Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features


» The Deep Ball Project

Guest columnist John Kinsley breaks down the tape of every deep pass in the NFL in 2017 and comes away with a shocking conclusion: even without Andrew Luck, the Colts had the best long-ball quarterback in the league.

24 Sep 2009

Walkthrough: Uncool for Cats

by Mike Tanier

TUNA: Attention! Our monthly meeting of the Dolphins Board of Trustees is now in session. First item of business: the Wildcat. Some of our coaches are worried that with Chad Pennington running into and out of the game, the offense is having a hard time finding its rhythm.

GLORIA: Rhythm? That's easy. Have Pennington mambo off the field, then Ricky Williams can yambu across the formation. Ronnie Brown calls a bembe snap count, then runs the guaguanco off tackle while the offensive line starts a descarga. That will turn the beat around.

TUNA: I ... can't control myself any longer. Next item of business is the trouble our receivers are having scoring touchdowns. We have to make sure they are bringing the ball in, and that their feet aren't touching the line ...

SERENA: Their feet aren't touching the m*********ing line!

TUNA: Well, in this replay ...

SERENA: I swear to God I'll f******g take that replay and shove it down your f*****g throat!

TUNA: No offense, ma'am, but I think you need a change of attitude.

JIMMY: Or a change of latitude.

TUNA: Shut up. Now, quarterbacks coach David Lee has been getting a lot of attention, and I am worried that it may be going to his head. I don't want him trying to undermine Tony Sparano. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

MARC ANTHONY: Tuna says Lee was ambitious;
And Tuna is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the Land Shark
I thrice presented him a coaching headset
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?

TUNA: I have no idea what any of you are talking about. None of you has any idea what it takes to succeed in the athletic arena!

VENUS: Excuse me?

SERENA: I'll kill you for saying that!

JENNY FROM THE BLOCK: Face it, Tuna. The NFL is part of the entertainment industry. There's nothing strange about celebrity ownership: many movie stars had stakes in the Los Angeles Rams in the 1950s. We aren't here to meddle, and we won't be a distraction to your football team. Promise.

KANYE: You're good, Jenny, but Beyonce is better.

TUNA: I'm pretty sure you aren't even a co-owner. Get out of here, jackass.

The Wager

In this week's Audibles at the Line column, Bill Barnwell and I argued about Kevin Kolb's performance in the Eagles-Saints game and about his NFL future. Specifically, Bill thinks he might have one.

Since neither of us could convince the other, we decided to make a bet based on Kolb's performance this week against the Chiefs. If Kolb posts a positive DVOA, Barnwell wins. If he posts a negative DVOA, I win. If he throws 10 passes or less, the bet's a push.

Last year, we wagered on Reggie Bush's 2008 stats, and the loser (me) had to live blog the Pro Bowl. This year, we're doing something different. The loser must purchase, read, and publish a thorough review of the worst football book we could find: Monday Night Jihad, by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn. As best I can tell, the book is a cross between Black Sunday, A Few Seconds of Panic, and the Left Behind series.

Results won't be final until DVOA gets calculated, but you will probably be able to guess who won by the end of the Eagles-Chiefs game, and I am sure one of us will do a little chirping in next week's Audibles.

Quarterback Abstract

I've been disappointed by books like John Maxymuk's Quarterback Abstract many times.

The name "Abstract" raises unrealistic expectations. Bill James's mix of incisive analysis, common sense reasoning, and humor is nearly impossible to duplicate -– take it from someone who has been trying for five years. Football history is a challenging topic to tackle, especially for a writer striving to be both analytical and comprehensive. Even the best-designed statistical mousetraps break when applied to Arnie Herber, and while it's easy to put John Elway in historical perspective, it's harder to do justice to Jim Everett. When published at all, abstract-style football history books are too often glib list-fests or mediocre compilations of poor research and failed statistical arguments.

So Maxymuk's Quarterback Abstract was a pleasant surprise. Maxymuk compiled stats and wrote entries on every quarterback who ever started ten NFL games. Legends like Elway get a few pages, workaday starters like Everett get five or six paragraphs, and Bobby Hoying types merit about 250 words. Maxymuk outlines each quarterback's career highs and lows: great seasons, injuries, scandals, post-career forays into coaching, officiating, and reality television. The entries on Hall of Famers like Elway contain little new information, but the medium-length entries on second-tier stars are both entertaining and valuable as a resource. Maxymuk's book is one of the few places where Lynn Dickey, John Hadl, and Tommy Kramer get half a page of individual attention; Maxymuk's research reanimates quarterbacks whose legacies are fast deteriorating into statistical columns for most fans.

Maxymuk includes some new statistical research in the Quarterback Abstract. He estimates Won-Loss records for proto-quarterbacks of the single-wing era, and he tabulates every quarterback's career comebacks. Maxymuk's meta-rating statistics don't have the horsepower of DVOA and are built on a few non-analytical assumptions, but the ratings run silently in the background for most of the book. The Quarterback Abstract is a book about the quarterbacks, not their statistics, and the book's many best-ever lists and All Time Greats arguments are provided as food for thought, not didacticism.

Maxymuk took the time to answer this email interview with Walkthrough:

Walkthrough: Otto Graham, greatest quarterback ever. How confident are you with that assertion?

Maxymuk: Moderately. Ranking quarterbacks is something of a parlor game that reveals as much about the person doing the ranking as it does the quarterbacks. I tried to rank quarterbacks according to the most important of the imperfect measures and generally accessible statistics we have across time.

Actually, there are two ranking systems in use in the book. The first is the Quarterback Proficiency Scale that I use to rank all 366 quarterbacks included in the book. The scale is based on relative passer rating and relative team points scored and is weighted by games started, years as a primary starter, and championship game appearances and victories. The second method is a variation of the first and is just applied to the 30 quarterbacks who are either in the Hall of Fame, have been finalists for Canton, or are sure first ballot candidates who are now active. It also uses relative passer rating and relative team points scored, but includes won/lost percentage, postseason percentage and rushing average.

Anyway, Graham comes out on top either way. He was the best passer of his time in the best offense of his time and led his team to 10 straight championship games. No one has a better record in my view. Somewhere above my Cleveland-born dad is smiling.

Walkthrough: Your methods rank Tom Brady sixth all time, Peyton Manning 12th. Elaborate.

Maxymuk: Brady's passer rating is 17 percent better than the league average; Manning's is 19 percent better. Brady's teams have outscored the league average by 23 percent; Manning's by 24 percent. Although neither is much of a runner and both have been big winners, Brady has won more in the postseason. One other factor in their favor is that neither has started the decline phase of their careers yet, although that is inevitable.

The Brady-Manning rivalry is comparable to the Starr-Unitas rivalry in the 1960s and the Luckman-Baugh rivalry of the 1940s. In all three cases, the two best quarterbacks on the two strongest teams of the time met regularly in grudge matches of the utmost significance and highest drama. In the book, I sprinkled 70 top ten lists of opinion, fact and comparison. One that mistakenly was left out was Head-to-Head Hall of Fame Quarterback Match-ups. I have posted that and notes on the 240 quarterbacks who started from 1-9 games on my web site.

Walkthrough: What was your biggest challenge when comparing quarterbacks across eras?

Maxymuk: Obviously, you can't compare raw numbers since how the game is played continually changes. I try to compare quarterbacks to their peers and then compare that difference to quarterbacks from other eras.

Passer rating is clearly a flawed measure, but it does give a picture of how efficient a passer is. Since putting points on the board is the quarterback's main objective, team points shows how effective a quarterback is. Relativizing these two figures makes comparison across era possible.

Another factor to take into account is the increased level of competition over time. In other words, it is likely impossible for a quarterback today to be as superior to the average passer as Sid Luckman or Sammy Baugh were because there are so many better players today.

Walkthrough: What stats or data do you wish you had for quarterbacks of the pre-digital age?

Maxymuk: Sack data is a big gap to me. Sacks give us an idea of how quickly quarterbacks see the field and get rid of the ball, so I wish we had that further back. The data for the 1960s is very spotty and unofficial and nonexistent before that.

I've done some rough calculations on teams and their primary quarterbacks for the period from 1950-69 and those figures generally confirm the public perception that Norm Van Brocklin had the quickest release of his time and Johnny Unitas was very good, too. Y.A. Tittle and Otto Graham seemed to take a lot of sacks by contrast, but none of that is hard data. The 1940s are worse: sacks were just considered rushing attempts so that we can't get a good sense of the quarterback's running talent or rush avoidance ability. And, of course, I would love to see complete passing numbers for pre-1932 so we could conclude just how much greater than everyone else Benny Friedman was.

Walkthrough: Name a quarterback who didn't seem very interesting when you first started researching him, but became much more fascinating when you learned more about him.

Maxymuk: You mean aside from the overrated quarterback from Southern Mississippi who had some success in Green Bay, but whose name is escaping me right now? OK, I can think of five ways to respond to this question.

First, there are quarterbacks whose career arcs are fascinating like Sam Etcheverry, Tobin Rote, George Blanda and Danny White. Second, there are quarterbacks whose off-the-field activities are noteworthy: Gary Kerkorian becoming a judge, Timm Rosenbach denouncing the game as dehumanizing before trying a comeback, David Woodley's problems with the bottle and Jeff Komlo's flight from the law. Some of the best of these only turn up on the web site because they concern quarterbacks who started fewer than 10 games like Max Choboian, Perry Moss and Tom Yewcic.

Third, new light is thrown on some quarterbacks through a statistical breakdown -- Dan Marino and Johnny Unitas's careers were heavily frontloaded, Joe Namath's first five years were really spectacular, Vinny Testaverde's stats were badly skewed by his early and late seasons, and so forth. Fourth, many quarterbacks like Johnny Lujack, Don Meredith, Daryle Lamonica and Frank Ryan were underrated. Fifth, odd facts tell us something about some quarterbacks: Archie Manning's won-lost record was so bad that it took 16 combined seasons by his very successful sons to put the Manning family over .500; two of my 10 lowest ranked quarterbacks, Dan Darragh and Bruce Gradkowski, went to the same high school.

Walkthrough: You list John Elway with 48 career comebacks, Marino with 46. That makes your numbers much different than the "accepted" numbers (which give Elway a large lead) and slightly different from Scott Kacsmar's totals (which give Marino a tiny edge). How did you classify and tabulate your comebacks?

Maxymuk: My biggest regret with the book is that I used the term "comebacks" out of habit when Game Winning Drives would be a better description. Basically, I counted up all fourth quarter or overtime game winning drives led by each quarterback from line scores and press accounts. Some people are counting only comebacks, i.e, when the team is behind and not just tied. To me the important factor is the game winning drive.

Walkthrough: I wanted to write a book like this. You beat me to it. I hate you. Are you at peace with that?

Maxymuk: Mike, you will always be the B**** F**** of FO writers to me.

Disobeying Walkthrough rules is no way to get a book plug, John!

Not About the Wildcat

There's more to the Dolphins running game than the Wildcat. There had better be, because they are executing about 80 plays from scrimmage per game.

Even if Tony Sparano scrapped the Wildcat forever, he'd still have a playbook full of cleverly-designed runs that use unusual formations, motion, and misdirection to force defenders to hesitate. These other plays share many principles with the Wildcat; many include an inside-outside option with several possible ball carriers. These plays require defenders to make the kinds of reads they had to make in high school, reads that most are no longer accustomed to making after years at major college programs and in the pros.

Figure 1: Brown Counter

Figure 1 shows a long second quarter run by Ronnie Brown. It's third-and-2, and the Dolphins line up in an ace formation, with Brown offset in the backfield and Ricky Williams in the slot. This is a passing formation, and the Colts counter with one of their patented Cover-2 looks. The Dolphins probably had a pass called, but Chad Pennington can clearly be heard shouting "Kill!" With the Colts safeties deep and only two yards needed for a first down. Pennington's decision to audible into a run is wise.

Pennington taps his feet to start Williams in motion, then takes the snap and executes an inside handoff to Brown. Williams feigns receiving the handoff and runs a sweep right. Williams's motion draws a linebacker out of position, and two other linebackers blitz around the offensive left edge. That leaves the Colts in terrible position to defend an inside run. The Colts linemen slant to the offensive right to fill any running lanes, but Justin Smiley (65) does an excellent job of sealing off right end Dwight Freeney, while Jake Grove (64) scoops up the defensive tackle and takes him out of the hole. Brown has a running lane that extends deep into the secondary.

Note the similarities between the Brown counter in Figure 1 and a typical Wildcat play: motion by Williams, a fake sweep, double-teams on the interior line. The Dolphins got all of the advantages of the Wildcat on that play while still having Pennington under center. They got to use their power running and misdirection principles against a defense set to stop not a Wildcat run, but a Pennington pass.

Figure 2: Shotgun Triple Option

Figure 2 shows another Dolphins wrinkle: a spread triple option taken straight from a college playbook. This example was taken from a play early in the second quarter. Williams motions into the backfield pre-snap, but instead of flowing through the formation, he sets next to Brown, creating a shotgun, two-back look. At the snap, Brown fakes to Williams, who runs up the middle. Patrick Cobbs loops behind Brown and stays on his wing as an option pitch man. When Brown (wisely) decides not to blitz, Cobbs blocks the cornerback.

I watched this play carefully and determined that it is a true option. Brown reads right end Dwight Freeney while faking the handoff to Williams. If Freeney maintains containment on the outside of the line, Brown is supposed to hand off. Once Brown realizes that Freeney is crashing hard to stop the inside run, he pulls the ball back and sweeps left. This is a fundamental option principle: the playside end is left unblocked on purpose and becomes the "choice" defender on the play. As the diagram shows, the left tackle and left flanker ignore Freeney, instead sealing off second-level blockers for Brown.

Figure 3: Inverted Wishbone

Figure 3 is taken from a first quarter, first-and-10 play. The Dolphins line up in an inverted wishbone formation with two split wide receivers (not shown). At the snap, the Dolphins tackles and left guard set to pass block while fullbacks Brown and Lousaka Polite appear to run pass patterns. Pennington takes a three step drop, looks downfield to his right, then hands off to Williams on a delay. Brown and Polite each take on a second-level defender while left guard Smiley peels off a double-team to engage a linebacker. Williams has a wide hole and gains nine yards.

Colts fans must be screaming at this diagram. Why are Freeney and Robert Mathis charging upfield to rush the passer? It's first down, the Dolphins are a run-heavy team, and they're in the wishbone, for goodness sake: maybe it's time to play run defense? Remember that Pennington is a master of football detail, and his teams normally excel at play action, draws, and delays. The backward motion of the left and right tackle, plus Pennington's convincing drop and look downfield, make this play look like a pass for a split second. Freeney and Mathis are reacting according to the rules of their scheme, and the Colts linebackers also hesitate on the play. The Colts certainly could have done a better job defending this run (and about 20 others), but give Sparano and the Dolphins credit for sound execution.

The buzz in Miami says that the Wildcat is hurting the team; of course, whenever things go wrong, whatever's new and different draws most of the blame. I think the Dolphins could easily scale back the Wildcat and still have one of the most unique running games in the NFL. That uniqueness might not save them if their receivers don't improve and their defense doesn't learn to cover tight ends, but it can make them a power-running nightmare in a league where most defenses are designed to stop wide-open pass attacks.

Next Week: Tanier crosses the bridge to experience the glitz, glamour, and glory of legal sports gambling, Delaware style

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 24 Sep 2009

53 comments, Last at 26 Sep 2009, 10:09pm by DaveRichters


by langsty (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 1:15pm

Someone bought me a copy of MONDAY NIGHT JIHAD as a gag gift last year. I couldn't get more than 15 pages into it despite repeated attempts.

by Joe T. :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 1:26pm

Monday Night Jihad? Thanks, I needed a new fantasy team name.

by Theo :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 5:48pm


by Independent George :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 2:38pm

Wait a minute - is it co-authored by THAT Jason Elam, or is this somebody else?

ETA: Will opponent adjustments be as of Week 3, or added at the end of the season?

by Travis :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 3:16pm

Yes, that Jason Elam. You can learn all you really need to know about the book by searching inside Stefan Fatsis's A Few Seconds of Panic (if you're going to read a book by a former Broncos kicker, read that one) for "jihad".

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 1:35pm

I thought you were bleeping, um, other words there for a minute. Then I realized it was an even worse insult. You would have been justified in severely harming him.

by dbostedo :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 2:24pm

OK...so what are the words being "bleeped" there? I can't figure it out...

by dmb :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 2:43pm

Here's a hint: he was engaging in name-calling.

by c_f (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 3:01pm

They're referring to the world's most famous Wrangler jeans model.

by Joe T. :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 3:11pm

No he's not, he's referring to that guy from the Sears commercial. You know, the Snapper lawnmower guy.

by rengewnad (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 3:34pm

no, he's referring to the guy from the sears flat panel TV ad. the one that can't make up his mind, even though he says that people who can't make up their minds annoy him... the ad doesn't make any sense.

by D Jones :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 3:48pm

Retire that thought...he's just having fun out there.

by peterplaysbass (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 4:44pm

He Who Shall Not Be Named.

Also known as the only QB to have started for 3 different teams in the last 3 years.

by countertorque :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 10:15pm

Just watch ESPN for a few more hours. It will come to you.

by Admorish (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 6:13pm

As I was driving my (fictional) little girl to her (fictional) soccer game, she (fictionally) looked over at me with a tear in her sweet little (fictional) eye and (putatively) said "Daddy, I know you want to go back to that website and figure out what those words were. It's ok. I want you to do it. Because, (if I existed), I (would) love you."

I gotta say, I misted up a little when she (could possibly have) said that.

by MCS :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 9:16am

Yeah, um, that's very nice.

by Admore :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 12:24pm

You didn't have the pleasure of driving all day on THE DAY the ONE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED returned, did you?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 1:40pm

The qb abstract book sounds interesting, even if it makes the common error of overweighting a tiny sample of post season games. How much does Brady's ranking change if a referee makes a loose ball call differently, or if Vinateri misses a couple of kicks?

by Theo :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 5:57pm

What you are doing is illegal, just like talking politics.
There's a thread for that.

by Bobman :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 4:37pm

I won't go as far as Will (in this thread, at least), but it did seem that he punted in his response and then relied once more on team wins in the post season, as if Brady picked Manning off in the 2003 AFCCG, or Brady ran for 200 yards for Miami against Indy in the 2000 playoffs. Curious, that's all.

by Nathan :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 1:44pm

Wait, people in Miami are complaining about the Wildcat disrupting Pennington's rhythm? Who cares? From what I saw vs the Colts it seemed to be gaining 5-10 yards every single play.

by Red Hedgehog :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 2:11pm

Yeah, I know a Dolphins fan who is convinced that the Wildcat is dead, dead, dead and that it is holding the team back and delaying the development of Henne.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 2:24pm

Yeah, if I was a fan of the Phins, I think I'd be more irritated by my favorites finding a way to yield 27 points in about 35 plays. That and taking nearly a minute and a half to run two offensive plays at the end of the game, of course. I don't care what offense you are running: that's crazy.

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 3:30pm

Yeah, I don't see the Wildcat (running version) as being an issue with Miami's offense. The passing version, maybe ... I would think they'd be better off working on standard downfield passing for use when they're behind.

Then again, maybe the Wildcat is the problem. Between the QB and non-QB looks, Miami looks a lot like a Nebraska or Oklahoma offense from the '70s. Great for a team that is leading often (ironically, similar to the Colts' defense in that it's designed to work well with a lead), not so great when the team is trailing.

Running the ball well is nice, but it takes a lot of effort and a lot of time to gain those yards each play.

by Nathan :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 4:38pm

Considering the team they have I thought the game plan against the Colts was perfect... the defense just didn't execute and hold up their end of the bargain. Now, Pat White coming in to run the zone read I'm not so sure about (I kind of dig it in theory - having 3 distinct offenses you force your opponent to prepare for - but the execution hasn't been there).

If they're going to completely pull Pennington out of the game and lose the element of surprise that came from splitting him wide I'd like to see them sub Pat White in and move him around, split him wide, make him the wingback or have him take the snap, get a little passing out of the formation... Against the Colts it wasn't really necessary cause they were keeping their safeties back, but against teams that run Cover-1 against the Wildcat it'd be a different story.

Anyway, the Dolphins / Colts game has been the best I've seen so far this year, just a great contrast of styles. As a Pats fan, the idea of fans complaining about a formation that consistently gets 5 YPC on the ground sounds nuts. I'd take that in a second. All the Pats can run these days is draws.

by Sophandros :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 2:22pm

Oh. My. Goodness. Just looking at the reviews for MNJ on Amazon, and it looks brutal. One reviewer, who gave it five stars, said that readers will relive Sept. 11 when they read this book. I don't think that people really WANT to relive Sept. 11, but that's just me.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Dennis :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 3:04pm
by tuluse :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 2:31pm

Is reading that whole book really better than live blogging the pro bowl?

by KyleW :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 6:13pm

Who is gonna know if he actually reads it or not?

by jeffjewell (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 3:44pm

It's not the Wildcat that's wrecking the rhythm, it's the Pat White packages. White is not ready to do either the job Brown does when the Wildcat is a rushing formation, and hasn't developed the NFL timing to make the Wildcat a passing formation. The Pat White plays, at this point are wasted plays.

Sparano and Henning have made the point that these aren't "wasted" plays, they're learning something about the defense. But as the Colts' game proved, the Dolphins simply don't have the defense or an efficient enough offense to waste _any_ offensive plays.

I'd rather see Brown, Williams, or even Ginn throw a Wildcat pass than have White in the game. The Wildcat "fleaflicker" when Pennington starts in the slot has even worked more often than the White package.

Unless Pat White has the ability to cover a tight end, I'd rather not see him active this year.

by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 7:03pm

I agree. I thought running Pat White into the game was both a distraction to his team and allowed the other team to move personnel onto the field. Neither which is a win if your trying to catch teams off guard with a play. Really the Dolphins pass defense is so bad right now, I'm amazed that people notice the offense at all. The Dolphins looked dreadful against the pass the first two games of 2008 too. So I don't know maybe this turns around? That almost can't get worse at this point.

by Nathan :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 7:07pm

Sparano and Henning have made the point that these aren't "wasted" plays, they're learning something about the defense.

Learning that they can shut down the zone read...

by maxpower179 :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 4:03pm

I only come here for the Tanier

by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 09/26/2009 - 11:43am

TaNier good. Good reason to come here. Bestest Tanier ones was one time when he write about football board games. and another time he wright about the old Falcons team from the 70s.

by Jon Coit (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 4:39pm

"These plays require defenders to make the kinds of reads they had to make in high school, reads that most are no longer accustomed to making after years at major college programs and in the pros."

A question, then; shouldn't (aren't?) coaches adapting to the Wildcat by brushing up on techniques players are familiar with but no longer use? Is the "secret" to the system's success that most NFL coaches would refuse to tailor game preparation/practice so exclusively to stop one team's offense? Or is it that there's just no way to recover the facility the players had in the time frame of an NFL weekly schedule?

by angryowlbear :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 5:53pm

The reference to Ceasar was a nice bit, but this piece could have just linked to Monday Night Jihad's Amazon reviews and succeeded.

by HostileGospel :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 6:27pm

Yo Tanier, I'm really happy for you and I'mma let you finish, but Doug Farrar had one of the best columns of all time!

(Done to death? Probably, but I'm not the one who brought Kanye into this.) The Dolphins meeting is one of the funniest things in Walkthrough so far this year.

So do I need to read Monday Night Jihad in order to get all the obscure jokes about it that are going to end up in Walkthrough? Because Barnwell's winning this bet.

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 Mike Tanier :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 8:32pm

Well, I was fishing for a better ending than Kanye, but nothing came up. Maybe I should have had Brad Lidge come in at the end and blow up the whole room.

by Red Hedgehog :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 12:44am

I chuckled at your column, but this made me laugh out loud.

by boog :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 7:10pm

"decides not to blitz" should really be "decides not to pitch". Though I kinda wish Brown had blitzed on the play. Certainly would have been an original twist.

by BigCheese :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 9:21pm

I was going to comment that the Wildcat is truly going where no other offense goes by having a RB blitz, but that's what I get for waiting until late to read Walkthrough.

- Alvaro

by Xeynon (not verified) :: Thu, 09/24/2009 - 8:08pm

whatever's new and different draws most of the blame.

This tendency is bad enough when it's exhibited by fans, but when it's commentators, sportswriters, talking heads, or other people who ostensibly know what they're talking about, it's much worse. I have seen no evidence, statistical or otherwise, that the Wildcat "disrupts" a team's regular offense, and there is plenty of evidence that it is more effective than conventional run-first formations if an offense wants to run the ball, which is only logical since an extra blocker is more helpful to successfully executing a running play than is a guy who just hands off or pitches the ball, then exits the play. Anyone who played pee-wee football ought to know this, yet the likes of Phil Simms and Troy Aikman continue to express doubt about it. Unfortunately, I don't expect this to change until a team with a heavy Wildcat package wins a Super Bowl (which won't be that long - the Dolphins don't have the talent right now, but other teams which have begun experimenting with the Wildcat do).

I can't wait to see what a team with a Wildcat quarterback who can actually throw the ball a bit (perhaps Vick with the Eagles, or White with the Dolphins once he gets a little more comfortable with the NFL game) is able to do with the formation.

by Dan :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 6:15am

Isn't the Kolb bet a VOA contest, since DVOA isn't calculated yet? The KC defense got destroyed by Flacco, and even though they managed to shut down JaMarcus Russell, I'm guessing that the lack of opponent adjustments works in Kolb's (and Barnwell's) favor.

by Bill Barnwell :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 1:39pm


by AB (not verified) :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 10:10am

Surprised that you did not challenge the author more directly on the weight given to win percentage (especially postseason wins).

by Dan :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 3:09pm

Passer rating and points per game aren't very good stats either. The Patriots have probably averaged about an extra possession per game, and they tend to get better starting field position.

by Bobman :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 4:44pm

Yep, yep, yep, and yep.

Colts have averaged the fewest possessions per game for at least the last 4 years, maybe well beyond that. So ranking them by scoring--as a team--might make sense, because it captures the D's inabillity to stop 3rd downs or cause turnovers, but evaluating the quality of their component offensive pieces (Manning) based on gross pts is foolish. How about pts per possession? Doesn't account for field position (worst ST of the decade), but it's an improvement.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 4:50pm

Can you get accurate points per possession from the 70s and 60s?

by Dan :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 6:44pm

I'm not sure if we can get the exact number of possessions, but it looks like pfr has data on # of offensive TDs, return TDs, TOs, FGA, punts, and safeties for each team and their opponents, so we should at least be able to get a pretty good estimate of # of possessions (adding in a few for turnover on downs and the end of each half).

by DaveRichters (not verified) :: Sat, 09/26/2009 - 10:09pm

Yeah, that's terrible. So is the comparison across eras. Obviously Otto isn't as good in an absolute sense as any of today's QBs, and while the author notes that variance in performance in the past was larger than in the present he still puts him on top. I'm not sure what a list like this is supposed to tell me...

by JuridianSantaal... :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 11:30am

DVOA would be an interesting bet though because if its even slightly close, it means Barnwell will suddenly have to become a Chiefs fan and Tanier will have to wish nothing but pain on their defense for the rest of the season.

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 3:21pm

The Wildcat is certainly different, and hard to defend against if you don't see it regularly. Here's the problem though: the Colts marched 80 yards in 32 seconds for a touchdown. Miami had about three and a half minutes to do the same, and ended up on the Colts' 30. Part of that is the worst end-of-game drill I've ever seen. The other part of that is that you just can't score points in bunches running the ball, and to beat teams like Indy that can and will score points in bunches, seemingly at will, you have to have a big play threat, which Miami doesn't have.

Basically, send them Percy Harvin type guy and they'll run away with the division.

by Dan :: Fri, 09/25/2009 - 6:59pm

It looks like Jake Grove was the key to the plays in Figures 1 & 3. Figure 1 has Ronnie Brown going right through the DL, who Grove had to move out of the way on his own. Other than that the blocking was easy enough - they just needed to hold a couple double teams and let the LBs take themselves out of the play. In Figure 3, Grove & Smiley double team the DL, but then Smiley moves to the second level and Grove has to keep the DL (who started outside of him) inside so that Brown has a hole outside of him.