Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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A heart condition discovered at the combine has put the Michigan lineman's career in limbo, but Hurst had the best film of any defensive tackle in this year's draft class.

05 Nov 2009

Walkthrough: It's a Good Life

by Mike Tanier

It starts in a little town called Beltway. On a morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and the town of Beltway was left all alone. The players on the Beltway football team were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Beltway was left untouched, or whether the town had somehow been taken away into another dimension. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the town and purchased the football team.

He took away the scouting department, the infrastructure, and the draft choices, moving the entire franchise back into the dark ages - just by using his mind. The players of Beltway, and the few fans and reporters that remain, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because, once displeased, the monster can wish them away or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster knows every thought; he can feel every emotion.

Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. His name is Danny Snyder. He's 43 years old, with a New Economy Wunderkind's face and guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you'd better start thinking happy thoughts, because this is Walkthrough.

Inside team headquarters

Vinny: Good morning, Danny. It sure is a beautiful day, isn't it? A wonderful, beautiful day.

Uncle Zorny: It's an awful hot day, I think.

Vinny: You shouldn't say that, Zorny. It's a downright beautiful day! Say, what you doing there, Danny? It sure is good, whatever it is.

Danny: I'm signing three-headed gophers to $100-million contracts.

Vinny: Ummm … great! What a great idea. No one ever signed a three-headed gopher to play football before.

Danny: I'm tired of playing with it. You be dead now, gopher, you be dead!

Vinny: Well, it's mighty fine that you did that Danny. Wasn't it Zorny? Zorny? Well, it sure was. We love you Danny. We love that boy!

Out on the practice field

Sherm: Oh hello, Danny. It's real good that you came out to the field to watch us. Is there something I can do for you?

Danny: No fans are coming to see us play. Not a single one. I like it when fans come to see us.

Sherm: Well Danny, it's real good when fans come to see us. But you remember what happened the last time they came? Some of them brought signs criticizing the team and, well, you wished them away into the cornfield. If you keep wishing people away, well, there won't be nobody left.

(Danny starts to get upset)

Sherm: Oh gosh, no! What am I thinking? Tell you what, Danny. Next week, we'll try to get some new fans to come out and root for the team.

Danny: And I can turn them into funny animals!

Sherm: Yes, it's real good when you turn fans into funny animals.

Danny: What's that typing sound I hear? Is that Wilbon the reporter up in the press box?

Sherm: Yes it is. There aren't many reporters left. You wished them all away.

Danny: I don't like people who don't like me. I don't want them saying bad things about me. I don't want them interviewing people in the parking lot. I want them to GO AWAY!

(Vinny bursts in)

Vinny: Wilbon the reporter was in the press box and he just disappeared!

Sherm: Yes, and it's a good thing that Danny done that, right? A darn good thing!

At the team meeting:

Sherm: Zorny, as a sign of all of our appreciation, we wanted to give you some gifts: a Perry Cuomo record and some peach brandy.

Zorny: That's not what I want. I want to call some plays again. To coach again.

Danny: I don't like the way you call the plays. Now Sherm, read the game plan the way I like it.

Sherm: Okay, Danny, just the way you like it. Handoff, up the middle. Handoff, up the middle. Short pass to Cooley. Oh, Cooley's in the cornfield, isn't he? How about a short pass to Fred Davis. Would that make you happy, Danny?

Zorny: That's right, Cooley is hurt. There's only five or six players left on the roster. Soon, Santana will be gone and London will be gone. And Danny turned Clinton into that hideous, crazy-looking creature over there.

Clinton: Actually, I just like dressing this way.

Zorny: Then, what will be left? Only what Danny provides: tomato soup players, dinosaur free agents. He's a monster! Someone has to stop him!

Danny: I don't like the things you say about me.

Zorny: Don't you see? Soon there will be no more coaches, no more personnel executives left who are willing to come here. And then the whole franchise will dry up. C'mon people, will someone have the guts please sneak up behind him, attack him in the press or at least refuse to follow one of his crazy no-criticism directives? C'mon, do it while he's thinking about me!


With a point of his finger, Danny turns Zorny into a Piplup.

Vinny: Danny, please wish Zorny into the cornfield.

Danny: No. He was a bad coach so I turned him into a toy. And I will turn anyone else who thinks bad thoughts and turn them into toys.

Sherm: Oh my, is it snowing outside?

Danny: Yes. I control the weather, too.

Sherm: Do you have any idea what the snow does in Beltway? The few fans we have left will disappear! Even a half inch shuts the whole place down!

Vinny: Quiet, Sherm. It's a good thing that you did, Danny. And tomorrow's gonna be another good day.

No comment. No comment at all.

Odd Numbers

It's Week 9, and the statistics have started to settle. Quarterbacks now have about 150 attempts, running backs about 100 carries, so small-sample aberrations are disappearing. Tim Hightower isn't among the top 10 receivers anymore, though he is 11th, and the leader boards aren't completely dominated by players who faced the Lions (Rams, Chiefs) defense, although there are still some schedule-related anomalies. (If Jared Allen faced the Packers every week, he'd be in the Hall of Fame by Christmas).

But not all of the extraordinary numbers have washed out of the stats sheets. For example, central tendency and mean regression have not yet brought Chris Johnson's yards per carry to earth yet. That means there's a slim chance that Johnson could average over six yards per carry for a full season, a truly unique accomplishment.

Here are four unusual stats, culled from the league leader boards and various Football Outsiders spreadsheets. After a breakdown, let's explore what the stat means for the player and his team, then determine whether November's strange stat will still stand out in January.

The Stat: Chris Johnson's 6.9 yards per carry.

The Breakdown: Johnson has had some breathtaking "outlier" runs this season: 91 yards against the Texans, 89 and 57 yards against the Jaguars, 48 yards against the Patriots. and a handful of 30+ yarders. Long runs like these always skew a player's per-carry averages, but in Johnson's case the distortions are so extreme that it's hard to call them distortions. For Johnson, the anomaly is the reality. Check the breakdown of his carries by length. I somehow missed one carry:

Yardage No. of Runs
Losses 20
0 17
1-2 22
3-4 18
5-7 15
8-10 8
11-20 8
20+ 10

Exactly half of Johnson's carries amount to a zero-sum game: 17 no-gainers, 20 losses, and 22 short plunges add up to essentially no rushing yards on 59 carries. That means Johnson averages just under 14 yards per carry on his "productive" runs of three or more yards. That's boom-or-bust taken to unheard-of levels.

When one 90-yard run adds several tenths of a yard to a back's rushing average, it's appropriate to account for that play by removing it or adjusting it in some way (DVOA shaves the excess yardage off long runs to account for the somewhat random difference between a 55-yarder and an 80-yarder). In Johnson's case, we must be careful: with ten 20+ runs this year, big-play capability is one of his established skills, and it makes no sense to adjust it away. But just to get a better look at Johnson's per-carry average with some of the helium removed, let's pretend all of his long runs came from the opponent's 40-yard line. That will rob Johnson of 125 yards, the excess yardage he gained on his four longest carries.

Take all those yards away, and Johnson still averages 5.87 yards per carry. And he's still sixth in the league in rushing.

The Implications: Johnson's per-carry average suggests that he should get a lot more opportunities, but his per-play breakdowns indicate otherwise. Handing off to Johnson is statistically almost like passing: there's about a 50 percent chance of a minimal gain or a negative play. Giving him 30 carries would force the Titans into even more second-and-13 and third-and-15 situations after stuffs. Sometimes, the Titans need a dose of slow-and-steady LenDale White to provide two to five reliable yards.

The Future: With Vince Young at quarterback, the Titans will probably be very run-intensive for the remainder of the season, and they have proven that they will run the ball when trailing in games. Johnson will get more carries in the second half of the season, and based on his splits, his yards-per-carry almost have to drop. It's hard to imagine them slipping below 5.0, and if he can somehow stay above 6.0, he will have one of the most remarkable running back seasons since Barry Sanders averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 1997.

The Stat: Cleveland's 2.55 yards per pass attempt on third down.

The Breakdown: The Browns are a bad stat factory, churning out mystifyingly awful numbers every week. Their passing statistics on third down are bad even by their standards. Derek Anderson completes just 32.1 percent of his third-down passes, netting just 12 first downs in 56 attempts. At 2.55 yards per third down pass, the Browns are worse than the Lions (4.33), Rams (4.65) and Raiders (3.32).

Check out the Browns' third down passing breakdowns over the last three games:

Against the Steelers: 1-of-7 for one yard, one touchdown, two sacks, two fumbles lost, one interception, and one first down.

Against the Packers: 4-of-9 for 27 yards, one interception, one sack, one fumble lost (one recovered), and two first downs

Against the Bears: 1-of-7 for 10 yards, one interception, one fumble, no first downs.

The three-game totals: 6-of-23, 38 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, three sacks, four fumbles, three first downs. The three sacks lost 27 yards, so the Browns netted 11 yards on 26 pass attempts, or 0.423 yards per attempt. Suddenly, that 2.55 figure we started with looks pretty good.

Oddly enough, the Browns average 5.17 yards per third down carry, and they are 10-of-19 on third down rushing conversions. The team has had some success with Josh Cribbs' "Golden Flash" Wildcat plays and Jerome Harrison draws on third down. It's easy to see why Eric Mangini would resort to such tactics when you see the passing breakdowns.

The Implications: The Browns have been held under seven points in nine of their last 14 games. That's a pretty big implication.

The Future: Eventually, Brady Quinn will win back the starting job, and the Browns offense will start creeping back toward the bottom of the league average. Right? Right? Someone please tell me that's right.

The Stat: Shane Lechler's 52.3 gross yards per punt.

The Breakdown: No punter had averaged over 50 yards per punt since the days of Sammy Baugh, before Donnie Jones reached 50.0 on the dot last season. Lechler has always been at or near the top of the league's punting leader boards, but he's never had a season like this. Here's the breakdown on his punts this season by distance:

Yardage No. of Punts
Fewer than 40 2
40-44 6
45-49 11
50-54 8
55-59 11
60+ 8

Both of Lechler's sub-40 yard kicks were actually good plays. One was a muffed punt at the 15-yard line by the Giants' Sinorice Moss. The muff led to the Raiders only touchdown, making the punt arguably the team's best offensive play that week. The other was a 39-yard punt to the Eagles 20-yard line and a fair catch by DeSean Jackson. In other words, that punt was as good as a 59-yard touchback.

Speaking of touchbacks, Lechler has only four this season, and they have come on punts of 43, 47, 59, and 69 yards. A 43-yard touchback can be frustrating, but you have to be happy with a touchback after punting from your own 31-yard line. Lechler netted 34.5 yards on those four touchbacks, more than several punters have netted for the whole season on all of their punts.

The Implications: Lechler is such a weapon, and the Raiders offense is so bad, that the team's best strategy may be to concede all third-and-long situations. Instead of risking a JaMarcus Russell turnover, they should run draw plays, let Lechler buy them 50 yards of field position, and give their defense a chance to win the game. That would be a ridiculous strategy for most teams, and it would only allow the Raiders to beat bad or embarrassingly unprepared opponents. Since those are the only opponents the Raiders can beat now, daring conservatism can only help. The Browns are in a similar situation: Their offense is awful, and their punting game is excellent. The biggest difference is that the Raiders defense is a little better, and Sebastian Janikowski is a good long-distance kicker, so the Raiders have a better shot to win 9-6 field position games than the Browns.

The Future: Our research suggests that punts get shorter as the season wears on, thanks to a mixture of weather conditions and fatigue. Trips to Pittsburgh and Cleveland will lower Lechler's averages, but he's not going to tire out. I give him a 50-50 shot at a modern record.

The Stat: The Broncos' 84.2 percent completion percentage to tight ends.

The Breakdown: This statistic isn't as dramatic as the others. There are several tight ends with catch rates in the 80s right now, including Dallas Clark and Heath Miller. But the Broncos are getting surprising productivity from a pair of ordinary tight ends. Daniel Graham has caught 15 of 17 passes thrown to him for 176 yards. Tony Scheffler has caught 17 of 21 passes for 226 yards. Scheffler and Graham ranked first and third in the league in DVOA entering last week, though they dropped to second and seventh after the Ravens game.

For Scheffler and Graham, catch rates only tell part of the story. Tight ends, particularly blocking specialists like Graham, usually catch more than their share of micro-short passes, two-yard outlet receptions in the flat on second-and-10. However, only three receptions by the Broncos tight ends netted less than five yards, and one of those receptions was a touchdown. Scheffler and Graham have combined for 19 first downs and five plays of 20 or more yards. They've been overshadowed by Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, but Scheffler and Graham have kept the chains moving.

The Implications: Versatile tight ends give coaches formation flexibility. When the Broncos leave the huddle with two tight ends, two receivers, and one back, they can line up in anything from a power-running formation to a spread attack. This versatility was used to maximum advantage against the Cowboys. When the Broncos couldn't generate any offense early in the game, they started using more two-tight end power formations. Not only were they able to run the ball, but they were consistently able to isolate Graham against Keith Brooking, resulting in a pair of 15-yard gains.

Interestingly, the No. 1 tight end in the league right now, according to DVOA, is Ben Watson. It's good to be the big guy in a Patriots-style spread offense.

The Future: Tight end catch rates typically settle into the 70s by season's end. With Kyle Orton at quarterback, it's hard to project an 84 percent catch rate for any receiver for an extended period of time. For the Broncos offense to remain productive, Scheffler and Graham must remain high-percentage targets, and they must also keep averaging over 10 yards per reception.

And Finally

The Top Five weird references that I can never work into a game capsule or Walkthrough, no matter how hard I try:

The Beguiled: There's no relationship at all between football and the incest-themed Clint Eastwood Civil War movie.

Real People: There's nothing funnier than a guy parked next to a No Parking sign, as the late, great Skip Stevenson proved many years ago. I missed my chance to use this reference when Jerry Porter played for the Raiders.

Fibber McGee and Molly: Editors frown on old radio references, which lose most of my under-80 readers. On the plus side, I do get to reuse jokes I first heard on late-night re-airings of Duffy's Tavern, including: "He had a face that could stop a sun dial."

"Six Months in a Leaky Boat" by Split Enz: This song could be the theme of the George Kokinis epoch in Cleveland, but a) Kokinis was on the job for about nine months and b) I don't want to upset anyone who may think I am writing about the Falkland Islands.

The Manchurian Candidate: This tale of brainwashing and espionage seems ripe for sub-referencing. Maybe I will come up with something when the game capsules post on Friday.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 05 Nov 2009

81 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2009, 5:13pm by ChicagoRaider


by dryheat :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 11:14am

I think the Beltway needs to come on in for a Re-Neducation -- that is, a warm glass of milk, and a frontal lobotomy!

Living in Beltway, I have many fans who root for that franchise. I feel sorry for them.

by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 1:41am

On the surface, the post would seem to be about the owner's mismanagement of the Washington Redskins.

But it's really an allegory about nuclear war, man.

by starzero :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 11:18am

that's one of the twilight zone episodes that really disturb me. that and the one with the dummy.

by wr (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 3:04pm

What made that episode especially disturbing to me was that I did not see it (too
young to remember the first run) until *after* 'Lost In Space' aired.

And I have to say this Snyder version was beautifully done. Good Job!

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 7:29pm

pooped in pants when see dummy one .

by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Sat, 11/07/2009 - 10:10am

Yes, I think that was a common response from viewers at the time, as well as historians and scholars who have analyzed the series over the last several decades.

by nat :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 11:20am

Mike, it's a really, really good thing that you wrote an extended reference to an old but classic science fiction short story. We like it when you leave the youngsters scratching their heads. It's a good article.

by DaninPhilly (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 2:33pm

Yes, it's goooooooood that you did that. Real swell.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 1:30pm

I can't remember if it's a Harlan Ellison or a Phil Dick story. I definitely read it in a Harlan Ellison anthology called Dangerous Worlds or something like that.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 1:33pm

After reading a bit more, it's definitely a Twilight Zone episode. From the movie, I think. Not sure if it's based on the same story I was thinking of.

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 1:46pm

It was an episode from the original twilight zone series, which starred Billy Mumy (of 'danger Will Robinson' fame) among others. It was also redone for the movie. According to the Wikipedia entry for the episode, it was based on a short story by Jerome Bixby.

by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 4:20pm

Who was, of course, the father of the Incredible Hulk.

by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 11:33am

Don't worry, us youngsters saw the remake on the Simpsons, so we get the idea.

by BywaterBrat :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 11:41am

Hijo de puta, no las llames asi...son las Malvinas! La puta que te pario imperialista chupabriton.

by Key19 :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 12:07pm

I've never seen a Spanish post on this site before. Is this the first?

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 12:26pm

NOOOO-body expects the Spanish posting!

by fogarty :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 4:29pm

The Spanish poster's chief weapon is surprise.

by Marko :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 4:38pm

My thoughts exactly. He's probably getting ready to bring out the comfy chair.

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 5:54pm

Awesome, especially since I just saw John Cleese on stage last night. Funny and insightful "Paying for My Divorce" show.

Okay, back to football.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 9:56pm

In this case, his chief weapon appears to be name-calling. Let's just say the post is not terribly complimentary to Mike or his mother.

by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 4:22pm

Shows you my knowlege of Spanish - I thought it was a recipe for chimichangas.

by Mike B. In Va :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 10:31am

I thought they were surprise and fear?

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 1:29pm

Wow, exquisite job of turning an offensive post into a hilarious Monthy Python reference, guys. Way to go!

by Theo :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 12:40pm

It'd put what he said in spanish too.

by DomM (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:24pm

Nah, definitely the Falklands. Feel free to check the 1982 papers if you're in any doubt.

by TomC :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 4:53pm

An historical reference that stumps 5 out of 6 Walkthrough readers? That deserves an extra special golf clap.

[extra special golf clap]

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 11:46am

So what you're saying is that through a combination of the otherworldly incompetence of Jamarcus Russell and the fact that Nnamdi and Lechler are so good, the Raiders have basically become the ROBOpunter team we envisioned from a few years ago?

They should just trade their offense for draft picks, and punt on first down?

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 6:17pm

Only if they could also trade their owner for a viable, sentient, rational human organism too. I'm thinking Yo-Yo Ma, Carrot Top, Joe the Plumber, the prophet Elijah, or Amelia Earhart would do. All more qualified these days than the man in charge.

...come on, you know they're not REALLY dead, dontchu...?

by ChicagoRaider :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 5:13pm

I think it should be punt, cover, and defend.

If they could get some really, really hard coverage hitters in the deal, it is a plan that has a lot going for it. Put that ball on the ground. Or at least force them to fair-catch the ball every time.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 11:52am

Gosh, that episode scared the feces out of me when I was a kid, which is what makes the parodies, including this one, so hilarious. Great stuff.

Mike, how about an episode next week, with Randy Lerner as the William Shatner character, seeing a monster ripping the wires out of his football team?

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 12:36pm

How about Bill Parcells as Lurch in "To Serve Man"?:

Bill: "I will solve all your team's problems, but there is one catch - I will require one human per week as food"

Stephen: "Well, I DO have some minority partners...."

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:11pm

Maybe Al Davis in the Peter Falk/Ramos Clemente part? A supernatural mirror, where Al sees his enemies attacking him, really does explain a lot.

by Marko :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:58pm

That wasn't Lurch in "To Serve Man." It was Richard Kiel, who was best known as Jaws in "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker."

I was thinking another good one would be a different William Shatner episode: "Nick of Time." That's the one where Shatner's character is trapped by his own superstition asking questions of a fortune telling machine in a local diner. That seems perfect for an Al Davis parody. "Will JaMarcus Russell ever resemble an NFL quarterback?," "Should I use another first round draft pick on an exceptionally speedy WR with questionable hands, no route running ability and durability issues?," "Should I hire an offensive coordinator who is currently running a bed and breakfast?," etc.

by Todd S. :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 2:45pm

Sounds like you're talking about the fan from Happy Gilmore.

by Marko :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 3:09pm

I've never seen "Happy Gilmore," so I don't know what you are talking about.

by dryheat :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 4:28pm

Don't feel bad. I have, and I still don't know what he's talking about.

by MCS :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 4:59pm

The big guy who threatens Shooter.


by Gruntled (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 5:00pm

I haven't seen it, but I do know what he's talking about. Yet oddly I still feel bad.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 11/08/2009 - 3:54pm

I reckon Al might polish the can up for a game of Kick the Can with the residents of Canton Retirement Home ...

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:51pm

My favorite is still "Time Enough at Last," but that would make a dull parody.

by nat :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 2:34pm

Finally! I have time to do all the spreadsheet-based statistical analysis of the NFL that I can think of! Defensive adjustments! Situational normalization! Evaluating every play for the net effect on expected value of the next score!

Just as soon as I finish upgrading Windows on my workstation.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 2:52pm

I have to admit that's an angle I hadn't thought of--good one.

So, are we all Aaron's nagging wife pulling him away from the analysis to entertain us, then?

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 11:53am

"In Johnson's case, we must be careful: with ten 20+ runs this year, big-play capability is one of his established skills, and it makes no sense to adjust it away."

I don't know about that.

In reality, it seems to me that the issue is that Johnson is getting the ball when his team is 30 points behind, and playing with 2 defensive lineman and 6 defensive backs on the field.

FO seems to think that discounting plays in blowouts makes DVOA less accurate, but I'm of the opinion that the only reason for that is that discounting plays pulls teams further away from the mean.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:12pm

Chris Johnson carries of 20+ yards by opponent and game situation:
Week 1 @PIT
32 yards (1Q, 0-0)
Week 2 vHOU
57 yards-TD (1Q, 0-0)
91 yards-TD (3Q, 24-24)
Week 3 @NYJ
20 yards (2Q, 0-14)
30 yards (4Q, 17-24)
Week 4 @JAC
Week 5 vIND
Week 6 @NE
40 yards (truncated to 31 (21 net) after penalty) (2Q, 0-10)
48 yards (4Q, 0-59)
Week 8 vJAC
22 yards (2Q, 10-0)
52 yards-TD (3Q, 13-13)
89 yards-TD (4Q, 23-13)

by Temo :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:46pm

What a clutch RB.

by Phil O'sopher (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 12:29pm

"The three-game totals: 6-of-23, 38 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, three sacks, four fumbles, three first downs. The three sacks lost 27 yards, so the Browns netted 11 yards on 26 pass attempts, or 0.423 yards per attempt. Suddenly, that 2.55 figure we started with looks pretty good."

As I have stated before, I believe DA to be the worst QB in the entire league. Far worse than JaMarcus Russell or any other "awful" QB's that get all the jokes and hype. Browns are so epically bad, that you can insta-bet a pick, fumble, or terrible play at any time during the game and the probabilities are going to be on your side to make some cash.

I vote for more DA is starting in the NFL jokes. I mean "He gives us the best chance to win" nonsense is the party line right now. Quinn may be a 1st round bust, but he isn't DA bad. Hell, JaMarcus isn't even DA bad.

Name any QB in the last 30 years that started in the NFL (let's say 10 games min) that have been as bad as DA. He is putting up legendary numbers.

Browns = FAIL

by Theo :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 12:41pm

"Browns Passing:
Against the Steelers: 1-of-7 for one yard, one touchdown, two sacks, two fumbles lost, one interception, and one first down."

Uh. Did they score a TD and a first down on the same completion?

by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:55pm

Indeed, touchdowns are counted as first downs by the NFL. If not, 3rd down conversion numbers would be artificially low.

by tuluse :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 2:11pm

Couldn't they just not count those 3rd down attempts like the NBA with fouls?

by SteveNC (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 9:38pm

So if the team has a 3rd down conversion rate of, say, 50% for the game, and it converts 3rd and 10 on the 50 and the ball carrier runs all the way to the 1 and stops there, it increases the team's 3rd down conversion rate, but if he scores the TD instead, it doesn't?

by dbostedo :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 2:35pm

I think a TD is a first down for official NFL stats purposes...

Oddly, I didn't know this until recently when it came up a couple of times in different discussions on this site...

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 12:54pm

That is the creepiest episode that I remember. Nightmare at 20,000 feet scared the crap out of me, but that one was just disturbing. I think the Jack Klugman/Jonathan Winters pool playing episode would be a good basis for parody, though I suspect not as many people would remember that one.

Manchurian Candidate? I've actually thought about using this a number of times: "_____ is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life" and the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

Duffy's tavern, where the elite meat to eat. Duffy ain't here. Oh, hiya Duffy.

by NHPatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:11pm

Fibber McGee and Molly... isn't that the one with the closet? (radio freak grandparents) So, next time someone game plans everything BUT an ordinary NFL offense.

The Manchurian Candidate... Brainwashed assassins. The Belichick / New England jokes write themselves.

Finally, has anyone looked at boom-and-bust rushing stats after controlling for field position? Is it statistically significant? Is it statistically significant for a certain type of rusher? And most of all, I'm curious what it would boom & bust would look like after excluding plays in the red zone and deep zone.

And, yes, I'm too damn cheap to pay for the premium database myself :)

by sszycher :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:48pm

The Cleveland Browns: Five Characters in Search of an Exit

"Lerner. Kokinis. Mangini. Anderson. Edwards. A collection of question marks. Five improbable entities stuck together into a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation. Just a prolonged nightmare in which poor drafting, offensive ineptitude, and the unwatchable walk hand in hand through the shadows. In a moment, we'll start collecting clues as to the whys, the whats, and the wheres. We will not end the nightmare, we'll only explain it, because this is the Dawg Pound/Twilight Zone."


by Phil O'sopher (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 2:37pm

Classic. Welcome to the 2009 Cleveland Browns.

With the first overall pick in the draft (again) the Cleveland Browns select Epic Bust from University of Wasted Talent

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:48pm

"Zorny: That's right, Cooley is hurt. There's only five or six players left on the roster. Soon, Santana will be gone and London will be gone. And Danny turned Clinton into that hideous, crazy-looking creature over there.

Clinton: Actually, I just like dressing this way."

See, that's just made of win.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 1:52pm

That was easily my favorite part this week.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 2:47pm

Agreed. Also, the snow reference was a nice touch for a DC native like me.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 3:27pm

Had to drive through DC once right after a snow storm. There was a light dusting on the road, but I could drive my little Eclipse right through it. Must have passed a hundred 4x4s and SUVs parked along the side of the highway. One of the oddest things I've ever seen.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 3:43pm

They were parked? I lived out there for seven years and I always saw the SUVs in the ditch. After snow. Somehow, the local population never seemed to figure out that "four-wheel drive" doesn't mean you can drive as fast as you want and have traction. I used to make a game of counting SUVs in the ditch on the way to work.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 6:07pm

I don't think that's actually a regional phenomenon. I lived in Colorado for 24 years. For the first 19, I lived right next to Nebraska and there it wasn't a big issue because there was so little snow but when there was it would all turn into ice (it got cold there), so everyone pretty much knew how to drive on ice. However, we would often foray into Nebraska (I'm not proud of it.) and there, any flakes meant there would surely be pickups and SUVs in ditches all over.

Then I lived for two years in Boulder (north of Denver, a bit higher altitude but less snow than Denver) and there no one knew how to drive on snow at all. I didn't drive much--I took buses to get everywhere--and as such it's possible that I did not have a fair sample, but that's how it appeared. It seemed like there were a lot of people off the road, hitting each other, etc.

Then I lived for 3 years on the western slope in two different towns. One was up on a mesa (cold with lots of snow) while the other was basically at the foot of the same mesa (never cold, never hot, no snow, no wind, all old people). People there were disturbingly cautious. If it rained, no businesses were open for an hour in any direction. My father was always laughing because townsfolk would go around talking about how "the roads are impossible today" and then he would go on his hour-long drive to work (driving a Camaro of all things) and call back to say there were four snowflakes the whole trip.

I can't report on Minnesota yet.

My point is that I've never lived somewhere where people overall seemed to know how to drive in snow, ice, etc. Do they really anywhere?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 6:24pm

Well, welcome to Minnesota. They know how to drive here. As a rule, when I lived in Iowa people drove well in bad weather. You still see people in the ditches, but nowhere near the numbers I saw in DC (which was just comic sometimes).

In the upper Midwest there's enough snow where you learn the lesson that all four-wheel drive means is, if you drive slow enough to have traction, then you have really good traction. If you drive quickly in your big SUV all you are is a giant metal brick with a high center of gravity, and you'll be sucking ditch weed in no time.

by drobviousso :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 10:52am

I think it's got to be a city/rural thing. I've lived in rural western PA, visited Erie PA many times, and spent a lot of time in the lake erie snow belt. Everyone there knows how to drive in the snow. Living in Cleveland and in Minnapolis, I'm surrounded by people that can't drive for crap in snow, and these are two cities that get a good bit of snow (especially Cleveland).

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 3:14pm

That would fit with what I've seen except for Nebraska (bad driving), but the way people in Nebraska drive is "special" (driving 10 over the speed limit will get you hit from behind on the interstate--it's frightening), so that probably shouldn't count.

by dmb :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 6:35pm

I grew up in Bozeman, MT, and most of the "native" residents there do quite well. There are occasionally idiots who end up in a ditch because they weren't using caution on their way out to the ski hill, and some of the folks who recently moved there still have to learn. (The town has gone from 20,000 to 40,000 residents in the past 20 years or so, and a lot of the newer folks have come from California or other places without too much snow to worry about.) But all in all, people handle it well enough that most of us laugh at those places where everyone does freak out about the occasional eighth-inch dusting.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 9:01pm

Well, I guess perhaps it is a regional phenomenon, then, just one that covers a number of disparate regions.

And I appreciate the welcome, MilkmanDanimal. I don't drive much (I've been here 2-1/2 months and I'm still on my first tank of gas--school is six blocks away and I don't go elsewhere but for groceries), so I'm not terribly concerned, but it's good to know I don't need to overly concern myself with others' inability to drive in the snow here.

by MCS :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 8:52am

Growing up in Northern Wisconsin and living in Michigan's Upper Peninsula taught me respect for the weather. Moving to Detroit I learned that many people felt that 4WD made them invincible. Toss in ABS brakes and you have a recipe for overconfidence.

by DGL :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 4:57pm

When ABS was first available, the editor of Car and Driver observed that ABS means that instead of sliding into the intersection sideways, you slide into the intersection facing straight ahead.

by Bobman :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 5:59pm

I loved the randomness of it and pictured him in his Bro Sweets outfit, handing out candy with like 6 extra arms.

Though my second favorite line was about Jared Allen making the HOF by December if he faced the Packers every week. 16 games x 3.75 sacks per game = a big pile of money and an ugly yellow blazer. That's a whole career for some well thought of pass rushers. Not all-time greats, but guys who have 7 years with 8 sacks...

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 2:14pm

Here's a possible outline (don't know who you could use to fill in the blanks, but there has to be somebody):

When _____ arrived in _____ he must have felt like Clint Eastwood at the beginning of 'The Beguiled' - could it get any better than this?

by Parker (the first one) (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 5:15pm

Fibber McGee and Molly are also known to the great many Newsradio fans out there.

My God, Phil Hartman was funny on that show. What a waste.

Manchurian Candidate reference. How about something about Clinton Portis dressing as the Queen of Diamonds and accidentally telling his teammates they should suck more.

by Independent George :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 5:31pm

I'll raise a glass of Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor to that.

by Parker (the first one) (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 8:42pm

See what I mean?

by HostileGospel :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 10:32pm

Nothing makes your feet stank like Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor!

Overall, I'd be kind of embarrassed to critique something when I didn't know what the hell I was talking about, but then, oh yeah, my NAME is on what I write, isn't it?

-Les Bowen

by Marcumzilla :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 5:24pm

Isn't the strategy for Oakland in the Lechler section the same as the one the nemesis team ultimately employed in The Waterboy?

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 10:02pm

Why is Lechler's average so high? Because he doesn't kick short to pin an opponent inside the twenty. When you rarely punt from the sunny side of the 50, or your own 40 for that matter, you can boom away without worrying about that pesky endzone.

(I haven't looked up Raiders drive statistics to see if this is remotely true. Really, its a just a gratuitous ripping of the Raiders.)

by Vague (not verified) :: Fri, 11/06/2009 - 8:11am

As I recall Orton had his highest passer rating in two tight end sets last year for the Bears. Perhaps our perception of Orton (my fav being a radio host who called him a "tire fire" and a "superfund site" in 2005) is skewed. Incidently, Cutler hasnt had as much success with Clark and Olsen.

by TomKelso :: Sat, 11/07/2009 - 9:25am

No NY Times preview column? Tell me Tanier hasn't been wished into the cornfield -- or turned into a jack-in-the-box!

by Gruntled (not verified) :: Sat, 11/07/2009 - 10:43am

There is an article there, just no link here. It looks like it's been up since yesterday morning.

by Anymouse (not verified) :: Sun, 11/08/2009 - 2:26am

I never saw the Twilight Zone episode of "It's a Good Life," but the short story was one of the most memorable and chilling I've ever read. I think the author's name was Jerome Bixby. Great sci-fi/football tie-in! I love this site!

CAPTCHA: opaque that

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:24pm

I never thought I'd ever see a Pokemon reference on FO. Well played.