Friday, October 24, 2014

1 comments The Kansas City Royals Are Making Sportswriters Go Insane and Write Crazy Things

I'm not sure if you have heard, but the Royals are in the World Series. I know, anyone who follows sports probably could have easily missed this story, but it's a factual one. Anyone can read the plethora of Royals stories out there which try so hard to create narratives and take disconnected events and tie them into a larger story. You can read Jason Whitlock say "Sure, Ned Yost sucks" but that means he's the perfect manager for this team. You can read other sportswriters point out that Yost is the answer to prayers from the anti-Saber crowd. But there are also slightly crazier articles that try to point out exactly which team this 2014 Royals team reminds the author of. Again, we are creating narratives here, so the mere suggestion the Royals were six outs away of not winning the Wild Card game is not acceptable. Only comparisons to previous World Series-winning teams and calling the Royals a team of destiny are accepted.

Tracy Ringolsby provides the most embarrassing headline. It says, I kid you not, "Like '85 Champs, Royals Know How to Win." This is essentially a "fuck it" headline. He can't explain why the team is winning, so fuck it, he'll just say the Royals know how to win games. When in doubt without an explanation, just make something up.

It turns out this squad has a lot in common with the Royals team from 29 years ago, which apparently was an untalented team who just "knew how to win" as well.

Twenty-nine years later, the Kansas City Royals have returned to the World Series. Shows how fickle baseball can be.

Or how bad the Royals have been in the interim. The 2014 postseason was the first postseason in over two decades where either the Yankees, Red Sox and Braves weren't represented. So baseball is fickle, but then not really fickle.

When the Royals hoisted that World Series championship trophy back in 1985, it was the seventh postseason appearance in 10 years. It wasn't that those Royals were dominating. They simply knew how to win.

There's no such thing as "knowing how to win." There is such a thing called "Having a good team and using the players on that team to win games." Saying a team "knows how to win" is probably the least analytical, most brain-dead way possible to explain a team's success.

It showed that postseason. The Royals rallied from 3-1 deficits in both the American League Championship Series, against the Blue Jays, and the World Series, against the Cardinals, becoming the first team to lose the first two games at home and rally to become World Series champions.

Did the Royals just forget how to win for a few games, then remember again, just in time to win the series? After all, if the 1985 Royals knew how to win then why didn't they put this knowledge to work before going down 3-1? Let me guess, they just wanted a challenge?

What is known is after Jorge Orta was called safe at first base, Steve Balboni hit a foul pop up that Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark watched drop to the ground. Balboni took advantage of the gift and eventually singled, moving Orta to second. After Jim Sundberg's sacrifice-bunt attempt was turned into a force of Orta at third,

Small-ball fail! This is a blatant small-ball fail!

The Royals had set the stage for the World Series in the ALCS. After losing the first two games at Toronto, they pulled out a 6-5 victory in Game 3, which became known as the game George Brett refused to lose.

This is as opposed to Games 1 and 2 which George Brett reluctantly conceded he wouldn't mind losing. After all, he knows how to win, so he can just do that anytime he wants.

Brett homered in the first for a 1-0 lead. He doubled and scored on a White sacrifice fly in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. Brett belted a two-run homer in the sixth to tie the game at 5. He hit a leadoff single in the eighth and then scored the game-winning run on a Balboni single.

"Refused to lose" = "Had a great night hitting the baseball"

Also, if George Brett was part of a Royals team that knew how to win, why hasn't he passed this knowledge down to the current Royals team prior to this year? This seems like really, really important information that he would want to pass on as quickly as possible to Royals teams for generations to come.

On a team short with power, Balboni, who was acquired from the Yankees, had one assignment -- swing hard and hit home runs. The 36 home runs Balboni hit in 1985 are still the franchise record.

Since these two Royals teams are so similar, who is the Balboni of the current Royals team? I mean, after all, these two teams are mirror images of each other because they both know how to win. I know how to win too. Score more runs than the opposing team.

"If we are within three games by Sept. 1, we are the division champions," McRae had said in late July.

Why?

"We know how to play in September, they don't," McRae said in reference to other AL West teams.

Much like the current Royals team knows how to play in October and other teams don't. Make moves that strategically look stupid, but count on the opposing team to screw up or just figure out how to win and score runs. Just figure it out. It can't be that hard.

Steve Farr was called up from Triple-A the day after a two-day August strike. He said he realized things were different with Kansas City the first game he was in uniform.

In the ninth inning, Detroit's Johnny Grubb doubled off Saberhagen to right-center.

"Willie [Wilson] has to catch that," Farr remembers muttering in the bullpen.

"Sabes has to finish off that pitch," said Quisenberry.

"The point was made," said Farr. "This wasn't about what any one player did. This was about what we did."

And that's how to win. I have no idea how the 2014 Royals are like the 1985 Royals and I suspect Tracy Ringolsby doesn't either. It sure made for a good headline when he had no other clue what to write about.

Their job was to win, no matter what the obstacle.

The Royals handled their job well.

And that's how to win. Just win. Just like the current Royals team is doing. There's no secret, know your job and go do it. Most other MLB teams don't know it's their job to win.

Terence Moore doesn't think the Royals look like the 1985 Royals at all. He thinks the Royals look like the 1969 Miracle Mets. I think Ringoslby and Moore should have a hyperbole-off to see which person is making the correct comparison. Because obviously the Royals can't just be the 2014 Royals, they have to be directly comparable to a baseball team from the past.

You watch the Royals shock reality these days, and you recall 45 years ago, when America featured everything from the dramatic to the improbable.

Yes, I do. I remember those days when I was negative years old very fondly. Back then, I didn't have to read articles forcing a comparison of one sports team to another.

"You had the Vietnam War and protesters everywhere, and the economy was booming," Ron Swoboda said, sounding like the definitive voice for 1969 over the phone from his home in New Orleans. "There was the aftermath of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and the ongoing Civil Rights movement. You had Woodstock, and you even had a man walking on the moon."

Swoboda chuckled, and then he added, "You know what? During that time, when it seemed as if anything was possible, probably the longest shot was the Mets winning the World Series, so we did that."

I'm chuckling too because this is exactly how it is now. It's like 1969 all over again, minus all of those specific events happening and the fact the Royals making the World Series wasn't exactly a miracle since they were an ever-improving team who specifically made moves to contend for a title over the next couple of years.

There was no Wild Card Game or League Division Series back then. Otherwise, the Mets would have dominated them, too. Just like these Royals, who are the 21st century version of those Mets.

Did the 1969 Mets just know how to win games? If so, then maybe the 1985 Royals were like the 1969 Mets and the 2014 Royals are just like the 1985 Royals who are just like the 1969 Mets. It's time to get these team comparison's correct for narrative's sake. How can the 2014 Royals be the 1969 Mets AND the 1985 Royals if the 1969 Mets didn't just know how to win? IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE!

"It was real obvious they were packing the organization with quality young players, so this is not an accident," Swoboda said. 

So, it wasn't a miracle? It was a conspicuous effort by the Royals to put a quality team on the field? I don't get it, I thought the Royals' success was a miracle just like the 1969 Mets was a miracle.

"Most of those guys were homegrown, and for the most part, the Mets were homegrown."

Were the 1985 Royals homegrown? I need to know which World Series winning team the 2014 Royals are definitely exactly like. I can't sleep until I know.

"They have that whiff of destiny about them," Swoboda said,

You sure that's not champagne or just sweat? I've smelled destiny before and destiny smells an awful lot like the 2004 Anaheim Angels who didn't know how to win, so they weren't like the Royals, and weren't a miracle team like the 1969 Mets.

In fact, the Royals have won four times in extra innings during this postseason. They've also taken the lead three times after the ninth with home runs despite finishing the regular season last in the Major Leagues in homers.

See, it's not destiny because the Royals know how to win games...just like the 1985 Royals just knew how to win games. I feel like Tracy Ringolsby and Terence Moore need to compare notes and determine which narrative is correct. Are the 2014 Royals a team of destiny or just a team that knows to win? Destiny doesn't know how to win and knowing how to win involves just doing your job, with no involvement from destiny. Let's keep the stories straight at MLB.com.

"Their outfield is spectacular," Swoboda said. "Alex Gordon was a guy who was failing in the infield, and then he goes to the outfield and wins [three] Gold Gloves. Jarrod Dyson is a speedster in center field, and [Lorenzo] Cain is a legitimate center fielder who goes to right field and makes really good plays. 

Well, I mean they are destined to play well in the outfield so talent doesn't really matter does it?

"It was a different time back then, when starters such as Seaver, [Jerry] Koosman and [Gary] Gentry were out to finish games," Swoboda said. "The bullpen was where you went when you had to.

This is as opposed to modern managers who go to the bullpen because they get bored of seeing their starter on the mound dominating? The bullpen is still where a manager goes when he has to, it's just managers feel they have to go to the bullpen earlier than they used to.

Now the bullpen is where you go when you hit the seventh inning, with the setup guy for the setup guy, then the setup guy and then the closer."

But again, the 2014 Royals are the exact same as the 1969 Mets. Why do I get the feeling Terence Moore put out a call to 10-15 retired players from World Series-winning teams and just decided to compare the 2014 Royals to whichever team had a retired player respond to his phone call first?

Swoboda laughed, saying, "You have to pick the Royals, but I tell you what. [The Giants] will be ready for them, because what's been delightful for me to watch during these playoffs is that the intensity and the emotion have been so legitimate and absolutely authentic from all of these teams. But nobody has shown all of that more than the Kansas City Royals. That's why it's going to be hard to take destiny from them."

Plus the Royals know how to win. The Giants may have won two World Series titles recently, but they don't have destiny and they don't know how to win.

Not hard . . . impossible.

Well, if these Royals really are those Mets.

Even if the Royals win the World Series, they aren't the 1969 Mets. Stop comparing the Royals to historic teams out of pure laziness because you don't know how to analyze and explain a team's success. Crazy things happen in the playoffs and the Royals were six outs away from losing the Wild Card game, so maybe they aren't a team of destiny nor do they "know how to win." Maybe they are just on a hot streak. I know, I know, there has to be a running thread of commonality because sportswriters can't accept the randomness of the universe.

Sean Gregory of "Time" has decided that the Kansas City Royals are the future of baseball. Well then. At least he isn't overreacting to their World Series run or anything by mistaking one team's success during a given season as an example of a larger trend. Obviously the Royals can't just be successful this season. It has to mean something larger than just that.

Sure, the Kansas City Royals are an intriguing tale for the typical rags-to-riches reasons. A team that hasn’t made a post-season appearance in 29 years becomes the first team in baseball history to win its first eight games in the playoffs.

Sure, this would ordinarily be enough to gain the public's attention and allow them to enjoy the Royals' run to the World Series. But it's not enough for Sean Gregory. There has to be more. More! What do these eight games mean in the larger context of the direction baseball is moving? Nothing? Unacceptable, these eight games have to mean something.

But the Royals are more than just an enchanting small-market success story. They represent the changing game of baseball.

Of course they do. Sure, they were six outs away from losing the Wild Card game and baseball would forever be unchanged by the Royals and the narrative might go "Home runs are back!" if the Orioles managed to make the World Series. But that didn't happen, so obviously the Royals are changing the game of baseball. It's the only way to explain their success this season, while also blatantly ignoring that if the A's put the Royals away in the Wild Card game then the game of baseball would forever be unchanged. It's a thin line between a revolution and no revolution. It's almost like Sean Gregory is creating stories where there isn't one.

In the post-steroid era, the game is going through a remarkable transition. Power is out. Pitching, speed and defense are in.

Other MLB teams have won the World Series with good defense and great pitching. But yeah, this is the first season a team could win games by pitching really well and turning opponents batted balls into outs. Very astute.

Teams scored 4.07 runs per game during the 2014 regular season, according to stats site Baseball-Reference.com–the lowest total in 33 years. Runs-per-game are down 15% since 2007, and off 21% from their steroid-era high of 5.14 in 2000. Players are striking out 7.7 times per game, an all-time record, breaking the prior high of 7.55 set last season. In fact, in each of the past seven seasons, baseball set a new all-time high for strikeouts per game.

Three of the top 15 teams in the majors in strikeouts made the playoffs. Obviously striking out isn't a good thing and I don't think any hitting coach would advocate striking out. Striking out isn't the death-knell for scoring runs that Sean Gregory seems to believe it is though.

Enter the Royals. The Royals had the fewest home runs in the majors this past season, with 95.

The Royals were last in strikeouts and also last in walks. So they didn't strikeout, but they didn't walk either. They were ready to hit. 8 of the 10 playoff teams were in the Top 18 in home runs this year. The only teams that weren't were the Cardinals and the Royals. So I'm entirely sure not hitting home runs is a trend that is going to be repeated by successful teams.

But no team had more stolen bases,

True, but what's interesting is the teams that round up the Top 10 in stolen bases include the Dodgers, Reds, Astros, Yankees, Phillies, Tigers, Rangers, Indians, and Pirates. The majority of those teams didn't make the playoffs. Again, I won't say stolen bases aren't important, but Sean Gregory is looking for trends that don't exist. He's seeing the Royals didn't hit home runs and stole bases and figures that's what is important in baseball now. It may not be true. The Giants were 29th in the majors in stolen bases and the Cardinals were 28th. Baltimore was 30th. So of the four teams in the ALCS and NLCS, the Royals were a clear outlier in terms of stealing bases.

Sean Gregory is cherry-picking the information he chooses to present in an effort to create a narrative about how baseball has totally changed. He's reverse-engineering the Royals' success into a greater narrative. Rather than seeing the Royals as a team that took a certain strategy to the World Series, he is ignoring how other MLB teams succeeded during the season and points to the Royals' strategy as the new trend in baseball. The Giants didn't steal bases and were middle-of-the-pack in home runs, strikeouts and walks. Maybe the new way to win in the majors is to not steal bases and be middle-of-the-pack in most offensive categories.

The last big-league club to reach the World Series while finishing last in home runs, but first in swipes, was the 1987 St. Louis Cardinals. Those Cardinals teams of the 1980s played an exciting brand of “small-ball” throughout the decade: the ’82 Cards finished second in steals, and last in home runs, and won it all

But obviously it's a huge, new trend and not just an example of a team making it to the World Series without hitting a lot of home runs, while stealing a lot of bases.

For the Royals, that speed pays off in the field too. According to FanGraphs.com, Kansas City players collectively finished with the highest Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) – an advanced metric that measures defensive value – in the majors.

Oh sure, people embrace advanced statistics like UZR when it goes to help prove the furthering of silly narratives.

Kansas City’s outfield, with three-time Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon in left, Lorenzo Cain in center, and defensive replacement Jarrod Dyson shoring up center field in the late innings (Cain then usually moves to right), have baseball analysts raving. “Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here,” wrote Sam Miller of Baseball Propectus. “We’re not just talking about a good outfield, or a great outfield. We’re talking about what one might decide to argue is the greatest defensive outfield of all time.”

This is part of the new formula for winning a World Series. Just put together one of the best defensive outfields of all time! Then find players who can run fast, don't strike out, and get on-base. Who would have thought this could work?

The Royals have found a winning formula. These days, if you swing for the fences, you’re more likely than ever to strike out.

Is this a factual statement? Is there really a correlation between striking out, swinging for home runs and then not scoring runs (which is what Sean Gregory is talking about...you can't score if you strike out)? Here are the top 10 teams in home runs for 2014 (number of homers in parenthesis) and their ranking in strikeouts, then their ranking in runs scored:

1. Baltimore (211)- 11th, 8th
2. Colorado (186)- 12th, 3rd
3. Toronto (177)- 24th, 5th
4. Houston (163)- 2nd, 21st
5. Chicago Cubs (157)- 1st, 26th
6. Pittsburgh (156)- 18th, 10th
7. LA Angels (155)- 13th, 1st
8. Chicago White Sox (155)- 5th, 13th
9. Detroit (155)- 25th, 2nd,
10. Washington (152)- 9th, 9th

So of the MLB teams in the Top 10 in home runs, four of these teams are in the Top 10 in strikeouts, while seven of these teams are in the Top 10 in runs scored. In fact, of the Top 10 teams in home runs, only two of these teams are ranked below 13th in the majors in run scored. So hitting home runs is a great way to score runs and while teams who strike out a lot may tend to strike out more, it doesn't mean those teams are scoring fewer runs. Basically, the home run isn't dead and there's not definitively a new way to play baseball.

So just put the ball in play – Royals hitters have both the lowest strikeout rate in the majors, and the lowest walk rate – and take your chances with your legs. Steal bases to eke out those diminishing runs.

Right, this is how they win games. It doesn't mean that's the "new" way to win games or this is how every team will win games. It's simply how the Royals do it. Plus, like Tracy Ringolsby says, the Royals just know how to win games. That has to be factored in too.

Since today’s pitchers are better keeping balls in the park, if your opponent does make contact, make sure you have players who turn these balls into outs. (Like third baseman Mike Moustakas diving into the stands).

That's a great idea, but the key is to find players who can turn these balls into outs while also hitting the baseball well and helping the team score runs. This isn't a new thing. MLB teams have always looked for good defensive players who can also hit. It's called "finding good baseball players" and MLB teams try to find them every single year in the draft, free agency or through trade. 

Let the big-market New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels overpay for aging sluggers who will inevitably depreciate at the back-end of their ludicrous contracts (Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols).

Apparently Sean Gregory thinks not overpaying for declining players is the new inefficiency. Again, this isn't new.

Small-ball is cheap, and effective.

This year it is cheap and effective. Next year, the new hot trend in baseball may be something completely different. It's not especially smart to take the success of the Royals and believe it has started a new trend in baseball. If the Royals had lost in the Wild Card game then how effective and cheap would small-ball be then?

This is where the game is heading. The Royals just do it best.

This is where the game is heading, but just ignore how the other playoff teams scored runs and won games this year. It's stupid to think there is one way to win baseball games and the Royals winning with small-ball is the start of a larger trend. It's just a desperate attempt to explain the unexplainable and create a narrative on the back of the Royals' success. By the way, the Red Sox were 8th in the majors in strikeouts last season and 6th in home runs. Why wasn't the game of baseball headed towards teams who strikeout a lot and hit a lot of home runs having the most success after the Red Sox won the World Series last year?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

7 comments Fresh Off Listing the Super Bowl Contenders After Week 5, Gregg Easterbrook States Some NFL Teams Won't Make the Playoffs After Week 7

Two weeks ago, Gregg Easterbrook tried to determine which teams will represent the AFC and NFC in the Super Bowl next year. Seattle was one of those teams he thought was a contender to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Two weeks later, Gregg writes that the Seahawks' chances of repeating as Super Bowl champs are minuscule. Well, they didn't last long as contenders did they? Of course, with the NFL season still only seven weeks old it's still too early to say which teams will or won't be in the Super Bowl. But again, Gregg doesn't care if it's too early to pronounce the Seahawks as not having a good chance to repeat as Super Bowl champs. He has nothing else to write about, so he makes do by having a knee-jerk reaction to the Seahawks losing two games in a row only two weeks after making knee-jerk reactions to the first five weeks of the NFL season.

And yes, as I predicted in MMQB (and no, I didn't read TMQ until after I posted MMQB), Gregg Easterbrook does say the Percy Harvin deal to the Jets is more proof mega-trades do not work. No word on whether the Vikings feel the same way about the trade that got rid of Harvin for three draft choices.

Suppose you knew nothing about NFL teams except their records and that Week 7 just concluded. Who should be counted out, and who counted in?

Trick question. No team should be counted out and no team should be counted in because it's Week 7.

Examination of season results since the 12-team playoff format was instituted in 1990 finds these things: A team with a below-.500 record after Week 7 has only an 8 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. Teams that are undefeated at this juncture stand a 93 percent chance of appearing in the postseason. Teams with one loss are 88 percent likely to make the playoffs. Teams with two losses have a 67 percent chance of a postseason invitation card.

What do these numbers, compiled with assistance from Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN's Stats & Information, suggest?

They suggest that NFL teams should try to win as many games as possible. It's a revolutionary line of thought.

Second, there's no undefeated team this season, so that magical-sounding 93 percent postseason likelihood goes unclaimed this season. More's the pity, since an undefeated team after Week 7 has a 28 percent chance of a Super Bowl win.

The one-loss club has a very favorable 29 percent chance of reaching the Super Bowl. But supporters of these clubs should not get too excited about hoisting the Lombardi. Only 7 percent of teams with a single loss after Week 7 have gone on to win the Super Bowl.

Fourth, Baltimore, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England and San Diego all are looking good. Two defeats means 67 percent chance of reaching the playoffs and a 6 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.

Gregg manages to not only mislead his audience from time-to-time, but he frames things in a manner which only goes to serve him and his intentions. So teams with one loss shouldn't get excited because only 7% of these teams with one loss after Week 7 have gone on to win the Super Bowl. But teams with two defeats are "looking good" because that means they have a 6% chance of winning the Super Bowl! In Gregg's world, a 7% chance of something isn't as good as a 6% chance of something. Gregg thinks if there is a 7% chance of rain you better bring an umbrella with you, while if there is a 6% chance of rain then there's no need for an umbrella.

It's all in what Gregg wants to prove. He frames his argument based entirely on the point he wants to make in an effort to confuse his audience into believing what he has to say is correct.

As for the defending champion Seahawks, at 3-3 after Week 7, they hold only a 38 percent chance of reaching the playoffs this season and just a 1 percent chance of repeating as champions.

Miniscule! These odds are miniscule! Of course, the odds increase every single week the Seahawks win another football game and they have played a pretty tough schedule so far this year. Consideration of things like this are not a part of Gregg's analysis though.

Seven of 17 weeks played might not sound like much, but history suggests many dies are already cast. Julius Caesar said "the die is cast" when he ordered his army across the Rubicon River in 49 B.C. The Roman civil war still had to take place, but Caesar felt he knew what would happen.

Great analogy, Gregg. 7 of 17 weeks being played is exactly like Caesar's army crossing the Rubicon River almost 2100 years ago. Exactly the same.

Ten more NFL weeks are to be played, but there's a pretty good chance we already know most of the answers as to whom to count in and whom to count out.

Is there? Is this a factual statement? Quoting Caesar and referencing a civil war from almost 2100 years ago isn't proof that "the die is cast" after Week 7 of the NFL season. The Kansas City Chiefs were undefeated last year at this time and Dallas was leading the NFC East. Things can change.

Did any sportscaster or sportswriter mention Florida State's atrocious 58 percent football graduation rate? In the larger scheme of things, that matters far more than whether Winston was paid to sign autographs. The trivial issue got extensive attention; the educational issue was ignored.

The sportscasters are calling a football game. They are not going to discuss a school's graduation rate. That's just how it is. One wouldn't expect the sportscasters to discuss the graduation rate since they are covering a football game. The reason the trivial issue got extensive attention is because it could potentially affect Winston's eligibility to play in the football game the sportscasters are being paid to cover.

There is no academic greatness in the Florida State football program -- not even mediocrity. Students as a whole at Florida State graduate at a 75 percent rate. The football players get special tutoring, up to five years to complete their credits and don't pay tuition. For students as a whole, running out of money is the primary barrier to graduation.

Is running out of money the primary barrier to graduation? Does Gregg have facts to support this contention? I will say from my perspective I don't find this to be true, unless he is counting students who simply can't afford a school and are forced to transfer. That's not "running out of money" but simply not making a sound financial decision to choose to attend a school he/she can't afford. If Gregg didn't have a history of lying or making up opinions he perceives as facts then I suppose I could trust his making this statement as being the truth. Unfortunately, Gregg enjoys lying, so I'm not sure he isn't just spouting information that isn't factual in order to make his point seem factual.

Even adjusting for the handful who depart early for the NFL, the Seminoles' football graduation rate ought to embarrass alums, boosters and the school's board of trustees. "Academic greatness" -- what hogwash.

As I am prone to asking, would these students be attending college at all if they didn't get this scholarship? Not that it excuses the FSU graduation rate, but it's an important question to ask and consider when having this discussion. Naturally, Gregg doesn't consider this question. Too much gray (grey?) area in there for him.

Stats Of The Week No. 1: Russell Wilson became the first person in NFL annals to throw for at least 300 yards and rush for at least 100 yards in the same game -- and the Seahawks lost.

It's almost like football is a team game. But that couldn't be true, could it?

Sweet Plays Of The Week: The Rams leading the defending champion Seahawks 14-3, Seattle lined up to punt. Scouts know Seattle punter Jon Ryan usually booms to the left or right sideline.

Which honestly, is what a lot of punters try to do since that narrows the field for the opposing punt returner to field the kick and run with the football. Anyway, carry on...

Running downfield with their backs to the ball, Seattle coverage guys watch the reactions of the receiving team to determine where the kick is going.

Which is a much better option than not running down the field and stopping to see the football in the air and try to determine which way the kick is going. Usually NFL special teams squads prefer to actually run and cover the return rather than pause and look to the sky for a moment or two.

Les Mouflons lined up Tavon Austin as the return man at the center of the field and Stedman Bailey to jam a gunner on the punter's left. As the punt boomed, Austin ran toward the right sideline, looking up into the air as if the punt were traveling that way. Austin's blockers came with him. This caused the Seattle coverage team to head toward Austin, who looked up, up -- but there was nothing there because the punt was headed to the opposite sideline.

What a great play by this highly-drafted glory boy! I'm surprised Gregg failed to mention that this first round pick made a great play to deceive the Seahawks kicking unit, especially since in August Gregg was criticizing the Rams (and Austin) for having first round picks on the roster who haven't made a positive impact on the team. Well, I'm not actually surprised of course. It's just sad that Gregg still gets to write TMQ and leave out information when he feels it's convenient to leave this information out.

Now St. Louis lead 28-26 and faced fourth-and-3 at its own 18 with three minutes remaining. Punting was the "safe" tactic, though it would give the Seattle offense, which had come alive in the fourth quarter, three minutes to reach position for the winning field goal. 

St. Louis faced basically the same situation New England faced five years ago when Bill Belichick went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Patriots' 28 at Indianapolis, in the endgame with the Colts' offense hot. Belichick's decision to go for it was correct, the play just failed. Jeff Fisher made the same calculation and the play worked, leaving the defending champions reeling at 3-3.

It wasn't really the "same calculation" since there was no indication that Bill Belichick was considering either a fake punt or going for it on fourth down. It seems Belichick considered punting the football or going for it on fourth down. Jeff Fisher clearly thought about a fake punt attempt, which I don't think is anything that was on the table for Belichick five years ago. So it's the same situation, but I think the coaches didn't make the same calculation.

Sweet Record-Tying Play: Peyton Manning's 509th touchdown pass, to Demaryius Thomas, set the NFL career record and sent Thunder the steed, ridden by Ann Judge-Wegener, cantering across the field at Denver.

I think Gregg means #1 overall pick Peyton Manning threw his 509th touchdown pass, to Demaryius Thomas, who is also a highly-drafted glory boy. Well, Gregg doesn't mean that, but if Thomas and Manning weren't first round picks and were undrafted or lowly drafted players then I know Gregg would have immediately brought this fact up.

The Saints' defense was torched again, unable to hold a 23-10 lead with the Lions facing third-and-14 deep in their own territory with just under four minutes remaining. When Detroit's Golden Tate outjumped New Orleans corner Corey White for a catch and then started up the sideline, White barely bothered to jog after him, making no attempt to run him down.

Those 5th round picks are always so lazy. If only they exerted as much effort as 2nd round picks like Golden Tate exert on a given play.

Now New Orleans leads 23-17 and has the Lions facing fourth-and-5 near the two-minute warning. Incompletion, but Saints safety Rafael Bush is called for holding -- automatic first down, and Detroit wins points three snaps later.

You mean undrafted, hard-working Rafael Bush? Sorry, I will stop now...probably not, but I will try to stop. I'll see how it goes. It's too much fun to point out when Gregg calls out a lowly-drafted player but doesn't mention the player's draft status. He loves to point out a player is lowly-drafted when he makes a good play during a game.

The Saints have invested heavily in the past two offseasons in defensive backs -- first-round choice Kenny Vaccaro, mega-contract for free agent Jairus Byrd. Yet their pass defense is bottom-quartile, and the Saints have just four takeaways despite playing a gambling style.

Jairus Boyd is out for the season, by the way. So he really hasn't had a ton to do with the Saints defense playing poorly over the past couple of games. I'm sure Gregg isn't aware of this.

Minnesota leading 16-10, the Vikes had the Bills facing fourth-and-20 with 1:27 remaining. Minnesota seemed surprised when the Bills, holding time outs, didn't call one and rather ran to the line to quick-snap, 24-yard pass, first down. Some incompletions and penalties later, the Bills faced second-and-20 on the Minnesota 30 with 25 seconds remaining, now out of timeouts. Twenty-eight-yard completion to the undrafted Chris Hogan,

See? All of a sudden draft status is something very important that Gregg must mention when an undrafted player does something good.

spike, then winning touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins with one tick remaining.

I think Gregg means the winning touchdown pass to highly-drafted, acquired in a mega-trade Sammy Watkins. Right? Oh wait, if Gregg acknowledged both of these little facts then the reality that highly-drafted players aren't useless and mega-trades sometimes do work would be known to his readers. It's more important for Gregg to leave out pertinent facts in order to mislead his readers into believing his point of view and assertions are correct.

As cool weather arrives and leaves begin to fall, cheer-babe professionalism becomes a factor.
 
Professionalism in this context means skin or at least skin-tight; scantily attired cheerleaders propitiate the football gods.

Kickoff temperature in Maryland was 55 degrees with a gusty breeze, and the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons cheerleaders came out in two-piece, bikini-beach numbers. This professionalism inspired the faltering Persons to a last-second win

This is still creepy, but mostly I enjoy how Gregg argues that NFL teams are exploiting cheerleaders by not paying them enough money (which is true). Gregg doesn't mind exploiting NFL cheerleaders with pictures in TMQ of them in their cheerleading outfits, while he argues the less clothing these cheerleaders wear the better the team they cheer for will perform.

Three Touchdowns in 73 Seconds, That's All? Pittsburgh roared back versus Houston by scoring three touchdowns in 73 seconds. That's pretty flashy but not unprecedented.

Consider Gregg unimpressed.

Now Pittsburgh has possession on the Houston 3. Wide receiver Antonio Brown takes a pitch running right. It looks like an end-around, an odd call at the goal line. But Brown -- a college walk-on who received no scholarship offers -- 

A 6th round pick did something good! Time to mention how he was "unwanted" coming out of high school.

Kickoff, Houston possession on its 20, trailing 17-13 with 1:03 before intermission. Pittsburgh is down to one timeout, so the Texans could kneel. But Houston has three timeouts, so trying to reach field goal range is a good tactic here. A Ryan Fitzpatrick pass is tipped, intercepted and returned to the Houston 2. The PA system should have struck up Fight Fiercely Harvard!

Okay, I can't stop. Gregg doesn't mention that Ryan Fitzpatrick was a 7th round pick, while only mentioning Fitzpatrick went to Harvard.

The Houston defense looks discombobulated coming back out onto the field. Presnap, Pittsburgh shifts tailback Le'Veon Bell far wide to the right, outside the wide receiver. There is only one Houston defensive back on that side -- a classic busted coverage. Call timeout! Call timeout! Houston does not call timeout, and Roethlisberger throws an uncontested lob to Bell.

What a heads-up pass and catch by these two highly-drafted players! Okay, I think I am done now with mentioning where players Gregg lauds are drafted. Well, I'm done until Gregg baits me into not being done again. 

So then Gregg goes on a rant about the potential of advanced civilizations outside of the planet Earth and writes things like,

Of course, it could be that other worlds don't wish to make contact; presumably an advanced civilization could disguise its existence. It could be there is no way around the light-speed barrier, rendering interstellar travel highly impractical. But that would not necessarily rule out one-way trips in suspended animation. One-way ships traveling below the speed of light could colonize vast regions of the Milky Way in a few million years, which is a lot of time to us but not much to the cosmos. 

It could be that once civilizations become technological, they rapidly destroy themselves. It could be -- this your columnist finds most tantalizing -- that the technological phase of civilizations (building rockets and telescopes) is very brief compared to the evolutionary phase, then is followed by a beyond-technology phase in which physical structures mean little. In that case, even if there's a lot of life in the Milky Way, the odds would be against two relatively nearby planets both being in the technological phase at the same moment.

So Gregg is speculating about two different civilizations on relatively nearby planets both being in the same technological phase at the same moment. He is also speculating whether advanced civilizations are making one-way trips in suspended animation. But of course he is outraged when a television show like "Revolution" dare to not accurately portray the result of a world-wide power outage or when "24" doesn't accurately show the flow of traffic in London. That's totally unacceptable and Gregg expects these television shows to deal in reality, but he's perfectly okay with a long-winded discussion about whether advanced civilizations (that may not exist and there is no proof of their existence) outside of planet Earth would be in the same technological phase at the same moment. That's dealing in the same facts that "24" dare not touch in their portrayal of London traffic.

The new book "Our Mathematical Universe," by MIT physicist Max Tegmark, supposes that as humanity begins to explore nearby star systems, we should hope to find only lifeless worlds. Why? If we don't find any sign of other life, Tegmark supposes, that could mean we are not fated to destroy ourselves -- others didn't destroy themselves because there weren't any others. By contrast, finding the radioactive ruins of once-great civilizations would be a depressing message about the human prospect.

Or it could mean we are still fated to destroy ourselves and there's just not another civilization we have found that proves this to be true.

HMS Pinafore Comes To Baseball The World Series throws out the first ball tonight, creating a moment to mention that pro baseball clubs are becoming as overstaffed as pro football organizations. Excluding sales, marketing, clerical and stadium operations staff, the Houston Astros have a chairman, a president, five senior vice presidents, six vice presidents, a general manager, an assistant general manager, many managers, five special assistants, four senior directors (including a senior director of risk management), 21 directors (including a director of decision sciences), two assistant directors, 21 coordinators, eight coaches, five specialists, a senior technical architect, a head athletic trainer, an assistant athletic trainer, three administrators, three team physicians, a team chiropractor and a massage therapist.

WHY WON'T THE ANNOUNCERS TALK ABOUT THIS? THEY WILL TALK ABOUT THE GAME, BUT JOE BUCK WON'T MENTION ONCE HOW OVERSTAFFED MLB FRONT OFFICES HAVE BECOME!

R-E-L-A-X: Green Bay started the season sputtering but now has scored on 25 of 27 red zone trips. Early against Carolina, the Packers had first-and-10 on their 41. Aaron Rodgers play faked, Panthers corner Antoine Cason bit on a stutter-go, Jordy Nelson made the catch and faked Roman Harper out of his athletic socks on the way to a 59-yard touchdown. The Carolina defense seemed unconcerned with Nelson, though he entered the contest as the league's No. 1 receiver.

Yes, the Panthers were definitely unconcerned with Nelson. It's not that they couldn't cover him or they were worried about Randall Cobb on the other side of the field or Eddie Lacy running the football so they couldn't dedicate their entire defense to covering one receiver, but they just didn't give a shit about Jordan Nelson. Absolutely. That's a reasonable explanation, as opposed to simply saying the Panthers lacked the talent to cover Nelson.

The Panthers are on the cusp of a lost season. Their defense, second-ranked in 2013, has plummeted to 26.

Fortunately in this "lost season" Carolina plays in a lost division. They are in first place of the NFC South by 1.5 games at this point. "Outrun your friends, not the bear" is the team's 2014 motto.

This new academic study, first reported by "Outside the Lines," finds there is only one chance in seven that a college football player will tell a coach or trainer that he feels concussion symptoms. 

Oh, what a shocking turn of events. You mean athletes will lie about having not having concussion symptoms in order to stay in the game? This is completely new information to me.

The startup Brain Sentry has engineered a simple, cost-effective tool that seems likely to reduce neurological harm from football. Players wear an accelerometer on the outside of the helmet. If the player registers a high-force head impact, the accelerometer begins to flash. Officials signal the player out of the game to be evaluated for concussion symptoms.

I think "cost-effective" is a relative term. Each accelerometer costs $75 each. That's not terribly expensive, but if school systems had to pay for 60 kids on the football team to each get one, that comes to $4,500 for each high school team. Then every high school team in the school district will need these accelerometer on their helmet. It starts to get more expensive then. That's assuming the accelerometer is only put on helmets that students use during the game and not every backup helmet a school may have in storage. It seems the accelerometer can be peeled off and placed on the back of the helmet, but I'm not sure if one can be pulled off one helmet and placed on another helmet. So the cost is approximately $4,500 for 60 kids, or even more than that, depending on whether the accelerometer can be removed from one helmet and placed on another.

This idea is attractive because it's simple and affordable. More complex systems exist, ones that send telemetry to data devices that alert sideline physicians. But there must be a sideline physician, and most high schools don't have one. So are high schools lining up to get Brain Sentry? No, they are shunning it.

If Gregg read that article, then he could see school systems aren't entirely convinced the helmet won't register a false positive or miss a concussion-level impact based on how the high school athlete was hit. Plus, and I think this is a good point, if teams see a player on the opposing team has suffered a few tough hits (which show on the accelerometer) then it could lead to that team trying to hit the player harder in order to get him out of the game. It sounds silly, but crazy shit happens like this. I think it's a great idea to have the accelerometer on a helmet, but Gregg pretends there aren't issues surrounding this product when there are. 

Many high school administrative organizations seem to believe -- wrongly, in the view of legal experts this column has consulted -- that if coaches are aware of concussion symptoms, the school district becomes liable for any harm that later occurs. But if they are blissfully ignorant, they are not liable. Needless to say in this scenario, avoiding litigation cost is more important than protecting health.

Yes, avoiding litigation cost is pretty important since we live in a litigious society and if a coach sends a player out on the field after registering a "19" on the helmet and that high school player suffers from concussion symptoms later, then the school district could face a lawsuit. I'm not saying protecting health isn't important, but parents know the risks of sending their child out to play football, yet that won't stop lawsuits from being filed and school systems don't have the funds (as Gregg has pointed out repeatedly when discussing why he thinks school systems may start to get rid of football programs) to pay for lawsuits.

I'm not playing devil's advocate or thinking high school football coaches should ignore concussion symptoms. It's simply that buying a large amount of these accelerometers and opening up the school system to litigation costs, no matter what experts Gregg has consulted, brings issues into this discussion that Gregg blissfully wants to just push aside. This is the United States, people will sue for anything.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard, hoping to "challenge the belief among all too many of our children that the dream to aim for is a sports scholarship or [be] drafted by a professional basketball or football team," shows that African Americans are more likely to be physicians or lawyers than to be engaged in pro sports. Gates finds that in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, "There were more black neurologists (411) and black cardiologists (690) by far than all of the black men playing in the NBA (350)."

I don't even know where to begin with this. First off, there are only 30 NBA teams, so the amount of black men playing in the NBA is limited in that aspect. There are only so many spots available on the 30 NBA teams. Second, one would expect there to be more black neurologists or black cardiologists because playing in the NBA requires a skill set (height, athleticism, years of dedicated hard work to perfecting the craft) that removes some candidates for the NBA from participating. A 5'8" black kid who decides he wants to play in the NBA during his freshman year of college won't make it, while a 5'8" black kid who decides he wants to be a cardiologist during his freshman year of college still has time to pursue that option. The barriers of entry to becoming an NBA player are greater than the barriers of entry to becoming a neurologist or cardiologist.

Denver leading 14-0 in a game when the Broncos were all but certain to score more, Santa Clara faced fourth-and-goal from the Denver 4. Harbaugh/West did the "safe" thing and sent in the field goal unit. The 49ers went on to lose 42-17.

The fact Harbaugh did the safe thing aside, would a touchdown in this situation have made up 25 points? Or does Gregg believe if the 49ers had scored a touchdown in this situation then the 49ers team (and defense) would have been so inspired they would have prevented Peyton Manning and the Broncos from scoring 42 points in the game? Otherwise, Gregg's attempt to tie this fourth down call with the outcome of the game is a fallacy.

Five of the past eight persons elected to the White House had been governors. Presidential voters favor governors -- senators talk, talk, talk while governors actually run things. 

Gregg writes this statement in TMQ and yet he has complained about governors like Chris Christie who travel across the country and the world on the taxpayers dime. It's always hilarious to read idiotic statements like this from Gregg. One week he will point out how governors and senators are stealing taxpayer money by campaigning for office while still in another office, then next week he states that "senators talk, talk, talk, while governors actually run things." Okay, then.

The most recent Democratic presidential candidate who was a white male, liberal, former governor was Bill Clinton, and voters simply could not get enough of him.

The most recent Republican candidate who was a white mail, conservative, former governor was Mitt Romney. Before that, it was George W. Bush. It seems voters didn't always like them as much through the years. Maybe it's just Democrats who Gregg believes like governor Presidential candidates. That sounds like something idiotic he would believe.

O'Malley devoted much of his time in recent years to gallivanting around the county to promote himself, ignoring his home-state duties. This fall, he has been campaigning in Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire and North Carolina at taxpayer expense while blithely disregarding his job. That O'Malley is out of state so much promoting himself might be a reason three big projects under his administration -- an offshore wind farm and trolley lines in Baltimore and Maryland's near-D.C. suburbs -- are years behind schedule and ridiculously over budget.

So many questions about this apparent contradiction. So Presidential voters wouldn't favor the guy who Gregg believes is a dark-horse Presidential candidate? Or is Gregg trying to have it both ways? He wants to present O'Malley as a dark-horse Presidential candidate while stating it may not happen. Also, I thought "governors actually run things"? It sounds like this governor is gallivanting around the United States and only doing "talk, talk, talk." It's almost like the blanket statements Gregg makes are not factually correct all the time.

It seems unlikely O'Malley could have run both Baltimore and the Maryland statehouse without skeletons in his closet.

Gregg thinks O'Malley might get the Democratic nomination unless he doesn't get the Democratic nomination.

Seattle gave first-, third- and seventh-round draft selections to obtain Percy Harvin, had him for less than two seasons, then dealt him to the Jets for a conditional draft choice likely to be in the later rounds. At least they got their damage deposit back!

I figured Gregg would write something like this in response to the Harvin trade.

When the Seahawks made the trade, your columnist opined Harvin "has never had a thousand-yard receiving season ... and complains nonstop." I proposed that wide receiver Cecil Shorts from Division III Mount Union is "a better player than Harvin."

That is the same TMQ where Gregg celebrated the everyman quality of Eric Fisher, who has turned out to be a disappointment as the #1 overall pick. Naturally, Gregg won't be talking about his past predictions that are incorrect.

What's happened since those words were written? Harvin ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in the Super Bowl; including playoffs, he gained a total of 242 yards from scrimmage for Seattle. In the same period, Shorts gained 952 yards from scrimmage for Jacksonville.

Gregg cherry-picks some data here. Not including rushing yardage, which would put Harvin ahead of Shorts, these two players have similar statistics for the 2014 season. I won't defend Harvin, but I feel like this needs to be pointed out.

Raiders Nation is sick of being reminded of all the high draft choices Oakland has blown in recent years or trades for gents long gone. Now here's something else to cause Raiders fans to rend their garments and gnash their teeth. Division-leading Arizona's starting left tackle, Jared Veldheer, was drafted high by Oakland, then let go. One of Arizona's starting linebackers, Matt Shaughnessy (currently on short-term IR), was drafted high by Oakland, then let go. Both are better than players Oakland now fields at their positions.

It's really fun to me the lengths that Gregg will go to conceal the truth and mislead his audience. He states "both are better than players Oakland now fields at their positions" using vague terms. Why did he do that? Because Donald Penn is the Raiders left tackle and earlier this year Gregg criticized the Buccaneers for letting Penn go. Gregg stated,

New head coach Lovie Smith cut Pro Bowl tackle Donald Penn without even discussing the situation with him. Penn didn't play particularly well in 2013, but no one on the Buccaneers played particularly well. Going into the past season, a scout might have said Tampa's best players were Darrelle Revis, Josh Freeman, Carl Nicks, Mike Williams and Penn. When Smith arrived, all were unceremoniously shown the door -- four waived, one traded for a late-round draft choice.

See, Gregg doesn't want his readers to know that Veldheer is better than Donald Penn for two reasons. One, Penn was undrafted, and two, earlier in August Gregg criticized the Buccaneers for getting rid of Penn in the offseason by saying he was one of the Buccaneers best players. Gregg wants to mislead his readers into believing the Raiders just have some bum at left tackle, not a player that Gregg has previously stated should not have been released by the Buccaneers due to him being one of the team's best players. Mislead at all costs. Ego comes first. Gregg's readers can't know he is full of shit and misleads them. Therefore, Gregg talks vaguely about the "players Oakland now fields at their positions" in an effort to pretend one of them isn't a player Gregg once thought highly of.

City of Tampa is last in pass defense. Sure is lucky they waived Darrelle Revis!

Gregg will never understand the financial aspect of a team cutting a player. He hates highly-paid glory boys who are all about themselves (Revis has held out twice in his career), unless he decides he doesn't hate these players when it suddenly becomes convenient to do so.

Americans say they despise Washington, D.C., yet can't seem to get enough of primetime shows that glamorize the capital: "West Wing," "First Monday," "Scandal," "Commander in Chief," "House of Cards" among them.

I'm not sure some of these shows glamorize the capital at all. Of course, I would doubt that Gregg has seen these shows and he is probably just assuming they glorify the capital. Assumptions come before knowledge.

Then Gregg gives examples of fictional television pilots that would be true-to-life. Unfortunately, Gregg is trying to be funny and it doesn't work. I will spare you most of the details of reading these pitches for fictional pilots because I don't hate you as much as I hate myself. Here's an example though:

"In My Pajamas." Once, opinion-maker political columnists were WASP males who jotted down rumors at martini lunches. Now political opinions are made by bloggers in pajamas. In the pilot, a sexy, glamorous, political blogger must do investigative journalism about a White House scandal (that is, must surf the Web) while Snapchatting at a Starbucks with this hot guy from her Pilates class. Then -- the Wi-Fi goes down!

Hilarious.

Touts have been wondering if former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley can turn the Jaguars into Seattle South. Sunday, this seemed possible. The opponent was only the Browns, but Jacksonville held them to six points and 3.6 yards per offensive snap, well below the league average. Cleveland reaching first-and-goal on the Jacksonville 4, the Browns went run stuffed, incompletion, incompletion, field goal. Cleveland reaching second-and-2 on the Jacksonville 25, the Browns went short rush, run stuffed, incompletion. The outcome of this contest did not matter to the standings. But if Bradley's team does evolve into Seattle South, touts might look back on this as the turning point.

Or touts might not look back on this as the turning point. Stay tuned and in a few years Gregg will tell you which is the correct answer. The Jaguars may or may not have had a turning point this past weekend.

'Tis Better To Have Rushed And Lost Than Never To Have Rushed At All: Scoring to pull within 27-25 at New England, the Jets lined up for a deuce try just before the two-minute warning. Jersey/B had come into the contest last-ranked in passing offense but running the ball well. It need 2 yards. To this juncture in the game, the Jets had 218 yards rushing, with a 5.1 yards per carry average. That cannot be an empty backfield set! Incompletion far beyond the receiver's hands, and the hosts hold on to prevail.

While I do agree running the ball may have been a better option, this is a great example of how Gregg misunderstands situational running and how the down and distance has an impact on whether a team can get two yards or not. Simply because the Jets were averaging 5.1 yards per carry on the game doesn't mean they would convert the two-point conversion in this situation.

Sportsmanship Watch: Division III John Carroll University -- which plays at Don Shula Stadium, named for an alum -- has won its past two games by a combined 149-0. Which John Carroll graduates and boosters ought to feel embarrassed about! Leading Marietta 49-0 in the third quarter Saturday, John Carroll was still throwing; its next two touchdowns were on passes. TMQ's Law of Poor Sportsmanship holds: When a football team wins by more than 50 points, the victor, not the vanquished, should be embarrassed. 

Hey, remember that time Gregg followed the exploits of a high school football team that wouldn't punt during a game (which of course Gregg loved) and I showed examples of that team throwing late in the game? What ever happened to that? This is just my little reminder there is a downside to not punting in a game, which is that the score could be run up on a team's opponent.

Sour Play -- College Bonus: Game tied in the second quarter, Oklahoma had first down on its own 1-yard line. Coaches called a short out pattern -- the type of pass most vulnerable to interception against press coverage. Danzel McDaniel of Kansas State intercepted and ran it back just 5 yards for the touchdown. Oklahoma coaches were willing to make a super-risky call from their own 1 -- yet on the previous possession punted on fourth-and-inches.

Well, the Oklahoma coaches may not have known the defense was going to run press coverage. Or more likely, this isn't a super-risky play call if the quarterback doesn't throw the football to a receiver covered by an opponent in press coverage. A lot of play calls are super-risky if the quarterback insists on making a bad throw into tight coverage. A simple slant against a cornerback 8 yards off the receiver is a risky pass if the outside linebacker has dropped back into zone coverage. The play call can be risky, but the quarterback can also contribute to the risk with a bad decision to throw the football.

Next Week: Would a theme song help the Oakland Raiders?

Nothing, outside of Gregg Easterbrook displaying more honesty and being less willing to mislead his readers, could help TMQ. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3 comments MMQB Review: Peyton Manning Breaking Records, Taking Pictures, Getting Asked Leading Questions by Peter Edition

Peter King marveled at the greatness of Aaron Rodgers in last week's MMQB, as well as complimented the Starbucks corporation for making great coffee. Peter discussed the Cowboys and how Jerry Jones thought he had put a good team together, but not good enough of a team that he didn't want to draft Johnny Manziel of course. This week Peter talks about Peyton Manning breaking the NFL touchdown pass record, discusses the Percy Harvin trade and how the Seahawks suck now (but doesn't brag about the Rams as much as I thought he might), why Drew Bledsoe leads the league in cuteness (but is still second to Russell Wilson in precociousness), and puts Drew Brees as his "Goat of the Week," for struggling on two drives when the blame could also be put on the Saints defense for giving up 14 points to the Lions in the fourth quarter. That's not how Peter works though. He mentions how the Carolina offense didn't do much in the first quarter against Green Bay, while failing to mention the Panthers were down 21-0 after the first quarter with zero turnovers committed. He's gotta put the blame where it really goes, which is always on a team's quarterback unless he wants the blame to go somewhere else.

In the Denver locker room Sunday night after his 246th NFL regular-season game, Peyton Manning asked, “Where’s Demaryius?”
 
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, someone said, was on his way out to the field to do an interview with NBC.
 
“We gotta get him back,” Manning said. “Get him back in here for a second.”

Thomas is doing an interview? Only Peyton Manning is allowed to be in front of a camera at all times! Peyton swears to God, if Demaryius starts doing commercials then he's not going to be re-signed after this season. He can go play with Eric Decker in New York. Why is Demaryius so vain that he has to constantly be on television, in commercials and doing interviews?

Someone went to intercept Thomas, and while he was being summoned, Manning found a blank piece of white paper in a notebook, wrote “509” on it with a black Sharpie and ripped the page out. He had a plan to commemorate setting the all-time touchdown-pass record with the 509th of his career, thrown in the second quarter to Thomas; Manning usually does have a plan. 

Now Thomas was back, and Manning posed with the ball, the piece of paper and the pass-catcher for the record-breaking touchdown pass. You know, like the old days. When Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in an NBA game in 1962, he wrote “100” on a piece of white paper and held it up for the cameras.

See, that's a common misconception. Wilt Chamberlain was actually holding up the number of women that he had slept with in the past week, not how many points he scored in the game where he scored 100 points.

We’ll have time for the rest of the news of Week 7—the Detroit Lions winning with defense, Seattle continuing its puzzling slide,

When you run into the buzz saw that is a Jeff Fisher-led team then an embarrassing loss should be expected.

but we open in the car with Peyton Manning, as he drove home after one of the great nights of his football life … and that is saying something.

That is saying something. It's bittersweet for Peter. He likes Peyton Manning a lot, like more than one human should like another human, but he loves Brett Favre a lot more. It's like watching one child beat another child in a tennis match. Peter now knows how Richard Williams feels watching his daughters battle it out in the finals of Wimbledon.

There is no logic for what we’re seeing now: Peyton Manning, 38, veteran of four neck surgeries just three years ago, breaking a hallowed NFL record for career touchdown passes, and doing it at the top of his game. How is that possible? I don’t know—it just is. We’re seeing it. Manning is playing better in Denver at 36, 37 and 38 than he did when he was supposed to be in his prime.

I know, it's crazy. Remember back in the late 90's and early 2000's when baseball players were doing absurd things and older baseball players seemed to only get better as they got older? Man, that was crazy! It's almost like those baseball players defied the odds and all sense of reason as to why they were getting better as they got older.

Peyton Manning obviously isn't using some sort of PED to become a better football player, but I like the dichotomy of a baseball player who gets better as he gets older probably being accused of using PED's, but it's just accepted that Manning is getting better as he gets older. I know Manning isn't using PED's, but the point is if you switch what Peter is saying about Manning and pretend he is saying it about a baseball player during the Steroid Era, it sounds familiar and omnious.

Then Peter compares Manning's numbers with the Colts and Broncos, which show that Manning is better with the Broncos in terms of the numbers he puts up per game.

It is obviously a much smaller sample, but the numbers are stark. He has a deeper roster of wideouts to work with (four first-rate ones in Denver versus two in Indianapolis) and, though he loved and trusted Dallas Clark, there’s no question a superstar tight end is growing in Denver in Julius Thomas. One thing Indy had over Denver, though—running back Edgerrin James. He was better than the cast Manning has had to work with on the Broncos.

Let's also admit the rule changes that have further protected the quarterback from injury and changes to the rules that have opened up the NFL to becoming more of a passing league. Defenders are barely allowed to fight for a pass or pass interference is called now and that wasn't true for the majority of the time Manning played with the Colts.

“I can’t … I don’t know, really,’’ he said. “But I will say, possibly, that when I started back after my neck surgeries, I started back with the basics. The absolute fundamentals. I worked with [Duke coach and former Manning college coach] David Cutcliffe, and we went back to ground zero with everything I did. So I think my fundamentals all got sharper, and that could be a reason why this is happening now. But I don’t know.”

Wow, you mean sort of like a baseball player who has a new swing and that's why he is hitting all of those home runs now? He broke down his swing in the offseason, made a few adjustments and now he is on pace to hit 40+ home runs when his previous career-high was 23.

It's a fun game! Manning isn't a cheater, he's a great quarterback, but there are so many fun parallels to what baseball players said during the Steroid Era when discussing Manning playing at a high level in his late 30's.

Did you see Colin Kaepernick, who was 10 when Manning was drafted, smile broadly when Manning passed Brett Favre for the record in the second quarter? And did you see Niners rookie pass-rusher Aaron Lynch, who was 5 when Manning was drafted, smile and tap Manning on the helmet with a way-to-go when he broke it?

No, I did not. I had seen enough blowouts for one day. There was no need to watch one team I don't care about blow out another team I don't care about.

Okay, I did see Manning break the record, but then turned the channel back to "The Walking Dead."

507: A three-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders, running a shallow cross just past the goal line, midway through the first quarter. Sanders used umpire Mark Pellis for a screen; the Niners cover guy, Dontae Johnson, ran into Pellis, fell down, and there was Sanders, wide open. “I didn’t know about that till I was looking at the pictures of the play back on the bench,” Manning said. “That’s not what the design was. We weren’t using the ref for a screen.”

Of course not, Peyton. You would never intentionally use the umpire as a screen. Ever. It just so happened a play was called where Sanders ran a shallow cross right across the area where the umpire was standing and the umpire was kind enough to help out Manning in a situation where he didn't need help.

Not to make another baseball parallel, but imagine the outrage if an umpire got in the way of a fielder during a rundown on the basepaths or prevented the catcher from making a tag because he was in the field of play and the catcher had to go around the umpire to get the baseball? The outrage would be insane. In football, it's just accepted the officials get in the way sometimes.

Thomas and the boys played keepaway with the ball, which looked so cute on TV—

Oh my God, I know! It was SO cute! It was precocious, cute, infantile but in a good way, and just showed how much fun these Broncos like to have! It was a super-dreamy and fun way to celebrate Manning's victory.

“Well, sort of,” said Manning. “We were playing around on Saturday, and they were doing it to me then, and of course I am the stiff and I can’t keep up, but I didn’t think in the game they would actually do it.

But did they do it? DID THEY PETER?
 
They did it.

Then Peter was all like, "So CUTE!"

“You haven’t wanted to talk about the individual part of this,” I said. “But you’re at the top of the mountain now. You’re such a student of history, that’s got to mean something to you, to have more touchdown passes than anyone else who’s ever played pro football. Right?”

Great question, Peter. And by "great question" I mean "that's not even close to a question and more is like an example of a question asked by Chris Farley on 'The Chris Farley Show' which should probably ashame you a little bit."

"So Peyton, we have talked about your football record you just set, but we haven't talked about YOU (twirls his hair). So this has to mean something to you because you are one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and no one else can claim they have the record because you worked so hard for it and I know it meant just SO MUCH to you to break this record. I mean, you are better than anyone else in NFL history at throwing touchdowns and that means a lot and is an example of what a great quarterback you are and probably one of the best quarterbacks in the world (twirls hair again). I mean, right?"

“This is the kind of record I’m only going to have temporarily,” he said, but I got the feeling he was trying to be a bit self-deprecating here.

Not sure this is self-deprecating there, Peter. Peyton isn't undervaluing his abilities, just acknowledging the changes in the game of football that would lead to another quarterback soon breaking the record like he broke the record soon after Favre held it. Dictionary fail.

“I just hope whoever breaks it years from now has an appreciation for history, and for quarterbacks.”

He probably won't have an appreciation for history and quarterbacks. Most likely it will be some asshole who doesn't even like quarterbacks.

The Lions are not held hostage by Calvin Johnson anymore.

That’s not a slap at Johnson, obviously one of the best players in football. But over the years, quarterback Matthew Stafford has become so dependent on Johnson, and the rest of the team so sure that Johnson would bail the Lions out of trouble, that the crutch has hurt the development of the franchise.

It helps that the Lions have invested in wide receivers alongside Johnson, and I say negative things about Jim Caldwell, but he's pretty good at coordinating an offense.

This year Johnson has been out for two games, and he has barely played in two others, because of a sprained ankle. Detroit is 3-1 in those four games, for three reasons: Stafford has found other weapons to use, the defense is really good, and the new coach, Jim Caldwell, doesn’t stand for any excuses.

Well that, and again, the Lions have invested heavily in giving Stafford offensive weapons. But like the Cowboys are better because it's a new Tony Romo, I'm sure the offense of the Lions plays well without Johnson simply because Caldwell doesn't like excuses.

The Lions have had a good front seven for the last couple of years. But a leaky secondary has killed them—

I know that feeling.

The Lions finished last season on a 1-6 run that cost Jim Schwartz his coaching job. In all six of those losses Detroit gave up the tying or winning points after the start of the fourth quarter. That has turned around this year. Detroit has the stingiest defense in football through seven weeks, the only team allowing less than 300 yards per game. On Sunday, Quin told his defensive mates down the stretch: “We’re the No. 1 defense. Play like it.” And they did, limiting Drew Brees to a stunning 2-for-10 on the last two fruitless Saint drives.

I'm not trying to take anything away from the Lions, but the teams they have played so far are ranked 15th, 11th, 17th, 19th, 6th, 14th, and 22nd. It's not like they have played offensive juggernauts quite yet. They have played nearly every middle-of-the-pack offensive team, so I still question whether they are a good defense or not.

But there’s a lot of respect for Caldwell in the building, from the people executive offices to the guys who clean the floors. And last week he took the beat writers out for a three-hour dinner, and non-football topics were not only suggested but encouraged. A three-hour dinner, in the middle of a game week, with the media. Land sakes alive, coach! Stop being so human!

There you go. Jim Caldwell knows how to play the game. Get in good with the media and they won't write bad things about you. They'll remember that steak dinner you purchased them and maybe ease off you a little bit. Also, this whole "He took beat writers out for dinner" story takes on a whole new meaning if the Lions are 2-5 and not 5-2. When/If things go bad, people are going to say, "Why is Caldwell wasting time going to dinner when he should be fixing his team?" Winning fixes everything.

Three thoughts about the Percy Harvin deal.

Only three thoughts? 

And I won't get started again (okay, I will) about these stories of Harvin misbehaving and acting like an ass in Seattle. Where are these stories that NFL sportswriters were fond of relaying Friday night earlier in the year? These sportswriters sit on so much information, then proudly puff their chest out when the story breaks by saying, "This is what I heard six months ago happened." Good for you. Report on it at the time or you don't get credit for knowing this information.

2. The coaches are happy. First: Harvin should have produced better than he did. And who knows? Maybe he would have over time. But Seattle won last year with a strong running game and a regular NFL passing game out of multiple sets and with a quarterback in the pocket and on the move. With Harvin in the game, the Seahawks were getting too cute, playing too horizontally—because they viewed him as a Jet Sweep, bubble screen, get-the-ball-in-space-and-make-something-happen player, not a regular wide receiver. If you’ve got a Lamborghini, you don’t keep it in the garage; you drive it.

Great analogy, Peter. If you have a Lamborghini like Percy Harvin, you make sure it's not broken before driving it.

If you’re offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, you don’t want to produce a game plan every week thinking, “Well, I’ve got to make sure I don’t tick off Harvin this week, so I have to account for that when I’m making decisions.”

Sure, I agree. But if you are Darrell Bevell then you also realize your team is in the lower third of the NFL in offense and it makes sense to get the football to your best, most explosive players when given the chance. Why wouldn't part of the game plan be to get the ball to Percy Harvin? This wouldn't be the first time an offensive coordinator has ensured part of his game plan is to get the ball to his best player early in the game. It's part of the deal. Just because a team has a receiver who wants the ball early and wants to be a part of the game plan doesn't mean that player should be traded. The issue becomes when that player's need for the football overrides his utility to the team.

3. The Jets did the right thing; this is a good experiment for them. For the last nine games of the season New York owes Harvin $6.47 million. That’s the last bit of money in this contract the Jets are obligated to pay him. I doubt this wakes Harvin up, and if it doesn’t, the Jets can say goodbye on Dec. 29, the day after the season, and figure, Well, we gave it a shot.

(Bengoodfella can't hold himself back) Josh Freeman. What about Josh Freeman, Peter? He got paid $2 million and then the Vikings could get rid of him after the last day of the season. Couldn't the Vikings have just gotten rid of Freeman like they did and figure "Well, we gave it a shot"? So why the weekly descriptions of what a waste of human flesh Josh Freeman was for Minnesota?

I will never get over this. In terms of a sportswriter completely overreacting to a player's performance, Peter takes the cake with his weekly rages against Josh Freeman. Yet, here he is perfectly fine with the Jets paying Harvin three times what Freeman made and being all chill about the Jets just giving up a draft pick and not keeping Harvin around next year. But when the Vikings sign Freeman and didn't give up a pick, Peter wanted everyone to know what a jerk Freeman was for not performing at a high level for Minnesota.

As for the Seahawks, I think they’ll work their way out of their rut (2-3 since opening night), but only if they protect Wilson better, make some holes for Lynch and get invaluable linebacker Bobby Wagner back from injury soon. They probably would have won Sunday in St. Louis had they played even a D-plus game on special teams instead of an F-minus.

The Jeff Fisher Era everyone!

“We have to have everyone take a breath.”

But inside the locker room, before it was opened to the press, anger spilled out for outsiders to hear. “Do your job!’’ was one of the milder ventings. The Bears continue to get flashes of brilliance but stretches of careless, turnover-plagued play from quarterback Jay Cutler, who reminds me of a more cavalier Brett Favre with the ball.

Well, Cutler has quite a few more interceptions to catch up with Favre, but he also has quite a few more touchdowns to get to the total Favre accumulated as well. The good news is that Skip Bayless probably likes Cutler again, because Cutler is being careless with the football.

It looks as though the NFL could take two paths to a new personal conduct policy: one for players, and one for all other NFL employees, including owners.

It will be a pretty easy to understand new personal conduct policy. The owners can do whatever the fuck they want to do without any repercussions, while the players can not. It's fair and doesn't punish owners like Jerry Jones who settled a sexual assault case in mediation for accusations that would get an NFL player suspended or put on the super-special commissioner's list for players who did bad things and nobody has a clue whether to punish the player or not so he will just stay on this exempt list.

I am told there is likely to be one onerous part of the policy for NFL personnel—from owners to administrative assistants—that hasn’t existed before. The NFL could well adopt a policy similar to some police departments and other public-service sectors. If an employee is charged with a serious crime, such as happened in the case of Colts owner Jimmy Irsay, the league could put the employee or owner on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the case.

But what if the employee or owner "has a problem" and that's why he committed the serious crime? How will this new personnel policy treat the owners like they have a problem that needs help, while in the same situation treating players like assholes who just need to stop driving drunk?

The Fine Fifteen

Assorted NFL teams placed in orderly fashion as chosen through a random process of Peter King's opinion!

1. Dallas (6-1). Tony Romo is completing 69 percent, DeMarco Murray is on pace to rush for 2,087 yards, and the Cowboys can play defense. Life is darn good in Dallas.

It's almost like there is a correlation between all three of these things.

6. Green Bay (5-2). Really, three through eight here can be put in any order. You pick.

Or since you are the one who writes the column and insists on including a Fine Fifteen, how about you pick?

10. Baltimore (5-2). Won five of six, and scored 29 (Sunday), 38 and 48 in three of those game. Which is good when you’re giving up an average of 14 points in the same span. It’s fairly incredible that all of this is happening to a team that was supposed to be ripped asunder by the Ray Rice scandal.

I'm not even sure who said the Ravens would be ripped asunder by the Ray Rice scandal. It sounds like Peter is making this up in order to create a narrative to place alongside the Ravens playing well at the current time.

12. Seattle (3-3). I don’t know what this team is right now. I do know the Seahawks are 2-3 in the last five games, and allowing 25 points per game, and playing like that is going to get the Seahawks homebound in January. Which would be a mild upset.

Peter probably shouldn't overreact to this. The Seahawks lost to the #1 team in his Fine Fifteen and then played on the road against the Rams during a week with a lot of team turmoil. I can't wait until the Seahawks go 11-5 and Peter will ask if we remember when "everyone was counting the Seahawks out" after the Percy Harvin trade.

So has Peter found the answer yet as to whether Russell Wilson sweats or not? I feel like Wilson does sweat, but I want a definitive answer from Peter.

15. Cincinnati (3-2-1). And fading very, very fast.

And Andy Dalton STILL hasn't won a playoff game. Be sure to mention this.

Goat of the Week
 
Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans. Brees had the Saints up 23-10 late at Detroit. The Lions scored once to make it 23-17, and Brees went incompletion-incompletion-interception.

I don't think I would defend Brees too much here, but it's a bit much to call him the "Goat of the Week." Brees wasn't at-fault for the defense allowing the Saints to march 90 yards on six plays the possession prior to this interception. He was obviously at-fault for the interception he threw, but if the Saints defense has stepped up and held the Lions to a field goal instead of a touchdown, then the Saints still win the game.

On the ensuing series, Brees’ first four passes were incomplete, then he completed two for seven yards, and then he threw an incompletion on fourth down. It’s not often, if ever, that Brees, in the clutch over two series, would go 2 of 10 with a passer rating of 0.0, but he did here, and it cost New Orleans dearly.

It's just a bit much to call Brees a "Goat" when he went 28-45 with 342 yards. He did throw the interception, but there wasn't another NFL player who had a worse performance this past week?

“You’re playing against a coordinator out there.”
 
—San Francisco safety Eric Reid, after Peyton Manning shredded the Niners for four touchdowns, including the NFL record-breaking 509th career TD pass.

Adam Gase is offended at the idea he isn't the true offensive coordinator for the Broncos. Look at what a hot coaching candidate he is!

“Hopefully we got windows on that son of a b—-.”
 
—Arizona coach Bruce Arians, on the team buses the club will use in Oakland. Arians was reminded on Friday that the fans in Oakland, the site of the Cardinals’ game on Sunday, threw eggs at the Chargers’ team buses last Sunday.
Arians loves to say that “SOB” phrase.

Fascinating, Peter. Just fascinating. There's nothing sportswriters like more than a coach who curses and seems like a real character. They like it almost as much as they like free snacks in the pressbox.

Stats of the Week
 
These from the Percy Harvin file:

Real quick change of the subject...would Gregg Easterbrook consider this to be a mega-trade for Percy Harvin? I'm guessing he would and he will bring the Vikings-Seahawks trade that brought Harvin to Seattle as a reason mega-trades don't work in TMQ. I'm trying to steel myself for this.

For those eight games, the Seahawks paid Harvin $19.03 million, and they paid the Vikings first-, third- and seventh-round picks.

But that $2 million the Vikings gave Josh Freeman just to sit the bench.....man, Peter wakes up in the middle of the night and rages against Freeman for stealing money like he did. How dare Freeman help to get Peter's buddy Greg Schiano fired like that!

Chip Kelly Wisdom of the Week

(Yawns) Peter is still doing this? He is still pretending that Chip Kelly is a coach who has tons of interesting things to say that readers of MMQB can't wait to have Peter relay to them? A lot of what Kelly says sounds like dressed-up coachspeak to me.

Kelly, captured by NFL Films on the sidelines of the Giants-Eagles game eight days ago:
 
“We got a good group of guys, don’t we? Culture wins football games. Culture beats scheme every time.”
 
Eighteen words that tell the story of Chip Kelly the football coach right there.

Yes, it does Peter. Chip Kelly, who is known for his innovative offensive schemes, thinks that culture beats scheme every time. I'm betting there is a discussion of DeSean Jackson in here somewhere, but Peter will expect some other sportswriter to lead that discussion. He prefers to stand in awe at the words out of Chip Kelly's mouth rather than analyze what these words might mean in regard to a well-covered story from this past summer. It's Peter's job to fawn, not connect dots.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Or, as I call it, the story of how Peter King dropped hints to a complete stranger and used his celebrity to get tickets to a Royals playoff game.

The fellow next to me at the bar was rooting for the Royals, and I looked over and saw his boarding pass with “MCI”, the Kansas City airport abbreviation, and so we struck up a conversation. Lance Baughman was his name; a lawyer from Kansas City with Royals season tickets held by his firm

So then Peter thought, "How can I drop a hint that I want to attend a Royals game?"

He wanted to know what I did, and I told him, and said I was going to Kansas City to do a story there with the Chiefs. So we settled in, watched the game and talked.

"I'm Peter King. I'm a well-known sportswriter who writes a weekly column about the NFL and can get your name mentioned in the column to give you and your law firm free publicity if you will just find a way to score me Royals tickets."

I'm kidding, Peter didn't say that. He just hoped the hints he dropped would lead to free tickets to a Royals game.

I told him if I got done with my meetings with the Chiefs in time for the late-afternoon game the next day that I would try to StubHub a ticket late and go. We exchanged numbers and boarded the plane, going our separate ways.

There's the hint drop that Peter wants a Royals ticket, and then he exchanged numbers with the guy, since apparently Peter needs this guy's phone number to purchase a ticket on StubHub? Of course not! Peter wants a free ticket.

When we landed, Lance Baughman sent me a text. Seems his partner couldn’t make the game the next day, and would I be interested in attending the game with his partner’s grown son?

(Lance calls his partner) "Hey, I just met Peter King from THE MMQB at a bar. He wants to go to a Royals game. Can you give him your ticket for tomorrow?"

(Lance's partner) "Well, you know my son wanted to go that game with me pretty badly. It's an important game in the history of the franchise and I would love to experience it with my son who I love very much."

(Lance) "Free publicity. He'll mention my name in the column if we do this I bet. Well, I don't bet, Peter literally said, 'I sure would like to go to the game and would mention someone's name in MMQB if they gave me a ticket.' I think he was hinting at it pretty hard."

(Lance's partner) "Fine, give him the ticket, but be sure he mentions your name AND my name."

(Lance) "Have you ever read anything written by Peter King? He'll name-drop us. He loves free shit and the NFL and NFL teams use him as a patsy when they feel like they can."

(Lance's partner) "Get it done then. Just say I have an important meeting to attend."

Well, what a swell offer.

Golly gee! Peter thinks he is being self-deprecating right now.

I just had to be sure I could make it the next day, and when we texted the next morning, I was sure I could. So I met Adam Wright, son of Baughman’s law partner Roger Wright, and we spent a very pleasant afternoon watching the Royals win their first pennant in 29 years. How incredibly nice of Lance Baughman and Roger Wright.

Yes, very nice of them. Of all the people who could have been given this ticket, it's so nice of them to give it to a complete stranger and not one of the countless other individuals that live in the Kansas City area, are big Kansas City Royals fans and are people who Adam Wright might personally know better and would enjoy attending the game with. Weird how that works, isn't it?

Postscript: Every time on Wednesday afternoon that I stood up to stretch or look around between innings, I scanned the stands at Kauffman Stadium, and I couldn’t find an empty seat. This was not a crowd there to be seen or to go get food and beer over and over; this was a celebration of baseball, and the 40,468 in the house would be damned if they were going to miss a pitch. So good to see.

It's almost like the Royals have had a shitty team for a while and the crowd was anxious to see a winning team play. I'm sure Peter described the crowd as very Fenway-esque and mention Lorenzo Cain plays centerfield like Jacoby Ellsbury, while Salvador Perez reminds him of a younger Jason Varitek.


The ex-QB on Saturday night, presumably before the big event. That, Drew Bledsoe, leads the league in cuteness.

It leads the league in cuteness, but is in second place for precociousness. I'm not sure there is a sportswriter alive that uses the word "cute" or "precocious" as much as Peter King does. He absolutely adores taking grown men and describing their behavior in child-like terms.

The sad news for Bledsoe is that immediately after taking this picture he sprained his ankle on a rock, but Tom Brady stepped in and took Bledsoe's daughter on a much hotter date for the Father Daughter Dance. Bledsoe then took his other daughter on a Father Daughter date, but it wasn't really the same ever again.

Ten Things I Think I Think

Peter thinks he sure would like a World Series ticket. He guesses he'll just go on StubHub here in a minute and see if he can find a ticket, though he's not confident...if only someone had an extra one.

1. I think this is what I liked about Week 7:

b. Drew Brees, with 19 straight first-half completions against a rising-star defense in Detroit.

GOAT OF THE WEEK!

e. I love the referees being able to talk—through wireless communications—with the field officials on things like pass interference.

Golly, the NFL is so smart with their innovations and constant forward-thinking. By the way, has anyone gotten to the bottom of whether Roger Goodell lied or not when he said he had not seen the Ray Rice video? It slowly fades away...

q. Tre Mason. Not a lot to like about how the Rams are playing as we approach midseason, but the rookie has a burst and some power to him, as shown against Seattle.

Team...on...the...rise. See, no one should accuse Jeff "8-8" Fisher of not knowing what he's doing. The Rams drafted Isaiah Pead in the second round, then drafted Zac Stacy in the fifth round and pretended to want to play him, but Fisher really was sandbagging and wanted to have Tre Mason be the starter. It's just like how Fisher made idiots like me think he had built his team around Sam Bradford when that wasn't AT ALL his plan. He was really getting ready to build the team around the Rams' third-string quarterback, Austin Davis, and wanted to mask his plan by starting Sam Bradford and signing Shaun Hill to be Bradford's backup.

2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 7:

d. Jets tight end Jace Amaro’s steel girders for hands.

I'm pretty sure NFL players aren't allowed to play with steel girders for hands. That seems illegal in some fashion and would result in a fine.

g. Come on, Jets: I know you’re the house organ, but you’re telling me you can’t ask Percy Harvin even one pertinent question?

This is a strong take coming from Peter, a guy well-known for his "You are the greatest ever, right? So how does that feel?" line of questioning or if he wants to be more hard-hitting, he may ask a question like "You were kicked out of the league for murdering 10 people, tell me one thing people don't know about you."

m. Carolina, down 21-0, third-and-one at its 33 to try to get something, anything, going … and then Jonathan Stewart is stoned at the line of scrimmage. Rapidly becoming a lost season for the Panthers.

Yes, it is. By the way the Panthers are 1.5 games ahead in first place of the NFC South right now. So it's a lost season, but they are the team in the NFC South outrunning the bear right now. 

n. Oh, and Cam Newton’s first-quarter stats at Green Bay: 0-for-2. And Carolina’s yardage in the first quarter: five.

Here's another interesting statistic. Green Bay was up 21-0 after the first quarter and the Panthers offense had the ball for about five minutes. Not that the Panthers offense, led by Newton have an excuse, but it really would have helped an offense with four undrafted free agents on the offensive line to not have the Packers ahead by 20+ points after the first quarter. At least the Panthers defense should have pretended to do their jobs. But yeah, Cam was bad in the first quarter, lay the blame there. Seems fair.

3. I think the tremendous NFL Network interview with Brett Favre on Sunday took me back to so many of the conversations I had with Favre—

His gruff, yet tender voice. The way he plays with his beard while he talks in a cute little way. So precocious, like he's almost not aware he does it.

because the word “interview” with Favre is really misleading. You’d go into a talk with him thinking you’d want to ask him about X number of topics, and invariably you’d veer off into some tributary you never expected.

But then Peter would get the urge to veer off into another tributary no one expected them to veer into. But it wasn't right then and it wouldn't be right now. What would Deanna say? What would the kids do? Why would Uncle Pete do this to them?

He’d be tough to deal with today, in the atmosphere of tight schedules for superstars, where a 10-minute window with a big star is generous. So many times 15 minutes became 115 minutes, and he was fine with that. That’s what I saw between Favre and Steve Mariucci on Sunday. You can say, “Well, Mariucci coached him and they’re good friends.” True—but I’ve seen it with Favre and people he didn’t even know very well.

And we know Peter would NEVER just vouch for Favre because he likes him. Also, I would argue that Favre loves the spotlight, so any time he gets to talk to someone who can put him on television and remind everyone watching that he still exists, Favre will talk as long and much as he wants in an effort to keep that spotlight on him.

5. I think Percy Harvin needs to talk to Brandon Marshall about whatever it is that ails Harvin. And it is apparent something does. Marshall, until being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2011, was widely viewed as a very good football player who simply couldn’t control his emotions, and those emotions were ruining his football career and wreaking havoc with his ability to live a normal life.

Apparently Peter King thinks that Brandon Marshall is a psychologist now. Also, Harvin would have to admit that something ails him, or there would actually have to be something ailing him for Harvin, to speak with Marshall and it have any positive effect.

I don’t know what Harvin’s story is. 

It seems Peter King does know what Harvin's story is since he seems to believe Harvin has a personality disorder and needs to speak with Brandon Marshall in order to find out the best way to treat this disorder. Peter doesn't know what Harvin's story is, but he knows enough to suggest it could be a personality disorder.

But if he blows this chance with the Jets because he can’t control his emotions, his football gravy train might be over.

Harvin is fast and talented. As long as he doesn't commit a crime and get suspended by the NFL there will usually be teams willing to take him on as a challenge.

6. I think it’s pretty easy to talk about the futility of the Bucs and focus on the inability of the defense to stop anything in its wake; Tampa has allowed 56, 24, 37 and 48 points in the past four games. But that is masking an equal problem on the other side of the ball. The Bucs have a startling number of negative plays on offense. I missed this display of offensive futility last week in the column, but with the Bucs on the bye Sunday, I wanted to bring it to your attention today.

Because in last week's MMQB, it was more important for Peter to write all the other filler that's non-NFL related than it was to discuss the Buccaneers' offensive problems. Priorities.

9. I think if you want to know why so many details about Percy Harvin’s sordid time with Seattle never surfaced until the weekend trade to the Jets, I believe it has much to do with the culture of the locker room—and specifically the culture of Pete Carroll’s locker room.

It also has to do with sportswriters who were aware of these issues never reported on them. I know this because less than hour after the trade, there were NFL sportswriters being all "Yeah, Harvin was a pain and didn't get along with teammates" regarding the trade on Twitter. So maybe the details weren't immediately mentioned, but it was obvious there was some knowledge among those paid to cover the NFL and the Seahawks about Harvin not being the best of teammate.

For proof, see the Harvin-Golden Tate fight before the Super Bowl. It even extended to Tate once he left for Detroit in free-agency and was no longer beholden to honor the code of locker-room silence in Seattle. He never broke the code as a Lion. After the story was reported by the Seattle Times on Friday, it was confirmed in many spaces over the next 36 hours,

Yeah, it was confirmed, but there were tales of a fight that just simply never went explored. I know this because the story of a possible Harvin-Tate fight was reported shortly after he was traded. Apparently these reporters, who seemed to be familiar with the story, didn't feel the need to confirm the story prior to Harvin's trade when they had originally heard tell of such a fight. I guess it's not fun to report on a Harvin-Tate fight when one of the players is still on the Seahawks team.

10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:

e. The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!

f. They’re going crazy! They’re going crazy! Whoaaaaaa-oh!

I'm really glad Peter took the time to include these thoughts in MMQB. Very insightful.

i. Giants in seven. But I don’t feel particularly confident about it.

Considering I am betting Peter couldn't have named three players on either team prior to the playoffs starting, I can understand his lack of confidence.

j. If I were building a baseball team this offseason, and if I could spend relatively the same per year, combined, for Andrew Miller, Pat Neshek and Yovani Gallardo (or a starting pitcher in the $10-million-a-year range) as I could for, say, Jon Lester, I’d opt for the first option.

This is a moot point because Gallardo probably won't be a free agent, but Jon Lester is going to want around $22 million or so per season in his next contract. Gallardo was paid a little under $8 million this year and the way the free agent market is set up for starting pitchers he will probably want $13 million per year (which is what the Brewers team has an option for, so he won't even be a free agent). Edward Mujica got $9.5 million over two years, so Neshek will probably want about $5 million per year. The market for a lefty like Andrew Miller is probably about $7-$10 million per year, so that puts the total spent on these three players at $25 million at a minimum. So I would agree with Peter these three players may be preferable to Lester, but it doesn't matter really because these three players couldn't be signed for what Lester wants over one season.

q. Enjoyed the story by Richard Sandomir of the New York Times on plummeting baseball ratings despite the thrilling postseason. Amazing to think that, in 1982, 49.9 million people watched a World Series game between small-market teams St. Louis and Milwaukee … and, 32 years later, a Game Two playoff cliffhanger between Los Angeles and St. Louis was seen by 1.77 million people on MLB Network.

And in 1982, the highest-rated television shows got much higher ratings than the highest-rated television shows in 2014 receive. There is more programming to distract a viewer in 2014 and baseball hasn't become appointment television. Statistics showing the decline in viewership of baseball games is an old story, but isn't necessarily indicative of baseball dying. There's many, many more options for viewers of television in 2014 than there was in 1982.

The Adieu Haiku

Could Luck pass Manning?
He’s four hundred forty-five
behind. (All heads shake.)


Why does it have to be Andrew Luck? Aaron Rodgers has 206 career touchdown passes and he's only 30 years old. Eh, Andrew Luck will probably break Manning's record because it would be a convenient narrative that the guy who followed Manning in Indianapolis would pass him for career touchdown passes. "We" all love convenient narratives.