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NFL: Uncertainty Masquerading As Certainty

Sam Bradford

Starting last Thursday, the NFL put on an extravaganza they called the NFL Draft. They brought out all the pomp and circumstance that they could muster. They moved the draft from Saturday to Thursday night — prime time. The ordeal was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York. They got a high profile announcer. Finally, they persuaded several Hall of Famers to attend — Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Deion Sanders and others. All of this hoopla was surrounding the hope that a given NFL team would choose a 21- or 22-year-old who would make them not just slightly better but significantly better. The hopes and dreams of a team, of a city, land on this one guy.

Before I go on and on and how ridiculous it is to spend millions of dollars on somebody who’s never played professional football, let’s review some of the first-round draft choices over the last five years. I think everybody would agree that the NFL has become a quarterback-driven league. So, let’s look at the quarterbacks. In 2005, Alex Smith was the first quarterback taken by the San Francisco 49ers. He has clearly not lived up to expectations, but I’m not sure the book is completely written on him. Aaron Rodgers and Jason Campbell were also taken in the first round. Jason Campbell has been mediocre at best. He has suffered from multiple different offensive coordinators. Aaron Rodgers has been everything that the Green Bay Packers have wanted and more. Vince Young was the first quarterback taken in 2006. The jury is still out. I think the same can be said for Matt Leinart, but he will get his chance this year. Jay Cutler was the third quarterback taken in the first round of 2006. He’s had a very rocky career so far. The first player taken in the first round of 2007 was none other than JaMarcus Russell. I think that Oakland Raider fans get nauseated just hearing his name. Brady Quinn was taken at number 22. There were no other first-round quarterbacks taken in 2007. I think it’s pretty fair to say that Quinn and Russell have been complete busts so far. 2008 was a much prettier for first-round for quarterbacks. Matt Ryan was taken by the Atlanta Falcons and Joe Flacco was taken by the Baltimore Ravens. Both of these quarterbacks have had fine careers so far. Everybody expects more great things from them over the coming years. Finally, last year Matthew Stafford was taken at the number one spot and Mark Sanchez was taken at the number five spot. It is clear that Sanchez has shown flashes of brilliance. Stafford suffers from being in Detroit. Josh Freeman was taken at number 17. I think it is fair to say that he’s been relatively unimpressive at Tampa Bay.

So, in the last five years, I think one can say without a doubt that one, maybe two, quarterbacks are really solid — Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. Two quarterbacks can go either way — they can either be great or awful — Vince Young and Jay Cutler. We’ll have to wait and see how good Joe Flacco can be. I’m not sold on him yet. I am not sold on Mark Sanchez, either. He has potential to be outstanding, but we’ll just have to wait and see. The other quarterbacks are mediocre to awful. So, from a business standpoint, spending millions of dollars on a first-round draft choice just doesn’t seem to be a sure thing. As a matter fact, far from it. From this small sample, it looks to be a 50-50 proposition at best.

I have read Brian’s outstanding analysis of quarterbacks as draft picks. He has come up with formulas, as usual, and then tries to use the data to prove his point. I think this method is overly complex. He looks at something called “adjusted yards per attempt” and gives quarterbacks a 45-yard penalty per interception and a 10-yard bonus for each touchdown pass. I have a problem with this formula. I think there’s more to quarterbacks than just his passing statistics. A quarterback’s presence in the huddle can at times make your offensive linemen block better and your running backs run better. The leadership of somebody like Ken Stabler or Roger Staubach I don’t think and be adequately measured by formulas. Was Terry Bradshaw or Roger Staubach the better quarterback in Super Bowl XIII? Should Staubach be penalized because Jackie Smith dropped a wide-open touchdown pass? Brian’s data suggest that coaches and owners are actually pretty good at picking quarterbacks. His data goes much further and suggest that quarterbacks that are picked in the first round are much better than those that are picked in later rounds. This again suggests that coaches do know what’s going on.

Every now and then, I think that statistics can fool us. Just look at the data I’ve presented above. We’re looking at the best. First-round draft choices. These guys are supposed to be good right out of the gate. We’ve seen that probably half of these quarterbacks are not great. As a matter of fact several of them aren’t even good. I haven’t even mentioned everybody’s favorite whipping boy Ryan Leaf, who held San Diego’s dreams as a first-round draft choice. He was paid $11 million. Not $11 million to play, but $11 million just as a signing bonus. So, I really couldn’t get excited over this year’s draft. Let’s see how these guys do in training camp. Let’s see who will emerge as a real player. (I didn’t come close to getting caught up in the Sam Bradford, Jimmy Claussen, Tim Tebow speculation. I didn’t care. Let me see what these guys do on the field. Then I’ll care.)

By |2010-04-25T23:43:08-04:00April 25th, 2010|Sports|Comments Off on NFL: Uncertainty Masquerading As Certainty

McNabb traded to 'Skins

My friends in DC should be celebrating.  The Eagles trade McNabb to the Washington Redskins for a second round pick and some other stuff. I guess this means that the Eagles are officially rebuilding. The Redskins need to run out and get a couple of receivers because McNabb needs someone to throw to. They also need to get a running game. Larry Johnson will need some help in the NFC East.

I have watched McNabb single-handedly destroy the Cowboys over the past decade. The only time that McNabb was given a really receiver, McNabb took the Eagles to a SuperBowl.  Andy Reid never did what it took to get the Eagles in the SuperBowl year after year. Now that he has traded McNabb it looks like the Eagles are done for a while. On the other hand, Shanahan is reworking the Redskins. It is hard to say how good their will be because I’m sure that there is more big trades to come. What about Brandon Marshall to the Redskins to reunite with his old coach?

From SI:

Donovan McNabb is changing uniforms and staying in the NFC East.

The Philadelphia Eagles traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins for a pair of draft picks on Sunday night. The Eagles will receive a second-round pick (37th overall) in this month’s NFL draft and either a third- or fourth-round pick next year.

“Donovan McNabb was more than a franchise quarterback for this team,” Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie said. “He truly embodied all of the attributes of a great quarterback and of a great person. He has been an excellent representative of this organization and the entire National Football League both on and off the field. I look forward to honoring him as one of the greatest Eagles of all-time and hopefully see him enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton one day.”

The trade is the boldest move to date for new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and could spell the end in Washington for Jason Campbell, the starter for 3 1/2 seasons. Shanahan already has signed free agent Rex Grossman as a backup and has been actively scouting the top quarterbacks available in next month’s draft, when the Redskins will have the No. 4 overall pick. (more…)

I think that Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell need to have their bags packed. Neither is a good, solid back up, IMHO.

By |2010-04-04T21:25:51-04:00April 4th, 2010|Sports|Comments Off on McNabb traded to 'Skins

NFL week nine: a little prognostication

campbell getting sackedThe Washington Redskins versus the Atlanta Falcons. The Atlanta Falcons come off of two disheartening losses. The Atlanta Falcons know, as we all know, that they are a good football team. They have to prove it against the (insert your adjective here) Washington Redskins. Many of the Washington fans are pointing to Jason Campbell, thinking that he is the problem. That’s not how I see it. The offensive line for the Washington Redskins has simply been terrible. Jason Campbell has not had enough time. Look for Atlanta to win at home.

The Arizona Cardinals versus Chicago Bears. What happened in Arizona? They looked very good against the New York Giants. They were able to shut down the Giants’ running game. They played defense. The struggling Carolina Panthers ran all over the Arizona Cardinals. Kurt Warner had five interceptions! You can’t win football games like that. On the other side of the ball, Jay Cutler has been mediocre at best. The Chicago Bears have not been running the football all that well. I’ll take the Chicago Bears at home, even though I feel that the Arizona Cardinals are going to wake up at some point in the season, remember that they are the defending NFC champions and begin to play like it.

The Baltimore Ravens versus the Cincinnati Bengals. This could be a GREAT game. Did you know the Cincinnati Bengals are leading their division? Just a couple weeks ago, the Cincinnati Bengals ran over the Ravens. Cedric Benson ran for over 120 yards. Last week, the Baltimore Ravens found their defense and beat up the undefeated, previously undefeated, Denver Broncos. The Cincinnati Bengals’ defense is sixth in the NFL in points allowed per game. They allow only 18.3. If the Bengals are able stop the Ravens’ rushing attack and generate some offense, they may be able to squeak out a victory. Now, this will be a close game. I like Ray Rice, but I’ll stick with Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Indianapolis Colts versus the Houston Texans. Houston is playing some good football. They’ve found a running game. Matt Schaub is really playing well in the pocket. In order for Houston to the win, they’re going to have to get some pressure on Peyton Manning and force some turnovers. I think the Houston Texans will miss their tight end Owen Daniels who is out for the season after a knee injury suffered last week. Look for Peyton Manning and the gang to find a way to win, again.

The Jacksonville Jaguars versus the Kansas City Chiefs. The Kansas City Chiefs are currently going through an episode of Sally Jessy Raphael. Larry Johnson is so far in the doghouse that some fans of asked the team to release him so that he would not be able to hold their all-time rushing record. Jacksonville, on the other hand, has been up and down, to say the least. They played a completely unmotivated and lackluster game against the Tennessee Titans and get handed a 13-30 loss. Jacksonville needs to gain an identity. Are they a running team? I thought they were a tough-nosed defense of team, but that hasn’t held true for over a season and a half. Look for Jacksonville to struggle but to pull out a victory.

The Miami Dolphins versus the New England Patriots. Miami has really made the most of what they have. They have a young quarterback who is struggling. They really don’t have any big-play receivers. They have a fabulous running game and that’s about it. Their defense is mediocre at best. Is that good enough to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots? Maybe. The offensive line of the New England Patriots is not great. They are okay at best. They still have great receivers. If Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown can control the game and Joey Porter, if he can close his mouth for half a second, and Jason Taylor can play like they did five years ago, the Miami Dolphins can pull out a victory. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. The Dolphins need a couple more players. I look for the patriots to jump out to an early lead and take the Miami Dolphins out of their run game. New England Patriots cruised to an easy victory.

The Green Bay Packers versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is still struggling. They really don’t have a quarterback. They’ve lost their defense of identity. The Green Bay Packers have a great offense. They really only need a couple more pieces to become an elite team, in my opinion. The Packers need to shore up their offensive line and get a solid, durable running back. They have their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. If Green Bay can control the ball and keep Aaron Rodgers up right, they should roll to an easy victory.

Now the late games —
drew brees verses miamiThe Carolina Panthers versus the New Orleans Saints. Don’t believe what you saw last week with the Panthers. They aren’t fooling me. I don’t think that their running game is back. I don’t think that the problems they have shown all year on defense has been solved. In order for the Panthers to keep this game competitive, their defense has to slow down the most explosive offense in the league. I don’t think the front four for the Carolina Panthers can match up with the offensive line for the New Orleans Saints. Look for Drew Brees to have a big day. (I wish he was on my fantasy team.) The New Orleans Saints remain undefeated.

The Detroit Lions versus the Seattle Seahawks. Unless the Detroit Lions rail before some early turnovers, this game is over by the the first quarter. Matt Hasselbeck will try to in this game early. Look for deep plays and lots of screen passes to Julius Jones. The Seattle Seahawks cruised to victory at home.

The New York Giants versus the San Diego Chargers. Just three short weeks ago, I thought the New York Giants were cruising to another division title and a deep run into the playoffs. Their offense and defense were clicking. The Giants have lost three straight. Eli Manning, who took great care of the ball last year, is starting to throw some interceptions. Is he missing Plaxico Burress? I think the Giants are hurting on both sides of the ball. The defensive front four are not controlling the line of scrimmage like they did last year and the year before. They have lost some key players in the secondary but the secondary was dependent upon the defensive line to put pressure on the quarterback. Philip Rivers should have a big day pushing the ball down the field. The woes for the New York Giants continue. Now, I say this in spite of the fact that I don’t think the San Diego Chargers are very good team. I think they’re in the middle of the pack, but Philip Rivers is playing well. The Chargers by 10 points.

The San Francisco 49ers versus the Tennessee Titans. Can Vince Young continue to play well? He did a very good job of taking care of the ball last week. I don’t see the defense of Mike Singletary being as generous. I see pressure coming from everywhere, including the locker room. The Titans are going to have to roll out Vince Young in his second start. On the other side of the ball, San Francisco 49ers took Alex Smith out of storage to try to resurrect their season. He’s played fairly well. If he can control the ball (no interceptions) against an anemic Tennessee Titans defense the 49ers should have a good game and win.

Sunday night game —
The Dallas Cowboys versus the Philadelphia Eagles. Classic NFL. The NFC East division is on the line. I have no idea what to expect. Both teams in the last several weeks have played some very good football and some very bad football. Which Philadelphia Eagles team are we going to see? Are we going to see the team that struggled against the hapless Washington Redskins team and was simply awful against the Oakland Raiders? Or are we to see the team that basically destroyed the New York Giants? The same can be said for the Dallas Cowboys. Remember it wasn’t that long ago that the Dallas Cowboys had to go to overtime to beat the winless Kansas City Chiefs. In order for the Dallas Cowboys to win they have to protect the quarterback. Tony Romo has to have time to see the field. I am hopeful that the Dallas Cowboys will move Roy Williams to slot where I think he can be more effective. The Dallas running backs need to run hard and strong. There needs to be an excellent mix of run and pass so that the Cowboys stay out of third and long. From the defensive standpoint, the Dallas Cowboys must keep Donovan McNabb in the pocket. They must generate lots of pressure from their front four. Jackson and Westbrook are the two key players. The Dallas Cowboys must control these players in order to win. The Philadelphia Eagles formula for winning has been the same for the last 15 years. The defense creates turnovers and field position and the offense strikes quickly. Look for Felix Jones and Martellus Bennett (TE) to have big games. I think the Cowboys will use two tight ends and one wide receiver package for a good deal of the game. The Cowboys by seven.

Monday Night Football —
The Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Denver Broncos. Now that should be fun. Look for the Pittsburgh Steelers to get after the Denver Broncos offense. I think there will use the same type of scheme that we saw from the Baltimore Ravens. I would like for the Denver Broncos to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers just because I have a long-standing disdain for the Steelers, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I look for the Pittsburgh Steelers to run the ball effectively and throw out a play action pass. They’ll get the ball downfield to Santonio Holmes, who I think will have a big game. The Denver Broncos don’t push the ball down the field and I think this will hurt them against a fast Steeler defense. I look for the Steelers to win by four or five points in the thin air of Denver.

By |2009-11-07T22:21:00-04:00November 7th, 2009|Sports|Comments Off on NFL week nine: a little prognostication
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