Friday, November 26, 2010

FMTMQR: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Oh no. He's up to it again. Remember: if you want to make a sweeping, generalized point about the entire league, you can prove it with a handful of examples.

Undrafted wide receiver Blair White, a walk-on in college, caught two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of Sunday's tense Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots game, both times beating high-drafted safety Pat Chung. Also on Sunday, wide receiver Stevie Johnson, a seventh-round pick, caught three touchdown passes in the Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals game, twice beating corner Leon Hall, a former first-rounder. Earlier in the season, Pierre Garcon of the Colts, a sixth-round choice from Division III Mount Union, sprinted through the Washington Redskins secondary for a 57-yard touchdown reception, past defensive backs DeAngelo Hall and LaRon Landry, both high first-round choices from football-factory colleges.

High-drafted defensive backs should always shut down low-drafted or undrafted receivers on each and every play, regardless of all the other factors that go into the result of any given play- especially when Peyton Manning is throwing passes to those receivers.

These plays, in a nutshell, summarize a core fact of NFL life: Receivers who were unknowns early in their NFL careers often outperform megabucks glory-boy high-drafted types.

That's like saying that people who speed are “often” given tickets. How about we try “very occasionally.”

Among NFL receivers having fine seasons are Danny Amendola, Anthony Armstrong, Miles Austin, Davone Bess, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Lance Moore and Wes Welker, all undrafted. Other top receivers include Marques Colston, Donald Driver, Garcon, Johnny Knox and Kevin Walter, all late-round draft choices from below-the-radar colleges.

Here are your top 25 WRs this season in terms of yards, their draft position, and their school. Schools in conferences with an automatic BCS bid are in bold.

Brandon Lloyd, 4th, Illinois.

Roddy White, 1st, UAB

Terrell Owens, 3rd, some tiny school in Tennessee

Reggie Wayne, 1st, Miami

Andre Johnson, 1st, Miami

Hakeem Nicks, 1st, UNC

Mike Wallace, 3rd, Ole Miss

Santana Moss, 1st, Miami

Miles Austin, undrafted, Monmouth

Steve Johnson, 7th, Kentucky

Calvin Johnson, 1st, Georgia Tech

Dwayne Bowe, 1st, LSU

Marques Colston, 7th, Hofstra

Jeremy Maclin, 1st, Missouri

Greg Jennings, 2nd, Western Michigan

Brandon Marshall, 4th, UCF

Larry Fitzgerald, 1st, Pitt

Mike Williams TB, 4th, Syracuse

Johnny Knox, 5th, Abeline Christian

Mike Williams SEA, 1st, USC

Desean Jackson, 1st, Cal

Anquan Boldin, 2nd, Florida State

Jabar Gaffney, 2nd, Florida

Braylon Edwards, 1st, Michigan

Percy Harvin, 1st, Florida

So like we were saying, uh, clearly, if you, uh, want to draft a top receiver... what were we saying again?

And the league's No. 1 receiver is Brandon Lloyd, who has been waived twice in the NFL and barely played in 2008 and 2009.

Quick- change your own rules! If the top receiver in the league doesn't fit into the “undrafted” or “small college” categories, cram that square peg into some other round hole that helps you desperately try to prove that unwanted WRs “often” outperform high-drafted WRs despite the fact that 13 of the top 25 receivers in the league this year were drafted in the first round, 18 were drafted in the first three rounds, and 19 came from conferences with automatic BCS qualification. Check previous years and the results are largely the same. Yes, clearly, players like Wes Welker and Miles Austin are a dime a dozen and “often” outperform their glory boy colleagues.

By contrast, you'd quickly run out of fingers counting recent first-round football-factory receivers who either were busts or failed to live up to their billing. Charles Rogers, Troy Williamson, Matt Jones, David Terrell, Ted Ginn Jr., Michael Clayton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ashley Lelie, Reggie Williams, Koren Robinson -- not even TMQ has room for a full accounting.

WHAT? Sometimes highly drafted players fail? Knock me over with a feather. Of course there are first round busts, you fucking asshole. There have been dozens at every position since the draft came into existence. And for every Miles Austin, how many undrafted hard work grit and guts no-ego guys never make it off the practice squad?

Why do small-school and low-drafted NFL receivers excel where glory boys falter? In most cases, the answer is ego and work ethic.

Sentence is missing “every once in a while” after “falter.” TMQ then launches into a long explanation of how different playing WR in college is compared to playing WR in the NFL, which is certainly true. And does nothing to change that during any given season, there will be a small handful of successful Miles Austins, and a very large number of successful Calvin Johnsons.

Undrafted or small-school receivers know their sole chance is to work, work, work. At Washington, Anthony Armstrong beat out high-drafted wide receiver Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, both from football-factory colleges: Thomas was waived and Kelly has played little. At Buffalo, Johnson beat out high-drafted football-factory wide receiver James Hardy, who was waived. Thomas, Kelly and Hardy all strutted around practice complaining that they weren't being showcased: Armstrong and Johnson worked, worked, worked. Last season, while high-drafted, glam-boy wide receiver Roy Williams of Dallas was struggling, Miles Austin worked, worked, worked. Welker works, works, works and then works some more.

So like I said at the beginning of this mess: Gregg has a broad, sweeping point to make and he'll be damned if you're going to stop him from making it by citing a small number of examples.

If you were an NFL coach and saw two receivers on your sideline -- one a high-drafted complainer who expects a limo waiting for him, the other an undrafted guy who works, works, works -- who would you send in?

The first guy, definitely. He has way more talent than the second guy and it's very likely that that fact will compensate for the piles of heart and hustle the second guy has.

In other football news, just one snap away from the Super Bowl last January, the Minnesota Vikings are now 3-7 and were blown off their own home field, 31-3, by the Green Bay Packers. Head coach Brad Childress was just fired, the second NFL head coach of a 2009 playoff team to be cashiered midseason in 2010. "Dysfunctional" doesn't begin to describe the Minnesota franchise. The Vikings make the drill-sergeant-turned-therapist in the Geico commercial seem like a guy who's really got his act together.

Solid point. Horrific analogy used to drive it home.

Yet should [Brad Childress] take all the blame for the Vikes' meltdown? He is the same coach he was last season, when he brought Minnesota within a snap of the Super Bowl. Did he suddenly forget how to coach this season?

Surely, the Vikings' problem is that they have not bowed low enough before Brett Favre! Childress only drove to the airport to pick him up. Why didn't he offer to fold Favre's laundry too? If only the Minnesota Vikings would show Favre some respect!

Favre leads the league with 17 interceptions -- and maybe he wouldn't be throwing to the wrong place so often if he'd bothered to attend training camp for the past two seasons. Favre also has lost five fumbles; 22 turnovers in 10 games by the starting quarterback would doom any NFL team. The Vikings are last in the NFL in turnover differential -- and Adrian Peterson hasn't fumbled this season! Yet Childress is scapegoated while Favre floats above it all. The Metrodome crowd chanted, "FIRE CHILDRESS!" They should have chanted, "PROTECT THE FOOTBALL!"

Solid point. Disastrous chant recommendation, something we've seen from Gregg several times already this season. (Most notably: Wofford University fans should chant “HERE BOY” because their mascot is the Terriers.)

In 2007, Green Bay wanted to be rid of Favre because the team was sick of his attitude, which boils down to: me, me, me and have I mentioned me? Sunday, Green Bay's judgment was vindicated in emphatic fashion.

In 2008, Favre single-handedly blew up the New York Jets, leading to a fired head coach and bitter recriminations all around. In 2010, Favre has blown up the Vikings, with a fired head coach and bitter recriminations all around. This must be some inexplicable coincidence -- it can't have anything to do with Brett Favre.

Ah, one of the very few things TMQ and I agree on. Gotta soak it up until Favre really actually retires.

In Ivy League news, Fight Fiercely Harvard! Hurl that spheroid down the field -- won't it be preachy if we win the game? We shall celebrate our victory by inviting the whole team up for tea. Those are among the lyrics to Tom Lehrer's satirical college fight song from 1953.

This guy has his finger on the pulse of football fans everywhere. He knows exactly what they want to read.

In December, the Bengals were among the league's power teams: now they are on a 2-10 streak and continue to expend more energy boasting than performing. With Cincinnati leading 21-7 in the second quarter, the Bengals' Johnathan Joseph intercepted Fitzpatrick and had a clear path for the pick-six that made the lead 28-7. Joseph began celebrating wildly at the Buffalo 15, waving his arms and strutting. The game is far from over, your team is mired deep in a losing streak, and you're celebrating wildly? Celebrate after you win, not in the second quarter. The football gods retaliate against this sort of thing. After the point that Joseph taunted the Bills, Buffalo outscored the home team 42-3.

/Larry B holds head in hands, sobbing gently

Stat of the Week No. 10: In the games in which Randy Moss started for them, the Patriots, Vikings and Titans are a combined 4-6.

Gotta be because Moss was a first round draft pick who has a big ego, amirite?

Cheerleader of the Week: Donya of the Raiderettes, who, according to her team bio, has a master's degree in counseling and works as a high school guidance counselor. A guidance counselor who won the Miss Silver and Black Figure award -- bet a lot of teen boys suddenly have a strong interest in getting help on college apps.

Please stop running this item. It keeps getting creepier and creepier.

Here, the Junior Raiderettes program allows tween girls to dream of someday being underpaid as NFL cheerleaders.

And there it goes again. He provided a link (why?), which I deleted. Is anyone besides a Raiders fan living in the Bay Area who has a daughter interested in cheerleading going to be able to click on that without feeling like a complete dirtbag?

Halfway through the fourth quarter, New England led 31-21 and Belichick's charges went incompletion, rush, incompletion, punt -- the incompletions stopping the clock. Leading 31-28 with 2:23 remaining and facing third-and-7, Belichick again called a pass, which fell incomplete. Belichick has been crossing opponents up this season by rushing more than usual. Yet had the Flying Elvii simply run for no gain on these three late snaps that were incompletions, the Colts likely would not have had enough clock to reach the New England 24 in the closing seconds.

Hey alright! This kind of braindead thinking is back! I spoke too soon a couple weeks ago when I noted that he'd stopped saying shit like this. At least he's toned down the language, though- in the past he didn't include the word “likely” like he did up there. He just took it as fact that if a team kicked a game winning field goal as time expired, an incomplete pass by the other team with 14 minutes left in the 4th quarter was to blame.

When the Colts had the ball at the New England 24 with 37 seconds remaining, a touchdown would've won the contest for Indianapolis. Peyton Manning aimed deep for Pierre Garcon, who had a step on his man up the sideline; Manning's pass was underthrown and James Sanders intercepted, icing the game for the hosts.


Once 5-3, Tennessee has lost its past two games; Jeff Fisher and Vince Young are arguing openly; this sudden negative energy field around the Titans can't have anything to do with Randy Moss arriving, can it?

Almost certainly not. I think the poor onfield results have a lot to do with the fact that the Titans aren't really that good. I think the weird off the field stuff has a lot to do with the fact the Vince Young has the mental fortitude of a spoiled 14 year old.

As Jersey/B lined up from the Houston 48, Texans' cornerbacks, knowing the Jets had no timeouts, should have played on the outside shoulders of Jersey/B wide receivers, to keep them away from the sidelines. Forcing any action to the center of the field, where the clock would keep ticking, would doom the host's comeback.

Wouldn't have doomed it. The Jets still could have gotten down the field and snapped the ball in time for a spike- Edwards caught the pass at the 10 with about 16 seconds left.

Yet not only did Houston corner Jason Allen line up right across from Edwards as though this were a standard down --

Right, agree. That was a mistake.

Allen, busy making the high-school mistake of "looking into the backfield" trying to guess the play,

Classic Gregg revisionist history. I saw this play happen live and then saw the fifty subsequent replays. In no way was Allen looking into the backfield. He just knew he had safety help so he didn't necessarily have to keep Edwards in front of him (although he definitely did not play to the situation as well as he could have) and then got beat.

Metaphor of the Year: "Cher has come to seem the Sherman tank of divas, sometimes under fire but seldom in retreat, grinding ever onward, armored and unstoppable." The New York Times on Cher in the movie Burlesque.

What? Why?

Just a thought -- what if the Eagles tried running Oregon's blur offense with Michael Vick?

They should totally change their entire playbook and way of doing things two thirds of the way through the season, I agree.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk: Trailing 34-16 with six minutes remaining in the contest, the Blue Men Group faced fourth-and-goal on the New Orleans 2. That can't be the field goal unit trotting in! Yes, an 18-point deficit means you must score three times, and the field goal cut the need by one score. But Seattle was only two yards from the end zone at this point: even if it got the ball back on the ensuing onside kick (it didn't), the team would have been more than 50 yards from the end zone. You need touchdowns, you're two yards away from one, why are you kicking?

I agree. Bad decision.

In the style-points-obsessed college ranks that Seattle coach Pete Carroll just left, this decision would have made sense: keep the final score respectable to impress the pollsters.

I disagree. You are a diptard. Under no circumstances would a coach of a big time college program like USC ever choose to reduce a margin of loss instead of going for a win.

Once, many NFL teams played on Thanksgiving; to this day, high school teams play championship or rivalry games on Thanksgiving. In the 1950s, the old NFL began a tradition of having only one game on turkey day, always at Detroit. In the 1960s, a Cowboys' home date was added on Thanksgiving, to help the Dallas expansion franchise become established. Detroit and Dallas have been the traditional hosts since. There's no larger reason -- the reason is, "We do it that way because that's the way we do it."

You just described 90% of all sports traditions, and some similarly high percentage of all traditions worldwide. And apparently it's a bad thing, I guess?

"Friday Night Lights" Update:

Yup. He's still doing this.

Buddy now runs a roadhouse, his car dealership vanished without explanation. This seems a missed joke -- they could have blamed Washington for shutting down Buddy's dealership in the General Motors restructuring.


Last season, the East Dillon Lions were a terrible team that went 2-8. The school hadn't fielded a football program in a generation, the players practiced on sod, there wasn't enough equipment. Naturally, SuperCoach Eric Taylor has changed all that! Though it's not clear how: In recent scripts, Taylor seems mainly to yell at people.

This show is so unrealistic!

This season, East Dillon has won its first three games -- it will be an upset if the series doesn't conclude with another state championship. The two games depicted in the first three episodes both were won on a long touchdown on the final play; the third game wasn't shown but we see the score listed as 22-21. One of the final-snap long-touchdown wins is a pass to a player who not only has never been in a football game before, he's never even practiced with the Lions; the catch defeats the defending state champion. Bet this kind of thing happens in Texas football all the time!

SO unrealistic! It's almost as if they're trying to make money by entertaining people rather than staying true to the exact way in which high school football is played in real life.

Of course NFL coaches are known for hyper-conservative decisions. But punting on fourth-and-1 in opposition territory when trailing by two scores? Cactus Wrens coach Ken Whisenhunt was trying to keep the final score close, to avoid a beat down on his resume.

/Larry B sobs heavily while in the fetal position on the floor

Sure, Whisenhunt took the Cardinals to the Super Bowl two years ago, but "what have you done for us lately?" is the NFL's key question. With Arizona looking awful, Whisenhunt might have trouble holding his job come the offseason. Playing to keep the score respectable helps his chances -- but coaches should make their decisions based on what might lead to wins, not what's good for them personally in office politics.

Percentage of NFL coaches who are fully aware of this fact: 97%. (Only exception is Josh McDaniels, who is never aware of anything, ever)

TMQ tracks the Crabtree Curse: Mike Singletary is 8-5 without Michael Crabtree and 8-14 with him. Matt Kerr of Adelaide, Australia, asks, "What about the Dez Dilemma? Without Dez Bryant at Dallas, Wade Phillips was 33-15 and earned the Cowboys' first postseason victory in 15 years. With Dez Bryant, Philips was 1-7 and fired. When Bryant came to the Cowboys and started getting away with little things like refusing to carry a vet's shoulder pads because he thinks he is above this, that had to harm team chemistry."

Congratulations, Matt Kerr. Your stupidity has eclipsed Gregg's.


Chris W said...

Doesn't Randy Moss count under the Brandon Lloyd "grinder" category? NOBODY WANTED HIM!!!!!

ps: There was a coach in CFB this year for a major program who publicly tried to keep the game close rather than go for an unlikely win. But I'll be goddamned if I can think of who it was. Ferentz? IDK. Goddamned hangover

Fred Trigger said...

The only thing I respect about gregg is he at least calls out brett farve, even though he works for ESPN.

Anonymous said...

chris w, it was bob stoops when Oklahoma lost to Missouri.

Chris W said...

Thanks Anon. You're 100% right. I totally blanked on that this morning because my brain was still spinning in a centrifuge of scotch and bourbon. Thanks again.

Chris W said...

Remember in Ghostbusters when Dan Aykroyd calls that guy "dickless" and the judge asks "is this true?" and then Bill Murray says, "Yes, this man has no dick."?

Yeah, that reminds me of what I think every time I read one of Gregggggg's columns via this site or Bottom of the Barrel

Elliot said...

First Crabtree, now Dez Bryant. Why are these talented young receivers ruining these storied franchises?

Larry B said...

I'm just so glad Brandon Marshall has stopped ruining the Broncos.

Jack M said...

Blaming Vince Young and the Titan's struggles on Randy Moss is stupid. Everyone knows the problem lies in the fact that Vince Young is a first round draft pick out of a football factory college.

Chris W said...

All the best QB's in the NFL right now came from non-AQ schools.

Cal, Michigan, NC State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, etc.

Anonymous said...

Larry B, I always enjoy your commentary on TMQ. He deserves much of your invective, especially for his idiotic ballyhooing over cheerleaders. You would think he's never been with a woman in his life.