Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WMTMQR: Gregg Easterbrook Is Still Very Wrong About Clock Management

I haven't done a WMTMQR in a while because Easterbrook has somewhat cleaned up his act recently. This has probably happened because he reads my scathing commentary and takes it to heart. But he tried to sneak a couple giant slices of crap pie into this week's column, so I might as well complain about them.

In other football news, would New England actually be better off losing Sunday against Jersey/B? If the Patriots beat the Jets, they lock in the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Then, with two meaningless regular-season outings and a bye week, a full month will pass until Jan. 12, the earliest date the Flying Elvii could appear in another game that counts. Consider New England's last three regular-season opponents: the 3-10 Jets, the 0-13 Dolphins and a Giants squad that might be resting starters. Even the mad-at-the-world Pats could have trouble maintaining focus for an entire meaningless month. Meanwhile, Dallas is in almost the same situation as New England. With effectively a two-game lead over Green Bay -- owing to beating the Pack head-to-head -- through the final three weeks, the Cowboys need only a combination of Dallas wins and Green Bay losses that adds up to two to lock up home-field advantage in the NFC. Thus, Boys faithful actually might root for Green Bay to beat St. Louis on Sunday -- otherwise it's possible the Boys could lock up the top seed this weekend, and face a meaningless month of their own.

Oh yeah, definitely. I think think both of these teams should intentionally lose their next two games and hope Indy and Green Bay win both of theirs. That way, the Cowboys and Pats will have something at stake during week 17. That's a great strategy. No way that could possibly blow up in their faces. Or maybe Gregg is saying they should just lose this weekend, and then win to wrap up home field in week 16. Because, you know, a three week layoff from "meaningful" games is totally different than a 4 week layoff. Someone get this man a head coaching position.

It's been mentioned by commenters here before: do the "stats of the week" really add to anyone's enjoyment or understanding of football? Below, I have added a made up stat about my own life that I consider to be equally as interesting as what Gregg offers.

Stat of the Week No. 3: Since taking the field for their final playoff appearances last season, a combined 28-6 at that point, the Bears and Ravens are a combined 9-19.

Stat of Larry B's Week No. 1: Since choosing the fastest checkout lane at the supermarket twelve out of a possible fifteen times during a stretch that ended last January, Larry has chosen the fastest lane only two out of thirteen times.

Stat of the Week No. 6: Kansas City was outrushed by 199 yards.

Stat of Larry B's Week No. 2: Larry parallel parked his car four times.

Stat of the Week No. 8: In high school, college and now the pros, Derek Anderson is 3-1 as a starter against Kellen Clemens.

Stat of Larry B's Week No. 3: Including high school, college, and now post-college, Larry is 23-18 in pickup football games against Chris Hart.

Stat of the Week No. 9: At the end of the Cleveland-Jersey/B game, the Jets attempted three onside kicks in less than three minutes.

Stat of Larry B's Week No. 4: On Friday, Larry attempted to complete five transactions at the bank during their last seven minutes of business.

Tell me mine aren't better.

Sweet Special-Teams Plays of the Week: Trailing 17-3 with 10 minutes remaining, San Diego punted on fourth-and-29 at the Tennessee 40. Chargers special-teamers downed the ball at the Titans' 1, then the defense forced a three-and-out. Quick San Diego touchdown, and suddenly it's a game.

Although I will concede that converting a 4th and 29 is next to impossible, I can't count the number of times Gregg has bitched about teams punting from their opponent's territory while trailing in the 4th quarter. Now it's suddenly a good thing, as long as the team that does it subsequently forces a 3 and out. Had the Titans somehow put together a game icing field goal drive after this punt, I'm reasonably confident Easterbrook would have made some dumb point about how no matter the distance, punting in the 4th when you're trailing and in your opponent's territory is always bad.

Yes, I'm nitpicking. It's what we do here.

Dallas has reached the Detroit 16 with 22 seconds showing on the clock. To that point in the game, Boys tight end Jason Witten had 14 receptions for 122 yards. This is what is called "a clue."

What does that even mean? As if the Cowboys didn't have anyone else to throw to on that play. Assuming Marion Barber was in the game, he had 10 catches for 61 yards including an 8 yard touchdown at the end of the 1st half. Maybe that was "a clue." T.O. also has 74 catches for 1270 yards and 14 TDs on the season. That could have been "a clue" as well. Yeah, Witten was getting thrown to a lot during that particular game. That still doesn't guarantee shit on any one given play.

As the Cowboys broke the huddle, TMQ said aloud, "Maybe it's to Witten."

Easy there, Nostradamus. You had a one in five chance. And you didn't even say you knew for sure; you went with "maybe."

Moving on, I hadn't seen this particular demonstration of idiocy out of Gregg in a couple of months. But apparently old habits die hard.

TMQ's Law of the Obvious holds: Sometimes, all a team needs to do is run up the middle for no gain and things will be fine. Leading San Diego 17-10, host Tennessee faced third-and-4 on the Chargers' 46 with 2:37 remaining and San Diego down to one timeout. Run, grind the clock! Instead, incompletion, and San Diego scores to force overtime with nine seconds remaining. Had the Flaming Thumbtacks simply rushed up the middle for no gain, keeping the clock moving, the Chargers would have run out of time.

No. That is wrong. You can't say that with any certainty at all. You have no idea what would have happened if the Titans ran there. None. You have no idea how San Diego's play calling would have changed on their possession if they had 37 fewer seconds to work with. BOOOOOOO.

When Roger Goodell fined the Patriots a first-round choice in the Beli-Cheat scandal, it was New England's first-rounder, not the San Francisco choice acquired in trade, that Goodell voided. Belichick obtained San Francisco's first choice fair and square, and his decision to bank that choice reflects the wise husbandry New England has shown consistently under current management. Still, if the Patriots win the Super Bowl, then go second in the 2008 draft after Goodell publicly imposed what sounded like a harsh draft penalty, the situation will seem rigged, even if it isn't.

I hate the Patriots as much as anyone, but what the hell is the point of this? That's the item's conclusion: The Patriots have lost their own 1st rounder this April, but still possess another team's 1st rounder, which will probably be a top 5 pick. Even though there is nothing shady about this, it seems shady. What?

At the endgame, Washington led 24-13 and Chicago faced fourth-and-goal on the Redskins' 4 with 34 seconds remaining, holding a timeout. The Bears' faint hope was a touchdown and a two-point play and a field goal, wrapped around a recovered onside kick. Sure, that hope is faint, but to have any chance at all, Chicago needed to try for the touchdown first. Assume the onside kick will be recovered and the deuce will work. At the 34-second mark, the Bears were just 4 yards from a touchdown. If they go for the touchdown here, they need to gain 4 yards and -- after the deuce and the recovered onside, likely to be recovered just on their side of midfield -- will need to gain about 25 yards to attempt the field goal that forces overtime. Thus, Chicago needs about 30 offensive yards, plus success with the deuce and the onside, of course. If, on the other hand, the Bears take the field goal here, they must score a touchdown after the onside and will need to gain about 55 offensive yards to do so. So to keep the faint hope of victory aflame, the team should go for the touchdown first in this situation because it already is close to the goal line and, if successful with the onside, can launch the field goal try for long distance. Yet Lovie Smith ordered the field goal first. When this happens, it is fairly obvious the coach is not going all out to try to win but rather is taking the easy three points to make the final score more respectable and deflect criticism. (Washington got the onside.)

I agree that kicking there was probably bad strategy. I would have elected to go for the TD in that situation. But it's not like Smith's decision is completely indefensible. To accuse him of not really trying to win is laughable. I mean, let me play devil's advocate. Easterbrook's claim about the yards the Bears needed in each hypothetical situation was correct, but didn't factor in the number of plays the team would get in order to gain said yards. Had they recovered the onside after kicking the field goal, they would have had probably about three or four plays (maybe five) to get the 55 yards needed for the tying TD. That's pretty unlikely but not impossible. Sure, had they instead gone for it on 4th and gotten the touchdown, they would have had three or four plays to get a mere 25/30 yards needed for the tying field goal. But that opportunity only arrives after putting the entire game on the line for four yards on one play against a compressed defense. Failure, obviously, would have ended everything before an onside attempt even becomes part of the equation. So although I disagree with the decision, I can definitely see why Smith chose to kick. TMQ just loves implying that coaches care more about the margin of victory than their won-loss record; he's done it many times before this. It's pretty comical. When he's being evaluated by his owner/GM at the end of a failed season, what coach actually gets points for saying "Well, I went 5-11 this year, but nine of those losses were by single digits!" That's ridiculous and does not happen. Coaches are judged first and foremost on Ws and Ls. To imply anything else is WRONG. There is absolutely a 0% chance that Smith sent in his field goal team with any thought in mind other than "I think this gives us the best chance to win." Zero.

Speaking of WRONG, I think I'll wrap this up and attach the labels. And speaking of labels, don't you all love the kooky and zany labels we sometimes use here at FireJay? They're soooooooo silly! We can't quite match up with the juggernauts of the absurd label world like Kissing Suzy Kolber, but I think we do alright for ourselves. I think for this post I'll re-use a couple of the wackiest ones we've already got, just for the hell of it. Get ready to laugh at something that's not really overly funny!


pnoles said...

Haha.....I do love our labels. I've been dying for an excuse to use "kevin, you're such a disease you're what the french call 'les incompetant'".

But in the midst of using wacky labels, you forgot probably my favorite one of all time, even though you mentioned it in the last paragraph: "WRONG"!

JD said...

You're not nitpicking at all. Easterbrook contradicts himself all the time. Your statement is 100% true. Also, thank you for finally ripping his "Stats of the week" (the most pointless part of TMQ, which is saying a lot). If only he could eliminate this section and the TMQ would go from a lengthy 18 pages to a much more readable 17 pages!

larry b said...

Thanks JD. The comments thing was for you (assuming you're the guy who's complained about them before).