Saturday, November 1, 2014

I've recently been following Kansas City Royals discussion boards following their loss to the Giants.

Fans are mostly putting on brave faces. "We had a great year". "If anyone had told me in April that the Royals would lose a World Series that came down to the final at bat I would have been ecstatic".

While those sentiments are true from some hypothetical fan-value perspective, I am certain that unless the Royals manage to actually win a World Series in the next few years, every fan of that team will feel that 2014 was the one that got away. No one will be proudly remembering their great run, they will be gnashing their teeth at something nearly achieved.

Winning in sports is hard. Winning championships that much harder.

While being a Lion fan hasn't lended itself to regrets in my lifetime, I can certainly think of fanbases who must feel like their team squandered great opportunities. The Eagles were probably the poster child for this in the '00s. The 49ers may be lining up as the next one.

Being a Viking fan must be particularly painful as they had some of the greatest teams in NFL history at the end of the '60s and into the '70s with no titles, only to come back in the '90s with more dominant teams that fell on their playoff faces. The Bills and Browns were legendary for disappointing their fans, and I'm not sure that the one Greatest Show champonship for the Rams really makes up for their repeated failures in the '70s and in the years since '99.

I'm not going to go out of my way to feel sorry for Royal Fan, or to root for that team to redeem their fans' collective faith. I've got my own disappointing teams to root for and my own pile of schadenfreude to collect.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

5 Year Record

In the table below, ties are broken by postseason wins, where applicable, under the theory that one postseason win is worth more than one reg season win. It's a slightly greater accomplishment. Thus Indy is listed ahead of the Steelers, and the Giants over the Chargers. Ties remaining after that are broken by the most recent reg season record, under the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately theory. Thus Panthers ahead of Dolphins; likewise Lions over Raiders, and Bills over Buccs over Skins.

For comparison, last season's list is here.

TeamReg seasonPost seasonGrand Total
New England Patriots101413121261211465
Green Bay Packers111015118.555.541560.5
New Orleans Saints13111371155311560
Baltimore Ravens91212108511114758
San Francisco 49ers861311.51250.5122555.5
Indianapolis Colts1410211114821351
Pittsburgh Steelers9121288492251
Atlanta Falcons91310134491150
Denver Broncos84813134612349
Seattle Seahawks577111343113548
New York Giants810997434447
San Diego Chargers139879461147
New York Jets9118684222446
Chicago Bears7118108441145
Cincinnati Bengals1049101144044
Philadelphia Eagles1110841043043
Dallas Cowboys116888411142
Houston Texans96101223911241
Arizona Cardinals1058510381139
Minnesota Vikings1263105.536.51137.5
Tennessee Titans8696736036
Carolina Panthers82671235035
Miami Dolphins7767835035
Kansas City Chiefs410721134034
Detroit Lions26104729029
Oakland Raiders5884429029
Buffalo Bills6466628028
Tampa Bay Buccnrs31047428028
Washington Redskins46510328028
Jacksonville Jaguars7852426026
St. Louis Rams1727.5724.5024.5
Cleveland Browns5545423023

Seriously, who is at all surprised to see the Pats at the top of this list? What Bill Belichick has accomplished over the years is amazing. Five game ahead of the next closest team! Thirteen wins a year despite constant churn among receivers and TEs, and with a rebuilding project on D. It will be fascinating to see how that team handles the transition from Brady; but they have positioned themselves extremely well. Between Mallett and Garoppolo, one of those guys can probably play QB. Remembering Matt Cassell in 2008, it's hard to believe the Pats will miss a beat when they trot out one of those guys.

The top 3 just underlines why we regard those 3 QBs so highly: Peyton would be there too if he hadn't missed a year and changed teams.

Continuing on down the list, the top TWELVE teams are all organizations that have had unquestioned answers to their QB question. The list really emphasizes what a tautology it is in the NFL: winning = having a solution at QB = winning.

My rule of thumb is, any team with a grand total of 45 or over is doing something right. That's an average winning record, nine wins per year, in a league where winning at all (let alone winning consistently) is extremely difficult. These are the most successful organizations in the sport. The Bears are right at that line, the Jets just ahead and the Bengals just behind. Those are three interesting teams, and I think they illustrate something: perennially pretty good teams, but stuck in divisions with monsters (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and the Ravens/Steelers). It's a tough way to live.

Note technically a total of 40.5 or better represents a “winning” record, barely. That would average out to 4 yrs of 8-8 and one year of 8-7-1. I personally think that is nothing to write home about: but it beats losing. These teams in the 41 to 44 win category are in a second tier. This year it's Cincy, the Pheagles, Cowboyz and Texans. Dallas lives here, which I find very satisfying. Cincy and Philly are are good teams with one bad year of the last 5 which drags them down. They'd have to win 11 or 12 games this year to climb out of this mid-range.

At the other end of the spectrum: the Brownies are an object lesson in the result of churning philosophies and leadership. They are six games behind the Raiders < shudder >. It seems safe to project them into the same spot next year; them or Jax. St Louis will make a big move up this list next year, when their 1-win 2009 season comes off the books. Detroit already made a big move up this year, as their oh-fer in '08 finally dropped off the books, and they will get another bounce next year (even if they have a weak season), as their 2-win 2009 comes off.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Caldwell Apologeia

So I can't say I'm too excited by the Caldwell hire.  I will say that from a contrarian perspective, I'll bet he does much better than most people think.  Sentiment is fully against him.
Regardless though, I can't say I would have been very excited by any of the candidates.  Lovie was the only one who I liked and it doesn't appear that the Lions strongly considered him.  My dream was that the team trade a first round pick to the 49ers for Harbaugh a la the Belichick deal 15 years ago.
But as you all can tell from the subject, this email isn't to bury Caldwell, but rather to praise him so praise him I shall.
1.  I've had a philosophy for quite a while, mostly with personnel but also with coaching that if you don't trust management to make the right pick then your team of choice has much greater problems than the head coach.  This doesn't guarantee any kind of success with Caldwell, but it does presume that the team vetted him thoroughly and he was among their final choices.  It also presumes that management expects him to be successful.

2.  Caldwell's coaching prowess [sic] cannot be easily measured by the performance of his teams.  This isn't an endorsement of course, but more of a 'it's all under the hood' type of argument.  He was HC for Wake Forest and then the Colts late/post Manning.  It is notable that his first Colt team went 14-2 and lost in the Super Bowl.  You can count the number of Super Bowl coaches available for hire on zero fingers now that Whisenhunt, Lovie, and Caldwell are gone.  This team was among the worst in the league in yards allowed yet finished 8th in scoring defense.  They also finished 7th in scoring offense yet were a threat to go undefeated until they pulled Peyton at halftime with a multiscore lead and a 14-0 record.  This team also held Baltimore to 3 points in the Divisional round.
His second year the team went 10-6 as the defense fell apart.  His legacy from his Colt tenure marked more by his mind-numbing times out in the Wild Card game which led to a Jet FG and loss than by the Super Bowl appearance the year before.  And of course in year three he lost Peyton, most of his games, and ultimately his job.

3.  He isn't being asked to do a lot.  This isn't a team that needs rebuilding, it's a team that needs stability - precisely the type of team that he's already succeeded with.  The Lions need two things right now, discipline and ... errr .. discipline.  The first is to remain collected, not do stupid things, accept what comes.  Schwartz is a hothead.  A good coach, but a hothead and the team took its lead from him, committing countless stupid penalties, often at the worst times.  Merely having a coach who preaches calm should help here. 

The second discipline is between Stafford's ears.  I think everyone understands that Stafford has as much physical talent as any quarterback in the league.  What he hasn't developed is the mental acuity to exploit his physical advantages.  He recently told the press that he doesn't need a quarterback guru, to the dismay of - well - everyone.  Caldwell has a great record with quarterbacks.  He was quarterbacks coach with Penn State while Kerry Collins was there.  While he didn't have much success with his QBs at Wake Forest (notable only for Brian Kuklick) his time with Peyton Manning cannot be overlooked.  While it can be debated whether Caldwell influenced Manning's development, it cannot be debated that merely being in the presence of Peyton had to have helped Caldwell.  I think all Raven fans would agree that not only did he represent an enormous upgrade at OC when he came, but that he also brought something to Flacco or at least that he was able to deliver the offense to Flacco's skillset.  If he can duplicate this in Detroit, the team will be in the playoffs annually.

4.  He is fully qualified.  This isn't a Raheem Morris/Mike Tice type of hire.  This is a guy who has been a coordinator for multiple teams, a head coach for multiple teams.  It is impossible to argue that he's inexperienced for the job.  He may be incompetent - that remains to be seen - but if so it will be experienced incompetence.

5.  He's black.  This point really can't be underscored enough.  Black head coaches in the NFL have an excellent record overall.  The list is astonishingly short, of course, but also astonishingly successful.  Not count Fritz Pollard in 1921, and not counting interims, there have been 15 black NFL head coaches.  Of those 15 only Romeo Crennel, Mike Singletary and Raheem Morris failed to take their teams to the playoffs at least once.  Crennel and Morris both had 10 win seasons, Singletary an 8 win season.  Flores, Dungy and Tomlin each won Super Bowls while Lovie and Caldwell each lost one.  Additionally, Shell and Green (twice) took their teams to conference championships.

6.  Finally, he's learned.  I can't prove this of course, but I assume that everyone learns and that Caldwell couldn't have 'won' the interview without displaying skills that he may not have had in the past.  Stafford (and Bill Ford Jr) sat in on Caldwell's interview and Caldwell proceeded to break down film showing Stafford where he could have made better decisions in certain spots.  While Stafford may publicly deny the need for a quarterback whisperer, everyone welcomes a mentor when the situation presents.  If Caldwell can be a mentor to Stafford, if Caldwell can get Stafford to take that next step to disciplined player, then this hire will be a success and so will the team.


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