Friday, December 26, 2008

Heading into Week 17

- This will be McNabb's first year without a missed start due to injury since 2004. He's also within 134 of his career high in passing yards.

- Can we please halt all the "LT is done for" talk, and stop associating his name with Priest Holmes and Shaun Alexander until we see what happens next year when he's healthy? People are blinded by his awe-inspiring 2006 season and the recent spate of RB careers falling off a cliff. In case you haven't heard he's playing with turf toe. Let Deion and James Andrews educate you on how painful and debilitating it can be. Yes you have to get beyond the 30th leading rusher to find someone with a worse YPC than LT, but sometimes a dip is just a dip. Witness similar YPC drops and subsequent rebounds in Payton's and Emmitt's careers as well as Curtis Martin's late-career resurgence.

Meanwhile, the trash talk has been flying leading up to the Denver-SD game.

- Since the NFL went to the eight division realignment in 2002, one team has gone worst to first within their division each year. The streak can continue this year with the Phins, Falcons, or Bears.

- Because of the Boston/Patriots/Belichick hate, the Pats accomplishments with Matt Cassell this year have gone underappreciated. Many are quick to make the "system QB" argument, but that could only fly in college. The NFL's talent level is simply too much of a mitigating factor no matter how ingenious a system is. It's about as ridiculous as making the dominant college team X could beat NFL cellar dweller Y argument.

Credit is due to the Belichick and the Pats staff for having the confidence in both Cassell and their own evaluative abilities, and the for the foresight in understanding the value system familiarity has for a QB.

To chalk up Cassell's success to a system is not only shortsighted but it also presumes that the Pats kept a QB who hadn't started a game since high school as their #2 for three seasons only because they couldn't think of a better option. Cassell was a long-term investment, someone whom the Patriots decided had the skill set to succeed in their designed offense and someone whom, as the years went on, the Patriots felt more and more comfortable with because of his knowledge of their system.

- Two short articles worth checking out:
1. Michael Silver on the absurdity of draft grades.
“We know who we are,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, soon to be a hot head-coaching prospect, said after Sunday’s game. “We have a system. You have to give Mike Reinfeldt a lot of credit. This team is not built to say, ‘Hey, we’ll be good as long as we don’t get any injuries.’ This team is built to say, ‘When we get injuries, we’ll still be good, because we have the depth to withstand them.’
2. Jason Whitlock on the Chiefs' questionable use of Glenn Dorsey. It's rare that someone even attempts a critical evaluation of NFL line play, let alone convincingly makes his case.

“He has no chance in pass rush,” guard Brian Waters told me. “I love it when a guy lines head-up.”

Members of the Chiefs’ scouting department have blamed Dorsey’s subpar rookie season on the extra weight they allege he’s carrying. I’ve been told on two separate occasions that KC’s scouting department evaluated a 300-pounder who is now playing at 315. The personnel guys stand behind their evaluation of Dorsey, the insinuation being a lighter Dorsey would be a more effective Dorsey.

“The way we’re playing him, he better be 315,” Waters said. “He would get destroyed in the run game at 300.”

[H/T to TBL for the Whitlock piece]

-Agent Easy

Thursday, December 25, 2008

ESPN's Best Moments of 2008

For a more comprehensive list scan Le Anne Schreiber's archive or the "ESPN Nonsense" tag at Awful Announcing. We're going small, with our three favorite moments of the year. (Video within each link).

July 1
SportsCenter counts down the top 10 plays of the day, and at number 8, unironically and unapologetically, shows a promo for an upcoming show on ABC.

August 27
SC anchor Stan Verrett interviews LL Cool J with no ostensible reason but to promote a forthcoming album. "Take that twinkie out your mouth!"

December 19
Skip Bayless (and Jemele Hill) rank the NFL's best looking quarterbacks. That screen-grab is priceless.

- Agent Easy

Quick Hits - Christmas Edition

Christmas is a time for traditions - going to a movie, getting Chinese food, and, starting this year, throwing up some Badsnap Quick Hits.

Celebrating Mediocrity
-Not one but two NFL teams this year might win their divisions with 8-8 records: the 8-7 Cardinals, who go into their final game with the NFC West wrapped up, and the 7-8 Chargers, who will win the AFC West if they beat slightly-less-mediocre 8-7 Denver at home this week. These records look even lamer in light of who these teams have played: the Cards are 5-0 in their division, meaning they're 3-7 against teams who aren't the 49ers, Rams, or Seahawks. Denver and San Diego, for their part, have been unable to muster more than 8 wins despite having two games each against Oakland and Kansas City. Meanwhile, the AFC will have at least one and possibly two 10+ win teams (some combination of Miami, New England, New York, and Baltimore) miss the playoffs. [Simmons, for one, suggests a minimum 9-7 record to qualify for the playoffs].

The Jerk Store called, and they're running out of you.
-Anytime Terry Bradshaw calls someone a disgrace to journalism you know you've got a weird story on your hands, as was the case with the flap this week over Detroit reporter Rob Parker asking Rod Marinelli if he wished his daughter had married a better defensive coordinator (the Lions' coordinator is Marinelli's son-in-law). Marinelli disingenuously criticized Parker for attacking his daughter, which is ridiculous: it would have been an attack on his daughter if Parker had actually criticized her for not marrying a better defensive coordinator ("What about that nice Dick LeBeau? He's such a gentleman, and he's a master of the zone blitz."), but this was clearly a criticism of Marinelli himself for letting nepotism influence the makeup of his coaching staff. The delivery was a bit Costanzian, but as the Lions now appear uninterested in avoiding an 0-16 finish after playing dead against the Saints last week, it's hard to blame Detroit media for not pulling the punch.

Celebrating Less than Mediocrity
-With Notre Dame's beatdown of Hawaii last night for their first Bowl win in over a decade, how long will it be until the old "Notre Dame is back" chorus starts up again? And will it come to a halt when they next play a team that actually has an offensive line? Stay tuned.

A Merry Christmas to You and Yours,
Hazelwood

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gettin chumped

The guys over at The Angry T put together a list of the year's best hits, college and pro.

The receivers coming across the middle are always the toughest to watch. I still can't believe Boldin only missed two games after that hit.

My personal favorite is #11 - the Reggie Bush punt return. I love the symmetry of both of those dudes getting cleared off the ground almost simultaneously.

The reverse angle on the Bradford hit (#9) is indeed "spectacular." And in case you forgot, the Hines Ward hit on Keith Rivers (#2) ended Rivers' season with a broken jaw.

Below I'm including one of my favorite "big hit" youtube clips. It's not so much the content, though I do enjoy Ronnie Brown's power running, but it's the production of this clip that I love. Have you seen my painting? I like to imagine Ronnie secretly slips this clip into a Dolphins DBs meeting once a year.



-Agent Easy

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quick Hits from the Primetime Games

Two amazing stats from the Giants-Panthers game.

1. After his last touchdown run, according to NBC, DeAngelo Williams had the second most 30+ yard rushing TDs in one season with 6. Jim Brown had a season with 6 and another with 7. Usually I don't dig stats that require four qualifiers, but every once in a while one of them will appear significant, or at the very least cool. I wish they showed an expanded list so we could see if Barry Sanders was lurking nearby, though I imagine, they probably limited it to the top three because writing "17 players tied with 5" would have devalued it a bit.

2. The holy crap stat of the year: Ken Lucas' 4th quarter end zone pass interference was the first pass interference call on the Panthers all year. I'm sure this includes called PIs that were declined, but that's remarkable nonetheless. I hope someone (Football Outsiders just wrote about PI or Charlotter Observer columnists?) goes deeper on this and can mine the significance.



Three moments from the fourth quarter of the Cowboys-Ravens game that show just how poorly coached the Cowboys are.

1. Why was Dallas still driving for a touchdown from the 21 yard line, with less than two minutes to go and down by two scores? That they scored a touchdown was a happy accident, but someone should explain to Wade that you can try a hail mary from midfiled, but not a field goal. On top of that, he's got Romo back there, the gunslinger junior, who'd already taken a sack just a few plays earlier that had chewed up precious clock and briefly knocked the Cowboys out of FG range.

2. On McClain's nail-in-the-coffin TD run (3:29 mark), here's how the Cowboys tried to bring him down: Anthony Spencer went for the ball strip instead of trying to wrap-up and then Ken Hamlin tried an arm tackle, aka the coward's tackle, and was rightfully emasculated with a stiff arm. It's poor fundamentals that most often betray poor coaching.

3. On the last Cowboy drive - once again down two scores - Patrick Crayton caught a pass on the sideline and after making one guy miss, dove inside instead of stepping out to preserve the clock. I emphasize dove because his move to the inside barely got him an extra yard. If he had an opportunity to juke and possibly make a first down, that'd be one thing, but his dive is indefensible.

Here's Don Banks' November article suggesting the negative effects a "coach in waiting" like Jason Garrett has on a team.

Also, I love the shot of Phillips at the 3:11 mark in the above highlight.

-Agent Easy

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Texas Whiners

The Texas whining has become unbearable. Bob Ryan and Dan Patrick put it over the top.

Here’s how Patrick started his interview with Mack Brown in last week’s SI:
The 11--1 Longhorns lost out on a spot in the Big 12 conference title game, despite having beaten Oklahoma this year, because of a tiebreaker system that relied on BCS standings.

Dan Patrick: Why isn't head-to-head the first tiebreaker?
That reads as if Patrick has not even a cursory knowledge of the facts and did his interview prep by reading Longhorn message boards.

No problem; he'll easily hide behind the cloud of misinformation created by the constant whining that has emanated from Austin. Ryan got caught up in the smoke last week:
Oklahoma got to play Missouri in the Big 12 championship game as the beneficiary of a fifth tiebreaker used to settle a three-way tie, that criterion being which team was ranked higher in the current BCS standings. But had it been only a two-way tie between Texas and Oklahoma, Texas would have gone by virtue of having the very first tiebreaker, which is, of course, a victory in head-to-head competition.

Is this either fair or sensible?
Is it fair or sensible to arbitrarily leave out one of three teams in a tiebreaker? Is it fair or sensible for a nationally recognized columnist to base his argument on a non sequitur?

A step up from Patrick, Ryan at least knows the tiebreaker rules, but is quick to toss them aside.

Where did this attitude come from? Unsurprisingly, partly from Mack Brown. He’s been too happy to revel in this disinformation campaign.

Here’s how he answered Patrick’s question
Dan Patrick: Why isn't head-to-head the first tiebreaker?

Mack Brown: It just isn't, but I've already asked the Big 12 to look at changing it. It probably wouldn't be admitted right now, but probably they wish head-to-head would have been in there. Hopefully they'll revisit that this spring.
A strange answer, no? Brown is coy and evasive, unconcerned with clarifying Patrick’s dubiously phrased question.

What Brown is referencing is the tiebreaker that other conferences use in such cases, where, instead eliminating the two lowest ranked BCS teams, they make an exception if the two top ranked teams are within 5 spots of each other, and that way, eliminate the third team, and then revert to the primary tiebreaker for a two team tie, head to head.

Don’t mistake Brown's motives (remember, he has a history of this). He’s only happy to feed the beast. From his official statement:
I’m really disappointed for our kids that two teams we beat this season will be playing for the Big 12 championship. I’ll try to explain it to them, but most importantly, my message will be that you’ve done enough to put yourself in position to play for the conference championship…
Actually, no Mack, in fact, they did not do enough. If they hadn’t lost to Tech, if your DBs wrapped up, then yes, you might be able to say they did enough, but this statement is either disingenuous or delusional.

Later he adds,
I do appreciate all of the respect many of the poll voters and fans gave to our season and the importance they placed on the head-to-head matchup in the end, but, unfortunately, it was not enough.
He is purposely glib. I'm sure he's similarly appreciative of the lack of importance the voters placed on the other head-to-head matchup. Tech's ranking in the coaches' poll is acceptable, but because they aren't a perennial power like OU and UT, and because they lose style points for producing system quarterbacks, they are thoughtlessly and unfairly disregarded in the tiebreaker conversation.

Notice Ryan's language here:
But the trump card for jilted Texas remains that 45-35 victory over Oklahoma.

There was nothing fluky or cheesy about it. Back on Oct. 11, these two great teams lined up in the Cotton Bowl - a true neutral field since there are always as many Oklahoma fans as Texas supporters - and produced a collegiate football gem. Oklahoma was good, but Texas was better...

Texas stood taller in the fourth quarter. It could not have been simpler...

Oh, but Texas would later lose to Texas Tech, a team the Sooners would throttle by 44. Of course, that game was in Norman while the Texas-Texas Tech game was in Lubbock. And the Red Raiders won that game on a touchdown with one second left. Which loss is more forgivable?
Tech's win is "fluky and cheesy." Texas and OU are “great." Texas is "jilted," but Tech is not.

His Texas predisposition aside, at least this portion of Ryan’s argument - the merits of the Big 12's chosen tiebreaker - is sensible.

But what Ryan fails to acknowledge (though he eventually simply makes the case for a playoff) is that imperfection is inherent to any tiebreaker. The important thing is to have a predetermined and agreeable one.

Bob Stoops' conclusion is the only rational one:
[The league] went to a [tiebreaker] system we all agreed upon before the season. If someone didn't like the system, whether it be the media or some other team, hey, just change it before the season and I'll play by whatever rules they want to play by. Just let me know before the season starts.
As for the intention and effectiveness of the current tiebreaker the Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe covers that here:
Any tiebreaker system is difficult and will leave teams disappointed. When the tiebreaker was written, I was not in the league, but they wanted to put in the team that had the best chance to play in the national championship game.
He addresses Brown's concern directly,
Let's say that the eighth-ranked team in the BCS is in the same division as the third-ranked. If the eighth-ranked team beat the third-ranked team on a last-second play at home, sending the eighth-ranked team, that would defeat the purpose of trying to send the team with the best chance of winning a national championship.
For good measure:




[Mack Brown's 2004 complaining history via BCS Guru]

-Agent Easy

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Game Rewind"

You can watch any NFL game from this season. Without commercials.

The NFL has made them available through their service "Game Rewind." For $20 you get access to every game of the season, up to and including the Super Bowl, in HD. Of course you have to wait until the live broadcast is over, but this is still a great buy for anyone without directTV, DVR, or happens to work on game days.

Oh, and it's commercial-free.

H/T Videozune

-Agent Easy

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Gay for Gilbert Arenas"

Straight from the UCB





-Agent Easy

Monday, December 8, 2008

Plaxico

Impact
For all the talk last week about how the Giants would get on just fine without Plaxico - their team focus is unshakable, they've already won three games without Plax, etc. - the Eagles game showed that that might not be the case.

Plax' absences could be seen on the Giants first drive. Instead of trying a long filed goal in poor conditions, they went for it on 4th and 4. The Eagles brought the house and Manning's pass to Hixon was broken up. Without Plaxico Eli doesn't have a safety blanket. The Eagles knew they could bring pressure and not worry about getting burned because Hixon (or any other Gaints WR for that matter) doesn't have Plax's size or skill. On that 4th and 4, the Eagles' corner didn't have to play Hixon with a cushion, and was able to be on him when the ball arrived. Furthermore, once he got there, Hixon wasn't big or physical enough to shield him.

They'll really feel it in the red zone too, where they'll no longer be able to run their favorite play.


Judgement
It's surprising the Plaxico reaction has been so one-sided, a mix of indignation and condemnation. In fact, the conversation is much more complex than the media has permitted it to be. Let us offer two critical pieces of context

1. Sports Illustrated's comprehensive year-old story about the Vick saga. While its focus is on Vick, its more general thrust is the dilemma so many athletes face in reconciling their upbringing (poor, ghetto, etc) with their sudden success, celebrity, and riches.

2. An ESPN mag article that coincidentally came out just a few days pre-Plax. I'm surprised it didn't get more attention, nor seem to inform ESPN's tv coverage. Within it players discuss the security risks that come with their status. Their anxiety is sobering.

For those still hazy on the details of how it all went down, the AP's most recent story should answer any questions. Also, the Wall Street Journal makes the case that NY gun laws may be unconstitutional.

[Hat tip to TBL on these last two.]

-Agent Easy