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05 Feb 2014

Scramble: The Incredible Lightness of Our Wallets

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: Remember a couple weeks ago how we predicted things that would happen relating to the Super Bowl? Can we just forget we ever did that?

Mike: Please.

Tom: Let's just say it was a good idea neither of us actually bet money on our props. After mostly finishing around even-ish the past four seasons, we were both slaughtered. I came out slightly better, winning $20,320 on $24,505, a loss of only $4,185. You bet $22,855 and won $17,955, a loss of $4,900.

Mike: The result, and the way we arrived at that result, was certainly unexpected

Tom: There was a safety. Peyton Manning threw a pick-6. That was $1,600 of each of our losses right there between the two of those.

Mike: Yes, all of the odd things that we dismissed out of hand actually happened! Which is amazingly great for the concept of this column, if not the actual practice.

Tom: There was no score in the last two minutes of a half! Demaryius Thomas ended up the focal point of the Denver passing game! Heck, there were 11 goals in the Red Wings-Capitals game. I thought for sure we'd both win that. Nope, Thomas had 13 receptions.

Mike: The only thing that bet taught me is that I probably should've watched Wings-Caps instead.

Tom: Wes Welker even had more receptions than Alexander Ovechkin had shots! I should have, too, except I needed a more active distraction than that game provided.

Mike: Did that pass to Welker that was broken up count as a drop for the book?

Tom: No.

Mike: So we didn't even get that!

Tom: I think that's the right call, but yes, that was another of our losers.

Mike: Well, Wes Welker does catch that pass 100 out of 100 times.

Tom: I did two radio hits on Monday, my regular one and one other one, and the thing about this Super Bowl is it was boring to talk about. Seattle just dominated Denver with their defensive line and their secondary, and Percy Harvin's kickoff return basically ended whatever slim hopes there were. The closest thing to a hidden storyline was Seattle going 5-for-7 on third downs in the first half, with both failures coming in field-goal range.

Mike: Yes. Seattle was very good. Denver, particularly Denver's offensive line, was very bad. On the other hand, it means a minimum of storyline fabrication, which is a plus, I suppose?

Tom: No, because every narrative in a game he plays ends up a Peyton Manning narrative, and this loss is all about how No. 18 needed to play well. When, really, it was the team with the best roster in the league proving that sometimes having the best roster in the league really is what being a championship team is about.

Mike: I think people are ready to ignore that narrative, however.

Tom: In some sense, it's a very natural question. He's older and this may well be his last Super Bowl. At the same time, give me a break, no quarterback makes the difference in that game.

Mike: I've been asked about the Super Bowl constantly the past few days, and nobody I've spoken with, professional or just a fan, blames Manning. It was so obvious that I think everyone except the people pushing copy recognize that.

Tom: I probably need to spend more time talking to the people you talk to.

Mike: I am certainly a collector of awesome people, it's true.

Tom: Yes, I do not need to give you the same advice I gave someone in college: to find better friends.

Mike: To be fair, my best friend's father once commented that his friends (myself included) were dragging him into the gutter. That list is now comprised of an IT specialist at Harvard, an attorney, and two separate corporate managers. Straight into the gutter, Tom.

Tom: Into the abyss and to the sewer don't you see, the man just told me, he told me on TV. Speaking of, let's talk commercials. Did you have a favorite commercial from this Super Bowl? For those of you who want or need a refresher, this is a relatively complete list of Super Bowl commercials.

Mike: That is an excellent list.


Mike: I will say, I am a fan of the Doberhuahua. This was a year, as the past few years, without much by the way of fanciful or absurd commercials. I wish the market in general would go back to that, because while the production quality and concepts were good for most of these commercials, only a handful of them were actually weird. Weird is exciting, and the Super Bowl is your chance to make people watch some really weird stuff.

Tom: I've been reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything lately, and what got to me is that the brain is such an energy hog. This is really, really idiosyncratic, but I can't get over suspension of disbelief for that commercial. Then again, heart failure pumping brain to the oversized head might be the actual cause of death. Do not get me wrong -- I appreciate weird ads, too, but it is difficult to find the fine line between a weird ad and one too unrealistic or completely disconnected from your product.

Mike: The great thing about the commercial format (yes, it's a format, Commercial Oscar '15!) is that you don't need to suspend disbelief. In fact, for something really wacky, being unable to do so should only heighten the experience.

Tom: The TurboTax commercial is a great example of what I'm talking about. What I also did not like about that commercial is it claims the only reason to watch a game is as a fan, in an associative manner. I watch the Super Bowl because I like football. Yes, I root for the Titans, but to root is not the only reason I like football.

Mike: To be fair, almost none of these commercials actually had any appreciable link to the product they were selling except maybe Tim Tebow showing off the power of contractless cellular use.

Tom: Yes, but until the reveal :45 into the commercial, did you have any idea what they were advertising?

Mike: No, but that is purposeful.

Tom: Obviously it was purposeful. And one of the great ads in Super Bowl history did the same thing, but at least E*Trade's "We just wasted $2 million" had a tangible connection to their "service."

Mike: TurboTax baited the hook with relatable experience and then switched it out. I thought it was amusing.

Tom: TurboTax was just associating their product with fan disappointment.

Mike: I cannot think of any better connection than that between filing taxes and disappointment.


Tom: Maybe it's just because I like 1980's nostalgia, but I appreciated Radio Shack's commercial.

Mike: The Radio Shack commercial was great because it was amusing, true, and served a real purpose beyond just selling.

Tom: Moderately.

Mike: Like a funny version of the Domino's "We Listened" commercials, it gets the point across that Radio Shack might start doing something useful soon.

Tom: Exactly. And I've watched it a couple times tonight, trying to spot all the 1980's callouts. My favorite thing is still the font for the Twitter feed and Goodbye '80s tagline at the end. Very 1980's.

Mike: Man, I hate the 80's.

Tom: Yeah, well, you probably never had to do "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" in class like the California Raisins, did you?

Mike: Thank God, no.


Tom: What did you think of the Colbert pistachio ads? I'm not a Colbert guy, never made it through an entire show episode, but I appreciated it.

Mike: I appreciated the sequencing effect. I did not appreciate the pistachio head. Did not want. It made an otherwise great set of commercials extremely disturbing.

Tom: It made me think of maybe Being John Malkovich or, closer, Total Recall and Men in Black.

Mike: Perhaps.

Tom: The purist in me now feels like noting that, technically, there should have been a pre-existing crack in Colbert's head to complete the pistachio look. Maybe showing his hair was covering it up. Pistachios, after all, are not completely closed up like peanuts.

Mike: It was just so out of place in the setting and with that actor that it was incredibly jarring.

Tom: Yeah, I can see that easily.

Mike: What we were missing this year was a good pre-game Old Spice commercial. This year had been a decidedly mixed bag from the House of Swagger, so I was hoping for something new and amusing to finish the season out on a high note. Alas, it was not to be.

Tom: The Wes Welker commercials were good, and I hope to see them rewarded in our annual awards. The Moms commercial felt like a bad Axe idea.

Mike: Precisely. I thought it was a terrible Axe commercial up until the logo flashed. And then I cried manly tears of sadness.

Mike: The pre-game did have some very amusing Muppets commercials, however. Including Tina Fey with a ridiculous, PARANOIA-style Russian accent.

Tom: I did appreciate the Budweiser Puppy Love spot, but as I sit here now it occurs to me that I would be very disturbed if I tried to adopt a puppy and was accosted by large horses.

Mike: I actually thought Budweiser was advocating some kind of twisted cross-species breeding program. Another disturbing commercial!


Mike: And then, of course, an actual in-game Muppets commercial featuring the extremely huggable Terry Crews.

Tom: The one with Tina Fey was a movie trailer. And The Muppets was basically "let's have fun with Muppet nostalgia," so this movie needs a real plot to succeed. That concerns me.

Mike: The last movie was even heavier on Muppet nostalgia, and was excellent.

Tom: The Toyota Highlander commercial is basically Muppets for a while. I like the Muppets, but what's different about this version of the Highlander? Is it actually bigger, or would the Muppets have fit just fine in an old Highlander?

Mike: Also, does a Muppets movie really need plot? I mean, really. It's all about the Muppets doing stupid and amusing things.

Tom: Sure, but it helps. That's what made The Great Muppet Caper the best Muppet movie.

Mike: Plot is just a formality so they have locations in which stupid things happen.

Tom: Right, The Muppets was all Muppet nostalgia, just like the original The Muppet Movie was just showing all the Muppets doing things. Subsequent movies needed to move beyond that.

Mike: I disagree that it was all nostalgia. If the same plot with the same jokes were performed by live actors, it would still have made an amusing if less funny movie. And really, "x doing things" is basically the definition of plot. In any case, it has two of the funniest real people actors on the planet and the Muppets. I can't see any scenario where this movie is bad.

Tom: I hope you're right.

Mike: Aren't I always?*

*-(Please ignore the first section of this column.)

Staff Playoff Fantasy Update

As expected, Aaron triumphed in playoff fantasy. The only surprise was his margin. Even with Russell Wilson more than doubling his total point total with a 20 in the Super Bowl, he only topped Rivers by 7 points as Steven Hauschka had his third consecutive double-digit scoring game and Seahawks Defense turned in the highest point total of the postseason thanks to four turnovers and two non-offensive scores.

FO Playoff Fantasy Update
Pos. Sean Mike R. Mike K. Rivers Tom Aaron
QB Peyton Manning Aaron Rodgers Tom Brady Nick Foles Drew Brees Russell Wilson
  59 13 32 17 32 38
RB Stevan Ridley Jamaal Charles Marshawn Lynch LeSean McCoy Frank Gore Knowshon Moreno
  18 1 51 14 23 25
RB Donald Brown Danny Woodhead Eddie Lacy Gio Bernard DeAngelo Williams LeGarrette Blount
  27 15 8 11 1 40
WR Eric Decker Wes Welker Demaryius Thomas DeSean Jackson Julian Edelman Anquan Boldin
  10 22 45 5 22 30
WR A.J. Green Marvin Jones Randall Cobb Jordy Nelson Steve Smith Golden Tate
  3 13 5 12 13 5
WR Riley Cooper James Jones Doug Baldwin T.Y. Hilton Michael Crabtree Keenan Allen
  12 2 25 44 19 28
TE Vernon Davis Jimmy Graham Brent Celek Coby Fleener Julius Thomas Gregg Olsen
  16 4 1 17 15 5
K Alex Henery Phil Dawson Stephen Gostkowski Steven Hauschka Graham Gano Matt Prater
  6 28 10 36 4 23
D 49ers Chiefs Broncos Seahawks Bengals Panthers
  5 3 -4 29 -2 -2
Total 156 101 173 185 127 192

Best of the Rest

As expected, it was a quiet Super Bowl for Best of the Rest contenders. Andre Caldwell, the only man who could have made things interesting, actually played 11 snaps on offense but did not appear on the scoresheet. With Montee Ball going scoreless, none of the teams in competition for the title actually gained points this week. That makes bledderag your winner with 140 points, followed by BlueStarDude with 139. Unless I missed somebody, an ideal fantasy team would have had 187 points. For at least the second time in the five years your Scramble writer has been keeping track of scores, the top Best of the Rest running back was not selected by any actual Best of the Rest teams. If somebody ever asks you what Knile Davis and Shonn Greene (in 2009) have in common, now you know. Full, final Best of the Rest teams, including the "Ideal" team can be viewed here.

The winner of our other game, the FO Playoff Challenge, will be announced in an XP post later on Wednesday.


Keep Chopping Wood: Your Scramble writers were tempted to just leave it at all the Broncos, but ultimately decided to make it just the Denver offensive line. It was a strong collective effort, staring with the bad snap by Manny Ramirez on the first play from scrimmage and continuing in particular with the trouble left tackle Chris Clark and right tackle Orlando Franklin had with the Seahawks defensive ends.

Mike Martz Award: John Fox is not very good at challenges, as shown by his poor regular season record, but even for him his challenge of a clearly forward pass in the first quarter was bad. Nothing in particular he did during the game could have changed the result, but maybe if he has all three of his timeouts remaining, he does not let Seattle just run out the clock at the end of the first half. Your Scramble writers did not appreciate the punt from inside the Seattle 40, either, but at least one of your Scramble writers has a policy not to get overly exercised about decisions down four scores. Also, what was up with practicing in pads?

Send your questions, thoughts and concerns to Scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com and we will respond to them in the next Scramble! In, oh, six months or so.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 05 Feb 2014

26 comments, Last at 07 Feb 2014, 7:25pm by tuluse


by Jimmy Oz :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 7:12pm

Mike Martz Award goes to John Fox for this:


“That’s the way the start of any Super Bowl is: It’s going to be loud,” said receiver Wes Welker, who was playing in his third Super Bowl. “The fans are going to be yelling. They don’t really know why they’re yelling—it’s just the start of the Super Bowl. We didn’t prepare very well for that, and it showed.”

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 8:06pm

I know this doesn't have anything to do with what you quoted the article for, but that article contains this:

"The Broncos’ offense line, far and away the best pass-blocking unit in the league this season..."

I stopped reading there.

by Jimmy Oz :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 9:41pm

FO has Denver at #1 for adjusted sack rate and PFF has Denver at #2 in pass blocking for 2013 so what's your point?

by tunesmith :: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 3:06am

I don't know about FO, but PFF had Denver's O-Line as being one of the worst lines in the league when Tebow was quarterback. It's got to be that Manning's quick release and pressure awareness is making the line look better than it really is (like how Tebow made the line look worse than it was). It makes no sense that PFF graded the best line in league so badly in the Super Bowl. What makes more sense is that PFF's grading is off, and Denver's line was generally average, with a quarterback that routinely let them off the hook by getting rid of the ball before pressure happened.

As for FO, I don't see any indication that adjusted sack rate is adjusted based off of how long the quarterback holds on to the ball.

by Perfundle :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 11:19pm

All that tells me is that in this day and age, even the best offensive pass protecting lines will give up pressure: Cincinnati and Denver's struggled mightily in their playoff losses. Pass protection has clearly gotten worse relative to the pass rush, and even when they don't give up sacks/pressures they get called for holding (Seattle's OL had 4).

by Jimmy Oz :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 11:59pm

Three of Seattle's holds came on designed runs, & the other on a Russell Wilson scramble.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 7:22pm

Did I misread that or did Mike just speak favorably of opinions of the people he discusses football with?

by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 12:55am

Well, Tom and I didn't discuss the Super Bowl until we wrote the column.


by jtr :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 8:34pm

I can't really get upset about bad challenges anymore. Almost all of the important stuff gets reviewed anyways, so a really bad challenge is no worse than calling a timeout because you were disorganized. Still not great, but most teams call a panicked TO at the line of scrimmage once or so per game without devastating consequences. I don't know if there are stats on this, but did ANYBODY run out of challenges in a game this year?

by Jimmy Oz :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 10:20pm

Yeah, I'd consider that neither challenge was bad because the benefits so far outweighed the costs that the chances for success can be negligible.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 1:56pm

What set the Fox challenge apart in my eyes was (1) it had essentially zero chance of winning and (b) while teams rarely run out of challenges, the bigger cost of challenges is the timeout forgone, and there was clearly a situation at the end of the first half that would have gone differently had the Broncos had all of the timeouts. I had no issues with Carroll's challenge.

by Jimmy Oz :: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 6:50pm

Yeah agreed on the zero chance. It needs to be an egregious mistake once all the referees are blowing their whistles calling it a forward pass. i don't think a few inches forward would get a referee to change the call on the field.

I still say failing to prepare your team sufficiently for the opening snap to the tune of being 5 points down (and almost 2 scores down) before your QB touches the ball despite receiving the opening kick-off is worse than the challenge.

by serutan :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 9:09pm

Tom, props for the "Insanity" reference.
Was wr

by DEW :: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 10:46pm

Bah, Muppet Christmas Carol was clearly the best Muppet movie. Which, mind you, does nothing to disprove the point about plot being necessary to give the hijinks something to work with. Especially since Muppet Treasure Island rounds out the top three.

by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 1:28pm

I was totally ready to stand up for Muppet Christmas Carol. I agree wholeheartedly. That movie is hilarious.

Gonzo & Rizzo make me laugh every time even though I know exactly what's coming.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 1:53pm

I would have had Christmas Carol at 2. Perhaps it's just the age at which I first saw them, in the same way Return of the Jedi in 1983 will forever be the greatest movie of all time.

by RickD :: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 2:57pm

You're all wrong - the original Muppet Movie is the best. All the cameos! Love Steve Martin as a waiter. And Rainbow Connection!

by CBPodge :: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 7:57am

So what you're saying is that none of us ever had a prayer in the Best of the Rest competition, and really it was just there to further stroke the ego of the Winner, who not only would be able to lord it over the staff, but also over the commentariat too?


by nat :: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 12:19pm

...the bad snap by Manny Ramirez on the first play from scrimmage...

That's a bit unfair to the man. The snap itself was picture perfect, going exactly where Manning would have been if he wasn't up at the line changing the play. The issue (according to John Fox) was with the cadence. Or, if Wes Welker is to be believed, that the cadence could not be heard over the crowd noise.

This sounds like a communication issue between QB and center, either in the huddle or at the line. It's harsh to lay that all on the one guy.

by CBPodge :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 4:56am

I've read a quote from Ramirez that was along the lines of "none of us heard the snap count, I just thought I heard it", which basically seems to split the difference.

I wouldn't say the snap was picture perfect - if it had been, it'd have hit Manning in the face, which, lets face it, would have been even funnier.

by nat :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 3:20pm

It's hard to blame Ramirez for what happened. He snapped the ball when he heard the snap count. It's only slightly easier to blame Manning for moving out of position after he had already called for the ball. He could shout himself hoarse, waste a timeout, or take a chance on resetting the snap count. What would you do?

It's like having a hang fire at the rifle range. You have three options: You can keep pulling the trigger. You can call a cease fire.

Manning chose the third option.

by tuluse :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 3:32pm

Except you know when you have a hang fire. Manning didn't know the line didn't hear the new snap count.

by nat :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 4:08pm

You're missing the analogy. I'll explain in case anyone else missed it too.

Pulling the trigger = calling for the ball.
Hang fire = not getting the ball.
Pulling the trigger again = calling for the ball again.
Cease fire = time out.
Third option = (Starts with "Is this thing even...?" and frequently ends with Bang!) = stepping up to shout to the guy who didn't snap the ball.

Like a hang fire, he didn't know why nothing happened, just that nothing happened.

This is meant to be a lighthearted analogy that depicts the predicament Manning was in and the potential, and as it turns out real problem with his solution.

For perfect clarity, I probably should have said 'misfire'. Although technically, this gun did finally go off. And 'hang fire' just sounds better.

by tuluse :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 4:45pm

I don't think the analogy worked because he didn't expect the ball to come when he called for it. It was a fake call because he had changed the snap count, but know one heard it.

by nat :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 6:22pm

I see. No problem. Perhaps I misinterpreted his quote about the snap count not being heard and needing to get everybody on the same page. I had read that as his calling out the actual signals, including the signal for the snap.

I agree that kinda weakens the analogy if you're right about the fake snap count. It was more like setting the safety and then having the gun go off when you put it in your pants. Not really your fault. But damn! it sucks to be you.

Screw it. The analogy isn't really working, is it?

Anyway, it certainly wasn't Ramirez's fault if he was going by the original snap count. Just one of those things that happen. They fixed it with a silent count after that.

by tuluse :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 7:25pm

Yep, totally agree.