Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blizzard: Around the League

Dictator Goodell
Roger Goodell has suspended Adam Jones (ESPN). I'm a little bothered by Goodell's use of the first-person:

"In his letter to Jones informing the player of his latest suspension, Goodell said Jones' 'disturbing pattern of behavior was clearly inconsistent with the conditions I set for your continued participation in the NFL.'"

When Goodell uses the "I," doesn't he come off as some sort of angry parent? He's setting the parameters for his child-players to participate in his league. "I said you had to behave yourself! Me! And you didn't listen to me! Now I'm going to punish you!"

I miss Paul Tagliabue.

Oh, the Giants are only 4-1. How do we make sense of this world?
The Giants lost on the road to the Browns last night, and somehow this is supposed to shatter our ideas about the Giants being a great team.

Maybe there was too great a rush to anoint them a great team in the first place (though they are defending Super Bowl champs, so they've earned the title of greatness). But losing one road game badly doesn't really do a lot to shake my ideas about the Giants. They've won 80% of their games and they're still #1 in their division. I'll give credit to Peter King, who says:

"I still have the Giants No. 1. Any quarterback can throw three picks in a game after being superb (16 touchdowns, three interceptions) for a nine-game stretch, as Eli Manning was. Any team can have a clunker against a desperate team in a deafening stadium."

See:
Steve Serby on Fox
Will Brinson on Fanhouse

2008: Isolated Parity
As Don Banks points out, the NFL is wide open this year; 2008, so far, lacks great teams (let's emphasize that "so far:" a couple days ago the NFC East was supposedly an alien division far advanced over all other earthling divisions, but it took one week of games to alter that narrative. I'm not going to be shocked if a few weeks down the line some 7-1 team is just kicking the snot out of everybody and we're anointing that team the great team of the year. Narratives change quickly).

Let's be sure not to draw any wider implications about parity from 2008 other than that there's parity in 2008. 2007 gave us a 16-0 team and three 13-3 teams.

Roy Williams to the Cowboys!
USA Today

I'm stunned the Lions are getting so many picks for Williams, including a 1st rounder. And it's a good move by the Cowboys: Tony Romo is a young QB, but Terrell Owens is not a young WR: they need a talented WR to stick around for a while.

I'm still under the impression that most local sportswriters don't like Viking fans.
Mark Craig makes a fair point: a lot of good teams got upset this weekend, and that can happen in this league: it's not a disaster for the Vikings to eke out a close win against the Lions. But being a Minnesota sportswriter, Craig probably can't help but include a phrase like "Vikings fans need to grow up" in his post.

It's rather arrogant and insulting to tell anybody to "grow up," isn't it? And isn't it even more arrogant and insulting to tell a large group of people to "grow up"?

Brad Childress
Viking fans don't like Brad Childress (Pioneer Press, Viking Update).

In many areas, the Vikings have vastly improved in the Childress era. He's never given credit for the immense defensive turnaround the Vikes have had in the past three years. I'm not sure how much credit he deserves for it, but the Vikings have transformed from an absolutely terrible defensive team to one of the best under Childress' head coaching reign.

But because he's an offensive coach, and because the offense has essentially failed during the Childress era, fans (justifiably) blame Childress for the poor offensive showing. Childress is thus viewed as a hindrance to a great defensive team, while it is unclear whom we should credit for the great defensive transformation (the players? Mike Tomlin, then Leslie Frazier? The front office for bringing in the players?).

I'd like to say Childress should be given some credit for the defense. Then again, I'm not sure Childress has ever tried to take much responsibility for the defense, either, so I'm not sure how much credit really goes to him.

Conventional Wisdom
Good websites like Football Outsiders and Cold, Hard Football Facts often challenge "conventional wisdom" about running and show that to succeed in the NFL, teams need to pass well and defend the pass well.

In a recent article, CHFF cites four games from week 6. They note each losing team's success running the ball, suggesting they did everything "conventional" pundits think a team needs to do to win. But they lost, CHFF notes, because their opponents passed the ball better.

But I'd also point out that most conventional of conventional wisdom: don't turn the ball over. You have to win the turnover battle. We hear it again and again.

In two of the games CHFF cites, the losing team had more turnovers than the winning team. The Giants had three turnovers, the Browns zero. The 49ers had three turnovers, the Eagles one. In week six, teams that "won the turnover battle" were 8-4 (though there's a question of causation-correlation--teams that are losing already likely have more turnovers than teams that are leading. It's also a small sample size). In a game featuring big plays and few scores, the turnover battle seems to be as significant as conventional pundits would have it. Passing yards per attempt tell a big part of the story, but I'd also look to the turnover numbers.

But I'm quibbling, really. CHFF is right to point out how significant passing yards per attempt is in the NFL.

Why Tony Kornheiser is a crummy football announcer
Tony Kornheiser thinks like a columnist: he's always looking for the "story." He admitted as much Monday when he talked about coming in as an announcer hoping for a game to unfold like a novel. During any game, he'll start talking "story," discussing the narrative arch of various players' careers, examining what a team's performance "means," etc.

And there's a great place for that: columns. During the game, I want real analysis. I want announcers who will show replays and explain things like how a particular play worked or didn't work, what the defensive scheme is trying to do, what player makes a mistake on a particular play, what players away from the ball make a play successful, etc. I want the technical explanations. I'd like that, but of course you know we rarely get that. And Kornheiser will never give us that. Worse, his constant search for a narrative for a game, a team, a player, gets in the way of somebody like Ron Jaworski actually giving us technical analysis.

The Commercial Life
Peeps for the Tomlinson-Polamalu commercial.

Political ads take the place of corporate ads: so how do we know what we're supposed to buy? (We Have Mixed Feelings About Sven Sundgaard).

Links and Statements
Roy S. Johnson on politics in the locker room (Ballers, Gamers, and Scoundrels).

I haven't thought much of Derek Anderson, but his receivers drop a lot of nicely thrown balls; he might be better than I think.

Brandon Marshall (NY Times).

My starting fantasy QB (Warner) is on bye, and his backup (Hasselbeck) his hurt; this horrifying turn of events has me staring into the abyss.

Has Frank Gore been the best RB in the league this season?

8 comments:

  1. I have to disagree with your comment about Goodell. He should be acting like the dictator, it's not a democracy. Playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right. His job, among many, is to uphold the integrety of the league.

    He went out on a limb and gave Adam Jones another chance, which I thought was a bad idea from the beginning. Adam Jones burned Goodell and made him look like a fool for giving him a second chance.

    Goodell is probably pissed, and he should be. When someone does a favor for you and goes out on a limb, you now hold that person's reputation among your actions. Jones fucked up and made it look bad on Goodell, Jones doesn't deserve to play in the NFL, and Goodell has every right to toss him out indefinately.

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  2. My problem with Goodell's implementation of the personal conduct policy is two-fold.

    1. When one person gets to make all decisions (regarding whether or not to suspend a player, and for how many games, and whether or not to shorten the suspension, etc.), there is too much room for subjectivity. Last season Goodell shortened Jared Allen's suspension, but there were other players who received longer suspensions that didn't get them shorted. What did Allen do to make Goodell subjectively decide he deserved a shorter suspension, but the other players failed to do to make Goodell subjectively decide they didn't deserve a reduction? The fact that a white player received a reduced suspension while black players like Adam Jones, Chris Henry, and (if I remember correctly) Odell Thurman received longer suspensions but did not get them reduced just looks bad. And when one person gets to make those subjective decisions, it's fair to raise questions about how he's making those decisions. Are there racial undertones in the way the policy is implemented? Are there racial undertones in the way the media covers player behavior? Maybe. And way the suspensions are implemented, frankly, raises those questions for me.

    2. Goodell came in and decided that off-the-field conduct of players was a major issue, and a threat to the league. He chose to try deal with this "problem" by implementing punishments. But by doing so, Goodell has actually brought more attention to off-the-field conduct than there was already. I think the problem was a matter of perception anyway, and Goodell has just increased the perception of a bunch of criminal athletes by putting it more prominently in the news. For those of us that want to watch football and read stories about football, it becomes frustrating when so many news stories are about players' off-the-field conduct. And Goodell's strategy, rather than actually fighting the "problem" and reducing negative attention on the league, has actually brought more negative attention on the league by putting those stories even more prominently in the news. Now sports reporters don't just cover athlete misbehavior (which gets far more attention than it should anyway), but they have to cover what Goodell is going to do about it. In the last two years these stories have dominated far too much football coverage, and I think Goodell has contributed to that.

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  3. Anonymous8:14 AM

    Doodell is the COMMISSIONER, he gets to make decisions. Owners hired him to look out for the League. Want to play professional football and make all kinds of money? Then follow the rules of the League. Try being a jerk at IBM and see how long you stay there. Every business has a image and tries to maintain it.

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  4. Anonymous8:43 AM

    I see Telfair got three days suspension. Wow, pro sports trying to clean up images!

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  5. I have Warner and Hasselbeck too. I'm hoping to snag Brad Johnson off waivers today, but another team might be ranked higher and get him first.

    Want to know why I have Hasselbeck? On all 3 of my teams, no less. Because of a Pacifist Viking post I read a while back that talked about avoiding a flashy QB pick in fantasy drafts (good advice) and go for somebody steady and consistent who won't carry your team or cost you a win (also good advice), such as Hasselbeck (which, this season, was advice akin to a big steamy pile of crap).

    Now, that's not your fault. Who knew the Seahawks would suffer a gazillion injuries and turn into the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked?

    Anywho, one of my teams looks to be Warner/Hasselbeck/Brad Johnson. Another is Warner/Hasselbeck/O'Sullivan/Frerotte. Yuck.

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  6. Peter- PV hasn't won a Hazelweird Championship since 2002. Just something to consider before taking his fantasy advice.

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  7. Peter: I can only lament my stupidity. Matt Hasselbeck from 2003-2007 was just the type of QB I meant: he averaged about 200 yards and 1.5 TDs a game, and it seemed like you could rely on him to do that forever. I figured use a 5th round pick on that kind of QB instead of a pick in rounds 1-3 on the likes of Brady, Manning, Romo, or Brees.

    In my defense, Hasselbeck isn't the only big-name QB to disappoint fantasy owners this season. Partially for injuries, if you drafted Brady, Hasselbeck, or Palmer (QBs regularly drafted to be starters), you're disappointed. And now Romo is hurt too.

    The new reliable QB for me is Philip Rivers: I'll be spending the next ten years drafting Rivers just expecting him to put up Hasselbeck-type numbers.

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  8. let me update my list of things to do.

    (avoid Rivers, check.)

    ha ha. jsut kidding. I've had enormous luck with some players and tragic luck with others. That's what makes fantasy (and indeed the NFL) so much fun!

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