Sunday, January 13, 2008

Massive Playoff Blizzard

2004's first-round quarterbacks
The top three quarterbacks selected in the 2004 NFL draft (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger) have each enjoyed team success. It's up to you how much you want to credit the QBs themselves, but each team has now made multiple playoff appearances, and each team has made an appearance in the Conference Championship Game, with its respective QB as starter. The other first-round QB, J.P Losman, has been mediocre (though he hasn't had as good a team around him, either).

Check out Dr. Z's all-pro team. There isn't a professional football writer that understands football history better or pays more attention to the technical details and actual performances of players.

Cold Hard Football Facts looks at the best statistical seasons before the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. As I've said before, it also irks me that so many pundits talk about the "all-time" greats while pretending that football started sometime between 1958 and 1970.

Free Darko has inadvertently provided me with a face for Nastasya Filippovna of The Idiot.

As you probably knew by now, Vikings Kevin Williams and Steve Hutchinson were AP All-Pros (Star Tribune).

At Epic Carnival, DMtShooter gives the top 12 signs that you are becoming an old and cranky blogger."

The Nosebleeds comments on Derek Anderson's likely return to Cleveland. Perhaps your Browns could trade Brady Quinn to the Vikings? Then my soul would be complete.

Viking defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who has interviewed for the Head Coach job in Miami, and who has been linked to Indianapolis (Daily Norseman, Fanhouse), talks about what he'd like to be able to do in Minnesota (Pioneer Press).

Vikings War Cry looks at the areas in which Tarvaris Jackson must improve.

The Timberwolves suck so bad it hurts me to think of them. At this point, I look forward to NBA Box Scores just to see Dwight Howard's numbers. And now Howard makes his debut on network television (Sports Media Watch).

Randy Moss, Wide Receivers, Recognition, Awards
The Starting Five talks about Randy Moss--why he deserved to be Offensive Player of the Year this year, and why he wasn't. While Moss has certainly made his mistake, I've always thought the "character" issues were overblown. And he is arguably the best wide receiver of the past ten years. Look at the numbers for, in my opinion, the top four wide receivers of the past decade:

Marvin Harrison (since '96): 1,042 receptions, 13,944 yards, 124 TDs

Terrell Owens
(since '96): 882 receptions, 13,070 yards, 129 TDs

Torry Holt (since '99): 805 receptions, 11,864 yards, 71 TDs

Randy Moss (since '98): 774 receptions, 12,193 yards, 124 TDs

Of course, Moss never qualified for MVP, which is the "Best QB or RB on a Playoff Team" award. Just look at the history of the AP NFL MVP--a whole lot of quarterbacks and running backs. If Jerry Rice didn't win MVP when he set the touchdown reception record in 1987, or the receiving yards record in 1995, or, frankly, in any of the six seasons he had 1,483 receiving yards or more, or any of the eight seasons he had 13 or more receiving TDs, no WR is ever going to win NFL MVP.

By the way, look closely at the wikipedia entry for AP NFL MVP and at note #2: there may be shenanigans going on with the wikipedia entry, but according to this Jim Brown was the first three-time AP MVP.

At this point, should I just hope for the most possible sports fan misery, banking on either a karmic reversal or some sort of utilitarian "return to the mean"?
Let me quickly sum up the weekend's football:

The team I hate the most, the Green Bay Packers, won their playoff game easily, and now must win a home game against a 10-6 team it beat badly in the regular season, instead of a road game against a 13-3 team it lost to in the regular season.

The team whose success I begrudge the most (because they have my one-time favorite player Randy Moss, because they've won three Super Bowls this decade, because they're undefeated, because Boston sports fans are getting everything right now), the New England Patriots, won their playoff game, and now must beat San Diego to advance to the Super Bowl, a much easier matchup for them than Indianapolis.

The Colts, starring my favorite non-Viking player, Peyton Manning, lost their playoff game.

You may notice that I do a lot of whining on this blog. While my feelings about sports often bleed into my general mood, worldview, and ideas, I can assure you I'm not nearly so depressed with my actual life as I am with my sports fan life.

Joe Montana
I (and you) often hear Joe Montana identified as the greatest quarterback of all-time. When I look at his regular season stats, I see a spectacular quarterback, though I don't see precisely what makes him the greatest quarterback ever to play the game.

But on Saturday FOX pointed out that Brett Favre is second all-time in playoff games for a quarterback, playoff TD passes, and playoff passing yards. He's second, of course, to Joe Montana.

And then we look at Joe Montana's playoff stats. He's 16-7 as a playoff starter, with 5,772 playoff passing yards and 45 playoff TD passes. In the Super Bowl, he's 4-0 as a starter with 11 TD passes and 0 INTs.

And then we know why a spectacular regular season quarterback becomes the G.O.A.T.: his playoff legacy. He is, arguably, the greatest playoff quarterback of all-time. And that makes him, arguably, the greatest quarterback of all-time.

And that's why these playoffs mean so much to quarterbacks. It's why while I still believe Peyton Manning is the best quarterback, many, many people will choose Tom Brady. Players at other positions don't get that sort of evaluation--for their historical legacies, quarterbacks need to perform well in the playoffs and be on winning teams.

Three more football games
Just three more games, then we can sort of move on with our lives for a bit. Take walks on Sunday afternoon. Read (books, Jerry). Watch some movies. Climb out of the muck at look at civilization.

Addendum: re-tread coaches in the 2007 playoffs
7 of the 12 2007 playoff coaches are not coaching their first team: Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden, Tom Coughlin, Norv Turner, Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy, and Wade Phillips had each coached elsewhere before coaching their teams to the playoffs this year. Similarly, 3 of the remaining 4 teams are coached by a "re-tread" coach. And 5 of the last 6 Super Bowls were won by a "re-tread" coach (Belichick, Gruden, Dungy). Sometimes people fail their first time around; sometimes people find themselves in bad situations and perform much better when they get in another situation. We can't just assume a coach is a blockhead if he doesn't win a Super Bowl with his first team.

Addendum: Again, no parity
The 2007 playoff field can also help us again question the myth of NFL parity. Many of the 2007 playoff teams have been in the playoffs multiple times in recent years.

Indianapolis (8 of 9 years, 6 straight years)
New England (10 of 14 years, 6 of 7 years, 5 straight years)
Seattle (5 straight years)
Pittsburgh (11 of 16 years, 5 of 7 years)
Green Bay (11 of 15 years)
New York (3 straight years)
San Diego (3 of 4 years)
Tampa Bay (7 of 11 years, 2 of 3 years)
Washington (2 of 3 years)
Jacksonville (2 of 3 years)
Tennessee Titans (5 of 9 years)
Dallas (11 of 17 years, 3 of 5 years, 2 straight years)

Even at the bottom end, none of the teams are precisely new to the playoffs (the Titans had the longest drought, missing in '04, '05, and '06). At the top end, these are teams that have been able to maintain success for 5-15 years. In the NFL, franchises can build teams to compete over an extended period of time.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:12 AM

    FAgency is overrated since the best minds are always on the best teams. The front office is the most important aspect of a team and keeps the good teams good and the bad teams bad.