilton.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 3:31pm

I was trying to word it in a way that meant "before getting under Bill's tuteledge", when I probably should have said "by 2003", which is what I really meant.

Even with that error noted, my point still stands. The lack of experience relative to that squad is a big reason for the differing performance.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 3:08pm

Unless you are saying the team as a whole, how exactly is Belichick orchestrating a solid rebuild of that defense. The defense is getting worse and worse each year. Their DVOA ranks from 2007-2011 have been 11-17-14-21-30. That's not a good trend. The players are getting younger, and because BB is a great coach, the mainstream pushes this whole 'they have to get experienced, they are getting better as they get older' theory which seems to have no basis in fact at all. Things could change in 2012, but that would be reversing course. The Patriots defense can't really get that much worse, but it probably won't get that much better.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/10/2012 - 3:36pm

Asked an answered. They lacked talent from 2008-2009 and lacked experience the past two seasons. Discount the experience factor if you must, but it is unequivicably true that Bill's defense depends on it more than most.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Wed, 08/08/2012 - 10:15pm

Pat Chung is pretty damn good, you should try watching Pats games.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:08am

He is OK.

by JonFrum :: Sun, 08/12/2012 - 7:41pm

Am I seeing the same guy keep on claiming that Ras-I Dowling was 'always hurt' in college, or is it one of those internet meme thingeys? Dowling played 11, 11 and 12 games in his first three years, and then suffered multiple injuries in his senior year and only played five games. Is that always hurt?

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 08/13/2012 - 2:31pm

I think it's just because Batman kicking the shit out of him was so high profile people remember it as causing him to miss more time than he did.

by Travis :: Mon, 08/13/2012 - 7:49pm

From the Boston Globe:

As a high school junior, he broke his hand. As a senior, he battled a knee injury. In his [sophomore] year in college, Dowling missed a showdown against Southern Cal with a hamstring injury and left the North Carolina game with a back ailment. [He also left the Duke game after suffering cramps in the second half.]

Dowling had no injuries in 2009, before hamstring and knee injuries plus a broken ankle wiped out [7 of 12 games] as a senior. A hamstring injury ended Dowling’s scouting combine after one run of the 40-yard dash.

It might not be "always hurt", but that many different significant injuries in a short span is a pretty bad sign for a 22-year-old athlete.

by Prosolution (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 11:45am

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