January 4, 2008

Seattle Columnist Provides True Bulletin Board Material

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune clearly comes from the Gregg Doyel/Skip Bayless school of saying purposefully inflammatory things just for the hell of it. While I agree that the winning by 21 sentiment is a little much, you tell me whether you think Gregg Williams and Joe Bugel will have laminated copies of this in every Redskins' locker prior to the game on Sunday. It seems to me that after reading this column, the Redskins will do everything they can to win by 36 (Taylor's rookie year jersey number), although I suppose that's mere destiny. But if you're doubting just what a prick this columnist is, read the last sentence of the article.

McGrath gives new meaning to bulletin board material.

I feel bad John McGrath if he crosses paths with Santana Moss or Clinton Portis this week after writing that last sentence. Way to trample on the dead. Anyway, without further ado...


Let Taylor talk rest in peace, too

As the Washington Redskins continue their very public grieving over murdered teammate Sean Taylor, the distinction between mourning the dead and exploiting the dead is becoming ever more blurry.

Before attending the Dec. 3 funeral for the Pro Bowl free safety - an innocent victim in the botched burglary of his South Florida home - the Redskins paid their respects during a stirring pregame tribute culminated by the defense lining up for its first play against Buffalo without a free safety.

Washington players wore No. 21 decals on their helmets - the decals were distributed to players around the NFL - and dedicated the remainder of their season to the talented, once troubled young man who died before those outside the Redskins’ headquarters learned of his newfound commitment to responsibility.

But the solemn dignity of the Missing Man tribute has devolved into a maudlin circus that’s turned Taylor from a tragic figure into the patron saint of an improbable Super Bowl contender.
It’s one thing when the slain safety is commemorated by hats, T-shirts, souvenir magnets and No. 21 rally towels, as proceeds from those sales are being funneled toward a memorial fund the Redskins have established for Taylor’s 1-year-old daughter.

On the other hand, what is the team’s motive in releasing a depth chart noting that Taylor will start at free safety for the first-round playoff game scheduled Saturday at Qwest Field? We know what happened - we won’t ever forget the first NFL player murdered during the course of a season - but we don’t need an intentionally committed clerical error to grasp the reality of a senseless killing.

And so I wonder: Is the inclusion of Taylor on the depth chart a genuine tribute, or the latest nod to a macabre superstition?

It’s a fair question, given the Redskins’ reaction to their season-finale victory against the Cowboys last Sunday. Unable to comprehend how two disparate forces were at work at the same time - Washington needed to win, Dallas didn’t - coach Joe Gibbs and his players chose to dwell on the seemingly predestined margin of a final score (Redskins 27, Cowboys 6) that found the rivals separated by 21 points. Taylor’s jersey number was 21.

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Washington linebacker London Fletcher told reporters.“Our guys, we didn’t think it was by accident that we won by 21,” Gibbs said. “I’ll put it that way.”

And I’ll put it this way: It was a coincidence - a chain of events exclusive to a football game in Landover, Md., which had nothing to do with a fatal gunshot in Miami a month earlier - that enabled the Redskins to win by 21 points.

On an afternoon Dallas showed up at FedEx Field with a dumbed-down, two-tiered game plan (first was to escape without anybody suffering a major injury; second was to escape without anybody suffering a minor injury), the Redskins honored Taylor by playing their best.
The effort was admirable, and didn’t need the inspiration of an autographed Taylor photograph that surfaced on a Redskins fan Web site. Underneath his signature, Taylor wrote, “We Want Dallas.”

The “We Want Dallas” autographed photo was relayed to Washington defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who showed it on an overhead projector during the team’s Saturday night film session.

Coaches are always looking for an edge, legitimate or otherwise, and if I’m Williams, I’m probably tempted to make the “We Want Dallas” photo part of my film presentation, too.
But if the idea is to honor a teammate who died too soon, then honor him. Stop the nonsense about Taylor’s influence in arranging predestined point spreads, and replace his name on the depth chart for Saturday’s game in Seattle with starter Reed Doughty. He wears No. 37. As we speak, the Seahawks are breaking down the tendencies of No. 37.

Say this about the Redskins: They didn’t invent the concept of the football martyr. That tradition goes all the way back to Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne. At halftime of a game against Army in 1928, Rockne recalled his 1920 deathbed conversation with the great George Gipp. The Fighting Irish ended up winning, 12-6.

We’ll never know how much of that legendary halftime speech was factual, but at least Rockne waited eight years before converting Gipp into a lucky charm. The Redskins didn’t wait eight weeks.

Sean Taylor was murdered in the middle of the night, moments after he was awakened in his bed. However the Redskins wish to commemorate his eventful but too-short life, they should know this:

He wasn’t lucky, and he wasn’t charmed.

Wild Card Weekend: By the Numbers

As J-Red noted in his wild card picks, wild card teams have not fared well in the first round of the playoffs since the latest realignment (4 division winners, 2 wild cards). He only had the W/L data, so I pulled the records ATS using the indispensable Sunday Strategy Search Engine. I was surprised to see that, while home teams (division winners) are 12-8 in the first round, they are 7-13 ATS.

20 games isn't enough to draw a whole lot of conclusions, but we'll work with that to see what we can learn from history. Seeing that the home teams tend to win outright (.600), but not cover (.350), we see that wild card games tend to be closer than Vegas expects. I guess this shouldn't be surprising, as both teams are theoretically putting everything they have into the game.

This year we have the relatively uncommon situation of a home dog in the playoffs, with the Jaguars laying 2 at the Steelers. Unfortunately for the Steelers, home dogs in the first 3 rounds of the playoffs (the Super Bowl doesn't really count) are winless, both straight up and against the spread (0-3).

Removing the two home dog games from our dataset leaves 18 games where the home team went 7-11 ATS. I expected that the larger spreads would represent the bulk of the underdog covers, and that the home favorites would fare best in games with tight spreads. That turned out to not be the case at all. The home teams were 3-8 ATS (5-6 straight up) in games where they were favored by less than a touchdown and 4-3 ATS (and 7-0 straight up) in games where they were favored by a touchdown or more.

Think about what that means for a second: home teams in the playoffs favored by less than a touchdown have a losing record over the past 5 years. This means that if Vegas sets a low line for the division winner, the wild card team has a good chance of winning. Using Smart Capper's point spread to money line converter, if you put $100 on every wild card underdog team getting less than 7 points, you'd be up $518 over the past 5 years. That's not a bad payoff for betting on 11 games. For this year, that would mean betting on the Redskins and Giants to win outright. Bodog doesn't have money lines posted yet, but according to covers.com, you can expect to get about +165 on the Redskins and +125 on the Giants. History suggests you should win at least one of those bets, earning a healthy profit.

In summary, take the Jaguars and Chargers against the spread, and bet the Redskins and Giants on the money line. Shockingly enough, those are the same picks I made yesterday in the ECB pick-off before I did any of the historical research.

January 3, 2008

Poor Execution, Bad Decisions Doom VT in Orange Bowl

Virginia Tech was considered the better team coming into this game, and they will leave it thinking the same thing. Unfortunately for them, they will have a loss to go with that knowledge, and they have no one to blame but themselves. The VT defense was as advertised, holding the KU offense to 10 pts (the other two TDs off INTs, one indirectly). However, everything else fell apart except maybe Brandon Ore. Glennon and Taylor combined for 3 INTs. The wideouts combined for a huge number of dropped passes, including one that would have been a TD on a beautiful 50 yard pass by Glennon. While the special teams contributed a TD on a punt return, the blocked FG was the difference in the final score. If Frank Beamer learned anything this year, it should have been that going for it on 4th & 1 when you have a strong running game is always a good idea. A TD there would have given VT the lead and changed the game.

On the other hand, credit is due to Kansas, especially the defense and special teams. The defense consistently pressured the passer and forced a lot of the mistakes previously mentioned, while the special teams matched the best unit in the nation blow for blow. Kansas showed they belong and are not just a scheduling fluke. Good for them.

Ghosts of Maryland Basketball Past

So I flipped over to the NBA game while the VT game was at a commercial break, and guess who I saw? Joe Smith (Bulls, starting PF, 31 pts and 11 reb) and Steve Blake (Blazers, starting PG, 13 pts) on the same court. Honestly, I didn't even know Joe Smith was still in the league. It was actually like watching a college reunion game. With two of the youngest teams in the Association on the court, I actually saw (and still remember) all of these guys playing college ball. Granted, I left a few key guys off the list.

ACC: Smith, Blake, Jarrett Jack, Chris Duhon, Luol Deng
Big 12: Aldridge, Gordon, Hinrich
Pac 10: Frye, Roy
SEC: Tyrus Thomas, Noah

Lidocaine, Clemens? Now I Know You're Lying.

Roger Clemens told Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes that McNamee injected him with lidocaine and B-12, not steroids.

Ok, Roger. Now I know you're lying. Thanks.

Roger has now admitted that Brian McNamee injected him with something. Perhaps it was Palmeiro/Tejada's tainted B-12 shots, but we'll never know. That's the point. We'll never know. If Clemens knows that McNamee can only prove he injected Clemens, but cannot prove what he injected Clemens with, he has plausible deniability. In fact, he can say an overzealous trainer must have injected him without his knowledge.

Here's the problem. Lidocaine is a local anesthetic with a short half-life (1.5 to 2 hours, as anyone who has had dental work knows). Injecting lidocaine for game day pain relief is silly, because it numbs the joint to the point that it would affect his ability to pitch. Injecting lidocaine for off-day pain relief is also silly, because it only lasts a few hours. Joints are injected with cortisone, a legal steroid that reduces inflammation for a greater duration of time. Plus, lidocaine should not be injected by anyone other than a physician, especially in joints. Accidental intravenous injection of lidocaine can stop the heart, as it is a very effective antiarrythmia drug.

Wild Card Round NFL Against the Spread Picks

We're into crunch time, where astute gamblers make up for their regular season losses. Brien and Jeremy remain tied for the lead, with J-Red and Russell on the cusp of elimination.

Brien (43-40-2 for .518)

Washington (+3.5) over SEATTLE - Picking against the Redskins has been hurting me the past few weeks, and Seattle hasn't had a win over a playoff team since beating Tampa Bay in week 1.

Jacksonville (-1.5) over PITTSBURGH - I'll be cheering for the Steelers, but the Jaguars just keep finding ways to win.

NY Giants (+3) over TAMPA BAY - The Giants seem to be hitting their stride at the right time, while the Buccaneers peaked in November.

SAN DIEGO (-8.5) over Tennessee - The Chargers are another team that's getting hot going into the playoffs. I hate to lay this many points in the playoffs, but this game feels like a rout.

Jeremy and Magic 8 Ball (41-38-6 for .518 and 46-33-6 for .576)

Jeremy's Picks:
Well I'm going to have to abandon my practice of not picking Redskins games, but I'm pretty happy to be forced to break this practice by reason of playoff game. On to the picks:

Washington (+3.5) over SEATTLE - Seriously... fuck you if you're not on the Redskins bandwagon. You've either got a heart of stone, or you're a Cowboys, Eagles, or Giants fan. If this team plays to any resemblance of the team I've seen the past four weeks, Seattle has approximately a .00001% chance of winning. And don't forget their ultra tough division schedule of the Rams, 49ers, and Cardinals.

PITTSBURGH (+1.5) over Jacksonville - Neither team impressed last week. But I still like the Steelers and don't fully buy into the Jacksonville hype as of yet. Plus Najeh Davenport isn't such a dropoff from Parker.

New York Giants (+3) over TAMPA BAY - I am riding the NFC East. Plus, Eli plays better away from home and Tampa isn't exactly a hostile playoff atmosphere.

SAN DIEGO (-8.5) over Tennessee - I'll pick one favorite. No way Tennessee is in this spot if Indy had anything to play for.

Magic 8 Ball Picks:
My instruction manual didn't include the playoffs. And apparently I like home teams this week.

SEATTLE (-3.5) over Washington - "My sources say yes." [Seattle beats spread]. Jeremy responds: "Fuck you, Magic 8 Ball."

PITTSBURGH (+1.5) over Jacksonville - "Yes." [Steelers beat spread].

TAMPA BAY (-3) over New York Giants - "Yes." [Buccaneers beat spread].

SAN DIEGO (-8.5) over Tennessee - "Signs point to yes." [Chargers beat spread].

J-Red (38-44-3 for .465)

For once, I did my research. Since the league realigned to four division winners and two wild cards per conference, the sixth seed is 4-6 and the fifth seed is 4-6. I couldn't find ATS numbers, and since the weakest and second-weakest division winners can be much weaker than the wild cards, I suspect the records are close to .500.

SEATTLE (-3.5) over Washington- Seattle had the 15th ranking defense (12th run/19th pass), but 6th in points allowed. Seattle had the 9th ranking offense (8th pass/20th run), and also was 9th in scoring. What does this tell me? Seattle is an average defensive team that is pass happy, but doesn't turn the ball over on a short field. They give up a lot of yards, but Hasselbeck's consistency and Ryan Plackemeier's punting (30/86 inside the 20, 6 TBs) keeps the opponents having to cross the entire field (thus racking up yards, but not points). Plus, Washington's emotional edge the past month is gone now. It's the playoffs. Everyone is motivated.

And yes, I'm aware Seattle played SF and STL twice each. These are equal teams and one is on the road. They are not, however, equally coached.

(In response to Jeremy's assertion that the whole world has to be on the Redskins' bandwagon, or else be heartless: the Sean Taylor murder was a two-day news story everywhere in the country that isn't D.C. or Miami. It's typical D.C.-centrism to think that anyone anywhere else is rooting for the Redskins because of that tragic crime.)

Jacksonville (-1.5) over PITTSBURGH - Neither of these teams looked good last week, but Pittsburgh was playing a division rival with a shot at the 3rd seed. Jacksonville was locked in at 5 and inactivated MJD and Fred Taylor. I don't think Garrard will panic, and I don't think Pitt's OL and DL are a match for Jax.

TAMPA BAY (-3) over New York Giants - I don't know what to expect from this game, but I know it involves pressure and Eli Manning. It also involves pressure and Jeff Garcia, which usually doesn't turn out that badly.

SAN DIEGO (-8.5) over Tennessee - Kerry Collins wasn't going to have much to work with BEFORE it was announced that Roydell Williams is out for the year. I have set up Google Search Agents to locate the first instance of a Titan saying "We're just happy to be here."

Russell (36-46-3 for .441)

Maybe I can at least catch J-Red in the playoffs and get out of last place.

Washington (+3.5) over SEATTLE - The Skins are on a roll and Todd Collins will be able to handle the noise and pressure. Protecting the football and playing the classic Joe Gibbs style with a no-name QB, Todd will keep field position good and force the Seahawks to go the length of the field without a running game (Shaun Alexander has sucked the second half of the year). I think the Skins defense matches up really well.

PITTSBURGH (+1.5) over Jacksonville - Jax deserves to be favored here, but you don't just waltz into Heinz Field and win two in a row at the end of the year. This will be a tough, physical, man-to-man old school football game, and I will love it. I think the Steelers find a way to win at home.

NY Giants (+3) over TAMPA BAY - Jeff Garcia and company had the year I expected, but the Giants are the better team. Being on the road will actually help the Giants. Just look at their road record this year and think about how poorly Eli plays in cold weather. It will be warm again in the South by Sunday.

Tennessee (+8.5) over SAN DIEGO - Kerry Collins has played very well this year, and the Titans took the Chargers to OT when they played in the regular season. I just can't pick Philip Rivers to win a game by more than a TD when Tennessee isn't going to let LT run wild.


Brien - WAS, JAX, NYG, SD
Jeremy - WAS, PIT, NYG, SD
J-Red - SEA, JAX, TB, SD
Russell - WAS, PIT, NYG, TEN


Magic 8 (46-33-6 for .576)
Jeremy (41-38-6 for .518 -- 5 GB)
Brien (43-40-2 for .518 -- 5 GB)
J-Red (38-44-3 for .465 -- 9.5 GB, 4.5 GB Humans)
Russell (36-46-3 for .441 -- 11.5 GB, 6.5 GB Humans)

All of us: 204-201-20 for .504
Humans: 158-168-14 for .485

What is "The Spread Offense"?

If you listen to announcers, many of the best teams this year are running "The Spread Offense", a blanket term which they apply indiscriminately to a variety of teams including Texas Tech, Hawaii, Kansas, Florida, and West Virginia. But any alert football fan knows that Mike Leach's crazy passing attack is not the same as the Rich Rodriguez offense. So what gives? Why is the "system" tag applied for some of these schools and not others? Really the only thing these offenses share is the formation. The common theme is a shotgun set with at least three (and usually four or five) receivers.

Texas Tech is the extreme example of the spread passing offense. The Red Raiders threw the ball a staggering 58 times per game (not counting sacks), with rushes accounting for fewer than one quarter of their plays. TT gained almost 8 times as many yards in the air as on the ground.

Hawaii also averaged over 50 pass attempts per game, and had over 600 passes and less than 300 rushes. Yards per carry (YPC) at TT and Hawaii was less than 3.5, and both teams had more than 50 passing TDs.

These offenses are either the Run & Shoot itself or modifications of it. Similar to the West Coast offense, the idea is to spread the field and complete short, safe passes. Running plays are limited to draws to keep the defense honest. The quarterback is almost always in the shotgun and releases the ball quickly to avoid the protection problems created by the lack of blockers, which of course forces most of the routes to be short. In college football, Andre Ware was one of the first Run & Shoot quarterbacks to receive serious national recognition, winning the Heisman in 1989. His flop of a career in the NFL might be the strongest reason for the "system" tag applied to the quarterbacks from these schools. None of Mike Leach's QBs have succeeded in the NFL yet, and Hawaii has a similar record.

On the other hand, West Virginia is a good example of the spread rushing offense. While throwing the ball about 20 times per game, WVa gained almost twice as many yards on the ground as in the air, averaging 6.2 YPC instead of 3.1 for TT.

In 2005, Texas' championship year, Vince threw the ball 325 times compared with 605 rushes (155 of them himself). Urban Meyer and the 2006 champions rushed more than they passed, though they are more balanced (as is Kansas).

The rushing version of the spread is based around a single play, known as the read option or "The Vince Young Play", where the shotgun QB reads the defensive end's rush to determine whether to handoff to the RB crossing his face or to keep and go around the DE. West Virginia, Florida, and Texas have been running this play for at least a couple of years, and the Wildhog formation introduced by Arkansas is the same idea using a RB receiving the direct snap in place of the QB. Now most schools have a version of one or the other in their playbooks, and many have special personnel packages for it. This play and its kin are fundamental option football going back to the single wing. West Virginia's set with two RB's is the triple option disguised by the shotgun, and Pat White is straight from the Tommy Frasier/Eric Crouch mold. Florida's use of Tebow is more like the single wing, though Urban Meyer is brilliant at using a variety of formations to introduce new misdirection and take advantage of his team speed. The system tag is normally not applied because the passing numbers are similar to those of other schools in terms of attempts, so they are directly comparable. The rushing stats of many of these QBs show that they are as much RBs as they are passers. The Titans have had to change their offense to take advantage of Vince's running ability. All of these offenses want to run the ball to set up the pass.

Next time the announcer says "the spread", you'll know he's just looking at the formation, even though he thinks otherwise.

Tampa Bay Rescinds Plan to Only Sell Tix to Floridians

According to ESPN, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo thwarted the arrangement between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ticketmaster to only sell tickets to Saturday's playoff game to Floridians.

Cuomo threatened Ticketmaster, saying the scheme "raises issues, interstate commerce issues."

The "Commerce Clause" of the United States Constitution states "The Congress shall have power . . . To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states..." This power is considered exclusive and plenary, and thus has been interpreted to prevent state and local government from performing acts that restrict interstate commerce (a concept known as the Dormant/Negative Commerce Clause".

There's one problem. Ticketmaster is a private company. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a private company. Raymond James Stadium was publicly financed and is owned by the Tampa Sports Authority (an organization that owns all of Tampa's sporting venues, not a large chain sportings good store.) However, public ownership of the venue does not constitute government action when the actors are private corporations. Did Cuomo successfully scare off Ticketmaster by threatening to win a last-second injunction based on the concept that a quasi-governmental agency's implicit compliance in the dastardly act of interstate commerce interference would make the scheme unconstitutional? Isn't this just the failure of the local government to act to prevent interference with interstate commerce?

Let me also note that Cuomo has simply pointed out that there is absolutely NO question that a team with a privately owned stadium (The Redskins' FedEx field for example) can refuse to sell tickets to anyone outside of the D.C. Metro area. I sure hope Danny Boy doesn't remember that the next time the Giants have a playoff game in Landover, MD.
I presume this will all become moot. The NFL might step forward this offseason and prohibit this practice by its member clubs.

Cowboys Roy Williams, Ken Hamlin Promoted as Sean Taylor Replaced in Pro Bowl

This has to destroy any feel good effect the Redskins fanbase got from Sean Taylor being elected to the Pro Bowl, despite his death on November 27th.

Cowboys' FS Ken Hamlin will start in place of Sean Taylor. Making the trip to Hawaii with Hamlin will be Pro Bowl alternate SS Roy Williams.

The pair have said that they will honor Sean Taylor in Hawaii. Roy Williams hinted that his contribution might be not horse collaring Redskins Chris Cooley and Chris Samuels in practice.

Clemens' Attorney Finds McNamee Barks Back

As was discussed and ridiculed here previously, Roger Clemens' attorney Rusty "Trombone" Hardin threatened to sue anyone who publicly stated that his client used performance-enhancing drugs.

Now former Clemens trainer and current Clemens accuser Brian McNamee is getting into the act. According to ESPN, McNamee's attorney, Richard D. Emery of New York City, warned Clemens and Hardin that they would sue Clemens if he indicates that McNamee is lying. Clemens is scheduled to appear in an interview to be aired on 60 Minutes this Sunday. From what I remember of Howard Stern's appearance on the show, interviews are conducted early in the week to be aired that Sunday. The horse might have already left the barn.

There is a subtle difference between Clemens previous comments and comments that would be defamatory. Previously, Clemens said "I did not provide Brian McNamee with any drugs to inject into my body. Brian McNamee did not inject steroids or human growth hormones into my body." This is different from calling McNamee a liar or defaming his character (though that is implied). One could construe Clemens comments as merely stating that McNamee is mistaken. If Clemens were to say, "Brian McNamee is lying to save his own skin," that might be a defamatory statement if McNamee can prove his allegations.

Without getting too technical, a suit for defamation succeeds when the defamed person can show that the defendant made a public false statement about the plaintiff, communicated to third persons, causing damage to the plaintiff. If the defamed is a public figure, the plaintiff must also show the defendant acted with actual malice. A plaintiff can be a limited public figure, as Terry Ratkola was found to be when she spearheaded a campaign against Married with Children, leading to her becoming the butt of many jokes. However, the public figure exception is based on First Amendment protection. Since McNamee never asked for this attention, any defamatory statements made by Roger Clemens would not elevate McNamee's burden to having to show actual malice.

One aspect of McNamee's threat does raise interesting possibilities however. In order to get leniency in his own case, McNamee must fully cooperate with the government. That means he cannot withhold any information which would further the government's case. I don't know the details of McNamee's prosecution, but he would need more than what Mitchell included in his report to decisively prove that his allegations are true. I am not certain whether the Feds have additional evidence that they asked Mitchell not to use, or if the Feds told McNamee that he could only tell Mitchell his story, but not share any of the evidence. Since it is an ongoing prosecution, the possibilities are nearly endless.

That's precisely why I thought it was so silly for Clemens and Hardin to come out guns blazing right off the bat. They cannot possibly know what evidence is out there. There is a possibility that Clemens is telling the truth, but there is no way for Hardin to know that. The best protection for his client would be to wait a little and see what else simmers up. Then take up the "Roger is Innocent" tour as training camps open next month.

Erin Henderson Enters the NFL Draft

While many players leave college too soon with dreams of fame and fortune, I think this is a smart move for a couple reasons, even though it will hurt the Terps next year. First, his brother EJ is the starting middle linebacker for one of the best rush defenses in the NFL (Vikings). EJ can give him a no-crap assessment of his chances and what he needs to do and to be able to do. Second, teams will have an extra comfort level due to the success of Maryland linebackers in the pros over the last couple years (primarily Shawne Merriman, D'Qwell Jackson, EJ Henderson). Third, Erin's back gave him a lot of trouble this year. Back injuries never seem to go away, so he probably has a limited number of years left physically. There's no reason to spend another year at a school that won't be competing for the conference or national title next year when your body isn't going to last forever. A similar argument applies to most athletes, but the back injury makes it more important. Additionally, he's already gotten all the press and experience he can probably get at Maryland.

[J-Red's addendum: Fourth, Erin has graduated. Even Coach Friedgen said he can't complain when a player who has his degree wants to leave early.]

I would project him to be a late first day pick, probably late second round or early third. The talent is there but he's slightly smaller than EJ and the back trouble will move him down the board some. Good luck in the pros, Erin!

As the Carousel Spins - WVU, Dolphins Make Decisions; SMU Aims High

Some news on the coaching carousel front this morning...

1) The Miami Dolphins have fired Cam Cameron after his 1-15 season. Considering the QBs he had to work with (Trent Green, Cleo Lemon, John Beck) and considering that he lost one of the NFL's best RBs, Ronnie Brown, I think Cam will resurface as an OC with some team that's glad to have him. Probably Detroit, given Cameron's propensity for running the ball in San Diego.

As for Bill Parcells rapid housecleaning in Miami, has anyone stayed there long enough in the past five years to even collect any dust? This reminds me of someone with OCD who ends up rubbing his hands raw by cleaning them every ten minutes, whether it's needed or not.

2) The West Virginia Mountaineers have responded quickly to the calls from QB Pat White and others who credited interim head coach Bill Stewart with holding the team together. The school removed the interim tag today. So the players he has (some of whom are graduating) think he's great. Can he recruit? Does Terry Bowden regret publicly stating that he wanted the job, only to get little if any attention from the school?

3) SMU, still reeling from being the only football program to receive the death penalty is ready to pay a reported $1.5M/year to their next football head coach. They just need to find someone willing to take the job. So far SMU is targeting Hawaii head coach June Jones and fired Detroit OC and ex-Rams head coach Mike Martz. Other (older) reports state that they have narrowed the search to ex-Hurricanes head coach Larry Coker and ex-Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione. SMU fired their previous coach, Phil Bennett, way back on October 28th.

Ten Songs You Hear Once a Year

1) Auld Lang Syne - You don't know what it means, you just know it means you get to kiss that hot chick you've been hovering around last night. That goes well until her boyfriend gets back from sharpening his knuckles

2) Notre Dame Fight Song - It requires a touchdown

3) One Shining Moment - Assuming you don't pass out by that point on Monday Night

4) Super Bowl Shuffle - Typically played before Rex Grossman/Erik Kramer/Steve Walsh/Brian Griese/Kyle Orton/Jim Harbaugh throws the first Pick-6 of the year

5) You're the Best - Only played when people are researching You're the Man Now Dog (www.ytmnd.com) and time travel

6) Dreidel Song - Only applicable to our non-Jew readers. A little reminder that there is an alternative to chocolate Santa

7) Centerfield - Only played when a white centerfielder dominates. In other words, rare.

8) O Canada - You see this one when you watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals - between Anaheim and the team in Raleigh

9) Sweet Caroline - Based on the assumption you can sit through Fever Pitch once annually

10) Any Super Bowl Performance by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake - For when the internet won't deliver actual porn

WVU's Speed Dominates OU's Strength

This year's Fiesta Bowl showed that West Virginia and the spread is fully legit. For anyone who was in doubt, thinking WVU didn't deserve to be #2 in the soft Big East, the Mountaineers cleared things up a little bit. Four straight drives for TD's, 3 of them on drives of 3 plays or less. Sam Bradford constantly under pressure, OU with 11 rushing yards in the first half. OU was in line for the national title a couple times, and WVU exposed them.

Bob Stoops needs to rethink his bowl pep talks. He's now 1-4 in his last 5 bowl games, 0-4 in the BCS. Maybe he hasn't recovered from the USC 55-19 pummeling in the 2004 Orange Bowl.

Maybe Bill Stewart can get a hold of some of that $4M RichRod will be forking over. What better signs for the WVU AD than the team chanting his name as they leave the field, Stoops saying he shouldn't be "interim", and a dominant victory?

January 2, 2008

Rich Rodriguez "Disappointed", "Upset", by WVU Lawsuit

According to CNNSI, Rich Rodriguez is "disappointed" and "upset" that WVU has filed suit to enforce the $4M buyout clause in Rodriguez's contract with the school. He feels that the WVU is not following normal protocol.

Here's the deal Rich. You signed an employment contract. That contract is designed, in its entirety, to govern your employment relationship with West Virginia and your ability to work for anyone else during the same time period. In consideration of those restrictions you received a lot of money. Said contract stated that you would owe $4M if you wished to work elsewhere before the end of the contract term. You agreed to work elsewhere.

Where's the f-ing mystery?

I really hope that WVU follows through on this and seeks the full $4M. Guess what else. That money will not be payable in easy installments over a long period of time. If WVU wins the suit, Rich Rodriguez will owe WVU $4M that day. The school can do whatever it has to in order to recoup the money, including garnishing RichRod's wages and placing a lien on his home(s).

Maybe RichRod should have paid attention when every blogger in the country said "RichRod can't take the Michigan job because he'd owe WVU $4M".

January 1, 2008

Week 17 NFL Against the Spread Recap

We're still tied heading into the playoffs. With only 11 games left, J-Red and Russell are not entirely eliminated (but are hurting).


Brien (2-3-0) - CHI, GB, JAX, SEA, TB
Jeremy (2-3-0) - CIN, NE, PIT, SD, SEA
J-Red (2-3-0) - ATL, DAL, HOU, MIA, SF
Russell (3-2-0) - ARI, MIN, NYG, PIT, SD
Magic 8 (3-2-0) - BAL, MIA, NYG, SD, SEA


Magic 8 (46-33-6 for .576)
Jeremy (41-38-6 for .518 -- 5 GB)
Brien (43-40-2 for .518 -- 5 GB)
J-Red (38-44-3 for .465 -- 9.5 GB, 4.5 GB Humans)
Russell (36-46-3 for .441 -- 11.5 GB, 6.5 GB Humans)

All of us: 204-201-20 for .504
Humans: 158-168-14 for .485

Happy New Year's From ECB

This will be the official ECB-approved internet phenomenon in 2008. Get it here first.

D.C./Baltimore area kids will especially feel nostalgic.

ESPN.com Less Accurate than this Blog

ESPN.com currently has a headline making fun of now-ex Ravens head coach Brian Billick's quote indicating that he "know[s] quarterbacks".

That's all well and good, except they call BRIAN BILLICK Bill Bellick. If Brian Billick and Bill Belichick had a child, his name still wouldn't be Bill Bellick. In fact, that might be the greatest compliment Billick has ever received. It's a portmanteau of the best accidental value.

[A portmanteau is when you squish two words together to make one. Fantastic + Fabulous = Fantabulous. Bill Belichick + Brian Billick = Bill Bellick.]

ESPN.com, you are the Holy Grail of sports blogs. We expect perfection, and I keep getting less than perfection. My law school journal got more shit right than you do.

Directory of Contributors


Jeremy (e-mail)
College Sports, Baseball, Football, Hockey

Russell (e-mail)
College Sports, Baseball, Football

Managing Editors

Brien (e-mail)
Golf, MMA, America's Cup, Racing, Boxing, Football, Horse Racing

J-Red (e-mail)
NFL, Horse Racing, College Basketball, Business Inquiries

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December 31, 2007

The Next Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens...

With thanks to Jeremy Green of Scouts.com/ESPN for identifying assistants who are ready for the leap, here is a list of candidates for the Ravens' head coaching vacancy. This list is in no particular order, and there are other candidates out there. These are just the ones that don't make me ill.

1) Rex Ryan - Ravens DC - Steve Bisciotti supposedly values continuity. That was the impetus behind Billick's four-year contract extension after last season's 13-3 record. Ryan would provide that. His brother, Rob (DC for Oakland), is an excellent head coaching candidate, but not in Baltimore. He could take over as DC if Rex is promoted from within though.

2) Marty Schottenheimer - Martyball would play very well in Baltimore. It also would fit our young offensive line, as run blocking is less complicated than pass blocking. Many fans, however, would not be enthusiastic about a retread. Marty also might conflict with some of the veterans who are used to Camp Cupcake under Billick.

3) Mike Singletary - Niners Asst. HC for D - Singletary was the Ravens' linebackers coach under Mike Nolan. He has the respect of the veterans, including Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed. The major concern is that he's never been a head coach or even a true coordinator at any level. I suspect Singletary would be better suited for a reclamation project (Atlanta/Miami), but I wouldn't bemoan his hiring.

4) Bill Cowher - By all reports, Cowher wants to sit out another year. That being said, he would be an instant demigod in Baltimore.

5) Jason Garrett - This might be more of a pipe dream than Cowher. Garrett, a former QB and supposed wunderkind in Dallas, would be ideal for Baltimore, especially if Rex Ryan could be retained for continuity on defense. I just can't see Jerry Jones letting him get away. Many suspect that Wade Phillips was only hired to give Jason Garrett time to mature and then take the job.

6) Rob Chudzinski - Cleveland OC - Coached at the U during the good days and was under Schottenheimer in San Diego. He's also young. Again, if Rex Ryan can be retained, this might be a great long-term guy.

7) Russ Grimm - Cardinals Asst. HC/OL Coach - Just kidding. He was a Redskin.

8) Denny Green - At least we could finally get the offensive genius from the 1998 Vikings like we were promised all along.

9) Ralph Friedgen - U of MD Head Coach - This would be a very dangerous move. Friedgen flirted with the idea of jumping to the pros when Tampa Bay contacted him in their last coaching search. The public backlash of a) hurting Maryland and b) hiring a college coach might be too much.

Who else would you like to see considered?

Billick, Rex Ryan Fired! Hallelujah!

It's going to be hard for me to type this post through my tears. Joyous, joyous tears.

The Baltimore Sun and NFL.com are reporting that Brian Billick has been fired by the Ravens after nine years as head coach.

Owner Steve Bisciotti, who does not comment on any football-related matters during the season, had this to say about the previously reported "vote of confidence" Billick received last month:

"I just changed my mind. I can't explain it to you. It's the toughest decision I've had to make," Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told The Sun today.

In his nine seasons, Billick compiled an 80-64 (.556) regular season record, and a 5-3 playoff record in four postseasons. The Ravens won the Super Bowl despite Billick in 2000-2001.
Later this afternoon I'll post a list of preferred candidates.
UPDATE: The entire staff was fired, including Rex Ryan. Ozzie Newsome indicated that Ryan would still be a part of the head coaching search.

Looking Towards the Future

It's been a frustrating December for Terps fans. Thankfully, INRCP has been looking into the future, and things don't look so bad.

The NFC East... no better division in the NFL.

As a Redskins fan, I will throw down right now and tell you that there's no better division than the NFC East. The only division that I will even take the time to compare the NFC East to is the AFC South, which is the only other division to put three out of four teams in the playoffs.

Let's first go by the numbers...

INDY - 13-3 (SOS - 15)
JAX - 11-5 (SOS - 17)
TEN - 10-6 (SOS - 18)
HOU - 8-8 (SOS - 16)

Total wins: 42. Average Strength of Schedule - 16.5

Now for the NFC East:

DAL - 13-3 (SOS - 10)
NYG - 10-6 (SOS - 6)
WAS - 9-7 (SOS - 2)
PHI - 8-8 (SOS - 1)

Total wins: 40. Average Strength of Schedule - 4.75

So when all is said and done the AFC South has two more wins on the season than the NFC East, but has done so playing a crap schedule. You know it must be crap when each team's strength of schedule is so weak despite six games against divisional opponents with a .500 or better record.

So we've disspelled the numbers. Let's go to flat-out tradition...

As a Redskins fan, I'll tell you that I HATE... no, I DESPISE, all three division foes. I mean, I cannot stand the Eagles or their fans, the Giants or their fans, or the Cowboys or their fans. This animosity is well-aged and brewed over years and years of bitter feuds, rivalries, and down-to-the-wire playoff finishes. The teams in the NFC East are supported by rabid fans who fill their stadiums every week with 70,000+ fans. These teams have been fighting it out since the 60s, when the Cowboys came into existence. The Giants, Eagles, and Redskins date back to the 1930s and 1940s.

AFC South has some rivalries that are starting. Jeff Fisher and the Titans certainly don't like the Jaguars, and vice-versa. The Colts are disliked. But you've got the elephant in the room, the very-newly-created Houston Texans, who up until this year, have been a total joke. You have the Jaguars, who only came into existence in the mid 90s. The Titans, back in the day when they were the Oilers, were in a different division from the Colts. You have the Jags who have to cover large sections of their stadium with a tarp to prevent the market from being blacked out. Colts fans are good, I'll give you that. But their team only came into existence just over 20 years ago. In short, the division is younger than my sister.

I love being a Redskins fan, and I wouldn't have it any other way than have the 'Skins competing in the NFC East, hands down the best division in football.

Craphonso Catches a TD

I'm not going to get into a while Freakanomics discussion about giving your children names that could screw them for life, but this is by far the worst name I've ever seen for a professional football player:

Craphonso Thorpe. He scored tonight for Indy.

Of all the ways I can think of to pronounce that, the point is that his parents made up a name that started with the word crap.

blahblqgiahblahblahblah Yeah, he was a Criminole/Semenhole


These are not good things to name your son.

December 30, 2007

Mike Martz to Be Fired, Next Stop Baltimore?

[Obviously, this was posted before Brian Billick got fired on New Year's Eve. In now way is this post intended to support the idea of hiring Mike Martz in any capacity in the absence of Billick.]

Dear Ozzie Newsome/Steve Bisciotti,

I've come to grips with the idea that Brian Billick will return as the Ravens head coach next year. If that is indeed true, we must bring in a true offensive coordinator. Rumor has it that Mike Martz is about to be fired by Detroit.

Martz is an asshole. He might be the second worst head coach to take a team to the Super Bowl, behind Bill Callahan. He also got stuck with Detroit's prima donna receiveing corps in Detroit, where just about everyone productive (Furrey, McDonald) were castoffs and everyone who underperformed (Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson) are high salary cap high ego figures.

He's also an excellent offensive coordinator, especially for teams with a cadre of decent receivers and a TE/RB combo who can catch out of the backfield. That pretty well describes the Ravens, with Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, and the emergent Devard Darling as receivers. No, we don't have a quarterback solution, but Kurt Warner, Marc Bulger and Jon Kitna weren't exactly heralded before their ascensions under Martz.

Let's bring Martz in. He and Billick will get along like Israeli Jews and Palestinians, but winning always brings peace. Plus, if it all blows up we win 4-8 games again. If it doesn't maybe we can make something happen while we still have some veterans playing near their prime. Sounds like a win-win to me.

2008 NFL Draft Order

Keywords: 2008 NFL Draft, 2008 NFL Draft Order, NFL Draft Tiebreakers, NFL Draft Tiebreaker Rules, NFL Draft Picks, NFL Draft Ranks, 2008 NFL Draft Picks, 2008 NFL Draft Order of Selection

Now that the last game of the regular season is complete, here is the draft order for the non-playoff teams.

1) Miami
2) St. Louis
3 or 4) Oakland
3, 4 or 5) Atlanta
4 or 5) Kansas City
6) New York Jets
7) New England (via SF)
8) Baltimore
9) Cincinnati
10) New Orleans
11) Buffalo
12) Denver
13) Carolina
14) Chicago
15) Detroit
16) Arizona
17) Minnesota
18) Houston
19) Philadelphia
22, 23, 24, 25) Dallas (via CLE, see below)
20 to 30) Dependent on playoff results, though note that SF has Indy's pick
31) Super Bowl Loser
32) Super Bowl Winner

Atlanta, Oakland and Kansas City all have the same strength of schedule. Oakland was 0-8 against opponents in common with KC, so Oakland must pick higher than KC. Since Atlanta and Oakland are in different conferences, that tie will be broken with a coin flip. If Atlanta wins the flip, Atlanta picks 3rd, Oakland picks 4th and KC picks 5th. If Oakland wins the coin flip, Atlanta and KC (as teams in different conferences) flip a coin to determine who picks 4th and 5th. Other ties, (Denver beat Buffalo head to head, Chicago was swept by Detroit) were broken using conference/division tiebreakers.)

The draft tiebreakers are as follows:

1) Worst record picks first, and teams are ranked by record, worst to best. A non-playoff team takes priority over playoff teams with the same record.

This is relevant for Cleveland, who is 10-6 and presently has a better record than Tampa Bay and Washington. Unfortunately for Cleveland, a TB or WAS win makes those teams 10-7, and thus worse than Cleveland. Plus, a WAS win makes SEA 10-7, and thus also worse than Cleveland. A JAX win makes PIT 10-7, and thus worse than Cleveland. An SD win makes TEN 10-7, and thus worse than Cleveland. So if JAX, SD, TB and WAS all win, (depending on the divisional round) Cleveland actually drops all the way to 25th despite not even making the playoffs.

2) Ties are broken first with strength of schedule (total number of wins by 16 opponents, or average winning percentage of all 16 opponents, the result is the same)

3) If teams are same division, divisional playoff tiebreakers

4) If teams are same conference, but not same division, conference playoff tiebreakers

5) Coin Flip

[If anyone disagrees with this order or would like to see my Strength of Schedule worksheet, please e-mail [email protected]. I'll send you a copy.]

Funniest Sign Ever

This is totally not sports related, but I saw the funniest sign ever at a Sunoco in Fair Lakes, VA today.

Hail to the Redskins!!!

More to come on this later, but my oh my, what a turnaround. And I don't want to hear apologists out there talk about how Dallas was resting everyone. Romo, Witten, Jones, Barber, and the starting D were out there until the middle of the third quarter. Yes, T.O. was out and that was big. But seriously, the 'Skins are NOT the team you want to face in the NFC right now. Not with Todd Collins steering the offense and Gregg Williams' insane defensive schemes. PLAYOFFS BABY!!!!!