Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

"Del Rio's Hatchet Men" Was Somehow Already Taken

Tom: So, Mike, it's time for another edition of the All-Keep Choppin' Wood team.

Mike: The carnage ... the humanity ...

Tom: For those of you who have forgotten, or have never been exposed to the concept, your Scramble writers go through and pick the player who contributed most to their team's ineptitude this season.

Mike: The players get bonus points for being bad in hilarious ways because -- let's face it -- there are a lot of really bad players, by NFL standards, in the league.

Tom: Oh, yes. There's a reason "Yakety Sax" is the official theme song of the All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team.

Mike: On that note, let's fire it up and get to work!

Tom: We should add that this is not a definitive list of the worst players in the NFL, or those who hurt their team the most. The worst players didn't make it on the field.

Mike: I thought Sabby Piscitelli saw a few snaps?

Tom: And this is an incredibly subjective list, which means that if there's a Browns or Bears player we could mention, we almost certainly will mention him. And right on cue! Yes, Sabby Piscitelli is now a member of the Cleveland Browns.

Mike: It's OK, Tom. He's with his own kind, now.

Tom: I'd actually forgotten that he was now in Cleveland. Apparently Tampa Bay's newfound winning nature was antithetical to his existence. Anyway, Piscitelli started zero games this year, so consider this opening mention more recognition for his performance last year.

Mike: Aw.


Tom: So, Mike, every team has somebody behind center to take the snap, but not all of them can complete a pass.

Mike: No, I think they all can complete a pass, but there are a number of them that are more adept at completing passes to the opposing team.

Tom: Good point. And many of those players played for the Arizona Cardinals this year. It doesn't seem quite fair to the others to single out any of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, or Max Hall, so I'll mention them all.

Mike: Derek Anderson at least has a more complete CV of awfulness, but this isn't a lifetime achievement award, or nobody would have any legs left.

Tom: Why, yes, he was formerly a member of the Cleveland Browns, plus he wasn't a rookie.

Mike: And while this isn't the Cardinals Super Bowl team anymore, they should still be way better than this, especially with Larry Fitzgerald. Maybe he's sleeping? Or just sad that his former teammate Anquan Boldin is now hanging out with the Great Goat of the Bay?

Tom: I must admit I didn't watch enough of the Cardinals this year to answer that question. One question for you, Mike: What do you think about Brett Favre? Last year he was great for the Vikings, but this year his waffling and terrible mediocre player contributed to a down year for a team some thought would be a Super Bowl contender.

Mike: I don't really buy into the idea that one player, even the quarterback, can take an elite team and make it awful with mediocre play and a bad attitude.

Tom: Well, sure, the Vikings had lots of other problems this year.

Mike: There are other problems on the Vikings. If not Favre, why didn't Adrian Peterson have a year like Arian Foster did? I think it's unfair to pin it all on Favre, as bad as he was.

Tom: Fair enough.

Running Backs

Tom: I have another question for you, Mike. How on earth do you manage to finish next to last in DYAR despite playing on a team that's sixth in Adjusted Line Yards? That seems like a truly remarkable accomplishment by Thomas Jones.

Mike: We've touched on him before, and it is truly astounding.

Tom: We have, and I mentioned then that even a near-replacement level back in LenDale White managed to be valuable in similar circumstances.

Mike: The strange thing is that Jones was a near-average level back in New York last year. He went to another team with a pretty good offensive line, suffered no major injury, but fell off a cliff. It just doesn't make sense.

Tom: And it doesn't, but he still was. Now, Laurence Maroney putting up ungodly awful numbers, that makes perfect sense. It took Jones 246 carries to amass -90 DYAR. Maroney put up -86 DYAR on only 36 carries.

Mike: Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Tom: No, I admit the Broncos did not have a particularly good offensive line. Still, -62.0% DVOA?

Wide Receivers

Mike: Randy Moss.

Tom: Oh, yes, Randy Moss.

Mike: Do we really need to say more? Yes, we probably should.

Tom: He actually had a positive DVOA.

Mike: True, but he was a complete non-factor for any and all of his THREE teams, and this year was probably the crown jewel of his distractalicious career.

Tom: I remember when Titans fans thought acquiring him meant the team was going to the Super Bowl.

Mike: I remember laughing at those Titans fans right about that point. Good times.

Tom: I went on a podcast over the bye week and said "9-7" when they were 5-3. They pretty much laughed at me. "There's no way the Titans could lose to the Dolphins or Redskins now that they have Randy Moss." They did.

Mike: Indeed they did.

Tom: The best part may have been that Moss could have been the first player ever to score a touchdown with three teams in the same season. Only he didn't score a single touchdown as a member of the Titans.

Mike: I bet that's probably the thing that's haunting him. Next year he's going to get kicked off four teams just to show past-Randy who's boss.

Tom: Are there really four teams who'll take him?

Mike: As far as I know, there are no plans to relegate the NFC West.

Tom: Touche.

Mike: Indeed.

Tom: I have a slightly unconventional choice for the starting wideout opposite Moss.

Mike: Let's hear it.

Tom: The bottom of the DVOA table has names from teams like the Cardinals and Panthers. But down there at 81st in DVOA is Harry Douglas of the Atlanta Falcons. He's a bit of a small sample size wonder, with only 53 targets. But your quarterback is Matt Ryan. You have Roddy White drawing coverage. How do you catch 42 percent of your passes? How are you 81st in DVOA?

Mike: It seems he was even worse in his last uninjured year (2008), where he only managed a 45 percent completion percentage off short throws. Is that progress? But I agree -- that is absolutely horrid. After seeing the Falcons try again and again to go to White in their game against the Packers, the Falcons have clearly been harmed by the lack of any viable second or third option.

Tom: Michael Jenkins was mediocre, which is disappointing but that's Michael Jenkins. Douglas was ... yeesh.

Offensive Line

Mike: Sadly, we no longer have the ghost of Orlando Pace to kick around anymore.

Tom: Alas, no. Do you have another Bears offensive lineman you'd care to nominate, though?

Mike: I want to pick on J'Marcus Webb, but it's really hard to, because he's a low-round rookie coming into an impossible situation.

Tom: We could put Chris Williams at left tackle, since they drafted him in the first round to play left tackle.

Mike: Despite the team's success running to the left, I can agree with that. Cutler has once again spent a year getting plastered all over the grass-like cement in Soldier Field, and Williams did absolutely nothing to stop it.

Tom: But, Mike, the Bears were only, uh, 32nd in Adjusted Sack Rate!

Mike: Indeed they were, Tom. And like I said, they were good running off left end. I think that probably has something to do with the much-improved blocking of Greg Olsen and the still-pretty-good blocking of Brandon Manumaleuna, who should stick around, incidentally, because his name is fun to say.

Tom: I almost wish I yodeled just, just so I could yodel his name.

Mike: That's a bit weird, but OK.

Tom: At the other tackle spot, I'd nominate 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis, who was considered to be a bit raw and played terribly.

Mike: Good choice. Going inward, I would suggest Ramon Foster at guard.

Tom: So long as we can play him at left guard, I'd be fine with that. Leonard Davis needs to get the run-around at right guard.

Mike: As Ben Muth put it, one of Foster's strengths is his ability to play poorly in multiple positions. Since we already have two offensive tackles, Foster is the logical choice ... it wouldn't be an All-KCW line without a Steelers lineman.

Tom: It was almost sad watching Davis play against quicker defensive tackles, as Ben Muth also wrote about.

Mike: It's awesome that we have a writer who is knowledgeable about line play, so that we can pretend we know things about offensive line play.

Tom: Totally. Though Davis's struggles were obvious enough even I noticed them.

Mike: Indeed.

Tom: That leaves the pivot position. Two options here: (1) We could put Richie Incognito on the team again. (2) We could mention Vikings center John Sullivan, who wasn't very good again.

Mike: Truly, a question for the ages. I'd go with Sullivan.

Tom: Good choice. He's been a tremendous downgrade from Matt Birk.

Mike: Like the Bears and Steelers lines, the Vikings line was so aggressively bad that one of its weak points must be featured.

Tight End

Tom: We also neglected to pick a tight end.

Mike: Is it even possible for a tight end to make his team lose?

Tom: DVOA suggests the Broncos Daniel Graham is a good choice. Maroney may have had a -62.0% DVOA and -86 DYAR, but Graham was -60.7% DVOA and -133 DYAR. We don't use the Effective Yards stat very often, but his was -80. It's not literally true that the Broncos would've been better spiking the ball than throwing it to Graham, but I like the idea that they were.

Mike: It's entirely possible.

Tom: Graham's reported strength is as a blocker, but he supposedly wasn't very good at that this year either.

Mike: It's a wonder the Broncos scored any points this year.

Tom: It's a testament to the ability of Kyle Orton, and Brandon Lloyd's shockingly good play. I almost mentioned Eddie Royal as a wide receiver candidate, his numbers were so bad.

Mike: That is interesting because his fantasy numbers were decent. Lots of accumulation off failed plays, I suppose.

Tom: Yes, I guess.

Mike: That formality out of the way, onward to defensification!

Tom: Hooray.

Tom: And we have the normal problem: It's easy to fill out the back four, and too hard to fill out the front seven.


Tom: After watching the Jaguars last year for Football Outsiders Almanac 2010, I didn't think their corners could play any worse. Then they started David Jones.

Mike: We'll hand it off to the boss-man to explain just exactly how awful David Jones was this year:

Aaron Schatz: Through six weeks of the season, we have David Jones charted with a 39 percent Success Rate and 12.2 yards per pass. Hole in Zone allowed only 11.6 yards per pass this year, so that kind of sucks. Reggie Wayne got 196 yards off Jones in Week 4. The Jaguars realized what was going on and put Derek Cox back in the starting lineup after six weeks. In fact, we don't have Jones charted on another pass all season; he was basically special teams only from Week 7 on.

Mike: What's astounding is that Jacksonville didn't even have the worst team pass defense this year.

Tom: Nope. They were only 30th.

Mike: Houston's defensive backs left holes so large they could be viewed from orbit.

Tom: There are probably only four or five members of the Texans defense who are legitimate candidates for the All-KCW team.

Mike: "Only" four or five.

Tom: Kareem Jackson at corner is one of them. He was supposed to be very pro-ready after playing for Nick Saban at Alabama, and also better at zone than at man. Well, the latter was accurate. But he wasn't very good at playing the Texans' zone either. Some of the poor Houston secondary play was almost certainly the result of awful coaching, but between Chargers receiver Seyi Ajirotutu and Jackson, you would have guessed Jackson was the undrafted rookie and Ajirotutu was the first-round pick. Oh well.

Aaron: Hi again. We currently have Jackson charted with 10.0 yards per pass allowed, making him one of only four corners who allowed 10.0 or more yards per pass. The others are Mike Jenkins, Rashean Mathis, and Jones. At least Jackson's Success Rate of 47 percent was only a little below average.

Mike: Considering corners are rarely in frame for the broadcast feed, you either have to be very good or very bad to get the average football fan to know who your guys are, so the fact that Houston's secondary is such a joke is a kind of perverse achievement.

Tom: And for a while there, it looked like Houston's secondary must be nudged out by Denver's secondary. As with Houston, we could go a couple different directions in pointing out bad players with the Broncos. Corner Andre' Goodman wasn't very good, but there's nothing like kicking formerly good players when they're down. Take, for instance, Brian Dawkins. And Broncos opponents did, if by "take" you mean, "take advantage of." And I do.

Mike: To be fair, age 37 is way too old to be playing defense.

Tom: Yes, it is. But Dawkins took the paycheck, so I'm fine mentioning him.

Mike: Fair enough, although based on his performance last year, there wasn't any reason to think he'd be this bad.

Tom: We need another safety. Dawkins is officially a free safety, so we should probably name a strong safety. The problem with strong safeties, though, is some of them are reasonably good run stoppers but bad in pass coverage. Bernard Pollard of the Texans falls in this category.

Mike: Abram Elam.

Tom: has Elam has a free safety as well.

Mike: ESPN has him as a strong safety, as do we. Also, he was really, really bad.

Tom: And he goes to help fill our "Browns to make fun of" quota, so let's mention him.

Mike: Elam is, as you mentioned, the rare strong safety who is bad at both coverage and run support, although he is slightly better at run support. Not by much. To be fair, his front seven isn't giving him much help; he played three more games with the Browns than the Jets, but recorded 47 more tackles, but that doesn't change the fact that the Browns were 22nd in the league in rush defense.

Tom: Fair enough.

Mike: All this is even more damning because Elam was brought to Cleveland as one of Mangini's guys from New York.

Tom: I didn't see enough of the Browns to comment even semi-intelligently on his play.

Mike: He was supposed to be a somewhat versatile engine for the defense to play around. Instead, they were left with a soft, chewy center against the run and a giant hole in the short zone against the pass.


Tom: Of course, there's a Houston Texans player we could name here. Zac Diles was actually decent, or at least non-terrible in 2009. That was not the case in 2010.

Mike: I guess he got caught in the inescapable miasma of suck.

Tom: No, he's just not very good. He was just especially bad this year. Maybe just because I'm seeing him more than most, but I have to mention Titans outside linebacker Gerald McRath was also especially bad this year. He wasn't very good as a rookie last year, but he got suspended for the first four games. Upon his return, he was, in my opinion, the worst player on a defense that was very un-good the second half of the year.

Mike: I actually didn't see much egregiously bad linebacker play this year.

Tom: I'm trying to find a third linebacker. Ideally I'd find a middle linebacker. Maybe Akin Ayodele could be the linebacker we need.

Mike: Indeed he could be. Astoundingly, he doesn't seem to be that bad against the run, but hideous in coverage. Also, P-F-R has him with a career similar to Andra Davis. I think that's damning enough.

Tom: Davis was also on the Bills this season before going on Injured Reserve in November.

Mike: That's just freaky.

Defensive Line

Mike: We should also note that it is fitting that the All-KCW team runs a 4-3. Score one for the superior defensive formation!

Tom: Phfft. I'll state that the 3-4 is a superior defensive formation when run creatively and with superior players. But now that we're running a 4-3, we need to find four defensive linemen. There is, of course, a Houston Texans player I could nominate.

Mike: Go right ahead, the Texans' defense was, again, awful.

Tom: Shaun Cody somehow managed to start 16 games for the Texans and make almost no impact. He could almost be the poster child for why their defense is so bad. He's not strong enough to be a very good run defender. He's not a very good pass rusher, as you might guess from having two sacks in 83 career games. Starting 29 games as a defensive lineman over a two-year period in a 4-man front, shouldn't you at least fall into a sack somewhere? But no, he had half a sack last year and nothing this year.

Mike: Haha. I go to the Bills depth chart on ESPN, get a "this page does not exist: Depth Chart - Buffalo Bills." How depressingly apt.

Tom: Kyle Williams was quite good at nose tackle for them.

Mike: Yes indeed, but I'm checking up on Marcus Stroud.

Tom: The depth chart has Marcus Stroud at left end and Spencer Johnson at right end. I'm guessing that's not the same Spencer Johnson who wrote Who Moved My Cheese?, but it would really help explain why the Bills were as bad as they were despite Williams if it was.

Mike: OK, how were the Bills so bad against the run? They have a pretty good line. At least they seem to. I guess it was all in the linebackers.

Tom: Doug Farrar also mentioned Kentwan Balmer as a player who gave up some big runs for the Seahawks this year.

Mike: Yeah, OK, he looks pretty bad: One pass defensed, zero sacks.

Tom: Oh, should we just reserve a spot on this team for "Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle" every year?

Mike: Probably. I like the Balmer pick.

Tom: Yup. Daniel Muir is our third defensive lineman. I think we need a horribly ineffective 4-3 edge rusher to round out the group.

Tom: I could nominate a Titans player, but that feels slightly homerrific.

Mike: Yeah, let's try to avoid that.

Tom: I will say Jacob Ford was No. 2 on our list of the Top 25 prospects and then was horribly disappointing.

Mike: That's not really KCW material.

Tom: One option is Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers: Sixteen starts, one sack.

Mike: I'm not sure, as sacks seem to be his only really bad stat unless he fell off a cliff this year. Then again, low sack total, and the Bengals were really bad against runs to right tackle. We'll go with him. That makes four.

(Actually, Geathers makes five. We have five defensive linemen on the All-KCW team, but Albert Haynesworth is sitting on the bench and refusing to play.)

Special Teams

Tom: We need a kicker.

Mike: Graham Gano.

Tom: Washington was by far last in our FG/XP ratings. And Gano it is, an easy choice.

Mike: And got there in hilarious fashion. On the bright side, at least he didn't miss any extra points this year!

Tom: On special teams, we have to mention the Chargers' kick coverage units. For putting the "special" in very special special teams.

Mike: And I thought that Steelers fans had it bad. Thank you, Norv, for putting it all in perspective.

Tom: Finally, we need somebody to coach up this mess. The readers will have the chance to vote for the Keep Choppin' Game Film maestro in the FO Reader Awards, coming soon to a website near you. With three quarterbacks to choose from, I feel like we should go with Mike Singletary.

Mike: Yes. I have never seen a team managed in such a random manner, alternating between completely crazy screaming and antics and faux- (I'm assuming?) calm and thoughtfulness, neither of which did anything to help the team win games.

Tom: And not just a systematic devotion to randomness as a team management style, but seeming randomness or simply careening quickly from one extreme to the other. Troy Smith was the quarterback until he wasn't. Alex Smith got himself re-inserted into the game by convincing Singletary he should be pulled. That, really, was all I needed to know.

Mike: And as we mentioned at the start of this season, booting out Mike Martz because he wanted to run a system that the 49ers had some (albeit small) chance of actually being effective with. As you predicted, they went to the air because the ground game was garbage, but had a shaky quarterback situation and a new offensive coordinator. A gigantic mess.

Tom: Would it be mean to point out that Shaun Hill had a 12.6% DVOA with the Lions this year?

Mike: Mean? Yes. Unduly mean? No.

Tom: Well, there you go then. That's the 2010 All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team.

Playoff Fantasy Update

Tom: Staff playoff fantasy update: Sean's still killing us all. He has more than twice as many points as anyone else.

Mike: OK, then.

Tom: Yeah. Ben and Dave are in the very distant second place, but Ben is out of players. Dave has Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, and Greg Jennings left. Sean has Aaron Rodgers. So if Ben throws for 400 yards and three touchdowns, all to Ward, that'll give him ... 90 points. He's down 115.

Mike: Well played, Sean.

Tom: Our other moment of suspense was if Sean would break the playoff total points record, set last year by yours truly. He's 52 short, so that's extremely unlikely to happen, and that's that.

FO Playoff Divisional Round Results
Mike Matt Ryan 7 Ray Rice 15 LeSean McCoy 7 Marques Colston 6 Anquan Boldin 12 Johnny Knox 9 Heath Miller 12 Matt Bryant 3 Bears 0 71
Tom Tom Brady 20 Matt Forte 29 Pierre Thomas 0 Roddy White 11 Deion Branch 11 Brandon Tate 0 Rob Gronkowski 3 Shayne Graham 7 Patriots -4 77
Dave Ben Roethlisberger 28 Michael Turner 9 Joseph Addai 6 Greg Jennings 23 Wes Welker 5 Hines Ward 9 Jacob Tamme 4 Adam Vinatieri 14 Falcons -2 96
Sean Aaron Rodgers 73 Jamaal Charles 13 Shonn Greene 25 Reggie Wayne 0 Santonio Holmes 24 Braylon Edwards 22 Dustin Keller 11 Mason Crosby 19 Ravens 24 211
Tim Peyton Manning 15 Rashard Mendenhall 36 Reggie Bush 4 Mike Wallace 2 DeSean Jackson 4 Blair White 5 Brent Celek 2 David Akers 4 Steelers 16 88
Ben Drew Brees 28 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 5 Ladainian Tomlinson 32 Dwayne Bowe 0 Pierre Garcon 17 Jeremy Maclin 7 Tony Gonzalez 0 Garrett Hartley 12 Saints -5 96

Best of the Rest Update

Nevic’s Packers-heavy strategy paid off again, as the NFC North wild card team is heading to the Super Bowl. He has 167 points, 16 ahead of batbatt’s similarly Packers-heavy roster. A huge game by Brandon Jackson puts batbatt over the top, while Ian Dembsky is mathematically alive with no Packers but 149 points and Emmanuel Sanders.


KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: No, it's probably not quite fair to pick on Doug Legursky's work as an injury fill-in for Maurkice Pouncey, but he did participate in two botched center-quarterback exchanges, one of which resulted in a safety.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: What was the Bears brain trust doing on Sunday? Whether it was punting inside the Packers 40, calling a horribly telegraphed toss in a key situation, a questionable fourth-down play call at the end of the game, putting Todd Collins instead of Caleb Hanie as the backup quarterback, or letting Jay Cutler look like he was shirking, neither Mike Martz nor Lovie Smith covered himself in glory this week.

COLBERT AWARD: The Steelers could have gone the conventional route and pounded the ball into the line three times, then punted, but instead Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians elected to trust their quarterback to throw the ball. The result: two completions, including a third-down conversion that enabled them to kneel the clock out and progress to the Super Bowl.


64 comments, Last at 03 Feb 2011, 9:59am

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Sabby Piscatelli--so bad in 2009, he leads off the article for 2010. Now let his name never be mentioned again.

Also, as easy as it is to take shots at the Unholy Trinity of Cardinals (sounds like a bad Dan Brown plot, doesn't it?), Jimmy Clausen had an epically bad -607 DYAR. And then Andrew Luck stayed in school. God hates Carolina.

3 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I was worried for a moment that you guys were going to cheat John Sullivan out of what may be his pinnacle of recognition.

Now, how about some sort of lifetime KCW award for the guy who thought he could swap out Birk for Sullivan, without risk of cheating his team of their first trip to the Super Bowl in 34 years, while paying a 40 year old qb 20 million dollars, a year prior to everything going over the cliff while paying a 41 year old qb 20 million to get the crap kicked out of him, behind one John Sullivan? Keep in mind that he got to the 40 and then 41 year old qb by first trading draft picks to obtain Tavaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, Gus Ferrotte, and Sage Rosenfels. The Chiller may be a KCW HOF candidate! What color is the blazer inductees wear when making their induction speech? Fecal brown?

17 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Brad Childress: 39-35 lifetime record (52.7%)
Josh McDaniels: 11-17 lifetime record (39.3%)

You want mismanagement? In 2007 and 2008, Denver was 8th and then 2nd in offense, but 23rd and then 31st in defense, posting the second worst defensive performance of the DVOA era in the process. 8 of the 11 starters on offense were 26 or younger, many of them playing at a pro bowl or all-pro level. So what does McDaniels do? He asserts his authority immediately by cutting one of the top 5 long-snappers in the league so he can... pursue another of the top 5 long-snappers in the league, making him the first long snapper in history to make seven figures a year. He then tears apart the 2nd rated offense in the league, firing or demoting the entire offensive coaching staff, trading away 4 of those under-27 core players (Cutler, Marshall, Scheffler, Hillis), and casting the other four into a scheme for which they were poorly suited. For good measure, he also got rid of the zone blocking scheme that had resulted in 15 years of rushing dominance. He inherited a scouting department that was on fire (Denver's drafts from 2006-2008 produced Cutler, Marshall, Dumervil, Clady, Royal, and Hillis, among others), and quickly fired them a month before the draft so he could give more power to his capologist. After the draft, he bragged about how he was so much smarter than the rest of the league that his draft board had under 100 names on it. Then, rather than trying to shore up the defense in the draft, he spent 12 of his 19 draft picks on offensive players, most of them replacing players he had just shown the door (2 QBs, 2 WRs, 3 Cs, a TE, and an RB). His attempt to fix the defense mainly revolved around a strategy of assembling the oldest starting secondary in the long and storied history of the NFL. When he managed to find a miracle worker of a defensive coordinator who managed to make chicken salad out of the chicken scat he was given, he made life so untenable for said coordinator that he left Denver in a lateral job move. Just to add insult to injury, he hired the video coordinator responsible for Spygate, vouched for his character, and then was shocked when the guy videotaped another team's practices. Who could have possibly seen that coming? The end result of the Josh McDaniels era/error? The offense that he tore apart regressed from dominant (2nd in 2008, 24% DVOA) to average (15th in 2010, 6% DVOA), while despite having the massive forces of regression to the mean on his side (as well as the fact that defense is less consistent from year to year), he only managed to improve Denver's defense from 31st (24.7% DVOA) to 30th (19.6% DVOA).

Serious question: has any individual (player, coach, general manager, owner, commissioner, ANYONE) ever done so much damage to a single franchise over the span of two years as Josh McDaniels just did to Denver? Josh McDaniels shouldn't just be in the KCWHOF, he should have an entire wing named after him.

50 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I don't know that I buy that. This last decade has been marked by a long and steady erosion of talent on the Raiders, but there's no 2-year stretch that stands out as epically inept on the order of the McDaniels era/error. The huge falloff after 2002 wasn't a result of mismanagement, it was the natural cost of assembling such a veteran-laden (read: old) team in 2002. That's not mismanagement, since it resulted in a super bowl berth, it's just a costly strategy. After that, the team pretty much just churned in place. There really wasn't any year where the team was substantially worse off than they were in year n-2.

41 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

The difference between Childress and McDaniels is that Childress is just universally mediocre or bad at things, whereas McDaniels is genuinely brilliant at making passing offenses prolific, and absurdly destructive elsewhere.

(Obviously, this made Denver a horrible fit for McDaniels, because they already had a prolific passing offense.)

51 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I would say that the difference is one of hubris. Josh McDaniels is absolutely convinced that he's always the smartest man in the room, which led him to do some ridiculous things. If Childress and McDaniels were literary figures, I'd say Childress was more of a Willy Loman. He's got his tragic flaws, sure, and he's convinced that he's capable of great things, but in the end he's doomed by his very nature, with no real chance of ever saving himself. Meanwhile, McDaniels is Julius Caesar- actually capable of greatness, amply warned of his forthcoming demise, perfectly capable of averting disaster, but too proud, stubborn, foolhardy, and convinced of his own invincibility to bother.

53 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I think "one of the best" is a stretch. He has his system, which is a great system (especially with respect to the passing game), and he does a great job at running it... but that's all he runs. One scheme, one system, and the talent that he wound up inheriting be damned. The best coordinators can tailor their schemes to fit their personnel rather than trying to shoehorn the personnel to fit a scheme for which they are a terrible fit.

57 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

That sounds like it should be true, but I'm just not sure it is. Look at Mike Martz: brilliant co-ordinator, always brings a big uptick in offensive performance wherever he goes, always runs his own scheme (and usually promptly gets canned for it). Look at Kubiak and Shanahan. I really can't think of a top flight offensive coach now in the league who radically adjusts his system based on the available talent. Bill Walsh in Cincinnati, sure, but that's a long time ago now . . .

60 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Ok, that's probably fair - Cameron's pretty clearly a good co-ordinator, and definitely does change his scheme more than the others mentioned based on the talent available. I'd still probably rather have any of Martz, Shanahan, Kubiak or McDaniels running my offense, though they do all share with Cameron head coaching histories which suggest they should be kept as far away as possible from the other side of the ball . . .

61 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Martz doesn't always bring a big uptick in offensive performance. The 2007 Niners ranked 32nd in offense, and when Martz arrived in 2008 he drove them all the way up to... 27th. Chicago's offense was 28th last year, and 28th this year. Detroit's offense was 29th the year before he arrived, and 28th in his first season. In fact, other than the 1999 St. Louis Rams, Mike Martz has never once presided over an offense that saw a significant uptick in his first season... and I'd say that with the benefit of hindsight, those Greatest Show On Turf Rams are probably far more a product of Dick Vermeil than of Mike Martz (check out Kansas City's offensive DVOA values under Vermeil if you disagree). Mike Martz doesn't improve the quality of offenses when he installs his schemes, he simply shifts production from one area (the running game) to another area (the passing game), and makes gains in one area (total yardage) at the expense of another area (turnovers).

As for Kubiak and Shanahan... yes, let's look at Kubiak and Shanahan, shall we? I absolutely agree that those two guys are two of the best and brightest offensive minds in the entire league. They took over in Denver in 1995. From 1995 to 1998, they were blessed with HoF or near-HoF caliber players at QB, RB, WR, TE, LT, and C, so their strengths were literally "absolutely everything". They designed an offense that played to those strengths, in that it was awesome at absolutely everything. Then, they replaced Elway (a very mobile QB) with Griese (a decidedly less mobile QB) and Davis (a very competent RB) with a string of less talented RBs, and the Broncos morphed into a pocket passing offense from 1999-2001. They had some solid success with that, culminating in 2000 where they were the 3rd best offense in the league by DVOA. Then the Broncos jettisoned Griese for Plummer, who was a completely different mold. Plummer was at his best on the move, so the Broncos changed their offense to a rollout-heavy unit with lots of moving pockets and naked bootlegs. They also brought in Ashley Lelie and incorporated a huge deep-ball element that hadn't been featured before. At the same time, Clinton Portis's arrival heralded Denver's transition back towards a run-first philosophy, finally culminating in the 2005 team that was probably one of the three most heavily run-based offenses of the last decade (along with the early-Roethlisberger Steelers and the early-Sanchez Jets). After that, Kubiak wound up skipping town before Shanahan morphed his offense yet again, building around a more prototypical pocket passer in Jay Cutler and creating yet another offensive juggernaut in the 2008 offense that attempted 620 passes vs. just 387 rushes.

Speaking of Kubiak skipping town, take a look at what he was doing in Houston. His first year in Houston he was stuck with David Carr, who was terrible, so he built his offense around a comically short passing game (Carr actually led the league in completion percentage in 2006, but averaged an almost unfathomable 9.2 yards per completion). Then Kubiak got Matt Schaub and Steve Slaton, and he built himself a nice balanced offense. Then Steve Slaton realized that he was terrible, so Kubiak morphed the 2009 Texans into a pass first, pass second, pass last football team. This year, Kubiak got himself a running back again, so his offense did a complete 180 and became a run-first unit.

Meanwhile, over in Washington, check out the Redskins' season-ending ranks. Washington ranked 4th in the NFL in pass attempts, and 31st in rush attempts. Why? Well, a lot of that has to do with Washington just being a bad team, but even if you account for that, the Redskins were still much more pass-happy than has been the norm for Shanahan. In the seven games where Washington either won or went to overtime, the Redskins called 259 passes to 181 rushes, a ratio (58.9%) that's not too far off from their season average (63.3%), despite the fact that winning teams are more likely to run the ball. Those 7 games featured a game where McNabb got 50 attempts, a game where McNabb got 49 attempts, a game where McNabb got 38 attempts, and a game where Rex Grossman got 38 attempts. That's a radical departure from his playcalling for most of his Denver career. Why? Because his offense had better personnel in the passing game than in the rushing game.

Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak are the perfect examples of tweaking your scheme to fit your personnel. They've both got their personal preferences that will show through over a long enough timeline (especially as they get a chance to slowly acquire players that fit what they're trying to do), but both have also demonstrated a radical willingness to make dramatic season-to-season shifts in philosophy based on the personnel that they have on the roster. That's why Shanahan and Kubiak are some of the greatest offensive minds in the NFL, while McDaniels is just a guy with an awesome passing system.

62 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Ordinal rankings are a bad way to measure how much an offense is changing. Martz doesn't control if other offenses get better or worse, just the team he is coaching. Here is the list of teams he coached, with the year prior to him joining to the year after he leaves.

2007 49ers: -31.3 -28.2
2008 49ers: -11.3 -11.4
2009 49ers: -10.2 -6.4

2005 Lions: -18.5 -15.0
2006 Lions: -13.4 -16.5
2007 Lions: -9.5 -10.3
2008 Lions: -20.6 -19.3

2009 Bears: -16.8 -17.0
2010 Bears: -12.0 -5.3

Looks like he has had a positive influence on every team, although you could argue the 49ers just had improving personnel.

64 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I guess it depends a bit what you understand by "scheme". I tend to take the term as being primarily about play design, rather than play-calling, so shifts in the run-pass balance, or in the frequency of max-protect, for example, aren't really schematic changes - just changes in the frequency with which certain plays or groups of plays within the scheme are called. I haven't been watching football long enough to address the Elway Broncos or the shift thence to Griese, but it seems to me that there is a reasonably identifiable style of offense which should be viewed as the Shanahan-Kubiak variant on the classic Bill Walsh WCO, involving primarily zone-blocking in the run game, not much shotgun and a significantly higher than usual proportion of naked play action rollouts intended to get the ball deep in the passing game, lots of quick slants, lots of plays which involve a deep cross underneath an even deeper post from the same side, not that many fades (especially compared to what one might expect in the redzone) or deep outs, undersized, athletic linemen, small, quick tight ends with great hands . . .

They may not always have a mobile quarterback, but the scheme would always benefit from one; Schaub is certainly effective in the system, but the rollouts would work better and be called even more frequently if he was a threat to run.

The 2006 (and to a lesser extent 2007) Texans are, I agree, an interesting case. Kubiak, in his first season as a head coach, hired a hugely experienced offensive assistant in Mike Sherman, and the team tried to incorporate large elements of Sherman's offense into Kubiak's. In particular, there was far more man blocking in the run game. It didn't work particularly well - both in that those teams weren't terribly good at running the ball and that play action appeared to be a lot less convincing and effective. Yes, the 2006 Texans offense (and 2006 Carr) were much more effective than their 2005 counterparts, but the 2005 Texans were such an all-in meltdown that practically anything would have been. Carr was far better in 2004, with training wheels off and a healthy Johnson, than in 2006. These elements were reduced in 2007 (despite Sherman's move from AHC-offense to offensive co-ordinator with the departure of Troy Nolan) and almost completely eliminated by 2008 (when Sherman left, Alex Gibbs arrived, Kyle Shanahan became offensive co-ordinator, and Kubiak took over playcalling duties himself). I'm not sure you can really call the 2006 Texans a Kubiak offense, at least not entirely.

7 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I object to Darius Heyward-Bey's exclusion. And did Jared Veldheer's run blocking really keep him off the list? They guy has potential as a pro, and he is gutsy, but the sacks, the penalties, the more penalties...

10 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Not that the Bears line doesn't deserve tons of criticism, but Williams was playing guard to help with continuity, not because he is incapable of playing left tackle. Omiyale is probably more deserving of the award.

14 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I think it's that Omiyale is an even bigger disaster at guard than he is at tackle, and the Bears simply didn't have another solution at guard.

I really doubt Williams would have been worse than Webb at tackle given how he performed last year.

I'm going to guess the starting lineup next year looks like this: Williams-new guard-Kreutz-Garza-Omiyale. Although I'm hoping they replace Omiyale too.

11 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Kentwan Balmer was bad, but not All-KCW bad. He didn't start the season as a starter, and he was promoted to replace Red Bryant after Bryant went on IR. Just your classic case of backup asked to fill a hole that he isn't prepared to fill. I feel like All-KCW should be for players who were planned/hoped to be successful starters and failed, not for guys who are overmatched band-aids, except in cases of epic failure. I do not have another nominee to present in his place, I am merely criticizing from the peanut gallery.

13 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Given that I've heard Kyle Williams talked about as an all-pro at Nose Tackle there must be some absolutely horrific play going on at other positions in the Bills' front seven for their run defence to be 31st in DVOA. Unfortunately I know nothing about them, so can any Bills fans enlighten us?

15 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Williams was pretty incredible this year, but Marcus Stroud is pretty clearly done (Spencer Johnson wasn't noticeably bad).

The real problem with the Bills is that the linebackers, Posluzny aside (he's slow, but generally ok), were just horrible. Kyle Williams could blow up the middle of the offense all day and teams would just run to the edges where the linebackers were unable to shed any blocks.

16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Absolutely. Stroud was not completely ineffective at DE, but he's clearly not strong in the scheme. Dwan Edwards was playing very well as the other DE, until he was injured. Spencer Johnson played much better than you might expect for another 3-tech DT converted to 3-4 DE.

Chris Kelsay was abjectly bad during his transition to OLB, failing both to get any pressure on QBs (until they switched back to 4-3 fronts later in the season) and showing a complete inability to even show up for running plays in which he might be expected to set the edge. He is my #1 candidate for the All-KCW team at linebacker, and it's a travesty he wasn't picked. Poz is mentioned above, and may still be adjusting to life in the 3-4 (a while back the Cover-7 article mentioned how GB's LBs needed a year to grow into effective play). The Scramble writers covered everything you need to know about the other ILB, a sort of zombie creation formed by parts of Davis and Ayodele. The other OLB was a committee of late-round (or undrafted) rookies who were all asked to share a jersey labeled "NOT MAYBIN." They were actually kind of impressive, adjusting your expectations as appropriate for late-round (and undrafted) rookies, and adding a few bonus points for critically injuring Favre.

19 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I totally forgot about Moats - he got a lot better as the season went on and looks like he could be a keeper, but yeah - that Davis/Ayodele ILB slot needs to be filled with somebody competent and Kelsay should stick to being the DE in 4-3 fronts and have someone (anyone!) else play that OLB position.

I also keep trying to remind myself that Maybin is only 21. A little bit of hope makes it sting less.

18 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I nominate Bobby Carpenter as special teams player for managing to get the Dolphins special teams coach fired midseason for his awful play against the Patriots. To add insult, he was identified by Jets' coach Mike Westoff as someone who shouldn't be in the NFL.

22 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Hard to pick on Grimm, he was a seventh-round rookie who was thrown in as starter, and really played OK. Not great, but significantly better than he expected. Better than Corey Lynch, at any rate. Tampa's pass defense was certainly better than its run defense, though a lot of that had to do with Talib's really nice year pre-injury and the fact that Ronde Barber, while no longer the stud he was, is still going strong.

31 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I think the pick of Abram Elam really missed the mark, he was bad last year, but this year was actually improved, and basically average, certainly not one of the worst safeties in the league. Also he did play free safety this year with TJ Ward playing strong safety. As far as the numbers go, that 22nd ranking was influenced a lot by injuries, especially the one to Scott Fujita, at the end of the year, otherwise the run D was only slightly below average. Also the Browns were 12th in DVOA against tight ends and 14th in DVOA against backs.

Basically for the Browns this year they didn't have any glaringly bad players that deserved mention other than their wide receiver corps, and perhaps Eric Wright, but Wright was only terrible over the first half of the year until he was replaced by Joe Haden. The Browns were more a slightly below average team playing against a very difficult schedule with some injury issues.

34 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Is there such a thing as the KCW, oh say, 3-year-achievement team? I mean, making the 1-year KCW list can happen if a team is stuck with an injury crisis and limited options. But if someone can hang around sucking for 3 years and no one that's an accomplishment

56 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

The Can't Cover Browns.

Seriously, dude has now had six seasons as an NFL starter, with three different teams, while being absolutely freakin' terrible. And it's not like he was some high draft pick who teams pick up on the off-chance that he really can be the player people thought he would: he's a 6th rounder who plays like a 6th rounder, a slow box safety who can't tackle.

39 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

I know there was strong "competition" for the spot, but I still feel like Alan Ball should be on this team.

I'm also upset that you passed up the chance to troll Jets fans by nominating Mark Sanchez as your QB.

55 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2010 All-KCW Team

Sanchez wouldn't be awful, in terms of single players who (almost!) ruined everything for their team alone. I can't believe more players weren't nominated from the Goliath of suck that is Carolina (196 points in 16 games).