Saturday, February 28, 2009

T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Check Access Vikings for regular updates on Houshmandzadeh and the Vikings.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, possibly a Viking? Access Vikings says the long-named one is visiting the Twin Cities to talk with the Vikings.

Houshmandzadeh is an extremely good possession receiver, catching 294 passes in 44 games the past three seasons. But he is a possession receiver: his career yards per catch is 11.4, and in the past two seasons he had 10.2 and 9.8 yards per reception.

Don't get me wrong: the Vikings could certainly use an extremely good possession receiver. I can envision Sage Rosenfels throwing short and intermediate passes to Houshmandzadeh 10-12 times a game, while winging 2-3 deep balls to Bernard Berrian (20.1 yards per catch last season). But the Vikings must decide how much they want to pay to a possession receiver, however good he may be. Do you pay $10 million a year for 11.4 yards per reception? Perhaps that depends on team need, and what Houshmandzadeh's skills would mean to the Viking offense. Once the games start, it does not matter at all what a player is paid in relation to his production. What does matter, however, is if signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh prevents the Vikings from filling other important needs (offensive line, secondary, linebacker depth, defensive line depth, special teams). If the Vikings can still deal with those problems after paying Houshmandzadeh a bunch of money, by all means, pay Houshmandzadeh a bunch of money.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sage Rosenfels

Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice was just on KFAN raving to Dan Barreiro about Sage Rosenfels.  See Justice's column on Rosenfels here.

Rosenfels is officially a Viking (Access Vikings).  He is happy (also Access Vikings).

It's not exactly saying much, but Sage Rosenfels will likely be the best Viking quarterback of the Childress era.  He should be able to make sharp throws, hit some deep throws, and complete a high percentage of his passes.  He also has a pretty solid sack rate the past couple of years (I continue to consider avoiding sacks a critical skill for a quarterback).  But will he be able to avoid turnovers?

A quarterback named "Sage" will please local headline writers.  I will attempt to make puns on "Rosenfels."

Rosenfels is giving me Rosy-feelings!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Viking Retention

The Vikings have re-signed Charles Gordon (a marginal defensive back, but nevertheless necessary for depth--there is not an NFL team that isn't required to rely on marginal defensive backs at some point), and have made offers to Fred Evans (a functional, young defensive tackle that may have to play if KW and PW get suspended) and Naufahu Tahi (a replacement level fullback that brings nothing to the table--if you have to play him, you can, but that's about it. As a receiver Tahi provides nothing--2.3 yards per catch--and as a blocker he does nothing special: Adrian Peterson's yards per carry declined from 5.6 to 4.8, Chester Taylor's from 5.4 to 4.0, between 2007 and 2008).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Little Blizzard

Sage Rosenfels trade
Star Tribune, Houston Chronicle (via SI), Shutdown Corner, Viking Update,

Viking Stadium troubles
Star Tribune, Pioneer Press
I feel a great sense of urgency: if we don't see the Minnesota Vikings win a Super Bowl in the next three seasons, I fear we'll never have the chance to see the Minnesota Vikings win a Super Bowl.

Some unlucky fellow got charged over $27,000 to watch a Bear-Lion game (Chicago Sun-Times, via FO).

Are draft picks really overpaid? (

Remember that Starcaps business (PFT).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sage Rosenfels

several updates and links below

Via Kiah, via PFT, The Houston Chronicle says the Texans are ready to trade Sage Rosenfels to the Vikings for a fourth-round draft pick.

I don't know what the difference is between Sage Rosenfels and Matt Cassel--I suspect it might not be much. But the difference between a 31 year old QB for a fourth-rounder and a short-term small contract, and a 27 year old QB for multiple draft picks (including a first-rounder) and a long-term massive contract? There's a difference.

You may recall Rosenfels from the Vikings' 28-21 victory over the Texans in the Metrodome in 2008, when the Texans completed approximately eight hundred passes to TEs and RBs.

Sage Rosenfels would be an upgrade over the current Viking QBs. One can be hopeful he would be a significant, game-changing upgrade, but an upgrade at any rate. But it certainly says something about the degraded state of the Viking QB position under Brad Childress that I find myself excited about Sage Rosenfels.


And more
Thoughts at Grant's Tomb

Reason for encouragement: Rosenfels' completion percentage the last two seasons (65.2%)
Reason for discouragement: Rosenfels' interception percentage the last two seasons (5.3%)

More at NFL Fanhouse (from Texan fan Stephanie Stradley)

More at Access Vikings

Kevin Seifert at ESPN sees Rosenfels and Jackson competing for the starting job in training camp, with the edge toward Jackson. My buzz is officially over.

Further Thoughts
I don't know that Rosenfels is enough to make the Vikings stop thinking about the position. If I were running the team (and I am aware I am not), I would still try to sign Jeff Garcia, cut Gus Frerotte, and have Tarvaris Jackson and John David Booty compete for third-string (expecting Jackson to win). If Garcia doesn't want to bother, I'd still try sign some other lackluster free agent QB (Byron Leftwich? Chris Simms?) that could at least compete. Just keep trying things.

Some fantasized about Kurt Warner, but that was a double-fantasy. First that he'd ever leave the Cards (doubtful), and second that if he did he would have success with the Vikings (Warner thrives with a spread-out offense and a lot of athletic receivers making plays downfield--not something he'd find in Minnesota).

I don't usually make promises and often fail to keep them, but I'll try to keep this one: I will never write a bad pun using the word "sage." Nor will I try to write good puns with the word "sage." No puns on "sage" at all. I promise. Any such punning will be strictly accidental.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oh no.

You don't want to read this. Unless you hope February is a time for deception.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Viking Quarterback

Though the team has other needs (offensive line, secondary, wide receiver, depth), all I really ever think about is quarterback. It matters the most, and it has been a mess for years.

Rick Spielman talks quarterback (Access Vikings, Pioneer Press).

And a further look at the quarterback situation (Star Tribune).

Language on Stadium Continues to Irk Me

From The Star Tribune:

"After a Vikings official publicly criticized Gov. Tim Pawlenty for not showing enough leadership on a new stadium, Pawlenty met with owner Zygi Wilf late last week and a team official said the Vikings were 'pleased' with the outcome."

Please tell me why it is Minnesota's elected governor's job to show "leadership" on getting a new stadium built for Mr. Wilf's privately owned business. Vikings--show your own damn leadership. You can build a stadium--who is stopping you?

The Vikings may as well criticize me for not showing leadership on NASA's latest space mission. Or I could criticize my new dog for failing to show leadership on getting the laundry done.

But the article ends with some sanity:

"Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor told Wilf that the team is 'an important part of the fabric of Minnesota, but that the focus at the Capitol is on dealing with the state budget deficit and the difficult economic situation.'"

In my mind, I keep paralleling a new Viking stadium with the Mall of America. The Mall of America has received public funding, at the very least for "public infrastructure" (though this money may be paid back, if I'm reading it correctly). But it's hard to doubt that a building which is open daily and year round and which exists almost exclusively for spending money, has brought in a consistent stream of tourists to the region, and has created a lot of jobs (in fact, the MOA claims it contributes $1.8 billion annually to the state's economy, and also claims that it annually "generates approximately $55 million in state and local taxes, and has generated more than $800 million in total taxes since opening 15 years ago"). In this case, any public financing appears justifiable.

I'm not opposed to occasional public financing for private industry, if the benefit to the public can be concretely expressed (or sometimes not even concretely--I don't oppose public financing of arts because of the cultural and educational benefit). Can the Vikings claim that public financing of a stadium would bring such a return to the public?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Marino and Favre

Dan Marino played in 242 games, while Brett Favre played in 273 games. Here is the average game for each:

Dan Marino: 20.5 of 34.5 for 253.5 yards, 1.7 TDs, 1 INT
Brett Favre: 20.9 of 33.9 for 238.5 yards, 1.7 TDs, 1.1 INT

Other numbers are extremely close, most with a slight advantage to Marino: TD % (Marino 5%, Favre 5%), INT % (Marino 3%, Favre 3.3%), Yards Per Attempt (Marino 7.3, Favre 7.0), QB Rating (Marino 86.4, Favre 85.6). Favre has a better completion percentage (61.6% to 59.4%), but Marino has a better sack rate (3.1% to 4.8%).* Marino's winning percentage as a starter was 61.5%, and Favre's was 62.8%.

The team contexts for Marino and Favre were also similar: both usually had good coaching, usually had good pass protection, both played with often good but rarely great skill position players.

When I consider the careers of Dan Marino and Brett Favre, I see few ways to argue that one or the other was far superior to the other. It's not that you can't make the argument, or find data to suggest one was superior to the other. It's just that their production was so similar, such arguments won't be convincing--they merely reinforce what one was already predisposed to believe.

Oh, but there's that one thing: Favre won a Super Bowl, Marino didn't. For some, that may swing the argument to Favre. But I think that would be blinkered.

These are two QBs that shared remarkably similar careers, QBs that share similar statistics, that share similar winning records. To determine one was better than the other because of one team championship just doesn't make sense.

Marino's best team was the 1984 Dolphins, who went 14-2 and reached the Super Bowl. There they met a juggernaut: the 1984 49ers went 15-1 (their only loss by three points), ranked 2nd in points scored and 1st in points allowed, with a point differential of 15.5 points per game.

Favre's best team was the 1996 Packers, who went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl. The '96 Packers had the league's #1 defense in both points allowed and yards allowed.

So Favre is better than Marino because in his prime he played with a #1 defense? Marino is not as good as Favre because when he reached the Super Bowl his team was beaten by one of the greatest teams of all-time? This doesn't really make logical sense.

See Also:
Marino and Favre (September 27, 2007)

Some relevant (and great) posts at

All-Time NFL QBs: The Best Overall QBs Ever

The Best QB of all time?

A last look at QBs

Favre vs. Marino (this is a detailed, researched, analytical, and superb comparison of the two QBs)

*Marino was a gem at avoiding sacks in the pocket--he made slight movements to avoid rushers, instinctively buying time, and also avoiding sacks with his quick release. 10 times Marino had the lowest sack rate in the league, including his first seven seasons.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gus Frerotte?

Sid Hartman talks to Gus Frerotte, who thinks he deserves to come back and start for the Vikings next season.

I regularly see people point out that the Vikings were 8-3 with Frerotte as starter last season. But we could also point out that in his 11 starts, Frerotte threw 15 interceptions. We might also point out that the Vikings scored non-offensive points in five of their wins under Frerotte (in three of those wins, the non-offensive points were responsible for the margin of victory).

I don't want to dismiss the positive things Gus Frerotte did for the Vikings in 2008. He did some good things, and he played well in several Viking victories. But I think it would be a mistake for the Vikings to be satisfied with his level of quarterback play in 2009. Frerotte is average at best. To make Frerotte the starting QB in 2009 is to claim that average play at the quarterback position is all that is necessary. Sometimes, perhaps it is. And certainly sometimes, you are forced to get by with that. But if you are entering the off-season with opportunities to improve the quarterback position, to try go from an average (or below average) to a positive performance, you should.

Fantasy Football: Maurice Jones-Drew

For years, fantasy footballers have waited for Fred Taylor to go the way of the dodo so Maurice Jones-Drew could be unfettered.  Now that the Jaguars have cut Fred Taylor, does MJD shoot up draft boards?

I suggest he should not.  My thesis: Fred Taylor's absence should have no impact on MJD's ranking.

First of all, the things that make MJD such an intriguing fantasy football player are not impacted by Fred Taylor.  MJD gets a lot of red zone carries, hence his 34 rushing touchdowns in the past three seasons.  MJD is a great receiver, hence his 148 catches and 1,408 receiving yards in the past three seasons.  Fred Taylor did cut into MJD's rushing TD total in '06 and '07 (10 total), but only had one rushing TD in '08 (MJD had 12).  And Taylor had just 48 receptions in the past three seasons, doing little to cut into MJD's reception total.  Essentially, I think MJD's 2008 touchdown and reception totals are indicative of what we can expect from him in the future, with or without Fred Taylor.

Furthermore, MJD was already the dominant RB contributor for the 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars.  In 2008, Jaguar RBs rushed for 1,445 yards, MJD netting 824 yards (57%).  Perhaps percentage will improve without Fred Taylor, but I'm doubtful it will be significant.  Jacksonville RBs had 15 rushing touchdowns, MJD getting 12 of them (80%).  And finally, Jaguar RBs had 95 receptions, MJD getting 62 of them (65%).

Seriously, with or without Fred Taylor, how much more can we expect from MJD?  He gets 57% of Jaguar RB's rushing yards, 80% of Jaguar RB's rushing touchdowns, and 65% of Jaguar RB receptions.  Those percentages may go up without Fred Taylor, but I doubt they'll improve very much.

But one thing could improve MJD's rushing yardage: the success of the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The '08 Jags went 5-11 and had 27 rushing attempts and 111 rushing yards per game.  The '07 Jaguars went 11-5 and had 33 rushing attempts for 149 rushing yards per game.  They did also decline from 4.6 yards per attempt to 4.2 yards per attempt, but for the most part, playing well and leading games means a team can rush the ball more.  MJD could net more rushing yards--and more fantasy points--if the Jaguars are good.

Maurice Jones-Drew is an intriguing fantasy football player.  In the past three seasons, he has averaged 84 yards from scrimmage per game and has netted 38 rushing/receiving touchdowns.  I'm a little concerned about MJD's declining yards per attempt (5.7 in '06, 4.6 in '07, and 4.2 in '08), but I'm not sure that's predictive of his '09 numbers.  But Fred Taylor's absence from the Jaguars doesn't really impact my view of MJD.

But as a fantasy footballer, you may need to know that Fred Taylor's absence will impact how other fantasy footballers view MJD.  That means if you really want MJD, you will have to gauge the price accordingly.

Free Agent Quarterbacks

Here is ESPN's list of available free agent QBs.  Other QBs may join the list soon (Derek Anderson), and other QBs may be available via trade (can somebody just disabuse me of my Matt Hasselbeck dream now?).

On this list, I do think Jeff Garcia is the best option--if you are looking for a one year option.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Vikings and QB

Matt Cassel may just be Scott Mitchell: a good backup quarterback that was helped by great coaching and good teammates to a good but brief run, which was enough to make him appeal to teams desperate for a quarterback.

But the Vikings must take a risk at the quarterback position--it has been a mess for Brad Childress's reign. After trading Daunte Culpepper, Childress has started the backup-level QB he inherited (Brad Johnson), the D 1-AA project he drafted (Tarvaris Jackson), and a series of cheap, bad backups (Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte). The Vikings have just scraped by at quarterback without making a serious move to improve the position. The result: in 49 games in 06, 07, and 08, the Vikings have thrown for 47 touchdowns, 52 interceptions, and 183 yards per game. They've lacked the ability to sustain drives with the passing game, they've lacked a two minute offense, and they've lacked the ability to come from behind. You can (and should) put some blame on the Childress/Bevell offense, and you can (and should) put some blame on the quality of receivers. But a big reason the Viking passing game has been terrible is that they haven't had a good quarterback in three seasons.

It didn't have to be that way. In 2006, there were rumors they could have traded for Matt Schaub, but the price was too high. Schaub has dealt with injuries since joining the Texans, but in 2008 he averaged 276.6 yards per game, 8.0 yards per attempt, and posted a 92.7 rating. It would have been a risk. But quarterback is such an important position that a team can't compete for a championship by scraping around at backups that are barely replacement level.

I don't know if the Vikings should pursue Matt Cassel. But I know they have to do something significant. If they maintain the status quo, if they again acquire cheap, mostly undesirable quarterbacks and are forced to start them, they might compete for a division title. But we can't seriously expect the Vikings to compete for the Super Bowl if they don't make a major attempt to acquire a quality quarterback, whomever that might be. If the roster is full of backup quarterbacks that the team is forced to start, the team isn't going farther than it did last season.

There is a risk in acquiring a player like Cassel, just as there was a risk in acquiring a player like Schaub. But those are risks a team has to take to compete for a championship. If they take the risk, it might fail; if they don't do anything, they maintain the status quo, and I think that ceiling is 10-11 wins and a playoff loss.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A joke that is only funny six months after you hear it.

Go re-read Peter King's August harangue of Jets' season ticket holders that didn't go watch Brett Favre play in a preseason game.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Greatest Wide Recievers

Extended discussion at 1, 2, and 3.


Yahoo! offered me up this article about Brett Favre retiring, and this article about stars of Grey's Anatomy leaving.  I clicked on the latter first, and I don't even watch Grey's Anatomy.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Matt Cassel?

Apparently, maybe (Access Vikings).

All I want is a Matt. Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, I don't care. If somebody named Matt is the starting quarterback for the Vikings next season, I'll be mildly happy about it.

And I think the Vikings can afford to give up first-round picks in back to back years. Jared Allen is 26, and if they trade a first-rounder for 26 year old Matt Cassel, they're getting young but NFL-ready starters with their first-round picks. What I don't think the Vikings can afford, however, is to give up more picks in rounds 2-4 in back to back years. Those are rounds where teams find quality starters, fill out depth, and add special team performers. If the Vikings give up more of those picks, they might have star starters, but bad special teams and a few key injuries could again cause the Vikings to struggle.

But adding a quality quarterback has to be the priority for 2009. I'll be happy if the team adds anybody that could improve what has been a dire position for the Childress era.

Friday, February 06, 2009

"I know who I am, kid."

From Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman:

Biff: I know who I am, kid.
Happy: All right, boy. I'm gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It's the only dream you can have--to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I'm gonna win it for him.

Cian at 'fuh- 'baw:

"And, we the fans, will begin to believe again that our team can win it all... maybe not this year, fans of Chiefs or Lions will say. But that far flung hope persists.

"Never mind that 16 weeks of nagging injuries, last-second heartache, muddy uniforms, myopic playcalling, etc, etc should tell us different (well, unless you're a Steelers fan). In some compacted version of the American dream, at some point, we will all feel like our team has a chance. (And like the American dream, some will never attain it.)"

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fantasy Football: assess playoff numbers, too.

When you are preparing for a 2009 fantasy football draft, you want to use whatever information is available to help you project (or is it "guess"?) how players will perform in 2009. Typically rankings rely heavily on players' numbers from the previous year, but sometimes take into account how a player has performed in multiple previous seasons, too.

I think when assessing fantasy potential, we should include playoff games, too. Playoff games provide more data to sift, more material to assess. Sure, playoff numbers don't count for your fantasy league, but no 2008 numbers will count for your 2009 fantasy league. You're trying to rank players based on how you think they will perform--why not use any available data that could help you to project accurately?

When I rank players for 2009, I will look at all the games the player played in that counted. I'll look at the per game averages and the number of quality games, and rank players accordingly.

Now a key point here is that for fantasy analysis purposes, playoff games be regarded as equal to regular season games. If a player significantly overperformed or underperformed his regular season numbers in the playoffs, you don't significantly mark him up or down for that alone. The playoff games go into the total pool of assessable games, and you then assess accordingly.

Including playoff games will not have a giant impact on your rankings (for most players it adds one to two games to his total), but it might allow you some keener insights. Larry Fitzgerald was already going to be one of the top three WRs selected; being the indisputable best player during the playoffs simply makes him the consensus #1 WR. Santonio Holmes was a 2008 fantasy disappointment, yet he made big plays in the playoffs (scoring a TD in all three games, winning Super Bowl MVP). While Holmes is a potential #1 WR, even his playoff numbers suggest he's an inconsistent big play WR (his reception total in the playoffs: 2-2-9), great when he does make plays, frequently a nonfactor. So including playoff numbers doesn't provide you with a big secret answer for fantasy success--it just gives you a little more data to help you make decisions.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Viking News

New Special Teams Coordinator was an assistant to the old Special Teams Coordinator (Star Tribune).  Did Dwight Schrute just get promoted to Michael Scott's old position?

It's always fun to see a Viking story at SI's Truth & Rumors, see the source is the St. Paul Pioneer Press and suspect it's just idle speculation, then go to the Pioneer Press to find the author, and have your suspicions confirmed.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Revisiting Existence and Essence

We must accept that the best team does not always win a championship. This is obvious, because in a particular game the best team does not always win (hence only one team ever went undefeated).  We watch sporting events because the outcome is not predetermined, because even if Team A is far superior to Team B, Team B might still beat Team A.  I would again define this as a difference between "existence" and "essence."  In its essence (its inherent quality), Team A is better, but in its existence (its actions), Team B is the better team at least on that day.

For example, I think it would be incorrect to argue that the 2007 Giants were a better team than the 2007 Patriots.  By nearly any measure, the Patriots were a far superior team.  Perhaps the only measure by which the Giants were the best team was "how the two teams played against each other on a neutral field one Sunday in February."  Yet I also think it would be incorrect to argue that the Giants were an undeserving champion, or that the Patriots were a more deserving champion.  Whatever each team's intrinsic quality, its "essence," the teams were given an opportunity to achieve a championship based on its actions, or its "existence."  The Giants won: whether in essence they were a better team or not doesn't matter, because in existence, in their actions, they won the games to determine a champion.

In any given season, there are multiple teams capable of winning the championship.  Which team wins the championship will be determined by luck, by timing, by matchups, and by performance on the field.  We can recognize this without disrespecting the team that wins the championship.  The good teams put themselves in a position to compete for a title.  Of course every season there will be very good teams that don't win the title, because there can be only one.  But the good teams compete, and one team (aided by luck) performs on the field in a way to earn the championship.

Of course there are other ways to determine the essence of a team.  There are several statistical ways to measure the inherent quality of teams (based on their performance, but separated from the outcomes of the games).  But these measurements can be debatable, or may show several teams being very close to each other, to the degree it would be difficult to objectively claim one team is the best.  But these measurements are useful, in that they can get at a team's inherent essence, helping us to access the quality of teams.

Here's what we must accept: "champion" does not necessarily equate to "best team."  But we don't have to see that as a bad thing.  There may be ways to try assess the essence of a team, but in sports, teams are required to enter a fair playing field and beat each other.  A one-and-done playoff at the end of a 16 game season can lead to all sorts of wild occurrences, and may not provide us an indisputable "best team."  What such a system does do, however, is give teams a chance to act.  Whatever their inherent essence, they are given existence, a chance to perform on the field and earn a championship.

Let me offer a concrete illustration of existence and essence.  At Football Outsiders, Ned Macey and Aaron Schatz made some important comments regarding James Harrison's 100 yard interception return for a touchdown.  Macey writes:

"while I know that return touchdowns are not repeatable, the interception itself was a fine bit of scheming and a terrible read by the opposing quarterback. The return, while not repeatable in a statistical sense, was still a great effort both by Harrison and his blockers."

Schatz follows up:

"We shouldn't confuse the concept that 'turnover returns are a non-repeatable play that we don't include in DVOA because they may not be a good judge of the defense's inherent quality' with the idea that 'a long turnover return is random chance.' There was a lot of athletic talent shown on that return, and excellent blocking."

I think this expresses the point nicely.  The long return, being a "non-repeatable play," may not tell us much about the "inherent quality" of the team.  But it was an accomplishment, an impressive play involving scheming and ability that had a gigantic impact on the outcome of the game.  While it may not be useful in assessing a team's essence, it was an action performed by the team, and it is the team's actions that determine whether it wins a particular game.

Sports are rather existentialist.  Because sports require performance, we can define players and teams not by any inherent quality we think they have, but by how they perform.  Hazard certainly plays a role in sports (and life), but winners are determined by their actions, not their essence.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Halftime, Super Bowl 44

There is one one human being worthy to perform at halftime of next year's Super Bowl, one human being that would thrill me, that would make me more excited about halftime than about the game.  That human being is The Shat.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

National February League

I took notes during the game.  When I saw something that struck me, I wrote it down.  The letters "S. Holmes" appear in a circle six times.  He's an extremely good player, and perhaps his best catch got negated by the holding call in the end zone.  I'm also happy he won Super Bowl MVP, because I have a football card of every Super Bowl MVP, and alas, I don't have a James Harrison card.

Kurt Warner has three playoff losses.  In each of them, he led a team to a pretty impressive late comeback, but the team still failed to win.  And I suppose that's the problem about crediting these comebacks and team wins to quarterbacks.  In the 2000 playoffs, the Rams were down 31-7 to the Saints, got back within three, but then the Ram punt returner fumbled away a last chance.  In the 2001 Super Bowl, the Rams were down 17-3, tied the game with under two minutes left, but then the Pats ignored John Madden's advice (who is gutless on coaching decisions--of course he fully supported Mike Tomlin's bad decision to kick a field goal on 4th and goal at the one on the opening drive) and drove for a win.  And tonight, the Cardinals were down 20-7, and Warner/Fitzgerald led a comeback, before Roethlisberger/Holmes came back.

John Madden certainly fetishized Larry Fitzgerald's big, strong hands.  How many times did he refer to Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin as big and strong, and their hands specifically?  I mean, actually with the words "big" and "strong" and "hands"?  Really, "fetishized" isn't too strong a word, is it?

Pittsburgh's victory also gives further challenge to CHFF's suggestion that realignment has caused a mess of the playoff, leading to historically anomalous champions.  If we look at the last four Super Bowl winners, we see a team in the midst of making the playoffs in six of eight years and winning two Super Bowls, a team in the midst of winning 12+ games in six consecutive seasons, a team in the midst of making the playoffs four consecutive years, and a team in the midst of making the playoffs in six of eight years and winning two Super Bowls.  The Super Bowls this decade have been won by perpetual contenders.

In Don DeLillo's White Noise, there is a barn that is the most photographed barn in America.  This reputation leads more and more people to go take photographs of the barn, creating a self-perpetuating institution.  Ladies and gentleman, Super Bowl commercials.

Larry Fitzgerald's playoff run: 6-101-1, 8-166-1, 9-152-3,  7-127-2.  When he was running for that last blazing touchdown, I thought I was seeing Jerry Rice.

An extremely high percentage of Super Bowl commercials featured animals of some sort.  I have theories on the appeal of seeing happy, funny animals in the context of consumerism and consumption.  Mostly I think they provide comfort: by seeing animals as either happy and contented creatures, or as comical and silly figures, people can feel mildly comforted about consuming them.  My wife suggests perhaps training the animals is timely and expensive, and that Super Bowl ads have bigger budgets that can afford to make the splash.  But a lot of animals were CGI, and animals appear in a lot of commercial contexts away from the Super Bowl, too.  Suicide Food examines advertising featuring animals that want to be eaten, or that are eating their own food product, and suggests there is thematic comfort in such images.  I think perhaps the animals don't need to be suicidal to provide that comfort--happy animals mean we don't have to feel bad for exploiting them (they're happy, after all), and funny animals suggest they're hardly worth any dignity anyway (they're just ridiculous and silly, after all).

Are we all recovered from Bruce Springsteen's crotch hitting us in the face?

Earlier I suggested the rest of the season is more fun than Super Bowl Sunday.  But there is something intensely dramatic about the final minutes of a close Super Bowl game.  We often see plays in the final minutes determining the outcome of a game.  But in this case, we're seeing the plays in the final minutes determining the world champion.  Historical legacies are being formed directly in front of us.  It's thrilling.

Here are the future Hall of Famers I think we saw playing in the Super Bowl: Larry Fitzgerald (early, but he's a stud and his playoff dominance enhances his reputation), Ben Roethlisberger (a QB with two championships, he can basically be solid for the rest of his career to build a HOF resume, and he plays on a great defensive team that is regularly contending), Troy Polamalu (a superb player anyway, but being a great player for two championship teams helps his case), and Kurt Warner (I'm sold).  Other possibilities are Anquan Boldin (he's got historical great receptions per game), Edgerrin James (outside shot, I don't think he'll make it), James Harrison or James Farrior (very good linebackers), or a very young player like Santonio Holmes.  I would also guess we haven't seen the last of Mike Tomlin, who joins Tony Dungy and Brian Billick as former Viking coordinators that won championships as head coaches of other franchises in the 00s.

I can't help but wonder if we'll ever actually see the Vikings win this game--given that I've never even seen the Vikings in this game, I'm reaching deeper and deeper into the despair.  I wonder what it would be like to have been born around Pittsburgh, where I'd just be used to cheering for an historically great franchise with Super Bowl wins.  My wife notes that Minneapolis-St. Paul is a cultured metropolis, renowned for its theater space and high readership.  But it's ass-freezing cold three months a year and our sports teams never win championships (just the Twins, the only two titles since the Lakers moved--none of our pro teams have even reached the championship round since '91).  Minnesotans, just think how much geography determines your entire outlook on sports.  We long for that elusive dream of a Viking championship; some people are born in places where they get to root for teams that regularly win championships.  And that's all luck, random hazard.

Super Bowl Day

This is the day that everybody starts talking to you about football.  But while it is more historically significant (and since off the top of my head I know every Super Bowl winner, loser, and MVP, I obviously care about it in a geeky way), I find every other weekend of regular season and postseason football more fun, interesting, and exciting.  It's good fun to see who finally wins the championship, but we go from a weekend of following the exploits of several teams to a weekend of watching two.  If you're a die-hard fan of a particular team, this weekend is also less exciting than other weeks (unless your favorite team is playing this game, then it must be the most exciting--and tense, dramatic, emotional--fan experience possible.  But I haven't experienced that yet).

Now a bunch of casual fans and non-fans start talking about football a lot, but for serious fans, the Super Bowl is merely a delicious cherry on top of what was a filling, luscious, magnificent sundae.  The cherry is good, even necessary, but what I really liked was the sundae.

Commercial Life

My household is in love with DVR.  Pausing and rewinding television is now such an accepted part of our lives, we're confused and disrupted during the other parts of our life when we can't pause and rewind.

DVR has been wonderful for football season: reasonable family distractions from games aren't a problem at all.  But the Super Bowl will offer a new situation: we know we'll have to pause at points, but we want to watch the commercials, so when will we catch up?  We may see the conclusion of the Super Bowl late (though I think the Steelers will win by two or more touchdowns, so I don't expect to be waiting on fourth quarter drama).  I want to fast-forward through the half-time show, since I care about Bruce Springteen not at all.

For your amusement, go here to see and learn about the PETA commercial that was rejected from the Super Bowl.  And on the subject of vegetarians and Super Bowl half-time musical performers, go here to see Stephen Colbert's hilarious interview with Paul McCartney.