Sunday, August 29, 2010

More On Quarterback Farming

As an adjunct to this

wonder if more teams don't consider becoming quarterback factories. It seems like it would be a very lucrative trade.

In recent years the Patriots developed Matt Cassel as a 7th round pick, got some excellent service out of him and then turned him into Patrick Chung. This a few years after they developed Tom Brady which allowed them to turn Drew Bledsoe into Ty Warren who has started the last 6 years at DE.

Atlanta drafted Matt Schaub and after a few years of outstanding service as a backup to Mike Vick, turned him into 2 2nd round picks, as well as a bump in the 1st round. While the players they acquired from those picks haven't worked out too well, this is still a tremendous bounty for a guy originally drafted in the 3rd round and a guy who never started.

we get this:
*It appears that the Packers have developed Matt Flynn into a commodity. At some point in the near future, maybe next offseason, they will be able to trade him for a decent draft pick. It would help his value if Flynn played well in a meaningful situation in the regular season. And head coach Mike McCarthy tells me he definitely has confidence that Flynn would play well if given the chance. He said the former seventh-round pick has total command of the Packers offense after just two years in Green Bay.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Numbers game

Sports Illustrated came out with a list of the best NFL player for each jersey number:

Best NFL Player by Jersey Number
Gallery 00-49
Gallery 50-59

They have Ray Lewis as their best #52, which sounds pretty reasonable to this Ravens fan. There's always a certain amount of current-player-bias in these things, and it's not like Ray-ray's not an all-time great bound for the Hall of Fame.

It's only when you think about other players Ray was chosen ahead of, that you realize what an incredible honor it is. Some other halfway-decent #52's:

Mike Webster.
Robert Brazile. (People make his case for the HoF here and here.)
Frank Gatski.

Ray's not automatic, at all.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Running Injury Tracker

Added a bunch today including our first punter, Dave Zastudil. Went all the way back to 8/4 to add Jeff Otah. Team is just about complete other than quarterback. Have a couple of star players (Dumervil, Rice), a solid offensive line (Colon, Saturday, Otah, Kosier) and two many solid regs to mention.

Have one more weekend of football to assess so some time next week I'll finalize the list and make some reckless extrapolations.


Limas Sweed
season (achilles)

Kevin Thomas
season (knee)

Marlin Jackson
season (torn achilles)

Thomas Davis
season (ACL)

Rod Hood
season (ACL)

Domenik Hixon
season (ACL)

Willie Colon
season (ruptured achilles)

Sidney Rice
malingering (hip)

Atari Bigby
5 weeks+ (ankle

Dez Bryant
ankle (4-6 weeks)

Domonique Foxworth
season (ACL)

Knowshon Moreno
3+ weeks (Hamstring)

Chris Hovan
season (back)

Nick Kaczur
back (long time)

A.J. Edds
season (ACL)

Kenny McKinley
season (knee)

D'Anthony Smith
season (torn achilles)

Ty Warren
season (hip)

Xavier Adibi
4- weeks (groin

Donald Butler
season (ruptured achilles)

Jeff Otah
4+ weeks (knee)

Elvis Dumervil
4+ months (torn pectoral)

Ben Patrick
4+ weeks (displaced patella)

DeMarcus Ware
4+ weeks (knee)

Charles Johnson
4+ weeks ? (foot)

Ahmad Brooks
4+ weeks (lacerated kidney)

Michael Jenkins (Atl)
4-6 wks (shoulder)

John Phillips
season (ACL)

Jeff Saturday
4-6 weeks (knee surgery)

Brian Leonard
4+ weeks ("mid-foot injury")

D'Qwell Jackson
strained pectoral (4-8 weeks)

Lynell Hamilton
season (ACL)

Tim Bulman
"no time soon" (shoulder)

William Hayes
4-6 weeks (MCL)

Will Allen
4+ weeks (knee)

Fred Jackson
4+ weeks (hand)

Will James
4-6 weeks (high ankle)

Major Wright
4+ weeks (finger)

Jordon Dizon
season (knee)

Ben Tate
season (fractured fibula)

Tim Bulman
season (shoulder)

Dave Zustedil
season (patella)

Jamie Silva
season (knee)

Kyle Kosier
4-6 weeks (knee)

We talk so much about injuries around here, and in part the pointlessness of OTAs and such I've decided to take a stab at tracking significant off-season and training camp injuries. I'm not going to count guys getting drunk and falling down a flight of stairs or off the back of pickups*. Just the avoidable football ones. Also only counting injuries that will knock players out for at least a month. I'm wondering what kind of team we will be able to build from the wounded.

Yay! Another injury. Dumervil lost for most of the season with a torn pec. Gosh, I'm sure he needed all those reps in the first week of August. Raw prospect like that.

Our defense is nearly set. We really need more offensive linemen to get hurt.

Update: Falcons WR Michael Jenkins suffered a shoulder injury during the team’s intrasquad scrimmage Friday night at North Gwinnett High School.

Adding Atari Bigby too. This almost seems like a cheat since all he did was aggravate an old ankle injury in a conditioning drill, but he did and it was on the field in an organized activity so my hands are tied.

Oh Goody! Another injury. Ben Patrick displaced his kneecap. I guess he left it in his other pants or something. We needed a tight end.

Charlie Weis is walking around with a huge brace after part of his kneecap "fell off". I feel like OS should have a punchline contest for this one.

Added: Nick Kaczur (8/2), Scott McKillop (8/3), Ed Wang (8/5)
Removed: Jeremy Maclin, deep bone bruise recovered within days instead of weeks.

On today's edition of "My Favorite Injury" we add Sidney Rice who actually has been out since 7/12 and who may be dogging his return as a silent protest of his contract status.

Good for him. Stupid to get injured on pointless August practices.

*although arguably a football related injury


Thursday, August 12, 2010

For Love of the Game, and the Family

We talk a lot about the inner workings of the game and players on this blog, but not a lot about the fans and the emotional aspect of it.

Tonight I look forward to one of what I hope to be the more exciting nights of my life. Tonight I'm taking my seven year old daughter up to Baltimore for her first Ravens game, the first she'll attend any professional sporting event live.

My daughter isn't a huge football fan. She likes the Ravens. She also likes the Steelers, thanks to my brother and his daughter (also seven, the two are inseparable when they get together) living in Pittsburgh. She'll watch football with me for a bit on Sundays, but doesn't really get into the game.

I remember when I was around that age. I was much like her with the Orioles. I liked them. But mostly I liked them cause my dad liked them. I watched a little bit. And I was looking forward to going to my first game with him.

What I got from it was one of the more vivid memories of my childhood. I can't tell you how old I was. I can't remember who the Orioles played. But I remember with remarkable precision the moment I walked out of that tunnel. The bright light hit me, and the stadium seemed huge and bright and colorful. I wouldn't quite call it overwhelming, but it was close to that.

I'm hoping I can give my daughter something like that tonight when she walks out of the tunnel.

Maybe high expectations, but I also know she's extremely excited to go tonight. She's been bouncing off the walls since I told her, and doesn't at all mind missing a really fun field trip that she can't participate in for day care because of the trip we'll take tonight. And me? I'm about ready to jump out of my skin.

It's a perfect setting for which to take her. I don't expect she'd want to stay the whole game - even if it would end before 11 PM by which time she'd be asleep in her seat. This way, I get to take her to a game where I don't mind leaving after only one quarter, but she still gets the experience of it.

It's moments like these that make me love the game.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More On Rookie Wages

This is one of those 'I've been waiting for no particularly good reason to post this' posts. 18 To 88 is a dedicated Indianapolis Colt blog and Nate Dunlevy is a fixture, one of the most prominent writers.

Anyhow he discusses the rookie wage scale. His perspective is pretty good for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is how the wage scale penalizes teams that regularly draft near the bottom of the first round.

The union has responded by asking for free agency to begin after three seasons. On the surface, it's a curious counter offer, but it makes sense. The rookie wage scale would only have a major impact on the first round, and especially only on the top of the first round. Like it or not, most NFL stars come from the top picks in the first round. On the whole, if teams could control their young stars for up to five years at bargain prices, it would have the effect of chilling salary growth.

Think about it: big contracts for rookies are used by veteran agents to negotiate bigger deals for older players. "You can't offer my guy that!" they say. "So and so (a draft bust from the Chiefs, let's say) makes more than that! Your offer is insulting!". Under the current system, bad players are overpaid, but the good players are paid correctly. No one in Atlanta argues over Matt Ryan's deal, for instance. However, if you impose a rookie wage scale, teams get good players on the cheap, but busts don't hurt as much.

Imagine that same contract negotiation with a rookie wage scale in place. Star veteran is up for a new deal. He's a good player, but not elite. The team compares him to another player drafted in the top 10 who has made multiple Pro Bowls, but is still on his rookie deal. They say, "You aren't as good as so and so! He's only making $1.5 million a season! Why should we pay you more than him?" So, a rookie wage scale in this case would actually serve to hold down the salaries of veteran players.

This is valid and difficult to get around. Now the barometer for premium salaries comes from rookie deals. In our previous discussion, Domonique Foxworth explained that the NFL has refused to guarantee the savings from rookie deals be transferred to veterans.
It would also lead to a lot more Chris Johnson style holdouts. Johnson got paid a deal that was way under market value thanks to his low draft status. Obviously unhappy with the deal, he spent a contentious offseason trying to leverage himself more money that he felt he earned. The situation eventually resolved itself, but not without some acrimony. Under a rookie wage scale, elite top of the drafts talents would reguarly out perform their deals, and if they remained under team control for 5 years, lots of conflict will enuse. [sic]
Another good point. And of course both of these points argue toward a sane wage scale that rewards good play over bad play, regardless of player age and draft status. One can envision any number of mechanisms for doing this that would give teams roster security while giving players some negotiating flexibility. Sadly it appears that the owners have interest in an equitable solution yet nor have the players shown the imagination to offer one.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Something Funny Happened On The Way To A Trend

The easiest posts to write are the ones that just dissect a bunch of numbers. They can be time consuming but the actual reporting part is easy. 'hey guys, look what I found, pretty much what we all already knew anyway'.

But sometimes the numbers actually throw enough of a curve to make the game worthwhile.

So over a couple of days I rooted around with numbers from young starting quarterbacks.I am trying to determine the degree and predictability of improvement from one season to the next.

I took the group of all quarterbacks from 2000 - 2008 who had their first starting season in one of their first three years in the NFL, and then took the subsequent year for comparison. There were 13 rookie quarterbacks and 16 veterans - quarterbacks who had played at least one year without starting. The fewest starts I considered were Aaron Brooks' 5 starts in 2000.

I looked at Y/A, TD%, INT%, Comp % and AY/A.

So looking at the whole group the results were pretty unsurprising, or if they were surprising it was in the underwhelming improvement that the group of quarterbacks tend to make from their first starting year to their second. In all cases the standard deviation was much larger than the improvement, usually many times larger. In other words, the performance of year one held very little correlation to either the statistics or range of year two. The only significant gain was in completion %, an average of 2.3%. Y/A was just under +1%. Every other gain - while positive - was less than 0.1%.

The ranges were so great that actually putting numbers to them seems kind of pointless.

So since this wasn't telling me a thing I decided to break it out by true rookie seasons versus more seasoned players getting their first starting jobs. My eyeballs had already told me that rookie starters tended to have significant jumps in their second seasons.

To put it mildly I was right.

While the standard deviations remained huge, far too large to generate useful projections, the actual change in the overall trends was stunning.

Second year quarterbacks who had started as rookies saw huge jumps in all statistics. On average TD% +0.6%, INT% - 0.5%, Comp % +5.2%. Of all rookies only 2 had declines in Comp% and those two were the two with the highest averages their rookie seasons, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan. Roethlisberger's Y2 Comp % remained well above average while Ryan's dipped slightly below.

Okay, but here's the cool part. If the overall group so almost no gain from Y1 to Y2 and the rookies saw huge gains from Y1 to Y2 what about the others? They were worse in every single category. Some declines were almost zero but there were fairly large declines in TD% (-0.4%) and INT % (+0.3%).

So what does this mean? That regardless of whether a player plays his rookie season, he virtually becomes the entire quarterback that he will be that year and that his second year statistics will accurately reflect his career expectations.

Okay, this is only sort of true. There is one more thing to look at and that is what kind of incremental gains are made by a player's 3rd or 4th starting season. By then the players who fail as starters are no longer starting and we can get a better idea of what kind of progress a successful quarterback makes from his 1st to 4th year.


Sunday, August 8, 2010


I don't watch the 4-letter anymore, except for games, because – well, because I can't stand it. So I missed this. You've probably seen a ton of TV coverage on this, if not there then on the Today Show or CBS News or NPR or whatever. But I just stumbled on it.

Here's your new head football coach at Coolidge High School, in DC:

That's Natalie Randolph, 29-year-old biology and environmental sciences teacher, and former track athlete (hurdles at UVa). Oh yeah, and former WR for 6 seasons with the D.C. Divas women's professional football team.
Coverage from the Washington Post:

Natalie Randolph takes reins at Coolidge High
The room fell silent. Teenage boys twice the size of their 5-foot-5, 130-pound coach had no retort. Randolph, who in March became one of just a handful of women ever to be named head coach of a high school football team, pounded her thigh to show she still has some muscle from her days as a hurdler at the University of Virginia and wide receiver for the D.C. Divas women's professional football team.
When Randolph, 30, stands before her players for their first practice Friday at Coolidge, she will hardly be an unknown commodity. In the nearly five months since the March 12 announcement of her hiring attracted national media coverage, a proclamation from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, and a spotlight on the Coolidge team, Randolph got to better know her players without the cameras present. Among her summer projects with the Colts: Organizing an SAT preparation class, implementing a complex conditioning program, and having her players regularly clean the Brightwood school's classrooms and athletic facilities. ...
On the field, her personality is atypical of the football coaching archetype; bombast and intimidation are not her usual calling cards, nor does she seek the spotlight.
In 2006, she began teaching environmental science at H.D. Woodson, where she also became a wide receivers coach . Even with a master's degree in education, Randolph said teaching in D.C. public schools required her to improvise her teaching methods. Students tend to equate her petite frame and high voice with someone easily intimidated.
"Did I think it would be this crazy?" Randolph said, "No. I thought it would be crazy for a month, then I thought it would die down."
One donation has come from the NFL Players Association for transportation for the team to spend last weekend at a camp in Pennsylvania; another donation has come from a Pittsburgh company, which is providing the team with uniforms and equipment. "We do need help in this city, and [Coolidge] isn't the only one," Randolph said. "All the media [attention] helps. The kids are going to get more visibility. The school, the city will benefit, too."
Man, she looks and sounds like a football coach.

Here's more from the Post, a different article:
Coolidge, Randolph stay focused
"There's just so much to do," she said. "I'm not even sure what to do next." Once she blew the first whistle, though, Randolph appeared in her element, running players through drills and officially beginning the season as just one of a handful of women ever to lead a high school football program.
The Colts had grown accustomed to Randolph's leadership over the summer, adhering to her detailed conditioning program five days a week. That program was a major reason they were surprised by their lack of fatigue. "We must not be human," senior Daniel West told his teammates during a water break, "because humans would get tired in this heat. We ain't tired."
her attention to detail and preparation were among the talents that the school's coaching search committee said set Randolph apart. It was apparent throughout the three-hour workout, notably as she ran players through a footwork drill in which they tiptoed through a ladder on the ground.
"Don't mess up my ladder," she warned players as they ran through the exercise. "Keep my ladder straight." ...
That's two articles mentioning her "complex" or "detailed" conditioning program, which I find notable.

Here's two pieces on her hiring back in March. One:
Natalie Randolph to coach Coolidge High School football team
In Natalie Randolph's first season as wide receivers coach at H.D. Woodson High School in the District a few years ago, one of the most difficult moments each week came at the end of the game when the two teams lined up for their traditional handshake.

"I hate shaking hands," she said at the time, "because they walk right past me and don't realize I'm a coach."
Randolph, a 1998 graduate of Sidwell Friends and former sprinter at the University of Virginia, is hardly a football newbie. She was a receiver for the Divas of the Independent Women's Professional League from 2004 to 2008 and an assistant at H.D. Woodson in 2006 and '07. She joined the Coolidge faculty in 2008 but has not coached the previous two seasons.

"She can do it," said H.D. Woodson Coach Greg Fuller, who hired Randolph as an assistant in 2006. "She's a no-nonsense kind of coach. She's a disciplinarian. She handled [the questions about being a woman coaching football] very well because she takes on any challenge you put in front of her."

No one is believed to have kept records on the number of women who have coached football in the United States, although the number is small. According to Sydney Chambers of the Clell Wade Coaches Directory, which maintains a database of all coaches at U.S. colleges, high schools and junior high schools, there was no woman listed among the 15,675 public or private high school football coaches last season.
Randolph was introduced to the Coolidge team after school on Tuesday, according to a person who was at the meeting. The boys on the team displayed some initial skepticism, this person said, but Randolph won them over.

"Some of the kids tried to test her knowledge of football, and she just shot them down," said the individual, who asked not to be identified because school officials requested that the information not be made public until Friday. "At the end, they were clapping for her. They didn't know she played football."

While Randolph had the power to discipline the players on the H.D. Woodson team when she was an assistant, she said she had to work harder to establish herself with the other coaches on the Warriors' staff. "After the first week, I had more apprehension about the other coaches than about the players," she told The Post in 2006. "It was about proving myself to the other coaches."
DC High School Appoints First Female Football Coach
She stood out among the more than 15 applicants, who include former N.F.L. players, Pop Warner coaches and even a retired Army general, because she promised to help the players in the classroom as much as on the field. Calvin Coolidge Senior High School consistently battles academic records that are less than stellar and Randolph brings to the table structure and discipline.
Makes a great point about her academic background. I also like the bit about the SAT prep class (first article), and her quote about how the media attention can mean help for the school and/or the District. She really sounds like a coach who is focused on all the right things.

When we look at the NFL coaching carousel, I give succeed-or-fail predictions, and one of the things I usually note is the asst coaches on staff. That's completely inappropriate for a high school coach: for a number or reasons, but mostly because (as her own quotes indicate) winning and losing are not the main criteria for judging a HS coach's success. However, along the lines of the Carousel, let's note who she has as OL coach:
Baltimore Examiner
Since becoming head coach, Randolph has taken on seven volunteer assistant coaches, including D.C. legend, Bob Headen, who retired after 25 years as the head football coach at Woodson, where he won eight championships and sent a handful of players into the NFL. "I told her I would mentor her and I would coach the line," Headen said. "Look at her background. She went to a prestigious school (Virginia) and she earned a scholarship. She was not handed one. And she's got six years of professional football. She's got the experience.
When you have a legendary head coach serving as your O-line coach, that's a powerful asset.

Coolidge's first game is Aug. 27 against Archbishop Carroll. Go Colts!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Albert Haynesworth Is A Gol Dang Genius

Well, maybe he isn't a genius, but geniuses around the NFL should have their ears perked up at the current events in DC.

Okay, so all football fans are aware of the current impasse between Mike Shanahan and Albert Haynesworth. To recap, Haynesworth has to pass a conditioning test that (supposedly) all defensive linemen have to pass, however any who participated in the offseason program are exempted. So really, this is a test for Big Albert. Or at least maybe it is.

Wright also clarified why Haynesworth is the only player on the team that has to take the "test."

"It’s actually not a test for everybody on the team. The guys that were under 50 percent [participation in OTAs] were notified that they got to get over 50 percent, or there’s a test. I think Andre Carter was close, Rocky McIntosh was close, so we let them know. [Now], they’re over 50 percent. But our team is so high – we’re 90.4-percent [participation] as a team – so nobody was in danger of having to do a test," he said.

However, when asked whether this was then a "Haynesworth test," Wright said "No, it’s not a Haynesworth test. It’s a test for anybody under 50 percent attendance or less. He was the only guy."

In the same article DeAngelo Hall opined that offseason program participation or no, not many Redskins could have passed the test.

Ivan Carter, a former D-III football player and reporter for CNS Washington ran the drill and completed each component with about 5 seconds to spare.

I disagree with his opinion that if he could do it, Haynesworth should have no problem. Maybe that's true but one look at Carter shows a much different body than the one that Albert has to haul around.

Thing with Haynesworth though, is if he doesn't want to participate in training camp, all he has to do is not pass the test. Easy. He doesn't get fined, he doesn't get jailed, he won't be cut. He got stuck on the treadmill for a couple of days for less than an hour. That's it. For a #325 guy, that must beat 6 hours working out in 90 degree heat.

Apparently, Shanahan is trying to make an example out of Haynesworth but this whole thing is already blowing up in his face. I hope that the next time Haynesworth takes the test he does it with a hot dog in his hand.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Rookie Playoff Quarterbacks And Mark Sanchez' Place

Something happened on Mark Sanchez' way to a pretty disappointing rookie season. The Playoffs.

Yeah, I know, Mark Sanchez was named NFL rookie of the week for 16 straight weeks or something. It was a farce. A facade.

I looked into Sanchez playoff record relative to other rookie quarterbacks a couple of weeks ago - which I will get to momentarily - but decided to wait for Football Outsiders' Almanac before posting about it, since I thought there was a reasonable chance they would have addressed it. They didn't so I will.

I bring this up though, because I am glad I waited. FO published the most comparable rookie quarterbacks to Sanchez. It isn't a flattering list. While some of the players later on the list turned out to be great quarterbacks, including Aikman and Elway (neither of whom had good rookie years) his closest comparables had short and unimpressive careers, topped by Jamarcus Russell.

Make no mistake, Sanchez was awful in the regular season, and his awfulness was a bit masked by the otherwise outstanding team that was assembled around him. The Jets had the fewest passing attempts in the league, and not the fewest by a little but the fewest by a lot. New York attempted 391 passes, the second fewest came from Buffalo with 441. The league median was around 540. So with 150 fewer attempts than over half the league (that's 9 per game, boys and girls) one would think that defenses would be keying the run, that his looks would be good. But even with that huge advantage, Sanchez was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, and his awfulness very nearly sabotaged the Jets playoff run.

But he did get to the playoffs and somehow this ugly old worm transformed itself into a beautiful butterfly.

San Diego12231001160.1

That 93 rating would have put him 13th overall for the 2009 season, slightly behind Kurt Warner, Eli Manning and Donovan McNabb. More impressively though, he did it under the bright lights of the playoffs against teams that finished 7th, 17th and 12th in pass defense.

There haven't been many teams recently who made the playoffs with a rookie quarterback but it is still interesting to compare with those that did. In fact this is the whole point of this thing.

Going back to 1983 only 5 teams have made the playoffs with rookie quarterbacks, 4 of them this decade and Dan Marino.

Joe Flacco333754371350.8
Matt Ryan126401992272.8
Ben Roethlisberger231544073561.3
Dan Marino115251932277.6

So what do we make of this? It's hard to say for sure, except that Sanchez' performance in the playoffs was historically great, certainly the greatest post season in the last 30 years. Add in that regardless of how he got there, he is among excellent company. Anyone watching the AFC Championship could tell that this was no fluke either, with Sanchez poised and confident.

Quarterbacks either get it or they don't. They can either make plays or they can't. While it would be unprecedented for Sanchez to advance from the season he had to a place among the league elite in one year, it does appear that the playoffs were his 'Drew Brees' moment. The lights came on, the game slowed down, he got it.

FO doesn't expect great things from this year's Jet team, and they are probably right. The one thing they appeared to underestimate though is the progression of any rookie quarterback from his first to his second season. They always improve. Often that improvement is incremental and doesn't mean much in the big picture, but with that playoff run in his pocket we should have every expectation that Sanchez will no longer be a liability, and that his performance gain should offset losses elsewhere.


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