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. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

7 comments Bleacher Report Thinks Billy Beane Should Be On the Hot Seat, Even Though I'm Not Entirely Sure What the Hell That's Supposed to Mean

I'm not entirely what it means for a GM or head coach to be on the hot seat. Well, I know what it means, but when someone writes or says, "He should be on the hot seat" is there like an official checkmark on a board in a backroom somewhere that needs to be checked off for that GM or manager to be on the hot seat? So when a writer says "It's finally time for Billy Beane to be on the hot seat," what the hell does he/she/it expect to happen? Does A's management come out and indeed confirm that Billy Beane is on the hot seat? Anyway, this author thinks that Billy Beane should finally be on the hot seat. He doesn't get why Beane has been considered untouchable. After all, derp, there are no World Series rings on Beane's fingers. Yeah, the A's could certainly do better in the playoffs but so could Bobby Cox's Braves teams, yet he and John Schuerholz are considered legends inside baseball circles. It's just a matter of once officially placed on the hot seat, are the A's going to really find someone who can do better than Beane? Maybe, maybe not.

The fact the author thinks Billy Beane deserves more criticism is rich. Anytime the A's fail to win a playoff series there are snarky comments on Twitter and around the Interwebs about "Moneyball" and Billy Beane's failures to win a title. Criticism is fair, but Beane already gets criticized if a person is willing to pay attention.

"Every form of strength is also a form of weakness..."
- Michael Lewis, Moneyball, quoting Bill James


Because no discussion of Billy Beane would be complete without an immediate mention of "Moneyball." Also, nice way to start the column off with a quote that is never fully explained in the body of the column. At no point is this quote referred to again or elaborated upon.

In baseball, there is no such thing as an untouchable general manager.

In baseball, anyone can get fired. That's your knowledge for the day. Bleacher Report, out!

Just like the players and coaches, a GM must stand behind his results—and pay the price when the results aren't there.

For years, Billy Beane of the Oakland A's has challenged that notion.

By having success, he has challenged the notion that if he didn't get results then he would have to stand behind not having the results he does get? 11 winning seasons in 17 years as a GM. That's not shabby. 

But as his "Moneyball" legend grew and the successful seasons piled up, Beane became, well, something close to untouchable.

I would normally ask for a citation, but this is one of those Bleacher Report articles that is written using assumptions that may or may not have a factual backing. Has Beane been untouchable or has he not gotten fired because he's gotten results? Is Bill Belichick untouchable or has this question never had to be answered because he has always met the expectations for the Patriots with results that please Robert Kraft? Saying Billy Beane has become close to untouchable can't be proven. He could have been on the hot seat if the A's didn't make the playoffs three years ago. The author doesn't know, that's my point.

Nearly two decades later, he owns a sterling resume: 11 winning seasons and eight playoff appearances, all while working with a perennially undersized payroll.

The answer is in the question. Beane owns a sterling resume, yet the author wonders if he has become untouchable. He's gotten results, so that explains why he hasn't been on the hot seat in Oakland...you know, even though I'm still not sure how to know if Beane was ever on the hot seat or how to officially put him there.

In 2003, Michael Lewis wrote the book on Beane's innovative methods, spelling out how Beane and his team identified undervalued players through advanced statistical analysis and signed them on the cheap. Eight years later, Moneyball became an Oscar-nominated flick starring Brad Pitt.

Has Brad Pitt become, well, something close to untouchable? Does the fact his movies generally tend to make money mean that he should keep getting work in Hollywood? WHY IS BRAD PITT SO UNTOUCHABLE?

There are many measures of success; getting Brad Pitt to play you in a movie about how smart you are is pretty high on the list.

Also high on the list? Having a run of 11 winning seasons and 8 playoff appearances as the GM of a small market team. Yeah, I would include that.

Oakland has never advanced past the ALCS on Beane's watch, and it has been dropped in the division series six times.

This is a definite blemish. There's no doubt about that. There is also no doubt that the A's are probably not in a position to fire their GM for not advancing the team to the World Series. No offense to the A's, but if you look at other teams in the same situation as the A's in terms of payroll, there aren't a lot of World Series recent victories or appearances in there.

So maybe Beane is guilty of not helping the A's advance as far as his reputation states he should help the A's advance, but even not grading on a curve (in terms of how the A's are small market) the A's have been a pretty successful franchise over the last 17 years in terms of games they have won.

It's obviously impossible to know, but could another GM have done better for the A's during that 17 year time span? Based on the record of other teams with payrolls similar to the A's, I think there is an argument to be made that another GM could not have had the same type of sustained success Beane had.

This year, the A's didn't even make it that far, losing in the wild-card playoff to the upstart Kansas City Royals.

It was a one game playoff, where ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!

This was the year Beane declared, unequivocally, that it was time to "go for it," per Richard Justice of MLB.com. "It" was the ultimate prize, the brass ring that has eluded Beane: a Commissioner's Trophy.

The A's went for it and they didn't win the World Series. Trading for Jon Lester was a risk, but not something that Beane should lose his job over. It was a risk, not a terrible trade.

To hook Lester, Beane dangled Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes, a key cog in an Oakland offense that led MLB in scoring at the time.

Beane felt like it was important to have great starting pitching in the playoffs more than it was important to have Cespedes in the lineup. There is something to be said for having great starting pitching. Unfortunately, the A's didn't win their division and they ended up in the ridiculous one game Wild Card playoff, so their starting pitching depth didn't matter in that one game.

And Beane seemingly didn't need Lester; 

A team doesn't need more starting pitching until that team needs more starting pitching. It's funny how a team with a lot of starting pitching all of a sudden wouldn't mind having another ace in the playoffs. The Dodgers started Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest in the NLDS. Think they wouldn't mind having another starter they don't "need"?

he already had a stacked rotation, augmented by another 2014 acquisition, Jeff Samardzija, who came over from the Chicago Cubs for a bushel of top prospects.

So obviously Billy Beane should be fired for putting together too much of a great rotation. How dare he put together a great rotation for the purposes of winning the AL West! Unforgivable! If the A's had not traded Cespedes then they would have won the World Series this year. Obviously. Cespedes would have made a 10-11 game difference in the standings.

Clearly, Beane was betting the farm (quite literally)

No, not literally. If it were literally then Beane would be gambling away an actual farm. He's not literally gambling and there is no farm where livestock or food is sold in the transaction for Lester. So no, this is not literal, but still metaphorical. Lester was traded for an MLB player and a draft pick. Even metaphorically, he wasn't traded for "the farm" because no players from the A's farm system were traded. Samardzija was traded for prospects, but that trade was for the future as well as the present since he is not a free agent until 2016. The A's can trade him and get prospects for him or keep him and hope he contributes to another playoff run. So no, literally there was no gambling away the farm.

on the "you can never have too much pitching" axiom.

We are halfway through this column and it's still not clear why Billy Beane should be fired or on the hot seat other than "He didn't win the World Series this year" and "He tried to acquire too much pitching and it didn't work out."

And if the A's are going to put Beane on the not-real "hot seat" for not winning the World Series then they just may as well fire him. Putting him on the hot seat for not winning the World Series seems unrealistic to me given the circumstances in Oakland.

Then, Oakland started losing.

This is a lie. Oakland was losing before the Jon Lester trade and Beane made the trade in order to stop the losing and shake up a team he was hoping wasn't stagnating. He saw some of the A's hitters overperforming and thought he may need to improve the pitching staff to compensate. He probably thought it was easier to find impact pitching than an impact hitter. So "Then, Oakland started losing" is a statement that is a lie.

To be fair, the losing started before the Lester deal.

No, not to be fair, but to be honest. You are being dishonest by stating the A's started losing after they acquired Lester. It's called "lying." To indicate the A's started losing after the Lester deal is a lie, so there's no "being fair," there is "being honest."

After going 59-36 in the first half, the A's limped to a 29-38 finish.

The A's hitters regressed to scoring 3.9 runs per game in the second half from the 4.9 runs per game they were scoring in the first half. The pitching staff gave up 3.3 runs per game in the first half and 3.7 runs per game in the second half. So both pitching and hitting regressed for the A's. For the sake of argument, Cespedes hit .269/.296/.423 with 5 home runs and 33 RBI as a Red Sox player. He had an OPS+ of 100 and WAR of 1.3 with the Red Sox as well. So he would have helped the A's, but I'm not sure it would have been enough to make up 10-11 games in the standings.

Still, the Athletics headed to Kansas City with Lester, their ace in the hole, set to pitch. Here was the moment for Beane's all-in strategy to pay off, for all the second-half slumping and subsequent second-guessing to go up in a puff of playoff magic.

And it didn't work. Lester pitched 7.1 innings and gave up 6 runs. Interestingly, the A's did score 8 runs and the bullpen blew the lead the A's had. So I'm not sure where the criticism of Beane by the author should come into play. The author says the A's had enough pitching already, so they shouldn't have traded offense for Lester. Yet, the A's scored enough runs to win the Wild Card game, but it was the A's pitching and bullpen that lost the game for them...twice.

I won't excuse that Lester didn't pitch well, but the author seems to believe Beane should be on the hot seat for making a move for pitching that the A's didn't need to make, while giving up offense. Yet, the A's scored enough runs in the Wild Card game, it's just the bullpen that blew it for the A's in the end. Maybe Beane just should have traded for more bullpen help rather than starting pitching.

Or not. Lester failed to deliver on his big-game pedigree, surrendering six earned runs, and the A's lost a 12-inning heartbreaker, 9-8.

Yes and no. Lester did fail to deliver, but the A's were up 7-6 when he left the game and the got the lead in the 12th inning again before the bullpen blew the game...again. So chalking the A's loss up to Lester like he was the reason the A's lost the game isn't completely true. Lester didn't pitch well, but the A's also lost the game due to the bullpen giving up the lead twice.

Now, as the dust settles and Oakland watches the rest of the 2014 postseason from home, it's time to ask: Is Billy Beane finally due for a spin in the hot seat?

Yes, it's FINALLY time to ask. Thank God someone has the guts to ask the hard questions. Should Beane be on the hot seat, even though I'm not entirely sure what this means or how a GM is officially placed on the hot seat? SHOULD HE?

This isn't a question of whether he'll be fired. He won't be.

So what's the point of him being on the hot seat then? If he's not going to be fired, what the hell kind of use is calling a press conference and saying, "Billy Beane is on the hot seat"?

It's also not the first time Beane misfired on a midseason move.

I don't know if I would consider the Lester trade a misfire. Also, if the author is suggesting that Billy Beane should be on the hot seat for making a bad trade then there wouldn't be an employed GM working in any sport today. Every GM, especially one like Billy Beane that has been in the position for 17 years, is going to make a bad trade. It comes with the territory.

In 2008, he dealt closer Huston Street and a young outfielder named Carlos Gonzalez in a package that netted Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies. Holliday wound up playing a mediocre half-season in Oakland before the A's traded him to St. Louis.

This was not a very good trade for Beane. Yet, it happened six years ago and he has continued to put together A's teams that make the playoffs. Again, if every GM had one bad trade counted against them there would be no GM's that lasted beyond a couple of seasons in sports.

But after years of being treated mostly as an unassailable genius, does Mr. Moneyball deserve more scrutiny going forward?

He gets scrutiny every single season after the A's don't make the playoffs or are eliminated from the playoffs. Sportswriters take great joy in watching Beane fail. Given the situation, I think he gets scrutiny and I think the expectations for the A's team from management are being met.

The answer to that question relies on another question: Was Beane primarily responsible for Oakland's second-half collapse?

Probably not. If so, he should be credited with the A's great first half of the season as well.

Newsweek's John Walters thinks so:

If you click the link, then you will see the typical Beane bashing column where the author makes repeated references to "Moneyball" and admits he doesn't know what WAR is. It also includes this head-shaking paragraph:

It almost feels as if Beane is that investor who would rather die a poor man while constantly upgrading his stock portfolio than cash out at some point and enjoy the riches he had devoted so much energy to accruing. As if the never-ending game of team-building in a cost-effective way is more important than the actual game itself. It’s as if he has forgotten what the ultimate goal of this entire endeavor is: to win a World Series.

What exactly "cashing out at some point and enjoying the riches he had devoted so much energy to accruing" would mean, other than making zero moves at the trade deadline, is a mystery to me. Basically this idiotic author suggests that it was fallacy for Beane to try and improve his team as he began to see issues appearing. This "Newsweek" article works under the assumption the A's issues wouldn't have appeared without the trade for Lester.

One other note about that column. The author of the "Newsweek" column includes the following quote,

“Every form of strength is also a form of weakness.”

—Billy Beane, Moneyball

This is the same quote that was attributed to Bill James in the beginning of the column. It's interesting to see the Bleacher Report author cite a column and then use a quote from that column and use it in his own column. It's essentially an example of the shameless nicking and use of another writer's column to create a column idea that Bleacher Report writers are famous for (in my mind, at least). 

What's interesting is the "Newsweek" writer attributes this quote to Billy Beane, while the Bleacher Report writer attributes it to Michael Lewis, quoting Bill James. It seems someone didn't get their citation correct. The "Newsweek" writer attributed it to Billy Beane and that's not right. From my research, it seems Bill James is the one responsible for that quote. Not that a writer for "Newsweek" should take the time to make sure his citations are correct of course. He's way too important and ravenous to bash Billy Beane for his faults as a GM to ensure his citations are correct. 

Beane himself defended the Lester trade, even after Oakland's exit. "Simply put," he told The San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea, "if we don't have Jon Lester, I don't think we make the playoffs."

Yep, that's a potentially true statement. The A's made the playoffs by 1 game and Lester went 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts and 76.2 innings. Without him, is it possible the A's don't win two more games? It's entirely possible. His WAR for Oakland was 1.9. But of course, the author is too busy pointing out how the one game Wild Card didn't go the A's way and ignoring the responsibility of the A's bullpen to worry about little questions like, "Would the A's have made the playoffs if Beane had not made the Lester trade"? 

What's virtually certain is that the A's won't have Lester next year. The 30-year-old left-hander is set to hit the open market, and his price tag will almost surely be too rich for Oakland's small-market blood.

Cespedes would probably have been too rich for Oakland's blood if the A's had tried to keep him past the 2015 season. That's how it goes for the A's and the fact they won't have Lester after the 2014 season doesn't mean Beane should be on the hot seat for making the trade for Lester that may or may not have worked out. 

He was a rental. A gamble. And a gamble that ultimately didn't pay off.

It happens; no one bats 1.000, whether at the plate or behind a desk. 

But you...you wrote this...this entire column. It was based on the idea Beane should be on the hot seat because the Lester trade didn't work out and the A's didn't win a playoff series. Now you are saying no one bats 1.000, as if Beane should be excused for the very trade you claim should put him on the hot seat.

Still, as the A's regroup from another once-promising, ultimately disappointing campaign, it's time to move their lauded GM out of "untouchable" territory.

I didn't even know he was in "untouchable" territory. I'm pretty sure the idea Beane is untouchable is an assumption that the author is working under in order to better argue his point of view in this article. I don't think any GM is untouchable, but the idea Beane should be on the not-real hot seat for daring to take his small market team to the playoffs for three straight years without a series victory is silly. He may have not literally bet the farm on Lester and it didn't work out for one reason or another, but it's not a reason to consider replacing him as the A's GM. Could his replacement do better? 


Sunday, October 19, 2014

0 comments Now That Derek Jeter is Retired, Wallace Matthews Wants Joe Girardi to Play A-Rod at Third Base Often, So He Can Inevitably Complain about A-Rod

Sportswriters often don't see athletes as human beings, they see these athletes as walking narratives. Walking narratives that can help that sportswriter with a column idea or even as a means to expound upon that narrative in a column. The New York media has missed Alex Rodriguez this season. They miss bashing him and talking about what a hypocritical, self-involved, cheating asshole he is. So naturally, Wallace Matthews misses A-Rod and can't wait for him to come back and play for the Yankees next season. It will make Wallace happy to know he can have A-Rod to kick around again. But first, Joe Girardi has to go ahead and hand A-Rod the starting third base job before the World Series is even over. So it turns out A-Rod won't be getting the Jeter treatment, because Girardi won't name A-Rod the starting third baseman in 2015. Just in case the zero people who thought Girardi might were confused.

Joe Girardi is about to go from the Farewell Tour to the Circus Parade. 

And the New York media could not be happier. They were tired of all this happiness and positivity surrounding Derek Jeter's retirement. Finally, they can get pageviews using negativity.

Girardi took a lot of heat this season for managing what some believed was a Derek Jeter Farewell Tour rather than a baseball season, and put forth the dubious proposition that this was the reason the Yankees missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

(New York media to each other) "We are going to saturate the coverage of the Yankees' season with talk about Derek Jeter and his impending retirement. We will make this our sole focus."

(New York media to Joe Girardi) "Why did you manage this season like it was a Derek Jeter Farewell Tour? That's the only story we heard about this season. Was that your only focus?"

While Girardi certainly deferred to Jeter all season, continuing to play him at shortstop and bat him second, despite sometime shrill calls from many corners claiming this was the reason the Yankees stunk in 2014, Alex Rodriguez cannot hope to enjoy the same level of respect. 

This disputes the claim of absolutely nobody that A-Rod was going to be treated like Derek Jeter was during his final year in the majors. Sure, a lot of nobody thought that A-Rod would be immediately handed the starting third baseman job before the World Series ended and the MLB offseason has begun, but these people, of which there were none, will be shocked to find out this isn't happening. Joe Girardi isn't going to cater to Alex Rodriguez like he did Derek Jeter. And here I thought Jeter and A-Rod would be treated the same, especially since the legacy each will leave with the Yankees isn't similar at all.  

And no, the reason the Yankees stunk in 2014 is not solely because Derek Jeter batted 2nd. The Yankees had injuries to their pitching staff, (predictably) the free agents they signed didn't entirely live up to their contract for a variety of reasons and the farm system isn't built up enough to withstand these two issues. But yeah, blame Girardi for playing Jeter, though the New York media would have had a heart attack had Girardi put Jeter 8th/9th in the batting order and sat him more than two games in a row.

That much was clear from Girardi's postseason wrap-up news conference at Yankee Stadium on Monday, in which he refused to guarantee A-Rod his old job back, despite being given several opportunities to say so. 

What kind of idiot manager would guarantee A-Rod his old job back for the upcoming season as early as late September? Girardi has no idea who the Yankees will sign in the offseason, no idea what kind of playing shape A-Rod is in, and Rodriguez wasn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball during the 2013 season. It would be the height of stupidity to guarantee A-Rod his old job back, so naturally the mouth-breathing idiots in the New York media ask Girardi to do so.

And I know if Girardi had said, "Of course A-Rod will have his job back when he returns" then this column by Wallace would go in a completely different direction. It would be, "I can't believe Girardi guaranteed A-Rod's job at third base this early in the offseason."

Asked directly, twice, on Monday if A-Rod was returning as the Yankees' starting third baseman, Girardi hedged. 

I don't want to spoil it, but Girardi's "hedge" is acknowledging that A-Rod will be playing third base when he returns. This further removes any confusion that A-Rod will be moving to the outfield or to shortstop. I'm sure the same subset of zero people who also thought A-Rod would get the Jeter treatment during the 2015 season thought A-Rod might play shortstop when he returned to the Yankees team. These zero people are now even less confused than they never were.

"He hasn’t played in a year," Girardi said. "That’s not easy to do, to sit out a year. I've got to see where he’s physically at, I’ve got to see from a playing standpoint where he’s at. Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes. But in fairness, I think you have to see where he’s at." 

So A-Rod will play third base when he returns? Look at Girardi hedging on whether A-Rod will be the regular third baseman for the Yankees by acknowledging that A-Rod will be playing third base.

Which raises the bizarre and tantalizing prospect that Alex Rodriguez could be returning to the Yankees as a part-time player, or worse, a bench player.

Which is pretty much what the New York media has wanted A-Rod to be for a few seasons now. Of course, if A-Rod is a part-time player the New York media will take one of two roads:

1. State A-Rod isn't playing well enough to deserve to be a full-time player and then call him "an expensive pinch-hitter" in some fashion, while baiting A-Rod to second-guess Girardi's decision by firing a series of leading questions at him all in an effort to drum up controversy.

2. Claim that A-Rod should be starting because he makes enough money that he needs the opportunity to contribute and then blame A-Rod for Girardi refusing to pull him from the lineup. I don't know how, but the media will try to blame A-Rod for this.

Funny, Girardi showed no similar hesitation when asked similar questions about Jeter a year ago, even though Jeter was a year older than Rodriguez and coming off a similar yearlong layoff, having played in just 17 games scattered throughout the 2013 season.

That is because it was Jeter's last season and Girardi had never pulled Jeter from the lineup for performance-related reasons. Girardi has pulled A-Rod for performance-related reasons, and A-Rod has been out of baseball for an entire year, while Jeter was rehabbing an injury during much of the 2013 season. There's no way Jeter wasn't going to be the Yankees starting shortstop coming into the 2014 season for a variety of reasons. Just like A-Rod is not being handed the starting third base job for a variety of reasons.

No matter by what illicit means he achieved it, Rodriguez was always a better player than Jeter, if not nearly as much of a winner or so good a teammate. 

And those are part of the reasons why Rodriguez isn't being handed the third base job and Jeter was assumed to be the Yankees' starting shortstop during the 2014 season. Being a good teammate is always nice to see and much of A-Rod's value lies in his power, so it remains to be seen what remains of that power.

It is easy to argue that he doesn't deserve it, for transgressions both on the field and off. 

Ah yes, so basically Wallace Matthews is asking questions and then answering his own questions. Essentially, this entire column could have been a conversation instead Wallace's head instead of a column.

Without even trying, A-Rod is going to cause Girardi the kind of headaches that Jeter never did, and he does not appear to be relishing the prospect, even five months removed from the start of spring training.

It seems that Wallace has broached the question of A-Rod's starting status simply so he can rehash the same talking points about what a pain in the ass A-Rod is. Wallace acts surprised Girardi hasn't named A-Rod the starting third baseman (did you know A-Rod isn't on the same level as Derek Jeter?) in late September and then begins to list the reasons why Girardi wouldn't do this.

Although the manager went out of his way to mention, "I have a good relationship with Alex," he was unable to give a precise date of the last time he and his erstwhile third baseman actually spoke. 

GIVE WALLACE MATTHEWS THE PRECISE TIME THAT YOU LAST SPOKE WITH A-ROD! ALSO, HOW MANY EMOTICONS WERE USED?

"We've talked more about how he’s just doing and his family, mostly through texting," Girardi said. "Obviously that will pick up now that we’re through the season and I don’t have nearly as much to do, just to see where he is at physically and encouraging him and see what his thoughts are."

Now that Joe Girardi has stopped managing the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour, he can focus more on the Alex Rodriguez Redemption Tour. At some point, probably the beginning of each month during the season, he will put the Yankees lineup, pitching rotation, and bullpen usage charts together so he can spend the rest of that month focused on A-Rod as much as he solely focused on Derek Jeter.

All indications are that he expects to come back to the Yankees in all of his former capacities, as the everyday third baseman and a middle-of-the-order hitter, as well as a possible new capacity -- as a team leader now that Jeter will no longer be in the clubhouse.

How did Wallace get these indications? Why is Wallace unable to give a precise date of the last time he got an indication this is true?

Joe Girardi isn't allowed to talk to A-Rod during the season without every discussion notated and archived for the public's perusal, but Wallace Matthews is all, "I know that A-Rod thinks he is coming back to play third base everyday and hit in the middle of the order," and he just wants his readers to nod their head as if this is true and possibly isn't just an assumption Wallace wants to make for the purposes of writing a column.

Without mentioning names, Girardi spoke in general terms about the likelihood that several current Yankees could step up next year to fill the leadership void Jeter leaves behind. And from what I know about Alex, I can tell you he considers himself one of those candidates, if not the only legitimate one.

Brian McCann is going to stand in the baseline and yell at A-Rod for believing he is the only legitimate leadership candidate. There is an unwritten rule that says you have to get past Brian McCann first before you can be the leader of any team.

But it is just as likely that his return will be seen by some in the Yankees clubhouse as a burden, because at least for the beginning of spring training, the camp is likely to be crawling with even more media than usual, poking and prodding A-Rod for his daily thoughts and charting his every move on and off the field. 

Of course, the New York media could ensure the Yankees clubhouse don't see A-Rod as a burden by not poking and prodding A-Rod for his daily thoughts and charting his move on and off the field, but apparently that isn't even close to being option. Not that the New York media has an obligation to help the Yankees have a lesser burden, but Wallace Matthews is basically saying he and his media friends will make the Yankees clubhouse a living hell if they damn well want to.

Girardi acknowledged the coming circus could serve as a camp distraction, but said: "I think our players will handle it fine. The first couple of days in spring training there will be more attention, and that will die down. That's the nature of sports too. Something’s gonna happen that the focus will be off of him again."

Joe Girardi is going to have Francisco Cervelli murdered so the focus will be off A-Rod and on Cervelli's untimely death. I'm just kidding of course, the New York media would recognize that Cervelli is dead so there's no reason to immediately cover a story that isn't going anywhere, and then continue to focus on asking A-Rod for for the millionth time whether he considers himself the leader of the Yankees now and how much he'll miss Derek Jeter.

the spotlight will be on him again as he faces a likely procession of hostile crowds, perhaps even in his own ballpark. 

So why not announce A-Rod has the starting third base job in late September when he hasn't proven he deserves it, the fans hate him, and it will only put more pressure on him to produce immediately? Joe Girardi has really missed a chance to give New York sportswriters a great story to write.

"His teammates enjoy Alex," Girardi said. "His presence in the clubhouse, the way he likes to teach the game and talk about the game, so I don’t think that will be an issue. Will he have to deal with some angry fans? Yeah. But we’ll help him get through that. And when’s the last time Alex hasn’t had to deal with that?

Stop it! Stop being reasonable about Alex Rodriguez and how hostile crowds will affect him. Just pretend that A-Rod has never faced a hostile crowd before. It's a lot more fun that way.

If he's even 75 percent of the player he was before he was suspended, A-Rod can help the Yankees too, especially the offensively challenged Yankees of 2014.

Considering he is being paid $21 million next season, that's good to hear. I'm not going to mention that as much of a douchebag asshole as A-Rod has been through the years, it's funny how once the Yankees offense starts stumbling sportswriters start talking about him in a positive fashion as someone who can help the team. Wait, I did just mention it. It's almost like A-Rod is overpaid, but still a reasonably useful baseball player.

But there's no guarantee that when he comes back to the Yankees -- and his yearlong suspension ends as soon as the World Series is over -- that aside from his lavish paycheck, Rodriguez will enjoy any of the perks he did before he was set down, or any of the deference the manager showed to Jeter. 

Again, no one thought Alex Rodriguez would be treated in the same way that Derek Jeter was treated during his final season in the majors. Anyone who thought A-Rod would be treated as a conquering hero upon being reinstated is an idiot or simply stuck in 2002.

Which sets up a mouthwatering question for Girardi's postseason news conference a year from now:

After being accused in 2014 of playing Derek Jeter too much, will Girardi in 2015 face charges that he didn't play Alex Rodriguez enough?


My mouth is officially watered. Tell you what, if Alex Rodriguez plays well enough to play third base a lot during the 2015 season then I am betting Joe Girardi will play A-Rod a lot. Girardi won't reasonably know if A-Rod will play well enough until five months from now in spring training. Hence, he doesn't name A-Rod the starting third baseman yet. Somehow it makes sense if you just take the time to think about it. He won't be treated like Derek Jeter and I doubt anyone thought he would be treated in a similar fashion. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

5 comments Gregg Easterbrook Thinks the Scoring Increase in College Football That Isn't Happening This Year Might Make Football Boring Because Concussions, Tension, Defense and Other Things

Gregg Easterbrook listed the teams he thought would be in the Super Bowl come February, but didn't go quite as far as make his third prediction at which two teams will actually represent the AFC and NFC in the Super Bowl. A third prediction is coming though, it's only a matter of time. Gregg also continued making up reasons why the 49ers can't win games while they continue to win games (which of course Gregg doesn't mention...the 49ers are winning and Gregg is silent, they lose a game and he starts crowing again) and told his readers that turmoil can make a team play better in the long-run or it may not help the team at all in the long run. You know, either way. This week Gregg, after spending the past few years discussing how college and NFL teams are scoring points at a rapid pace and how exciting this is, wonders if high-scoring games in high school are a bad thing and (of course) does his typical criticism of television shows and movies for lacking realism. Oh, and his "Worst play of the season" isn't the inability of Cortland Finnegan to get Davante Adams out of bounds as I predicted. He can't let his readers on to the fact his "undrafted players work harder and are smarter than highly-drafted glory boys" narrative might not totally be true.

The scoreboard is spinning like never before. NFL point production is the highest ever. Baylor and TCU just played the highest scoring game ever between two Top 10 college football teams. In the NCAA, a hard-to-believe 63 college teams scored at least 50 points in the past week's action.
 
Is this too much of a good thing?

Baseball teams aren't scoring enough runs, football teams are scoring too many points. At this point the only thing that is spinning is my head from trying to figure out whether sportswriters will ever be happy with how many runs or points are scored in a sporting event. If there aren't enough points scored, nobody is interested, if there are too many points scored then it's a bad thing because it ruins the tension of the sport.

Most audiences would rather watch a 38-35 game than a 10-7 contest. But if scoring keeps rising, and football becomes perceived as basketball on grass, will the dramatic tension of the sport be reduced?

Was the Baylor-TCU game unexciting? I think anyone who watched that game (it seems Gregg didn't watch the game) can answer the question there. Dramatic tension won't be reduced if the games are still exciting. A 60-53 game is still exciting because it is close, just like a 10-7 game can be exciting even if there isn't "enough" scoring.

Through Week Six, NFL teams are averaging 23.4 points per game. That's the highest Week 6 number ever.

But as Gregg has pointed out in the past and always seems to forget at beginning of the season, defenses tend to catch up with offense more as the weather grows colder and the season progresses.

FBS college teams are averaging 30.2 points per game, down slightly from the record 30.4 average at the same juncture in 2013.

Scoring was out of control last season and is leveling off this year! Oh no!

The box score looks like some kind of college prank. The 93 points in the Notre Dame-UNC game were most ever at Notre Dame Stadium, which has been hosting football since Herbert Hoover was president.

Hosting Montana State, Cal-Davis had what only a few years ago would have been considered a spectacular day -- 610 offensive yards and five touchdowns. But Cal-Davis lost by 40 points because Montana State spun the scoreboard with a hard-to-believe 11 touchdowns.

But on the flip side, Alabama-Arkansas played a 14-13 game, Clemson-Louisville played a 23-17 game, Oklahoma State-Kansas played a 27-20 game, and Michigan-Penn State played a 18-13 game. That doesn't include the games played between ranked teams which involved the winning team scoring around 30 points. Gregg only mentions the high-scoring games because what fits the point he is trying to prove. College games are high-scoring, but not every game involves a scoring record being broken.

Scoreboards are spinning under the Friday night lights, too. A generation ago, Texas, the center of prep football culture, was home to lots of low-scoring defensive struggles.

I really have no way of proving this pretty generic statement as correct or incorrect, but I would guess this is the result of how football has changed at all levels from a running game to more of a passing game.

High-scoring games actually can be boring; John Carroll 69, Wilmington 0 must have been painful to sit through.

Nope. That's not a high-scoring game, that is a blowout. There is a difference, Gregg. A high-scoring game would involve both teams scoring a lot of points, while a game where only one team scores a lot of points is a blowout and not a high-scoring game. If the score of this game were 69-66 then it wouldn't have painful to sit through and it would have been a high-scoring game.

Higher scores derive in part from quick-snap, no-huddle tactics that increase the number of scrimmage downs. The more snaps, the more chance of injury. Quick-tempo football hasn't existed long enough to determine whether more snaps increase the degree of long-term neurological harm. But there's a worry here.

"There's no proof my assertion is correct, but let's pretend my assertion is correct because I have to pump out a weekly column and this week's topic in rotation is a discussion about concussions combined with a topic of quick scoring by football teams. Next week's topic is just going to be about concussions, followed by a topic on how the zone-read is dead, and then another discussion of high-scoring football games."

If hitting long touchdown passes becomes perceived as easy -- whether owing to tactics or rule changes intended to promote scoring -- the dynamism of the sport might be diluted.

If you notice, Gregg lacks focus on exactly why high-scoring games are bad. He's shotgunning reasons and hopes that eventually one of his explanations will hit the mark. High-scoring games are bad because of concussions. No wait, they are bad because high-scoring games are boring. No, that's not it. High-scoring games are bad because the sport may not be as exciting with too much scoring. Wait, what about high-scoring games being bad because fans will miss all the defense teams play? Nevermind, high-scoring games are bad because it dilutes NFL records. Yeah, that could be the reason.

At some point, Gregg will be able to look back and see that maybe one of these reasons he has mentioned turned out to be correct and he will be so proud of himself for correctly guessing why high-scoring games are so bad. 

The best football game your columnist has ever attended, and perhaps the best ever played, was the 2008 Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots. That contest ended 17-14. Every yard was struggled over, and every play was electric. Each of the four touchdowns was exciting. What if instead there'd been nine or 10 touchdowns?

If the game was still close, then yes, the game would still have been exciting.

In good manners news, Brett Favre has been saying nice things about the likelihood Peyton Manning will break Favre's record for most touchdown passes in a career. Sports etiquette dictates that record-holders pretend to be cheering for those who may leap-frog their names in the record books. For instance three years ago as Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees all were assaulting Dan Marino's decades-old record for passing yards in a season, Marino politely said he was rooting for them.

Hey look, five great quarterbacks are being discussed. Four of them are either first or second round picks. Interesting how that works.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks record-holders should root against their competition. Two years ago when Adrian Peterson drew close to surpassing Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, Dickerson said he hoped that Peterson would not. It worked! Peterson was stopped eight yards shy. If Favre truly wishes his record broken, that's one thing. Odds are he does not. So be honest!

Great, I'm glad time has been taken to discuss whether athletes should be polite or not when one of his record is about to be broken.

Stats Of The Week No. 3: Quarterbacks Cam Newton and Andy Dalton, 2011 high draft choices who faced off at Cincinnati, are a combined 60-44-2 in the regular season and 0-4 in the postseason.

I think Gregg means they faced off "in" Cincinnati. And no, neither quarterback won a playoff game this past weekend, so they will continue to be losers who can't win a playoff game. By the way, Matt Ryan is 1-4 in the playoffs. He lost his first three playoff games before winning one. It's not really relevant, but goes to show even good quarterbacks lose playoff games.

Stats Of The Week No. 6: Even after defeating Pittsburgh, the Browns are on a 4-25 streak versus the Steelers.

What? You mean that victory this past weekend didn't count as 22 victories? So this means the Browns still have a losing record against the Steelers "even after" beating Pittsburgh this past weekend? And here I thought that record would be flipped around to where the Browns have a winning record against the Steelers after one victory.

Dallas scored to take a 27-23 lead with 3:16 remaining at Seattle, where the defending champions entered on a 19-1 run. The Seattle crowd was roaring at military-afterburner decibels. In the Bluish Men Group's previous home game, Russell Wilson ruled this situation, marching his charges the length of the field for a touchdown to win in overtime. Instead against Dallas, the defending champions went short gain, incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, Dallas ball. No mega blitzes, no funky fronts, just tight coverage -- like the Seattle defense played last season. 

Blitzing has never won games for an NFL team. The only way to win in the NFL is to not blitz or show any wacky defensive fronts. It's why a Dick LeBeau-led defense has never won a Super Bowl and no team has won a Super Bowl by blitzing.

Now the Packers are on the Miami 4 with six ticks remaining, out of time outs. Green Bay lines up with 6-4 tight end Andrew Quarless, who's spent most of the contest as an inline blocker, split out far to the right. Weakside linebacker Philip Wheeler, who is not accustomed to being one-on-one in space, trotted over to cover him.

Philip Wheeler is not used to being one-on-one in space. Sure, whatever. In fact, he's never played linebacker before. In reality, he was a fan pulled from the stands for this very play. The honest truth is that Philip Wheeler is a 10 year old boy from Afghanistan who hasn't ever seen a football before. 

Sweet-N-Sour Bonus: Before the touchdown play, Green Bay rushed to the line seemingly to spike to stop the clock. Instead Rodgers threw a 12-yard completion to position the Packers at the 4. Announcers said Rodgers faked a spike, as Dan Marino famously once did. But Rodgers did not -- he simply took the snap and hesitated an instant.

Gregg, he did make a downward motion like he was spiking the ball. He didn't fake the spike, but Rodgers clearly wanted to make it seem like he would be spiking the football.

Having the offensive linemen not move was a sweet variation on the expected spike. Sour: on the not-faked-spike play, Green Bay receiver Davante Adams was hemmed in at the 4 by Miami defensive backs Cortland Finnegan and Jamar Taylor. Instead of dragging him down on the field of play, which almost certainly would have ended the game, they shoved Adams out-of-bounds, stopping the clock.

Do you like how Gregg dragged the second round pick Jamar Taylor into the discussion just so the blame wouldn't all be on the 7th round pick Cortland Finnegan? If Gregg watched the game or replay, which he undoubtedly did not, he would see this mistake was all on Finnegan. Jamar Taylor had no chance to keep Adams in bounds. In fact, if he had tried to keep Adams in bounds then Adams would have walked into the end zone.

Gregg leaves out the draft position of each player because he doesn't want to say a first and second round pick caught a hard-working 7th round pick unaware. Rest assured, if the roles were reversed and a 7th round pick threw the ball to an undrafted free agent who was tackled by a 2nd round pick, the draft position of these players would be mentioned by Gregg.

Recently, an international team of astronomers recorded an extremely strong, brief radio signal that appeared to emanate from another galaxy. To travel such distance, the signal must be more than a million years old -- from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

"Exactly what may be causing such radio bursts represents a major new enigma for astrophysicists," McGill University said. As TMQ has noted about gamma-ray bursts from deep space, scientists assume any unexplained interstellar phenomena are natural in origin. Why assume that? Gamma-ray bursts may be the muzzle flashes of doomsday weapons built by other civilizations. Perhaps the extremely strong radio burst was cosmic social networking bouncing off an intergalactic cell tower.

Gregg Easterbrook is the same guy who complains when a television show uses a battleship that was retired a decade ago and treats it as if it were still an active battleship. His speculation for the cause of gamma-ray bursts are doomsday weapons built by other civilizations. Surely, if a movie portrayed a gamma-ray burst as a doomsday weapon built by other civilizations then Gregg would spend 500 words explaining how this is stupid and unrealistic.

Why Certain Teams Have Lost Nine Straight: Trailing 16-14, Jacksonville had possession on the Flaming Thumbtacks' 37 with 12 seconds remaining, out of time outs. At third-and-2, rather than try a quick sideline pass to improve field position -- 12 seconds is sufficient clock for that -- Gus Bradley sent in the field goal unit to attempt from 55 yards. Needless to say, no points.

As I wrote in MMQB this week, Gus Bradley would have to potentially rely on two rookies to run a play and get out of bounds with 12 seconds remaining. It's a judgment call, not a bad decision. Jacksonville very easily could have tried a pass and Bortles could have gotten sacked or the receiver didn't get out of bounds on a pass play. If that had happened then Gregg would have criticized Bradley for not kicking the field goal.

New England leading 23-14 early in the fourth quarter, the Flying Elvii faced third-and-12 on the Buffalo 18. Presnap, the Buffalo secondary was confused -- players were pointing at each other and shouting. Nickle safety Duke Williams turned his back to the opponents in order to argue with a teammate. Word to the wise: do not turn your back on Tom Brady. He immediately signaled for the snap and threw an easy touchdown pass to the man Williams should have guarded, turning a tight contest into a walkover. 

This is something that Gregg consistently does which annoys me. He says Williams should have been "guarding" his man. This isn't basketball where defenses run man-to-man defense most of the time (except for that ninny Jim Boeheim of course). It's football where a secondary runs zone coverage, man coverage and even a mix of both. Jim Schwartz runs a shell Cover-2 a lot of times, so there isn't necessarily a man that Duke Williams was "guarding." It doesn't make this play by Williams any smarter, but simply points out a fallacy Gregg consistently believes that each member of the secondary has a player they are supposed to "guard," as if a secondary is only playing man coverage at all times.

Last week at Detroit, Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz not only was carried off the field, celebrating extravagantly as if he'd just cured cancer or brought peace to the Middle East -- the embarrassing spectacle was staged because Schwartz instructed players to carry him off the field. Reader Jeff Yang of Bethesda, Maryland suggests the football gods punished this effrontery by causing Schwartz's defense to allow 37 points and get no takeaways at home versus the Bills' most important rival.

Two things:

1. Buffalo is not the Patriots' rival. Any suggestion they are is ridiculous.

2. Readers like Jeff Yang are who make Gregg Easterbrook popular, which means I don't like Jeff Yang. Please don't encourage Gregg's stupidity in citing football gods.

Now In Development, X-Men: Cash Cow: "X-Men: Days of Future Past" is out on DVD and home video this week. To watch any sci-fi action movie, one must accept the premise.

To watch any movie or television show, one must accept the premise. Carry on...

In the latest X-flick, audiences were required to accept a premise that included mutant superheroes, time travel and gigantic flying robots built by the Nixon Administration. One also had to accept the premise that nine years from today, in 2023, the Pentagon will possess antigravity technology and indestructible self-aware morphing cyborgs.

To watch a sci-fi action movie, one must not be difficult and understand the term stands for "Science-Fiction." Fiction. Fiction. Not real. Continuing carrying on...

Okay, that's the premise, no more improbable than a James Bond movie or "Veronica Mars" episode, for that matter. Yet within the premise, action should make sense. In the flick, as the world is about to end in 2023, the handful of surviving X-Men realize Armageddon was set in motion by a mistake made on January 27, 1973. Wolverine is sent back in time to correct the mistake. But he's sent back only a few days prior to the event, requiring a furious race to head off disaster. If it was possible to move half a century backward in time, why not send him a bit earlier and make the mission more practical?

Because it would not have made an interesting movie. See, the purpose of a movie is to entertain the audience using tension, comedy, drama, etc. So giving a tighter window to accomplish the mission makes the movie more exciting.

I am sure Gregg Easterbrook would ask, "If a movie had too much tension, is that a bad thing? What if the audience gets bored because there is too much excitement in the movie?"

Then there's Shadowcat. In "X-Men: The Last Stand," set in the year 2006, she is said to be 20 years old. That would make her 37 years old in "Days of Future Past." Ellen Page, who plays the character, was 26 years of age during filming, and clearly is in her 20s, not her late 30s. Maybe she uses time travel to stay young.

Guess what else? Ellen Page isn't even a mutant. In fact, ZERO real mutants are in any of the "X-Men" movies. I can't believe it either. How unrealistic.

This happens constantly on celluloid. In real life, how often do people walk in on their love interests smooching the wrong person?

16 times. It has happened 16 times in real life and has happened one time to me.

Leading 10-0, Chip Kelly lined up little-used reserve tight end James Casey in a flex left; showed screen pass left as Casey dragged to the right "low," close to the defensive line so the safeties wouldn't notice him; 26-yard touchdown. Sweet.

This is not entirely true. James Casey isn't always little-used. He was in for 5% of snaps during Week 4 and 34% during Week 5. It all depends on the week. Casey was in for 17% of the snaps during Week 6.

The Cardinals play stout West Coast Defense but are low-voltage on offense, with just three touchdowns on 15 red zone possessions. On the other hand, they are the sole NFL team that has not thrown an interception. Suddenly their Nov. 2 date at Dallas looks like one of the season's monster games. Don't be surprised if their regular-season finale pairing at Santa Clara is a win-and-you're-in, loser-goes-home contest.

You may not believe this, but Gregg is lying here. This stout West Coast defense that Gregg has previously described as not involving a lot of blitzing? Well, about that...Yep, it turns out the Cardinals turned the game against the Redskins around by disguising seven man fronts and blitzing Kirk Cousins. And of course Gregg won't mention this because he wants his readers to believe blitzing is a strategy that rarely works and playing a stout defense by only rushing four men is the way to win football games. So any evidence that blitzing works will immediately be ignored or simply not discussed by Gregg Easterbrook. He will just hope none of his readers actually look into any of his assertions.

Upping the ante, on "Justified," a bad guy hit by a shotgun shell not only is lifted into the air but also he flies backward across a room. For the shell to convey enough energy for this to happen, the shooter would have to fly an equal distance in the opposite direction. Unless he was using a recoilless rifle, a type of antitank weapon that, despite the name, is a cannon. But the weapon shown was a standard shotgun.

This "Justified" episode aired over six months ago and Gregg is still focused on just how unrealistic this scene was. I have a feeling Gregg writes these scenes down as they happen, probably in the same Selena Gomez Trapper Keeper notebook he keeps his "Game Over" mentions in, so he can write about them in TMQ.

Buck-Buck-Brawkkkkkk No. 2: Vikings trailing 17-0 in the fourth quarter, coach Mike Zimmer sent the punt unit in on fourth-and-1. Just to prove it was no fluke, still trailing 17-0 with less than five minutes remaining, Zimmer sent the field goal unit in.

Yeah, it sounds like a chicken move, but this was a three possession game with five minutes remaining anyway. At some point the Vikings had to kick a field goal. I won't defend Zimmer's decision to not go for it on fourth down earlier in the fourth quarter though.

Last week, when the Supreme Court declined to hear petitions from those seeking to prevent Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin from legalizing gay marriage, conservative Sen. Ted Cruz called this "judicial activism at its worst." Federal courts don't interfere with state autonomy -- that's "judicial activism?"

I missed this the first two times I read this column until it was pointed out to me on Twitter. I didn't pass the bar, but I know a little bit. I know that federal courts do interfere with state autonomy. I know that part of the purpose of the federal courts (and the Supreme Court) is to strike down any laws they see as unconstitutional, which obviously would include state laws that interfere with federal laws. So federal courts do interfere with state autonomy. If Nevada states that a person must have a driver's license and be of the Christian faith in order to vote in statewide and local elections, then a federal court can hear an appeal or case based on the violation of religious freedom. So yes, federal courts interfere with state autonomy all the time as long as it is a federal law that is being challenged. This seems like quite the lie from Gregg Easterbrook, especially from someone whose brother is a judge. 

Usually, conservatives praise states' rights -- but when Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin decided to recognize gay unions (civil marriage has always originated at the state or local, not federal, level), conservatives went ballistic. Why don't those unelected federal judges step in!

Actually, conservatives also would try and get a statewide referendum to change the state constitution specifically stating marriage as between a man and a woman. That happened too.

But Gregg, why would conservatives want an unelected federal judge to step in when everyone knows that federal courts don't interfere with state autonomy? A federal court would NEVER step in on the issue of state autonomy to recognize gay unions, mostly because federal courts just let states do whatever they want. Right?

Liberals are just as bad. Normally, the song they sing is "think globally, act locally." But when local sentiment in Alaska favors a copper-and-gold mine, liberals demand the EPA invoke federal power to block the project.

What a nice way of saying normally liberals "think globally, act locally" and pretty much stereotyping millions of people as all having one specific belief. Welcome to Gregg Easterbrook's America, where there is no nuance and all liberals think one thing and all conservatives think another.

Success of the latest Hillary Clinton tome raises again this question: Why do Americans spend so much money on "books" that are "by" politicians -- whether Clinton or Rick Perry or Leon Panetta or any other -- when most such volumes consist of self-flattery and statements of the obvious?
 
Maybe for the same reason people choose to buy your books. Just because they want to.

The cover of Panetta's new book says "with Jim Newton." By contrast, Perry campaigned for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination by pretending to be the author of "Fed Up," which was actually written by Chip Roy. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook travels about claiming to be an accomplished author, when Nell Scovell actually wrote "Lean In." Scovell is noted on the book's title page but not on the cover, which warrants to the buyer that Sandberg is the author.

Clinton claims to be the author of three best sellers, none of which lists actual authors on the cover or the title page. In fact if Clinton had written "Living History," that in itself would have been a scandal since she was at the time a United States senator and would have had to neglect her duties to research and compose a 592-page book.

This is as opposed to Gregg Easterbrook who writes TMQ himself, but doesn't want to neglect his other duties, so he doesn't do much research on all of the claims and assertions he makes in the weekly football column.

One of the worst things about important people is insatiable ego. By pretending to be authors, politicians and executives place ego gratification above honesty. They devalue real writing in the process.

Yes, placing ego gratification over honestly. Now who should have kept Davante Adams in bounds again? Cortland Finnegan or Jamar Taylor? Does harping on something like how an NFL team won a game without blitzing, while not mentioning another NFL team won a game by blitzing count as being honest? Or is that just a case of intentionally leaving something out that hurts a narrative and wouldn't count as dishonesty?

Needless to say, Hollywood celebs use ghostwriters -- but celebs are airheads and no one expects their books to be anything other than brightly packaged junk. Readers reasonably expect integrity in books presented to the public as "by" a former secretary of state or "by" a former secretary of the Treasury.

Perhaps the expectations should be lowered then. Politicians routinely aren't the most honest people around.

Geithner postscript: It might be weasel behavior for him to make the rounds of TV talk shows, presenting himself as the author of a book he didn't write. But Geithner is one of the good guys in the bizarre AIG trial, testifying the purpose of the tough terms imposed on that company in 2008 was to discourage other firms from replicating AIG's behavior.

So because Geithner was a good guy in that situation, it's okay with Gregg if he pretends to have written a book that he didn't actually write? I guess that is supposed to be my takeaway here.

College Football's Monster Weekend: There were so many monster contests in big-college football Saturday that not even BMOC could take them all in. Here are some notes from channel-hopping:

But some of the games were high-scoring, which means they were inevitably boring because all the tension was out of the game. I learn so much reading TMQ.

Sportscasters noted Texas lost the Red River game despite an edge of 250 offensive yards. But Oklahoma had a big edge in return yardage, which is just as important.

This is #analysis.

Oregon leading 8-3, facing third-and-10 on the UCLA 21. Oregon lined up trips left and unbalanced right. At the snap, the right tackle pulled left while the tailback counterstepped left to create misdirection. Then the play became a screen right with three offensive linemen hustling downfield -- untouched for a touchdown. It was after this play UCLA coach Jim Mora (Mora the Younger to this column) got into a heated sideline argument with his defensive coordinator. Surely the Bruins had never seen a trips on one side with an unbalanced line on the other side and should have called timeout.

This is another annoying feature of TMQ. Gregg always wants a coach to call timeout the second something confusing happens on the field. A head coach can't call timeout every time a different offensive alignment is shown by the opposing team or it looks like there may be confusion among his team. Each team only has three timeouts per half.

UCLA ran the trick play in which a back walks toward his sideline as if he's leaving the game, gesturing wildly at his coaches as if angry that he's been yanked -- but actually is a man in motion who stops just before going out of bounds and gets the pass. The Bruins gained only 12 yards with this action. Pretending to leave the game -- or the similar "this is the wrong ball" trick play often seen in high school -- shouldn't be legal. It's cheesy.

Yeah, well encouraging players to "do a little dance" to gain a first down on fourth down is cheesy too, but it doesn't stop Gregg from claiming that's the only way to get a first down on fourth-and-short.

Mississippi State leading Auburn 21-0, ran a fake punt from its own 28, resulting in a shaggy looking turnover. Auburn had lined up in a "safe" set, expecting a fake. Now with possession, Auburn reached third-and-goal at the 5. The Tigers ran a tight end end-around trick-play pass -- the tight end had lined up off the line of scrimmage -- that never stood a chance, then settled for a field goal. Gus Malzahn can draw up plays with the best of 'em, but sometimes, gets too cute for his own good.

Mississippi State, leading 28-20 in the early fourth quarter, goes for it on fourth-and-8 from the Auburn 26 and converts. The drive concluded with a field goal anyway, but the call set an aggressive tone for the final stage of the game.

Going for it on fourth down sets an aggressive tone for the game, while attempting a fake punt is getting "too cute" and obviously shouldn't be construed as trying to set an aggressive tone. As always, it's the result of the play that determines for Gregg Easterbrook what the correct play call was in the situation. As long as Gregg knows the outcome, he can tell you if the play call was correct or not.

Leading 58-44 at Baylor, TCU took possession at 10:39 of the fourth quarter and, rather than huddle up to grind the clock, stayed in its super-quick-snap tempo. Rather than run to grind the clock, TCU attempted three passes in six downs, two falling incomplete, which was like giving Baylor two free timeouts. The Horned Frogs punted back after burning just 2:39. This sequence would have been the worst coaching moment of the weekend had it not paled before ...

TCU got the ball back leading 58-51 with 6:39 remaining. Once again, the Horned Frogs used quick-snap rather than clock-killer tactics, and then the possession included: incompletion, quick-snap rush, incompletion, punt. TCU handed Baylor two more free timeouts, then handed back the ball after using up just 58 seconds. Baylor's winning field goal split the uprights as the clock expired. This possession was arguably the worst college football series of all time.

I understand Gregg's criticism, but TCU had scored 58 points using their quick-snap tactics. Is it really smart to back away from those tactics late in the game? Obviously the outcome of the game showed that TCU should have burned more clock, but if TCU scores any more points on this drive using the same tactics that got them 58 points early in the fourth quarter then Gregg wouldn't be criticizing the quick-snap tactics.

If TCU had run the ball and tried to kill clock, why do I feel like Gregg would have criticized them for going away from their quick-snap tactics and blame that slowdown strategy for the loss?

TMQ's Law of Comebacks holds: Defense starts comebacks, offense stops them. When the Texans played better defense in the second half, they came back.

Of all of Gregg Easterbrook's ridiculous laws, I think I hate this one the most. It's so obvious that it actually hurts me to explain it. Of course defense starts comebacks, because a team can't actually start coming back until the opposing team is no longer scoring points. It's hard to comeback when the other team keeps scoring. When one team stops the other team from scoring, then yes, they can start coming back. It's so obvious that this law has absolutely no meaning.

I can't believe that the Texans started to come back in the second half when they played better defense. Who would have thought they could start coming back once they stopped the Colts from scoring? 

The Football Gods Chortled: Indianapolis leading 27-14 just before intermission, the Texans lined up to punt. With three seconds left on the clock, the Colts called timeout -- the first known instance of icing the punter.

Or the Colts stopped the clock in the hopes their punt returner got a chance to return it, hopefully for a touchdown.

Do a Little Dance! TMQ's Law of Short Yardage holds: Do a little dance if you want to gain that yard. Green Bay leading 7-0, Miami decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Packers' 1. No shift, no misdirection -- just a handoff straight ahead, stuffed.

I hope Gregg realizes that when a quarterback sneaks for the first down on a fourth-and-goal try there often isn't misdirection or a shift. He probably doesn't care even if he did know this.

The 600 Club: Hosting Liberty, Appalachian State gained 628 yards and lost.

Sad face.

Single Worst Play Of The Season -- So Far: Opening the season 1-3 and looking shaky, the St. Louis Rams were hosting the heavily favored Santa Clara 49ers on "Monday Night Football." The home crowd was raucous. With undrafted unknown Austin Davis performing well at quarterback,

Austin Davis is performing well, so naturally Peter will mention his draft position. Gotta keep that narrative going. By the way, second round pick and highly-paid glory boy Colin Kaepernick was the winning quarterback. He won by using some of the offensive techniques that Gregg stated a year ago may not work in the NFL anymore.

St. Louis coaches did not send a dime onto the field, or even a nickel. Facing a situation in which the long pass was the only threat, St. Louis coaches sent out their standard 4-3-4 with Cover 2. Presnap, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis backed up to position himself as a third safety. Why wasn't there an actual third safety in the game?

Don't question Jeff Fisher.

Across from Niners wideout Brandon Lloyd, corner Janoris Jenkins lined up in press coverage, right in Lloyd's face. What's the point of press coverage when the opposition must go the length of the field in 27 seconds?

To stop the receiver from catching the ball? That seems to be the point to me.

As Lloyd accelerated up the sideline, Jenkins then made the high school mistake of looking into the backfield trying to guess the play, rather than stick to his man.

I can't stand it when Gregg claims a cornerback is staring in the backfield trying to guess the play. It doesn't make sense. Why would a cornerback stare in the backfield when it's clearly a pass? He knows the play, it's a pass. Jenkins didn't stare in the backfield, he bit on a double move and that's how he got beaten.

So let me clear up two things:

1. Brandon Lloyd did not run a stop-and-go as Gregg claims. It was a double move. There is a difference. On a stop-and-go, the receiver actually stops and then runs up the field. On a double move, the receiver will make two moves and hope the cornerback bites on the first one. That is what happened here. Looking at the play, one can clearly see Brandon Lloyd did not stop, he made a move to the inside and then continued running straight. Jenkins bit on the first move and the touchdown was a result. I would think since Gregg writes a football column and loves to throw around football terminology that he would take the time to understand the correct football terminology he should use. Much like asking him to read the links he puts in TMQ, it seems this is too much to ask.

2. Let me re-clear up that Jenkins wasn't trying to guess the play by looking the backfield. He quite obviously bit for the first move on the double move that Brandon Lloyd ran. I wish Gregg would stop writing that cornerbacks "try to guess the play" when they are actually biting on a fake or running zone coverage.

The worst play came from the St. Louis safeties, Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald (McLeod was ultimately the goat on this play, completely out of position). At the snap both came forward, as if expecting something super-short. Both were running toward the Santa Clara end of the field as Lloyd was streaking toward the St. Louis end.

And notice immediately after announcing that undrafted free agent Austin Davis was playing well, Gregg states that Rodney McLeod was the ultimate goat on the worst play of the game. What Gregg leaves out is that McLeod is an undrafted free agent. It's always interesting to see Gregg mention when a player is an undrafted free agent and when he fails to mention this. It usually comes off as a desperate attempt to shield information from his readers in order for them to believe the narrative he wants to prove about lowly-drafted and undrafted free agents. It never fails, Gregg only mentions a player's draft position if he does something negative and is a highly-drafted player or does something positive and is an undrafted free agent. He rarely mentions draft position when an undrafted free agent does something negative or a highly-drafted player does something positive. He's gotta keep misleading his audience into believing what he says is true. If he can't do it with the truth, just lie a little or hold back the truth, and trust the people are too stupid to catch on.

As Colin Kaepernick released his pass, McLeod, who had responsibility for the side Lloyd was on, simply came to a halt and watched, not attempting to chase the man whose 80-yard touchdown seconds before halftime changed the complexion of the contest.

As second round pick and highly-paid glory boy Kaepernick released the ball, fourth round pick and once highly-paid glory boy Brandon Lloyd beat second round pick Janoris Jenkins and undrafted free agent Rodney McLeod for an 80-yard touchdown.

Afterward, Les Mouflons coach Jeff Fisher made lame excuses about a bad call on a different down. It was a bad call. Don't give me your excuses -- go win the game!

Look, Jeff "8-8" Fisher is working on turning the Rams around. It can't just happen overnight. No NFL team has ever been turned around in 2-3 years. Just give Fisher a contract extension and there will be a winning season in there somewhere for the Rams. Meanwhile, he'll waste the team's time not coaching with urgency and trusting his reputation will continue to buy him time.

Next Week: The annual Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year -- Indiana of Pennsylvania versus California of Pennsylvania at Hepner-Bailey Field at Adamson Stadium in California, Pennsylvania.

I'll be sure not to look forward to it.