Scramble for the Ball

Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: The Pro Football Hall of Fame released its new list of semifinalists last month: the 25 modern-era candidates who will be reduced to the 15 whose candidacies will then be discussed (along with two senior nominees) by the Hall of Fame selectors the day before the Super Bowl. How the selectors get from the list of 15 down to the five finalists, who then receive an up or down vote, is a complicated process with an abundance of messy internal politics. Your Scramble writers have no control over that process, so we're going to ignore that and do the same thing we did last year -- namely, focus our discussion on the first-year eligibles among that group: Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Edgerrin James, Ty Law, Kevin Mawae, Orlando Pace, Junior Seau and Kurt Warner.

Mike: This year is the Greatest Show On Turf, apparently.

Tom: Apparently so. It's too bad Marshall Faulk didn't play another six years or however many he would have needed to play to be here too.

As we mentioned when we looked at last year's semifinalists, the actual Hall of Fame voting process includes narrowing the list of 25 semifinalists down to 15 finalists, who are then narrowed down to 10 and then to five actual finalists, who then receive a yes-or-no vote.

Mike: We, however, are really impatient.

Tom: Yes, we're skipping all that messy process to render our own votes on these players, yes or no or maybe or whatever.

Mike: And as an added bonus, we can bypass the process whereby deserving candidates are often overlooked so the committee can select Yet Another Wide Receiver.

Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt

Tom: Fine, let's start there.

Despite what I just said about ignoring the Hall of Fame voting process, I'm having a hard time separating what we're doing from what the Hall of Fame selectors are doing. That goes particularly so with wide receivers, where the standard is "who the heck knows what the standard is?" Between no-numbers Lynn Swann and only-numbers Art Monk, they've established they're fine going either direction. By putting Andre Reed in before Marvin Harrison, they put in a player basically everybody thinks is inferior and has an inferior record in first. And now we have two Rams receivers who are first-year eligibles. Whee. And you know wide receivers are going to keep coming up, because they accumulate numbers.

Mike: I think both Bruce and Holt are interesting in that their best years don't generally line up with Warner's best years. Perhaps Bruce does a bit more than Holt, but Bruce also had a fantastic sophomore campaign with Chris Miller throwing to him.

Tom: Well, Warner got hurt in 2000 and split time with Trent Green. If you combine their numbers, you have the NFL's second 5,000-yard passer (after Dan Marino in 1984).

Mike: If only our technology was advanced enough.

Tom: Plus, those 1995 and 1996 seasons are kind of why Bruce is a candidate at all. If his whole career had been as part of a great offensive machine, he's probably not a semifinalist.

Mike: If Bruce's 1996 was actually as good as his 1995 campaign, or any of his Warner seasons, I'd be more inclined to give him more consideration. As it is he's firmly ensconced in the Hall of Very Good.

Tom: I'm about at the point with wide receivers that I am with running backs, that if they're not especially great, I'm just saying no. I mean, if we're looking at an offensive tackle with four Pro Bowls and zero AP All-Pro nominations, does he get any support for the Hall of Fame?

Mike: He wouldn't get any consideration if he had five AP All-Pro nominations and ten Pro Bowls. Because he is an offensive tackle.

Tom: The sort speculated about by somebody who thinks wide receivers are so popular because they get numbers.

Mike: Now that we're bumping up against the ultraliberal passing era, it's only going to get worse before it gets better.

Tom: Easy to say Isaac Bruce was a good player because he caught 1,024 passes, which ranks eighth in NFL history. (To this point.) Yes, the Hall of Fame will either have to go numbers-whacky (Art Monk) or completely numbers-averse (Lynn Swann, Reed over Harrison).

Holt, eh, for some reason he never made the same sort of mental impression on me Bruce did.

Mike: Holt was also excellent after Warner's decline and absence, in a way that Bruce never was.

Tom: Sure, Bruce had the pre-Warner production, Holt the greater post-Warner production. Bruce is also older. I'm not sure Holt's 93 catches for a 3-13 Rams team in 2007 makes much difference to me.

Also, we've gotten to this point without mentioning our stats. Bruce had four top-ten DYAR seasons, plus three more in the top 20, including 11th in 2006. Holt had four top-ten seasons, plus three more in the top 20, including a pair of 12th-ranked seasons. When we ran career DYAR to date before the 2013 season, Bruce and Holt ranked fifth and eighth.

Given my general peevishness at the position, I'm inclined to throw up my hands and declare "no non-great wide receivers" and just say no on Bruce and Holt, but it won't bother me if they get in.

Mike: I think I agree with you. The biggest problem is that Kurt Warner's peak was so brief. If we had, say, six years of peak Kurt Warner, the stats for Holt and Bruce would probably be ridiculous.

Tom: Aunt, balls, uncle, you know the joke.

Mike: But unlike other Very Good wide receivers who were part of all-time offenses, they couldn't just stick around and sit at the top of the league for nearly as long. I'm inclined to say pass on both as well.

Tom: Also, considering Mike Martz, Kurt Warner six-year peak probably includes three seasons on injured reserve.

Edgerrin James

Tom: When we did a comparable best running backs article, James finished seventh in career rushing DYAR. He had seven seasons in Indianapolis, six of them healthy, and finished top eight in DYAR in five of them.

Mike: And top-eight by DVOA in three of them. Which is important, it shows that James was producing a lot of quality rushing yards.

Tom: Yup. He was a good back.

Mike: And not just putting up empty numbers.

Tom: Playing on a team with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne for some of the time.

Mike: It's kind of funny, I always mentally devalued James because of his proximity to Peyton Manning.

Tom: He was really good. He was a lot runner than Joseph Addai.

Mike: A lot runner, indeed.

Tom: A lot better runner. Sheesh.

Mike: But yes, we have the advantage of seeing another running back in a similar situation perform significantly worse than James did. The thing that did stick out to me about James was his vision. The Colts basically ran a stretch play every run, and James' instincts and vision gave him the ability to figure out exactly when and where to cut. As we just said, Addai, in the same system largely with the same runs, just couldn't get the job done, and I think in retrospect that patient, lateral running style probably helped Manning as much as Manning's passing helped James.

Tom: The Colts ranked in the top half of the league in Open Field Yards Per Carry in only one of James' six healthy seasons.

Mike: Well, probably not as much, it's Peyton Manning. But still. James deserves a spot.

Tom: They ranked fifth in 1999, not higher than 19th in any other season.

Mike: I don't think that's an indictment of James. By the time he's moving upfield the defense has already had time to begin converging.

Tom: Indictment? No. But I think it does indicate the running game was a complement to the passing game, not the driver of the offense.

Mike: I think it's hard to argue that any rushing offense would drive a Peyton Manning team, but I do think they fed off each other brilliantly.

Tom: James was a really good player. But in thinking about the Hall of Fame, I don't know how you can say "this guy was a really good complementary player in his prime, and that makes him a Hall of Famer." It's almost as absurd as the Steve Tasker arguments. (Yes, John Stallworth is in the Hall of Fame. We're not actually trying to replicate the selectors' mistakes.)

Mike: I think you can make an exception when the player he's complementing is the greatest sportsman of all time.

Tom: He has no real positive value to his career outside playing with Peyton. His years with Peyton weren't notably that much more successful than the Peyton years that came after it. He was a really, really good player, but I want to see something really special before I put a back into a Hall of Fame already overloaded with backs.

Just because, here is his P-F-R page. Like Bruce, four Pro Bowls, one AP All-Pro nod.

I'm not going to kick him out if he makes it, but I have plenty of other priorities.

Ty Law

Tom: P-F-R page. Five Pro Bowls, two-time first-time AP All-Pro. Played a position that is not ridiculously overrepresented in the Hall of Fame. Key part of 2001, 2003 Super Bowl champions led by their defense.

Mike: Really doesn't have that great advanced stats.

Tom: Which advanced stats are you referring to?

Mike: Ours. Stop rate in particular.

Tom: Eh, I don't care much about stop rate for corners. Their primary job is pass coverage. And we only have charting stats for the late, post-New England stages of his career.

Mike: The real problem is that we don't have charting stats for the years we really care about, honestly.

Tom: Yes, so we're stuck relying on contemporary recollections and a bunch of anecdata.

Mike: Which is a real problem for Law because he seemed to have his biggest games in the postseason. Which is great if you want to get into Canton, but we're trying to avoid that sort of bias. It's hard to discern whether Law was just a really outstanding cornerback or one of the all-time best.

Tom: Right now I'm trying to pretend I don't have deep underlying trauma from his pick-sixes of Steve McNair in 1998 and 2003. Well, not so much the 1998 one, but the 2003 one, because I predicted it while listening to the radio broadcast.

Mike: You truly were the McNair Whisperer.

Tom: Alas, "Don't run a play! Just let it go to the two-minute warning! You're going to throw the quick slant or quick out to Derrick Mason and Ty Law will pick it and take it back!" went unheard, and so it was to be.

Mike: In the end, I think I'm willing to give Law the benefit of the doubt. Yes, it's largely anecdotal, but the anecdotes are awesome.

Tom: Yeah, I'm not so absolutely sure that Law was as great as I remember thinking he was. But it's at least highly plausible that he was, and I trust what me who understood so little about football at the time thought then.

Kevin Mawae

Tom: P-F-R page. Eight Pro Bowls, thrice AP All-Pro. His last Pro Bowl in particular is a great example of Pro Bowl voting. Because Chris Johnson ran for 2000 yards and Mawae was a famous player on the offensive line, he got a free trip to Hawaii. In fact, he was one of the worst starting centers in the league that season.

The best move he ever made was signing with the Jets in free agency. If he had played in Seattle and then Tennessee, he probably never would have become famous and never would have come close to the Hall of Fame. Instead, he joins the Jets and they go 12-4 and make it to the AFC Championship Game his first season. He seems like a good guy, an offensive lineman who's friendly to the media, and becomes famous and earns lots of accolades. If he didn't play a position where it's almost impossible to make the Hall of Fame, I'd probably hate him.

Mike: His role as NFLPA president probably helped.

Tom: I'd counter that by saying he probably doesn't get there without that other stuff first. But you're right, that helps too even if it's not supposed to be part of the discussion.

Mawae's candidacy raises the issue of positional value. He's more decorated than Holt or Bruce or James or even Law. But he's a center, shouldn't he have to be that much better? How much difference do centers really make?

Mike: Rooting for a team that went from consistently having great centers to having just good centers, I can tell you the difference is fairly pronounced.

Tom: My general point of view, especially since Mawae played in a largely 4-3 era of the NFL, is it's not that big a deal. Yes, I supported Dermontti Dawson, but I thought Dawson was better.

Mike: I don't think anyone is actually going to make the argument that Dawson wasn't better.

What I want to avoid is to being like you, and using friendliness and humanity as negatives against someone.

Tom: Believe me, that's not the first time I've heard words along those lines. And hey, we'll talk about those when we get to Kurt Warner.

Mike: But I just don't see anything about Mawae that screams "put me in the Hall." Which might not be fair, but the way linemen are selected for the Pro Bowl is such a shambles it's hard to put any stock in nominations. Since those selections are largely Mawae's case, I have to reluctantly say no.

Tom: Good player for a long time, won't complain at all if he makes it, but I'm not a huge fan of his candidacy. I just think friendliness and humanity can be important factors in peripherals for players at a position where you don't really accumulate individual statistics.

Orlando Pace

Tom: P-F-R page. Seven Pro Bowls, three times AP All-Pro.

Mike: Is there anyone who seriously believes that Pace should not be in the Hall? I think that's the real question.

Tom: As we mentioned last year, Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, and Pace cleverly timed their retirements so they wouldn't come up against each other in the Hall of Fame voting process.

Given the Hall voting process, I wouldn't be surprised by anything.

Mike: Nobody will say they don't think he is deserving.

Tom: For the sake of what we do, though, I don't think there's much to think about here.

Mike: They'll just give some mealy mouthed nonsense about strategic voting or whatever.

Tom: Or anything to think about, even.

Mike: Orlando Pace is the reason Kurt Warner is still alive. I can say that with absolute certainty. Considering what a challenge that was, he should be in the Hall of Fame.

Tom: Meanwhile, Mike Martz wonders why his offense hasn't worked nearly as well elsewhere.

Junior Seau

Tom: That's Junior Seau! R.I.P.

P-F-R page. Twelve Pro Bowls, six times AP All-Pro. Is he even more of a lock than Pace? Is it worth even pondering the answer to that question?

Mike: Now I'm just sad.

Tom: I don't blame you.

Mike: He's probably more of a lock than Pace, yes. Not necessarily because he is more deserving than Pace, but because they are both shoo-ins and Seau now represents such a tragedy.

Tom: For this, let's just remember the great football player he was and try to put aside, if only for the moment, the impact of football on him and others. If we get on that, I don't think I'll finish this column, or maybe any others.

Mike: Tangentially, the Illinois High School Association became the first state high school organization to be sued over safety issues. Someone, somewhere needs to sit down and have a hard think about player safety and how it relates to the rules, instead of nibbling around the edges. Change is not coming fast enough, and despite my colleagues' best efforts to keep the sport as safe as possible, we are still staring at an abyss of risk and non-participation at the lower levels. The NFL, NCAA, and federation need to start talking to doctors and coaches instead of lawyers.

Kurt Warner

Tom: P-F-R page.

Scott went in-depth on Warner's Hall of Fame case in the offseason. Great human. Seems like a wonderful guy. Took a Ken Whisenhunt-coached team to the Super Bowl, and Whisenhunt is now 3-21 in his last 24 games as head coach. Great postseason performances.

Mike: Amazing story, and basically the poster child for peak vs. longevity. Personally, I think the combination of absurd peak and human interest are just too much to resist.

Tom: Four top-ten DYAR seasons, in three of which he led his team in passing DVOA (min. 250 att.).

Mike: It's probably not the best response from a football purist's perspective, but the NFL really should celebrate a player who manages to go from nothing to being on top of the sport's world.

Tom: Fifth in career passing DYAR when we ran the best quarterbacks numbers, though I'm sure Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, and Aaron Rodgers have passed him, and Carson Palmer is close.

I expect Warner to make it.

Mike: Well, it's also worth noting that Warner's team was really the bellwether for high-octane passing offenses in the NFL. So not only was Warner playing out of his mind, he was doing it in a very avant-garde sort of way.

Tom: The 1999 Rams were the bellwether for "beating up on a bunch of bad defenses." His YAR-to-DYAR gap for that season is almost 300. That's absurd.

Mike: Like I said, those teams provided a blueprint for other teams going forward. Or have you forgotten that half of our team comments in our over/under series were "well, the secondary is bad ..."

Tom: His other seasons aren't quite so inflated (well, 2009's differential was +200), but he definitely benefited from playing most of his career in the NFL's weakest division.

Mike: Are we going to hold that against Tom Brady when he comes up?

Tom: A couple years ago, I actually thought about spearheading the "Just Say 'No' to Kurt Warner for the Hall of Fame" case. Now, I don't have the kind for that fight, or indeed most fights of that nature.

Without checking the numbers, I'd say the AFC East has been respectable defensively for much of Brady's tenure. It's been more bad offenses than the defenses that have helped ensure the Patriots' long run.

Mike: I think you're giving Buffalo's and Miami's defenses too much credit for current performance. In any case, an enthusiastic yes for Warner from me.

Tom: He's going to make it. I wouldn't vote for him. Minimal non-peak value, and the peak wasn't long enough. He started more than 11 games four times in his career. Four! I mean, that's the same as Terrell Davis, poster child for peak vs. longevity at running back, and top backs generally have shorter careers than top quarterbacks.

I'm starting to get exercised again, and I told myself I wouldn't. Congratulations to Kurt Warner on his election to the Hall of Fame, and best of luck to all the candidates with the actual selectors.

Lessons Learned

Mike: Finding a radio affiliate on the interstate is hard.

Tom: Tell me about it.

Mike: Cell data is spotty unless you're near a city and Westwood One's website isn't particularly good at telling you where particular stations are. Or even if that station is carrying the program you searched for. It seems to just give you stations that carry any Sunday football at any time.

Tom: My Sunday road trips in football season tend to be to Indianapolis, and my only hope is that the Bears are playing when the Titans and Colts were not.

Mike: We managed to stay tuned to football for most of the four-hour trip, but that was largely due to the herculean efforts of my wife.

Tom: No satellite radio for you, I presume?

Mike: We don't drive with enough frequency to make satellite radio worthwhile.

Tom: I'm in the same boat. That just makes it catch-as-catch-can when you're on a road trip on a football weekend. I remember listening to a Kentucky-Tennessee game on four different stations as I went in and out of reception range on one road trip. Granted, that was college, not the NFL, but the principle is a similar one.

Beyond satellite radio, what's the solution? Make life easier for travelers through good customer service? We're not interested in starting any revolutions here, Mike!

Mike: Neither is Westwood One, apparently.

Tom: Touche.

I'm tempted to draw a lesson out of my decision to play Brandon Marshall over DeAndre Hopkins, even though I still won my fantasy game fairly comfortably. About how it shouldn't matter that Marshall was my second-round pick and Hopkins was catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick. I'm not quite sure what that lesson would be, aside from updating your perspective based on results and taking into account opponent matchups. But I did that, or I think I did. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have even considered playing Hopkins over Marshall rather than agonizing over the decision until Thursday morning around 11:15. I suppose that's kind of like all the KUBIAK users who had Jerome Harrison on their bench when he went for 48 points some number of years ago. You think and you obsess, and then you pays your money and you takes your chances and sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong. And if you win you tell yourself how brilliant you were and if you lose you tell yourself how dumb you were.

Loser League Update

Full Loser League results for the week that was and the season to date are available on the results page. Each week, Scramble highlights the top scorers at each position.

Quarterback: A pair of quarterbacks who started the season and have spent time on the bench when healthy put up the worst scores of the week. Both Jake Locker and Geno Smith managed just 2 points each thanks to less than 100 yards passing and turnovers (one for Smith, three for Locker to help offset his touchdown pass).

Running backs: I am shocked, shocked, shocked to see Trent Richardson atop the Loser League scoreboard with just 1 point. Devonta Freeman and Frank Gore may have had 3.0 and 3.6 points in your (non-PPR) league but managed just 2 Loser League points.

Wide receivers: It was a good week for low wide receiver scores, as nineteen of them had two or fewer points. Standing atop that group were Pierre Garcon and Eric Weems, who each managed 0 points thanks to just 9 receiving yards each.

Kicker: Oakland's only trip inside the Rams 30 ended with a Matt Schaub fumble on a sack, so it turned out that when Tony Sparano bypassed the 55-yard field goal attempt to cut it to 21-3 early in the second quarter, it was assured that Sebastian Janikowski's day would end with a 0. Sort of.


Keep Chopping Wood: A long day for Buccaneers center Garrett Gilkey became even longer when his holding penalty in the final minute knocked the Buccaneers out of field-goal range.

Mike Martz Award: Of course, the Buccaneers had more than one mistake on that final drive, for which Lovie Smith and the rest of the coaches must take the blame. Gilkey did not even have the only costly penalty of the drive, as the Bucs played with 12 men and used their advantage to get to field-goal range. Your Scramble writers will avoid delving into a discussion of the officiating of the 12-man penalty, but the Bucs did play with 12 men. Oh, and Gilkey's penalty also came on a first down run with :43 to play with the Bucs out of timeouts and at the Bengals 31-yard line. Fitting, then, that the event giving rise to the Marv Levy Seminar on the Wisdom of Settling for Long Field Goals took place in Tampa.

Emo Kid Band Lock of the Week

Tom: We were both back to form last week, Mike.

Mike: I came so close.

Tom: Hey, at least you picked a team that won. The Raiders lost. I wasn't surprised by that. I thought it would be competitive.

Mike: I was surprised that you thought that.

Tom: It was a ridiculous laugher. And, true to form, I mentioned two other games. The Falcons upset the Cardinals at home. The Jaguars upset the Giants at home. But nooooooooooooooooo, I had to pick the Raiders, on the road, playing an early game. We are both now 4-7 on the year.

Mike: And we were doing so well.

Tom: One brief shining moment, when there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Now we have to win out to go over .500 in the regular season.

As always, lines are courtesy of Pinnacle Sports and were accurate as of time of writing. All picks are made without reference to the FO Premium picks.

Mike: Sadly, Pinnacle has done a really good job setting the lines on these games.

Tom: They must either not be using uniform color schemes to set the lines or must have one of those super-seers who can see many more colors than regular humans doing it.

Mike: This week's obvious trap seems to be Bills +10 at Broncos. I could see Buffalo's defense giving Peyton Manning some headaches, but that Kyle Orton offense is just so bad. I still don't trust the Lions, so I think I'll have to kick Oakland around a bit more.

Tom: Really? You're going to trust Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense to cover a spread of more than a touchdown?

Mike: I'm going to trust San Francisco's excellent defense to beat the snot out of Derek Carr and get a bunch of turnovers, which Colin Kaepernick can turn into a bunch of field goals to beat the spread of more than a touchdown. San Francisco 49ers -8 at Oakland Raiders.

Tom: When you mentioned obvious traps, the first inclination I had was actually the Thursday night contest. The Cowboys are 3.5-point favorites on the road against the Bears. I recognize last year's game was last year, and both teams have the full week of rest after playing last Thursday. DVOA suggests that line is inflated by a couple points. On the other hand, picking that game requires that I trust in A) a Mel Tucker-coordinated defense that makes way too many simple mistakes and/or B) the offense, which seems to be similarly mistake-prone of late. I know, Dallas does not have a particularly good defense, but the Bears offensively don't seem to be working well enough on their own.

Game No. 2 I'll regret not picking is Philadelphia against Seattle. Seattle has been as hot as any team in football lately. In particular, the return of Bobby Wagner has boosted the defense. Yes, I know, Mark Sanchez will throw the ball to the other team for no good reason, and Seattle can give him good reasons. But I also know Chip Kelly can scheme receivers open, and the Legion of Boom still isn't what it was last year. Plus, the Eagles have had great success at times with their rush packages, and I don't trust Seattle's offensive line to hold up. This line should be closer to -4 than -1, even as a late game.

Instead, though, I'll take a road underdog, the Kansas City Chiefs. More particularly, I'm picking against Drew Stanton and Arizona's ability to score points. The Chiefs have a pair of talented edge rushers in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, a wrecker in the middle of the line in Dontari Poe, and are schemed well enough Arizona won't move the ball except by hitting the Random Deep Ball Lottery.

Mike: And that is different from the usual Arizona offense how?

Tom: While Arizona has a fine defense, they have been vulnerable to tight ends and have good corners. Well, the Chiefs don't have wide receivers and do have tight ends, including matchup threat Travis Kelce. Yes, Arizona is good against running backs, but I trust Jamaal Charles. This will probably be a low-scoring and competitive game, and I'm taking the Chiefs and the points. Kansas City Chiefs +1.5 at Arizona Cardinals.


25 comments, Last at 06 Dec 2014, 7:17pm

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Kevin from Philly // Dec 03, 2014 - 4:54pm

Curse you! Again, not picking against the Eagles.

Just out of curiousity, could you check the LL scoring doohicky. Not that I'm complaining, but I'm pretty sure I shoulda had some penalty points from Avant and/or Cordrelle Patterson

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6 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Tom Gower // Dec 03, 2014 - 11:54pm

From the Grand List o' Which Players Scored How Many Points, Patterson got the penalty for 15, while Avant got 3 points (2 catches, 30 yards with the Chiefs, as verified by the box score).

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2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Hang50 // Dec 03, 2014 - 5:14pm

"Anecdata" is my new favorite word.

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3 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by DEW // Dec 03, 2014 - 5:16pm

Watching the Baltimore-San Diego game, I would have bet money that D.J. Fluker would have won this week's KCW for forcing a fumble--actually punching the ball out--against his own teammate. But then San Diego went and won the game, giving Gilkey the edge for a much more mundane but much more damaging play.

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4 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by James-London // Dec 03, 2014 - 6:13pm

My LL team went from being 1st overall last week to not appearing in either of this week's lists. Is something goofy going on?

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

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7 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Tom Gower // Dec 03, 2014 - 11:59pm

I'll check. What was your team name?

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10 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by James-London // Dec 04, 2014 - 11:23am

Thanks Tom

PVS Leiderhosen

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

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11 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Tom Gower // Dec 04, 2014 - 12:43pm

There were two teams, yours and CagedOutlaw, where they weren't registered as having players at a particular position (one RB, the other K). Since that threw off the scores relative to other teams-I think your team was #1 because you weren't getting any RB points at all-those teams were scrubbed.

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14 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by James-London // Dec 04, 2014 - 2:09pm

That would explain it. Thanks for checking

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

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5 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by tunesmith // Dec 03, 2014 - 10:10pm

Orlando Pace, Junior Seau, Terrell Davis, don't care, don't care. Oh all right, Kurt Warner.

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8 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Jerry // Dec 04, 2014 - 7:10am

The Hall voting process matters. They're not necessarily picking the five best candidates every year, but recognizing that some players are coming to the end of their eligibility, and maybe balancing things a bit. In the specific case of "Reed over Harrison", Reed is part of the Carter/Reed/Brown logjam that's finally been broken. He went in this year, Tim Brown will go in next year, and neither is being compared to Marvin Harrison for this purpose. Harrison will be competing with Bruce and Holt (others will be added in future years) as more contemporary receivers, and the balance I mentioned may be what limits the number of guys at one position who are elected in any given year.

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9 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by David // Dec 04, 2014 - 9:18am

Yes, the voting process matters if you're trying to predict what will happen, but I think it's okay to ignore if you want to just rate/rank players as this article does.

I think the WR logjam you mention is very interesting, though, as I definitely think of Reed & Brown as being slightly earlier than, and in a different environment to, Harrison, Bruce & Holt. I guess Carter is there with Reed & Brown, but feels slightly later?

I think Bruce is an interesting case, in that he's probably the best player in the league for only a year or two at best (around the SB win) and his stats get quickly overtaken by players just a couple of years younger who are not necessarily much better, but the environment will make their stats a lot more impressive.

I don't think I would vote him into the HoF, but I wonder whether slightly different timing might give him a shot.

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12 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by MilkmanDanimal // Dec 04, 2014 - 12:44pm

Ah, bickering about the HOF process, one of my favorite NFL-related hobbies. It's stupid and pointless, but it's a fun stupid and pointless.

Junior Seau would have been a lock if he hadn't died a few years ago. Now, I doubt there will be a single person willing to speak against his candidacy. The speech to present him to the selectors will take about .3 seconds.

Orlando Pace, still a lock. What a freaking phenomenal era for offensive tackles we went through. It's amazing how well a quick-strike, send-everybody-out-into-the-pattern offense works when you have Orlando Pace guarding the QB's blind side.

Kurt Warner, he gets in. Great peak, great story, went to the BESTEST COLLEGE ANYWHERE (go Panthers, incidentally; I clearly have no extra affection for Kurt Warner based on what school he went to). Ridiculous numbers when he was on, and, even if your peak is short, if it's good enough to be the NFL MVP twice in three years, you get in. Yes, the obvious modern-day comparison is Terrell Davis, but Warner's peak was just better, plus he has the added bonus of having dragged Arizona to the Super Bowl. I'd be shocked if he didn't go in on the first ballot.

Nobody else from that list has a chance to get in. Bruce/Holt are guys who would have a hard time getting in just based on the WR logjam, and Pace/Warner are clearly superior candidates. There's no way there's THAT much Rams love in the room. Mawae is not going to get in, Edgerrin James won't have enough push to make it year one, and Ty Law maybe eventually, but he doesn't feel "first ballot-ish" to me. Throw in eventual candidacy from Woodson, Bailey, and Barber, and I think there's a potential CB logjam coming as well.

Also, if Bettis gets in (and I think there's sadly a decent chance he will), I look forward to throwing the kind of football fan hissy fit that makes my mocking of Andre Reed getting in look like nothing.

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13 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Mike Kurtz // Dec 04, 2014 - 1:39pm

Post-HoF Selection meltdowns are THE BEST kind of meltdowns!

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15 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by mrh // Dec 04, 2014 - 3:20pm

FWIW, here's the list of all semifinalists with their career weighted approximate value, career total AV, and sorted by the sum of the two to equally weight peak and total performance. AV is far from perfect but I think it does a reasonable job of sorting players into at tiers of performance:

player wtd av av sum
Junior Seau 127 188 315
Marvin Harrison 124 161 285
Will Shields 113 156 269
Kevin Mawae 109 154 263
Edgerrin James 114 136 250
Tim Brown 104 145 249
Isaac Bruce 102 137 239
Mike Kenn 95 138 233
Orlando Pace 101 123 224
Torry Holt 100 124 224
Kevin Greene 94 121 215
Roger Craig 95 115 210
Kurt Warner 96 113 209
Karl Mecklenburg 92 113 205
John Lynch 88 117 205
Ty Law 87 113 200
Joe Jacoby 82 103 185
Charles Haley 84 100 184
Jerome Bettis 79 102 181
Steve Atwater 78 98 176
Darren Woodson 76 95 171
Terrell Davis 72 79 151
Morten Andersen 51 97 148

This would say Seau is a lock, Harrison is a tier above everyone else, Shields and Mawae should get in soon (this may be Shields turn while Mawae has to wait).

Bruce and Holt are about equal on wtd (peak) AV, Bruce has a good deal more career value. Pace is not as good as the other lineman up for selection. James and Brown look like eventual selectees; I think the line should be about between Holt and Greene. Warner is a QB, and has a ring and an unlikely appearance in the SB to support his narrative, but he's "objectively" in a rough tier with Greene, Craig, Mecklenburg, Lynch, and Law. Those were all great players but would you think that was a HoF class if they went in together?

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17 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Mr Shush // Dec 05, 2014 - 10:11am

I'm all in favour of Will Shields getting in, but the fact that AV ranks Mawae ahead of Pace is a pretty compelling demonstration of its limitations as a metric.

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21 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by mrh // Dec 05, 2014 - 2:35pm

My gut reaction is that Pace was better than Mawae. And AV certainly has limitations.

But look what goes into the formula team offensive pts per drive adjusted for league average, with the offensive line getting credit for 5/11 of those points; games played and games started, wtd 5 times GP, further weighted by position with tackles weighted at 1.2 and centers at 1; and a multiplier for 1st tm all-pro (1.9), 2nd tm AP (1.6), and pro bowl (1.3 if not 1st or 2nd tm AP). Since both are lineman we can ignore whether or not the o-line gets too much/little credit vs. QBs or safeties or whatever.

So Pace gets a 20% premium for being a tackle, Mawae gets a heavy premium for starting 232 games to Pace's 161, and the AP/PB numbers also help Mawae (they both had 3 1st team APs but Mawae had 4 2nd tm and 2 addl PBs to Pace's 1/3).

AV says Pace's 4 best seasons (16+) were better than anything Mawae did. But Mawae had 8 seasons between 11 and 14 AV, Pace had none (one year of 10 AV). And Mawae had 4 years of 8 or 9 AV to Pace's one. I think this captures that Pace's peak - especially because he was playing LT in Martz's offense - easily beat Mawae's best. But Mawae's longevity was very valuable too.

To put that in context, the best center in the NFL had 11 AV last year and only 4 had 10+. Mawae did that 8 times. The 11th thru 18th best centers last year had 8 AV. Mawae had 12 years of average plus performance. The best 2013 tackle had 13 AV, Pace beat that 4 times and had another year that would have ranked in the top 32 last year.

As for the team pts/drive component, PFR has the data published from 1998 on. Mawae played for about league average offenses overall with only 1998 being more than 20% above league average - Pace was on four offenses better than that, including three that were 50-70% over the NFL average. Not surprisingly those were Pace's four great AV seasons. I probably should calculate the earlier year numbers but I think this captures the essence of the differences between AV and your perceptions of the relative merits (PFR's ELORate agrees with Pace aat #143 and Mawae at 347).

In terms of AV, I think it comes down to is it better to have 4 years of the best left tackle in the league or 8 years of the best center as a HoF criteria? AV likes the longer career of the lesser peak player. I would vote Pace in first but I don't think the gap is as big as many seem to. What do you think AV is missing from that process? Not weighting peak value enough? Not weighting Tackles higher vs. centers? Something else?

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25 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Mr Shush // Dec 06, 2014 - 7:17pm

I do indeed think both that AV doesn't weight peak performance highly enough and that it doesn't sufficiently weight tackles vs. centres, but there's more to it than that. It can't adequately break down responsibility for success within a unit, it's too reliant on the (shaky as hell) post-season awards, and - partly because of the above and particularly relevant to this case - it can't allow for variation in strength at a given position across the league as a whole over time. Pace was a close contemporary of multiple other all-time great tackles (Roaf, Ogden, Jones). Mawae played in a black hole era for centres, and got more awards than he should have even within that era (I think Kreutz and Mawae are very over-rated and Wiegmann very under-rated by those processes).

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16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Sakic // Dec 05, 2014 - 9:52am

I've said this before in other posts but I'll say it again. If Kurt Warner gets in the first person he should thank is Rodney Harrison for blowing out Trent Green's knee because otherwise he never sees the field and Green becomes the king of the greatest show on turf.

And for the record I think Kurt Warner is in the Hall of Very Good. His peak years were great but there was such a huge dip between 2002 and 2007 I couldn't put him in but I won't be surprised if he does make it.

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18 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Mr Shush // Dec 05, 2014 - 10:21am

I think Warner's case suffers if you ignore post-season performance, in the same way as (though to a lesser extent than) Montana's would. It's not just that he won a bunch of games, or went to the Superbowl with two teams; it's that his personal playoff performances were - at least statistically - even better than his regular season performances in those seasons. For a player with a short peak who played a lot of playoff games, it's pretty important to consider those games in assessing his case.

There are also the cool, unscientific but not meaningless stats, like the fact that he has the three highest passing yardage totals in Superbowl history (and all those games went down to the wire, two against good defenses and one against a truly great one). Or the best statistical single game in post-season history, in that blowout of the Packers. I think in a Hall of Fame case those count for something.

I also just don't count negatives at all in assessing players for the Hall. To me, a historically awful season, a kinda average season and a season where the player was out of the league should all count the same, which is to say not at all. I'm guessing that's just an irreconcilable philosophical difference in our approaches.

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19 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by SFC B // Dec 05, 2014 - 11:29am

I don't remember the AZ-GB game as a blowout... was there some other playoff game against GB where Warner blew them out?

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20 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by MilkmanDanimal // Dec 05, 2014 - 12:19pm

Wasn't a blowout, was just an amazing game by Warner. 29/33, 339 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs. He was near-perfect. The prior year (the SB run), he had an 11/3 TD/INT ratio in the playoffs in four games. I just can't imagine his consistently high performance in the playoffs isn't enough to push him over the top; once you mix them with two MVPs, helming one of the great offenses of all time, plus the "everybody loves his story" aspect, I just can't imagine he doesn't get in.

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24 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Mr Shush // Dec 06, 2014 - 7:11pm

You're right - poor choice of words. Warner destroyed the Packers defense, but the game was close, because Rodgers did the same to Arizona's.

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22 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by JonFrum // Dec 05, 2014 - 3:12pm

History has been re-written about the Patriots' Super Bowl win years. While it was happening, the talent really wasn't respected on defense. Now, I'm hearing that they did it with great defense, and Peyton Manning didn't have good players around him.

The Patriots did do it with defense, and it wasn't all Belichick tricknology - he had the horses to play his system. And Law was probably the best of them all, with Seymour a 1B. He wasn't one of the super-elite in the history of his position, but other than a hiccup after signing his first big contract, he was among the best of his era, and really did stand out in the post season.

I'd call Law a legit HOF choice, but it wouldn't bother me if he didn't make it on the first ballot.

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23 Re: Scramble for the Ball: First-Time HoF Semifinalists

by Mr Shush // Dec 06, 2014 - 7:10pm

I say yes to Law and no to Barber. I appreciate this may be a minority position around here.

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