Walkthrough: For Real

Walkthrough: For Real
Walkthrough: For Real
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Mike Tanier

Where have you gone, John Lynch and Dexter Jackson? Western Florida turns its lonely eyes to you.

Lynch and Jackson put the "cover" in Cover-2 at the turn of the century. They helped make the Buccaneers defense one of the league's best by taking away the deep pass, jumping routes over the middle, and delivering blows that had receivers more concerned about YOUCH than YAC. A decade after they helped make the two-deep zone a cliché, the Buccaneers have been reduced to starting a Hollister mannequin and one of those guys who dresses up like Abe Lincoln in front of the bank at free and strong safety.

Forget Cover-2; the Bucs now run a Cover-negative-1. Safeties Cody Grimm and Sean Jones helped reanimate Zombie Charlie Batch last week. "Batch Shows He Still Has It," read the tagline to the NFL.com highlight clip of the Steelers win over the Buccaneers. "It" may refer to "a functioning spinal cord," "an NFL job," or "a knack for throwing shotputs over the heads of incompetent safeties." Grimm was the guy you saw flailing helplessly on Mike Wallace's first touchdown catch. Look carefully, and you can see Jones in the corner of the screen, sizzling on the spot on the grill where you hide the extra burnt burger. Jones is a journeyman who washed out of Cleveland and Philly, Grimm a seventh-round pick who was a one-year starter as the "whip" linebacker at Virginia Tech. The "whip" is a hybrid safety-linebacker, not a political organizer or the guy assigned to dole out punishment after losses to James Madison.

The Brothers Grimm weren't starters entering camp. Sabby Piscitelli played his way out of the starting job when a tackling dummy broke away from him for a 60-yard run in late July. Piscitelli then complained that he wasn't given a fair chance to compete for the starting job. Having seen Jones play a few games, I can sympathize with Raheem Morris for ending the competition quickly so he didn't have to watch any more gruesome game film.

Piscitelli also alleged that the Bucs coaches demoted him by text message, which makes the Bucs staff sound more like angry girlfriends than professionals. "BTW U R Benchd." Hopefully, Piscitelli answered "k." My younger, single-r friends tell me that you can tell a girlfriend is ticked off when she responds "k." The exchanges go something like this:

Guy: "m going out 2 watch MNF n drink"

Girl: "k"

This doesn't happen in my house, because my wife doesn't text, and when she does, she really butchers it:

Me: "m staying l8 at library 2 finish walkthru"

Karen: "jrguxgi"

Karen can be forgiven for some text messaging irregularities. She has had bronchitis for three weeks. The doctors gave her some special cough medicine. She's still coughing, but she can now overthrow Darrius Heyward-Bey by 20 yards.

Tanard Jackson, the other starter at safety for the Bucs, earned a one-year suspension for his third violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Even when Jackson was playing, the Panthers secondary was vulnerable. In Week 1, Mohamed Massaquoi caught a pass over the middle of the field, then raced for a 41-yard touchdown. The next week, Steve Smith scored on a nearly identical play: the kind of crossing route that would have netted 12 yards, at best, in the Jackson-Lynch heyday. The Buccaneers pass defense looks respectable on paper -- they've allowed just a 54.8% completion percentage, five touchdowns, and six interceptions -- but they have faced Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore, various Browns and Panthers backups, and Zombie Batch. They face the Saints in three weeks. Drew Brees could throw for a parsec.

Having bad safeties in deep coverage isn't like having an empty police car in the median of the interstate. Teams don't see the safety and say, "Well, he appears motionless, but let's not throw deep, just in case." Bad safeties are worse than no safeties at all. At least if Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib turn and see empty space behind them, they know they have to keep covering their receivers. If the Bucs can't find a better solution at safety than Jones and Grimm, they may want to just bring the safeties up into the box and start blitzing more. There's only so much you can do wrong when you are blitzing, though Piscitelli would have found a way to miss a tackle on Jimmy Clausen.

What's most amazing about the Buccaneers safety dilemma is that Piscitelli is still employed. After getting benched in favor of a cardboard cutout and a seventh-round pick, then talking smack on his coaches, he's still on the roster. He could teach Jimmy Raye and Trent Edwards a thing or two about professional preservation. The non-communicative 49ers offensive coordinator and the Stanford educated Bills screen machine both got the boot this week. Imagine if they met in the unemployment line. It would go something like this:

RAYE: Scribble mop-lump botta fraggle.

EDWARDS: What's that? You say that Gloria Estefan is trapped in a Chilean mine?

RAYE: Nop snotta fraggle. Botta fraggle

EDWARDS: Oh, she's trapped in a luxury suite. Let's go rescue her! Lucky for me I have read In the Land of Invented Languages and can understand you. I can't think of another coach in professional sports who is so successful despite a complete lack of clarity.

CHARLIE MANUEL: Dang ol yemma yall dohstuck.

RAYE: Chappa! Gratchalacha divisha crowl.

CHARLIE MANUEL: Dang ol yup.

EDWARDS: I'll leave you two to catch up.

Come to think of it, maybe my wife learned to text message from Raye.

Edwards was a pale imitation of an NFL quarterback, just as Piscitelli, Jones and Grimm are pale imitations of Lynch and Jackson. But nobody does pale imitations like the Patriots. You know where this is going, right? The new guy in New England is Danny Woodhead, who is a real fan fav ... wait, he's got to get in line for that one. Who's next in the Patriots huddle, Pat Boone?

I play the "fan favorite" card because I knew the Boston media could be counted upon for some carefully coded post-game features on Woodhead. Ron Borges said he could "become what New England loves best -- a pint-sized folk hero." Borges cited Woodhead's "steely determination," "unusual patience," and "unusual quickness." He quoted Bills linebacker Andra Davis comparing Woodhead to "a Welker in the backfield." If you have underdog, folk hero, praise of intangibles, expressions of shock about actual physical ability, and comparison to another white guy on your card, feel free to shout Bingo!

While Woodhead was playing Welk-Welker-Welkest with his three carries, BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried 16 times for 98 yards and a touchdown, but with far less pluck-moxie-bullsnot. Credit to Rich Garven at the Worcester Telegram for actually hitting the nail on the head by noticing that the two new Patriots running backs have different "looks." "BenJarvus Green-Ellis is thick, dark and muscular with long dread-like braids," he wrote. "Danny Woodhead is short, pale and lean with a Midwestern-approved haircut." Palm-sweating acknowledgments of race aside, Green-Ellis still plays in the shadow of his uncle, legendary 1970s Patriots running back BobCarroll Ted-Alice, whose political leanings destroyed his career: He was a leading figure in the Key Party movement.

At least no one in the Buccaneers secondary endured the ultimate embarrassment of the digital age. That distinction goes to Rex Grossman. When blogger Billy Rios discovered a glitch in the ESPN Fantasy Football site that made it easy to make changes to his opponent's roster, he tested his ability to hack the system by making a fellow owner pick up Grossman. Hilarious. It's like making the computer in "WarGames" start a global thermonuclear war, only worse because it's Grossman. You would think there are hundreds of safeguards in place to ensure that no one ever signs Grossman, but Rios was able to slide right past them. (He reports that ESPN, our beloved benefactors, have fixed the link before Barnwell could make me start Brock Huard). Up next for Grossman: To prove the vulnerability of the Children's Television Workshop computers, he'll be digitally edited into a Sesame Street video, wearing a skimpy dress while cavorting with Elmo.

Yeah, it was one of those weeks in the NFL: coaches fired, quarterbacks cut, safeties toasted, short white guys overexposed, owners trapped in their own suites, computers hacked, and Grossman disrespected for our amusement. But none of that matters. The only thing that matters is who's for real.


The Falcons had just beaten the Saints, and I was listening to sports talk while driving home from the sports pub in my non-sports car. "The Falcons may be fuhreal," one commentator said. Later in the same show, another announcer asked, "Are the Falcons fuhreal?"

This time of year, there's a lot of talk about who is and isn't fuhreal. As best I can tell, "fuhreal" is derived from the English words "for" and "real." It's a rather juvenile term, used by children who are still learning the difference between reality and fantasy ("Daddy, is Spider-Man for real? No? What about Joyce Carol Oates?") and by people casually incredulous of the behavior of others ("Is the person who wrote the memo condemning the cherry tomatoes in the salad bar for real?"). It represents an oversimplified distinction between merit-based and circumstance-based achievements, which makes it a great term for use in sports commentary. The antonym of "for real" is "fraud," a term with horrible connotations that suggests a team should apologize or only accept a half a win for beating the Bills or scoring on a few kickoff returns. All teams that go 3-0 or 2-1 are, by law, either for real or frauds, because the middle ground is for sissies.

The binary analysis that distinguishes the "for real" from the "for not so real" after three games makes me a little nervous. That's why I work here. At the same time, I am sometimes asked to weigh in on the realness of a team like the Falcons. It's not always practical, convenient, or lucrative to point to the 2,000 words I wrote about them in Football Outsiders Almanac. It's also not always expedient to point out that they beat the Saints after a missed overtime field goal, that they were a playoff team two years ago that was torn apart by injuries in 2009, or that "for real" is a vague, arbitrary term. Sometimes, I gotta say "The Falcons are For Real!" and get my point across in about 100 words, which is the amount of time I usually spend setting up a Jimmy Raye joke.

When faced with a quick smash-or-trash assignment, I don't want to think. That's why I developed the following rules to determine where or not a team is "for real." Once I work my way through this short checklist, I can be certain that my opinion is in line with conventional wisdom, keeping me safely among the herd:

Rule 1: All 3-0 teams are for real, even if they played Valdosta State, the 1976 Buccaneers, and a Pop Warner team with an injured quarterback to start the schedule. That 3-0 record is our cue as writers to gloss over all of the team's flaws and start gushing, even about the Chiefs. "This is real," Sam Mellinger wrote in the Kansas City Star. "The Chiefs will be talked about nationally now as the NFL's surprise playoff team." (We were doing that in July!) The Bears also have For Real status, thanks in part to some rulebook fundamentalism and about 400 yards of Packers penalties.

It's the job of local columnists like Mellinger to provide some extra enthusiasm. Fans deserve to enjoy a hot streak without someone pointing out that the Browns are terrible and Philip Rivers melts in the rain. In fact, no one wants to read cold-bath criticisms of a team on a three-game winning streak, so few of us bother writing them. If anything, we qualify our remarks by saying that the Chiefs and Bears may be for real, but not "fuhreal for real."

Rule 2: All 2-1 teams are for real if they have won a Super Bowl recently or have a "winner" quarterback at the helm. No one asks if the Saints are for real, despite two close wins and a loss. No one asks if the Patriots are for real, despite the fact that they lost to a division opponent and almost let the Bills sneak back into the game. No one asks if the Colts are for real, but that brings up another point:

Rule 3: Order matters. If a team loses the opener but wins two straight, they are for real. If they win two straight but lose the third game, they are frauds who just got "exposed." Imagine if the Texans had lost to the Cowboys, then beat the Colts and came back to beat the Redskins. We'd perceive their season very differently. There's something to be said for attaching more meaning to recent games as injuries pile up and schemes are figured out. But three weeks into the season, we're really looking at an immediacy bias, making an impression based on what's freshest in our minds. Hooray for immediacy bias!

Rule 4: If the team has one star with sizzle, they are for real. That's sizzle, not syzzurp, JaMarcus. We all know that football is a one-man sport, and that the best way to analyze the game is to point to one exciting star, anoint him the difference maker, and fold your arms in satisfaction. The Packers are for real because of Clay Matthews. The Cardinals are for real because Larry Fitzgerald keeps them in every game. There is sometimes the related question about whether the player himself is for real. When that happens, it's best to fall back on that philosophical workhorse, the circular argument: You know the Packers are for real because Matthews is such a great player, and you know Matthews is a great player because of what he has done for the Packers.

Rule 5: The Chargers and Cowboys have absolutely no past. These two teams must be judged solely by their last game. When they lose, they are frauds who cannot live up to their billing. When they win, they have demonstrated their ability to overcome the problems that plagued them earlier. The Jets and Giants sometimes fall into this category because the New York media is overheated, and the Jets are so annoying that no one wants to think about them.

Rule 6: Teams that don't play in prime time don't exist. When in doubt, just call the Seahawks and Buccaneers "frauds" because only their fans have seen them play. At best, you may want to say that they are becoming "pesky" or "spoilers," because that brings less hate mail. No matter what, don't talk too much about them, because casual fans will tune out.

So, what about the Falcons? They don't have a winner quarterback or any real star with sizzle. They haven't played in prime time, and they haven't mastered the art of turning every game into a grudge match. At the same time, order matters, and they have won two straight games, and a dramatic win against the Super Bowl champs gets almost as much attention as a prime-time win. They are on the borderline of "for real," which makes them like King Arthur. In a few weeks, we'll revisit them when it's time to separate Contenders from Pretenders.

Burn This Play

Every once in a while, you see a team execute a play that looks like it was designed during dollar Jell-O shot night. Here are two examples of plays that should be torn out of the playbook and thrown into the nearest fireplace:

Figure 1: Jets Pistol Mess

Jets Fake Pistol: In the second quarter against the Dolphins, the Jets came out of a timeout with Brad Smith (16) lined up as a pistol quarterback, Shonn Greene (23) at tailback, and Mark Sanchez (6) split wide left. The Dolphins appear to be confused by the formation, with Channing Crowder directing his teammates about where to line up. The stage is set for some Wildcat buffoonery. But wait! Smith motions to the right as a flanker, leaving Greene as the lone setback. The entire Dolphins defense shifts (two of the adjustments are shown in Figure 1), and you can almost see them licking their chops as they clamp down in their new formation. Goodbye, threat of pass. Farewell, fear of option pitch. The Jets tipped their hands that Greene was just going to run off tackle. Sure enough, Crowder and the force defender attack straight into the backfield, disrupting what (on paper) looks like a well designed blocking scheme. If the Jets want to run a play like this, they should at least use LaDainian Tomlinson as a tailback, because Tomlinson is a well known passing threat. Better yet, they could just hand off.

Figure 2: Titans Veer

Titans Veer: It was great to see the Titans open their offense up a bit after that ugly game against the Steelers. It also makes sense for them to try a few option plays now and then. But in the first quarter against the Giants, the Titans tried to run a veer option. Figure 2 shows Vince Young (10) and Chris Johnson (28) each starting to his left while the Titans block as if they are running a zone play or option to that side. Young and Johnson quickly turn after one step and reverse field while the Titans tight ends try to seal the backside of the play. Young and Johnson do a fine job of quickly redirecting the play, but there are two problems. First, Justin Tuck (91) beats his block easily. Second, force defender Terrell Thomas (24) is unblocked. The root problem is that defenses are wary of Titans option plays and Johnson cutbacks, so they typically maintain good back-side discipline. If the Titans are going to run the option, they should run it quickly to the strong-side of the defense. Let the Division III colleges have their veer plays.


It's impossible to do justice to George Blanda in a few hundred words. Blanda was like a cross between Kurt Warner and Morten Andersen, plus a dash of Brett Favre. He wasn't as good as Warner or Andersen, but you have to agree that a hybrid that preserves about 75 percent of each player is an impressive beast, and Blanda set the standard for old-guy media adulation that Favre strives for. There will never be another player with a career remotely like his. After learning of his death at age 83, I searched through some newspaper archives for a few quotes from Blanda's long, remarkable career:

"He is much farther advanced than any other rookie I've ever seen, including both [Sid] Luckman and [Johnny] Lujack," Bears executive Frank Korch, August 23, 1949, before a Bears intrasquad scrimmage. Blanda went on to complete 6-of-13 passes from the Bears' T-formation offense in the scrimmage, beating Lujack's half of the team.

"It's not George Blanda's fault that the Chicago Bears aren't leading the national Football League's western division ... the rugged 197-pound pass and kick expert from Kentucky University, enjoying his greatest of six seasons with the Bears, appears on his way to win the league's all-star quarterback berth," The Associated Press, November 1, 1954, after Blanda threw four touchdowns and kicked a field goal to beat the 49ers.

"For a pappy guy who was supposed to be washed up a month ago, George Blanda is mighty active in professional football." The Associated Press, November 20, 1964, after Blanda's seven-touchdown game for the AFL's Oilers. The washed-up Blanda was only getting warmed up.

"If Hollywood script writers tried to sell the real George Blanda story to the American public, they would be laughed out of the business as a bunch of daydreaming fools," United Press International, November 9, 1970, one day after Blanda replaced injured Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica, led a touchdown drive, then kicked a game-winning field goal to beat the Browns.

"That guy gets a lot of respect. He has the ability to play all of the time, anytime. We never considered him just a kicker. He has the mental and physical ability to come in and bring a game under control," Raiders coach John Madden, December 19, 1971. Madden used the 44-year old Blanda in relief of Lamonica in several games that year, including one game in which Blanda threw a touchdown pass to bring the Raiders within three points of the Chiefs, then drove them down to the goal line. Madden ordered the field goal unit onto the field, but Blanda tried to wave them off. Madden won the argument, and Blanda tied the game with a field goal, but many players grumbled after the game that the Raiders should have gone for it.

"At 49, you can't speculate about where you are or what you will be doing. If they want me back, I certainly will be available and ready to play. I think I can do the job," Blanda, January 7, 1976, after the Raiders loss to the Steelers in the playoffs. Blanda made just one field goal longer than 40 yards all season and attempted just three passes. He would not play again.


113 comments, Last at 03 Oct 2010, 1:36pm

#1 by Jdbar9393 (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 12:21pm

Ok, that was officially hilarious and informative. Thanks Mike

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#2 by Tri Shanku (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 12:22pm

Re your wife overthrowing Howard-Bey part, Mr. Tanier: Some people do read your columns while eating, you know? So not 'k.

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#33 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:50pm

"Karen can be forgiven for some text messaging irregularities. She has had bronchitis for three weeks. The doctors gave her some special cough medicine. She's still coughing, but she can now overthrow Darrius Heyward-Bey by 20 yards."

Glad I was not eating. Now I am just crying from laughing so hard.

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#3 by kbp (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 12:22pm

Hey Mike, here's a little follow up to last week's column:

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#61 by Mountain Time … // Sep 30, 2010 - 5:36pm

"Sorry, the page you were looking for could not be found on Yahoo! Sports"

I think you forgot some of the URL

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#4 by Temo // Sep 30, 2010 - 12:35pm


Can't believe you missed that in your column.

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#15 by Mike_Tanier // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:43pm

I just saw that this morning! Walkthrough was already written. It really didn't occur to me to call that number.

Our school sent out Suicide Hotline for Teens magnets, and the number on the side was for phone nastiness.

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#16 by Dean // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:45pm

I'm reminded of the early days when Al Gore had just invented the internet. www.whitehouse.gov takes you where you'd expect, but www.whitehouse.com lead to a very different destination, but yet stragely typical of the content found online.

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#18 by Big Johnson // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:55pm

My highschool handed out suicide hotline little business cards and someone called it and the line was busy. Thanks for the cards though, they look neat!

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#35 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:52pm

That might not be an accident, Mike. When I was depressed back in HS some phone nastiness might have made things alright, at least short-term. Until the bills arrived. I swear, Mom and Dad, I was calling the suicide hotline.... here, dial it yourself. No, on second thought, hey look at that squirrel!

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#5 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 12:58pm

In a few weeks, we'll revisit them when it's time to separate Contenders from Pretenders.

This had me laughing out loud.

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#6 by Shattenjager // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:08pm

I probably should not be shocked by any out of left field reference you make, but I was shocked by seeing Joyce Carol Oates mentioned.

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#54 by Kevin from Philly // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:25pm

Yeah, but he never answered the question.

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#7 by AnonymousA (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:12pm

One of the greatest walkthroughs ever. Also:

"BobCarroll Ted-Alice, whose political leanings destroyed his career: He was a leading figure in the Key Party movement."

I'm not sure how many people exist with a working knowledge of both football and cryptography, but you get a round of applause from me.

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#8 by Eddo // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:25pm

Isn't "Key Party", especially in the context of "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", a reference to swinging?

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#10 by Uri Guttman (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:31pm

that was about a 70's key party where you picked keys out of a bowl to swap spouses. it was part of the movie bob carol ted and alice. the crypto key party is recent and is about exchanging signing keys. you have to know your references to follow walkthrough correctly.

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#19 by Independent George // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:56pm

In the world of FO, people are more likely to get references to cryptography than to swinging.

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#32 by TomC // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:46pm

And Deo Gratias for that!

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#39 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:55pm

Just in case,I'd like to see a venn diagram of those two sets, to see where the overlap lies. Might be a bigger subset than you think.

How many of your fellow FO posters could say, like Austin Powers, "I put the grrrr in swinger, baby!"?

Just re-read that... Okay, maybe you're right.

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#59 by drobviousso // Sep 30, 2010 - 5:23pm

I was only thinking of crypto while reading that. Swinger type key parties never crossed my mind.

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#56 by Kevin from Philly // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:33pm

Mr. Ted-Alice has moved into acting. He's currently starring in a revival of GlenGary Glenn-Ross at the Riverside dinner theater. Try the veal.

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#9 by bingo762 // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:27pm

In regards to the titans option play, I think it was somewhere on this site that I previously read that the veer option is specifically why the titans are successful at running the option. Young and Johnson are fast enough to recover from the move in one direction to the other while LB's are not.

Also, I thought you might bring up that play from Monday Night. Bears first possession of the third quarter. 2nd & 10 at the GB 10. Direct snap to Forte. When you direct sanp to Forte, everyone knows you're running. Why not QB draw? I think Gruden called it a great play while Jaws said he couldn't disagree more.

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#11 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:32pm

Forte got 4 yards on that play, so it's hard to call it too bad.

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#21 by Kal // Sep 30, 2010 - 2:12pm

4 yards on 2nd and 10 is considered a failure as far as FO stats are concerned; setting up 3rd and 6 isn't exactly a big triumph.

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#23 by bingo762 // Sep 30, 2010 - 2:24pm

Tuluse, I know but I remember watching that and thinking "Man, a QB draw would be key here." I don't know, maybe because of the way they were moving the ball. The D was on their heals. And then they put Forte back there and it was like "Oh, I know where this is going" Not to mention, forte hasn't been running effectively this season(or last) so 4 yards for him could've been 8 for anyone else.

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#28 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 2:50pm

Yeah, QB draw is something this offense could probably make good use of.

However, I disagree that another running back could get significantly more yards out there. Another offensive line could probably have gotten 8 yards though.

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#57 by RichC (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:49pm

Forte is plenty effective. The 5 guys in front of him aren't. Not remotely.

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#64 by Mountain Time … // Sep 30, 2010 - 5:51pm

*HEELS, not "heals." Geez. What would make you even use that phrase if you thought the D was right on their heals? That doesn't even make sense.

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#81 by bingo762 // Oct 01, 2010 - 9:59am

My bad, grammar police. God help you if you ever come across Raiderjoe

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#98 by Mountain Time … // Oct 01, 2010 - 5:03pm

OH NO, you got corrected! It's not YOUR fault for typing something dumb, it's MY fault for being "grammar police." How can I ever apologize for correcting something so far away from the correct phrase that it was just silly? My bad. I'll nevr corrtect you're bd grammer againe!

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#27 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 2:48pm

For most other teams, you would probably be right, but have you seen the Bears this year? Jay Cutler is the only player averaging more than 2.8 yards per carry. 4 yards with this team means something went very very right.

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#12 by dryheat // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:37pm

This might just be the funniest Walkthrough I've ever read. And that's saying a lot. Mostly that it was funny.

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#13 by thejoshbaker (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:39pm

Are you telling me that Jimmy Raye was the defensive coordinator for the SCLSU Mud Dogs?

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#43 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:58pm

I can't read Jimmy Raye's name without starting to hum "We didn't Start The Fire."

Billy Joel is happy. Me, not so much.

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#52 by Kevin from Philly // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:22pm

Always makes me think of the "Ray Jay Johnson" routine. Now you can call me Ray...

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#65 by Mountain Time … // Sep 30, 2010 - 5:54pm

HA! I see there is no #13 on the 49ers roster. No wonder Alex Smith couldn't understand his calls, he probably kept calling for throws to nonexistant #13!

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#106 by red13 (not verified) // Oct 01, 2010 - 9:51pm

Good God, I just watched that entire video. It was like a car wreck - I couldn't look away. There's something to be said for a trailer with an outdoor pool table, I guess. Great column. I love the send up of sports reporter jargon. I was laughing until Jimmy Ray started singing.

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#74 by Bobman // Oct 01, 2010 - 3:24am

Curse you! Curse you, dammit! How the hell will I now clean that memory out of my brain?!?! It was happily suppressed for 25-30 years and now you bring it to the surface. Darn you to heck!

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#104 by justanothersteve // Oct 01, 2010 - 9:46pm

Lucky you. I keep thinking "Come On Eileen."

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#14 by Charles Jake (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:40pm

I was starting to roll my eyes at the jokes until

Drew Brees could throw for a parsec

Mike's still full of win.

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#38 by Kevin from Philly // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:53pm

Yeah, but the Falcons made the Kessell run in three parsecs, so they're for real.

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#44 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:59pm

Yeah, you'd think Han Solo would know the difference between a unit of distance and a unit of time....

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#68 by Mountain Time … // Sep 30, 2010 - 6:08pm

Han Solo was not bragging about his ship's speed--he was bragging about his ship's navicomputer, which was able to calculate a route that was shorter than previously possible. The Millenium Falcon is not the fastest ship in the galaxy based on speed, but in navigation. Han is 100% correct in that quote.

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#75 by Bobman // Oct 01, 2010 - 3:28am

So the Kessel Run is either a way to get from A to B, or a route, (say a trip through a very bad asteroid field that most take in a careful, weavy, hunt-and-peck pattern) and the Falcon shortened it not strictly by time but by distance--straightened out a curvy road, as it were....

Am I on the right track?

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#101 by Mountain Time … // Oct 01, 2010 - 5:38pm

Exactly, straightening out a curvy road is a good analogy.

From the wookiepedia entry for "parsec": The thing to keep in mind about Solo's claim of doing the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs is that the Kessel Run is through the Maw. Event Horizons around black holes are dependent on the speed at which you are traveling. A standard ship has to do the run in 18 parsecs because to cut the route any closer, the ship would get sucked in. The Falcon, however, is fast enough to straighten the route and cut over 6 parsecs off the distance traveled. This makes sense, since the Falcon's hyperdrive is often rated as a x.5 rather than a x1 standard, potentially making it twice as fast as standard ships. While this argument may all be after-the-fact justification for an actual scriptwriting error, the logic does hold, although Solo could have just been boasting to his potential clients." So I was actually incorrect in saying it had nothing to do with the ship's actual speed. It was a navigational advantage made possible due to the ship's speed.

There is an excellent article about hyperspace travel in the wookiepedia, here. I find some of the ideas fascinating, such as the importance of up-to-date cartography to use for navigation in the Star Wars universe.

Points: 0

#77 by Whatev // Oct 01, 2010 - 7:44am

If true, this would go a long way towards explaining the completely preposterous scene later where the Millenium Falcon is able to maneuver through a debris field unscathed while the much smaller TIE fighters pursuing it crash into the rocks.

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#86 by Bobman // Oct 01, 2010 - 12:18pm

Silly, you are ignoring the first rule of story-telling: Overwhelming armies of bad guys will appear sinister but be inept; a single bad guy, need not bulge with muscles or weaponry, but is always in control and is very, very ept. It's the very heart and sould of most James Bond books/movies. Westerns. Stevel Segal movies....

Think about Obi-Wan battling Jango Fett in Movie #2, versus the freakin' Ewoks wasting whole squads of Storm troopers (Jango's clone offspring) using sticks, nets, and rocks. (or contrast the asteroid scene you note above with the Obi-Wan/Jango pursuit through the asteroid field in the same movie #2)

Even in the last Harry Potter book (SPOILERS) a bunch of kids and old fart teachers are taking on the vast army of what had been, until then, elite killing machines: The Death Eaters, giants, monsters. While the real duel that means everything is a one-on-one affair.

Sorry, almost got serious there.

Points: 0

#90 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 01, 2010 - 1:14pm

Because we haven't had enough discussions about minor details on the Star Wars universe yet, the Storm Troopers in episodes 4-6 are actually not Jango Fett's clones anymore. They're just regular shmoes who signed up or were drafted into the Imperial forces.

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#93 by Kevin from Philly // Oct 01, 2010 - 2:54pm

You don't need to talk about Star Wars any more.

(waves hand)

You want to go back to football discussions.

(waves hand again)

Move along.

Points: 0

#17 by Big Johnson // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:51pm

Mike you nailed it with the girlfriend text thing. "k" means all things terrible. a response of "k" can even make me so defensive that an argument will start shortly after an innocent "k" response.

Points: 0

#20 by Charles Jake (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 1:57pm

Oh, and I nominate "Burn this Play" as a regular feature, either as a regular part of Walkthrough or as a separate article.

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#36 by starzero // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:52pm


hail damage

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#22 by Spielman // Sep 30, 2010 - 2:15pm

"She's still coughing, but she can now overthrow Darrius Heyward-Bey by 20 yards."

So what you're saying is, she'll be starting for the Raiders by week 10?

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#105 by justanothersteve // Oct 01, 2010 - 9:50pm

Tanier's wife won a spot on Al Davis's Wheel Of Quarterbacks between Lose Turn and Failed #1 Draft Pick.

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#24 by D Stein (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 2:24pm

I'm not sure what game you were watching, but Crowder did not play for the dolphins last week.

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#25 by Mike_Tanier // Sep 30, 2010 - 2:39pm

It was Dansby! Number 58 is Dansby! Bad Tanier. Naughty Tanier.

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#73 by Jerry // Sep 30, 2010 - 7:20pm

And then the key party?

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#97 by PHn (not verified) // Oct 01, 2010 - 4:26pm

And much rejoicing.

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#26 by Wanker79 // Sep 30, 2010 - 2:39pm

"Drew Brees could throw for a parsec" may have already clinched line of the year.

Former Eagles Fan. Go JETS!

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#29 by Will Allen // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:13pm

Mr. Tanier, in my home, if a reference to the female half of the partnership insinuated any Jamarcus-like qualities whatsoever, I fear the male half of the partnership would find himself Cabled ala Randy Hanson.

Tread lightly, sir.

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#49 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:15pm

Are you saying he's in danger of debacling his marriage?

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#30 by panthersnbraves // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:37pm

Editor alert!

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#31 by TomC // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:40pm

Week 3 DVOA Ratings

FO ratings say the Chiefs might really be for real, but the Bears may not.

Physician, heal thyself.

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#45 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:01pm

Technically just VOA so far. No opponent adjustments.

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#62 by TomC // Sep 30, 2010 - 5:41pm

Am I being epically stupid here? I was trying to point out that the tagline for the week 3 DVOA column used exactly the phrase that Tanier spends a chunk of this column deriding. Is Tanier's whole joke based on this fact, and I'm not getting it, or did no one else notice this?

I apologize for obsessing about this one detail, because the rest of the column was Top Ten Tanier (which is top ~10^-6 for mere mortals). I second all the previous nominations for LoL moment (wife coughing, Joyce Carol Oates, etc.), but the one that just killed me was "Welk, Welker, Welkest." Bra, vo.

Points: 0

#63 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 5:51pm

Aaron writes the DVOA column, not Tanier.

Aaron used a cliche because it quickly communicated what he was trying to explain.

Tanier made fun of the same cliche because it's a cliche and he specializes in observational humor.

FO is not a hivemind.

Points: 0

#70 by TomC // Sep 30, 2010 - 6:36pm

Agreed about the hive mind, but don't you find it even slightly odd that the piece makes fun of this phrase beloved of provincial, unsophisticated fans and media types without saying "and even we slip into it occasionally?" I guess not.

Points: 0

#71 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 6:50pm

I think you're taking it too seriously. He's just poking fun at sports culture. Like his classic piece on swagger, when Tainer himself had used the term before. Cliches are cliches because their useful.

He was making fun of the need for analysts to jump to conclusions and say definitively whether teams are good or not after 3 weeks. He was just using the "real or not" turn of phrase as a window to that line of thinking, he even points that out by using the term contender vs pretender at the end.

In the DVOA column, Aaron doesn't state whether a team is fuhreal or not, he says "may" before everything, and further writes "All of these ratings, of course, are still somewhat shaky because it is too early to include opponent adjustments."

Points: 0

#78 by billsfan // Oct 01, 2010 - 8:35am

Walkthroughs are like gossamer, and one doesn't dissect gossamer.

(I also like the Eagles)

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#34 by Joseph // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:51pm

"Even when Jackson was playing, the Panthers secondary was vulnerable." The Panthers have been bad this year, but I think you mean the BUCS secondary. [Edit--comment #30 had not appeared when I posted this]

However, my son did have to ask me why I was laughing so hard.

Points: 0

#37 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:52pm

"Drew Brees could throw for a parsec."

Thank you infinity for proper usage of this unit. Now someone needs to tell Han Solo that a parsec is a unit of distance, not time. He sounds like an idiot when he brags about his time in the Kessel Run.

The guy from Flem File also wrote something about Byron Leftwich's release being timed in light-years a couple weeks ago, and made me want to scream.

Points: 0

#41 by Kevin from Philly // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:56pm


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#46 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:04pm

Not a Star Wars geek per se, but have Lucas (Kasdan?) ever been asked about this? Did they ever say, "no no no, you silly mortal, the Kesssel Run is a time-limited race, therefore 12 distance units makes perfect sense."

To which we might respond, why didn't he say "he went 12 parsecs" instead of "in 12 parsecs?"

Ah well, some mysteries are best left alone. Like why my wife texted me with a series of k's. Either she's doing well in baseball, or I am in deep trouble.

Points: 0

#47 by billsfan // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:09pm

Or she just found a really offensive Halloween costume.

(I also like the Eagles)

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#48 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:11pm

The fan/expanded universe explanation is that the Falcon had advanced navigational computers that allowed it to plot a course shorter than other ships.

/being way to nerdy

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#50 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:15pm

Not buying it. Within the context of the conversation, he clearly means it to be a statement of how fast the Falcon is, not how awesome it's navigation ability is.

Points: 0

#51 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:16pm

Like most expanded universe bs, it doesn't make perfect sense.

However, reducing the distance you have to travel is just as good as moving at a faster speed when trying to get somewhere in as short a time as possible.

Points: 0

#58 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:50pm

Yeah, I know. I wish my Garmin understood that, but that's another issue altogether. In any case, my point is that that's not what Han said. What Han said is roughly the equivalent of saying "of course my car is fast -- it did the Indy 500 in 450 miles."

Points: 0

#67 by nuclearbdgr // Sep 30, 2010 - 6:06pm

I think it was in one of the Timothy Zahn books were it was explained that the Kessel run involved going around a series of black holes, and the ability to do it in a shorter distance meant that you had to go closer to the black holes and the closer to a black hole you go, the faster you better be going so you don't get sucked in.

Points: 0

#80 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Oct 01, 2010 - 9:16am

OK, but the course still has a beginning and end, no? Isn't it a lot more intuitive to say that one traversed the distance from A to B in some amount of time? Anyone who's ever watched an automobile race can tell you that the exact shortest route around the course is rarely the fastest one.

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#84 by Dean // Oct 01, 2010 - 10:58am

Sure, but a car who could bend the space time continuum would have a significant competitive advantage over the other cars in the field.

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#88 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Oct 01, 2010 - 12:56pm

Good point. It would be a surefire winner, if you can keep it from destroying the universe.

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#95 by Dean // Oct 01, 2010 - 3:04pm

It would be a surefire winner, provided that another vehicle couldn't also do the same.

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#69 by Mountain Time … // Sep 30, 2010 - 6:18pm

The Indy 500 comparison is completely wrong.

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#79 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Oct 01, 2010 - 8:58am

Oh, well that clears it up. Thanks.

Points: 0

#99 by Mountain Time … // Oct 01, 2010 - 5:32pm

Yes, sorry. A full explanation is in comment #100 above.

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#100 by Mountain Time … // Oct 01, 2010 - 5:33pm

Comment removed/redundant

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#108 by Insancipitory // Oct 02, 2010 - 11:43am

Yes, if you purchase the screenplay for Starwars, there's stage direction in there for Obi-Wan to the effect of "looks at Han like he's full of shit" but with the advantage of even greater brevity. And the cynic might suggest that was added after the fact, but given that Alec Guiness does in fact throw a look at that exact moment in the movie... well book goofiness that virtually no one has read just isn't necessary.

Points: 0

#40 by Mike Y // Sep 30, 2010 - 3:56pm


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#53 by James-London // Sep 30, 2010 - 4:25pm

"Karen can be forgiven for some text messaging irregularities. She has had bronchitis for three weeks. The doctors gave her some special cough medicine. She's still coughing, but she can now overthrow Darrius Heyward-Bey by 20 yards."

Pure win. That is phenomenal.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

Points: 0

#60 by Micranot (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 5:30pm

Woah, seriously hilarious!

Points: 0

#66 by Pat Swinnegan (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 6:03pm

This one clinches it: Walkthrough is the best football column anywhere. Ever.

All teams that go 3-0 or 2-1 are, by law, either for real or frauds, because the middle ground is for sissies.

Ordinarily, yes, but what about the Bengals? They're 2-1 and clearly not for real, but when their skill players keep telling us how lousy they are, so it's hard to label them frauds.

Points: 0

#72 by wr (not verified) // Sep 30, 2010 - 6:52pm

A very nice (and clever) Blanda tribute.

Points: 0

#76 by bubqr // Oct 01, 2010 - 7:34am

I wonder what someone new to FO would think reading only the comments.

Once again a very, very fine piece of reading. That mix of solid football analysis, humour, style, geeky references is something you just can't find elsewhere.

Points: 0

#82 by Raiderjoe // Oct 01, 2010 - 10:05am

82 comments so far? Yoo much to reaf now. Going to read tonite when drink. Saw

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#94 by Kevin from Philly // Oct 01, 2010 - 3:00pm

Guess RJ gets the "Keep Sawing Wood" award this week.

Points: 0

#83 by Catfish84 // Oct 01, 2010 - 10:49am

"Rule 1: All 3-0 teams are for real, even if they played Valdosta State, the 1976 Buccaneers, and a Pop Warner team with an injured quarterback to start the schedule"

My school is in Walkthrough! (Although admittedly not in a favorable context, I'm still excited as hell).

As an alumni of the school, I'd love to know how Mike Tanier happened to use us as the example.

Points: 0

#85 by Mike_Tanier // Oct 01, 2010 - 12:05pm

The first tiny program that jumped into my head. I was also looking for a 3-syllable-and-state school, because I thought 3 syllables would by funniest there.

Points: 0

#87 by Bobman // Oct 01, 2010 - 12:25pm

Ball State is always funny.

Of course, when Lettreman asked author Lisa Birnbach why his alma mater wasn't included in the Preppy Handbook (or maybe some book she wrote on college life) she said, "Frankly Dave, it's just gross."

My nephew's alma mater, Fairfield University, can be funny too. Though in your context, it kills the joke. (Still waiting for my brother to send me an FU sweatshirt....)

Oral Roberts, Austin Peay... plenty of amusing college names. Heck, use mine: Sarah Lawrence--we had a mean touch football team back in the day, though the annual "powder puff bowl" with Vassar never materialized when I was there.

Points: 0

#92 by MCS // Oct 01, 2010 - 2:22pm

At the high school my kids attend, they refer to Ball State as Testicle Tech.

Points: 0

#102 by Raiderjoe // Oct 01, 2010 - 6:23pm

Ball State in Scrotum County

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#103 by justanothersteve // Oct 01, 2010 - 9:44pm

Has Ball State ever played Morehead State?

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#107 by Raiderjoe // Oct 01, 2010 - 10:27pm

Yes, in '69.

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#110 by justanothersteve // Oct 02, 2010 - 5:13pm

RJ, you never cease to amaze me with your knowledge of obscure facts. Thanks.

Points: 0

#111 by Hurt Bones // Oct 03, 2010 - 11:02am

If memory serves, that was the game where foreplay was introduced.

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#112 by Raiderjoe // Oct 03, 2010 - 11:17am

Ball state rran the 'bone back then,.

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#113 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 03, 2010 - 1:36pm

I'm so glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read this.

Points: 0

#89 by Raiderjoe // Oct 01, 2010 - 12:57pm

Sarah lawrence is name of a college? Where? US or canada school?

Points: 0

#96 by jtduffin // Oct 01, 2010 - 3:11pm

Yes, in the US. Bronxville, NY, a bit north of Manhattan, near Yonkers or White Plains. www.slc.edu if you would like to learn more about the school. :-)

Points: 0

#109 by CoachDave // Oct 02, 2010 - 2:31pm

This column was fuhreal.

Of course it's 2-1 so it goes without saying.

Points: 0

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