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Friday, July 31, 2009

On the Good News Front

This is absolutely spectacular. The last few offseasons the Bears have brought Harris along slowly and he's played erratically those two seasons. If Tommie Harris is healthy again and new line coach Rod Marinelli has gotten him back on track, the entire defense will be better. Anyone who watched the 2005-2006 Bears knows how unstoppable Tommie is when he's at his best. Just ask Matt Hasselbeck (above). Things are looking good, Bears fans.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Training Camp Begins Tomorrow! Football!

Today the Chicago Bears start arriving at Olivet-Nazerene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. There'll be a lot to watch from the start of practice tomorrow, with most people looking for the answers to several questions-

1. How does Cutler look?

2. Do the receivers look much better with Cutler throwing them the ball?

3. Does the offensive line look improved?

4. Does the Defensive line look improved?

5. Is the safety position anything other than a heaping pile of fail?

6. Does Brian Urlacher look like his old self?

7. Is Tommie Harris healthy?

8. Will Pisa Tinoisamoa, Nick Roach, Hunter Hillenmeyer, or Jamar Williams win the job at strongside linebacker?

9. Did Urlacher really call Cutler a pussy? Bobby Wade says he did! Urlacher says he didn't! Best of all, its a pointless story and nobody gives a shit!

10. Who will step up to play cornerback while Tillman is out?

11. How are Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson holding up now that Favre has declined to play this year?

12. After a full year's recovery from ACL surgery, does Kevin Jones look like he did in 04-05 before the weight of playing in Detroit crushed his soul and cruciate ligaments?

13. How much do you love Matt Forte? 'Cuz I fucking love that kid!

14. Can Devin Hester go back to returning punts without looking like a guy in a Warner Brothers cartoon trying to get rid of a bomb with a burning fuse?

15. Does Lovie Smith's voice still remind us all of simpler times?

16. Has Earl Bennett learned his God Damn playbook yet?

17. Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson are battling for the 3rd runningback spot. Which one will win the jobm make no certifiable impact on the offense whatsoever, and be constantly lauded on FOX for his "stellar special teams play"?

18. Will Caleb Hanie just do something impressive so no one keeps saying shit like this?

19. If someone drops a pass will Rick Morrissey start screaming at everyone to duck before Cutler melts down?

20. Can they show any of this shit on tv? Because I'm ready for some god damn football.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'll Believe This Around Week 17

Favre Not coming back. We'll see. I didn't write this for nothing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rick Morrissey, You Sniveling Little Twit.

You're a god damned idiot. From Morrissey's latest (he's in italics)

Chicago Bears' prospects this season? Questionable

What did coach Lovie Smith say to President Barack Obama upon meeting him last week in Chicago?

"Hey, do you ever get tired of people referring to you as 'a black president', rather than just a president, because that shit got on my nerves during the Superbowl."

"Can you play wide receiver?"

Oh. Right. Here we go.

Come on, is it really that bad?

No, it's not. Like I pointed out in my Cutler article, there are plenty of precedents for team's that can make the playoffs without great wide receivers, so long as there are options like tight ends or runningbacks.

It is. Besides Devin Hester, a No. 3 receiver with a No. 1 receiver's opinion of himself, the Bears will be hard pressed to feature a wide receiver anyone has heard of -- and that includes their mothers.

Devin Hester finished 49th in the NFL in receiving yards last year. There are 32 teams in the NFL, and if each one starts two wide receivers...that means Hester would have to rank at least 65th or worse to be more of a No.3 receiver than a No.2, and you'd have to be a total blockhead like Morrissey to assume those numbers Won't improve by at least a couple hundred yards with Jay Cutler back there. Also, is that some shot at Devin Hester's attitude? I've never heard anybody accuse Hester of having an inflated ego or attitude problem. Or is Morrissey referring to this article, where Hester states that his goal is to be the best receiver to ever play the game? Because God forbid we'd want a player that sets his sights on being great.

Oh, come on. You're saying the Bears gave up all those draft picks so that Jay Cutler would have no targets on the field? Does that make any sense?

Or its possible that the Bears, I don't know, have a developing Hester who has made big leaps (299 yds to 665) in his first two years and should continue to progress with a better quarterback under center, and a third round pick from last year entering his second year in the system in Earl Bennett, or that they, you know, Drafted three wide receivers. Also, screw the two quality tight ends and the runningback who led all runningbacks in receptions last year. He has NO TARGETS.

It is bizarre, like seeing construction on a house stop midway through the second-floor bathroom. But maybe the Bears are waiting to have all the pieces in place for the 2010 season. Wait, that's the Bulls.

Right, becuase the Bulls are the only team in professional sports that have a long term plan and may realize that there's only so many quality players one can acqure in one offseason and that sometimes it takes more than one?

I'm so confused.

That's a given. Now just throw away your laptop, curl up in the fetal position, and cry at the failure in life you've become.

So who are the receivers in camp?

Hester, Rashied Davis, Earl Bennett, Devin Aromashodu, John Broussard, Juaquin Iglesias and Brandon Rideau, among others.

Also Johnny Knox, the guy that ran a 4.34 40 at the combine. Its almost like they were forced to look for sleeper picks and actually picked guys with solid potential, all because they traded their first round pick to get a franchise quarterback.

Who among that group will be Cutler's favorite receiver?

Running back Matt Forte.

Or Greg Olsen, you pathetic little weasel. Have you ever even heard of Kellen Winslow, Ozzie Newsome, Shannon Sharpe, Tony Gonzalez, or Antonio Gates? You know, the guys that Olsen constantly draws comparison too (he's actually faster than all of them, with a 4.45 forty time on record), those tight ends that can actually be the best receivers on dynamic offenses, despite the fact that they are tight ends?

What kind of reception will Cutler receive from Broncos fans when he returns to Denver on Aug. 30 for an exhibition game?

About as warm of a welcome as Rick Morrissey should get whenever he walks into a room full of real, competent journalists.

Oh, man, it's going to be brutal. They're not going to remember his 2008 Pro Bowl season. They're going to remember his snit-fest with new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. They're going to remind him what a sniveling baby he was. They're mostly going to be mad he's not with them anymore.

That's nice. Everyone can pen a bunch of dramatic storylines, people can boo, and, most importantly, its preseason and nobody actually gives a shit.

So he's the answer to all of the Bears' prayers?

I'm sorry, is there anyone out there thats seriously saying that, the meatheads aside? Angelo's done nothing but talk about tempering expectations for Cutler. Lovie and co. have done a decent job of advocating that its still about the run game and the defense. Watch out, Rick, your STRAW MAN is showing.

No, that would be Rod Marinelli.

Oh, right. This is where Rick flies in the face of dozens of former and current players, coaches, and professional football experts who've all praised the Marinelli hiring and pisses all over it.

The defensive line coach?

Oh, he's not just a defensive line coach. He's a savior. He might have been the Lions' head coach last season when they went 0-16, but the Bears are selling him as the man who will turn underachieving defensive linemen into Pro Bowl players.

Right. Because no person who was once acknowledged as one of the best position coaches or coordinators in the game could fail as a head coach and then go back to the job he was great at in the first place. I forgot that Dick LeBeau's 12-33 stint as head coach of the Bengals actually ruined his abilities as a defensive coordinator forever. I must have just imagined the fact that he went back to Pittsburgh and helped craft one of the league's best defenses, one thats won 2 of the last 4 Superbowls.

If you say so, but what can he do about a defense that finished 21st in the league in total yards allowed, 30th against the pass and 22nd in sacks?

Well, he could enforce discipline and fundamentals and overhaul a unit that not that long ago was one of the league's best defensive lines, and given that the entire Tampa 2 scheme revolves around getting pressure from the front four, that could improve the unit rankings in every possible category. That would be a start.

Well, the idea is that he will heal Tommie Harris' knee, remind Adewale Ogunleye how to rush the passer and catch a few passes in his spare time.

Or by many accounts Harris' knee is feeling much better and the fact that he's one of the league's most destructive defensive tackles when he's at his best, not to mention a healthy tackle rotation behind him with Anthony Adams, Dustin Dvoracek, Marcus Harrison, and rookie Jarron Gilbert, means that the tackles will draw enough double teams that Ogunleye's numbers will improve simply because he'll face better match ups.

Seriously, why does no one seem to be overly concerned about the defense?

Yeah, no one is concerned about the defense.

The hope is that Lance Briggs will be what he has been the past few years and that Brian Urlacher will be what he used to be. And the Bears did finish fifth against the run last season.

Well, there's nothing ridiculous about hoping Lance Briggs will continue to play well in the prime of his career, and Urlacher did have a monster second half in 2007, and considering Ray Lewis' stellar play last year, its not unreasonable to assume that a better pass rush will allow Urlacher to make more plays, as an upgraded pass rush in Baltimore led to Lewis' revival.

Let's get back to Cutler. Is it true that no one will care what he's like as a person if he wins games?

Let's put it this way: As long as he throws lots of touchdown passes, he could publicly tell Virginia McCaskey she needs to update her wardrobe, and no one would blink.

Yes because Old Vag' McCaskey is such a beloved figure that we'd all be appalled if someone dared insult her. I'd rather Cutler ask her if she's going to pry a few dollars out of her dusty old ass to get him a contract extension.

But you believe he's a pouting episode waiting to happen, don't you?

Yeah, because that's the only thing that would allow Morrissey to justify his ludicrous idea that Cutler doesn't improve the Bears.

When one of his receivers, What's His Name, drops an easy pass for the fifth straight game, yeah, I think there's a possibility Cutler will wonder why he left Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall for this. And the chances of some sort of meltdown will increase exponentially.

You f*&king moron. Brandon Marshall was third in the league with Twelve dropped passes last year, and Cutler certainly never "melted down." Also, I'm sure Cutler has no experience dealing with adversity or poor play by his surrounding cast. It's not like went to Vanderbilt or something.

If you're so down on the Bears, why are you picking them to go 10-6?

Because he can't express a coherent thought without contradicting his own stupidity?

The division isn't very good, and if Cutler's physical abilities aren't enough to get them one more victory than last season, God help them.

Actually, with Aaron Rodgers leading Green Bay's offense and the Vikings having Adrian Peterson and their overrated but still good defense, and Detroit having to at least be better than last year, the division's stronger than it has been in quite some time.

OK, what are you excited about?

Rick Morrissey's death. Oh, you're asking him.

Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Green Bay for the opener. It will give us an idea of what the Bears will be this year. I'm excited to see what Forte can do with one season under his belt. I'm excited to see what kind of year tight end Greg Olsen will have when every defense pays close attention to him while ignoring the Bears' receivers.

You see that folks? Wisdom from Rick Morrissey. If you wait until the team plays this year, you might be able to get an idea of how well they're going to play this year. And let team's double and triple cover Olsen all they want. I'll take any man's bet that Cutler and Hester will make them pay for that.

What are the best names on the training camp roster?

Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and cornerback Woodny Turenne.

I hate you so much.

Does tackle Orlando Pace have anything left in his tank?

That's not the question. The question is whether the 33-year-old can stay healthy for an entire season. He was injured much of 2006 and 2007 before starting most of last season for the Rams.

....Then he would seemed to have answered that question last year, eh Rick?

What about last year's first-round pick, Chris Williams?

Back surgery as a rookie tackle? Very, very not good.

Back surgery apparently minor enough that he recovered in time to play last season and is now being counted on as a starter at right tackle? Very very unimportant.

Is Smith really only the 20th best coach in the NFL, as the Sporting News ranked him?


That was a complete injustice. He's definitely in the top 17.

Since Smith took over in 2004 the Bears are 7th in the NFL in wins. They're one of only four NFC teams to win two division titles in that span. He's one of only six active coaches that have taken teams to the Superbowl in the span. Say what you will, there's no justification for him being more than Slightly out of the top ten.

Isn't Bourbonnais something a drunk puts on a turkey sandwich at 2 a.m.?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Is Rick Morrissey a complete hack?

Yes. Yes, he is.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Anywho, About that Jay Cutler..

Back in April, when the trade was first announced, I was a little bit too shocked to truly give my take on Jay Cutler. Obviously my attitude since the trade has given you the idea that I'm pretty fond of him. So what information is really important about Jay Cutler?

Let's start with college. Cutler was a four year starter at Vanderbilt. As a starter at Vanderbilt Cutler broke nearly every record in the book, won SEC Freshman of the Year in 2002, First Team All SEC (2005), and SEC Offensive Player of the Year (2005), all impressive accomplishments considering Jay was just 11-34 as a starter. It's hard to blame Jay at all for that, however, given that in his entire four year career Vanderbilt had just three players good enough to be drafted into the NFL (our own Hunter Hillenmeyer, who was only there Jay's freshman year before going in the 5th round to the Packers, and a defensive end and guard who were both drafted in the 6th round in 2005). While in college, Jay was mercilessly beaten behind a shoddy offensive line which allowed him to get sacked around twice a game and almost never gave him a great amount of time to set up in the pocket and throw. His line from Vanderbilt looks like this-

2002- 103 comp./212 att./48.6%/1,433 yds/10 td/9 ints/6.8 ypa/130.3 ypg/112.4 Rating
2003- 187 comp./327 att./57.2%/2,347 yds/18 tds/13 ints/7.2 ypa/195.6 ypg/127.7 Rating
2004- 147 comp./241 att./61.0%/1,844 yds/10 tds/5 ints/7.7 ypa/167.6 ypg/134.8 Rating
2005-273 comp./462 att./59.1%/3,073 yds/21 tds/9 ints/6.7 ypa/279.4 ypg/126.1 Rating

All in all, a very impressive career given his surrounding cast. Due to the adversity Jay had to face while at Vanderbilt, his head coach, Bobby Johnson, had the following to say after Jay was accused of "whining" during his exit from Denver this offseason:

“I saw him designated as a whiner and spoiled and things like that and that’s the furthest thing from Jay Cutler you can imagine,” Johnson said in a recent teleconference.
While at Vanderbilt, Cutler “never whined or never whimpered,” Johnson said.
“He got hit a bunch,” he said. “We didn’t have the greatest people around him at that time to allow him to demonstrate his talents until maybe his senior year. He was a trooper for us. He rallied the troops.”The summer prior to his senior year at Vanderbilt, Cutler had an apartment that he allowed other players to stay at so they could all work out together.
“He just did everything we could ask him to do,” Johnson said. “To see him labeled like he was was really disappointing to me.”

After college, Jay was drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Denver Broncos, who had traded up from the 15th spot in order to ensure that they got him. Cutler's draft measurables were pretty outstanding- at 6'3, 226 lbs, he dazzled with his throwing skills and ran a very respectable (for a quarterback) 4.7 second forty yard dash.

During his rookie year Jay started the last 5 games of the season, he went 2-3, but became the first rookie in NFL history to toss at least two touchdown passes in his first four games, and the second to toss 2 tds a game in his first 4 starts (Marino was the first). Jay's line for the 2006 season-

5 G/5 GS/81 Comp./137 Att./59.1%/1,0001 yds/9 tds/5 ints/7.3 YPA/200.2 YPG/88.5 Rating.

Cutler was just 2-3, but the team averaged 24.8 points per game on offense under his direction, the defense allowed 28.0 points per game.

In 2007 Jay took over as a full time starter and started all 16 games despite losing nearly 34 pounds and struggling with his stamina due to issues with diabetes. The Broncos went 7-9, but the team averaged 20.0 ppg under Cutler, with the defense allowing 25.6 ppg. Cutler's line for his first year as a starter was very solid:

16 G/16 GS/297 Comp./467 Att./63.6%/3,497 yds/20 tds/14 ints/7.5 YPA/218.6 YPG/88.1 Rating.

In 2008 Cutler managed an explosive offense, the second overall in the league in yards per game and one that averaged 23.1 ppg. Despite the power on offense, the Broncos managed just an 8-8 record thanks to a defense that allowed a whopping 28.0 ppg. Cutler's line for the 2008 season:

16 G/16 GS/384 Comp./616 Att./62.3%/4,526 yds/25 tds/18 ints/7.3 YPA/284.1 YPG/86.0 Rating.

All of that adds up to a solid career line of:

37 G/37 GS/762 Comp./1220 Att./62.5%/9,024 yds/54 tds/37 ints/7.4 ypa/243.9 YPG/87.1 Rating.

So what we can draw from that is this:

1. Cutler is extremely durable. Between Vanderbilt and the Broncos he's never missed a start. Something zero of the Bears previous 1,000 quarterbacks can claim over so long of a period.

2. The guy puts up numbers. His completion %, yards per attempt, yard per game, and his rating are all good-to-outstaning.

3. His 17-20 career W-L record is heavily to blame on the defense. To break down Cutler's career even further:

In Wins:

17-0, 378/563 (67.1%), 4590 yds, 270.0 ypg, 8.2 ypa, 35 tds, 13 ints, 103.1 rating, in wins under Cutler the Broncos averaged 29.4 ppg and allowed 20.2 ppg.

In Losses:

0-20, 384/657 (58.4%), 4434 yds, 221.7 ypg, 6.7 ypa, 19 tds, 24 ints, 73.3 rating, in losses the Broncos averaged 15.7 ppg and allowed 32.7 ppg. (for what it's worth, Cutler has a higher rating in losses than Tom Brady (65.7), and isn't that much worse than Peyton Manning (77.1))

Overall- Cutler- 37 games, 762/1220 (62.5%), 9024 yds, 243.9 ypg, 7.4 ypa, 54 tds, 37 ints, 87.1 rating. In his career the Broncos have averaged 22.0 ppg and allowed 26.9 ppg. Cutler-led offenses have scored 20 points or more 23 times in his 37 starts, they've scored at least 30 points 10 times, and at least 40 points twice. 8 times in his career Cutler has lost games in which his offense has scored at least 20 points, he's lost one game after the offense scored 34 points. He's 13-1 in his career when the Broncos defense held the opposing offense to 21 or fewer points.

So what does this tell us? Well, Cutler is Hardly, and I mean Hardly the reason his team has lost. Cutler is no more to blame when the Broncos lose than Tom Brady is when the Pats lose or Peyton Manning is when the Colts lose, he's just never been lucky enough to have as good of a defense as Brady or, sadly, even Manning. He did throw 18 interceptions, which was second in the NFL to Favre's 22, but if you compare their interception percentage (2.9% for Cutler, 4.2% for Favre) you see that Cutler throws far fewer risky passes than a noted "Gunslinger." For another comparison, even though Rex Grossman threw just 2 more interceptions in 2006, Rex's interception % that year was also a whopping 4.2 %, so any pessimists thinking the Bears are getting just a slightly more talented Grossman are also wrong. There's also reason to be optimistic about Cutler taming his wild streak, his interception % has dropped every year of his career (3.6 to 3.0 to 2.9).

As far as any personality issues go, Cutler may have been portrayed as the bad guy during his trade crisis, but if you'll pay attention to the Brandon Marshall situation and if you'll note this article, Cutler is hardly the only Bronco to have had issues with Josh McDaniel's methods. Cutler's former coach Mike Shanahan, his coach at Vandy as mentioned above, and his former teammates, have praised him. Champ Bailey had the following to say:

“Well he’s definitely in the top 10 as far as what he’s done to this point,” Bailey said. “Now where he can be, he can be the best in the game, he has that ability. The guys very smart, very sharp, a good arm; he has all the stuff you’d want. He reminds me of a Marino, Elway type of guy, and he’s going to be a great winner for them. It’s unfortunate for us that we had to lose a guy like that, but we’ve got to move on, we’ve got some quality guys back there that can definitely get the job done so we’ve just got to go out and handle business as necessary.”

So far Bears coaches and teammates have been impressed with Cutler's work ethic, and Cutler has shown his committment to winning and the team by refusing any endorsement deals in order to focus on football.

As far as what Cutler will do this year on the field, well, I can only address the complaints of "he has no wide receivers!" with a few points-

1. Devin Hester went from 299 yds receiving in 2007 to 665 yds in 2008. It's not unreasonable to expect a jump up to 800-1000 yds with Cutler at the helm.

2. Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark combined for 95 catches last year, and Olsen is poised for a breakout year. Many teams can get by with a star tight end as their best pass catcher.

3. Matt Forte is one hell of a multi-purpose back, and he should improve on his yards per catch and provide a viable target for Cutler.

4. Earl Bennett has to do...something.

5. From 2000-2008 the Philadelphia Eagles have made the playoffs 7 times. They've had a 1,000 yard receiver just once in those 7 seasons (Terrell Owens in 2004).

6. The San Diego Chargers have made the playoffs 4 times since 2007. Only once have they had a 1,000 yard receiver on any of those playoff teams (Vincent Jackson last year).

7. Cutler's legendary predecessor (well, thats how Broncos fans viewed him anyway), John Elway, made 10 playoff appearances, only 5 of those times did he have a 1,000 yard wide receiver. Two other of his playoff appearances Did feature a 1,000 yard pass catcher, but it was Shannon Sharpe, the tight end. How interesting.

So this all adds up to the fact the Bears acquired a 26 year old Pro Bowl quarterback who has shown significant progression in nearly every category over his first three seasons. The Bears defense should (hopefully) be improved, and will at the very least have a decent shot of holding opponents to 21 points or less, a situation in which Cutler excels as mentioned above. I'm not sure why so many experts seem to think this was a bad move by the Bears. While it's foolish to think that Cutler or any one player will carry the Bears to the Superbowl, its nothing but downright pessimism to think that this isn't the best move the team's made in the last 20-25 years.

Go Bears.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

You Get Paid for This?

At first I'd like to say I respect Mike Florio* for the work he does at, its a great site with all the rumors and tidbits you could want on the NFL. However, this piece that he wrote for the Sporting News on Michael Vick, and this related article on PFT are both utter pieces of crap. Florio's argument basically boils down to this: Michael Vick is better than half the quarterbacks in the league because he once won a playoff game in Lambeau six years ago, and because he once signed a contract for a $130 Million dollars. I'm not impressed, so it's time to take a swing at him. His words are in italics.

Vick shouldn't settle for second string when he gets his second chance

Mike Vick is due to be released from federal custody on Monday, and the NFL news-and-rumor mill is slow right now, so it makes sense to focus again on the man who has experienced the kind of personal collapse that only Maximus Decimus Meridius could truly appreciate.

For those of you not familiar with the movie Gladiator, Maximus is an esteemed Roman general who is offered the position of Emperor, declines it, then has his entire family slaughtered and is made into a slave, who then is forced to battle people to the death as a gladiator. The only way I can really see how this comparison is apt is in the battling to the death part. You know, that thing Vick made dogs do.

The difference, of course, between Vick and the character played by Russell Crowe in Gladiator is that Vick is solely responsible for his dramatic fall from grace. But like the general-turned-slave-turned-gladiator-turned-martyr-turned-Oscar winner, Vick will at some point receive a shot at redemption.

I'll stop here for a second just to state that I Do hope Vick gets a second chance. I do. I find what he did to be unforgiveably reprehensible, but if the law has decided hes' done his time I feel the NFL should allow him to work again.

To get there, Vick must project a delicate balance of remorse and defiance. On one hand he'll need to show humility and contrition and change when he meets with commissioner Roger Goodell; on the other, Vick must be ready to project the same swagger that made him one of the best players in the game.

Best? Or just most overrated. I remember in high school, back in 2005, the 10-3 Bears were headed into a match up with the 8-5 Falcons. In Chicago. In December. The mindless morans who weren't Bears fans at my school were positive that Vick "was going to fuck the Bears up." I asked them why. I asked them if they knew his statistics, his team's records, or even what he'd done the game before. I asked if they knew that Vick had faced the Bears twice in his career before, and had managed just one total touchdown as the Falcons lost both games. None of them knew. They did know, however, that he was on Sportscenter a lot and had that cool commercial where there was the "Michael Vick Experience" roller coaster type ride. That was enough. The Falcons lost that game to the Bears 16-3, with Vick completing just 13 of 32 passes for 122 yards, no touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and he rushed for just 35 yards on 6 carries.

Specifically, he needs to resist any opportunities that are beneath his abilities. If he isn't immediately reinstated by the NFL, he should tell the United Football League he's not interested. When he does get back into the NFL, Vick should politely advise anyone who wants to make him into a Wildcat quarterback that Mike Vick 2.0 won't be the second coming of Kordell Stewart in his rookie year.

"This guy who's trying to show how remorseful and humble prison has made him and that desperately needs a job in order to pay off his towering debts should tell people willing to give him an income to fuck off! Michael Vick is a star baby! And hell, he should answer the people who won't give him a chance to start becuase he hasn't played football in two years by refusing all chances and sitting out another year! His stock will soar!"

Vick should take the position that he's an every-down quarterback and that his second chance at football should include a chance at winning a starting job with one of the league's 32 teams, even if that means voluntarily sitting out the 2009 season.

Then Vick can take a position asking people if they'd like fries with that.

After all, Vick had enough potential as an every-down quarterback to become the first overall pick in the 2001 draft. And he did enough with that potential in less than four seasons as an every-down quarterback to score a $130 million contract.

Tim Couch also had enough potential to be a first overall pick. Are you arguing for him to come in and demand a starting job? And yes, because Vick's overrated playmaking abilities made the Falcons a ton of money in ticket sales, he was locked down with a $130 million dollar contract. Hell, Alex Smith showed so much potential that he once got a $49.5 Million contract before ever playing a Down in the NFL! He's better than Michael Vick! Using contract numbers is the BEST way to compare quarterbacks!

It's a risky proposition, to be sure. He has speed and agility that no other quarterback ever has displayed, but his throwing skills are suspect. Vick has generated a full-season passer rating above 80 only once in his career (81.6 in 2002), and his 75.7 rating from 2006 would have placed him behind players like Tyler Thigpen (76.0) and JaMarcus Russell (77.1) and Kyle Orton (79.6) in 2008.

For the record, Vick's career passer rating is 75.7, and combining both his passing and rushing totals...he averages a grand total of 207.6 yards per game. That would have put him 17th in yards per game in the league. He averages just around 15 td passes and 4 rushing TDs per a 16 game season. Meaning his career average year of a 75.7 passer rating, 19 TDs, and 207.6 ypg would have ranked him 28th, 12th, and 17th respectively among quarterbacks. Wow. He's truly one of the best out there.

Then again, the next guy on the list last year was Ben Roethlisberger (80.1), and he only won the Super Bowl.

Exactly. So not only should Vick demand a starting job or bust, he should also demand one on a team with the league's best defense, so he can ride their coattails to a championship.

Indeed, playing quarterback is much more than a complex formula based on completion percentage and average gain per attempt and touchdown percentage and interception percentage. The only stat that matters is winning -- and Vick did a fair amount of that during the first phase of his career.

Ahh yes. The Win-Loss Record. Boil it down to a quarterback's .winning %, which is certainly never affected by other factors. At all. Vick has a career .567 winning %, which equates to a 9-7 record every year. Most years that won't even get you into the playoffs. He's a regular Joe Montana. Kyle Orton's win percentage? .636%, or a 10-6 season every year. His last two years in the league teams figured out how to contain him, and the Falcons went 15-17 and Jim Mora was canned. Most in the league were already starting to talk about Vick's failure to develop as a quarterback.

He won a playoff game at Lambeau Field at a time when that was a lot harder to do so. He also got to the NFC title game in 2004, the same year he scored that $130 million deal.

Ahh, was it Vick that held the Packers to just 7 points in that game? How about the fact that that was during the Packers playoff decline, when from 2001-2004 they went just 2-4 in the postseason before collapsing to 4-12 in 2005. Trust me, as a Bears fan I can testify that the Packers from 02-04 merely took advantage of a pathetically weak NFC North and played only 16 games against winning teams in that entire stretch, and were 7-9 in those games. Also, that NFC title game in 2004 came during a year in which a weak NFC lead to not one, but two 8-8 teams making the playoffs, one of which the Falcons beat to make it to that NFC title game, where Jim Johnson's defense destroyed Vick and held him to a 46% comp. %, 162 total yards, and no touchdowns.

There's another important reason for Vick to insist on playing quarterback only, and not some hybrid jack-of-all-trades role. He's 29. Eventually, he won't be able to make defenders look like the Keystone Cops. He needs to find a team that will help transform him into a pocket passer, if he truly hopes to spend another decade in the game.

Yes. He does need someone to overhaul his passing mechanics, which can be done on the practice field. As a back up. Is this guy seriously arguing that Vick needs to be a starter because he's a terrible passer and needs to work on that on the field?

Vick should exclusively target teams that will give him a fair chance to become their starter, either in 2009 or 2010 (he also should pay particular attention to the coaching staffs and ask whether they can do what Dan Reeves and Jim Mora could not in Atlanta).

Oh yeah. He should definitely ask that. "Excuse me, do you believe you are able to do what three previous coaching staffs have failed to do since college and fix my horrible passing fundamentals, all while avoiding getting fired because of my slow development?"

Depending upon the speed, or lack thereof, with which Goodell processes Vick's request for reinstatement, Vick might have no choice but to compromise a bit – say, sign a one-year deal with a team that allows him to flash enough ability in limited duty to set the stage for an opportunity to compete for a starting job elsewhere in 2010.

Wait. Are you f*&king kidding me? Did you not just write this entire article about how Vick shouldn't take a job as a second string quarterback, only to just write that he MAY very well have to do just that? You f&%king suck, man.

Though he has been away from the game for more than two years, Vick's God-given abilities likely haven't evaporated. He must display confidence in those abilities by resisting a long-term role that's any different than the one he had in Atlanta.

Yes. He must refuse any team that doesn't make the flawed decision to make him one of the league's richest players and build an entire team around his incomplete skill set, one that makes his team entirely one dimensional and vulnerable to any defense with fast enough linebackers to effectively pull off a quarterback spy.

Sure, he didn't win a Super Bowl in any of his six NFL seasons. But only 27 quarterbacks ever have.

But at least Rex Grossman's been there. You should sign him! He once flashed enough potential to be a first round pick!

The question for now isn't whether Vick will win a title or otherwise become the best quarterback in the game. The question is whether he's currently one of the best 32.

He's by far the best non-retired NFL quarterback that hasn't thrown a pass or played in a game in two years, I'll tell you that. Unless Jeff George is still looking for work.

There's no reason to think he isn't, and so there simply is no reason for him to accept any other role.

You know, other than that one reason. The one where he has hasn't played football in two years and was actually a mediocre quarterback the last time he did.

*- I'm just kidding, he's a smarmy halfwit douche with no credibility.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Defending Ron Turner, Part II, Turner vs. Shoop


Bears fans have seen some pretty idiotic offensive coordinators over the last decade. Matt Cavanaugh replaced Ron Turner in 1997 and while its not completely fair to blame him for the Rick Mirer-Steve Stenstrom-Moses Moreno debacles of the 8-24 1997 and 1998 seasons, most of us don't have a kind word to say about him. Gary Crowton came in with Jauron in 1999, acted like he'd invented the spread offense, called it "the razzle dazzle," introduced the wide receiver screen (worked for about half a season, then failed miserably for Crowton, Shoop, and Shea from 1999-2004), racked up a ton of yards at first before getting stuffed the next year, failed to score very often at all, forgot that the run game existed, and exposed Cade McNown for the fraud he was before heading off to fail miserably as head coach at BYU. Terry Shea asked for a shit ton of money, then brought a massive and ineffective playbook with him, but perhaps no mistake of his is greater than inisting that Jonathan Quinn could be an effective back-up. But only one moron rouses the ire of Bears fans to nearly Wannstedtian levels of rage. That man is John Shoop.

Shoop, the former offensive quality control assistant and quarterbacks coach under Crowton, was promoted upon Crowton's resignation in 2000. Shoop called the plays for the last three games of the season, with a 24-17 win over the Patriots, a 17-0 loss to the 49ers, and a 23-20 win over the Lions. Shoop called for a balanced offense, something lacking under Crowton, as he had a 50.6/49.4 Pass-Run ratio. His offensive was cheered by fans tired of Crowtons wide receiver screens and idiotic pass plays, and it was nicknamed the "Run'n'Shoop." Head coach Dick Jauron then decided to name Shoop the offensive coordinator on a permanent basis, and the reign of stupidity began in earnest, with the continued use of the wide receiver screen and other pass plays designed to get 4-5 yards on 3rd and 10, short dives up on the middle on nearly every run play, play action quarterback draws for Kordell Stewart, and declining offensive numbers across the board. Shoop was heckled so vociferously that Jauron was Forced to move him up into the booth, and many feel Jauron's loyalty to Shoop cost him his job.

In 2007, and at various stretches last year when the Bears offense struggled, I heard several fans derisively call Ron Turner "worse than John Shoop." While they were surely exaggerating, a thorough comparison of the two should eliminate the possibility of future comparisons outright.

So where to begin with the comparison? How about the Pass-Run Ratio. Both coordinators were criticized for running run-heavy offense, and Turner certainly does, with a career 51.4-48.6 ratio (league average 54.2-45.8). Shoop actually threw the ball more often, with a 54.7-45.3 Ratio. That ratio is heavily skewed by the 2002 Bears, however, as that team was 4-12 and were forced to play from behind early and often, requiring Shoop to put it up in the air 57.8% of the time. In 2000, 2001, and 2003 Shoop was far more conservative, with Pass-Run Ratios of 50.6/49.4, 52.6/47.4, and 53.8/46.2 respectively.

Another question worth asking is how effective each coordinator's offenses were When they put the ball up in the air, and exactly how deep those passes were. Two areas that are telling in this category are Yards per Attempt and Yards Per Completion. In Turner's career, the Bears average 6.3 ypa, while Shoop's quarterbacks averaged just 5.9 ypa. When Turner's quarterbacks have completed the passes, they've gained an average of 10.8 ypc, Shoop's gained just 10.3. Turner's numbers in this category are somewhat skewed, however, by the 2005 season, when an injury to Rex Grossman forced rookie Kyle Orton into the lineup and forced Turner to scale back the playbook drastically. When the 2005 numbers are removed, the new averages show that Turner is much more willing to throw it deep with a veteran quarterback. The adjusted ypa average becomes 6.5, and the adjusted ypc becomes 11.1, nearly a full yard more than Shoop managed.

Overall, the passing game has fared much better under Turner, with a line of

2303 comp./3993 att./57.7% comp./25,268 yds/197.4ypg/147 tds/132 ints/6.3 ypa/10.8 ypc, 75.0 Rating.

Minus the aforementioned 2005 season, those numbers jump to

2084 comp./3575 att./58.3% comp./23,067 yds/205.95 ypg/136 tds/117 ints/6.5 ypa/11.1 ypc, 76.6 Rating.

The passing line under Shoop:

946 comp. /1671 att./56.6% comp./9,788 yds/191.9ypg/57 td/55 int/5.9 ypa/10.3ypc. 71.3 Rating.

In total yards and points Turner also has a significant edge, as his teams have averaged 20.1 PPG (20.7 minus 2005) and 294.5 ypg (299.99 minus 2005), and they've also converted 36% of 3rd Downs (37% minus 2005), all better marks than Shoop's 18.6 PPG, 278.4 YPG, and 33% 3rd down percentage. Under Turner's guidance the Bears have scored at least 20 points 62 times, at least 30 points 24 times, and at least 40 points 5 times. Under Shoop they managed 20 points a respectable 29 times, but had just four games of 30 points, and never scored 40.

Last, but not least, a look at the win loss records of both coordinators. Although there are far more telling statistics than W-L record for coaches, it is still important to note that Turner is 72-56 as the Bears' offensive coordinator (40-24 under Lovie, 32-32 under Wannstedt), while Shoop was 26-25 (11-21 in 2002-2003). So, Bears fans, whatever frustrations you may have with Ron Turner, at least don't insult the man with a comparison to Shoop.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What's the Deal With Ron Turner?

So the Bears have an offensive coordinator who has now spent eight seasons (1993-1996, 2005-2008) as the guy calling the plays. In that time the Bears average finish on offense has been 18th in Points Per Game, 22nd in Total Yards, 20th in Passing Yards, and 17th in rushing yards. Those are all below average, fairly pedestrian numbers. One would think after eight years of that a team might go in a different direction. Many fans have clamored for it, and there's even a Fire Ron Turner website (I won't link there because I don't care to give those ledge jumping morons the traffic). I'm here today to tell you why Ron Turner is a good offensive coordinator, in my eyes, and how all of his critics should wait to see what he does with Jay Cutler this year before they call for his head.

I'm the last person who should defend Turner, I suppose. After all he runs one of the more run oriented offenses in pro football, and I'm a well known fan of Bill Walsh, Dick Vermeil, Al Saunders, Mike Leach, Urban Meyer, Joe Tiller and many other advocates of pass first offenses. Not to mention the fact that as an Illini fan I should view him with at least mild disdain for his 35-57 record in Champaign. The fact is, however, that nearly all of Turners problems at Illinois had everything to do with poor recruiting and little to do with schemes.

Turner's playbook is a hybrid of the West Coast Offense and the Coryell System (named after former Chargers coach Don Coryell, the system actually predates the West Coast Offense and originally Bore that name until an article on Bill Walsh gave his offense that name). In that way its actually quite similar in scheme to the Vermeil/Saunders/Martz offenses of the late 90s-mid 00's Rams and Chiefs offenses. Turner merely utilizes the power running facet of the offense Far more than those men ever did. At Illinois it torched opposing defenses as long as Kurt Kittner and Brandon Lloyd were there to make it work. When those two disappeared, Turner failed miserably at finding their replacements, but thats hardly a knock on the scheme or the man's abilities to coach an offense at a professional level.

The key point in Turner's offense, as in most others, is the quarterback. What's also necessary is durable group of backs who can provide at least 400 carries a season. When one looks at each season in which Turner was the Bears offensive coordinator, the reasons the Bears struggled or succeeded on offense are fairly clear:

1993: 24th in PPG, 28th in Total Yards, 28th in Passing Yards, 28th in Passing Attempts, 19th in Rushing Yards, 7th in Rushing attempts. Playcalling: 45% Pass, 55% Run. Bears Record: 7-9

Jim Harbaugh struggled to adjust from Mike Ditka's offense to the new offense, and had one of his worst seasons as a professional, tossing just 7 td passes. He was benched at one point in favor of back-up PT Willis. At runningback, Turner inherited Neal Anderson, who at age 29 had already lost most of his former explosiveness to injury, he averaged just a paltry 3.2 ypc, and the offense sputtered to a halt.

1994: 24th PPG, 23rd Total Yards, 21st Pass. Yds, 20th Pass. Att., 15th Rush Yds, 6th Rush Att. Playcalling: 51% Pass, 49 % Run. Bears Record: 9-7.

Erik Kramer started the season at quarterback, and averaged a healthy 7.1 ypa and nearly 200 ypg, but was benched after a 1-2 start. After replacing Kramer with the weaker armed Steve Walsh, Turner and Wannstedt switched back to a conservative approach on offense in order to allow the defense to win games. Walsh went 8-3 while averaging just 6.1 ypa and only a 173 ypg. The Bears won a wildcard spot and a playoff game. The team still lacked a capable runningback, with halfback Lewis Tillman and fullback Raymont Harris averaging only 3.3 and 3.8 ypc, respectively.

1995: 8th PPG, 9th Total Yds, 12th Pass. Yds, 21st Pass. Att., 9th Rush Yds., 6th Rush Att. Playcalling: 51.5% Pass, 48.5% Run. Bears Record: 9-7.

The most successful passing offense in Bears history resulted from Erik Kramer and rookie Rashaan Salaam combining to give Turner the power arm and power running that fits his offense best. Kramer started all 16 games, took every snap, and threw for a franchise record 3,838 yds, 29 touchdowns, and just 10 interceptions. Salaam didn't have the best yards per carry avg. (3.6), but proved to be the workhorse back that the Bears needed, providing 1,074 yds and 10 tds.

1996: 26th PPG, 21st Total Yds, 19th Pass. Yds, 10th Pass. Att., 16th Rush Yds., 11th Rush Att. Playcalling: 54% Pass, 46% Run. Bears Record: 7-9.

Kramer struggled to recover his 1995 form, and completed just 48.7% of his passes before breaking his neck in the fifth game of the season. 38 year old back up Dave Krieg started the rest of the season, and performed about as well as could be expected for someone his age. Rashaan Salaam also suffered from injuries and lost his starting job, and the team failed to repeat their great rushing performance from the year before. Turner left after the season to take over at Illinois.

2005: 26th PPG, 29th Total Yards, 31st Pass Yds., 30th Pass Att., 8th Rush Yds., 9th Rush Att. Playcalling: 46.2% Pass, 53.8% Rush. Bears Record: 11-5

Turner returned to the Bears after being fired by Illinois, and now was the offensive coordinator for Lovie Smith. An injury to starting quarterback Rex Grossman in the second preseason game left rookie Kyle Orton in the starting lineup, and Turner was forced to scale the offense back drastically in order to prevent mistakes and allow the defense to win games. The passing numbers on the season are admittedly awful, but the run game was outstanding behind Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, and Adrian Peterson, and the offense did just enough to allow the team to win 11 games.
2006: 2nd PPG, 15th Total Yards, 14th Pass Yds., 17th Pass Att., 15th Rush Yds., 5th Rush Att. Playcalling: 50.6% Pass, 49.4% Rush. Bears Record: 13-3

The 2006 Bears offense was the perfect microcosm of the pros and cons of Turner's offense. When Rex Grossman got off to his hot start at the beginning of the season, the Bears ran their record to 7-0, put 31.5 ppg, and averaged 231.6 passing yards per game (336 total yards per game) despite a relatively slow start from their rushing offense. During the next 9 games, however, as Grossman hit his rough stretches, those totals dropped to 22.8 PPG and 179.3 pass yards per game, although they averaged a respectable 316.3 total ypg thanks to a healthy run game that averaged 131.9 ypg in the second half. Still, the overall numbers on the season, especially the points per game, are either respectable or very good.

2007: 18th PPG, 27th Total Yards, 21st Pass Yds., 14th Pass Att., 30th Rush Yds., 19th Rush Att. Playcalling: 57.4% Pass, 42.6% Rush. Bears Record: 7-9

What went wrong in 2007? Pretty much everything, but it all started up front with the offensive line. The line, with an average age of 31.8 years old and only one starter under 30, fell apart and allowed 43 sacks and failed to open up much of anything in the run game. Rex Grossman and replacement Brian Griese both struggled with turnovers, combining to throw 14 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Cedric Benson seemed almost sluggish at times and struggled without former partner Thomas Jones, averaging just 3.4 yard per carry. Without a run game, Turner called the highest percentage of passes in his career, a dangerous proposal behind such a shoddy line. Many began calling for his resignation during this difficult season.

2008: 14th PPG, 26th Total Yards, 21st Pass Yds., 14th Pass Att., 24th Rush Yds., 15th Rush Att. Playcalling: 54.9% Pass, 45.1% Rush.

2008, much like 2006, proved that the Turner offense works when the quarterback plays well. In the 7 games in which Orton was hot before his ankle injury, the Bears averaged 28 PPG, 226.6 Pass YPG, 109 Rush YPG, and 335.6 Total Yards Per game. After Orton's injury, those numbers dropped to 19.8 PPG, 163.8 Pass YPG, 101.1 Rush YPG, and just 264.9 Total YPG, and the critics that had silenced themselves for the first seven games came back in full force. Another serious problem with the offense was the lack of a durable back up runningback, with Kevin Jones gaining only 109 yds on 34 carries (3.1 avg.) as he recovered from an ACL tear the year before, and the most notorious problem of all was a weak wide receiver corps.

There are many statistical reasons to criticize Ron Turner, his career average unit rankings are very mediocre, and many people dislike his run-oriented nature (Turner has a 51.4% Pass/48.6% Rush ratio in his career, while the league averaged 54.2% Pass/45.8% Rush in that same time frame). Upon closer examination, however, most of Turner's struggles are more personnel oriented, with quarterback problems (1993, 1996, 2005, the second halves of 2006 and 2008), and offensive line problems (2007) being the chief culprits. During the years in which Turner's seen stability at the quarterback position (1995, first halves of 2006/2008), the team has undeniably lit up the scoreboard.

2009 will certainly be a make or break year for Turner (and perhaps Lovie Smith as well, although I doubt it), as he'll finally have the right quarterback in Jay Cutler, a healthier Kevin Jones to keep Matt Forte fresh, and a retooled offensive line to keep said franchise quarterback (hopefully) upright. I myself have no doubt that the 2009 season will be the best yet for Ron Turner as offense coordinator for the Chicago Bears.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kyle Orton Week? Hell, Try Kyle Orton Year

These nice fellows over at Broncotalk have a nice rational article from Monday about our hero and declared this week Kyle Orton Week in order to learn more about their new starting quarterback, a noble endeavor if you ask me. The writer of that article seems to have kept his head about the Jay Cutler-Kyle Orton situation, rather than certain other Broncos fans I've seen in recent weeks. So anywho I'll be following them this week and, if the usual quality of writing there is as good as that article, they may be my go to Broncos blog to keep tabs on our hero this year. So head on over if you'd like.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Good News

You Screen Pass Chuckin' Bastard
The Nemesis was released by the Buccaneers today. Some say he's headed for retirement, his agent is denying that so far, either way, I still hate you, Brian.

Rex In the Top Ten?

I read this article by Clark Judge of CBS Sports, which I found by way of Windy City Gridiron (a fine site indeed), that ranks the top ten back up quarterbacks in the NFL. Some of the names I agreed with (Jeff Garcia, Jon Kitna, Tyler Thigpen, and Charlie Batch), some of them I'm not sold on (Sage Rosenfels, Matt Leinart, Todd Collins, Tarvaris Jackson (banking on Favre I see)), but the one I found most interesting was Rex Grossman.

Now anyone that reads this site with much regularity (if such people exist) know that I've been in Rex's corner on most of the discussions about his career. Many times I waffled between Rex and Kyle, mostly because I felt the best thing for the team would be for Rex to return the investment made on him. However, last year in relief of Kyle he was just plain horrible. I realize that he was rusty, and I realize he faced a tough defense against Tennessee, but a good back up quarterback would be a person who can relieve and perform adequately with minimal practice repititions, but Rex was just a pathetic 32 of 62 (51.6%), for 257 yards, a Jonathan Quinn like 4.1 yards per attempt, 2 tds, 2 ints, and an ugly 59.7 rating last year. That's...not good.

On the other hand, Rex did perform fairly well off the bench in a game in the Oakland game in 2007 and the Falcons game in 2005, going 16 of 30 (53.3%) for 235 yards, 1 tds, 1 int, a pretty good 7.8 ypa, with a 76.3 rating, and the Bears did win Both games (as well as the Detroit game this year making the Bears 4-1 in games in which Rex has relieved the starter). So that sort of clouds the picture. Is Rex a good option as your back up quarterback?

Well, I think that with the situation he's in, Rex is good for the Texans. I'm not high on Dan Orlovsky and never really have been. Rex has a legitimate shot of winning the back up job and that means backing up a fairly brittle player in Matt Schaub. Since Schaub has missed 10 starts over the last two years, its possible that Rex's job as a back up would actually entail multiple starts and enough practice reps to get him into the swing of things. In which case the very talented Houston offense should render him a starting caliber quarterback for as long as Schaub is out. Certainly Grossman to Andre Johnson is a potent throwgasm waiting to happen. So if you're looking for a guy to come in and save the team in the fourth quarter of a close game, I'd look elsewhere. But if you've got the time to let him take the wheels for a few games, then you could do a lot worse than Rex.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The More Things Change..

1998! When a Ryan Leaf action figure sounded like a good idea!

The more they really f#$kin' change. Last night with the Cubs on an off day and nothing else to do, I found myself watching the 1998 Quarterback Skills Competition on NFL Network, and it blew my mind. Just seeing the quarterbacks that participated, the teams they were with at the time, and hearing the speculation on their futures, all while knowing what happened to each of them was kind of amusing. Some of the quarterbacks that participated-

Kordell Stewart, Steelers
They first talk about Kordell's mobility and call him "the total package," they discuss his stellar play in 1997 and mention how he was sure to keep defenses guessing for years to come. Ironically he fails the mobility challenge, which everyone assumed he would win, by holding onto the ball too long and throwing it wide of the target at the end. Later he scored the lowest of any quarterback in the accuracy competition (shocking, I know).

Danny Kanell, Giants
Honest to God before last night I can't even remember the last time I'd heard the name of this journeyman quarterback who spent two years starting for the Giants in 1997 and 1998 before disappearing into obscurity. He didn't place very well.

Kerry Collins, Panthers
This came not long after the 1997 season, and they mention Collins' hopes to take the Panthers back to the playoffs, after the 1996 Panthers had made it to the NFC championship game, only to fall to 7-9 the next year as Collins threw 21 interceptions. Just a few short months later Collins' alcoholism and an incident involving Muhsin Muhammed, a few other teammates, and a racial epithet led to him being placed on waivers by the Panthers, picked up by the Saints, and nearly flaming out of the league.

Gus Frerotte, Redskins
Frerotte was about to enter his last season with the Redskins, leading to the journeyman career he's had since then (he's been on 7 different teams). He didn't perform very well.

teve Young, 49ers
This one made me kind of sad, as Young was always one of my favorite quarterbacks to watch due to his efficiency and incredible accuracy. The 1998 season would be his last great season, with 36 td passes and that incredibly playoff win over the Packers when he threw the game winning touchdown pass to Terrell Owens through double coverage. Just a year after that vicious hit from Aeneas Williams and the effects of post concussion syndrome would finally force him into retirement.

Trent Dilfer, Buccaneers
Dilfer was coming off the best season, statistically, of his career and everyone seemed optimistic he'd finally overcome the problems of his first three seasons and was surely to become the franchise quarterback the Bucs expected when they drafted him in the 1st round in 1994. Of course that didn't happen, and only his year as the poster child for the caretaker quarterback during the Ravens Superbowl run kept his career from being a disappointment. Now he works at ESPN, where he and Mark Schlereth somehow think the Jay Cutler trade made the Bears a worse team. F&%k you, Trent.

Scott Mitchell, Lions
Remember Mitchell? The former back up to Dan Marino who tantalized Lions fans with a 4,338 yd, 32 td 1995 season and actually led them to the playoffs in the 1995 and 1997? That seems so long ago. Mitchell never really sustained the success of his 1995 season and ended up benched just a few months after this competition in favor of rookie Charlie Batch (WHO THE LIONS NEVER SHOULD HAVE GIVEN UP ON!)

Brett Favre, Packers
Favre was coming off his third straight MVP season, his second straight Superbowl appearance, and everyone was sure he was destined for even greater heights. Thank God he wasn't. The bastard hasn't been in a Superbowl or received another MVP since.

Drew Bledsoe, Patriots
Bledsoe was in the middle of the most productive run of his career, when from 1996-1998 he threw for between 20 and 28 touchdowns each year with a passing rating over 80 for all three seasons (above his 77.1 career mark). Believe it or not the mobility part of the test wasn't his best performance.

Elvis Grbac, Chiefs
Grbac had shown promise as Young's backup on the 49ers, so the Chiefs had picked him to be their starter for the 1997 season. Grbac performed adequately, and the announcers were determined he was off to a bright career as a starter. He wasn't. During the 98 season he'd be benched with a 53.1 quarterback rating. He'd rebound to have a decent season in 1999 and a fluke season in 2000 when he threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 tds, but then flamed out horribly as the Ravens starter in 2001 before retiring. Also, if you haven't read the hilarious tale of how Elvis Grbac accidentally became People's Sexiest Athlete Alive in 1998, you should.

Jim Harbaugh, Ravens
This was fun, as Harbaugh was the first Bears quarterback I watched during my lifetime and I was always happy for his success in Indianapolis. This was right after he'd been traded to the Ravens to make room on the Colts for a rookie Peyton Manning. He said in an interview during the competition that he intended to play until he won a Superbowl, but alas that was not to be. After a disappointing '98 he left the Ravens to join the Chargers, where he led them to an 8-8 record during the 1999 season while Ryan Leaf was hurt. After "losing" the job to Leaf in 2000, Harbaugh started just 5 games, going 0-5 on a 1-15 squad. He retired after backing up Charlie Batch for the Lions in 2001. Harbaugh won the whole thing, which must sadly be a career highlight for him.

Steve McNair, Oilers
This was of course a bit awkward given recent events, and it was pretty sad to hear everyone talk about his skill set and his bright future. It was good to see an Oilers jersey again, though.

And then, of course, the funniest one of all...

Ryan Leaf, Chargers
Leaf didn't actually compete in the challenge, he was merely the person used to demonstrate each event, and it was fantastic. I really mean that, he was absolutely perfect at almost every one of the drills. He threw the deep ball well, he hit the moving targets with accuracy and damn near right on the bullseye, he even showed off great movement in the mobility challenge. It really is interesting after seeing the abysmal failure that he was on the field, and hearing him referred to as the greatest draft bust of all time, to really see the skills he had that got him drafted. Its really no surprise that arm strength and size got him as high in the draft as it did. It just makes it all the more glaring how poor his attitude really was and how badly it affected his performance.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

College Football Preview, 2009

Its the middle of July, I'm bored, the Cubs just dropped two in a row after showing signs of life for a week, and the first football game of the year isn't until September 3rd. What's a man to do?

Football previews. Here I arbitrarily throw out how I think the 6 major conferences will shake out and who I have in my preseason top 25. Whats my basis for most of this? Hearsay, hunches, and downright bullshit! With maybe a fact or two or a quarterback or defensive line thrown in there for fun. So onto the Big Ten (the only league I'm actually going to attempt to figure out the actual records of)

Big Ten
Ohio State 10-2 (7-1)
They have Terrelle Pryor back, and maybe this year he'll actually know how to pass and be a true dual threat quarterback, regardless of how ESPN decided to just overlook Daryll Clark and Juice Williams and annoint him TEH BEST DUAL THREAT QUARTERBACK IN THE HISTORY OF THE BIG TEN EVAR I MEAN COME ON DID U NOT SEE WHEN HE THREW FOR LIKE 200 YARDS AGAINST PENNS TATE ZOMG?! Not saying he won't end up being far better than those two over the course of his career, but he sure as hell wasn't from the moment he stepped on the field. They don't have Beanie Wells anymore but they do have his top backup Daniel Herron who looked pretty damn good as a freshman, and they have experience at wide receiver and on the o-line. The defense looks as solid as any other Tressel defense, and the conference is still pretty weak. Another Big Ten Championship and disappointing bowl loss for the Buckeyes this year.

Penn State 10-2 (6-2)
They have Darryl Clark back as well as the man who takes over Shonn Greene's mantle as the best runningback in the Big Ten, Evan Royster. They have to retool their offensive line and only return four starters on defense, but Penn State usually has little trouble reloading on defense and their offense will be more than good enough to carry them until they get things sorted out.

Iowa 9-3 (5-3)
Fuck them. No, seriously. Fuck them. After three nice lackluster seasons signalling the decline of the Ferentzian Empire they go ahead and go 9-4 last year. Its not cool. They lose Shonn Greene but they return 7 starters on offense and 8 fuckers on defense, and they'll probably be even better than I give them credit for, but fuck them.

Illinois 8-4 (5-3)
They return 6 starters from the nation's 19th ranked offense including Juice Williams, who I think will have a big senior year, as I mentioned before. New offensive coordinator Mike Schultz seemed to crank out 60% passers and a balanced offense every year at TCU and I have high hopes he'll be a more efficient play caller near the red zone than Mike Locksley. Their defense only returns 4 starters, but as awful as they were last year is that really a bad thing? Their schedule is weaker than last year and with any luck they can pull off a return to a bowl bid. Anything less than 7 wins looks to be a disappointment, but honestly just a bowl game is all I ask. I really can't get greedy.

Northwestern 8-4 (4-4)
I'm really not convinced that Mike Kafka, who split time at quarterback with CJ Bacher last year, can handle the job full time, even with the added threat of his rushing ability. They lose Tyrell Sutton and return Zero skill position starters on offense, though they should be solid up front with four returning starters on the o-line. They do return 8 starters from a defense that was pretty solid last year, and in a strange turn of events their defense should be good enough to carry NW's offense for a while.

Michigan State 7-5 (4-4)
I know they went 9-4 last year and return 14 starters (though neither at quarterback or runningback), but I just don't see Michigan State having TWO good years in a row. AMIRITE?

Minnesota 7-5 (4-4)
They started hot last year at 7-1 before losing 5 in a row to finish the season. They're transitioning from the spread offense to more of a pro style, and I think that's a bad move with QB Adam Weber and 8 players back on offense. They return 7 on defense as well, but their schedule is tougher and it'll be a more difficult trip to a bowl game than it was last year. I have them at 7-5, but I really wouldn't be surprised to see them finish as poorly as 5-7.

Purdue 5-7 (4-4)
They were more or less awful in Joe Tiller's last season, and I don't see them improving all that much in Danny Hope's first year with just 3 returning starters on offense and none of them at the skill positions. Fifth year senior Joey Elliot is the most likely candidate to start at quarterback, but I think they'd be better off throwing touted redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush out there and just letting him learn under fire.

Wisconsin 6-6 (2-6)
They return 7 starters on offense, but that includes the quarterback (Dustin Sherer) who wasn't very good and not the runningback (PJ Hill) who was. They shouldn't really experience too much of a drop off in the running game, however, as Hills backup John Clay ran for 884 yards with a 5.7 average last year. The defense returns five starters, but only return two of their front seven and its likely their defense will experience a drop off quite a bit from its top 40 ranking last year.

Michigan 5-7 (2-6)
They should be better on offense than last year, when they finished dead last in the Big Ten in both rush and pass offense, but they still lack a true spread option quarterback like Rich Rodriguez likes. The defense returns 5 starters but have an inexperienced secondary. They'll be hard pressed to improve on last year's 87th ranked pass defense.

Indiana 2-10 (0-8)
They backslid from their 7-6 record and bowl game appearance in 2007 to 3-9 last year when the defense fell apart and Kellen Lewis struggled without James Hardy. Lewis was then moved to wide receiver but has since been kicked off the team. Ben Chappel takes over under center and is more of a dropback passer than Lewis, with little else special about him. They'll take a step back this year as it looks like Bill Lynch is just gonna have to blow the whole thing up and start over again.

South Carolina

Ole Miss
Mississippi State

Big 12
Kansas State
Iowa State

Oklahoma State
Texas Tech
Texas A&M

Pac 10
Oregon State
Arizona State
Washington State

NC State
Florida State
Boston College
Wake Forest

Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech
North Carolina

Big East
West Virginia
South Florida

The Top 25
1. Florida- Tim Tebow and 6 starters overall from last year's 4th ranked offense, and 11(!) starters back from last years 4th ranked defense. Oh, and they won the national championship last year, their second in three years. Until someone finds a way to knock 'em off, there's no logical explanation for picking someone else.

2. Texas- Its pretty much a draw in the Big 12 between Texas and Oklahoma, and I like Texas' defense just a little bit more.

3. Oklahoma- See above.

4. USC- God damnit Pete Carroll.

5. Ole Miss- I don't know why, I just like Jevan Snead and Houston Nutt and I hate Nick Saban and Alabama, so they're in my top 5.

6. Ohio State-Here we go again.

7. Virginia Tech- Tyrod Taylor will make the necessary improvements and that defense will be pretty damn good. I think they knock off Alabama in the season opener

8. Alabama- They're good and they return 9 starters from an awesome defense, but they have too many questions on offense for my liking. And fuck you, Nick Saban.

9. Penn State- Darryl Clark and Evan Royster make them dangerous.

10. Oklahoma State- Zac Robinson's pretty damn good and Mike Gundy Is a grown man, so they have that going for them

11. Oregon- Do you know who Jeramiah Masoli is? You should.

12. Boise State- Kellen Moore's good enough to overcome their inexperience on offense and defense.

13. Georgia- Good news? Lower expectations than last year and enough returning starters to make a run. Bad news? None of those returning starters is Matt Stafford.

14. Cal- Jahvid Best is one hell of a beast at runningback, but its about time Tedford worked his magic with Kevin Riley.

15. Georgia Tech- I'm probably going a little bit high on them, but 16 returning starters for Paul Johnson's kick ass spread/triple option/flexbone whatever the hell you wanna call it kickass ride of awesomeness equals a top 15 team in my book.

16. Nebraska- I like what Bo Pelini did in just a year with the program to clean out the funk of douche leftover from Bill Callahan. They're thin on returning starters on offense but their defense will be good enough to win the Big 12 North.

17. LSU- They should be able to run the ball on offense and that defense should be improved from last year, but it won't be enough to win the SEC West.

18. Cincinnati- Senior quarterback Tony Pike will lead an offense that is good enough to win the incredibly weak Big East, despite heavy losses on defense. Plus, for some reason, Ron Guenther scheduled Cincinnati as a late November nonconference game for Illinois AT Cincinnati. Why? Dear God, Why?

19. North Carolina- They return 16 starters, and their losses from last year (TE, WLB, FB, etc) are at fairly minor positions. It's Butch Davis's third year and the ACC is usually a crapshoot. They're a sleeper.

20. NC State- They have the ACC's best quarterback in Russell Wilson (who threw 17 touchdowns with only 1 interception last year), and they have 7 starters returning on each side of the ball. They'll definitely improve from their 6-7 record last year.

21. Utah- The losses on offense are heavy for the team that went 13-0 and pantsed Nick Saban in the Sugar Bowl last year, but they can still play ball in the Mountain West.

22. Iowa- Fuck them.

23. Notre Dame- Clausen and ten starters return on offense. They'll still probably lose their bowl game.

24. Oregon State- They have an impressive looking offense, but only 3 returning starters on defense. Perfect for a Pac 10 team.

25. Illinois- Forgive me. I'll have them out of here as soon as they lose their first game to a Chase Daniel-less Missouri and I allow myself to throw away my foolish dreams.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How Long Can You Keep This Up?

Last April, Derrek Lee was two years removed from his wrist injury, coming off of a season that OPS wise was his second best ever (even with only 22 homers), and he had one of the best Aprils of his career, with a .364/8/23/.437/.682 line, adding up to an 1.118 OPS. The Cubs were off to a hot start and most Cub fans were happy with the idea that the Derrek Lee we saw in 2005 was finally back in full force. Then the calendar rolled over to May, traditionally Derrek's worst month in the majors, and it hit hard, dropping him to a .234/5/14/.269/.411 line that month for a .681 OPS. From there on until the rest of the season Derrek never hit more than 2 homers in a month or posted a monthly OPS higher than a mediocre .787. He began to roll over into double play after double play, finishing with 27 and earning the moniker "DPLee" on many messageboards. Opinions varied on his prospects for the 2009 season, with many meathead Cub fans openly calling for the Cubs to drop him out of his customary third spot in the lineup or to replace him with 29 year old "rookie" Micah Hoffpauir outright.

April of this year came and with the Cubs struggling, much of the fans' frustrations were vented on Derrek, who posted his worst April in a decade, when he posted a .173 average and a .478 OPS for the Marlins in May of 1999, back before he'd established himself as a major leaguer. This April Derrek's line was a ghastly .189/1/10/.253/.284 for a morbid .537 OPS. The calls for Hoffpauir grew louder and even led some rational bloggers to wonder if maybe the change would have to be made soon.

But then something incredible happened. Lee entered May, his worst month, and caught fire like he hadn't done since April of last year or even 2007. For the month of May he hit .313/4/9/.403/.552 with a .955 OPS. June came (traditionally his best month) and he didn't disappoint, hitting .333/6/20/.417/.556 with a .973 OPS, the first time he'd put back to back months together with an OPS of at least .900 since his monster 2005. How has he done in his 5 July games? He's off to an even greater start, with a .300/4/12/.333/.900 line and a whopping 1.233 OPS. Needless to say its one of the better hitting stretches of his career, all at the age of 33 and after what appeared to be a year of decline.

So what the hell happened? It seems a bit weak after three years to use the "his wrist was hurt" excuse, so I won't. However, the bulging disk that has bothered him on an off since 2007 seems a likely culprit, and perhaps the treatment has finally given him the comfort to drive the ball with authority once more. The question that's most important, however, is if he can keep this up.

I say yes he can. Why? His swing is just perfect right now, and while he's bound to cool down from the homer hitting tear he's been on this week, there's no reason he can't continue his success of the last two months as long as he keeps driving both fastballs and breaking balls the way he has been and punishing pitchers' mistakes that he was missing just three months ago. He's got protection in the lineup again, with Aramis back to save the day. But most of all he's going to do it because just like me, he hates the troglodytes that called for Micah Hoffpauir with the white hot rage of a thousand burning suns.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Air McNair? Say it Ain't So..

Steve McNair was murdered yesterday. Whether he was shot by his mistress (though all signs point in that direction) or someone else has yet to be determined, but that doesn't really have any impact on the fact that the 36 year old quarterback is dead. I know that countless other articles have been written or will be written about this tragedy and almost all of which will come from experts and insiders, people that knew McNair or have access to the people that did. Hell, I'm not even a Titans fan (my brother is, though). I am a football fan, however, and, as you may have noticed, I tend to spend most of my time analyzing quarterbacks. This site is named after Kyle Orton, but I've written countless about Rex Grossman, Jay Cutler, Juice Williams, Cade McNown, that bastard Favre, and dozens of other quarterbacks. Out of the many signal callers I've watched in my lifetime, McNair ranks right up there with the best of them.

McNair was accurate (60.1% comp %), he had a lower interception % than Peyton Manning, he was a proven winner (91-62), and most notably, despite battling injuries most of his career, from the time he was made a full time starter in 1997 until he volunteered to take the bench in Baltimore during a rebuilding year in 2007, he only played in fewer than 14 games twice, once in 2004 when he shut it down and only played 8 games for a rebuilding Titans team that went 5-11 that year, and before that in 1999, when he missed a few early season games but returned to go 9-2 and lead his team to the Superbowl. Most fans remember that Superbowl run by the Titans, from the Music City Miracle against the Bills all the way up until their last drive against the Rams, when the Titans, having previously rallied from a 16-0 deficit to tie the game, came up just one yard short of tying it once more at 23 and sending it to overtime. No one that saw that game will ever forget McNair tossing the ball to Kevin Dyson and watching him struggle to find the end zone. Hell, after the trade from the Titans (in which nearly every one in the league cried out against the Titan's mistreatment of an icon), he even managed to give the Ravens a year with a decent passing game, and that alone is a worthy accomplishment.

Off of the field, McNair had a sterling reputation. He donated to countless charities, ran dozens of football camps, and was well loved throughout the state of Tennessee and the NFL. Sadly, the shady circumstances of his death will forever mar that reputation. Already the mono-IQ'd commenters on the articles describing McNair's death at places like Yahoo! Sports or are spewing bile like "he got what he deserved for cheatin!" from underneath their bare light bulb, and that's a damn shame.

I don't know McNair's wife, or 99.9% of the details of his personal life. I can probably venture a guess that between the vacations he went on with his mistress, the car he registered her name in, and the fact that him and his wife were fairly frequent diners at the restaraunt where she was a waitress, Mrs. McNair wasn't exactly oblivious to her existence. I don't really think that excuses adultery, but it makes it one hell of a grey area when one tries to consider how wrong Steve McNair's actions may have been. I certainly don't think that some moron somewhere should somehow make 2+2=5 and decide that McNair's "good guy" status in the NFL, his contributions on the field, or his outstanding work in the community are all rendered moot by some personal failing in an unrelated area of his life. It's sure as hell not gonna change any memories I have of watching him on Sundays.