Walkthrough: O, Little Town

Walkthrough: O, Little Town

by Mike Tanier

Carted Off

Nothing terrifies the fanbase like news that a star player was “carted off” during some routine training camp drill. You’re still trying to sort through all the baseball trading deadline news, and you still haven’t stuck one toe in the ocean: it’s too early for superstar cornerbacks or receivers to wind up on the PUP list!

Some of the veteran reporters at Eagles camp were joking this week about the phrase “carted off”. When we hear it, we all get the same mental image. A player writhing in agony, or worse, eerily motionless. The medical staff springing into action, immobilizing him and strapping him onto a gurney while his teammates kneel silently. The player staves off death’s embrace long enough to give the Mike Utley thumbs-up, and the hushed crowd stops praying long enough to provide encouraging applause. Then, it’s onto the cart, which goes straight to the ambulance, which goes straight to the helicopter that will take the player to Bethesda for the world’s first full-body transplant.

Most "carting-offs” are not like that.

During camp, no one wants to take a risk with even the most minor injury. The cart is sitting there. The cart driver is bored. The locker rooms are often a field or two away. It’s hot. And everyone loves a good cart ride. Often, the injured player can be seen sitting next to the driver, sipping a drink while (wisely) gingering an injury that even Aunt Gladys would soldier through if she had to. He’ll be back in a day or two, and if this was the playoffs, he wouldn’t leave at all.

The term "carted off,” then, is accurate without being precise. We may be better off saying that the player “left” the field unless there was evidence of something more serious.

But that wouldn’t be very dramatic, and if we removed the drama, someone might get wise to the fact that all we are doing is watching other men exercise.

Slouching off from Bethlehem

I spent two days at Eagles camp this week, preparing a Kevin Kolb feature for The New York Times while soaking up as much Eagles knowledge as I could absorb. Here, in no particular order, are my non-Kolb related notes.

King Dunlap is just crazy huge: 6-foot-9, 330 pounds. He towers over the other linemen, which isn’t really a good thing: remember that on the line, the low man almost always wins.

Eldra Buckley broke off a few nice runs against the backup defense. Buckley saw some action as a goalline back last year, but is fighting for a roster spot this season. Charles Scott also had a good run up the middle, breaking a bunch of tackles. Mike Bell showed some wiggle on inside runs and caught a few passes. This is the unfettered optimism of camp: when these guys are stuffed, it’s the defense that looks great.

The team ran a “field goal for the win” drill near the end of a Sunday practice. Kolb threw a short pass over the middle to Jeremy Maclin (uncontested, really; the defender backed off for the sake of the drill), then the offense ran up and spiked the ball. The kicking team then had to get onto the field without a timeout and kick a field goal for the win. The drill went off without a hitch. Akers nailed the kick.

Mike Kafka has been having a rough camp, according to the scuttlebutt. During one 11-on-11 drill, he threw a pass over the middle that Macho Harris should have intercepted, but the ball went through the safety’s hands. Monday drills were no different, with Kafka overthrowing a few receivers.

I watched the special teams drills with interest, in part because they were right in front of me. At one point, Quintin Mikell, as the gunner, fought through the block of some rookie and gave Jeremy Maclin a rough shove. “C’mon, brother!” shouted Maclin. Jason Avant hits hard during special teams drills.

Kelley Washington, new to the squad and with a reputation as a great special teamer, looks rusty. In an afternoon drill, Tracy White -- another special teams ace that the team released and then re-signed -- absolutely flattened Washington. “T-White is back, baby!” yelled Asante Samuel. Washington spoke at length about the importance of special teams in post-practice interviews on Monday. He knows it’s his calling card.

New special teams coach Bobby April, an FO favorite, called a variety of kick return plays during the full-team return drills. Some were tackle-trap plays, in which one of the outside blockers looped inside to block a defender in the middle of the field.

Some plays I saw the team work on against “air” (no defense): an option-pitch play with Kolb tossing to Shady McCoy, a reverse to Maclin, and a shovel pass from a trips-bunch formation.

Cornelius Ingram, who missed all of last season when his repaired ACL didn’t heal properly, ran with the second-team offense and looked healthy. Third tight end Clay Harbor is an impressive-looking hombre; at one point, Marty Mornhinweg coached him on the finer points of how to properly go in motion. Harbor is a small-school receiver still adjusting to the tight end position; I hope to get a look at him in some fourth quarters. Ingram is one of the best camp interviews. He joked on Monday about trying to prove himself as a fourth-string quarterback, if only to get out of some blocking drills. “I am so tired of seeing Trent Cole,” he said.

False start, Jason Peters!

Kevin Kolb threw an interception to Nate Allen during the afternoon blitz drills. It’s hard to tell from the field what his mistake was; it looked like a bad read, with Allen lurking in the middle. Overall, Kolb looked sharp. Vick still throws that beautiful, NFL Films-quality deep ball, even though it’s often off target, and he threw a couple of wobblers once the ball got slippery in the Sunday afternoon drizzle.

You can pick up a little of the substitution package terminology during 7-on-7 drills. “Pony” is a two-halfback backfield. “Tiger” is two tight ends, one running back. “Buffalo” is a three-wideout set with Leonard Weaver as the back. None of this is unusual, top-secret terminology – you can find much of it in coaching manuals – but it’s always instructive to hear it used in real life.

A Monday morning linebacker drill: the linebackers start off in a “cave,” basically a flat piece of canvas about five feet off the ground. Other linebackers, imitating an offensive line, get into three-point stances about seven yards away, with a coach behind them impersonating a running back. At the “hike,” the “offense” runs a play with a set blocking scheme – right, left, pull, draw, and so on. The linebackers must fire out of the cave, staying low, and calling the blocking scheme. Linebacker coach Bill Shuey reminds them that the Will linebacker, with the best view of the formation, must make the call loudest.

A Monday morning defensive line drill: coach Rory Segrest works with the defensive ends on how to react to different kinds of blocks. He works hard on the “down” block, which leaves the defensive end free. The unblocked end must take three short steps across the line of scrimmage but keep his shoulders square and watch the backfield action. Once he’s sure there’s no reverse, he can attack. Coach Segrest works hard on the finer points of foot and hand technique for other blocks. “Good contact, good pad level. Once you get there, lock your arms out,” he tells Ricky Sapp.

Sapp, Brandon Graham, and Daniel Te’o-Neisheim get a lot of extra reps during the defensive line drills. Trent Cole performs one or two reps, more as a demonstration.

Blitzing linebackers drill against blocking backs later on Monday morning. Shady McCoy gets too far upfield and misses a block, drawing some criticism from the coaches. A kid named Martell Mallett is knocked on his butt by another kid named Jamar Chaney, then gets beaten to the inside when given a second try. Leonard Weaver makes no such mistakes.

Full-team field goal drills. David Akers is wide right from 45 yards, then makes his second attempt. The team practices a fake: a shovel pass to Brent Celek. It needs work.

Full-team scrimmages: Here’s a quote from Kevin Noonan on the CBSSports.com Rapid Reports page: “Hit of the day: FB Leonard Weaver (250 pounds) ran a sweep at CB Macho Harris (200), and it should have been a mismatch. But Harris stood him up and drove him out of bounds, to the delight of the fans.” Weaver nearly crashed into me on this play, which would have hurt. To be precise, this was a little shotgun-option play, with Kolb pitching to Weaver after sliding along the left sideline. The Eagles worked a lot on these misdirection/option/reverse plays while I was there.

Ernie Sims has been hitting guys hard. Too hard. He was taken aside by coaches after an overzealous tackle, and the other reporters told me that the same thing happened on Saturday. Everyone who has been interviewed about Sims in camp has used the term “aggressive.” That’s fine, as long as you don’t hurt anyone in camp.

Winston Justice jumped offsides on two straight plays in a Monday full-team scrimmage. Dunlap replaced him for a few plays. J.J. Arrington, so new to the team that his name is not yet on his jersey, got some reps with the second team because Mike Bell was hurt. Arrington fumbles once, then drops a pass. Or, for a more positive slant: Trevor Laws did a nice job penetrating and forcing an Arrington fumble.

Final Impressions: Watching practice from the sidelines is a great way to learn technical points about the game: how a system is installed, where a lineman’s hands are supposed to go, and so on. In other words, it’s great for in-season Walkthroughs. As for scouting or getting a real impression of a team’s strengths and weaknesses, camp offers little, except for some one-handed catches by third-string tight ends and a few crowd-pleasing hits. The Eagles look sharp enough. Kolb knows what he’s doing. The offensive linemen don’t fall down when coming out of their stances. A few players, like Cole and Weaver, clearly demonstrate that they are a notch above the others. The emphasis on reverses and misdirection plays could be a sign of an adjusted offensive philosophy, or it could just be what the coaches felt like working on for two days.

Was there a “fresh” atmosphere? A sense of optimism? An overall aura of championship-caliber confidence? You know better than to ask me. The fans appear excited about the post-McNabb world, and most of the writers – myself included – are glad to have some new people to write about. The players were players: guys exercising in the Pennsylvania hills, preparing for a long season. Any suggestion that they possessed or lacked optimism, confidence, or swagger is purely an act of projection.

Blue Blood

We move from the Eagles to the Colts for a moment to talk to our good friend Nate Dunlevy of 18to88.com. Nate has written a book called Blue Blood, which is not an attempt to cash in on the vampire craze, but a history of the Indianapolis Colts. Blue Blood follows the slow rise of the Colts: from a franchise-in-exile trying to capture the attention of Bears-and-basketball obsessed Hoosiers into one of the NFL’s best and most respected franchises. Dunlevy talked to me about the book a few weeks ago:

The book is more than just an Indianapolis Colts history, it's a story of Indiana sports over the last quarter century, and the story of changing sports allegiances in a region.

Without question, basketball ruled Indiana in 1984. Blue Blood is the story of how the NFL took over the state. I realize that the dominance of the NFL over all other sports in America unquestioned, but when you see the degree to which football has conquered even a basketball crazy place like Indiana, you have to be struck by the power of the league.

Blue Blood is an informative book for fans of any expansion/relocation team. While Peyton Manning certainly had a lot to do with the popularity of the team in Indiana, the book makes it clear that there were other factors at work too. Ultimately, it all started with the vision of Jim Irsay to make the Colts a regional power rather than just a local one. He also knew the team would have to 'convert' the first generation of fans who grew rooting for the Bears, Packers, Lions, Browns and Bengals. There was no naiveté on his part that people would flock to the Colts just because they played in Indianapolis. Fans of many franchises will find that process enlightening.

The book is very sympathetic toward Robert Irsay, who moved the Colts out of Baltimore in 1984.

One man's villain is another man's hero. I tried not to sugar coat the reality of Bob Irsay. No one thinks he was a saint. However, it's also too convenient to make him the sole scapegoat for the team leaving town. The Maryland Legislature tried to take the man's team. They left him no choice but to leave. Bob made a lot of mistakes, but he did prepare his son well to become one of the finest owners in sports. The bottom line is that Bob Irsay brought the NFL to Indianapolis, ultimately expanding the influence of the league in the Midwest. That is a significant accomplishment and deserves recognition. St. Louis and Nashville both have teams now, and I wonder if they would had the Colts not come to Indianapolis.

So Jeff George once signed an autograph for you…

The funniest part of researching the book was running down the obligatory "Jeff George has changed" article written every two years throughout his career. The teams changed, but the teammate quotes all sounded the same. Even today, I've been told by many people that Jeff George is a nice guy. He was certainly kind to me when I was a kid leaning over the railing for a preseason game looking for him to sign my football card. Make no mistake, the George years were an abject disaster in Indianapolis, but in the end, the trade of George netted the Colts a first-round pick in 1996. They took Marvin Harrison. So when you sum it all up, Indy came out ahead.

I still wonder what George's career would have looked like had the team handled the Eric Dickerson holdout in 1990 differently. If George has a solid personality like Edgerrin James in the locker room with him, maybe he learns different lessons in his first training camp. Instead, he saw that the way you get what you want in the NFL is to whine and hold out. Maybe that spoiled everything.

Many fans may want to skip ahead to the Peyton Manning era, or at least the Jim Harbaugh era, when reading the book. Give them reasons not to.

The past teaches us about the future. If you want to understand Jim Irsay the owner, you have to learn about Jim Irsay the GM. Why did he go out and sign Bill Polian as his first act as owner? The answer is found in 1987. Will the Colts resign Joe Addai after this season? Do you want the Colts to swing a big trade of draft picks for some established star? Go find out what happened when Irsay the GM dealt for Fredd Young. All this has happened before, all this will happen again.

I found the contrast between Bobby Knight and Tony Dungy interesting. Do you think the transition between two different coaching "heroes" represented a change in the values or philosophies of the fans?

I think that change had already happened in many parts of the country, but Indiana was still fighting to hold on to the past. Most places would have ceased to tolerate Knight's antics long before Hoosierdom. In the same way, there was resistance to Tony's laid back style. Once he won the Super Bowl, however, all doubt was banished. No one can question that Bob Knight was a great coach. In the end, Tony Dungy was also a great coach AND a great person. Personally, I count him as a hero and a role model, and I think most fans would much rather have their kids coached by a Dungy than a Knight. Fifteen years ago, that wasn't the case, at least not in Indiana.

What's the most interesting fact you uncovered while researching the book?

There were lots, but I had blocked out of my mind just how awful Jim Mora was as a playoff coach. So much of the undeserved rep Peyton Manning gained as a bad playoff quarterback was earned thanks to lousy coaching by Jim Mora. In researching the playoff loss to the Dolphins after the 2000 season, it was stunning how many stupid mistakes Mora made (including a botched fake field goal). He finished his career 0-6 in the playoffs, making him the worst playoff coach in history.

Tell me about the novel you are writing.

The novel is entitled Invincible, Indiana. It takes place in 1996-1997 and covers the final year of single class basketball in the state high school tournament. As I talk about in Blue Blood, the decision to destroy the corner stone of Hoosier identity still leaves a psychic scar across sports fans around here. The novel is a reexamination of the 'myths' of the movie Hoosiers and traces how one small town deals with the ways that 'progress' and change disrupt their lives and traditions. In the end, the book comes freakishly close to some of the real life events that occurred to the Butler Bulldogs in this past NCAA tournament. I wrote the book a year before the Butler run, and the main character was (very) loosely inspired by Butler coach Brad Stevens. All I can say is that I swear I had the book 100 percent finished and in the hands of my agent well before anyone had ever heard of Gordon Hayward.

Thanks, Nate. Blue Blood is available on Amazon.com and makes a great bundle with Football Outsiders Almanac 2010!

TCBA: The County’s Best Acronyms

Don’t get caught using last year’s acronyms!

Football coverage is getting more advanced, and as fans become more educated, new acronyms seep into the lexicon. While some editors still frown on calling Jason Garrett “OC” or referring to Darrell Dockett as a “3T,” other magazines embrace the new lingo, or at least use the abbreviations in charts and tables.

In an effort to stay one step ahead of the curve, Walkthrough proudly unveils a new batch of acronyms designed to clarify the roles players fill in today’s NFL. Just as no team would be without a LS for field goal situations or an RS to field punts and kickoffs, no roster would be complete without the following specialists, for better or worse.

RM: Resident Malcontent: Roy Williams-Albert Haynesworth types. The RC plays an important role on the squad. He’s the lightning rod for criticism, and by making for easy copy he keeps the local columnists off everyone else’s back. He also provides disenfranchised teenagers with a jersey to wear.

PA: Passive Aggressive: The guy who fans the flames of every controversy with a series of carefully crafted loaded statements or backhanded compliments. “Backup Quarterback really gave us a spark we needed,” the PA might say while starting quarterback dangles by a thread. “Maybe I was healthy enough to play with that sore shoulder, maybe not,” he’ll say after a bad game. The PA usually serves as the backup RM and must always be ready to slide over in a pinch.

0T: Zero-technique tackle: Not to be confused with the guy who lines up directly over center (which is rare these days), the 0T is a tackle with no technique whatsoever.

PR: Painful Reminder: The first round pick from two years ago who never panned out. The PR is eating so much cap space that the team is reluctant to cut him, so he hangs around the roster, performing some menial on-field tasks while reminding coaches and scouts of their hubris.

UW: Unused Wildcat: The college spread-option quarterback drafted in the third round as part of the team’s effort to incorporate the Wildcat offense into the playbook. After diddling with the strategy throughout the spring and summer, the coaches call exactly three half-hearted direct snap plays to the UW in September, gaining a total of six yards. After that, the UW becomes just another fifth wideout.

TWG: Plucky, team-focused, lunchpail-carrying fan favorite.

NR: No Role: A player with no role whatsoever, usually a second-round running back or receiver from two years ago who never won a starting job. The NR was a superstar in college who never learned how to play special teams, so he’s just kind of there, though he often doubles as the team’s PR.

PD: Pass-Rushing Disappointment. The defensive equivalent of the UW. The PD was a small-school defensive end with 18 sacks in his junior year, and the scouting department convinced themselves he was Demarcus Ware Junior. After a few practices, they learned they had an undersized end who is a step too slow to generate any sacks. Once projected as the focal point of the pass rush, he now only plays in the defense’s 1-4-6 Angry Muskrats blitz packages, which is used exclusively on 3rd-and-21.

CL: Camp Leg: The kicker brought to camp to give David Akers or Joe Nedney someone to talk to, handle fourth-quarter preseason extra points, and hang around the phone after camp in case of a kicker emergency. CLs are fun to research, and I make it a point to investigate them for the special teams comments of Football Outsiders Almanac. Most of their resumes start at Hardscrabble State college, then cycle through a dizzying series of training camps, practice squads, CFL seasons, AFL seasons, UFL seasons, and two-game cameos with the Chiefs or Redskins, plus a half-season selling Winnebegos and a mysterious 18-month gap that can only be explained by an incarceration. Piecing together the life of a CL is a challenging bit of detective work, but you ultimately wind up feeling sorry for the poor guy: in 2008, while you were in your comfortable home, raising your family, earning a steady-enough income, he was trying out for the Harrisburg Stampede and wondering if he should get his gym teacher certificate.


I will be at the Collingswood Public Library on August 12th talking about football and my upcoming book The Phanatic Code at 7:00 PM. For those of you in Philly, it’s a short walk (or a ride in a golf cart if you are Asante Samuel) from the PATCO station. Hope to see you there!

Check out my camp notes in the Sunday New York Times. Also, some of my stat-related musings will start appearing in Rotoworld next Monday.

Oh, and Brett Favre retired while I was writing this, but I’m not going to fall for that again.


34 comments, Last at 17 Aug 2010, 6:05am

1 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

Erm, copy/paste error, unless the WoC projection for Aaron Rodgers was supposed to come in the middle of a discussion on being carted off in training camp.

2 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

They should put hay on the cart. "He rode the hay ride off the field" doesn't sound nearly as bad.

5 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

I find it interesting that Mr. Dunleavy hypothesizes that Indianapolis (Colts since 1984) made it possible not only for St. Louis (Cardinals 1960-1987) to have professional football, but the entire midwest, which as far as I know includes Kansas City, Chicago, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Denver. Moreover, the Mighty Colts seasons ranged from 1-15 to 9-7 while St. Louis was vacant.

Must be like the success of the Cincinnati Bengals were responsible for the city of Cleveland to be awarded a franchise in 1999.

7 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

I think Mr. Dunleavy has taken one too many sips of that Irsay kool-aid.

He has it backwards on the Colts leaving Baltimore. The MD legislature was trying to take the team only because Irsay was determined to move the team. Not the other way round. Hence the midnight dash before they could impose eminent domain.

captcha: heartsick when

17 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

The question is whether or not the NFL would have chosen to expand back into the midwest. The fact that there were teams in traditional NFL cities in the midwest going back 80 years doesn't mean that anyone would have naturally chosen to relocate a franchise to Nashville or back St. Louis from LA without the example of the Colts.

It was the legislature's insane posturing that left the Colts no choice but flee in the dead of night. It was one of the worst negotiation mistakes ever made between a team and a city, and if you'll note that particular route has never been attempted again.

I haven't had any Irsay cool-aid. I would describe my position on him as more empathetic than sympathetic. I don't condone everything he did, but I understand where it was coming from.

24 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

First of all, I appreciate the personalized response.

I would say that the success of teams like the Cardinals and the Chiefs moving out of Chicago and Dallas, as well as the huge population growth of Indianapolis (and Nashville, and Phoenix) during that time paved the way for the Colts to move to Indianapolis. In other words, the Colts took advantage of an existing situation, they didn't create one.

I still have a hard time taking seriously the argument that a Colts team that wavered between mediocre and pathetic turned the midwest on to pro football, one magical playoff run aside.

Again, it's like crediting the Bengals for showing the football could be successful in Ohio, leading to the Browns getting a team in 1999. It's fine to be a diehard Colts fan...they have a great history in Baltimore and are a very successful team in recent years. But the Irsay's aren't Lewis and Clark.

25 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

I hardly called them Lewis and Clark. It's not even a point I bring up in the book, it was just an offhanded comment in an interview.

However, I still think the fact that football was shown to be viable in Indianapolis had to encourage St. Louis to build their dome and lure the Rams back.

The Cards and Chiefs moved out of their cities decades earlier and I don't think there's any correlation that can be drawn from those moves. The Rams and Colts' moves are much more similar especially considering the market size and types of stadiums that were built.

20 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

"Hence the midnight dash before they could impose eminent domain."

Um, duh. Once the legislature moved on it, it's too late and you're stuck in court for a couple years. Then you get paid "market value" for an underperforming team with a dwindling fan base in a shit stadium. Essentially peanuts.

Of those two positions, each had some power and some vulnerability, but it was not equal by any means. Irsay's ONLY weapon was departure and that was the State's only vulnerability. Common sense dictated making the expensive (personally distasteful to many Colts insiders) and extremely risky move, because it was better than the alternative.

Eminent domain example: If the state is bulding a highway offramp and wants to buy some of my land, I hold a gun to their heads for maximum money. The longer it takes, the more we are in court and negotiations, the more desperate they become to get their damn ramp done, and power shifts to me. In the Colts case, it was the opposite--time was on MDs side, and Irsay had to act fast.

6 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

Mike, it's funny that you would mention Maclin's comment after Q gave him the "rough shove". On Saturday when the team began practicing punt coverage (the earliest I've seen ST done, must be the April Effect), Jackson, Hall and Maclin took turns fielding punts. You could tell Maclin was not thrilled to be back there. My dad and I have joked that ever since Maclin got "clocked" on his first kick return in a preseason game last year he has been hesitant running returns.

I was hoping you'd write about Emperor Reid's flawless clock management during the 4 minute "get to field goal range" live scrimmage Sunday morning. It was hilarious watching Andy yell to the kid operating the clock to put more or less time, by the second, on the clock. Even more ironic, Saturday the first team offense couldn't get the formation correct on two consecutive plays. Reid calls them back to huddle and says, "Hey, we just blew two timeouts!" Ya gotta love it!!!

"DVOA loves Philadelphia!"

14 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

Heh. During that drill I was furiously trying to update my notebook about what plays were being run and trying to catch up with camp news (I arrived late to practice because I got trapped at a roadblock and almost hit a deer). I did notice that the four-minute clock looked a lot like a random character generator.

The two-minute offense is less a worry than the goalline offense!

32 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

The Iggles offense ends at the opponents 20! No wonder Akers is the all-time leader in points. There was a time when an opposing team got close to the goalline I would yell, "Field Goal!" and be happy about it. But when the offense got close I would scream, "They better score [touchdown] before the red zone! Philly has had one of the best offenses between the twenties. This is one of the reason why "DVOA loves Philadelphia!"

34 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

Thats right so few teams have kickers as leading scorers only 25 of the top 32 scorers in the NFL last year were kickers. And of course great kickers have a much shorter career than great running backs or WRs making it even harder for them to lead their teams in all-time scoring.

Jerry Rice is the all-time leader in TDs 207 or 1242 points worth, here are the only kickers who have scored more than that:
Gary Anderson, Morten Andersen, George Blanda, Norm Johnson, Nick Lowery, Jan Stenerud, JOHN CARNEY, Lou Groza , MATT STOVER, Al Del Greco, JASON ELAM, Steve Christie, Pat Leahy, Jim Turner, Matt Bahr, JASON HANSON ,Mark Moseley Jim Bakken, Fred Cox, John kasey.

And thats from a 2006 list.

16 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

He actually ran the hurry-up very efficiently last year in his one opportunity. In the 2nd quarter of the Saints game, the Eagles got the ball on their own 21 with 00:43 seconds left (and one TO) and Kolb led them to a FG from the New Orleans 14. I remember thinking, "Oh, gosh, McNabb really is the problem, isn't he?"

The FG was huge, too, because it was still a game at that point, the drive made it 13-17 at the half...

10 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

John Steadman, the longtime Baltimore sportswriter, was asked if he thought Bob Irsay was a horrible person. He said (quoting from memory) that Irsay wasn't a bad person, just a really bad drunk. Unlike Carroll Rosenbloom. He said Rosenbloom was the worst person he ever knew. Always thought that was interesting because you never really hear about the rottenness of Carroll Rosenbloom.

12 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

You do if you read Steadman -- or most other writers from the time. Rosenbloom was a man whose unusual life and bizarre death -- after the Colts-for-Rams swap let him realize his ambition of owning a team in California, leaving Baltimore with Irsay -- inspired grand juries, Frontline documentaries, and the HBO series First & Ten.

Barry Levinson took the same approach towards Robert Irsay in his ESPN film about the Colt Band.

Too bad the writer didn't have anything to say about Jim's struggles and victories with the same issues himself. Or was that off limits?

18 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

Jim Irsay's struggles weren't off limits, I just didn't have a place for them in the kind of book that I was writing.

A lot of people were addicted to Oxycontin, and to me that story is much more about a specific drug and the culture of the medical profession that let so many people get hooked. I know people from every walk of life that got into the same mess, and it really was a bigger issue than the specific people who battled that addiction.

The book was about the Colts and their relationship with the fans of Indiana, not about the Irsays. The fans didn't really care about Jim's struggles, so while that would make for interesting drama, it wouldn't be relevant to the topic.

Fans didn't know/care.

21 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

As a fan of the Colts and Yankees I'd argue that fans "care" about their owners. Not whether or not they're gaining weight or their basement floods or they have a fender-bender, but they don't like having an owner who is widely regarded as an a-hole (Steinbrenner) or a junkie (or a windbag, a dessicated self-parody, a moron, etc. take your choice.)

Having said that, I agree that fans did not know of Irsay's addictions until afterwards when they were publicly exposed, addressed by the league, and on the mend. And then it becomes a classic American second act/redemption story. People kind of like those.

Jim Irsay seems to have a stellar reputation with the Indiana fans and much of that is probably because (1) he is not his father and (2) he learned from his father's mistakes.

Having read the book, I agree it would have been very difficult to work it in. But it's not entirely out of place in the context of Irsay's connection to the fans. And I imagine asking 100 Colt fans about his addiction (admittedly beyond the scope of the book) would result in 10 shrugged shoulders, 5 condemnations, and 85 "atta boys." He is a big part of the team's rise in stature, which is sort of the thrust of the book. So I could see it fitting in, sorta, kinda, maybe....

22 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

I don't think it's completely accurate to say that football has conquered Indiana ... instead, I would describe it by saying that WINNING football has been able to share the stage in most of Indiana.

Basketball is still the main sport here, I would guess more so outside the Indianapolis area (I can't say from personal experience; I've lived in the city or suburbs since 1994). Sure, people love the Colts now, but I think what they're really saying is that they love Peyton and coach Dungy and the way the team has performed the last 10 years or so. Even during the Colts' run to the AFC Championship Game with Harbaugh at QB, the city was behind the Colts, but the few inches that separated the Colts from a Super Bowl appearance didn't completely move basketball from the sports section. Yes, there are plenty of people here who are "scarred" by the move away from single-class basketball, and I'd bet quite a few of them are still more interested in what happens in those tiny gyms than in what happens in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Sure, people will follow the Colts readily while Peyton is playing, but when he retires and they (most likely) revert to normal-NFL status, it'll be clear again. Even this year, when the NFL season is done and we know whether or not Coach Caldwell has actually shown a facial expression during the season, for every person wondering if this was the last season for #18, there will be a few wondering if this is the season that Matt Painter finally steps out of his mentor's shadow, if Tom Crean has really begun the rebuilding process in Bloomington, if Butler can somehow continue that mid-major magic ... and if those IHSAA idiots had any idea what they were doing when they ruined the greatest sporting event in the world. (I may even have heard someone say that. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. And no, I don't agree at all.)

1997? Ah yes, the year my high school won the last single-class basketball tournament ...

23 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

I would advise you to read the book.

The numbers don't lie. Far more people attend highschool football than basketball now. In 1984 the 3 games of the state BB final out drew the 4 games of the football finals.

Now, the football finals CRUSH the basketball finals.

This isn't just an NFL phenomenon. Attendance at HS BB is through the floor across the state.

My guess is that you are from Bloomington. You might not realize how bad things have gotten everywhere else.

26 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

I'm surprised no one has jumped on the acronym vs initialism argument for this article. Adhering to classic definition, none of the examples provided are actual acronyms. They are all initialisms. Acronyms can be spoken: sonar, AWOL, radar, etc. Initialisms employ the letters representing a longer word, like acronyms, but are not a spoken word: CBS, MSU, QB, LT, etc...

Note: I scrolled through captcha examples until I landed on "session (SIPO)". Just because. I'd like to think SIPO is an initialism for something wonderful.

28 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

A slight variation on the old "every post made to correct another's spelling mistake is doomed to contain one of its own" maxim, or deceptive cleverness in an ironic disguise? You decide.

29 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

I have spent 2 (3?) years trying - much to the chagrin of my friends and coworkers - but despite my efforts, your contribution of GURT to the football lexicon just has not taken off like I'd hoped.

33 Re: Walkthrough: O, Little Town

So the Neneh Cherry song "Buffalo Stance" might have been about Leonard Weaver?