Friday, December 19, 2008

System-atic detraction

A funny thing has happened on the Patriots' way to a double-digit winning season.

Their back-up quarterback has put together, in 14 games roughly 400 more passing yards than did Tom Brady over the same number of games in 2001, with the same number of touchdowns and one fewer interception. The real creepy thing - Brady completed 63.9 percent of his passes. Matt Cassel? 63.8.

This has brought all the "Brady is just a product of the system" idiots back out.

I won't sugar coat it either - they are idiots and they have no concept of the game, nor it's history.

Ultimately ALL quarterbacks, particularly the greats, are products of systems. The ones that struggle tend to do so for many reasons. For some it's about not really having the talent to compete at the NFL level as a starter, but for many it's a lack of consistency in the system - learning new systems, dealing with multiple coordinators, and so on. Few have the talent to overcome that. Drew Bledsoe and Dan Marino put up big numbers despite having to learn a variety of systems, but they're the exception, not the rule.

Yes, Peyton Manning put up great numbers throughout his career, but before Tony Dungy and his staff came in, his highest completion percentage for the season was 62.7 percent. After Dungy, the lowest that percentage has been 65.0. Manning has only been in two systems - the one under Jim Mora, and then the one under Dungy.

Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Dan Fouts pretty much stayed in one system throughout their careers. David Carr, JP Losman - both have been through multiple offensive systems and neither has panned out. Sure, that's a small sample, but it wouldn't be that hard to broaden that.

Yes, Brady and Cassel are products of the Patriots' system, but no more than the fact that the system is a product of the quarterbacks' talents.

Were it just that a quarterback could step in and do well in the system, then we wouldn't be able to look at the following names and see a list of has-beens that couldn't operate the "system" -

Rohan Davey
Michael Bishop
Kliff Kingsbury

Right now, the Pats are 2 for 5 in the last ten years (not including Matt Gutierrez or Kevin O'Connell as the jusry is still out on them) in regards to guys who are "products of their system." So, either Cassel and Brady deserve credit for learning a difficult system (after all, more draftees have failed in it than succeeded), or they deserve credit for making a system work that 60 percent of the quarterbacks drafted by the Pats have failed to do.

Most of the Hall-of Fame quarterbacks were in the same

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The week that wuz...

A tip of the cap to "Slingin'" Sammy Baugh, member of the first NFL Hall of Fame class, former Redskins quarterback, punter, and defensive back. Baugh passed this week at the age of 94. Having seen a number of interviews with the ornery cuss - and he's the only person I've ever seen that really fits that description - I was convinced that Death was just afraid to take him.

For more on Baugh and his passing, check out The Coffin Corner's take.


The Yankees are heading into next season with an ace that can't win in the postseason (Sabathia), a guy who has a history of only pitching well and staying healthy in contract seasons (Burnett), a solid number two guy (Wang), a guy who pretty much qualifies for AARP by baseball standards (Pettitte), and a guy who should stay in the bullpen given he had a history of breaking down as a starter even before he was drafted (Chamberlain).

Behind Sabathia, there are a lot of ifs in that rotation - If Burnett and Chamberlain stay healthy, If Pettitte can have another career year (after going .500 with a 4.54 ERA). Personally, I think the Yankees are looking at a lot of injury issues in that rotation.

I think that if the Sox sign Mark Texiera, then Mike Lowell is the odd man out. I don't know if it's smarter to move Lowell than to move David Ortiz as both have begun to suffer injuries that are of the "they were never the same after that" variety. People can talk about Ortiz getting healthy this coming season all they want, but this is a guy who has just gotten bigger each season (a-la Mo Vaughn), and his power issues this past year came as much from knee issues as they did from his wrist issues.

When big guys in MLB start suffering the knee issues, there usually aren't two many great years left in the tank - one, or two - but the gas is leaving the tank. Lowell isn't much better off with the hip issue. The problem is who can give them the most in return versus who still has the biggest impact on the line-up. I have to admit, I don't know the answer to that one myself. Hopefully Theo Epstein does.

I generally don't rant about the Pro-Bowl - the most useless all-star game of them all, so I will keep this short...

Here's what I think - the game should be abolished. Half those voted as starters beg off, a third don't deserve to be there (Brett Favre?!), and let's face it, there might be no game more boring.

Get rid of it.

Have an end of year honor in which the best players are honored, like the all pro-teams, but voted on by the players, coaches, and scouts. Limit the vote so that voters can only vote for those whom they faced during the season, keeping the limitation of not being able to vote for teammates.

The winners of the vote would still be treated the same under the contractual provisions as they currently are for the Pro-Bowl voting.

Ultimately it eliminates the biggest problems with the game - the first and foremost being that the game is boring. The second being that the wrong people are often selected because the fan tendency of selecting favorites, rather than those who deserve to be there.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Braincramp and other things...

Just some quick thoughts on this past weekend's NFL games...

Watched the Bills-Jets game and could only come to the conclusion that the Bills of September were an illusion. Yes, I know that their starting quarterback is out, as is Aaron Schobel, their best defensive player. That doesn't excuse the Bills coaches who called for a pass with two minutes left. The coaches that called for a pass with two minutes left when their running backs were ripping off five to six yards a carry. Perish the thought that they protect the ball and possibly have to put the game in the hands of their defense because they had to punt the ball with about a minute to go. No, call a passing play and turn the ball over.


The Raiders have set a mark for futility that not even the pitiful Lions have been able to achieve. With their loss to the Patriots, Oakland has become the first team in the history of the NFL to lose at least 11 games in six consecutive seasons. Barring a major overhaul of the organization, starting with Uncle Al, this is not a team that looks like they have an opportunity to win more than five games next season.

Speaking of the Lions, with their loss to the Colts, they're only two steps away from immortality. A bowl of gumbo, and a block of cheese, so to speak, with games left against two talented squads where players will be playing desperately for their jobs over the next two weeks. The Lions will be playing solely to avoid becoming the first 16 loss team in the history of the NFL.

With yesterday's win, the Pats can finish no worse than .500. The last time a New England team lost more than eight in a season was in 2000 when the team won only five games.

The offense was firing on all cylinders at the beginning of the game with Matt Cassel throwing for four touchdowns and three other players reaching the endzone as the Patriots rang up 487 yards on offense and a total of 663 (including special teams). Unfortunately, were the Pats playing a better offensive team, this still could have been a close game despite the 47 points scored by the Pats.

The messiness that is the Raiders netted 545 combined yards against the Pats. Part of the reason why I think that if the playoffs are in the cards for New England, they'll be folding early.

As for the Pats playoff chances...

They got some help from the Steelers who dropped the Ravens in Baltimore. Currently the Ravens, Jets, Pats, and Dolphins are all tied at 9-5 with the Ravens holding the tie-breakers for the last wild card slot. Currently the standings look like this -

Jets - AFC East champ

Ravens - Wild Card

To get in the Pats need to win out and get help from any number of places - to win the East, they need Miami to lose to Kansas City, and then win against the Jets, or for the Jets to lose to the Seahawks and then win against Miami. To get the wild card, the team still needs to win out with both the Ravens and one of the in-division foes to drop a game as before. Even though the Ravens have the toughest remaining schedule with the Cowboys and Jaguars still on the docket, I just don't see them losing either game.

If this is the end of the road for the Patriots this season, so be it.

With additional injuries to Gary Guyton and Matt Light this week, their job has become a lot tougher.

As for Cassel - he gave an impressive performance, given his situation, and the weather. I'm sure his dad would have been proud.