Super Bowl LVI Mythbusters

Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Super Bowl - The Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams are very similar teams. The Rams are better. Amen.

The fact that that Rams are better than the Bengals does not mean that the Rams will win Super Bowl LVI. It does not mean that we cannot root for the Bengals or prefer the Bengals because we like plucky young upstarts better than favorites. It does not mean that the Rams have a better long-term future than the Bengals. It simply means that anyone staking money or reputation on the outcome of the game who looks at the matchup with sincere, well-informed objectivity is all-but required to pick the Rams.

Based on the graphic on the rail to the right side of this article, the Rams have a 65.3% chance to win the Super Bowl. I wouldn't bet the mortgage on a 65.3% chance. But I wouldn't bet a dime against a 65.3% chance, no matter how much momentum, mojo, or have you considered how the backup tight end stacks up against a strongside linebacker? hyperanalysis gets stacked up on the other side.

The Rams and Bengals both like to empty the backfield and throw deep to their exceptional No. 1 receivers. Both rely on quality cornerbacks to shut down opponent's No. 1 receiver. Neither team runs the ball all that creatively or spectacularly. Neither team is all that blitz-happy, and neither team is likely to blitz much when coping with the other's receiver corps on Sunday. The key matchups in this game are obvious. Ja'Marr Chase vs. Jalen Ramsey. Cooper Kupp vs. Chidobe Awuzie. Aaron Donald vs. the entire Bengals offensive line. Good Matthew Stafford vs. Evil Matthew Stafford. This is playground football, not a chess match.

But then we drill down to the players themselves. Ramsey is better than Awuzie. Donald is better than anyone. The Rams offensive line is better than the Bengals offensive line. In February of 2022 (as opposed to some time in the near future), Stafford and Kupp are better football players than Joe Burrow and Chase. The Rams win most of the meaningful comparisons, whether lined up position-by-position or offense-versus-defense.

DVOA tells us the Rams have a better run offense, pass offense, run defense, pass defense, and special teams, in some categories by a considerable margin. The Rams won more regular-season games against a far more difficult schedule. The Bengals scored the exact same number of points as the Rams during the regular season but allowed four more—again, against an easier slate of opponents. The Bengals beat the Chiefs twice, which was impressive. The Rams all but forced Tom Brady into retirement by beating his Buccaneers twice. More impressive. The Rams are a perennial playoff team full of veterans who reached the Super Bowl three years ago. Many of the Bengals stars were still in college three years ago. If home-field advantage is still a thing—and it probably is, despite a few years of data which suggests it has shrunk—the Rams have it.

I state all of these obvious facts because it's traditional to shroud the Super Bowl in manufactured suspense, imbue the underdog with intangibles (or tiny advantages gleaned from the corners of the coaching film or far reaches of the database) or mythologize the matchup with purple prose: The City of Angels has long awaited a new NFL champion, while the Queen City has shivered in the cold for generations. Well, my purple prose factory closed for repairs a few weeks early this year. And you are here at Football Outsiders: if you want to mine for Bengals advantages, you will find a bunch of them in the data, scattered among many more Rams advantages. (Or check out Aaron Schatz's data-intensive Super Bowl LVI pre-preview and the full preview coming Thursday afternoon.)

There's no mystery here. A better team—one of the preseason favorites—is playing a lesser team, though obviously a feisty one. Better teams don't always win, but they usually win. Everything else is salad dressing. The Walkthrough prediction: Rams 28, Bengals 17.

Props! Props! Props!

Your best source for Super Bowl prop information here at Football Outsiders is the Scramble for the Ball 19th Annual Super Bowl Prop Bet Extravaganza by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter. But we have our own favorite prop bets here at Walkthrough, and we need to get them in soon, because our flight leaves on Thursday and sports gambling isn't legal in California.

First Quarter: Rams (-1) at +105
The Rams ranked ninth in first-quarter offensive DVOA in the regular season and have outscored opponents 17-3 in the first quarter in the postseason. The Bengals ranked 29th in first-quarter offensive DVOA, though they have outscored opponents 19-10 in postseason first quarters.

Walkthrough hates giving up the first-quarter tie but likes the little extra drops of juice provided by +105. And first-quarter props are a big deal when actually covering the Super Bowl: by the second quarter, we're too busy to keep track of wagers.

Evan McPherson to have a successful 50-plus-yard field goal at +140
McPherson was 9-of-11 from 50-plus yards in the regular season and 3-of-3 in the playoffs. He'll be kicking in near dome-like conditions, and there are a lot of scenarios which will lead him to trot onto the field to attempt a long field goal. This moneyline feels like it should be more like +105.

Any player to have at least 150 rushing or receiving yards in the Super Bowl at +175
Forget the rushing yards. This is a chance to wager on Cooper Kupp or Ja'Marr Chase or someone like Odell Beckham or Tee Higgins going ham against single coverage, with a decent payout, without having to worry about details like catching a touchdown or having their production bundled with some random teammate.

Seven or more total game sacks at +250
The over-under for total sacks is 5.5, at +110. That should be enticing for more timid souls. But if you are sensing a sack fest, then go for the gusto. Burrow has endured five or more sacks six times in the regular season and playoffs, while Stafford has been dumped 23 times in his last seven games. Seven sacks may be a stretch goal, but it's attainable.

Any non-quarterback to throw a touchdown pass at +1400
Yes, I am permanently Philly Special-damaged. But Tyler Boyd is 2-of-4 passing for his career, Odell Beckham 4-of-6 (with two touchdowns!), Johnny Hekker 14-of-23 (with one touchdown!), Cam Akers was 5-of-8 in college, Joe Mixon threw a touchdown pass at Oklahoma … fine, laugh. Monday morning breakfast is on me when this hits.

You can also get +2200 on an offensive lineman scoring a touchdown: arguably better odds for a more likely scenario. But Walkthrough does things the hard way.

Super Same-Game Parlay
Speaking of doing things the hard way, Walkthrough teased the Rams down to -2.5 (gotta have that game-winning field goal in play) and the Over all the way down to 44.5, insulating us against both a shootout and a moderate-scoring sackfest. We got that parlay at an appetizing +140. With no goofy same-game parlays on the horizon for months, Walkthrough is hoping to make this one count!

The Invincible Joe Burrow, and Other Narratives

Having performed a little whirlwind tour of regional radio stations and podcasts on Monday and Tuesday, Walkthrough knows what folks are talking about heading into Super Bowl LVI. And we don't like what we are hearing.

Engage "Get Off My Lawn" mode!

Joe Burrow is not Tom Brady 2.0.
Burrow is going out of his way to make me hate him. It's clearly personal. Seriously, check this out:

The only thing worse than an athlete strutting around on social media is an athlete congratulating himself for not strutting around on social media. Especially when that athlete is 25 years old but sounds like he's angling for a promotion at Strickland Propane.

The Burrow quote was pulled from Monday's Zoom press conferences. Zoom press conferences make regular press conference sound like ancient Greek symposia by comparison; if you thought gaggles of reporters shouting boilerplate questions at disinterested athletes lacked intellectual rigor, you should experience what happens when moderators can control who speaks, follow-up questions are impossible, no one can even see anyone else, and so forth.

Anyway, Burrow was asked to give advice to young athletes, he gave it, most of it was sound, and any social networking producer worthy of the esteemed title knew that Burrow's pull quote would resonate with a certain demographic and slapped the sucker on a graphic.

And I personally blame Burrow for all of it.

No, that's not true. The bigger issue is the fact that Burrow is being set up as the anti-Mahomes. That was supposed to be Josh Allen's role, but the Bills keep losing to the Chiefs, while the Bengals keep beating them. Allen is too physically gifted to play the part, anyway. Burrow, like Tom Brady, looks more like a traditional storage container for gritty underdog wish-fulfillment fantasies.

Burrow appears to be growing into a quarterback of the caliber of Mahomes, Allen, or Justin Herbert, but he's not there yet. And frankly, he deserves better than to be form-fit into a stock character archetype. Let's enjoy Burrow for what he is, not for what we want him to be or are pretending he has already become.

Matthew Stafford is not a Hall of Famer if he wins Super Bowl LVI.
There are surely some radio-television-podcast personalities out there ready to declare Stafford a Hall of Famer—wait, let me get the tone just right: a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer, and anyone who disagrees is an idiot—should he win on Sunday.

Nope. Not at all. Not even close.

This isn't the space for a 2,000-word examination of Stafford's hypothetical candidacy, and it's impossible to tell who he might share a ballot with if he retires in seven years or so. But a Super Bowl win would fit Stafford rather snuggly among Joe Theismann, Jim Plunkett, Jim McMahon, and Phil Simms: very good quarterbacks with one (or two for Plunkett) rings who fell short of Canton. Eli Manning, a borderline candidate, would still have a stronger case than Stafford, as would Russell Wilson, who is likely to hit the ballot at around the same time. Aaron Rodgers, to be clear, is in a separate category,

Of course, Stafford could win two or three Super Bowls with the Rams, just as Burrow could win 12 with the Bengals. Each can only win one game this week.

I have no idea what a "legacy" is, anyway. There are Super Bowl champions and Hall of Famers. Everyone else just becomes an old football player who had a fine career that many fans remember fondly but others forget. Stafford will be better remembered by history if he wins on Sunday than if he loses. That's self-evident. But it doesn't make great content.

The Bengals defense is not "underrated." It's probably overrated.
The Bengals defense didn't become great because Mahomes and the Chiefs pounded Jell-O shots at the goal line in the AFC Championship Game. Lou Anarumo's "brilliant" game plan, featuring lots of eight-man coverages, was a desperation ploy that worked because the Chiefs strutted straight into the ambush.

It's worth noting that the Rams have averaged just 5.1 yards per pass attempt with a meager 58.7% completion rate on the 46 passes they attempted against three-man rushes in the regular season and playoffs. (Source: Sports Info Solutions). So Captain Lou may dial up more three-man rushes. Of course, many of those Rams pass attempts came in desperate late-game situations, skewing the data. And Sean McVay, unlike Andy Reid, will shift gears and run the ball if the Bengals try that stuff in the red zone.

Otherwise, you have read enough from Football Outsiders and Walkthrough this year to know that the Bengals have an average-at-best defense which excelled at shutting down the Steelers and Lions and has performed somewhat better in the postseason. The Rams faced much tougher defenses in the NFC playoffs. That's likely to show on Sunday.

The Bengals' path to success can not be "copycatted."
I've heard several variations on the "copy the Bengals blueprint" question, including some weird Twitter gibberish last week about how the Bengals are proof that tanking works. (Joe Burrow is magical, you see? So if a team were to lose on purpose to get him, they would automatically vault into the playoffs! That's how causality works!)

Anyway, sure, copy the Bengals blueprint: finish dead-last, draft a quarterback as good as Burrow, nearly sack him into a wheelchair as a rookie, pick the best receiver prospect since Randy Moss the next year, grab some defensive free agents to build a league-average unit, hope your two divisional powerhouses simultaneously collapse, get hot in the playoffs, hope the conference powerhouse self-destructs when it's about to take a 28-10 lead, win Super Bowl. An airtight, logical plan.

If anything, the Bengals are further proof that tanking is silly: they went from worst to first in two years by being aggressive in the draft (tankologists would absolutely have drafted a left tackle instead of Chase) and free agency (the Trey Hendrickson and D.J. Reader signings did not really pass the analytics sniff test). Advocating for three-plus-year rebuilding plans is silly when teams like the 2021 Bengals and 2017 Eagles keep turning things around in two. The closest thing to the moral of the Bengals story is that no team should think, "Oh well, Aaron Rodgers is in our division, so let's just bide our time and conserve resources until we see a window of opportunity."

Yes, every Walkthrough segment is secretly a commentary on the Vikings.

The Rams' path to success cannot really be copycatted, either.
The Rams' "win now" roster management strategy succeeded: they upgraded a team that was mired in wild-card purgatory, and they did so in a way that should ensure at least one more year of Super Bowl contention in 2022. (The Rams are currently NFC favorites at +1000 to win next year's Super Bowl.) Win or lose, the Rams made the right decision to trade for Stafford, add Von Miller, and so forth, just as the Buccaneers made the right decision to risk it all on a Tom Brady retirement tour over the last two years.

That said, "Dream Team" tactics are still perilous and highly situational. The Broncos won't become automatic Super Bowl favorites by adding Aaron Rodgers. The Eagles won't become automatic favorites by adding Deshaun Watson. The Rams are in the Super Bowl because they drafted Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp; acquired Robert Woods, Jalen Ramsey, Andre Whitworth, and others across multiple seasons by various means; installed a stable system; reached a Super Bowl; then went gee-glory gonzo for Stafford and Miller. It took four years and a few missteps for the Rams to go all in this year.

But hey, if teams decide that the clearest path to the Super Bowl involves chaotic offseason blockbuster trades, it makes my job easier and more fun. So have at it, guys!

The Sean McVay coaching tree is what it is.
McVay is clearly a great coach, despite iffy fourth-down decisions, shaky clock management, and a habit of appearing much more clever in September than December. Coaches don't just stumble into two Super Bowls with two different quarterbacks. As a talent developer, personality manager, and big-picture game-planner, McVay is more or less who he claims to be.

As for Zac Taylor … he has the good sense to let Burrow and Chase play sandlot football and to draw up enough play designs to keep Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd busy when Chase gets quintuple-teamed. At best, he has improved as a coach from his first two seasons, when he alienated star players and gave poorly chosen assistants too much leeway. At worst, he's just short of holding the Bengals back with his predictable play calls and unwillingness to beef up Burrow's pass-protection schemes.

This is the first McVay vs. McVay Clone Super Bowl. There are sure to be others, since coaches of the McVay-Shanahan tree have dominated yet another head coach hiring cycle. A self-fulfilling prophecy is about to fulfill itself: one lineage of coaches gets all the best opportunities and therefore enjoys a disproportionate amount of success, creating justification for hiring even more coaches of that lineage. Meanwhile, Brian Flores howls in the wilderness, and Eric Bieniemy has become the lid on the Andy Reid coaching jar that no one seems strong enough to unscrew..

Yeah, Mike McDaniel and Kevin O'Connell look like swell new head coaches. But diminishing returns will soon start setting in as teams reach even deeper into the McVay/Shanahan cloning vats. That may have already happened, but it will be hard to tell, because so many McVays are going to get so many opportunities that some of them are bound to succeed simply by climbing over one another.

Super Bowl LVI is not a referendum on anything.
Some inside baseball …

One of my past employers obligated me to write on the exact same broad theme in several consecutive post-Super Bowl columns: This Year's Champion is About to Start a New Dynasty. My column ran on Monday mornings, and per the dictates of Internet journalism, Monday content must spin the story forward.

If you think about the storylines of the Super Bowls of the mid-2010s, you realize that it took some serious mental contortions to suggest that some of the teams led by aging quarterbacks were on the verge of a dynasty. I was getting paid shockingly well for those contortions, so I contorted, sometimes with ridiculous results.

Thank heavens Football Outsiders isn't demanding a "start of the dynasty" column for Monday. The Bengals are not starting a dynasty; they may be starting a threesome with the Bills and Chiefs, which will make for some sexy AFC football for the next few years, but no dynasty. The Chiefs and Bills (+700 each) are favorites to win the AFC in the 2022, with the Bengals at +1200. Those numbers probably won't change much come Monday morning. And we all know the Rams are built to last exactly one more year, then the deluge.

If we want to spin forward to 2022, we need to talk about Rodgers, Watson, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson's contract, Baker Mayfield's contract, Trey Lance, the Eagles' draft picks, the Saints' cap dilemma, the Chargers run defense, the post-Tom Brady reality, and a dozen other situations which are currently in flux. We can also talk about the Bengals importing the Saints offensive line or the Rams scouring Day 3 of the draft for cheap talent, but each is just one conversation among many. And again: win or lose, the Rams and Bengals will still face the same offseason issues.

We have a rare opportunity to let Super Bowl LVI be what it is: a football game to define the champion of a league that tens of millions of fans are enthralled by, not some era-defining historical turning point. There's no Brady to fuss over. There's less in-person hoopla due to the pandemic. There are Winter Olympics for casual sports fans who like personality-based storytelling. For the rest of us, there's a game between two big-play-happy teams we haven't had time to get sick of yet. Let's cherish it. And then let's get ready for 2022.


115 comments, Last at 14 Feb 2022, 10:40am

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 10:38am

Well, my purple prose factory closed for repairs a few weeks early this year. 

These supply chain issues are getting out of hand.

Anyway, sure, copy the Bengals blueprint: finish dead-last, draft a quarterback as good as Burrow, nearly sack him into a wheelchair as a rookie, pick the best receiver prospect since Randy Moss the next year, grab some defensive free agents to build a league-average unit, hope your two divisional powerhouses simultaneously collapse, get hot in the playoffs, hope the conference powerhouse self-destructs when it's about to take a 28-10 lead, win Super Bowl. An airtight, logical plan.

Other than the last part, if you substituted QB for RB, this is basically what the Lions did in 1989 (Sanders) and 1990 (Moore). Goddamn Redskins.

Points: 0

#75 by Mike B. In Va // Feb 10, 2022 - 11:24am

We'll never know, but it's likely the 1991 Bills destroy the Lions in that hypothetical matchup, anyway, based on DVOA.

Points: 0

#2 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 10:49am

McVay is clearly a great coach, despite iffy fourth-down decisions, shaky clock management, and a habit of appearing much more clever in September than December. Coaches don't just stumble into two Super Bowls with two different quarterbacks.

It's interesting that this also describes Andy Reid, and these are the two most fruitful coaching trees we've seen since Walsh, and may actually be better.

Meanwhile, Belichick is good at all of that list, but his tree is more barren than the Atacama. 

Points: 0

#31 by serutan // Feb 09, 2022 - 4:14pm

Didn't Reid have a Walsh connection?   Not saying one shouldn't refer to a Reid tree, just curious.

Love the Atacama analogy.

Points: 0

#42 by Chuckc // Feb 09, 2022 - 6:07pm

He was under Holmgren so it's sort of a second degree connection.

Points: 0

#46 by Bryan Knowles // Feb 09, 2022 - 6:43pm

Yeah, the Reid and Shanahan/McVay branches can be considered both subbranches of the Walsh tree, though they've both grown enough on their own to be considered their own separate things.


Now that Urban Meyer is out, you can actually connect all 32 current NFL coaches back to Paul Brown by either their coaching or playing tree.  You need to add "playing" in to connect Kingsbury, who otherwise is out on his own little island, and to connect Don Shula to Brown.  But if you're just interested in Six Degrees of Brown, you can now do it once again.

Points: 0

#3 by Raiderfan // Feb 09, 2022 - 11:12am

“The Rams all but forced Tom Brady into retirement by beating his Buccaneers twice.”. You left out the “two games early” after retirement.

”the best receiver prospect since Randy Moss”.  Except for Dyson- who was drafted ahead of him-Megatron, Julio Jones, the guy who broke his rookie receiving yard record (just LAST year), etc.

I guess you still have a hangover from the partying at the Senior Bowl, because this article has some stupid s**t.

Points: 0

#5 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 11:42am

In reply to by Raiderfan

For a second, I thought this was really out of character for RaiderJoe. 

And then I noticed the non-names were spelled correctly.

Points: 0

#4 by mehllageman56 // Feb 09, 2022 - 11:31am

While the Bengals' "plan" may not be duplicated exactly, anyone can look around to see which teams may turn it around in a year.  Combining a good young quarterback with a great receiver prospect instead of taking the great offensive line prospect is one lesson to be learned; by the way, taking Penei Sewell over Ja'Marr Chase or vice versa, has nothing to do with analytics at all.  Draftniks just thought Sewell was a better prospect, and they were wrong.  I've seen a bunch of articles implying the Jets can do the same thing the Bengals did, while the writers forget that the Bengals have a GOOD young quarterback.

The better plan is to accumulate a ton of draft picks while also spending money wisely on free agents.  The Bengals didn't really do the first but they definitely did a good job in free agency, and have been pretty smart spending money in free agency for a while.  Now if they could improve their facilities, they may actually stay good.  Someone tell Mike Brown.

Points: 0

#6 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 11:49am

The Lions aren't exactly complaining about Sewell.

The question is more: would you rather have Chase and Hill, or Sewell and St. Brown?

Points: 0

#9 by mehllageman56 // Feb 09, 2022 - 12:43pm

The question is more: would you rather have Chase and Hill, or Sewell and St. Brown?

The answer is: I'd rather have Joe Burrow.

Points: 0

#11 by Kellerman // Feb 09, 2022 - 1:34pm

Who is Hill?  Do you mean 2021 6th round pick C Trey Hill. who basically never plays?  Or T DeAnte Smith 2021 4th round pick, who now sometimes plays as the 6th O-lineman in 6 OL sets?  Or 2021 2nd round pick G-T Jackson Carman, who rarely plays?  I just don't understand what you mean.

It is fair to criticize the Bengals' lineplay, because it has been subpar-to-woeful this season, but it is unfair to act like the front office made no effort to improve it over the 2020-21 offseason.  Not only did they draft 3 o-linemen but they signed Riley Reiff in free agency who started 10 or 11 games at RT, (and was OK, I guess) and undoubtedly would still be doing that had he not been injured.  They also tried to roll with Xavier Sua-Filo at RG, but for a second year got only a few series before HE was IR'd.  

The biggest change was casting aside Zac Taylor's WORST hire (Jim Turner) to bring back Frank Pollack.  He is apparently the one most responsible for rescuing Jonah Williams from near-bust status to serviceable starter status and for turning Isaiah Prince and Hakeem Adeniji into people who can at least play without rendering the offense completely impotent.    

Maybe you meant DT BJ Hill?  they traded 1st round bust C Billy Price for him before the season and that has been a good trade.  But I don't see the connection to Chase/Sewell?

Points: 0

#14 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 1:49pm

In reply to by Kellerman

I meant Trey Hill, but D'Ante Smith is a better comparison.

Both CIN and DET needed line help. Both used a 1st and a 4th on a WR and a lineman. DET got Sewell (1st) and St. Brown (4th). Is that better or worse than Chase (1st) and Smith (4th)?

Points: 0

#15 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 09, 2022 - 1:50pm

In reply to by Kellerman

The logical comparison would've been Jackson Carman but I guess the 6th rounder is easier to remember than the 2nd rounder (or just trolling). 

Points: 0

#16 by Joey-Harringto… // Feb 09, 2022 - 1:52pm

In reply to by Kellerman

I'm going to go out on a limb and say he meant Jonah Williams?  That would make more sense in the context of this discussion.  Maybe the OP got him mixed up with Jonah Hill?  Let's go with that, because imaging Jonah Hill trying to pass protect amuses me.

EDIT: never mind, just saw his post above.

Points: 0

#19 by Pat // Feb 09, 2022 - 2:23pm

In reply to by Kellerman

for rescuing Jonah Williams from near-bust status

The only problem Williams had in 19/20 was injuries, so unless Frank Pollack is Mr. Miyagi-style laying-on-hands, don't think he had much to do with it. Williams was fine in the games he played in 2020 when you consider the rest of the line.

(n.b. - note this isn't a knock on Pollack, just that Williams never should've been remotely considered a near-bust except for injuries)

Points: 0

#7 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 09, 2022 - 11:58am

Came in and said WR>OT. Which is counter intuitive to conventional wisdom that is obsessed with the trenches (and Burrows injury that wasn't related to Sewells position)

Points: 0

#8 by mehllageman56 // Feb 09, 2022 - 12:41pm

The Bengals already had Jonah Williams, a first round pick at tackle.  They already had several receivers as well though.

Points: 0

#10 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 09, 2022 - 12:48pm

But "several" WRs is quite pushing it. It was Boyd and Higgins. The rest were nothing. The next best being an old cult hero (Auden Tate). And it came to fruition. Chase was an insta-starter and the "worst" of the trio (Boyd, who missed a game btw) had 67 receptions. The rest of the WRs combined for 27 targets. Not receptions, targets! Also why I advocated for Terrace Marshall Jr. in the 2nd (Jackson Carman didn't do so hot this year, TMJ at least got more targets (in only 13 games!) than the non Cincy big 3).

Sewell and Chase were similar level (#3 consensus big board vs #4). But thanks (mainly to PFF) they found, through analytics, that WR is more valuable. And teams run more than 2 WRs in today's league. 

Then there's the fact Burrow was lobbying for his buddy.

Points: 0

#18 by Pat // Feb 09, 2022 - 2:06pm

The Bengals already had Jonah Williams, a first round pick at tackle.

Plus PFF had Williams and Sewell both ranked as the #4 overall player in their draft, and both Sewell and Williams made their marks at LT in college. If they had drafted Sewell they would've ended up swinging him over to RT like the Lions did, likely with the same struggles, just because Williams absolutely wasn't their weak link at OL.

Choosing between a WR and a LT isn't easy. Choosing between a WR and RT is a heckuva lot easier.

Points: 0

#12 by IlluminatusUIUC // Feb 09, 2022 - 1:36pm

Combining a good young quarterback with a great receiver prospect instead of taking the great offensive line prospect is one lesson to be learned

I think it's worth noting that the QB and WR in this case had pre-existing chemistry from their college days. Were it not for Chase sucking all the "Hot rookie Wideout" oxygen out of the room, Jaylen Waddle would be getting props for his excellent rookie year playing with his college QB.


That said, it's not bulletproof. The Josh Allen to Tanner Gentry/Jacob Hollister magic never quite materialized in the NFL.

Points: 0

#13 by Pat // Feb 09, 2022 - 1:49pm

Combining a good young quarterback with a great receiver prospect instead of taking the great offensive line prospect is one lesson

The Sewell consensus mock draft choice for the Bengals was always weird. Why would they take Sewell when they already had a very highly regarded first-round tackle? Williams was literally the best OL player for the Bengals in 2020. PFF had Williams ranked as the #4 overall player when he came out. Drafting a guy to replace him would be dumb - it's where you'd get the least return. And it definitely doesn't make sense to draft a guard or center that early.

never understood the talking heads who said Cincy passed on tackle or that somehow this proves WR is more valuable than OL. They took 3 freaking OL in the draft, of course they needed to improve their OL. But taking anything other than an LT that high is super-silly. 

 but they definitely did a good job in free agency, 

Yeah, the right conclusion to take from Cincy has nothing to do with Chase. It's "when you've got a rookie QB, use the savings to buy a defense."

Points: 0

#21 by mehllageman56 // Feb 09, 2022 - 2:44pm

And yet the draft guys are expecting the Jets to take Neal or Ekwonu at #4 if the top two edge rushers are gone.  Even though the Jets drafted Becton two years ago and he was fine the year he played, and the other left tackle they have under contract (Fant) played great last year.

Points: 0

#38 by Pat // Feb 09, 2022 - 5:34pm

Well, a lot of times they're trying to predict what a team will do rather than should do and there's obviously been some grumblings about Becton, so I guess people interpret that as "need a new tackle." As the draft gets closer obviously those drafts shift based on what people hear the Jets paying attention to. But yeah, I agree, even though OL's a concern for the Jets it's not exactly a first-round concern just due to position.

It's a similar thing with Cincy last year, actually - they were paying a bunch of attention to OL pre-draft, and so people I guess must've interpreted that as them going after Sewell. Like I said, they drafted three OL in the draft, so they definitely were paying attention, just not at the first-round level.

That carries over to the draft grades, too - because people were thinking that Cincy thought OL was a big concern (which it was) they didn't understand why they didn't go after Sewell. But the OL concern in Cincy wasn't "we need a top end talent" it was "we need to replace all these guys who are awful."

Points: 0

#17 by theslothook // Feb 09, 2022 - 2:00pm

Saying the Rams' "all in" worked feels like post hoc analysis. The team was the 4th seed and most of the time, the 4th seed doesn't get to host a championship game or face an opponent they are favored over in the SB.

One reason the all ins have worked is their best players have stayed healthy and productive all year. I said at the beginning of the year, any injury to Donald or Ramsey ( or Kupp) would be devastating to their team. It just never happen d.

A sober view of the Rams strategy ex ante suggests that the downsides are more numerous and more probable than the version that happened to play out this time.

Points: 0

#20 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 2:27pm

Retrospective analyses are by their nature post-hoc. That's what post hoc means.

Points: 0

#22 by theslothook // Feb 09, 2022 - 2:51pm

I guess I was discussing the takeaways and whether doing what the Rams did is something a team should be doing.

Take the Chargers. Should they be trading every first rounder in perpetuity to acquire star veterans( assuming they become available in the first place).  

Say two firsts for a receiver like Chris Godwin or two firsts for Mark Andrews?

Points: 0

#23 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 3:03pm

The Chargers should trade a QB to Chicago in return for an entire ST unit in order to break both curses.

Points: 0

#61 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Feb 10, 2022 - 9:30am

The Rams got to a Super Bowl and then made moves to try and get back with a team that could win.

The Chargers can't even get to the playoffs, so no, they shouldn't think "hey, we're right where the Rams were three years ago".

Now, if you ask me should SF think about trying to replicate what the Rams have done, then yeah, I think they should absolutely consider it.

Points: 0

#24 by Tutenkharnage // Feb 09, 2022 - 3:11pm

The stars-and-scrubs approach almost never works in the NFL because it's an attrition league. The Rams have been very, very lucky in that regard. Any team that tries to replicate this path is extremely unlikely to succeed.

Points: 0

#25 by Joey-Harringto… // Feb 09, 2022 - 3:35pm

The 2020 Bucs were also pretty lucky in regards to injuries. 

It should also be pointed out that a lot of their key players were either drafted/developed over time: (Kupp, Donald, Higby, Havenstein, Noteboom, Brian Allen, Jordan Fuller), signed as free agents in prior years (Whitworth, Floyd, A. Robinson), or picked up off the scrap heap (Beckham).

Giving up a years of draft capital for veterans is definitely risky long-term, but I don't think the Rams are "stars and scrubs".  More like "stars and a bunch of above average starters".   Would be fair to say, cap-hit wise, that they have a few guys with huge cap hits, and bunch of rookie-contract/cheap guys, with almost no "middle class".

Points: 0

#27 by AFCNFCBowl // Feb 09, 2022 - 3:45pm

Rams have been low on injuries every season since they moved to LA.

Points: 0

#63 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Feb 10, 2022 - 9:37am

I think the "stars-and-scrubs" narrative for the Rams may be misleading.  Every NFL team is made of primarily of "scrubs", but the Rams' scrubs seem to be at least as good, if not better, than the back half of most teams.

The way they've built their team may seriously impact their ability to get stars at below market rates through the draft in upcoming years, but I don't perceive that it's weakened the overall roster that they're fielding right now.


Points: 0

#80 by theslothook // Feb 10, 2022 - 11:53am

Well, they've effectively traded two and sometimes more players for one in deals for Goff, Stafford, and Ramsey. They've also made almost a dozen other trades where they've lost draft picks or netted worse draft compensation.

In the long run, this strategy inevitably makes you top heavy as not only are you acquiring stars in two for ones or three for ones, you are also paying them top of the league money.

The Rams have managed themselves around this problem by drafting well in later rounds and their stars have stayed healthy, but the former is unsustainable and the latter is a risk.

Points: 0

#47 by theTDC // Feb 09, 2022 - 6:43pm

This is all true, but there are 32 teams in the league. That the Rams aren't likely to win a superbowl at any time in their short window of serious contention isn't really saying much. Taking the Von Miller trade, I think it's pretty reasonable for the team to deal a second and third for a player who is playing as well as he is. Rookies usually suck in their rookie season, and increasing the odds of a SB this year is more than offset by the team not having those draft picks. 

Personally I would appreciate it if more teams went with a Saints/Rams all in approach, especially with the cap. Alternatively, if teams recognized that they suck early, and started doing what the Broncos did, eating cap for free draft picks. The passive approach is overrated.

Points: 0

#49 by theslothook // Feb 09, 2022 - 6:54pm

I should be clear. Whether you think the Rams did or didn't do the right thing shouldn't depend on the outcome of the super bowl.

But it's being framed that way, especially when you're deciding as another franchise to pursue this same strategy.

I don't know if there's a clear yes or no, but I do think going down this road is riskier just like trading three firsts for Lance is a riskier path than what the 49ers could have done.


Points: 0

#65 by Will Allen // Feb 10, 2022 - 9:47am

Being able to trade for talent like Von Miller and OBJ late in the season is not a plan that can be counted on.

Points: 0

#85 by IlluminatusUIUC // Feb 10, 2022 - 12:45pm

I'd say it is, there are veterans like those guys available all the time. Maybe not franchise legends like Miller, but we also saw Zach Ertz and Melvin Ingram moved mid-season and play big roles on playoff teams. Last year it was Leonard Fournette. The year before it was Marcus Peters, Emmanuel Sanders, and of course Jalen Ramsey. [Gilmore and Ngakoue also moved over this time, but those didn't pan out into the playoffs]

The key is having the FO that can identify these opportunities and flexibly fit them into the financial structure, and the systems and coaching available to integrate the player quickly. I think that is a repeatable plan.

Points: 0

#87 by Will Allen // Feb 10, 2022 - 1:02pm

Von Miller is going to the Hall of Fame, and can still come close to playing at that level.  OBJ started his career with 3 seasons at a HOF level, and now has had several unremarkable seasons, but he does not look physically done, at a position where HOF talent, more frequently relative to other positions, can have some extended troughs, only to peak at near HOF level, once the context improves.

No, two guys like that are not commonly available via trade late in every season.



Points: 0

#90 by IlluminatusUIUC // Feb 10, 2022 - 3:23pm

If your threshold is guys that were once HOF caliber players and who could possibly re-create that on a new team, then I think you could have done a deal for JJ Watt or Julio Jones last year instead of waiting for the offseason. Both of their teams were well out of the playoff race by the deadline and the reasons they wanted out had already manifested.

If one is willing to be aggressive, I think you can find the takers.

FWIW, OBJ was a free agent and not a trade, so you'd also have to be skilled enough to lure a guy like that even before you integrated him into your offense.


Points: 0

#95 by Will Allen // Feb 10, 2022 - 5:47pm

Of course, that wasn't what I wrote. For example, by late last year J.J. Watt was obviously no longer even an above average player, and had exactly 1 good season in his last 5. That's not Von Miller. 

Points: 0

#98 by IlluminatusUIUC // Feb 11, 2022 - 9:47am

Watt had 23 defeats last year, 1 behind Aaron Donald

Miller hasn't appeared near the top of that list since 2018, until he presumably does this season. Now, admittedly Watt's output was as more of a run defender in that season. But putting him on a better team with more leads to defend and better teammates to draw attention could have changed that, just as it did for Miller.

Points: 0

#99 by Will Allen // Feb 11, 2022 - 11:43am

In a league where passing dominates hugely, being great against the run does not automatically make a player an above average player. I'll admit I haven't compared the ratio of pass plays to run plays for Watt and Miller.

Points: 0

#100 by IlluminatusUIUC // Feb 11, 2022 - 1:08pm

These aren't your stats, but JJ Watt was also #8 in Pass Rush Win Rate that year

Further, if one was a playoff team with a clear weakness at rush defense (like 2020 Buffalo), then even a run-focused Watt could have swung a few key drives.

Points: 0

#26 by theslothook // Feb 09, 2022 - 3:37pm

Maybe I'm being a Bengals hater, but on paper, this feels like the most lopsided super bowl matchup since ironically the 2012 49ers vs Ravens.

The Rams are just better everywhere and yet, I don't brim with confidence and thats all because of Matthew Stafford. I watched Stafford all year and he's basically the same player he was in Detroit. One of the points of clarity with other tier 3 quarterbacks like cousins and garoppolo is you know they have limitations and you plan accordingly. When Jimmy G was at peak, the 49ers still used him as a compliment in their offense. The Rams offense, by contrast, flows entirely through Stafford the triggerman.

It's easy to see why. Stafford flirts enough with being something higher that he tempts you into a style that he's frankly not consistent enough to execute. 

He's a good player and he's had a good career, but I don't think the outcome of this game should be proof of something more.

Points: 0

#32 by theslothook // Feb 09, 2022 - 4:18pm

Tier 1 is for perennial all pro/mvp contention type players. 

Tier 2 is a group just below that can flirt with Tier 1 but just aren't as consistent as they are. That right now for me includes Watson, Wilson, and probably Herbert. Allen may is between tier 1 and 2 for me, probably tier 2 as well. 

Points: 0

#34 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 4:26pm

I assume Tier 1 is Brady, Rodgers, and Good Mahomes?

On a numbers basis, Burrow, Herbert, Allen, Bad Mahomes, and Stafford are basically the same guy. They have the volume of a Tier 1 guy, but not the efficiency. They all turn it over too much -- 2.5-3:1, versus 5:1 or so.

Interestingly, Wilson and Cousins are also basically the same guy. Hell -- they play for the same coach! Both are on teams with defensive coaches who insist on running the ball even though their offensive personnel are built to pass, and it results in an efficient but artificially low-volume passing attack. Volume is the difference between these guys are Tier 1. They are at that 5:1 level, but at 2/3rds the volume.

If you take the efficiency of a high-turnover Tier 2 guy with the volume of a low-usage Tier 2 guy, you get a Goff or a Garoppolo.

Points: 0

#36 by theslothook // Feb 09, 2022 - 4:40pm

The problem with Allen and Herbert is they are so young that comparisons against Stafford are a bit unweildy. I may just projecting them as tier 2 players when in reality, their true career level is still unknown.

I agree, Wilson and Cousins are closer than I had realized, which makes me think better of Cousins and worse off Wilson. 


Points: 0

#40 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 5:42pm

Stafford this year was basically Stafford's performance in 2011, his first full season as a starter. (Back when 5000 yard still meant something) It may be more wieldy than you think.

The advanced stats suggest his best season was actually 2019... when he went 3-4-1. (non-Stafford QBs were 0-8) God the Lions suck.

Points: 0

#43 by Jay Z // Feb 09, 2022 - 6:22pm

It's inaccurate to say Wilson and Cousins are basically the same guy.  The only criticism you can make of Wilson v. Cousins is that Wilson gets sacked too much.  Otherwise, Wilson is clearly better by every metric.

Points: 0

#45 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 09, 2022 - 6:39pm

They're in different stratospheres. 

Man the injury is warping the perception of Wilson a crap ton. People calling him washed, 3 years left, etc.

Points: 0

#48 by theslothook // Feb 09, 2022 - 6:49pm

I was going by DVOA. 

Like you and probably others, I have a totally different view of Wilson than I do Cousins, which is why I was surprised that their wasn't a big gulf between their numbers.

I have watched both players a fair amount, but at all times, I try to recognize that I'm also prone to median narratives. Wilson has a sterling reputation and cousins is considered a punchline. But perhaps neither viewpoint is fully accurate

Points: 0

#56 by Jay Z // Feb 10, 2022 - 12:21am

Based on old traditional quarterback rating, Cousins ranks sixth in his years as a starter, 2015-2021.  Pretty good.  Wilson is STILL ahead of him, and this knocks out Wilson's first three years as a starter, his Super Bowl years.

I think traditional quarterback rating overrates QBs like Cousins who are completion percentage and yardage heavy and lighter on TDs and INTs.  Which fits the image of Cousins as an up and down the field guy where something is missing in turning that into winning games.  The weaker TDs and INTs play into that.  Plus he's comparatively immobile and fumbles too much given his immobility.  Cousins is more of a less mobile Dak Prescott to me.

Cousins does not have a great narrative.  Drafted comparatively low, took until his fourth year to start even then.  Then a long stretch of mediocrity where his teams can't even win 10 games in a season ever.  Even Stafford had a season of 11 wins with the Lions.  Plus Stafford was drafted number one, has a pretty wife who had cancer, and is now in the Super Bowl.  Cousins can't even get an anti-vax narrative, as there's another QB more famous for that.

So Cousins' crappy narrative probably hurts his rep some.  On the other hand, he's likely overrated statistically if you just look at completion percentage and yardage.  And I do think Wilson clearly is better than Cousins by any analysis.

Points: 0

#66 by Will Allen // Feb 10, 2022 - 10:00am

 Getting to intangibles, I've suspected that Cousins has some Jay Cutler in him. Not in terms of crappy work habits, but in terms of being a dick who teammates find repellent. That stuff matters over several seasons, but some dicks are talented enough to minimize the effect. Cousins ain't one of those dicks.

Points: 0

#29 by Joey-Harringto… // Feb 09, 2022 - 4:06pm

Derrik Klassen pointed out that Stafford's most crazy-looking and harmful interceptions came in nationally-televised games, impacting a lot of people's perceptions.  However tying for the league lead in interceptions is a fact, not a perception (although Joe Burrow is just one behind with 16, including a couple of bad ones in the last two playoff games).  Same with leading the league in pick-sixes.

But, 2021 was kind of an outlier for his career, turnover-wise (highest INT% since his rookie year, highest INT total since 2013).  I never really watched the Lions offense being really nervous about Stafford throwing a pick...because Stafford throwing it around was the Lions' only hope of winning the game.   But I can see how Rams fans would be nervous about that watching him this year....because Stafford throwing picks is usually the Rams' only path to defeat (other than the divisional round game).


Points: 0

#30 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 4:13pm

His TD/INT ratio was basically the same as the AFL's 4-headed monster of Burrow, Allen, Herbert, and Mahomes.

Points: 0

#33 by theslothook // Feb 09, 2022 - 4:20pm

Stafford's DVOA and DYAR are in line with his typical, non disaster, Detroit seasons - somewhere between 10 to 15th in ranking. 

The issue with Stafford is hes not playing a complimentary QB role, he has always been the focal point of the offense. 

Points: 0

#35 by Joey-Harringto… // Feb 09, 2022 - 4:38pm

"Stafford's DVOA and DYAR are in line with his typical, non disaster, Detroit seasons - somewhere between 10 to 15th in ranking. "

Not to be a pedant, but this year his DVOA and DYAR are 9th and 6th, more in line with his top Detroit seasons (2011, 2019: 9th/5th and 4th/8th).  Caveat with pitfalls of ordinal rankings, and all that.

Points: 0

#74 by Will Allen // Feb 10, 2022 - 11:23am

Outside of his rookie year, and two injury seasons, Stafford's never been below average, and has been well above average about 70% of the time, while only having played 5 seasons with competent coaching, 1 season with a competently managed organization.

No, winning Sunday does not make him a HoF candidate. However, ya' gotta be pretty ignorant of the nature of NFL football to think it crazy to suspect that if he had started out with the Ravens, or some other consistently well coached, well managed team, he would be a strong candidate.

Points: 0

#89 by Joey-Harringto… // Feb 10, 2022 - 2:43pm

Scott Linehan and Jim Schwartz were pretty lackadaisical  about coaching Stafford when it came to his mechanics and footwork.  They seemed not to care that he was constantly drifting 10 yards behind where the pocket should be, throwing off his back foot, holding the ball at his waist, throwing while facing parallel to the line of scrimmage, etc.  They just allowed him to rely on his arm to make it work (and it often did!). 

The two Jims (Caldwell and Bob Cooter) slowly hammered those bad habits out of him, and he became a much more consistent and capable passer (actually getting better after Megatron's retirement).  Sometimes I think about how his career trajectory may have been different if he got that kind of coaching right from the jump.

Points: 0

#104 by trfields // Feb 11, 2022 - 4:12pm

Back of the envelope...

Impact of Evil Matthew Stafford = Implied value of Team DVOA difference to the Market Line (of -4);

Implied value of Team DVOA difference = 6.5= (Market Total/45)*(RAMS-BENGALS DVOA)/0.038 = 48.5/45*(27.1-4.2)/3.8

Impact of Evil Matthew Stafford = 6.5 to 4 points difference; The "6" is worth 3.5%, the "5" is worth 2.2%, and half the "4" 1.4% (2.8%/2).

The threat of Evil Matthew Stafford is worth -7.1% in win rate.  I laid the Rams -4. 

Points: 0

#37 by jheidelberg // Feb 09, 2022 - 5:02pm

1.  Ja' Marr Chase over a LT?  Sure in hindsight it is 20/20, everyone will pick Ja'Marr Chase.  If teams try to copy cat, the next time, they may end up with Sammy Watkins.  This was a tough decision, and I think that the Bengals got lucky, because history has not shown them to be good at making proper decisions.  It does not mean that going forward that you should always go for a WR.

2.  How great is Joe Burrow?  His DVOA, opponent adjusted stats are not better than recent SB entrants Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.  An article was written earlier this season about how bad a set of defenses that the Bengals played.  It is too early to start assigning greatness to Burrow.

The narrative is always written to match the result (not on FO, but the general media).  If CIN wins, Burrow is great, in reality he may not even be better than Justin Herbert nor Carson Wentz, nor Jared Goff.  Time will tell.

3.  This SB shows what has happened in the NFL, the games are so random, due to parity, and that there are so few possessions per game, due mostly to great offenses. For whatever reason there is little home field advantage.  Last year a number 5 seed won the SB, and this year a number 4 seed will win.  My concern is that too many teams make the playoffs, and that seeding hardly matters, except for the number 1 seed.  Had the Bills known that they would have drawn LV/TEN instead of NE/KC they would have found a way to lose a game to finish 4th. If the Colts beat JAX in week 18, number 2 seed KC would have had a tougher draw than CIN.

The NFL can not afford to diminish the importance of the regular season.


Points: 0

#39 by theslothook // Feb 09, 2022 - 5:38pm

The WR vs LT is a fascinating philosophical debate and how Chase and Sewell ultimately pan out is beside the point. You can't know, ex ante, that Jamar Chase is going to be this amazing. While the state of the roster is a huge factor, the debate to me boils down to this: How much do you weight peak value and career value because the receiver is going to impact the game more than the LT but the LT will be elite for longer and play longer. 



Points: 0

#51 by mehllageman56 // Feb 09, 2022 - 7:27pm

While the WR vs LT is a philosophical debate, the actual merits of the case depend upon specifics, namely, who are the players getting drafted.  We can go back to the 1980 draft to laugh at the Jets taking Lam Jones 2nd, just before the Bengals took Anthony Munoz.  In other words, draft the player not the position.

Points: 0

#105 by trfields // Feb 11, 2022 - 4:28pm

Anthony Munoz (knee injuries) is a great example of risk aversion in the draft. 

Who drafts pass catchers that can not catch?  In the first round!  1980 New York Jets Jim Kensil (Lam Jones), Cleveland analytics darling Sashi Brown (David Njoku). 

Points: 0

#64 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Feb 10, 2022 - 9:45am

"the LT will be elite for longer and play longer"

I wonder if that's true for everywhere on the talent scale?

And even if it is true, I wonder if it's relevant in the salary cap era?

Taking these points in turn:

a) If we narrow the range of WRs and LTs sufficiently, say to Top 10 picks, does it still hold that an elite WR is expected to have a shorter career than an elite LT?

b) When you're drafting a player under the current rules, why should you care about how the player will perform beyond their rookie contract?  Does it not make more sense to get the most impactful players now?  Once they're free agents, you'll need to pay market price to keep them anyway.


Points: 0

#68 by Pat // Feb 10, 2022 - 10:28am

If we narrow the range of WRs and LTs sufficiently, say to Top 10 picks, does it still hold that an elite WR is expected to have a shorter career than an elite LT?

Yup, although it's not huge. WRs basically fall off a cliff after 10 years, OL typically hold out a few years more. A lot of this is (in some sense) luck, though, because the injuries that WRs sustain are much more damaging to their careers than injuries to OL. Very few injury types (basically only ACLs) result in shortening an OL's career length, whereas a lot of injuries shorten a WR's career length (Achilles, shoulder, ACL).

When you're drafting a player under the current rules, why should you care about how the player will perform beyond their rookie contract?

Because the point of getting a player in round 1 is not to get a player cheaply. It's to get the player at all. Elite WRs/LTs are not freely available. That's why before rookie contract limits, the round 1 contracts got so crazy high.

Points: 0

#76 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Feb 10, 2022 - 11:26am

"Because the point of getting a player in round 1 is not to get a player cheaply. It's to get the player at all. Elite WRs/LTs are not freely available."

I think it's probably both, but regardless I agree that your point is the more important factor.

But specifically to the WR v LT discussion, I still question whether it's relevant in the salary cap era to worry about career longevity between these two positions.  If we think player A will is likely to have an above-average 10 year career, while player B is likely to have an above-average 15 year career, I think in terms of drafting those players that's pretty much irrelevant and it's much more important to assess who is likely to have a bigger impact in year 1 of their career.


Points: 0

#77 by theslothook // Feb 10, 2022 - 11:46am

I would add a few more points:

1) Looking through the careers of prominent receivers over this decade, most don't produce elite production immediately. It takes a few seasons and then their apex typically lasts about 4-6 years and then there's a dropoff. For some, they are able to adjust into a complimentary role. For others, it's a fall of a cliff. Whether that's mostly because of injuries or other age related decline is an interesting follow up.

2) I used to have a draft model to answer this question but I haven't kept up with it. But it is perceived that the variability in outcomes for a receiver in the draft is higher than for a left tackle. The left tackle is viewed as a "safer" pick than the receiver. 

3) Not only are left tackles considered less volatile as draft prospects, they are also perceived as less volatile play by play vs the receiver. The argument goes that the receivers production is tied to his own volatility, his QBs volatility, and the play call volatility whereas a lt's job is more dependent on his own play relative to the receiver.

Points 2 and 3 are conjectures, but interesting to consider


Points: 0

#78 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 10, 2022 - 11:51am

Also, WRs have a high rate of diva-ish chaos-agent behavior. Part of the reason we think of guys like Rice or Fitzgerald or the Johnsons Calvin and Andre as different from most WRs is because they were -- they were sane and consistent.

Points: 0

#83 by IlluminatusUIUC // Feb 10, 2022 - 12:29pm

But it is perceived that the variability in outcomes for a receiver in the draft is higher than for a left tackle. The left tackle is viewed as a "safer" pick than the receiver.

A wide receiver who can't play wide receiver rarely has a fallback option. Unless they are a special teams superfreak that allows them to hang around long enough to develop another skillset (Cordarelle Patterson), then they are generally out of the league entirely. LTs who fail can sometimes be salvaged at other positions on the line.

Points: 0

#91 by Pat // Feb 10, 2022 - 3:38pm


A wide receiver who can't play wide receiver rarely has a fallback option.

Plus non-starting wide receivers generally have to be good on special teams as well, which is a different skill set. Not the same for non-starting OL (who still might contribute on special teams, but it's the same skillset).

I'm super not fond of Andre Dillard, who was a first-round pick for the Eagles, but he's still a valuable backup to have.

Points: 0

#92 by theslothook // Feb 10, 2022 - 3:41pm

In addition, teams can play multiple receivers at a time. Even disappointing draft picks can hang on as slot receivers or specialists. Ted Ginn, Torrey Smith, and Tavon Austin carved out a career that way.

Points: 0

#93 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 10, 2022 - 4:03pm

Even if you don't include centers, who have a slight degree of specialization, there are also always at least four linemen on the field on every play.

Points: 0

#94 by Pat // Feb 10, 2022 - 4:38pm

In addition, teams can play multiple receivers at a time.

Actually, that's a big difference - you can find linemen who can slide between positions a lot more than you can find receivers who can slide between roles. We call all the guys "WRs" but they're not really playing the same position -  you go and throw 3 split end types out there, and it's not going to work all that well.

Points: 0

#103 by KaosTheory // Feb 11, 2022 - 3:49pm

I object to you grouping Torrey Smith with Ted Ginn and Tavon Austin. Granted, I may be biased as a Ravens fan, but I think that’s a false comparison.

Points: 0

#82 by Pat // Feb 10, 2022 - 12:17pm

It's really just a question of what your current roster is. The Bengals, for instance, had a #1 overall draft pick QB and they had a 3rd year 1st round LT. A rookie WR there is a no brainer: the LT would likely give you no short term benefit (LTs have a 2-3 year learning curve) and it's only a gamble on the long-term benefit anyway since your current LT could still work out.

If you're in a totally screwed situation (like, you've got nothing, and you hate the QBs available) going with the LT is smart since you're playing a long game anyway.

Points: 0

#84 by theslothook // Feb 10, 2022 - 12:31pm

I agree, a lot depends on the state of the roster when it comes time to make this decision.

Leave aside the prior Bengals draft picks and consider it just this way.

You have a first overall QB who flashed but either through injury or typical lumps, is still full of questions. 

You have a gaping hole at Lt and Wr and two equally rated prospects at the top of the draft. Who are you taking?

That's where this debate gets fun


Points: 0

#88 by Pat // Feb 10, 2022 - 2:32pm

You have a gaping hole at Lt and Wr and two equally rated prospects at the top of the draft. Who are you taking?

Need to add on the additional constraint that the free agent class for both of those positions is super starved that year. This stuff's complicated.

With those constraints, it's still easy - you pick the LT. Why? Because under these constraints, you're screwed next year anyway, so the lower risk/additional longevity means picking LT first then WR second has better outcomes long-term. You pick the surer bet first along with some gamble WRs and see what happens.

This is a really artificial constraint, though, because generally top receivers become available (via trade or free agency) more often because of the shorter and more volatile overall career (i.e. one team thinks the WR is close to the end or is too much of a headache, so trades him). So there picking the LT is the easy option, because you can work to acquire the WR (sometimes crazy cheap!) other ways.

I saw a positional breakdown of trade frequency a while ago, can't remember where - but at the time, WRs were the most traded in the league, and tackles were way down the list. 

Points: 0

#41 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 09, 2022 - 5:50pm

I tend to keep in mind that 2020 and 2021 will be outlier covid seasons, sort of like 1917-1919 was for MLB and NHL. 2020 was the year of empty stadiums and 2021 was still weird in terms of who was available for what game and what sorts of crowds were allowed where in what week that I tend to think they won't be representative of true home field advantage over a longer analysis.

Kind of fortunate that the first home-field SBs happened during that circumstance.

Points: 0

#44 by Tutenkharnage // Feb 09, 2022 - 6:26pm

Home-field advantage had been weakening for years before the 2020 season.

Points: 0

#52 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 09, 2022 - 7:28pm

1. Yes (also lets use blindside/non blindside and drop the leftright designation, especially with a lefty in the league). But it's not hindsight. The whole topic was a debate last year! Put some respect on a SB champions name! But seriously, you want to bring up Watkins, who is at least still in the league, but literally forget two picks prior was, Greg "last played in 2019" Robinson? Yeah OTs miss in that range too. And that wasn't the area of the OL the Bengals needed anyway with just drafting Jonah Williams and signing Reiff. 

Lets not call them lucky when Chase was considered good by...literally everyone. We should be giving them props for realizing the game is no longer (was it ever actually?) won "in the trenches" least by one pick. 

2. Far from Burrows biggest fan but he's better than Goff and Wentz. Full stop. He was the highest graded QB this year. In fact PFF did a comparison with Stafford (also a better QB than both of them) that just dropped! Lets kill the Wentz and Goff comparisons right here though. Lets not be that silly. Not a single person is taking them over Burrow, regardless of contract too.

Points: 0

#53 by occams_pointed… // Feb 09, 2022 - 9:26pm

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

the way the writing on the site has been for the past couple weeks suggests it's 0.000347%

This entry (the column, not your reply) is a winner in PFF's pompous index, though.

Points: 0

#55 by IlluminatusUIUC // Feb 09, 2022 - 11:21pm

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

But seriously, you want to bring up Watkins, who is at least still in the league, but literally forget two picks prior was, Greg "last played in 2019" Robinson? Yeah OTs miss in that range too.

I would have gone with Greg "Moves more weight than Tony Montana" Robinson, personally. 

Points: 0

#59 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 10, 2022 - 9:16am

Until after I posted lol. Definitely a worse pick.

Points: 0

#71 by mehllageman56 // Feb 10, 2022 - 11:01am

I don't know, you need an army to get past Tony Montana, and that's definitely not true of Robinson.

Points: 0

#72 by mehllageman56 // Feb 10, 2022 - 11:02am

Then again, the Giants' organization reminds me of the organization run by Frank Lopez.

Points: 0

#50 by theTDC // Feb 09, 2022 - 6:57pm

One thing that doesn't really get thrown around enough with the Rams is that strategy is less important than execution. The Seahawks and Rams both traded two first round picks for a defensive back. The Rams got Jalen Ramsey, arguably the best cornerback in the league, playing arguably the most important position. The Seahawks got Jamal Adams, an undersized linebacker.

The Rams traded a second and third for Von Miller, who is still an elite player. They traded two first and a third for Matt Stafford, a clear upgrade over Goff. Before that they traded a first for Brandon Cooks, who went over 1,000 yards multiple years, before trading him away for a second. Even the moves that arguably didn't work out, such as trading a second for Sammy Watkins, and a third for DE Dante Fowler, weren't busts, and the team moved on.

I think the larger takeaway should be "have elite coaching and great player evaluation," more than "here's this strategy that's certain to succeed." A similar thing could be said of the Penei Sewell - Jamar Chase debate.

Points: 0

#54 by occams_pointed… // Feb 09, 2022 - 9:28pm

their draft would have been about as good as a draft can possibly get.

But they made a bad decision in round 2.

Points: 0

#57 by macizdyn // Feb 10, 2022 - 8:25am

This article is the perfect Tanier tone: witty, revealing, but not quite purple. Today's classics:

Eric Bieniemy has become the lid on the Andy Reid coaching jar that no one seems strong enough to unscrew

It appears Bienemy has slimmed down, but even so, being stuck in the same jar with Andy Reid means no amount of hot water will pry that sucker open.

Tom Brady, for all his greatness, is going to generate decades of boredom as bad writers and content farms use him as the benchmark in impossible (and therefore open-ended) narratives. The beauty of sports year-to-year is watching someone try to become Theismann or Simms, not Brady. Brady, like Jordan, is too rare and time-consuming to enjoy properly in real time.

The Bengals' path to success can not be "copycatted."

No it cannot. No path involving as many variables as 32 football teams playing a full season can be copied. The process to achieve a competitive objective (which is, as Tanier correctly and repeatedly states, winning the Super Bowl) can be modeled, modified and emulated (not copied). Mike, keep pointing out the absurdity of these content-farm narratives. And your comparison of tanking to "buying an expensive lemon on purpose and driving it for a year in exchange for a rebate on your next car" has consumed my intellect for days. Brilliant. I can't find a fault with it, and I tried.

I am looking forward to watching a Super Bowl which is first and foremost a game. For all my respect of Michael Jordan and Tom Brady, I just can't take any more real greatness being inflated into false majesty... at least not in sports. Good job, Mike.

Points: 0

#58 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 10, 2022 - 9:14am

"I just can't take any more real greatness being inflated into false majesty... at least not in sports."

The irony of that is Stafford is ALREADY being inflated into a HOF and Burro is ALREADY being described as smarter than Mahomes based on one play..

I'm the opposite. Brady and Mahomes no longer hurt me. Them making another SB does nothing for me. 8 vs 7 rings is insignificant. 3 straight SB appearances is whatever. But you best believe the ones we're getting will create the narrative they were ALWAYS great. " SEE! IT'S ALL THE LIONS FAULT!" & "I CANT BELIEVE URBAN REALLY PICKED HASKIN AND HIS 50 TDs OVER BURROW!" Ugh. New but awful discourse. 

Points: 0

#62 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 10, 2022 - 9:35am

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

It's interesting to gander at Roethlisberger and especially Rivers and then look at Stafford's career. The relative talent of the teams around them aside, are they really different guys? How much higher is Stafford's relative fame if his early career had been spent on ready-made juggernauts littered with HOFers instead of a 1-31 black hole like Stafford got?

Stafford is two playoff wins behind Rivers and has one more CG win and one more GWD.

The rebuttal is that Stafford is just a Bledsoe. Which I don't think is true -- either on a team or a metric performance basis. Bledsoe hemorrhaged turnovers, and his teams tended to get better when he left. Stafford doesn't have that problem. It's interesting that Rivers sort of does, although that's an artifact of the Chargers owning a QB leprechaun. Rivers will be perceived by history as not as good as the QB he replaced (Brees), and perhaps not as good as the QB who replaced him (Herbert). Indeed, he may not have been as good as the QB he replaced in two franchises (Luck), but his legacy probably surpasses that second guy. Rivers is basically Steve Young without the ring.

Points: 0

#86 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 10, 2022 - 12:49pm

Poor Burrow on a garbage team with an inept HC. Looks like he's making it work. So did Peyton. Who's a better starting chip, Marvin Harrison, Calvin Jonhson or Tyler Boyd? Just make it work. 

Considering Steve Young was really good...hardly a slight. We just can't say Stafford was in that realm.

Heres the QBs with exactly 0x AP 1st All Pro, 1x Pro Bowl and 1 Championship (so excluding obvious greats, and some bums too actually), by ascending HOFm:

  • Steve Bono
  • Mike Livingston
  • Tyrod Taylor
  • Elvis Grbac 
  • Nick Foles
  • Brian Griese
  • Carson Wentz
  • Jay Schroeder 
  • Dan Pastorini
  • Bernie Kosar 
  • Steve Beuerlein
  • Trent Dilfer 
  • Danny White
  • Matt Stafford perhaps

He hasn't been as good, even in his own conference, as people like Rodgers, Brees, Wilson (came later), heck even questionable Eli has 3x as many PB in the overlap years of 09-19 (and 1 before Stafford in 08). That of course also excludes all of Peyton, Ben, Rivers, and most of Brady. I know you didn't say HOF but

The relative talent of the teams around them aside, are they really different guys?

So yeah, kinda different. Never had seasons like Bens 2014. Rivers 2009 and 2013. All those years he was also in the league. I'm not gonna just chalk it all up to "well Detroit suckzzzzz"

Points: 0

#96 by mehllageman56 // Feb 11, 2022 - 12:09am

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Are you including championships as a backup as well as a starter?  Because otherwise, your list makes no sense.  And the list of starting quarterbacks with 1 Pro Bowl and 1 Championship and no All Pros becomes Nick Foles ( or Carson Wentz) and Trent Dilfer.

Points: 0

#97 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 11, 2022 - 8:34am

They were starters at some point. It doesn't really matter because one game shouldn't define them. Rather have a list of actual several (unlike the Bengals WRs) than an even more specifically narrow band. 

Like I said, Stafford is already being inflated into something he's not. He's the ~11th best QB of his era. In no shape or form is he close to the HOF just because he's showing to be more of a product of surroundings than other great QBs.

Points: 0

#115 by muscle417 // Feb 14, 2022 - 10:40am

Yeah, because he was followed by the best ever in NE, and Tony Romo after his over-the-hill seasons in DAL. That's quite the luck for those teams, which the Bills didn't share in after Bledsoe led the best non-playoff team in DVOA history.

Points: 0

#67 by Will Allen // Feb 10, 2022 - 10:11am

Anybody who'd rather have "borderline HOF" Eli Manning as a rookie, instead of obviously not a HOFer (I agree) Matt Stafford as a rookie, is nuts.

Points: 0

#69 by Will Allen // Feb 10, 2022 - 10:30am

Few people paid to construct rosters in the NFL do it long enough for us to have much idea whether they are any good at it. Even some of the ones we know are good at it have good fourtune adding a tremendous shine to their reputation. Nobody thinks more of Belichik than I, but if some other GM decides to draft Brady in the fifth round, there's a decent chance Belichik is seen significantly differently.

My advice to NFL owners in hiring GMs and coaches is (perhaps apocryphally) Napoleonic: pick lucky ones.

Points: 0

#70 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 10, 2022 - 10:49am

There is a decent chance Belichick could have become the Ravens absent-Brady. He can drag replacement-level QBs to the playoffs.

Points: 0

#73 by Will Allen // Feb 10, 2022 - 11:10am

That'd be my guess. B&B were just so fortunate to have found each other. If the Browns draft Brady at 183, instead of Spergon Wynn, who knows what we'd be saying today about the past 20 years in the NFL.

Points: 0

#81 by theslothook // Feb 10, 2022 - 12:02pm

I've said before, if Tom Brady gets drafted by most teams, he either never sees the field long enough to matter, or becomes a rich man's Rich Gannon or Trent Green. 

Without Wading into the chicken and egg discussion about whether he was discovered or he was nurtured into what he became, the fact is he was a 6th round pick for a reason ( ie- every team viewed him as a barely drafted quarterback). How many coaches are going to stick their necks out and play Tom Brady willingly over their incumbent starter? And how many of the teams are going to have a capable roster to make him look good enough to earn future starts? We can speculate, but I sure doubt its the Browns.

Points: 0

#101 by theslothook // Feb 11, 2022 - 1:24pm

Meant to say this earlier. I think the Bengals landing Joe Burrow is a feather in the cap of tankologists. Look, independent of whether they win the SB, the fact that they have Joe Burrow has completely altered their trajectory. Of course its not sure thing. You could end up with Baker Mayfield. Or heavens knows much worse than that. But you can also end up with Burrow and your franchise is now out of the wilderness. 

And what is the proper alternative here? Being the Colts and hoping to land Mahomes with the 16th pick in the draft is an even longer shot. More than likely, if you are the Colts and you want a Burrow level prospect, you have to sell everything down to your underware to get him(see the 49ers). 

If I were the owner of the Colts and I wasn't afraid of the optics, I would squarely tell my coaches to punt on the year and play my third stringers across the board. Literally pay my star players to hang out in Hawaii and try for the first overall pick. 

Points: 0

#106 by jheidelberg // Feb 12, 2022 - 12:58pm

Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, that is it.  Burrow still has too little experience.  He took a mediocre DVOA team that got a great draw in the playoffs LV, TEN, then played a great half against KC to get to the Super Bowl.

Looking at the chart above, tanking clearly does not lead to long term success:

1.  NE  did not tank to get Brady

2.  GB  did not tank to get Rodgers

3.  PIT  did not tank to get Roethlisberger

4.  KC  did not tank to get Mahomes

5.  NO  did not tank to get Brees

6.  SEA did not tank to get Wilson

7.  BAL  did not tank to get Jackson

These 7 teams are a cut above, there is a huge drop to the number 8 team, we are starting to get into mediocrity.  

The system allows for a draft that rewards bad teams with top picks.  However, bad teams do not reward themselves by taking advantage of these picks.  Examples, JAX, NYJ, NYG, DET, and CLE, the perpetual tanking team that turned it around into mediocrity.

CIN has had one good playoff run, I will not jump to conclusions about them.


Points: 0

#107 by theslothook // Feb 12, 2022 - 11:55pm

I think that's being too restrictive. Aikman, Elway, and Bradshaw should be seen as runaway successes.

Even others like Eli Manning, Matt Stafford, Drew Bledsoe, and Andrew Luck we're/are no slouches.

It reminds me of something Zach Lowe said with regards to the Philly process. Just because tanking produces a low odds chance of ultimate success ( a ring) does not imply the logic is wrong. By definition, every strategy is a low odds play if the criteria for success is to win a ring. It's just that every other strategy has longer odds than Tanking.

Points: 0

#109 by jheidelberg // Feb 13, 2022 - 2:05pm

Of course Manning, I ll give you Luck and Aikman, but you are willing to risk becoming the Cleveland Browns?  Tampa Bay for nearly 2 decades before getting Brady?  Detroit Lions? J-E-T-S-S-U-C-K? The Steelers before 1970?  The Bengals before January?

Losing a game or two late in the season is different from an all out disaster.  Win or lose today, the Bengals have not proven greatness, just a nice run.  If the Bengals have started a solid 10 year run they are an exception, no one is jumping up and down over the Cardinals turnaround, nor Miami.  Where is Houston heading?  Washington?  Giants?

Points: 0

#110 by theslothook // Feb 13, 2022 - 2:24pm

The issue is all about sustained winning and the only path( other than be the Ravens or trade for BB) is to acquire the kind of QB who can do that. And the best way to do that is to draft him. 

And while busts can happen and do, it doesn't change the expected value equation for the draft. In fact, if the Jags were smart, they'd draft the top QB this year and have it again and again until they found him. That's my contrarian view

Points: 0

#111 by jheidelberg // Feb 13, 2022 - 3:14pm

That is sure contrarian but I am OK with it if they believe that Lawrence is not the answer, similar to ARI moving from Rosen to Murray.

The Colts are ready to win now, its fluky that they did not make the playoffs, and yes tragical that they did not beat JAX, but what if Rodgers or Wilson are available?  Brady out of retirement?  He would have to love winning a championship in Manningtown.

Points: 0

#112 by theslothook // Feb 13, 2022 - 4:08pm

Sure but those are all still long odds plays and they don't solve the sustainability part. As the Broncos showed once Manning retired, they entered the wilderness.

I myself would prefer a world where quarterback play was not the only solution to sustained winning. Perhaps a day when the running game could return to its former glory and a game manager type would be sufficient. Or if a model like vintage Chicago Bears could make it work long term too.

Points: 0

#114 by jheidelberg // Feb 13, 2022 - 4:45pm

Rooting for the running game to come back, lets add in defense, now you are a true contrarian.

Points: 0

#113 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 13, 2022 - 4:28pm

What are you talking about lol

You think the Browns suck because they tanked? Huh? How would you GM you're way out of there then? By just...not sucking? Lol

Points: 0

#108 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 13, 2022 - 8:55am

Just have a good team? You know that's hard right?

If your conclusion is "hey don't lose games when you're already eliminated from the playoffs" or "don't sell off players when you're not good and they dont fit the next timeline" then you've gotta find out why people tank in the first place. I guarantee you DET hasn't tanked in years but they might regret winning 2021 week 18...or 2018 week 17 vs GB because...CULTURE!

Deductive reasoning isn't the way. think Cincy...regrets...anything from 2019? Or Philly week 17 of 2020? Just because they didn't win the SB? But then you gotta give TB credit for tanking in 2014 and getting SB winning starters Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet. 

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Mike
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and Mike Tanier. Use promo code WALKTHROUGH to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Mike.