Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gregg Easterbrook Seems Much Smarter When He’s Talking about Stuff I Know Nothing About

Easterbrook starts out this week's column with a long-winded opinion that play calling doesn’t matter in the NFL. This makes zero sense when combined with his thousands of words each season where he criticizes the play calling of coaches for having cost their teams victories.

In the cult of football, surely few things are more overrated than play calling. Much football commentary, from high school stands to the NFL in prime time, boils down to: "If they ran they should have passed, and if they passed they should have run." Other commentary boils down to: "If it worked, it was a good call, if it failed, it was a bad call," though the call is only one of many factors in a football play. Good calls are better than bad calls -- this column exerts considerable effort documenting the difference.

My take on Sherman Lewis' play calling Monday night? When he ran, he should have passed -- when he passed, he should have run.

I guess that’s a joke.

Yeah, I think it’s much more useful to say that a play succeeded or failed because of the way the cheerleaders are dressed, the coaches are dressed, based on some random anecdote that has nothing to do with the play, the impact of football gods, curses and how the front office deals with free agents (see next paragraph). I think it's laughable that Easterbrook is condemning poor football analysis as just being about second guessing.

When Michael Crabtree finally signed with the 49ers, TMQ warned of a Crabtree Curse -- Mike Singletary had spent a year in San Francisco instilling the message that nobody is bigger than the team, and suddenly it seemed you could jerk the 49ers around all you wanted and get $17 million guaranteed as your reward. Before the signing, the 49ers were 3-1; since the signing, they are 0-2, and have been outscored 69-31. Beware the Crabtree Curse!

So signing Michael Crabtree sent a message to the 49ers defense and that’s why they’ve given up 69 points in the last 2 games. Okay, fruitcake.

Kickoff temperature in Pittsburgh on Sunday was 52 degrees -- so why did Brett Favre wear a woolen ski cap to the postgame news conference? TMQ has noted that while Favre once shrugged at inclement Green Bay weather, now the aging quarterback's performance declines sharply when it's cold. If 52 degrees now makes him reach for a ski cap, good luck to the Vikings when they play at Chicago on Dec. 28.

What is with the fascination with clothing? Seriously? This isn’t interesting or relevant. OMG I knew the Patriots were going to win when I saw Peyton Manning wearing gloves and a hat when he got off the team bus in Foxborough!

Christmas Creep: James McShane of Cincinnati reports, "I attend Xavier University. On October 20th, the university put up Christmas lights. It was 70 degrees out!" Peter Weiss of Green Bay writes that on Oct. 21, "As I returned to the office from lunch, I noticed workers hanging Christmas decorations from the lampposts in downtown Green Bay."

So places that get pretty cold in the winter aren’t waiting until its fucking freezing out before hanging up Christmas lights.


This week’s column is littered with NBA facts and opinions. One of the subjects Easterbrook dives into is the age restriction for incoming players.

There's no "right" to be a 19-year-old doctor or airline pilot, and no "right" to play in the NBA. The league is a private enterprise that sets its internal rules, and a 20-years minimum would very much be in the interest of the NBA. Allowing players to jump into the league at 19 lowers quality of play; older players are both physically more mature, and have more polished games.

I’m not disagreeing with this, as a whole. Requiring players to attend multiple years of college would, in theory, weed out players better for the draft and better prepare most players for the NBA….freaks like Lebron James and Dwight Howard aside.

The current "one and done" exception -- one year of college, then declare for the pros -- means players who might have become well-known college stars, and arrived in the NBA with high public standing, instead are barely known at the college level, then enter the pros as unknowns with little promotional potential.

My view on this is….who cares? Why do I care if a player (and Easterbrook has some examples) declares for the draft when he’s not ready and suffers the consequences. Easterbrook’s examples of players who may have benefited from a year or two of college ignores a simple fact; it’s their own fault (even if the kid has a stereotypical greedy agent telling him to sign, it's his fault). It also ignores the fact that if they are as good as Easterbrook suggests, they would have made it in the NBA, just as plenty of other players who didn’t play college have. Lastly, it ignores the simply truth that plenty of high school stars go to college and fizzle out (either in college or as soon as they hit the pros), just like his examples did in the pros, because they weren’t good enough to dominate on the next level. There isn't a 100% success rate in any challenging profession on this planet.

When the age limit was 18 for a while, quality of NBA play notably declined, and the fans aren't fools -- ratings and ticket sales fell. Since the 19-year standard took effect in 2005, quality of play has improved; so have ratings and the gate.

Here is where I have a problem. This is just blind, lazy, bullshit speculation passed of as a key supporting fact. I have a number of observations here.

1.) Easterbrook doesn’t watch a lot of basketball (or he hates it, and he does....who would hate something but watch it anyway, that's like hating a columnist but reading his column for 45 minutes every week....let's move on), he’s talking out of his ass for the convenience of his general point when he says “the quality of NBA play notably declined”.

2.) Even if the quality of play “notably declined”, you’re making a leap to blame that on the players who came straight out of high school to the pros, especially when so many of them (Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady, Amare Stoudamire, Kevin Garnett, Al Jefferson, Rashard Lewis, Jermaine O’Neal, etc.) were contributing a high level of play during that time.

3.) He also noted that ticket sales had fallen and then had risen again. This is the attendance from ’03-’04 through ’07-’08.

03-'04 - 20,272,195
04-'05 - 21,296,497
05-'06 - 21,595,804
06-'07 - 21,841,480
07-'08 - 21,395,576

Notice the sharp trends here? Neither do I. The reality is there appears to be marginal movement from year to year. Again, owing any of this to high school NBA players is silly. It’s a strain on your common sense and a lie to imply that you can tell anything about the rule by looking at these numbers. But Easterbrook thinks he can just take any two purported facts (or opinions, even) and say without hesitation that fact 1 caused fact 2. That’s why I can’t stand him.

4.) On to ratings. These are the average regular season ratings for the network (ABC) games.

2003 - 2.6
2004 - 2.4
2005 - 2.2
2006 - 2.2

Does that tell you anything about the impact of the age restriction? Me neither. If NBA teams don’t think players are ready, don’t draft them. The reason why they are so appealing to draft is because so many of them have succeeded.

NBA Officials Check Passports Before Calling Traveling: TMQ has long contended that football rules are too complex; also, the NFL refuses to reveal its officiating manual, which explains such things as how a zebra determines what counts as pass interference. The NBA by contrast recently put its rulebook online, complete with multimedia examples of what is and isn't legal. Great idea -- do the same, NFL. In the new rulebook, I did find this interesting definition:

TRAVELING. If the player with the ball walks off the court and out of the arena, hails a cab, goes to the airport, and buys an airline ticket, at the point that he boards the plane, he shall be whistled for "traveling."

Wait a minute…that IS traveling! Like normal people do! :) LOL! :)

Easterbrook then randomly goes after Stephon Marbury.

But if a player wants the privilege of performing in the NBA, he must perform by its standards. Finally someone, in this case D'Antoni, made that clear. On the day Marbury signed with defending champion Boston, the Celtics were 47-12 (.797). Boston immediately lost to Detroit on national television, and for the remainder of the season went 23-15 (.605) and was bounced from the playoffs. Sure, the injury to Kevin Garnett was a huge factor, but Garnett was out well before Marbury arrived.

Um, no. The Celtics season was not derailed by Stephon Marbury. It was curtailed by Kevin Garnett’s injury and a regression to the mean. Garnett had missed a total of 7 games during the year before Marbury joined the team. The reality is the Celtics started 27-2 and were never going to keep up that pace. That fact, along with Garnett’s injury, is what is driving the disparity in the records above.
Stop taking nuggets of information and making crazy cause and effect assertions around them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hey This Rumor I Made Up is Wrong

Greg Easterbrook starts this week by devoting over 2,200 words to dispel the hot rumor that scoring is actually up in the NFL and NCAA. I have not heard this rumor about the NFL. I don’t pay 5 minutes of attention all season to the NCAA.

Now, let’s follow up on the running theme that Easterbrook only sporadically talks about coaches being more manly men versus “fraidy cat” (his words) based on fourth down attempts. As Gregg already had a 2,200 word opening, he didn’t have to make up a trend to comment on. However, he would have had a legitimate point as this week there were only 26 fourth down attempts, but far the lowest this season (.93 per team game versus 1.32 last week – a 30% decline). In week 2 it increased 0% over week 1, which warranted an intro from Easterbrook about an increase in attempts. In week 4 it increased 1% over week 3 and made the intro as implying that there was a big increase. In week 3 it increased 24% over week 2 and that warranted a comment because Easterbrook thought that his week 2 “manly men” pronouncement was premature, even though teams went for it more in week 3. So he had it backwards. His inconsistency, and the shoddy wording of this paragraph, has probably confused the shit out of you. Let’s move on.

NFL news, is there a Crabtree Curse? San Francisco broke out of the gate 3-1, in part because management's no-compromise attitude toward holdout diva Michael Crabtree sent the message that nobody is bigger than the team. Then last week, suddenly Crabtree is granted $16 million guaranteed even though he skipped training camp, doesn't know the playbook, and spent the first month of the season relaxing on the couch. Suddenly the message sent is that you can jerk the 49ers around and get away with it. Immediately San Francisco lost to Atlanta 45-10 at home.

Yes, 100% of the reason they lost to the Saints is because the players ceased viewing the organization as a "no-nonsense – nobody is bigger than the team” organization.

What a fucking fruitcake.

In other football news, is Cincinnati this year's Team of Destiny? I advise you not to get up for a beer during the final minute of any Bengals game. I strongly advise you not to defy TMQ's law, Cold Coach = Victory. On a 30-degree day at Denver, Bill Belichick came out in a heavy winter parka plus woolen ski hat, with tassel; Josh McDaniels wore a hoodie with a baseball cap. At kickoff, seeing how they were attired, TMQ said, "This game's over." And yea, verily, it came to pass.


What to make of the Flaming Thumbtacks' collapse? Since the moment Tennessee took the field in the playoffs holding home-field advantage throughout the postseason, Tennessee has lost six straight. The loss of Albert Haynesworth cannot be the explanation, as his new team is struggling.

Wow. Is that a stupid thing to say. Wow.

Holy shit. Wow.

The loss of a key defensive player to a bad team can’t the explanation, because that key defensive player is now playing on a bad team! Wouldn’t the comparison be the Titans with Haynesworth’s productivity last year versus his replacement’s performance this year, to figure out if the loss of Haynesworth has had an impact?

What if Haynesworth had remained a Titan but died in the offseason? Would you say…."well the death of Haynesworth isn’t the explanation. He’s a dead guy. He can’t even move. If they put him out there he would do absolutely nothing positively for the team. It would be 11 versus 10. So that’s not the reason.”

Congratulations Gregg Easterbrook, you are guilty of the stupidest thing a columnist wrote about the NFL this week.

Sarah Palin has an instant book out next month, and in keeping with the Unified Field Theory of Creep, it's already on bestseller lists though no volumes actually have been shipped from the warehouse.

You can sell books that haven’t shipped. This isn’t some cute thing you noticed.

It’s not on a list of most widely read books, just most purchased.

Single Worst Play of the Season -- So Far: San Francisco trailing 35-10, Dre' Bly of the Squared Sevens intercepted a pass and saw green in front of him. Bly started showboating for the home crowd at his own 40, then was caught from behind by Roddy White -- one of the league's fastest players, the sort of thing Bly is paid to know -- and fumbled. Atlanta ball. Showboating when you are about to score the winning points, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did for Arizona, is bad enough. Showboating on your own 40 and when your team is down by 25 points is inexcusable. Dre' Bly, you are guilty of the single worst play of the season -- so far.

Yeah I actually agree with this.

Here is the clip.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

TMQ - Denver Won Because They Couldn't Convert a 4th Down

TMQ - Week 4. That's the intro.

In other football news, going for it on fourth down continues to rise in NFL popularity: Chicago, Cincinnati, Miami, Minnesota, New England, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Washington were among the teams that converted key fourth-down attempts this week when they could have kicked, and then went on to victory.

In week 2, he was all happy because teams were going for it more. In week 3, he spoke vaguely of a regression and teams going for it less. Using the crude measure of 4th down attempts per team per game, this is how it’s trending so far this season:

Week 1: 1.06
Week 2: 1.06 (When Gregg said there was a sudden burst of manhood, presumably over the week 1 total?)
Week 3: 1.31 (When Gregg said he was premature in week 3, even though it actually increased a lot)
Week 3: 1.32 (Virtually the same as week 3)

I am confused.

Of course, going for it doesn't always work; Denver was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 try, though the "challenging players to win" mindset that going for it on fourth down instills seemed to help the Broncos down the stretch.

Well obviously.

The Broncos probably don’t win that game if that 4th and 1 isn’t stuffed. Even when I’m wrong I’m 100% right. When I’m 100% right I’m 1,000% right. I am the smartest man alive. Verily. Cheerbabes. Flaming Thumbtacks and Jersey A/B!

Fortune Favors the Bold! No. 2: After the Redskins failed on fourth-down tries -- when they could have kicked -- in three straight games, Jim "Dan Snyder Hasn't Fired Me Quite Just Yet" Zorn still went for it on fourth-and-2 from the City of Tampa 36. For your faith you will be rewarded, spoke the football gods! Conversion, touchdown on the drive, Washington avoids losing to the winless Bucs, and Zorn's job is safe another week.

Okay. You got me. I take it all back. Football gods clearly exist and this is uncontestable proof that going for it on fourth down is always the right answer. The Redskins, like many other teams this year, have gone for it on fourth in a few different games, and they won in weeks 2 and 4. I have no idea what this means or proves or how it is the least bit interesting. They went for it on fourth in the second game, apparently, and failed, but they won the game. Gregg would say “alas, ye gods rewardeth the (stupid nickname) for showing such bravery and, yea, verily their faith was rewarded with a win! I like girls!!” But if you go for it and fail and lose, as they did in week 3, well shit that’s just part of the equation for winning in week 4. Make sense? I’m confused.

Single Worst Play of the Season -- So Far: Talk, talk, talk -- they sure can talk in Dallas. But when the pressure's on, they jog, jog, jog. Not only did multiple Cowboys defenders miss Brandon Marshall on the 51-yard zigzag scamper that won the game with two minutes remaining at Denver, other Cowboys didn't even try to chase the runner. Marshall cut back across the field twice; if more Cowboys had hustled to chase the play, Marshall would have run out of room. Linebacker Bradie James switched from running to jogging when Marshall was still at the Dallas 10. Dallas Cowboys, you are guilty of the single worst play of the season -- so far.

Here is the play. Great run. There are 7 cowboys chasing him. What does Easterbrook want? Sure, there were missed tackles, as there often are on runs like this, but that was just an amazing run. Brady James is number 56 and he is chasing Marshall for much of the play. He does let up a little early, but he was not catching Marshall anyway. There are players who stop giving chase when they have no chance on every play.

Yeah, pretty boring.