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Friday, August 23, 2013

Bits and Bites, Preseason Game 2

I apologize for the tardiness of this article, near as we are to the third game of the preseason. But I’ve been very busy this week and Kyle kept posting shit all the time. An orderly posting schedule is important to me, so I’ve left it this late.

Anyway, there were a lot of things to talk about concerning the Bears-Chargers game last week, and since the SKOdcast got moved we haven’t really talked about them much. I knew I’d find gold in the media reaction to the game, but when I got there I found something that I have never found before: there are too many stupid columns for me to do them all. Three stuck out in particular.

So I thought this was a good time to bring out an idea I had tossed around last year but never really moved on. There’s really one particular argument that irks me about any given story, and then I go back and make fun of the rest of it. But I figured I’d just take that one argument from those three columns and talk about it at greater length. Kyle must be rubbing off on me.

And so, without further ado, the first edition of Bits and Bites.

Up first, we have our most ancient rival Hub Arkush. From his column “Rookies Kyle Long, Jordan Mills Deserve Another Start,” we have this ironclad argument: Extracting Matt Forte’s 58-yard run, which neither of the rooks had anything to do with, the Bears’ offense managed 86 yards on 27 plays in the first half, during which Long and Mills ran with the first and second teams. That’s a paltry 3.2 yards per snap.

Hold on a minute, Hub. I thought this was an article about how well two rookie linemen did. Why are we even discussing the overall offensive production?

Also, fuck you, Hub. That logic is total garbage and you know it. What, should Forte have let himself get tackled after eight or nine yards so they could keep that “yards per snap except only on the bad ones” stat high?

Here’s the thing: the offense can only travel as many yards as there are between them and the goal line on any given drive. How they get those yards is irrelevant. Once they have traveled forward, there are fewer yards between them and losing possession one way or another. You don’t just get to extract plays from the offensive production and then say “it sucks without that one big play!”

I understand where this logic comes from. I use it sometimes when you hear people talking about how a receiver with 100 yards and a TD “victimized” a team, when he actually had four catches and one of them just happened to be a 50-yard bomb and a single broken tackle that got him 70 yards. Or an RB “tore up the defense” for 120 yards, 80 of which came on a single long run.

What Hub is doing here is not the same. You can say that receiver didn’t “work over” a defense so much as he busted loose on one big play. But you can’t then say the team he plays for didn’t deserve those yards and criticize them for failing to replace them with short gains so the stats look better.

Also, padding your negative stat with snaps from when the second team was in is just a cheap shot. I know it’s theoretically possible that the whole second team will get out on the field, but it will only be in case of a blowout win or a bus crash. Either way, their performance as a unit is pretty much a write-off.

Next up, we have Mark Potash, who wrote an actually fairly reasonable column called “Is it Too Early to Worry about Cutler’s Reliance on Marshall?” However, there’s one statement he made that just doesn’t work: Even the touchdown, a five-yard pass on first-and-goal, was a forced pass in which Cutler relied on Marshall to make a great one-on-one play.

Right here is the crux of the “Cutler needs to throw to somebody other than Marshall” argument. I agree, wholeheartedly, that he needs to spread the ball out a little bit instead of forcing it to Marshall whenever pressure comes.

But when you have a chance to let Brandon Marshall “make a great one-on-one play,” of fucking course you let him. There are maybe five cornerbacks in the league who are likely to beat Marshall for a contested ball one on one, and one of them plays for the Bears. That TD may have relied on Marshall to beat his opposite number, but that’s like saying it relied on him being able to run and close his hands. He makes that play 99 times out of 100.

And there’s where the argument gets kind of murky. Cutler should diversify, sure. He shouldn’t throw that pick into double coverage because he’s under pressure and Marshall pulls those down sometimes. But he shouldn’t avoid throwing to his #1 receiver on an all-but-guaranteed TD just for the sake of spreading the ball around.   

Reporters seem to get so wrapped up in the overarching “Brandon Marshall gets an abnormally high portion of Cutler’s targets” narrative that they forget Jay can still make decisions on a play-by-play basis. They point to him giving Marshall all five of his passes on Thursday while ignoring the fact that four of them were the right call. If he just eliminates the mistakes that lead to the fifth throw, which was a terrible decision, the percentages will take care of themselves.

And last, we have ESPN’s Jon Greenberg, who wrote a really weird column called “Who is the Real Jay Cutler?” And while the whole thing is just a confusing mess, there’s one statement in it that really sticks out. And this one goes back to my earliest posts about why everyone seems to hate Cutler, and how they just can’t let him go.

Greenberg wrote a column about a QB who went 4-5 with one TD and one INT for a 98 QB rating and he threw out nine opening paragraphs of negatives before busting out this gem: Because it's Jay Cutler, we focus on the bad before the good. That's just how it goes.

He’s totally right, of course. Because it’s Jay Cutler, they always go for the bad first. But it’s the “that’s just how it goes” that makes it so Goddamn frustrating. It’s like he’s just throwing up his shoulders and saying “Look, my hands are tied here.” No, John, they’re not.

This is going to come as a shock, but you are the writer. You choose whether to write about the TD or the pick first. You choose to bury the fact that the first team outscored their opposite numbers 20-7 in favor of more room to talk about every bad thing Cutler has ever done.

Everyone who writes one of these pieces throws that caveat out for some reason. “The media sure hates Jay Cutler, don’t they, Loyal Reader?” Yes, they do, member of the fucking media. Either admit that you would just rather talk about the pick because you don’t like his face, or do your job and get on with it.

I don’t expect them not to talk about the pick. It was a bad throw. It was a bad decision. But it’s the attitude that this column has to be negative because "hey, it’s Jay Cutler!" that gets me. I don't understand how they're so comfortable just... saying it out loud like that.

Those are the three that really got me for this week; I promise I’ll endeavor to get you a timelier column, as well as a singular column dissection next week. Until then, enjoy this no-doubt gripping matchup with the Raiders.


Keith said...

Greenberg said, in so many words, the Bears weren't going anywhere. He was asked why and his answer was "Isn't Jay Cutler still the QB?" (Yes, and when he is the quarterback they're 34-22, and when he's not, they're 2-6.) He was asked to be specific on what he didn't like about him and he said "besides the fact that his teammates don't seem to like him, he makes poor decisions late in games."

90% of the shade Cutler gets is based on the "I just don't like him" thing which has fuck all to do with wins and losses so I'll just ignore that. But the same Cutler who led all QBs in 4th quarter rating in 2012 (114) makes poor decisions late in games. Um, okay.

Erik said...

Yeah, you would think that the only thing you couldn't say Cutler did poorly was play in the fourth quarter.

I just don't understand how he can as much admit that they all just don't like him, but then also try to back that up with logic. Faulty logic.

Code Red said...

Greenberg is like Bernstein. He wants to be snarky more than anything else. If you get riled up, he just laughs because he's a troll.

Lee said...

The whole "clutch" argument doesn't make sense to begin with. Why make a fuss about how one player does in the last quarter of the game, when you could ask the whole team to take care of business in the first three quarters?

Code Red said...

Lee, just about every statistical analysis done has shown clutch quarterbacking to be a giant myth, for the most part, but it's far too ingrained in the mentality of the sports media and most fans. It's a way to denigrate players when you can't really argue against them without making shit up.

Iggins! said...

I like that all three of us have now taken completely different parts of that Greenberg article and been like... what the fuck is this? All for different reasons. It is one of the strangest articles I have read this year.