Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Football Blizzard

Maurice Hicks: upgrade?
The Vikings have signed KR and RB Maurice Hicks (Access Vikings). Hicks essentially replaces Mewelde Moore on the roster. Running back depth is important, and Hicks has a 4.2 average for his career; he'll be a solid third running back on the roster.

But Hicks is also, presumably, being brought in to return kicks and punts; after all, he's primarily been a kick returner in his career, and punt returner Mewelde Moore is no longer on the roster.

But is Hicks an upgrade? Moore averaged a solid 10.4 yards per punt return in his career with two touchdowns, while Hicks has never returned a punt in the NFL. Can Hicks return punts? Why hasn't he in the past? Will he next year?

Hicks has a career 22.7 yards per kick return with no touchdowns, but last year rookie Aundrae Allison averaged 28.7 yards per kick return, including one touchdown. Of course, Allison had just 20 kick returns, hardly a large sample size, while Hicks has 187 career returns. And it is possible that Allison will be used more as a WR in 2008, limiting his use as a KR.

Hicks is a solid addition to the RB roster depth, but I'm skeptical of what he brings to the return game.

Why Donovan McNabb's completion percentage is low
I'm a big fan of Donovan McNabb, but his career 58.7% completion percentage is a bit low for a great quarterback in this era. But I have a kooky theory about why. McNabb is left-handed, but he throws right-handed. He probably has more natural ability with his left arm--why does he throw with his right arm? Was he pressured as a young athlete? If he wanted to play quarterback, was he basically told he couldn't do it throwing left handed? What happened? I want to know. I already consider McNabb a great quarterback. But if he had developed as a thrower with his natural writing hand, who knows? He might be the greatest quarterback of all-time.

The NFC North is there for the taking
It will probably take nine wins for an NFC North team to win the division next year, and it is a completely open race. At this point, I don't see any favorite.

Of course, our goal is to see a Super Bowl win, not a 9-7 division winner (I don't know why I call it a "goal," since as fans we have no control whatsoever in the achievement of this "goal." I also don't know why I don't just go back and revise the word. Oh wait, I do: I'm addicted to parentheses. Parentheses are my crutch). The point is, the division is open, and the Vikes have a chance to rise up.

Weintraub on Favre Love
Slate re-posted Robert Weintraub's "Favre from Heaven: Why Journalists Deify the Green Bay Packers Quarterback." An excerpt:

"Favre and Owens make for an intriguing contrast. If you've watched even a single Green Bay game in the last few seasons, you've heard the misfortune that has befallen the quarterback recently: the death of his father, the death of his brother-in-law, his wife's cancer diagnosis. [...]

While Favre is lionized for playing through tragedy, Terrell Owens' success has never been given the same kind of context. As
Catch This! reveals, the fact that T.O. made it to the NFL is a miracle. Owens, who grew up destitute and fatherless in backwater Alabama, wasn't allowed to leave his front yard as a child for fear of getting whipped. Favre grew up in small town bliss surrounded by his loving family. Not to demean the loss of loved ones, but who has overcome more here? Why is every hurdle Favre has jumped over presented as the Pillars of Hercules, while a guy like Owens is dismissed as a loudmouth?"

I remember a game when WR Darrell Jackson utterly destroyed the Vikings shortly after his father died. Do you?

Links
Football Outsiders does an "Audibles at the Line" for free agency.

I found a lot of amusing stuff at Ballhype recently. The New York Times talks about Favre's last pass (an interception) and where the ball is. I laughed out loud at Kissing Suzy Kolber's title for a post about Peter King and Brett Favre. MJD says Brett Favre's consecutive games started streak is more impressive than Cal Ripken's (there's only one problem, as MJD points out himself: Favre's streak isn't the record for consecutive games started. Jim Marshall has that). Let's Talk Sports says the Vikes are now the best team in the NFC North (the Vikes have never won the NFC North, and I won't feel comfortable saying they're the best in the NFC North until they do). Minnesota Sports Daily talks about the Vikings' free agent signings.

Dave Zirin points out that Arlen Specter, dogging the NFL for "spygate," gets a lot of contributions from Comcast.

I Dislike Your Favorite Team is the latest to discover the brilliance of "Garfield Minus Garfield." I was pushing "Garfield Minus Garfield" before pushing "Garfield Minus Garfield" was cool (um, last week. And it was already cool then. Nevermind).

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: At We Have Mixed Feelings About Sven Sundgaard, Cruelty-Free Mommy discusses that "Ask Gary" ad.

And don't stop celebrating.

8 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:04 PM

    Ownes is treated like a loudmouth because he very frequently treats people extraordinarily poorly.

    I really dislike it when "professional journalists" ask extraoedinarily silly rhetorical questions.

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  2. Hicks also covers kick off returns something which should help the Vikes in the future.How many times have the Vikes kicked a FG to allow the opposing team a 35 yard return or more on the ensuing kickoff.
    Should be an interesting year.

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  3. Anonymous2:39 PM

    mcnabb's completion pct is low because he tends to throw the ball inaccurately. he tends to throw the ball too low. even his really hot streaks don't involve the sort of wow throws favre and manning or some other top passer would make.

    RK

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  4. RK-

    Wasn't the point PV was trying to bring up was that he might think that McNabb has a low completion percentage (because of all the reasons you state) because of his throwing with his non-dominant hand. I dont' think he would argue with you that McNabb does all those things, but rather wonders if he would do those things if he had learned to throw with his dominant hand.

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  5. Thanks for the mention of the blog, hopefully the Vikings can also find quarterback that works with the new additions!

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  6. Anonymous5:19 AM

    yeah i don't know why i wrote that. it makes no sense.

    rk

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  7. Despite his inaccuracy, McNabb has an incredibly low interception rate. I think McNabb shows that if you're going to be occasionally inaccurate, it's better to hit your receivers in the feet than to throw it over their heads (see Eli Manning, who is a playoff hero now but also threw 20 picks last season--he's often throws the ball too high, leading to interception opportunities).

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  8. Anonymous6:57 AM

    Despite his inaccuracy, McNabb has an incredibly low interception rate.

    His lower completion% isn't inaccuracy, per se, it's that he intentionally makes it more difficult to catch his passes, both for his receivers and for defenders, by throwing the ball low. He's accurate, it's just that he's aiming low. It lowers his completion% a little bit, but it also drastically lowers his interception%, which is critical for the pass heavy offense that Andy Reid uses. And the only year he had an elite receiver to throw to, he completed 64% of his passes, so part of it is just that he hasn't been throwing to great receivers for the most part.

    It's worth mentioning that the only two QBs who put up really good numbers on the Eagles in Reid's tenure are McNabb and Jeff Garcia. Not coincidentally, both of them are very mobile QBs who have an extremely low interception%. In fact, the list of active QBs with the lowest career interception% begins with McNabb and Garcia.

    Why is every hurdle Favre has jumped over presented as the Pillars of Hercules, while a guy like Owens is dismissed as a loudmouth?

    Partly because Owens wants attention, and he wants the kind of reputation he has. The media doesn't really hate Owens, as much as they might sometimes vilify him. They like him for much the same reason they like Favre: he gives them something to write about. And I mean this in a very specific way - Owens presents himself publicly as something of a spectacle, everything with him is very theatrical. He gives them storylines that entertain people, and enthusiastically seeks out the spotlight. So the media plays along, and gives him the spotlight, lets him be a confident hero one moment, or an insidious villain the next, all a part of his show. Owens really would make an excellent actor when he retires from football, I think. In any case, the media certainly doesn't "dismiss him as a loudmouth". It obsesses over him, over his talent and the controversy that always seems to follow him. Owens feeds off that attention, and knows how to keep getting more of it. He gives the media something outrageous to report, and they keep coming back for more, hanging on his every word. Which is exactly what he wants.

    Of course, Favre has a different way of giving the media something to write about. Favre is so loved by the media because he lets them in, he gives them access, and not just superficially. He doesn't avoid their questions in interviews or give them 30 second soundbites, he really tells them exactly what he's thinking. That's extremely rare in the NFL, where players and coaches are usually very careful about what they say and how they say it.

    One reason the media hates Bill Belichick so much is that he never gives them any interesting answers in press conferences or postgame interviews. He's always talking in a dull, obviously affected voice, and virtually never says anything other than the usual "Opponent X is an excellent team, and we're going to have to play very well if we want to beat them. We're just taking things one game at a time" crap that tells you nothing.

    Imagine you're a sportswriter covering the Patriots. How much harder must it be to figure out something interesting to write when the person you're trying to talk to gives you the same boring answers week after week, with different names switched in? How annoying must that get?

    Contrast that with Favre, who always gives reporters a real answer, is always willing to talk with them. If a sportwriter needs to come up with a story, they can talk to Favre, and much of the work is done for them. I think people underestimate the importance of this professional courtesy to Favre's media adulation. The people who report about sports go to great lengths to speak well of Favre because he makes life easier for them, and has for over a decade now.


    -Alex

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