December 5, 2009

Putting the dick in Dickerson

In my latest effort to generate readership, I have been going to chats on and asking questions as Mr. SKIA. Today I went to the Bears chat, and was astounded by how comically uninformed one their alleged Bears experts, Jeff Dickerson, is. What follows is a transcript of the chat, with all typos left in, and my responses to the questions and critiques of Dickerson in red.

Jeff Dickerson (11:31 AM)
What's up everybody! Let's break down Bears vs. Rams....just kidding. Fire away with all your questions (no pun intended). Oh I get it. That's hilarious.

scooter (chicago)
do you believe the bears have contacted Colwer? I would never answer a question from somebody who can't even get a guy's name right. We're not talking Houshmandzadeh here.

Jeff Dickerson (11:34 AM)
No. However, that's not to say that Cowher wouldn't be a great choice to replace Lovie. But at this very moment, the Bears are likely to bring back Smith in 2010. So if Lovie is coming back (barring a total disaster to Rams, Lions, etc), why would the team contact Cowher? John Clayton made that point very clear yesterday on the Afternoon Saloon. Being "likely" to bring back Lovie isn't the same as being certain. So if they're even considering it, wouldn't it behoove them to find out if the better candidates would even be interested in the job? Wouldn't that be the smart thing to do? Not that the Bears always do the smart thing, but to imply that they'd have no reason to contact Cowher is ridiculous.

Kyle McEntire (Springfield,MO)
I saw a rumor on Yahoo sports that the Bears could possibility be looking for a new GM. I know this is just a rumor but can I start to plan a party for the day Jerry Angelo get fired? we need someone that wants to win. Say what you will about Jerry Angelo -- and there are plenty of bad things to say -- but the Cutler trade should have eliminated any doubt about his desire to win. He probably should be fired, but he's also been hogtied by the McCaskeys' nickel-clutching ways.

Jeff Dickerson (11:37 AM)
Jerry Angelo is under contract for four more years. Plus, the NFL is heading towards a lockout in 2011. The Bears probably don't think this is the best time to change general managers, given all those circumstances. However, Angelo's draft record since 2003/04 is very suspect. He deserves all the criticism coming his way. But I do think Jerry does want to win.

scooter (chicago)
i like John Clayton, but trust Hub Arkish a little more. He said the Bears have reached out to Cowler so that's why i asked what you guys thought C'mon man. That's twice. You're making us all look bad. And Dickerson, why the f are you taking two questions from this moron?

Jeff Dickerson (11:39 AM)
I understand. I like Hub as well. Great guy...who used to always bring me free copies of PFW when I produced the Dick Jauron show in 2000. But it really doesn't make sense that the Bears would have already reached out to Cowher. Who reached out? Ted So, what McCaskey has the authority to make such a bold move. I don't question Hub, I just question the chain of command at Halas Hall. That's why I tend to think Cowher hasn't been contacted by anybody who can make that type of decision. Who reached out? Um, how 'bout an underling acting on the orders of any of those above-mentioned individuals?

Tyler (Iowa City)
What Bears coaches do you expect to be fired after this season? Assuming Lovie keeps his job -- no sure thing, despite the pile of money owed to him, especially if they finish with double-digit losses -- I'd hope he'd at least be forced to bring in someone to coordinate the defense. And then there's also the foregone conclusion that Turner and his Randle-P.-McMurphy-at-the-end-of-Cuckoo's-Nest playcalling will be gone. As long as that's the case, offensively all the rest is window dressing.

Jeff Dickerson (11:42 AM)
Lovie already fired some of his defensive staff last year (Lloyd Lee, Brick Haley), so all the changes will likely come on offense. All of the coaches on that side of the ball may be in trouble. We've discussed the names before, but usually when the offensive coordinator (Ron Turner) gets the axe, most of his staff goes with him. Although we should point out that only Harry Hiestand arrived with Turner in 2005. The rest were all Lovie picks in 2004. What does who hired them have to do with anything, other than as a mitigating factor of Turner's seeming incompetence, i.e. the other offensive coaches are not "his guys"?

lawrence (stowe vt)
Why wouldnt the bears bring in someone that Jay cutler knows and trusts like Mike shanahan? Because the Bears are cheaper than a Wal-Mart sweater.

Jeff Dickerson (11:45 AM)
Fair point. My best guess is that Shanahan would cost roughly $10 million per season, and command about a 4-5 year contract. Then you would have to pay Lovie over $10 million sit out the next two years. Also remember that Shanahan would want a lot of control over personnel. How would he work with Jerry and his people? That's why it's not just a simple fix. In a perfect world, yes, the Bears would eat all that money and bring in one of these high profile coaches. But this isn't a perfect world. Alright, this is where I really started getting annoyed. According to, Lovie and Jeff Fisher are the two highest-paid coaches in the league. Both make $5.5 million per season. As stellar as Shanahan's reputation is, there is NO WAY IN FREAKING HELL that he commands a salary that's 82% higher than the most lucrative current deal. Especially not with fellow Super Bowl winners Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, and Mike Holmgren also available to varying degrees. Shanahan will get in the $7 million range. Which is still way too rich for the Bears' blood.

Phil (Chicago)
Does Stephen Jackson run wild on the bears defense this week? Yes. Yes he does.

Jeff Dickerson
He better not. Although Jackson is really the only thing working for the Rams. Jackson did not practice on Wednesday because of back spasms, so hopefully that will slow him down this week. The Bears simply cannot afford to lose this game. Might as well cancel the final four games if that happens. And this is where I completely lost my shit. Jackson won't go off because: A. Dickerson thinks that he better not; B. The Bears can't afford to lose the game (unlike any of their previous losses, especially the last few, which were clearly affordable); and C. The season might as well be over if they lose. Well what in God's name do any of those things have to do with the Bears actually being able to stop Jackson? Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Basically, Jackson wasn't going to run wild because Dickerson didn't want him to. (Note: While Jackson did go for 112 yards on 28 carries, the Bears did manage to hold him out of the end zone.)

David (Oil city, PA)
What is the most important aspect to improve for the bears to get better on offense? The line. It's been terrible, and this is what happens when you totally ignore the position group in the draft for the better part of a decade. Thankfully, the Bears lack a first-day pick, so they won't have the terrible luxury of being able to inject any immediately-playable talent into the line via the draft.

Jeff Dickerson
Line play. Both the offensive and defensive lines have been below average this year. They have to address the tackle spot (maybe Chris Williams is the ultimate answer at LT, can Omiyale play RT?). Also, has anybody else noticed that Olin Kreutz is having a very disappointing season? Should they look elsewhere at center in 2010. Might not be a bad idea. I think the defensive line problems speak for themselves. Get some people that can pressure the quarterback...please. Getting an impact pass rusher should also be a snap without a selection in the first two rounds.

Peter (New Jersey)
Do you think the following will be with the bears next year?:-Pisa-Pace-Anderson-Oleguye-June-Manning Manning, Anderson, and Tinoisamoa, in that order in terms of likelihood. Ogunleye most likely of the rest to return, but only if he's willing to go short-term for fewer dollars than he currently makes.

Jeff Dickerson
If 2010 is played without a salary cap -- Manning and Anderson will be restricted free agents. My guess is both would be back. Wale probaly leaves via free agency. Pace likely retires. I would bring Pisa back, because he is a very talented guy. And I have no idea about Cato June, I think we need to see him play before making any decision. Not really sure what the no cap reference means. I thought Manning and Anderson were restricted regardless.

Eric (Chicago)
Jeff, who cares how much Shanahan or Cowher or anyone else would cost...if it means a championship, guess what? Pay for the head coach that will WIN the Super Bowl, not get us there then suffer the Super Bowl hangover then be out after 3 years from being there...see the trend? Yes, I see the definitive trend exhibited by your single data point. Excellent work, Pythagoras.

Jeff Dickerson
Eric, you're preaching to the choir. But those financial issues matter to the Bears. They make the final call.

Thomas (Aurora)
Jeff, after your last comment of mainly offensive coaches being removed this year, I have a question. How can that make any sense considering most are hand-picked by Lovie and he is controlling the defense and both sides of the ball are failing miserably. So is this season just considered a wash even with the terrible perfromances game after game? For sure, both sides are in need of a shakeup.

Jeff Dickerson
Lovie has pick all these defensive coaches. When he initially put together his staff in 2004...Drake, Spencer, Boras (not Scott) all came in with the new regime. When Turner took over the next year, he brougt in Harry Hiestand. Pep Hamilton arrived in 2007, but let's not waste our time talking about him. Lovie also runs the defense and the scheme. Bottom isn't fair in the NFL. It doesn't matter who put together the staff; if Lovie wants to put himself on more solid ground -- which I'm sure he does -- changes will be a-comin', on both sides of the ball.

Sean (Erie, PA)
If Turner is fired and the Texans firing Kubiak after the season who would be a better fit in Chicago Kubiak or Wies? As long as neither of them are in the Turner family tree, who cares?

Jeff Dickerson doubt about it. But I wonder if he'll go with Shanahan somewhere to be his coordinator. No doubt about it? Based on what? If it's the style of offense, please elaborate.

Mr. SKIA (
Why wouldn't Jackson run wild on the Bears this weekend? Because the Rams are bad? The Bears defense is far worse than the Rams ground attack, so the idea that they might as well have to cancel the final four games if Jackson goes off has nothing to do with whether or not they'll actually be able to stop him. Yeah, give 'em hell, Mr. SKIA!

Jeff Dickerson
If the Bears were smart (debatable), they'd put nine in the box. If Kyle Boller and Donnie Avery beat them through the air, then run for cover. Gee, stacking the box against the Rams? I'm sure no one had tried that yet. Or maybe, just maybe, that's exactly the kind of front Jackson had been facing all year, and he still entered the game as the NFL's No. 2 rusher.

nathan (arlington heights)
would it be a good combo to hire cowher and weis as offensive coordinators.. then fire babich and replace him with lovie? If you are a retarded baboon, then yes, that's a good idea. While bringing in Cowher and Weis would be positive, it'd be unprecedented for a highly-paid head coach to accept a demotion to coordinator.

Jeff Dickerson
I think Smith and Babich are a package deal. No way Lovie takes that type of demotion. Sorry, but I think Smith cans Babich's ass if it means saving his own.

Matt Williamson
Hey everyone. Matt Williamson from Scouts Inc. filling in for a half hour to talk Bears...let's keep this rolling. Thank God.

December 1, 2009

Seven Days of Hell

There was a week-long period last month that put me in a sporting-related funk from which I am just now beginning to emerge.
November 6: Tyrus Thomas -- my favorite Bulls player, along with Joakim Noah -- breaks his arm while doing pullups. Wait... What?

November 7: Cal's dim Rose Bowl hopes are fully extinguished in a crushing 31-14 loss at home to Oregon State. Worse yet, star tailback Jahvid Best -- a really nice kid who I covered when he was in high school and I was at The Oakland Tribune -- suffered one of the scariest injuries I've ever seen on a football field. He has not played since, and as a junior and likely first-round pick, he may have played his last game for the Golden Bears.

November 8: The Bears mail another one in at home against the Cardinals, allowing touchdowns on Arizona's first four possessions (and a field goal on the fifth, a 22-second drive that ended the first half) in a 41-21 loss.

November 12: Coming off the short week, the Bears -- well, mostly Jay Cutler -- completely soil themselves in a disheartening 10-6 loss to a 49ers team exceptional only in its mediocrity. Cutler throws five picks, including one in the end zone to snuff out the Bears potential game-winning drive, leading to the profanity-laced tirade in the entry below.
But none of the above suffering compared to the pain I felt as I read this piece on alleged Cubs super-prospect Josh Vitters, which contained this little nugget:
Vitters averages a base on balls every 30 minor league plate appearances, which is offset by his contact rate because he strikes out only once every 6 1/2 at-bats.

"I'm not going up there looking for a walk," he said. "If I see a good pitch and I can drive it, I'm going to swing. It's not a problem at all because I don't strike out a lot."

Vitters' Arizona numbers bear that out. He has struck out just seven times in 50 at-bats.
First off, that the Tribune could run a story by a writer (Tom Carkeek) that believes the inability to take a walk somehow becomes irrelevant if the player strikes out infrequently is infuriating. Not only does it piss me off because they should be paying me to write stories that contain actual insight, but it also lends legitimacy to this ridiculous line of thinking, and leads to casual fans (and the children!) believing such tripe to be true.

But leaving all that aside, what bothers me most is that Vitters thinks this obvious flaw in his game -- one that has had me concerned from the get-go -- isn't a problem.

Now I can see him thinking that, because he is a kid who has always hit the everliving shit out of the ball. But the fact that no one in the organization, not a single coach or player development staffer, has let Vitters know that walking 12 times in 484 plate appearances last season is, in fact, a problem, speaks volumes about the lack of even semi-sophisticated thinking within the Cubs front office.

There is no way that Vitters develops into a successful major-leaguer without at least a little more plate discipline. Sure he might enjoy some early success (like, say, Jeff Francoeur) but eventually all that out-making will turn him into a millstone (like, say, Jeff Francoeur).

But apparently, no one in the Cubs organization realizes this. How is that possible? Could it be that the laughable clogging-up-the-bases mentality about walks was not unique to Dusty Baker? Plate discipline, working the count, and attempting to drawing of walks should be at the forefront of instruction for hitters in any minor-league system. Instead, the Cubs have players openly deriding the taking of a walk. You know, because they don't strike out.

If the Cubs aren't going to give Vitters even the most basic instruction, they should unload him while he still has value. Because as Vitters moves up, his free-swinging approach ensures his value will go down. And until the Cubs get their player-development issues squared away, it won't matter that the talent level in their system is increasing, which it definitely is. They'll continue to allow highly-touted guys to flame out in the minors, because they are incapable of maximizing the ability those players have.

When Vitters goes the way of Ryan Harvey, perhaps then he will realize the folly of thinking not taking a walk is not a problem at all.

November 12, 2009

I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore

Fuck the Bears.

They are a horrible football team, and the entire coaching staff should be fired. The Bears make more mental mistakes than any team I've ever seen. And I'm not just talking NFL. Or even professional sports. They are fucking terrible.

Is anybody coaching this team? How can a team of professionals be so clueless? I can't think of a single thing that I want to watch less than another Bears game. I'd view The Jay Leno Show on an endless loop for the rest of my days before I'd willingly sit through another one of their crapfests. It is seriously disgusting.

And don't even get me started on Jay Cutler. Having rarely seen him play, I was in support of the trade, because I thought the Bears needed to do something bold. Well, they did. And it likely has set them back several years.

Remember when's KC Joyner caused an uproar during the preseason for saying that Cutler would remind fans of Rex Grossman? Well, he was dead wrong. Grossman's good games outnumbered the bad by about 2:1. Cutler, meanwhile has had two shitbombs for every decent performance. Bob Avellini, Mike Tomczak, or Chris Chandler would have this team at 6-3.

I am so fucking pissed.

The strange thing is, I fully expected the Bears to lose this game. I didn't have any misconceptions about their shittiness, so it wasn't like the outcome was a surprise. But the loss was so frustrating, nauseating, and repugnant -- and ultimately completely avoidable -- that I find myself pushed completely over the edge. The Bears totally gave the game away to a crappy Niners team. Gave it away.

I said after the Bengals debacle that Lovie Smith had lost me as a supporter. Well, now I'm throwing in the towel on the entire organization.

Just to get this out of my system, I'd like to make a list of terms that I'd use to describe this Bears team. I'll try not to repeat any of the ones I've used above:
Feel free to add your own down below. It's pretty therapeutic, actually.

November 9, 2009

9 Weak Thoughts: Week 9

1. The Bears are terrible.
And if you've been watching, I don't even need to expound.

2. WTF Tommie Harris?

His punch on Deuce Lutui on the fourth play of the Bears' nauseating 41-21 loss was one of the stupidest, most immature things I've seen on a football field. Wasn't Harris supposed to be a paragon of character? What the hell has happened? The guy's making Tank Johnson look like Tim Tebow.

3. The Bears are so bad, I actually chose to watch KC-Jax for awhile
Granted, it was while every other game was at halftime. But still. People in Jacksonville don't even want to watch Jacksonville. Nor can they, due to the fact that they haven't sold out in 8 years.

4. Andy Reid is a horrible challenger.
And I typed that thought before he challenged a spot of the ball for a second time in the Eagles 20-16 loss to the Cowboys. I don't have the data to back it up, but just from watching a ton of games I know that spot-of-the-ball plays are almost never overturned, because the standard of "indisputable visual evidence" is almost impossible to meet due to the vagaries of camera angles and whatnot. It's just not an exact science, unlike whether a receiver has gotten both feet inbounds. So challenging them is a total waste.

I don't watch a lot of Eagles games, but every time I do, I come away thinking that Reid is a horrible coach. He routinely makes head-scratchings calls, and manages the clock almost as poorly as he does his challenges. But his teams are overwhelmingly successful, and he has a 102-65 record, which basically means he's averaged 10 wins a season for a decade. So is this a case of him being an exceptional coach in other areas, or is he just the beneficiary of some very talented teams? Considering the fact that until this year, he had one of the most well-respected defensive coordinators of all time (in the late Jim Johnson), I'm beginning to think that Reid has just been very lucky to have been blessed with such fortunate circumstances.

5. Running back-by-committee is totally out of control.
And I don't just mean that from a fantasy perspective. When one RB is a clear stud, to dilute your offense by not using him is, in a word, rigoddamndiculous. Case in point: the Carolina Panthers.

DeAngelo Williams is one of the very best running backs in football. While Adrian Peterson is in a class of his own, he's right there at the top of the second tier with Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, and Michael Turner.* In yesterday's 30-20 loss to the Saints, Williams had 21 carries for 149 yards and 2 TDs. That's a shade over 7 yards a carry. His backfieldmate, Jonathan Stewart, gained 24 yards on 13 carries.

* God help me, I seriously considered putting Cedric Benson in there. Makes my stomach turn, but he's a completely different guy now.

Even if you take out Williams' 66-yard TD run -- and I don't know why you'd do that, as it did, in fact, count, and was a pretty important play in the game -- he still averaged over 4 yards a pop. That's twice what Stewart got.

I understand that Stewart has some value. Coming into the game, he was averaging just under 4.9 yards a carry and had scored four TDs. It's good to have a guy like him to keep your workhorse fresh. But on what I considered the most important drive of the game -- Carolina's first possession of the second half -- Williams was mostly watching from the sidelines.

This was the crucial possession of the game. The previous time the Panthers O had the ball, they led 17-3 at the 2-minute warning. But the Saints kicked a figgie at the end of the first half, and then took the second-half kickoff and went 80 yards on just four plays to make it 17-13. So between possessions, their 2 TD lead had shrunk to just four points. Carolina desperately needed to respond in a big way to reclaim some momentum if they had any hope of pulling the upset. And by that I mean a TD, because a field goal basically meant a tie game was inevitable.
Starting at their own 21, the Carolina O methodically moved into Saints territory. Facing a 3rd-and-6 from the NO 32, Williams reeled off a 9-yard run. To that point on the drive, he had three carries for 23 yards.

Well, he was quickly replaced by Stewart, who'd also come in (and was stopped for no gain on his lone carry) after Williams' 10-yard 1st-down run earlier. Am I to believe that DeAngelo Williams gets winded after running 9 yards or more? Or that, coming out of freaking halftime, he needed a breather after three carries? Regardless, Stewart came in and had his number called on four consecutive snaps, picking up 4, 2, 2, and 1o yards, getting tackled at the 1-yard line on the last carry. I have to believe that Williams would have found his way into the end zone there. Instead, the drive wheezed out -- mostly due to a mishandled snap which took them from 1st-and-goal at the 1 to 2nd-and-goal from the 7 -- and the Panthers kicked a field goal. Not that it was entirely Stewart's fault, but when you choose to have your best player on the sidelines in such a crucial juncture of the game, you open yourself up to some big-time second guessing. Needless to say, the Saints quickly scored to tie and again to lead, and ultimately rolled to 8-0.

Interestingly, at the end of the aforementioned drive, the Panthers brought Williams back into the game for a 3rd-and-goal play from the 6. This is exactly the instance when the better-receiving Stewart should be deployed. Instead, Williams let a TD pass bounce off his hands. I don't even like the Panthers (or own Williams in either of my fantasy league), but I was still screaming at my computer throughout this entire sequence.

Admittedly, a bit of Bears game-related frustration might've contributed.

6. Chris Johnson is the most exciting player in football.
The guy is amazing. If he turns the corner, he's pretty much gone, because he's so fast that defensive backs rarely take the proper angle on him. Every time he touches the ball, your heart is in your throat because you know that he can take it the distance. Watching him is like watching Devin Hester trot onto the field to receive a kick circa '06-'07. He's just electrifying.

While I was thinking about this last night, something occurred to me: Chris Johnson is exactly what Reggie Bush was supposed to be.

7. I loved seeing the last-second, pre-field goal time out burn a coach.
I don't have anything against trying to ice the kicker, but I hate the trend in recent seasons (since coaches got the ability to call timeouts from the sidelines) to call a TO at the very last second before the snap, when no one hears the whistle and the kick is launched anyway, only to be told it doesn't count. I absolutely hate it. It's stupid as hell.

But perhaps the stupidest example of this came in yesterday's Texans-Colts game, when Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell called a timeout right as Houston's Kris Brown was to attempt a field goal in the final seconds of the first half. The reason coaches attempt this tactic is to dial up the pressure on the kicker in an effort to make him choke. But Brown's attempt was from 56 yards away. Those kinds of kicks aren't missed because of choking; they are just flat missed because they are at the very end of anybody's range and nearly impossible to make without repetitions. But Caldwell called the last-second time out, and (as usual) Brown and everyone else went through with the play. And the kick sailed. But essentially, Caldwell had just given Brown a practice swing, basically allowing him to properly calibrate his kicking alignment. Given a second shot chance, Brown nailed it to give the Texans their first points. This undoubtedly gave Houston some momentum heading into the break, and they then took the second half kickoff and marched down the field to turn what had been a mild laugher into a 13-10 game.

Caldwell proved to be a quick study, though. When Brown lined up to attempt a 42-yarder at the end of the game with the Colts clinging to a 20-17 and holding all three timeouts, Caldwell just let him kick away. And Brown chunked it. Because you see, every once in a while, a guy just chokes on his own.

8. I have to say, I liked seeing the Bucs in those old unis.
Of course, I also used to own an all-orange Buccaneers cap that was the envy of every man.** I liked the Bucs when they were terrible, and yes, they have been much better since the uniform change. But at least their old unis were unique; there was no doubting who was on the field. They should bring them back fulltime.

** That is until my friend Adam snatched it, wore it to class, and some chick he was into said something like, "Umm, it's not Halloween." Needless to say, he promptly returned the pilfered lid.

9. I understand it was a joke, but I have to believe that the commissioner's office was not amused by Chad Johnson's dollar "bribe."
Look, I know that Johnson is a clown, and there is no way that he was trying to influence the call when he was holding a dollar as the referees were reviewing a catch of his -- which by the was reversed and called an incompletion. But with all the "the-fix-is-in" conspiracies of the modern sports fan, Roger Goodell isn't going to like the integrity of his officials being a part of a joke. Of course it wasn't a real bribe attempt, and yes, a $100 bill would've looked much, much worse. But with the commissioner's office having recently fined Johnson $10,000 for wearing the wrong color chin strap, I have to believe they're going to take a little more than a single out of his wallet this time around.

November 1, 2009

8 Weak Thoughts: Week 8

1. Just when I thought no 24-point win could be less impressive than the one the Bears had earlier this season against the Lions, they went out and outdid themselves in a 30-6 euthanization of the Browns.
The more I see the Bears, the more I am certain that they just are not a good team. A good team would've scored 50-plus against the putrid Browns, who -- one win or not -- seriously look worse to me than last year's Lions. Playing against a dismal Cleveland D, the Bears offenselooked pathetic, despite the decent point total. Once again, there was little running room for Rashaan Salaam 2.0, and Jay Cutler absorbed a ton of hits from the Browns usually-anemic pass rush.


2. The Bears offensive line is so bad, it rivals Green Bay's.
In fact, even if you put the Bears and Packers together, you'd barely be able to cobble together one below-average o-line. And it is the primary reason that neither team is going anywhere.

However, while the Packers can at least in part blame injuries, the Bears are getting exactly what they deserve.

What exactly do I mean by that? They have completely ignored the position group in the draft, choosing instead to sign free-agent stopgaps. In the last seven drafts, the Bears have taken a grand total of three offensive linemen in the first six rounds. (I've ignored seventh-round selections because those guys rarely make the final roster.) Compare that to New England and Denver, two franchises that consistently have very good offensive lines. In the same time period, both teams have drafted 10 offensive linemen in Rounds 1 through 6.

Gee, I wonder which strategy's worked better.

3. Dump the chart
That stupid "Should we go for 2?" chart screws coaches all the time. Miami's decision to try for the deuce after scoring to take a 30-19 lead was horrible. A XP makes it so the Jets would've needed two TDs to win; missing it left them within a touchdown (plus a two of their own) and a field goal. This was a horrible miscalculation and I'm sure it was based on that stupid chart that coaches supposedly carry.

Yes, a conversion there makes it so a TD + two field goals can only tie you. But what were the chances of the Jets getting three scoring drives in the final 8 minutes? And two TD's still beats you, just like it does with a 12 point lead.

And lastly, if the Dolphins had later added a field goal, their lead would've still been 14 points. If they had just kicked the extra point, a subsequent FG gives them a 15-point lead and means the Jets would've needed two TDs plus converted a 2 of their own just to tie.

4. I'm too

5. Lazy to

6. Come up

7. With five

8. More items.

October 26, 2009

7 Weak Thoughts: Week 7

1. What in God's name does Jake Delhomme have to do to lose his job?
Delhomme has been brutal. He has a league-leading 13 interceptions against just 4 touchdown passes. Here's a list of current starting QB's with a lower rating than Delhomme's 56.5. Tampa's Josh Johnson (50.9), Oakland's JaMarcus Russell (47.2), and Cleveland's Derek Anderson (40.6). While those are all terrible, at least those guys are young (or in the case of Anderson, young-ish, at 26). Delhomme is 34. Plus all of those guys are on god-awful teams, with godawfuller ground games (Tampa Bay is 23rd, Cleveland 24th, and Oakland 26th in rushing yards per game). Carolina has the league's 8th-best ground attack and could easily have a winning record if not for Delhomme's staggering incompetence.

Incidentally, the same could still be said for Kerry Collins (QB rating of 62; team 6th in rushing), but I already covered that a few weeks ago.

2. Did you know that half of the Sunday games -- that's six out of 12 -- were blowouts decided by at least 28 points?

Of course, most of them were obvious mismatches at kickoff, with a quality, playoff-type team team paired up with a steaming turd. There was New England 35, Tampa Bay 7. Green Bay 31, Cleveland 3. San Diego 37, Kansas City 7. Indianapolis 42, St. Louis 6.* NY Jets 38, Oakland 0.

* For some reason, this was the game CBS 2 in Chicago chose to carry. Actually, I know the reason: Indianapolis and St. Louis are somewhat close geographically to Chicago. This logic, however, is wholly illogical. If I had to approximate what percentage of Chicagoans are fans of either the Rams or Colts, I'd go with 0.053%. There are roughly 9.5 million people in the Chicago metropolitan area, so that's still 5,000 fans. Actually, I think my estimate might be generous. The only non-Bears teams with even a minor foothold in Chicago are the Packers and Steelers, and, to a lesser extent, the Vikings. (Additionally, the Packers and Vikings hold local interest because of they are in the same division as the Bears.) Otherwise, no one gives a flying fuck. Besides, the game was atrocious, as everybody knew it would be. The line was Colts minus-13. It should have been twice that. Seriously. The Rams are horrendous. The Colts have now won 15 straight regular season games; the Rams have lost their last 17. By the way, did you know that Steven Jackson is third in the league in rushing (635 yards) and second in total yards -- trailing only Adrian Peterson -- and yet has not scored a touchdown? Do you know who does know that? Anyone that owns him in fantasy. Anyway, I'll say this for CBS: No matter what game they decided to air, it was going to be terrible. Here were the noon games they had to choose from: Chargers at Chiefs, Colts at Rams, Patriots at Bucs, and Jets at Raiders. Total combined score of those games? 152-20. Ouch. They should have just shown re-runs of Still Standing or Big Bang Theory or some other hideous crap they're still cramming down people's throats.

Of course, there was one blowout that virtually no one saw coming: Bengals 45, Bears 10. I think it might have been the worst Bears loss in recent history. Just a horrendous effort all the way around, as they got completely and utterly blown off the field. They could have taken a busload of elementary school kids, told them they were going to compete in the regional spelling bee, and instead dropped them off at the stadium and handed them uniforms, and they would looked better and more prepared than the Bears did. Truly awful.

Before Sunday, these were the worst losses I could think of from semi-recent Bears history, starting with the latest:
1. Last year's 37-3 loss to the Packers.
A 34-point loss to a team that ended up 6-10 is not a great thing to have on the ol' resume.
2. The 49-7 loss to the 49ers in the 2003 opener.
This was Kordell Stewart's debut and effectively eliminated the Bears from playoff contention on Sept. 7.
3. San Francisco 44, Chicago 15, 1994 Divisional Playoffs.
The Bears trailed 30-3 at the half and 37-3 entering the fourth. This was the game that a frustrated Shaun Gayle drilled Steve Young like 7 yards into the end zone after the QB had scored on a 6-yard run.
But I think last week's tops (bottoms?) them all. Sure, it's probably because it's freshest in my mind, but none of the above-listed teams were supposed to be as good as this year's Bears. The playoff loss was tough, but the Bears barely squeaked in at 9-7 and the 13-3 Niners destroyed everybody on the way to the championship. The other 49ers loss was harder actually, because all of the excitement, enthusiasm, and optimism that you have as a season begins disintegrated within an hour. Still, last week's was the worst.

3. Quit punting, you sissy.
My favorite moment of the weekend: With just under nine minutes to go, the Falcons trailed the Cowboys 27-14 and faced a 4th-and-2 from their own 28. QB Matt Ryan implored coach Mike Smith to go for it, which was absolutely the right call. Yes, if you fail, Dallas is in field goal range. But converting on 4th-and-2 is very likely, so much so that there's basically less risk going for it than punting away to a Dallas offense that had scored on five of its last seven possessions.

Of course, Smith sent out the punt team, and just as predictably, the announcers supported the decision, as virtually all broadcasters -- and journalists, for that matter -- are quick to criticize anything that resembles a risk until the moment when it is too late. What I'm saying is this: Had the Falcons punted, stopped the Cowboys offense relatively quickly, gotten the ball back and ultimately faced a 4th-and-14 with under five minutes to go, the announcers would have said, "Well, they hav to go for it here," which the Falcons certainly would have done. It's idiotic. At that point, you are basically relying on converting a very, very unlikely 4th-and-long, scoring a TD, recovering an onside kick, and scoring another TD with very little time left. In other words, you have almost no chance to win the game. But had they gone for it on the much-more-makeable 4th-and-2 with much more time left to work with, had they scored on that drive, they could have kicked away, gotten a stop, and had some time to work with for a potential game-winning drive. With that scenario, their odds of winning are much greater. But announcers always are in favor of the safe, conventional play, without any thought as to the actual impact on the outcome. Going for it on fourth-and-short when trailing by two TDs midway through the fourth quarter is the right call, but unfortunately failing to convert opens the coach up to some serious second guessing. So most take the easy way out and punt.

Anyway, as the punt team trotted out onto the field, the announcers said something like, "And Mike Smith is showing his young quarterback who the head coach is." Yes, and unfortunately the head coach is a guy who mostly tries to avoid criticism (I'm speaking of head coaches in general here, not just Smith.) So it was certainly poetic justice when Dallas' Patrick Crayton fielded the punt and went untouched into the end zone to seal the Falcons' defeat; they never should have been punting in the first place. I hate the Cowboys -- in fact, I thought Atlanta would pummel them going in -- but I loved every second of that return.

I should mention that this was the second balls-free call Mike Smith has made in the last two games -- a week ago, against the Bears in the fourth quarter, he punted on a 4th-and-4 from inside the Bears 40 when a conversion could have pretty much sealed the game. I've generally been impressed by the Falcons during Smith's tenure, but his lack of aggressiveness is a disturbing red flag in my evaluation of his coaching. I'm sure he's very upset about that.

4. The Dolphins have to be the most exciting 2-4 team in NFL history.

I have now seen most of three of their games, and they've all been exceptionally entertaining. Just a fun-to-watch team, and they are much, much better than their record would indicate. If not for Davone Bess' fumble, I think they would've upset the Saints, and they already dominated the Colts but lost. They've played a very difficult schedule, and unfortunately I don't see it getting much better. But Miami is well worth watching. Although the guy below isn't.

5. Ted Ginn Jr. has the worst hands I've ever seen.
He makes David Terrell look like Steve Largent. Chris Berman should nickname him Ted "Dropped a Touchdown A-" Ginn Jr. He's terrible.

6. Cris Collinsworth is such a good broadcaster, he almost makes Al Michaels tolerable.
But not quite.

7. 40+ yard field goals are not gimmes

Okay, so this one's left over from last week, when two different teams -- Baltimore (vs. Minnesota) and Buffalo (against the Jets) -- got within "field goal range" at the end of regulation and essentially stopped trying to score a TD or even get any closer. This drives me absolutely crazy; getting into a kicker's range does not mean that he's automatic from that distance. Last year, from 40 yards and longer, NFL kickers were 291-of-406, which comes to 71.7%. Now granted, many of those misses were from 50+, but do you really want to just leave the game to a 3-in-4 chance? Especially considering that on kicks of 39 yards and shorter, those same kickers were 547-of-587, or 93.2%. Think about that. From 40-plus, your chances of a miss (and therefore a loss) are 28.3%. From less than 40, the chances of missing are 6.8%. In other words, a loss when settling for a 40+ kick is four times as likely than if you continue to drive deeper into opponents territory.

In both of the above-mentioned instances, the kicker -- the Ravens' Steven Hauschka and the Bills' Ryan Lindell -- missed, from 44 and 46 yards, respectively. That meant Baltimore lost, and Buffalo went into OT, where Lindell eventually redeemed himself by nailing a 47-yarder to win it. Still, both coaches settling for the long figgie could have cost them the win.

Why do they do this? Again, it comes down to culpability. If a team gets to the opponents' 30 and misses the field goal, it's the kicker's fault. If they get down there, and the quarterback throws an INT on a subsequent play, it's the coach's fault for passing when they were already in "field goal range." Not that coaches consciously think that way, but still.

Both teams could have tried to get closer. Holding no timeouts with 48 seconds remaining, the Ravens converted a 3rd-and-7 to get a first down at the Minnesota 29. With 30 seconds left, they threw deep. Then on second down, they rushed Ray Rice up the middle, meaning they had to spike the ball on third down to stop the clock and get the field goal team on the field. Instead of one run and a wasted down, they had the time to attempt two sideline-type passes. But coach John Harbaugh decided to just settle for the field goal, and it cost him.

The Bills game was even worse. Buffalo took over at the Jets 49 holding two timeouts with 3:55 remaining. Not only did they call five rushes and one pass -- the run was effective, so that part was reasonable -- but the Bills were in no hurry whatsoever. They ran plays at 3:55, 3:19, 2:46, 2:00, 1:19, and :39 before kicking at :04. They easily could've run twice as many plays, and gotten Lindell much, much closer. And while it didn't cost them the game, it should have.

Coaches should only settle for the field goal when they have to. If you're inside the 20, you don't want to take unnecessary risks, but otherwise these coaches shouldn't just assume that the kicks are automatic. Because they aren't.

October 25, 2009


Sorry, Lovie. You lost me.


October 22, 2009

Is This Lovie?

I'm not a huge Lovie Smith fan. If I had to choose a side, however, I'd probably say that I'm for him as a coach. I mean, I'm not regularly calling for his head in this space, like I would be if Dave Wannstedt were still in charge. I honestly think the Bears could do a lot worse.

But the Bears are not a well-coached team.

That was overwhelmingly evident during last week's game. A well-coached team should be at its best coming off a bye week. The Bears, well...

Against the Falcons, the Bears made so many mistakes that I'm wondering if they spent the entire bye week pulling bongs, as I would have done when I was in my 20s, like most of the Bears are. They were absolutely awful. Here are some of the moments when the team was clearly lacking focus:

1. Burning a timeout on their opening possession. THEIR OPENING POSSESSION. Shouldn't they be ready to run their first dozen plays, seeing as how they had two weeks to prepare? That's more than a day per play.

2. Said possession ended on an ill-advised third-down pass by Jay Cutler deep in Atlanta territory, costing the Bears a sure three points.

3. On Roddy White's 40-yard TD reception that tied the game at 7, the Bears had two guys covering three receivers on the right side of the offensive formation. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is rarely a successful defensive tactic. This was also one of several plays when the Bears were still lining up at the snap of the football. In the Bears defense, Atlanta went to the no-huddle, a move never before seen in the annals of football history.

4. Alex Brown being offsides twice in the first half. Incidentally, that's the same number of tackles he had in the game.

5. Allowing Tony Gonzalez to get loose in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. On third down. With nine seconds left in the first half. Sure, the guy has the most TD receptions in NFL history among tight ends, but clearly he's not worthy of any defensive attention on a do-or-die red-zone play. Between allowing a TD here when they should have been able to limit the Falcons to a field goal and the Cutler pick, that's a 7-point swing.

6. Getting a holding penalty on the second-half kickoff. I know penalties are common on kick returns, but c'mon. After a desultory first half, you would think a good halftime reaming would have led to flawless execution for at least one play. Nope.

7. Zack Bowman intercepts a Matt Ryan pass, and promptly fumbles. Luckily, Danieal Manning recovers. On the bright side, other than the interception, Bowman fumbling was his only impact play so far this year.

8. The very next play after fumbling at the goalline, Matt Forte coughs it up again, this time losing possession. I understand fumbling once, but the second? After costing the Bears a minimum of 3 points and possibly 7, he should have been benched for the following drive. He wasn't.

9. After the (second) Forte fumble, the Falcons drive from their own 2 to the Chicago 36 and face a 4th-and-4. The smart play for Atlanta would have been to go for it, but mercifully they play it safe -- as most wuss NFL coaches would -- and punt, giving the Bears possession still trailing by just a score. But wait! 12 men on the field. Falcons retain possession. 12 men on the field on a special teams play is totally unacceptable. This isn't one of those 12 men on the field because a guy was running to the sidelines and couldn't get off in time. Oh no. This was just 12 guys lined up for the snap. It is the return man's job to count the players on the field. Apparently, counting, like being a No. 1 receiver, is yet another job for which Devin Hester is ill-suited.

10. Nathan Vasher atones for Hester's mistake by intercepting Ryan on the very next play. But like Bowman, Vasher fumbles the ball away. This time, the refs bail him out by calling him down by contact, even though replays showed he was not. I believe Vasher had replaced Bowman at this point. This is like getting syphilis as a cure for chlamydia.

11. After Cutler finds Greg Olsen for the game-tying touchdown with about six minutes left, the Bears special teams allow Eric Weems to return the ensuing kickoff 63 yards, basically putting the Falcons in field goal range. Atlanta capitalizes on the stellar field position, and actually score a TD to go up 21-14. The Bears have had very good special teams over the last several seasons, but this game was not coach Dave Toub's finest hour.

12. On the Bears last-ditch effort to tie the game, Cutler leads a nice drive and the Bears get a first down at the Atlanta 14. On 2nd-and-10, Frank Omiyale gets a false start penalty. I don't really blame Omiyale; I'm sure he just assumed the refs would be giving him a head start; you know, so that he'd at least have a fraction of a chance of actually blocking somebody.

13. On the very next snap, Earl Bennett gets called for offensive pass interference on a pick play. This was awful execution in that Bennett basically just ran into the man as if he were blocking, instead of selling it that he was actually running a pattern. For the love of God, someone please explain to me why this guy is still getting snaps at the expense of Johnny Knox. Oh yes, his amazing rapport with Cutler. Which thus far has led to zero touchdowns.

14. After nearly overcoming a 3rd-and-25 with a 24-yard Cutler-to-Bennett connection -- there's that unparalleled connection the two have! -- on 4th-and-1 from the Atlanta 5, Orlando Pace forgets the count and jumps early. I couldn't think of a more appropriate finish, even though the final play was actually an incompletion to Desmond Clark. But by that point, I had no doubt in my mind that the Bears would fail to convert.

And that's about it. I know what you're thinking: Gee, only 14? Just imagine how many there'd be if Lovie weren't a decent coach.

But while emphasis on execution isn't among them, Lovie does do some things well. His teams are generally ready to play; the Bears have rarely been blown out during his tenure. The Bears also play very hard, and I think that stems from the players' real affection for him, which is critical for a coach with Smith's tactical limitations. While a truly great coach -- think Bill Parcells -- can have a team both hate him and thrive, for the merely so-so ones, being well-liked is crucial. And Lovie is 48-37 (.565 winning percentage) as Bears coach, including a 43-26 (.623) mark over the last five years. That's pretty good.

Having said that, this Bears' season, as my friend Jeff pointed out, is shaping up a lot like last year's -- they're in every game, never really taking control against teams they should dominate, and doing just enough to lose down the stretch in a handful of winnable games. And if the Bears miss the playoffs for a third straight season, Lovie will be on a seriously hot seat. As well he should be.

But until then, I'll still hold out hope that with the most talented QB the Bears have ever had, Lovie will do a good enough job to get them 10 or so wins. This week in Cincinnati would be a good time to justify my faith.

October 11, 2009

5 Weak Thoughts: Week 5

With the Bears on bye, I spent most of Sunday basking in the majesty of a couple of late-week fantasy transactions. While I am aware that talking about your fantasy squad is like telling people about a dream you had in that they'd never give a flying fuck, I'm going to do it anyway. But feel free to skip down to the bolded thoughts below if you can't stomach this sort of thing. For those of you still reading, everything seemed oh-so-bleak in my fantasy world a mere half week ago. My feeble structure was teetering because of the most tragic confluence of events -- the simultaneous bye week of my fantasy core.

Aaron Rodgers is the only QB on my roster. With this being his bye week, I picked up Matthew Stafford on Wednesday. But Stafford's banged-up-by-the-Bears knee made his status uncertain (he ended up not playing), so I had to troll the wire for someone else. These were my choices:
Derek Anderson
Kyle Boller
Matt Cassel
Kerry Collins
Jake Delhomme
Chad Henne
Shaun Hill
Josh Johnson
JaMarcus Russell
Pretty slim pickings, right? Using the theory that the Cowboys are terrible -- I actually thought they would lose to the horrid Chiefs -- and that their pass defense was even worse, I went with Cassel, who threw for 253 yards and two TDs and did not have a turnover. That was good for 24.92 points, which amounted to the best production of the QBs available. So that's pretty good, right? Well, that ain't the glory I be baskin' in.

I was also very thin at wide receiver this week, as both Greg Jennings and Johnny Knox -- don't laugh, in this league you get points for return yardage, making Knox the 6th-highest scoring WR -- were also on bye. Since I generally start two RBs, a TE, and 3 WRs (you can start up to four, if you go with one running back), this left me very thin at the position. As of Saturday morning, I was going to start Wes Welker, Mike Sims-Walker, and Mark Bradley. I didn't really want to start the Chiefs' Bradley, not just because he's not very good, but also since it basically amounted to doubling down on my Cassel pickup; if the QB struggled, I was screwed twice. Unfortunately, I just didn't have many options. But on Saturday night, I saw that the Cowboys' Roy Williams would not be active for the Chiefs game. I had been eyeballing a certain Dallas WR before our draft, and had been tracking his production since, and with Williams out, I decided to drop Bradley and pick him up instead. So I tossed one Miles Austin into my lineup. He put up 39.95 points for me, and I posted the highest score in the league despite having most of my offense on bye, and getting a big zero from Sims-Walker because of some retarded suspension. Definitely one of the far too few and fleeting gratifying moments among the thousands of hours I've blown on fantasy.

Sorry about that; I appreciate you indulging me. Onto the weak thoughts:

1. Consider the Broncos and Bengals validated.
Everyone keeps waiting for both these teams to turn into pumpkins, and it's just not happening. The Broncos posted what I would call their first impressive win, rallying to beat the Patriots. I don't care that the game was in Denver and that Tom Brady continues to look a little off. That was a huge W for the Broncos, and it cements their status as a legitimate contender. Additionally, Josh McDaniels -- who I thought had totally painted himself into a corner with his bizarre offseason machinations -- has to be the runaway choice for Coach of the Year at this point. At least in the early going, he appears to be very, very good.

I was actually more surprised by Cincinnati's win over the Ravens. I really thought Baltimore was one of the league's best team, and would have a very strong showing coming off a tough loss to the Pats. And maybe they did, but the Bengals were just better. Carson Palmer looks to have regained some of his pre-Kimo von Oelhoffen mojo, and the defense is actually making plays. They are legit.

These teams, a combined 9-1 -- with the one loss coming when they played each other -- are led by Kyle Orton and Cedric Benson, who leads the league in rushing yards. Roll that around in the ol' thinkblob for a while.

2. Even if they have to travel 2,500 miles, you do not want to play a good, well-coached team coming off a bye.
And the Atlanta Falcons are very well coached and very, very good. They absolutely shredded the 49ers defense, which had been looking pretty damn good before that game.* The Niners looked a lot like... well, the Niners, before Mike Singletary took over. I'm curious to see how they respond in two weeks in Houston , when they'll be coming off a bye of their own.

* NOTE: DO NOT BOTHER READING THIS IF YOU ARE SO SELF-OBSESSED THAT YOU DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT MY OTHER FANTASY TEAM. A week after scoring 47 points for me in fantasy, the Niners D put up a negative-5. Plus, my opponent FTM had the Falcons D, which was good for 18 points. And because of the same bye week issues, I was starting Mark Sanchez (again instead of Rodgers), and had victory ripped away from me when review overturned a Sanchez-to-Braylon Edwards TD -- yes, his knee was down before he got the ball across, but it didn't look like he got touched (by Yeremiah Bell) until after. But Ronnie Brown righted the ref's wrong by scoring a TD with six seconds left to give me a 5-point win. Go Ich Bin Ein Berwyner!

It's tough to know after rookie coaches enjoy some success which ones are actually good coaches and which ones mostly benefitted from either an abundance of talent and/or not being the previous coach. But Mike Smith appears, from the outside looking in, to be excellent. Other than the Falcons-Bears game last year -- ugh, don't remind me -- I don't think I've seen Atlanta play, so I can't really say for certain how he is as a game tactician. But his team always seems exceptionally motivated and well-prepared, and in the NFL that's probably 90% of the battle. Combined with Matt Ryan and that running game, the Falcons are a mortal lock to return to the playoffs.

3. I don't know how bad Vince Young is but I have a hard time believing that he could be any worse than Kerry Collins.
I just don't understand VY's exile. I know he supposedly had to be coaxed into re-entering the first game of the season last year, but the guy was depressed. As someone who has been through that, it's not easy, and for him to not get a second chance -- especially considering that he did not miss any plays despite his reticence -- is just wronge. The guy is 18-11 as a starter. Granted, he hasn't exactly been Joe Montana in those games, but how many young QBs are?

Kerry Collins has been atrocious. If the roles were reversed -- that is, it was Young at the helm as the team sputtered out to an 0-5 start -- I guarantee that he would have been yanked by now, and getting the shit booed out of him. So what the hell is going on? Do his teammates just hate him? Does he not know the playbook? Did he nail Jeff Fisher's grandmother (and/or her corpse if she's dead)? What did he do that's so unforgivable?

Three seasons ago, Young was hailed as a savior. He was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and looked to be a star in the making. I know he hasn't been great since, but it's like he gave Fisher gonorrhea or something. How did he turn into persona-non-grata so quickly? It doesn't make any sense. If they're not going to use him, they should just get rid of him. I'm sure the Raiders would happily give up three first-rounders in exchange.

4. God I hate Al Michaels.

5. Jack Del Rio should be fired immediately.
Seriously. The Jaguars performance against a pretty lousy Seahawks team was god awful. They looked like the 2008 Lions playing the 2007 Patriots. Yes, the Hawks were more-or-less healthy for the first time since their opener -- when they also looked very good -- but c'mon. 41-0? That's atrocious. A team with Jacksonville's talent level should not be losing by 41 points to anyone, let alone a middling NFC West squad. Coming off last season's 5-11 disaster, it's clear that Del Rio's days in Jacksonville are numbered. My guess is that barring a miracle turnaround, he will not be the Jaguars coach next season. And I'd expect Jacksonville's new head man to be the beneficiary of a not-being-the-previous-coach bump in performance.

October 8, 2009

The Quartries: My first quarter awards

As the NFL season reaches the quarter pole, I thought it might be a good time to review the state of the league (and I'll try to do this again after Weeks 9 and 13) via some fake awards I hastily created. So let's just get to the Quartries.

The What in God's Name Was I Thinking Picking These Guys as 9-Game Winners Award:
Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders
I have to admit -- on the season's first Monday night, I was feeling pretty good about myself for picking these guys as super-sleepers. Both the Bills and the Raiders very easily could have beaten the heavily-favored Patriots and Chargers, respectively, and I spent most of each of those games strutting around my bedroom like a horny peacock. However, the two teams' inability to close out what were very winnable games should have been viewed not as validation of my picks, but as a harbinger of the woe to come. Meanwhile, the Browns might be the worst team in football, and the Eric Mangini hiring is being roundly panned.

The Raiders have looked awful, though at least they did manage to beat the Chiefs (who just might be the worst team in the league) in Week 2. The Bills, however, have been the most disappointing to me. After three games, they were actually looking decent. Following the opening loss in New England, they beat the Bucs and then played the Saints very tough through three quarters before falling apart in the 4th in a 27-7 loss. Sure, they were 1-2, but they'd at least shown some signs of being respectable. Then came last week's 38-10 pounding at the hands of the previously-winless Dolphins. Just terrible.

Coincidentally, if I were to now put an over/under on the number of wins these three disasters will combine for, I'd probably go with 9.

The What the Hell's the Matter with Me, Missing These Guys as Sleepers Award:
Denver Broncos, New York Jets
Alright, when picking sleepers, instead of my primary method -- which teams were supposed to have been good last year but weren't -- I should have instead looked at last year's actual results; that is, were there any commonalities between last season's surprises? Arguably the three biggest sleepers -- the Falcons, Dolphins, and Ravens -- all had two things in common. The first was rookie head coaches. The second was new quarterbacks. The Falcons and Ravens both started rookie QBs, and Miami went with the discarded Chad Pennington.

So that should have been what I focused on: teams with a rookie head coach and a rookie or previously-discarded quarterback. As best I can tell, that would have left me with three teams: the Jets (Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez), the Lions (Jim Schwartz and Matthew Stafford), and the Broncos (Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton). Now, I mentioned in my preview that the AFC West was going to be terrible, and a sleeper would emerge from that division (I also said similar things about the AFC East.) And while I wouldn't have picked the Lions regardless because I thought that the NFC North would be far too tough at the top, I am majorly kicking myself for not calling the Jets and Broncos' success. Dammit.

At this point, I'm much more sold on the Jets than the Broncos. New York has played a much tougher schedule to date, while Denver has feasted on the likes of Cleveland, Oakland, and Dallas, and also got very lucky in a season-opening win over the Bengals, who had a couple of decent skins on their wall (Steelers, Packers) before struggling to beat the Browns last week. The Broncos next four -- versus New England, at San Diego and Baltimore, and hosting Pittsburgh -- should tell us more about them. If they can reach the midpoint 6-2, they'll be a virtual lock for the playoffs.

The Which of Us Is the Biggest Turd in the Sunday Ticket Punch Bowl Award:
Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Making up for my whiffs on the Jets, Broncos, and Bengals (who are a combined 10-2), I had all these teams at five wins or less. Only the Dolphins -- or perhaps the Seahawks, if they can ever actually get healthy -- are a threat to even be respectable. So far, these teams are a combined 3-21, a .125 winning percentage.

The Make Up Your Minds, Are You Going to Make Me Look Like an Idiot or What Award:
Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars
I had each of these teams in the playoffs; all are 2-2. It's too early to say that I was way off on my Packers-as-the-best-team-in-the-NFL prediction, but they certainly are not a good bet to finish my forecast 13-3. Their biggest problem (aside from the division-rival Vikings appearing to be absolutely unstoppable) is that their offensive line is god awful right now. Aaron Rodgers has no time, and with his occasional propensity to hold onto the ball too long, this does not make for a mind-blowingly awesome combination.

I had both the Jags and Texans finishing 10-6. And at this point I could see each of them getting 10 wins, or combining for 10 wins. I really have no idea.

The What Do We Have to Do to Stop Getting So Much Preseason Love Award
Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins
Sure, the Cards made the Super Bowl last year, but A. It had been about the 8th straight year that everyone claimed they would be good, so they had to deliver sooner or later after seven consecutive whiffs; and B. They finished 9-7 last year, with the 28th-ranked defense. I was certain the Cardinals would once again fail to live up to expectations, and it looks like they've reverted to form and will.

I thought the Cowboys and Redskins would be mediocre enough to get their coaches fired, and both are well on their way with their ugly, uneven play. The Cowboys still have people thinking they are good, which I just don't get. At all. This is not a good football team. And the Redskins are even worse, though you wouldn't know it from their cakey schedule. Perhaps Albert Haynesworth isn't as great as we all were led to believe.

The You Sure Albert Haynesworth Isn't as Great as We Were All Led to Believe Award
Tennessee Titans
What in God's name has happened to the Titans? Is it possible that the football gods are really this vehemently against Terrible Towel stomping? Yes, I thought Tennessee would suffer a dropoff, but this has just come as a complete shock. Despite a ground game that's averaging 5.5 yards per carry, the Titans are rushing the ball less often than notorious avoid-the-run-at-all-costs teams like New England and Philadelphia. Thus far, the Titans have thrown 153 passes, while attempting just 99 rushes. Look, I know they've been behind, but that's still not right. Plus, their division looks very tough, so I'm smelling a highly-disappointing 6-win-or-so season from them. Might that mean that it's time to unglue Vince Young from the bench?

The Hey, Shouldn't You Have Found a Heading That Paired Us up with the Titans Somehow Award
Carolina Panthers
Yes. Yes I should have. The Panthers should have one of the most productive ground games in the league, but instead they're letting QB Jake Delhomme chuck it up 36 times a game. Just pound DeAngelo Williams! Jesus, it ain't that hard.

The Why Won't These Guys Just Go Away Already Award:
Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings
In an obvious case of wishful thinking, I wasn't exactly sanguine about the chances of these two teams I've never liked, with QB's I've completely had an assful of. Well, that's not quite true. I actually like Peyton Manning a lot more now than I did say five years ago, when I was absolutely certain he didn't have what it took to ever win a Super Bowl.* Now I have to admit that Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game, and he does it with such robotic efficiency that he barely seems human when he's on the field. He is impressive as hell to watch. I still don't think he's the greatest winner ever, but he's taken himself out of the Dan Marino league.

* It was just perfect that Manning played his one Super Bowl against my Bears. Of course I was going to get my comeuppance. I remain firmly convinced that had he played any other team in Super Bowl 41, he would still be ringless.

As for Minnesota, as much as I hate to admit it, they look very, very good at this point. Ignoring the Favre aspect for a second, they might have the best pair of lines in the league. Their defensive front is impossible to run against, and Jared Allen brings such a relentless pass rush that they rarely have to blitz to pressure the quarterback. Offensively, with Adrian Peterson the Vikes don't really need an elite line, but that's exactly what they have. This team looks scary.

My only hope is that, like last year, Favre has a late-season implosion that destroys the Vikings chances. While that would be sweet, with the team being so strong up front, I fear that only injuries can stop Minnesota's inexorable march to the playoffs.

The Will I Break My Arm Patting Myself on the Back Award:
New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers
Yes. Yes I will.

Look, I didn't nail much in my NFL preview, but I hit it right on the head with both of these guys. Except for perhaps the Vikings, no team has been as impressive as the Saints. The offense is still elite, and the defense is making a ton of plays. They look very, very good.

Speaking of a defense that makes plays, the 49ers D is making me look like a fantasy genius (the rest of my team, however, is not). I drafted the Niners D in the 15th round as my lone defense, and they have been awesome, at least fantasy-wise. Mike Singletary really has this team playing with a totally different mindset than teams of recent 49ers vintage, and on the other side of the ball, he's even turned tight end Vernon Davis into a viable weapon. He has to be the front-runner for Coach of the Year, an award, incidentally, that I predicted he would take home. Ah, yes. So this is what it feels like to bask in the glory. The glory of going 2-for-7 with my sleeper picks.

The When Did the Sophomore Slump Lose All Potency Award:
Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens
Both helmed by second-year coaches and second-year quarterbacks -- one of whom (Matt Ryan) got an inordinate amount of credit for his team's success, while the other (Joe Flacco) had his accomplishments mostly ignored by the mainstream media -- these teams are proving that neither was a one-hit wonder.

I had Atlanta finishing 7-9, and it looks like I'm going to be way off on them. The Falcons again look strong, and at this point I'd be surprised if they didn't win 10 games.

I missed even worse on Baltimore than I did on Atlanta; while I had them finishing with a winning record at 9-7, they are much better than that and appear to be one of the best teams in the league. Led by Joe Flacco and the dastardly Willis McGehee**, the Ravens offense is a powerhouse. And the defense, while down a bit, is still very good. What's odd is that in my preseason predictions, I mentioned that I liked the Ravens, and that their solid play last year was not a fluke, based on their point differential. And yet I still picked against them making the playoffs. Perhaps I was a bit too sleeper obsessed; I did, after all, pick seven of them.

** I drafted McGehee with the second pick of the second round in my fantasy league last year, and he did absolutely nothing. Less than nothing. He was awful. I think he scored like 5.2 points the entire year. So this year in my other league (a keeper), I take fellow Ravens running back Ray Rice, secure in the knowledge that McGehee is a thoroughly useless piece of shit. And what happens? Through four games, McGehee leads the league in TDs with 7, the same number he had all of last year. Most of them vultured at the goal line after Rice has done the dirty work to get down there. You sonuvab... Hey, Willis McGehee, remember all of that goodwill you had built up after you tragically shredded your knee in your final college game, a totally-got-boned-by-the-refs loss to Ohio State in the BCS title game? It's gone. All gone.

The Will These Guys Ever Be Crappy Again Award
New England Patriots, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles
I suppose I shouldn't complain, as I had all three making the playoffs; barring injury, all three should make it with ease. While the Giants really haven't played anyone of significance, they also haven't missed a beat despite playing with an entirely revamped receiving corps.

The Eagles look to be almost unstoppable on offense, as the annual injuries to both Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook haven't slowed them down one iota.

While Tom Brady doesn't exactly look like Tom Brady just yet, the Patriots are still 3-1. So I'm not sure that they need transcendent play from their QB to make it back to the playoffs. Although at 11-5 last year, they never should have missed them in the first place.

The Is It Obvious We Just Don't Give a Shit This Year Award
Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers
Both of these teams just look a little off. On paper, both should still be among the elite. But whether it's a post-championship hangover (Steelers) or a let's-finally-get-our-crappy-coach-fired rollover (duh), neither team seems to really have it this season. Sure, both have enough time and talent to pull it together, but they just don't look all that great thus far.

The Can You Do a Little More Before I Commit Award
Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals
With the Bengals, again I had the right division (AFC North) but picked the wrong horse. Cincinnati would have been a much better choice than Cleveland, but I had a 50-50 chance and I blew it. However, I did have the Bengals at 2-2 after four games (they are 3-1) but then losing their next six in a row, a tough stretch that looks like this: at Ravens, hosting Texans, Bears,and Ravens, and at Steelers and Raiders. If Cincinnati is a legit sleeper, they'll need to win at least three of those games. Until then, I just can't say that I'm buying.

As for the Bears, with the exception of the Green Bay game, they've done enough to win. And while Jay Cutler just strung together the best three game stretch I've ever seen from a Bears quarterback, I'm not entirely sold. Most of it is because of the defense, which has looked dreadful at the start of basically every game. I just don't see them holding up against a team with an elite offense -- you know, like the Vikings, who they still have to play twice -- and while I'm hopeful they'll be good enough to make the playoffs, I'm not exactly optimistic about it either. There appears to be eight very solid NFC teams -- the Giants, Eagles, 49ers, Falcons, Saints, Bears, Packers, and Vikings -- and only six will make the playoffs. I just hope the Bears aren't the ones left out in the cold.

Unless that cold is at a January game at Soldier Field.

October 5, 2009

Monday Morning Cornerback

After the 48-24 win over the Lions -- a game that was actually much more uncomfortable than the final score would indicate -- I'm left with one question*: Just how good are the Bears?

* Actually, two questions. The other: Do you think we can cancel the defense's pre-game nap? In each of the last three games, the Bears have sleepwalked (sleptwalked?) through the opponent's first possession and allowed a long touchdown drive -- against the Steelers it was a 13-play, 92-yard touchdown drive; versus the Seahawks, a 7-play, 71-yarder; and for the ultimate indignation, the Lions had an 8-play, 68-yarder. That's a ridiculous trend that has to stop. Immediately.

Well, the Bears opened by losing to the Packers, who the next week lost to the Bengals, which admittedly sounds a lot worse than it is. But the Packers' offensive line is a disaster, and last week the team struggled to beat the atrocious Rams. While we'll know more about the Pack after tonight's game in Minnesota (in a story that's been totally ignored by the mainstream media, Brett Favre and the Vikings are hosting the Packers on MNF), but for now they're a .500 team (1-1) when not playing the Bears.

The Bears beat the defending champion Steelers, but before last night, Pittsburgh's one win was over the surprisingly winless Titans. Besides that, they also lost to the Bengals, which admittedly sounds a lot worse than it is. Sure, they beat San Diego yesterday, but I'm not convinced the Chargers are very good, either. You know, Norv Turner and all.

Then the Bears (barely) knocked off the Seahawks, whose only win was against St. Louis, which might be the worst team in the league. And finally, they beat the Lions this week. The Lions have now lost 20 of their last 21 games, with the one win coming against the Redskins, who I think are much godawfuller than their 2-2 record would indicate; their two wins were by a combined five points over a pair of winless teams, the Rams and Buccaneers.**

** Jesus Christ, has anyone played an easier schedule than Washington? Sure, they opened in New York against the Giants -- who have actually played a similarly easy sked -- but then they got the Rams and Bucs at home sandwiched around a trip to Detroit. And somehow their next two games are against two more winless teams, the Panthers and Chiefs. I'm guessing they'll lose to the Panthers, but they could wind up at 4-2 while simultaneously being one of the five worst teams in the league.

So in short, I have no idea how good the Bears are. I don't think they're one of the best teams in the league (more on that later in the week), but they are doing enough to win games, and look to be a second-tier playoff team. But at this point, I'll take any playoff bid whatsoever, and I'll certainly take 3-1 going into the bye week.

A couple of other notes about the game:

1. I was praying that the Lions wouldn't throw the challenge flag on Johnny Knox' 102-yard kickoff return, yelling at the TV, "Kick the extra point! Kick the extra point!" because it looked to me like he pulled a DeSean Jackson and started his celebration at the 101-yard mark. Luckily, no one on the Detroit sideline seemed to notice.

2. After the offense stalled at the 2-yard line following Tommie Harris' second-quarter interception, I loved the call to accept the Lions' 4th-down penalty, take the three points off the board, and go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 1. Loved the play even more: coming out jumbo (three tight ends, two backs, no receivers) and going play action. The perfect call -- unlike Ron Turner's typical fullback dive / empty backfield bullshit in that situation -- and it resulted in a 1-yard TD pass to Greg Olsen for a 21-14 lead.

3. Adewale Ogunleye was an absolute beast. Of course I was playing against him in my IDP fantasy league.

4. The Bears better not take the Lions lightly when they visit Detroit. While the scoreboard said 24-point win, the Lions were actually in the game until very late; trailing 34-21 in the fourth quarter, Detroit had a 2nd-and-5 at the Bears' 6 before the drive stalled out (thanks largely to the Ogunleye sack that injured Matthew Stafford) and the Lions had to settle for a field goal. Had they been able to punch it in, they would've cut the lead to less than a touchdown and put a whole lot of pressure on the Bears. Instead, the Bears got a nice kickoff return from Danieal Manning, and Matt Forte broke off his 37-yard touchdown run four plays later to ice the game. But it certainly wasn't easy, and if they just expect the Lions to roll when they go up to Detroit to end the regular season, they're going to come home with a loss.

September 30, 2009

Milton Bradley's Perfection

(Editor's note: For some ungodly reason, Mr. SKIA has been sitting on this post for nearly two weeks, completely unwilling to write the last few sentences until now. Deadbeat.)

Wait. What? The Cubs are still playing? Really?

Well, at least all of them but this guy.

So the Milton Bradley saga is over, for this season at least. Bradley's deal, which basically no one thought was a good idea at the time, is looking even worse now. Which prompted this article and its accompanying poll:

My vote was unintentionally shown in the capture. So why did I vote for Wallace? Football contracts aren't fully guaranteed, meaning the Bears were able to weasel out of Muhammad's deal after three seasons for significantly less than the $30 million. I'm not a big enough hockey fan to quantify exactly how bad the Gilmour deal was, but I have a hard time believing it'll be any worse than the one the Hawks just gave to Mr. Here Comes (12 Years of Shoulder) Trouble. And while the Navarro deal (4 years, $20 million, for a 25-43 record) was a terrible return for what was a ton of cash at the time (1997) 1. I don't care about the White Sox and 2. While it was a lot of money then, it can't compare to the signing of a glorified roll player for three times the dollars just nine years later. Plus, Wallace basically cost the Bulls very nearly the full $60 million for just two seasons; to get rid of him they had to take back Larry Hughes -- who the Bulls paid around $14 million to stay away from the team last year -- and to get rid of Hughes, they had to take back Tim Thomas, who's been bought out, and Jerome James, who's injured and unlikely to play another NBA game. Additionally, the Bulls signing of Wallace made (the younger and cheaper) Tyson Chandler (supposedly) expendable, and the organization basically gave Chandler away to the Hornets to get out from under his own (supposedly) onerous contract. With the salary cap in basketball -- not to mention the luxury tax -- an atrocious contract like Wallace's really, really hurts.

But apparently after the latest Bradley dust-up, not many people in Chicago agree with me:

So why didn't I vote for Bradley, who basically 3/4 of Chicago fans* said was the worst? Because not only is Bradley not the worst ever free-agent signing in Chicago, he's not even the worst one in the history of the Cubs. Or the worst one still on the Cubs.

That honor goes to Alfonso Soriano.

* Let's be honest. It's doubtful that a non-Cubs fan would be reading the article in order to find the poll in the first place, so it's really just Cubs fans voting, not a random sampling of the city's fans.

I suppose I should admit that it all depends on how you define signing. To me, signing is part and parcel with the contract that's been signed. Therefore the player with the worst contract is the worst signing. However, if you just view signing to mean acquisition, then Bradley's is perhaps the worst in Cubs history (though still not worse than Wallace's, which was for a year more and twice the dollars). While the mere thought of Soriano's contract exacerbates my GERD, his acquisition, for the short term, at least appeared to pay dividends. The year before they signed Soriano, the Cubs finished in last place at 66-96, the third-worst record in all of baseball; in the first two years of his deal, the Cubs won back-to-back division titles. Sure, he was just one (overpaid) piece, but Soriano's signing didn't look all that bad to the casual observer.

Meanwhile, Bradley was signed immediately following the second of those division titles, and in his first season the Cubs are 10 games out of first place. Not only has Bradley's production not met expectations -- while his malcontentedness has -- but the Cubs also jettisoned popular team player / glue guy Mark De Rosa in order to free up the cash to ink him. Bad times all around.

Still, I can't get over the disparity of the contracts.

If the Cubs want to extricate themselves from Bradley's deal -- and I mean just flat dump him, washing their hands of the entire situation -- it would mean that they essentially had given him a 1-year, $30 million contract. Sure that's a horrible return for corner outfielder who played slightly below-average defense and posted a 100 OPS+ (exactly league average) while being a general stick-in-the-mud. But starting with this season -- one in which Soriano's OPS, by the way, is just about 50 points less than Bradley's, which includes a 75-point gap in OBP -- the Cubs are on the hook for six years and... oh no, the reflux... $106 million. That's one hundred and six million dollars. Meaning if you make $100,000 a year (which is considered a pretty decent living, by the way), by the year 3069 you would have earned as much as the Cubs will shell out to Soriano between this season and 2014.

I'm guessing Alfonso Soriano loves Milton Bradley. Because without him, Soriano would be Bradley. That is, he'd be the target of all the fans ire. Instead, Soriano's basically gotten a free pass this year, despite the fact that his OBP is 75 points lower than Bradley's. And his defense, incidentally, is actually much worse than Bradley's, as their UZR150's look like this: Soriano, -13.7; Bradley, -4.3. Using value calculations, Soriano's actually been worse than replacement level, and has a value of negative-$3.9 million. Bradley (due mostly to that high OBP) has a value of $5.3 million. Now of course, that doesn't quantify the disruption factor, the negative vibe, and everything else. But considering it would cost the Cubs a lump sum payment of $21 million to drop Bradley right now, while Soriano -- the significantly less productive player -- would cost $90 million, I'd say the Soriano signing is far, far worse.

Shifting gears, I want to get back to what Bradley actually said (most recently, at least) to trigger the suspension. From the Daily Herald:
"It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everything is just bashing you. You got out there and you play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity.

"And you understand why they haven't won in 100 years here, because it's negative. It's what it is."

Asked whether he was talking about the fans, the media or even the Cubs organization, he replied: "It's everything. It's everybody."
You know what? Bradley is absolutely right -- the atmosphere is extremely negative. Fans (and I'm including myself here) and the media (and I'm not including myself here) are exceptionally pessimistic and always expect the worst. The Chicken Little phenomenon of Cubs fans was never more apparent than during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS -- yes, I really was there -- when the atmosphere in the park went from "We're going to the World Series!" to "We're totally screwed" in the blink of an eye. The entire stadium tightened up, convinced that some fan had cost the Cubs the World Series. Of course, that's exactly what happened, but it wasn't destined to occur because of a fan touching a foul ball; it happened because of the way everyone reacted afterwards. Some players lost their cool, the fans totally freaked out, the remaining players started feeling the pressure, and the Cubs were done. Still makes me nauseous thinking about it.

Ever since then, Cubs fans have become increasingly willing to turn on the home team or a specific member of it. Bradley's not the first to feel it, though the vitriol possibly has been the most intense. Of course, he didn't do himself any favors with his surly attitude with the press and his major persecution complex. (Umpires and tykes at his kids' preschool alike, they're all against Milton Bradley!) All the booing made Bradley dislike Wrigley; he even admitted not being "comfortable" because of the "adversity and hatred" he faced there, going as far as saying, "I just pray the game is nine innings so I can be out there the least amount of time as possible and go home."

Ok, so are we clear about Milton Bradley hating playing at Wrigley, how all the negativity -- which no doubt exists -- had such deleterious effects on his psyche? Good. Because the numbers bear it out. Here are Bradley's Road/Home splits:

206 AB, 61 H, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 33 BB, 48 K, .296/.407/.485, 130 OPS+
187 AB, 40 H, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 33 BB, 47 K, .214/.347/.299, 67 OPS+

That is a pretty drastic difference. Almost makes you feel bad for the guy, to see his performance suffering so badly because of the atmosphere at his home field. But perhaps I should have put the tags in there:

Home: 206 AB, 61 H, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 33 BB, 48 K, .296/.407/.485, 130 OPS+

Away: 187 AB, 40 H, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 33 BB, 47 K, .214/.347/.299, 67 OPS+

Man, just imagine how good he would have at Wrigley if the fans had only supported him.

September 27, 2009

More proof that legacy kids are ruining America (and really pissing me off)

With Jets coach Rex Ryan seemingly defying my standard legacy-kids-suck mantra, the Seahawks' Jim Mora is busy reaffirming my beliefs.

ESPN followed their minimalist highlight package of today's Bears-Seahawks game -- a tight, well-contested semi-thriller that wasn't necessarily a great win for the Bears, but was the type of game that good teams simply have to win -- with a snippet from Mora's press conference following his team's 25-19 loss:
"No excuses for those (two missed field goal by Olindo Mare). If you're a kicker in the National Football League, you should make those kicks. Bottom line. End of story. Period. No excuses. No win. Doesn't matter. Gotta make those kicks. Especially in a game like this, where you're kicking and scratching and fighting and playing your tail off, and you miss those kicks, not acceptable. Not acceptable. Absolutely not acceptable. We'll look at changes everywhere. We're not going to fight our asses off and have a field goal kicker go out there and miss two field goals and lose a game. Not going to happen."
All I can say is, "Fuck you, dick."

Actually, that's not all I can say. Jim Mora is a little turd. He was terrible in Atlanta, and he's still a god-awful weaselly pissant coach who only has his job because of daddy's name. Unlike Olindo Mare, who has earned his position in the NFL through sheer hard work, skill, and determination, Mora's ridden coattails his entire life.

Look, I'm not saying that Mare had a great game. He didn't. He missed kicks from 43 (which isn't long, but no gimme) and 34, which does fall into the unacceptable range to be sure. But he also made four field goals -- two from 46, one from 39, and one from 37. Isn't the larger issue, dear Jim, why your team was attempting six field goals while only finding the end zone one lousy time?

One of the things that really pisses me off about football is the way that kickers have to be perfect. The specialists -- I'm including punters and long snappers here too, but it's to a somewhat lesser extent -- are the only ones on the field expected to have a completely flawless performance. Any mistake is totally unacceptable, and quite frankly it's macho kickers-aren't-real-players bullshit. There is no way Mora would have ever said anything like that about any other player on his team. Ever. But the kicker, well, he's not even a real football player, so who gives a fuck?

I do.

Because you see, Jim, Olindo Mare did not lose that game. TJ Houshmandzadeh's fumble in your own territory on the opening drive of the second half -- which gave the Bears a short field for the Jay Cutler-to-Johnny Knox go-ahead touchdown -- might have. Seneca Wallace's interception, which gave the Bears the ball at the Seattle 14 and led directly to a field goal, certainly didn't help matters. Nor did the reversal of the Matt Forte fumble call. But to pin the loss on any one player -- and by the way, had Mare been perfect, maybe he would have gotten a long field goal attempt to win it at the end, otherwise the game's going into overtime, not in the win column -- is fucking ridiculous.

Mike Vanderjagt is the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history (among those with at least 100 FGs). But for my purposes, I'm going to go all the way down the list to No. 3. Matt Stover, at 83.82%, is the third most accurate kicker in NFL history. Meaning if you gave Matt Stover, the third most accurate kicker in NFL history, six field goal attempts, Matt Stover, the third most accurate kicker in NFL history would make five of them, which is one more than Mare. Here's the math Mora, you stupid fucktard:
6 x 0.8382 = 5.0292
5.0292 5
5 - 4 = 1
So with Matt Stover, the third most accurate kicker in NFL history, you would have typically gotten three more points. Which still puts this game in the loss column. But while quarterbacks can throw picks, wide receivers can drop passes, running backs can fumble, linemen can get touchdown-nullifying penalties, and idiot coaches can brainfart their way up and down the sidelines, it is only an NFL kicker that can cost his team -- which is "kicking (ironically) and scratching and fighting and playing their tails off" -- a win.

Sorry, Jimbo, but if your offense doesn't bog down once it gets near the red zone, your Seahawks win the game. What is unacceptable -- that is, other than your willingness to scapegoat a member of your team -- is venturing inside the opponents' 30-yard line eight times (8!) and coming away with a lone touchdown. That is what is appalling, and that is why you lost the game. And that's your fault, Mr. Accountability.

So why don't you go join George W. Bush, Hank Steinbrenner, Freddie Prinze Jr., Mike McCaskey, Julian Lennon, Wade Phillips, William Clay Ford Jr., Tori Spelling, Joe Buck, Frank Sinatra Jr., Saul Smith, Joey Buss, Jakob Dylan, and Sophia Coppola's performance in Godfather III and all go fuck yourselves.