Monday, January 31, 2011

Akshar made an art, too

This is catching on, like, on the Internet. They should have a word for that.

Now I made an art!

ALSO, HE MADE AN ART

Dan looks down from his ivory tower

FTC's own KillYourFace5000 is now literally mailing in his analysis. He can't be bothered to log into Blogger. Now, he just types up shit and tells me to post it. Between you and me, I think he's forgotten how to use Blogger, and that it's linked directly to Google, for which he has two accounts that he keeps active at all times. Also, if this analysis doesn't have the same panache you're used to from KYF5K, it is because law school appears to have bankrupted his ability to make entertainments. I won't go any further than to say that I have removed all footnotes and citations from this post as a courtesy to you, the reader. My comments appear in italics.

MEMO: Re: AN OBSERVATION, YOU HATERS

The Steelers do not have any meaningful needs heading into the draft this year except for cornerback, guard and offensive tackle.

I need to define "meaningful needs."

No, you do not. Stop being a law school for five damn minutes.

To that end, I would say a meaningful need is a position at which the team is currently starting an unsustainably poor player. An unsustainably poor player is someone who is poor enough at the position to be a concern (reflected in below-average performance or worse) or someone who is so old or whose contract is so likely to terminate without renewal that it can't be said that that player should be expected to start for more than another year or two, max.

Whatever. Get on with it, will you?

I would say that implicit in "meaningful need" is also the understanding that the need can't be filled by signing an undrafted free agent, a very low draft pick or a scrap-heap free agent for the purposes of reasonably effective performance. Also implicit is that we do not currently have some developmental project in the pipe whose actual value will need to be determined before anyone would decide he's not sufficient to meet that need.

JUST SO YOU GUYS KNOW, THIS ARGUMENT IS LEGALLY BINDING FROM A LAWYER-LAW STANDPOINT NOW THAT I HAVE TAKEN TWO FULL PARAGRAPHS TO DEFINE WHAT A "MEANINGFUL NEED" IS.

To wit:

QB: This is a no-brainer. Behind Roethlisberger, we have Byron Leftwich who is theirs as long as they want him, and Dennis Dixon, who is more than capable as a 3rd stringer, is young, and can be retained at a relatively low price.

You can't forget about Chaz Batch. You know who isn't counting out Batch? Ron Cook isn't counting out Batch.

RB: Mendenhall is young. But so are his backups. Isaac Redman is cheap and not going anywhere, and while it's possible we lose Mewelde Moore to age and money, the team still has Jonathan Dwyer on the practice squad with a lot of potential upside, certainly enough ability to be a 3rd string back. Frank Summers is also still on the practice squad but he can also play tailback. I'm sure he's good enough insurance as a backup to your 3rd string running back and may yet prove to have some value if he can stay healthy.

Everyone behind Redman is a replacement-level running back or worse. These gentlemen do not matter.

FB: There is no fullback in Bruce Arians' offense. However, there is David Johnson, a young H-back who, despite being pretty deficient as an iso blocker, they seem high enough on to play a role for which the coordinator is openly contemptuous. If at any point they decide that's simply not enough, Frank Summers was at one time considered starter-capable at the position, and may yet be. That's only two guys, one of whom isn't a FB and the other is not even on the 53-man roster, but I'm betting that's still enough for a position that they insist does not exist and shouldn't.

Two mentions of Frank Summers in as many paragraphs? Anthony Madison doesn't even get that kind of ink, and he plays and makes huge mistakes pretty much all the time. We here at FTC are all exhausted with the lack of a real fullback since the unceremonious departure of Dan Kreider. By the same token, we're all envious to one degree or another, of the way Green Bay keeps and utilizes multiple fullbacks in its offense. You don't have to abandon the fullback to be a pass-first team with an effective power running scheme. Greenfield native Mike McCarthy has shown us this.

WR: Let's assume for the sake of argument that Ward retires after this season, which he won't. Even in that scenario, you are left with Wallace, Sanders, Brown, Randle El, Battle and Sweed. Wallace and Sanders are now locked in as starters, so they make the roster. That means we'll keep at most 4 more, but possibly only 3. Antonio Brown, despite being either the 4th or 5th guy on the depth chart has become a necessary component of certain sub-packages and plays (see: WR bubble screen that didn't used to work until they started throwing it to him all the time) in addition to being a staple of the return game. Three young, cheap wide receivers, the worst among them still with huge upside. Three more spots left, at most. Despite being effectively useless, we still have Randle El under contract, as well as Battle. At least one of them has to make the 53-man roster. My money is actually on Battle because of his special teams value and his lower price. Even if you assume only one of them makes it, that's 4 guys who have to be on the roster. That leaves probably one and at most two spots.

So far, I agree with all of this.

Enter Limas Sweed. In the last year of his contract and still showing the potential, however remote it seems at this point, to potentially be explosive. At his price and with how little they'd need to ask of him, there's little chance he doesn't make the roster. That's 5 receivers. Of course, you could keep 6, in which case you'd just keep the other of either Randle El or Battle. And that's if Ward retires. There is no reason to draft a WR at all because they'd literally have to commit to not putting him on the roster.

I don't disagree with the idea that come training camp, Limas Sweed can turn into found money, but the odds of that happening at this point are borderline infinitesimal. There are too many young receivers on this roster who are faster and have demonstrated professional ability for Sweed to even have a realistic shot at making this team. Prior to getting hurt, sucking, getting hurt, sucking again and getting hurt again, Sweed was thought to have the size and speed combination to be a potential deep threat. At the combine, he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. Mike Wallace, who came in the year after Sweed, might be a few inches shorter, but he's more than a full second faster in the 40, has an absurd second gear, is capable of burning every corner in the league, and he CATCHES THE BALL. Limas Sweed will resurface in Seattle next year, where he will compete for reps with Big Mike Williams. The loser of that battle will be cast down to the UFL to play with Daunte Culpepper.

Also, there is no way Randle El is on this roster next year. He serves zero purpose. Additionally, while the Steelers don't have to draft a receiver for at least three or four years, it's a good bet that they'll take a late-round flier on one at some point. Superb athletes do fall to the late rounds, and the Steelers are especially adept at scooping them up.

TE: It's possible we could draft a TE, but it is by no means necessary. They're locked in with Miller and Johnson. The only question is the much maligned Matt Spaeth, who I think they will re-sign for a relative pittance because he's improved enough as an inline blocker to do his job (it's not like they've been taking him off the field, right?) and he has performed pretty well as a pass-catcher on the rare occasions he's been asked to do Miller's job. Furthermore, I can't fathom him commanding a meaningful amount of money on the open market and even if he does, he could probably be easily replaced with little performance hit by a very low draft pick or a free agent tight end with no name recognition.

We're in agreement here, though I think that Matt Spaeth could easily be replaced by a tackle eligible, if only they had another tackle.

ILB: This position is just absurdly stacked. Even if James Farrior suddenly starts to age on a normal curve and can no longer start, we still have Keyaron Fox, Stevenson Sylvester and Larry Foote. Even though I love Stevenson Sylvester, I recognize that there's probably no way he could step into that role in the near future, and possibly not ever at all. I don't think the latter is true, but even if it is, we still picked up Larry Foote, who is under contract for at least another couple of years, specifically as insurance in the event that Farrior hits the wall or gets injured. In that scenario, either Lawrence Timmons would slide over into Farrior's role and assume the reigns long-term, and Foote would play his old position, or Foote would just take Farrior's job. I don't know if he would be good at it, but I would say that based on the signings it's obvious they think he could and would try that before planning to draft Farrior's replacement. Even if Farrior does decline and someone else has to take over, your backups are still Keyaron Fox and Syevenson Sylvester, both young guys; the former I believe would be an above-average starter-quality thumper ILB for any other team, and the latter I think is a legitimate long-run prospect inside. So, I don't think you need more than 5 starter-quality linebackers to play 2 starters, and I can't imagine they'd draft one just to have to deal with the roster issues that would ensue trying to keep him around.

OLB: This could go either way depending on how Woodley goes. They've said they have zero intention of losing him, but they still might and in that instance, this would be a need, just not an especially urgent one. Obviously they drafted Jason Worilds as insurance against this type of scenario, and I guess as a potential replacement for Harrison in the long run if Woodley is re-signed long term. Either way, I think at least they think Worilds is the salve for whatever needs to be addressed at OLB. If Woodley goes and Worilds steps in, there is little depth left behind Harrison and Worilds, so in that situation you would want to draft for depth at OLB but it would not be an urgent need or one that necessarily requires a day-one pick.

Defensive Line: This is another possible exception, because of Casey Hampton's age and the backup situation. Right now, we have Hampton, Keisel and Smith. It's obvious Smith is near the end of his career, but similarly obvious is that Hood is a legit guy for the future. That leaves Hampton and Keisel. Keisel is also old, but not as old, and strangely seems to be coming into his own right now, late in his career. Even though he's in his early 30s, I'd be surprised if they didn't plan to have him around for at least the length of one more full 4-5 year contract. Backing him up is Nick Eason, who is also old and also playing well, and also, I believe, under contract for a little while longer. That leaves Hampton. He is ancient and awesome, as is his backup, Chris Hoke. Everyone on this line is old. However, I think you're ok at DE between Hood and Sunny Harris who, despite being on the practice squad, I'd bet would be able to step up in the next couple of years once he surpasses Eason. Even if that doesn't happen, I don't see them drafting anyone because I don't think they think he's done cooking (inexplicably it apparently takes years to develop these 3-4 DEs), and even in the event they do feel they should draft some more young prospects at the position, they seem to prefer to do it in later rounds (see: Aaron Smith, Ryan McBean, Brett Keisel, Doug Worthington, Sunny Harris) and that's where they'd do it again here. There is still the matter of the NT position, where there is undoubtedly need for a future heir to Casey Hampton's spot. However, Hampton is still locked up for another few years and is surprisingly still playing very well, I think for that reason they're happy to roll without insurance for the next year or two. I think what that means is if they have some big value NT drop very far to them, they'd probably take him in the absence of an even better option. But seeing as how "we'd take an awesome value if he fell in our laps" is not the same thing as having an urgent positional need, I still say it's not a meaningful need.

This gets complicated as more NFL teams switch to the 3-4. Hood has looked excellent this year, and I see no reason why the Steelers couldn't pick up a suitable replacement for Kiesel at some point in the next two years. That said, 3-4 tackles are much tougher to come by. For a slam-dunk like Hampton, you're usually talking about a top-15 pick. This isn't to say that you won't find a suitable NT in the later rounds. It can and does happen, it's just less likely to happen with a nose tackle than it is with most other positions.

Safeties: At some point someone will have to replace Ryan Clark, but seeing as they just re-signed him, I think they feel no need to hurry that process along. Also, although the wisdom of this is debatable, they seem happy with Ryan Mundy. They also have Crezdon Butler in the wings, someone who I'm sure there's little reason to believe is long-term starter quality but I'm sure they'll want to find out before they decide they need someone more. Troy Polamalu, despite his injury issues, is clearly not going anywhere.

So, kids, that leaves guards, tackles and cornerbacks. We need as much of 'em as we can get, and I see no reason to draft anything but linemen and defensive backs in every round, allowing for picking up value players for the D-line, at fullback and at the safety position as it presents itself.

I completely agree with this. That said, the Mike Tomlin/Kevin Colbert drafts have all been outstanding so far, and the common theme among them is that the team takes the player it has rated highest on its draft board, usually regardless of position. That's one of the reasons this team is so loaded at linebacker and receiver. I don't see that stopping this year. While I'd love to see them draft exclusively for the offensive line and defensive backfield, I just don't think it's that bloody likely. At this point, though, I think the Tomlin/Colbert Steelers have drafted well enough that they're deserving of fans' trust. I won't be thrilled if they go guard, receiver, linebacker in the first three rounds, but I'm not going to question it if they do. These guys have established a track record of supreme competence with regard to the draft.

I realize that cannot possibly be right - no team spends their whole draft on three positions, and it can't possibly be the case that we find appropriate value at every round with one of those three, so I'm sure this isn't actually a viable strategy. I'm just saying, though. Seems like we should just draft a bunch of linemen and corners.

Also, we might need a punter. Third round this time, okay? When you skimp on it and try to get one in the fourth, that's when you wind up with Daniel Sepulveda and his Fabergé legs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Continuing Story of No Story At All...

The good news is that this should be the last article about this non-event for at least six months.

The Jets backed up all the big talk by stunning the Patriots 28-21. But things took a silent turn last week when Ryan heaped praise on Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, using words such as “respect” and “like,” and his players followed suit.

On behalf of Steelers' Nation, I thank you for being respectful with your pregame remarks and thus giving us the AFC Championship.

Turns out, the Jets needed to keep that mean streak going. Maybe they left it all out on the field at Foxborough.

That's possible. It's also possible the Jets' run-heavy game plan was perfect against a weak Pats' D-line, and shitty against the best run defense in history. Just a thought.

At least it certainly appeared that way from the start, as the Jets couldn’t get the Steelers’ offense off the field. Missed tackles, bad decisions and sub-par performances put New York in a 24-3 halftime hole.

Right, well, those are the things you'd say if you want to blame something other than a lack of trash talk.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Steelers-Jets Trash Talk Fanfiction

So, the Jets have decided they're done with the trash talking and wrestling promos, and that their big psychological ploy for this week is to love the Steelers to death. The Steelers, class gents that they are, are returning the throwing of flowers, and everyone's happy.

Except me.

I was really looking forward to a week of sheer trash talking insanity. Rex going insane, Tomlin countering with sheer defiant intensity. Them talking about mutual respect and appreciation is, frankly, a boring disappointment. So we submit to you, from the FTC alternate reality department, a glimpse at how some of this week was supposed to go, before everyone had to get all nice.

The scene: Press conference room, Pittsburgh, Tuesday morning
[Enter Rex Ryan]
Depiction by Emily Sauter. Check out her NFL coaches series at: www.emsauter.com
Rex: I'd like to start by saying that a lot of people told me there would be fat men in Pittsburgh, and I'm quite frankly unimpressed. I'm taking it personally

Reporter: Uhm, what?

Rex: I said it's personal. This area is all about frying things and fattening foods, and I'm still the biggest guy in the bar most of the time. What's that about? You think you're all so special, putting french fries on salads and in sandwiches... that's not special. Make a sandwich out of french fries, with another sandwich as the meat, and then I'll be impressed.

Reporter: How is that personal?

Rex: This is personal between me and Casey Hampton.

Reporter: That doesn't make any sense.

Rex: His nickname is "snacks," and frankly I don't think he deserves that nickname. I want it, for one thing, but the real reason is I just don't like Pittsburgh, and I'm blaming Casey Hampton. So I'm going to eat his lunch.

Reporter: So you're going to scheme to run right at the nose tackle.

Rex: No, I mean I am quite literally going to eat his lunch. We have hired Josh McDaniels for the week to find out how to get us into their locker room and procure the edible contents of Casey Hampton's locker, which I have reason to believe will be myriad and delicious. My players will infiltrate their defenses. You think you get to be the Steelers without stealing anything? We're gonna be the stealers. And we're gonna take your snacks. We'll have all the nicknames, and then we're gonna dance.

Rex exits to stunned silence. Mike Tomlin enters.


Tomlin: So I hear you all don't think I can win this week. You think we need an o-line.

Reporter 1: Oh no. He's mad at us again.

Reporter 2: Actually, coach, you're favored.

Tomlin: I don't care about the prognosticators, but I know you all think I can't win without an offensive line, don't you.

Reporter: Well, I think it's fair to ask if an injury-ravaged o-line might be a problem-

Tomlin: So you think we're dead, is that it? You think you can write us off? You think I can't win? We're the motherfucking Steelers. Who needs an o-line? Just to prove it, I won't even dress one.

Reporter: Well, you have to have-

Tomlin: No you do not! We'll win without an o-line.  Franco Harris didn't need an o-line.

Franco Harris: Yes I did.

Tomlin: Dick Butkus didn't need an o-line.

Dick Butkus: Actually--

Tomlin: Shut up.

Reporter: It's just that if Roethlisberger is under constant pressure-

Tomlin: Fuck Ben Roethlisberger. Ben won't be under pressure, you know why? Ben's not going to play quarterback. He's going to punt.

Reporter: Then who--

Tomlin: Dan Sepulveda. At left tackle.

Reporter: But you just said you won't have an o-line.

Tomlin: He'll be in the shotgun.

Reporter: A tackle at shotgun? What number would he--

Tomlin: I.

Reporter: That's not a number.

Tomlin: It's the square root of negative one, which you would know if you weren't so busy saying we were dead.

Reporter: Coach, Rex Ryan said his players are going to ignore rules, break into your locker room and--

Tomlin: Rex has players. I don't need players. I have men. Rex is like all of you; he thinks football is played by players with feet and balls and rules. I don't believe in that. We play Manball. Manball is played in the mind, by men. We don't need schemes, we need fundamentals. And we'll have them.

Exeunt.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Jets haven't reinvented football

Don't believe people who say otherwise.

The new rules:

• Boring is out; brash is in. That whole hyper-paranoid, “One Voice,” never-say-anything-that-might-rile-your-opponent approach employed by New England coach Bill Belichick? That is so last decade. The new product – with Ryan as its, uh, foot model – features swagger, self-aggrandizing behavior and as much unchecked smack talk as a locker room can muster. Whereas Belichick went so far as to bench his top receiver, Welker, for the Pats’ first offensive series because of the player’s veiled shots at Ryan earlier in the week, the Jets were utterly encumbered by such trivialities and hell-bent on defending their coach’s leadership style and honor.


Here's the thing: a lot of teams trash talk. The Jets won because their O-line is better than the Patriots' D-line.

• Chemistry and gutty role players are out; talent and playmakers are in. For all the talk about the post-Randy Moss Patriots’ success in spreading the ball around to guys like undersized halfback (and Jets reject) Danny Woodhead, rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski and resuscitated receiver Deion Branch, the Jets prevailed in part because their skill-position studs – most notably wideouts Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards and halfback LaDainian Tomlinson, a former league MVP – parlayed their superior athletic ability into end-zone trips.


Talent advantage:
Brady > Sanchez
Welker > Edwards
Gronkowski/Hernandez > Keller

LaDainian Tomlinson, Trevor Pryce and Jason Taylor must almost certainly be considered swansongers, not marquee playmakers.

I think what Michael Silver is trying to get at is that Rex Ryan brought on "bad character" guys in Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, whereas Bill Belichick (a bad character himself) traded away Randy Moss. That's really all there is to this. But look, the Jets won because they muscled the Pats on the D-Line, not because they were brash and more likely to assault someone at a club.

• Belichick’s reign as football’s unparalleled defensive guru is out; Ryan’s coronation as his equal or (gulp) patron is in. Belichick, with three Super Bowl rings as a head coach and two others as an assistant to his credit, has confounded many a great mind over the years. But he got owned by Ryan on Sunday for 68,756 fans and all the TV-watching world to see, and it is likely to torment him throughout the offseason and beyond. When Ryan opened his postgame news conference by referencing an earlier prediction and proclaiming, “I thought it would come down to me and Belichick and thank goodness it never did because he won that battle like he always does,” it was hard to avoid bursting into laughter.

Here's what won the game for the Jets:
-A superior NY O-Line vs. a thin NE D-Line
-An excellent job by the secondary in roughing up Brady's options

I like Rex Ryan, I think he's a good coach and that he called exactly the game he needed to for beating New England. It ultimately came down to New England not having the talent to stop what the Jets were doing. It had very little to do with brashness, drunk driving arrests, skill players or genius.

This is Joe Namath calling his shot; yes, very magical because he mouthed off and then backed it up in one game. How did that carry on into a trend?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Friday's with Franco: Sunday Morning Early Hours Edition!

Ravens at Steelers:

The Steelers will win if:
-They can keep Ray Rice out of the endzone.


...or...

They can also win if all of the following things happen:
-Hines Ward comes out of retirement.
-LaMarr Woodley defies physics and single-handedly destroys a decent RG, RT and blocking HB, simultaneously.
-Ziggy Hood becomes L.C. Greenwood.
-James Harrison defies physics and single-handedly destroys a decent LT, Sandra Bullock, and Joe Flacco, simultaneously.
-Roethlisberger hits the shit out of his chunkity-ass options in the under-zones.
-Roethlisberger throws the ball as far as he can whenever he sees #20 jump into the under-zones or blitz.
-Roethlisberger doesn't get picked.
-Dick LeBeau goes another five decades without making a mistake.
-Ray Lewis goes practically an entire game without his name being called.
-Joe Flacco reverts to Jason Campbell, circa Jim Zorn.


...or...

They can also ALSO win if:
-Chris Kemoeatu plays within himself and exemplifies athleticism and discipline.

If any of those three, longshot scenarios pan out, we're looking at another Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowl, custom made, baby.

Let's move on.

Packers at Falcons:

Green Bay is the best team in the NFC according to www.pro-football-reference.com 's Simple Rating System (SRS). For those who are unfamiliar, SRS is a complex, yet ultimately crude method of ranking a team based on both point differential and strength of schedule. It starts with the basic idea of how many points you scored / allowed, and then compares those numbers to the average points scored / allowed versus the opponents you had on your schedule.

The Packers have a 10.9 SRS, which means they'll score nearly 11 points more than their opponent, should their opponent be a league average team. The next best team in the NFC is the Falcons, at a 6.1 SRS. Following that it drops to 4.2 for the Eagles, 4.1 for the Bears, 2.3 for the Saints, and -9.4 for the Seahawks (that's right; if we look at the Seahawks regular season performance, we can project them to trail a league average opponent by two scores at the end of a game).

What does all this mean? Eh... not too much. The Packers were second-best in SRS in the NFC last year (7.4), but ultimately lost out to the flukey Cardinals (-0.3 SRS). The bottom line: you have to play the games, math can fuck itself.

Here's the deal with the Packers, though: they're very good. Aaron Rodgers put on a clinic, a monster truck rally and a job fair in last season's playoff exit to Kurt Warner. This year, he's sat by calmly as his defense deconstructed Michael Vick, and he's test fired the death star on Matt Ryan's Falcons. His offense is extremely cool, oscillating between a 5-wide look, and a formation that includes 3 running backs (all of whom can option out as receivers). Not only does Rodgers have every opportunity to be perfect within his system, he also has the natural ability to be perfect when the system breaks down.

I promise that I will get off the man's jock, but just let me establish this: Aaron Rodgers thinks pass, and the ball is there. He has a laser beam arm, very decent speed for his size, and a system that keeps it simple. If the Packers' defense generates points off turnovers, Rodgers will take Green Bay to the Super Bowl.

Seahawks at Bears:
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaawn.

The Seahawks could in fact upset the Bears, because the Bears aren't very well grounded in anything. The Seahawks SHOULDN'T upset the Bears -- in fact, Matt Hasselbeck should die because of this game -- but that doesn't change the fact that Jay Cutler doesn't really have a proven receiver, or really anyone who can help him when the game plan needs adjusting. Chicago's receiving corps. is topped off by 24-year-old, Johnny Knox, who clocks in at 960 yards received. Following him is Earl Bennett (?) with 561, running back Matt Forte with 547, CB/WR/KR Devin Hester at 475, Greg Olsen (?) 404, etc. What this tells us is that Jay Cutler is actually really good, and everyone who says as much is correct. He's not winning any Super Bowls or going up in the QB Ratings because he's stuck making the best he can with mediocrity.

Anyway.

I'd say the Bears should still win this. They have defense and a return game. The Seahawks have 0 game. The performance they turned in last week cost Elizabeth Hasslebeck's soul. Pete Carroll does not have a second virgin to toss up in as many weeks.

Jets at Patriots:

Fuck New Jersey and Boston!

Beyond that, I think the Jets are better equipped at beating the Patriots than anyone else in the AFC. Here's how:

The Jets' QB, Mark Sanchez is a liability, but their receivers are guys who can make plays if easy passes get into their hands. New York boasts a marvelous offensive line and very decent power runners (including the swansong, of the second great LT). They also feature the best combination of cornerbacks in football. This compliments a heavy if no longer excellent front-7.

So what the Jets need to do is run the football and play man coverage. Here's why it would work:

The Patriots no longer feature that amazing defensive-line of Seymour-Wilfork-Warren. Seymour has been traded, Warren injured and Wilfork gets moved out of position by Belichick whenever an opponent goes off-tackle. If a team is serious about running the ball on the Patriots, and can bring a good enough O-line to the table, New England will be forced to take middle linebackers out of coverage. While I think Brandon Spikes and Jarod Mayo are studs at the middle linebacking position, Belichick wants them in zone, not cleaning up after a D-line that can't make stops. Bottom line: if you can, run on these fuckers.

New England traded away super-crazy-great, deep-threat Randy Moss earlier this season. That left them with the super-undersized-gamer, horizontal-threat Wes Welker and the reacquired Deion Branch at WR. They also drafted two excellent TEs this year, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Along with free agent acquisition, TE, Alge Crumpler, Belichick uses these guys as receivers out of bunch formations. To put it simply, a defense sees two TEs and a WR in a bunch on one side of the field, a TE split wide on the other, and a halfback behind Brady, and they have to play for the run. Belichick throws in this situation. He follows that up by bringing in four scrub WRs and running when the defense brings in the dime. Trick to beating this? Keep it simple. Play great man-coverage. Put all-world cornerback, Darrelle Revis on Welker, have Cromartie man the sideline streak routes, and then let the safeties guard the TEs. Play zone with those good, heavy LBs, and let them hit the TEs and RB if they come through. But more than anything: don't over-commit to anything. Just trust that you have superior talent in man-on-man matchups, and don't back down when you have a chance to hit someone.

If the Jets can make Wes Welker and company drop passes early, they should win this game.

-------

That's almost all I have for now. Thought maybe I'd add this to the midnight analysis...

Remember last summer when Ben Roethlisberger was a rapist?

I'm not digging this up because we get paid by the rape op-ed piece. I'm throwing it out there because we got this one wrong. All of us were sure that Ben's genitals were going to be traded to the Oakland Raiders and his flabby body sold to the CFL for a future Pens' blue-liner. We thought 1) we'd never be able to root for him again, 2) he probably wouldn't be that good moving forward. We were pretty convinced.

Sad truth is, we capitulate, as you probably do too, to winning. Ben Roethlisberger plays an extremely entertaining game at its best. Is a few months of that enough to get us doubting the credibility of an alleged victim? Is it enough for us to start rationalizing the context of the whole thing? Is it enough that we're willing to just go on, not really thinking about it?

I don't mean to wag my finger at anyone, or come off as some sort of guilt-loving dildo. But at some point, let's reflect on this. In our eyes... can a man be redeemed from rape by a good passer rating?

To be continued...

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Bert Blyleven Story

We have, today, a submission from friend of FTC Brad Sanzenbacher. A Baltimore-area native, Brad worked for several seasons as the scoreboard operator of sorts at Camden Yards, and it is from those halcyon days he draws this story. Additionally, Brad is a phenomenal singer-songwriter of the Americana/folk-rock school, and his first album is due to drop later this year. We here at FTC highly suggest you check out his music. In fact, we're so serious about it that we didn't even feel the need to say so parenthetically.

Take it away, Bradley:

The story I’m about to tell takes place in 2006, during my first year working a job that gave me press level access at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I was 21 at the time, and thrilled to be working a summer dream job in baseball. But the long baseball season took a strange twist for me when the Minnesota Twins came to town.

The food in the Orioles' (and most likely other teams) press lounge is notoriously rough on the stomach. It’s not bad food by any means, but catch the wrong mixture on the wrong day, and you’ll be lucky to see the first three innings of the game. Today was one of those “wrong” days, and an hour before game time, I found my self trapped in the men’s room.

The press level men’s room has a basic layout. There’s the door and a few sinks on one side, and three urinals on the other, with a stall next to the furthest left of them. On this particular occasion, I was in the stall when I heard the door open and saw a pair of feet shuffle up to the adjacent urinal. I heard a zipper and the familiar and distinct sound of trickling urine.

“AAaaaHHHH….” Said a familiar, full voice. “Why is it that taking a piss feels so goddamn good?”

Thinking this question was strictly rhetorical, I said nothing. After a moment, the wall of the stall rattled gently with sound of knuckles on metal.

“HELLOOO in there? Ya hear me? Why is it that taking a piss feels so goddamn good?!”

I hesitated for a moment, and debated saying nothing. After a few seconds, I responded simply. “I dunno…It just does, I guess.”

“YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT!! It just does!” The voice was content with my answer, and I was happy. But I was wrong in my assumption the conversation was over. “How about that shit you’re taking? How’s that treating you?”

Again, I thought carefully. Not sure if this was a prank by a fellow video staffer, I was careful not to say anything stupid. Finally, I just said, “I’ve had better.”

The sound of urinating was fading slowly, but the voice came back, more boisterous than ever. “THAT’S A GODDAMN SHAME! Every shit you take should be the best of your life! You gotta OWN THAT SHIT, my friend!”

The urinal flushed and the feet shuffled away. When I heard water running in the sink, I responded with a polite “Thanks.”

A few minutes later I emerged, and a tall man with a silver beard was in front of the mirror, gelling his hair and fixing it up the way broadcasters do before going on air. I pushed on the faucet and rubbed some soap in my hands. He paused his motions and looked at my empathetically.

“I’m sorry that shit wasn’t all you hoped it would be,” he said.

Face to face with him, I was more uncomfortable than ever. Trying to be funny, I said, “It’s okay. There’s always next time.” He liked this response.

“THAT’S THE SPIRIT!! I like that attitude, son! What’s you’re name?”

“uhhh…Brad.” I said sheepishly.

“Well, Brad, I’m going to be back in town in a few months and I’m gonna check back up on you. You had better have some good shits between now and then, understood?”

I nodded.

“Okay then. I’ll see you!”

He walked out the door and it swung shut behind him. I stood in disbelief. I had just met Future Hall of Fame Pitcher Bert Blyleven.

I had a lot of interesting experiences in baseball. I once stood in between Jim Palmer and Dennis Eckersley at the urinals and chatted with them nonchalantly about Miguel Tejada’s lack of hustle. I was in the clubhouse with the Rangers after their infamous 30-3 victory over the Orioles. And I once tried to convince Brady Anderson to make a comeback attempt so I could make a reality show about it.

But nothing comes close to Bert Blyleven taking personal concern for the health of my colon on a warm summer day in 2006. Most likely, he was just messing with me for his own amusement on a long road trip. But I walked away with a great memory, and for that, I am thankful.

If you liked this story, please listen to my music and give me a “like” on facebook or join my mailing list. And check back for news about my debut album, “Fear and Drought,” which will be available soon.

Take care, and congratulations to Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven.

(And for the record, he never followed up).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How's that standby-copy, Yahoo! Sports?



SI: "Shocker in Seattle."
ESPN: "Seattle Shocker."
FTC suggestion for AP: "HOLYSHIT!!"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

FTC 2010 Season Awards

The polls are closed, the results are in. Now everyone shut the fuck up.

The Randall Cunningham Comeback Player of the Year goes to...

Michael Vick
Really, we just threw this up front to get it out of the way. It really couldn't be anyone else. That
said, Tim voted for Troy Polamalu, who went from God's Gold Club to God's Chairman's Circle.


The Mitch Berger "How-Do-I-Still-Have-a-Job-In-This-Economy?" Award goes to...

Norv Turner
The strongest evidence yet that Troy Polamalu's God actually hates Philip Rivers is that Norv
Turner still has his job. Also receiving votes were Marvin Lewis, Graham Gano, Jeff Reed and
Jonathan Scott.


The Jamain Stephens Ongoing Disappointment Award goes to...

Limas Sweed.
This was unanimous. The upside is that it does set him up beautifully to win the award again
next season.


The Paul Posluszny Glass Skeleton Trophy goes to...

Daniel Sepulveda
I initially wanted to give this to Matthew Stafford, but that guy has excuses for getting hurt.
Props to Nils for righting me on this one. Tim lobbied for Dennis Dixon because Tim is a window-
licking retard.


The Rex Grossman Award goes to...

Christ, there was some horrible quarterback play this year. Tim voted for Brett Favre. Fine pick. Nils voted for Chad Henne. Also acceptable. I voted for Jimmy Claussen. He was pretty bad, too. And while Jay Cutler had a string of awesome games, when he played poorly, there was nobody worse. At this point, it might make sense just to give the award to the Sex Cannon, but he
wasn't as bad as any of these guys, even if he did have a higher turnover:snap ratio than anyone else. We're just going to give this award to everybody but Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and hope that Brady Quinn gets some serious playing time somewhere next year.


The Brett Favre Golden Boy of the Year goes to...

Tim Tebow

An even bigger lock than Sweed. The orgasm Peter King had when Tebow was named the starter was so powerful that it caused Sting to feel a disturbance in The Force.


The Antonio Freeman Play of the Year goes to...

Troy Polamalu




The Jim Zorn Play of the Year goes to...

Sal Alosi




The Woody Hayes Punch of the Year goes to...

Andre Johnson

To be completely up front about this, I'm invoking executive power over the majority here, who selected Richard Seymour's after-the-play hit on Big Ben, and here's why:
1) The fact that neither of these guys were suspended only enhances the argument that the NFL's new policies on safety and conduct are disingenuous crap.
2) Cortland Finnegan is an asshole who should get punched in the head more often.
That said, it's not totally fair to exclude Ben Roethlisberger from any category that involves the deserved caving in of one's face.


The Joe Theisman Award for Horrific Primetime Injury goes to...

Ben Roethlisberger
Hurts, don't it?



The Clinton Portis Medal for Fantasy Genocide goes to...

Randy Moss
If you're the idiot who thought this was going to be a huge year for Beanie Wells, Knowshon Moreno or Rusty Smith, that's your own fucking fault. Moss was a top ten receiver in a contract year, and the guy managed to get himself traded, then cut, then signed by a team with -4 quarterbacks who targeted him once in five games. To 84's credit, though, he did manage to get Brad Childress fired while not even on the team.



The LaDanian Tomlinson "Who Stole My Relevance?" Award goes to...

Chris Johnson
Not really his fault. When your passing attack prominently features Kerry Collins looking for Nate Washington, you're going to see a lot of looks with 8-15 guys in the box. Chris will be back and twitchin' right and proper next year.


The Adrian Peterson "I Stole Your Relevance" Award goes to...

Arian Foster
So I guess those last few games of 2009 weren't flukey. And just the notion of a competent passing attack in Houston makes him all the more threatening.



The Brett Favre Disingenuous Asshole Award goes to...

Roger Goodell
This man is starting to make Bud Selig look like FDR.



The Larry Johnson Trophy for Worst Breakout Performance goes to...

Shonn Greene
Currently enrolled in the Jerome Bettis College of Block-Following. What's Latin for "three three-yard gains is almost a first down?"



The Eddie George Medal for Valor in Hitting a Wall goes to...

Willie Parker
It's good he got this out of his system when he did, because I doubt he'll be able to get that entire club reserved next year.


The Jerome Bettis Trade of the Year: Brady Quinn for Peyton Hillis, draft picks, curly fries and a side of cole slaw.
The Brian Billick Feel-Good Firing of the Year: Josh McDaniels
The Butch Davis Mid-Season Firing of the Year: Josh McDaniels
The Tamarick Vanover Work Release Player of the Year: Donte Stallworth
The LIRA (Least-Impact Rookie Award): We have a three-way tie! Your 2010 winners of the LIRA are Sergio Kindle, Dexter McCluster and Montario Hardesty. Better luck next year, gentlemen.
The Kevin Greene Award for Best Hair by a Pass Rusher: Clay Matthews



And finally, Free Tank Carter is proud to name as the FTC Mike Tomlin Man of the Year...

The 2010 season was horseshit. Between the league's false crackdown on violence, absurd fines for clean play, rules changes nobody understood, entirely throwing out the concept of "possession," James Harrison's existential crisis, a 7-9 team hosting a playoff game, Favreshouldercock-a-palooza and the 17-week non-story of Tom Brady's hair, there was one man who dared keep shit real. Rex, we at FTC salute you. THAT'S SOME GREAT HUSTLE!