Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Michael Silver from is biased and incompetent, Part I: The Welker Situation

Every so often, in a Patriot-hating world, there emerges someone who manages to separate himself from the pack, someone who stoops so far below the rules of good taste, and, in this case, good journalism, that we can't help but take notice.

In his recent article, Michael Silver makes a convincing case for Hack of the Year, as he seeks flimsy justifications to convince readers of the scurrilous conjecture he peddles against a team that he clearly hates.

He has provided us with such a wealth of ammo that my responses will have to be broken out into multiple posts, hence the "Part I" in the title.

Silver spent a lot of time talking about Wes Welker. Let's address his assertions one at a time.

Erroneous Assertion #1: Not signing Wes Welker was a "poor football decision by Belichick"

We're all human, including Bill Belichick, but when a man has been in this sport for 50 years, and has won five Super Bowls as a coach or coordinator, as Belichick has, then he gets the benefit of the doubt. With all due respect, Michael, a guy who taps on a keyboard for a living ought to check the facts before he questions someone with Belichick's resume.

Let's start with your conclusion, that failing to re-sign Wes Welker was a "poor football move".

Tell me, Michael: What was the right "football move"? What were the Patriots supposed to do? Offer Welker more money? More years? Whatever he wanted? What?

Take a look at the Patriots' last offer to Welker:

-Two years, $10 million
-$8 million guaranteed
-$6 million available in incentives
-Maximum contract value: $16 million

Now, the offer Welker signed with the Broncos:

-Two years, $12 million
-$6 million guaranteed
-$300,000 available in incentives
-Maximum contract value: $12,300,000

Welker didn't get rich joining the Broncos, or at least not much richer than he would have gotten in New England. In fact, he actually would have had MORE guaranteed money in New England, and the Pats' offer had a much higher max value than Denver's. Apparently the extra $2 million in base salary was really, really super important to Wes, important enough that he didn't care about the $6 million in incentives, important enough that he'd leave the team--and the fan base, and the QB--that had become like family to him. Yeah, it's business-but that cuts both ways.

You piss on the Patriots because they didn't give Welker more money. But you fail to see--or admit--that the Pats' offer was competitive. They offered Welker more guaranteed money and a higher maximum value than Denver did, but Welker refused the offer, over $2 million in base, which he would have earned anyway had he performed as he had the previous two years. The offer was more than adequate, as proved by the very similar offer that Welker actually accepted. Only one other team in the NFL--Tennessee--even expressed interest in Welker. If the Patriots' offer was so terrible, then why didn't other teams beat it? Why didn't the Jets or Cardinals pony up with a four-year, $40 million offer? Simple. Because Welker wasn't worth it.


Let's look at Welker's actual performance from 2013. You're familiar with performance, right? The stuff players actually get paid for?

Wes Welker - 2013 stats 
13 games / 73 rec /  778 yds / 10 TD 

Not bad, but a significant drop from 2012, when Welker broke 100 catches and 1000 yards, and nowhere near the top of the league, as he had been with New England. Still think that $8 million in guaranteed money was an insult?

Herrrrrrre come the excuses.

"But...but... Manning's got more weapons," you might say. "Welker is sharing the receptions with more people in Denver. And Welker missed three games due to injury."

Answer the question. Look at Welker's line from 2013 again. Are those numbers, or are they not, worthy of a $12 million contract? Didn't think so.

And I'm glad you bring up injury (I know you didn't actually bring it up. Work with me). Welker has been absorbing monster shots across the middle for years in New England. Matt Hasselback estimated recently that Welker may have had as many as 10 concussions before the new protocols were put into place. Welker's had three concussions over the past 10 months alone.

Let go of your bias and be honest with yourself. Wes Welker was a great player, but he is 33 years old now, and his best years are behind him. Now that he's started down the concussion path, they'll come easier and easier, and Peyton is apparently not too concerned with trying to protect him. Messing around with head injuries is a dangerous game, and I hope for his health's sake that Welker doesn't play too much longer.

I get that you don't like him, but I ain't buying this whole "Belichick made a mistake" narrative that you're trying to sell. Belichick knew how old Welker was. He knew what Welker's body had been through. He, along with Robert Kraft, decided that two years was the maximum that the Patriots should offer. If that were a mistake, other teams would have offered significantly more years and more money. None did. You're wrong.

"But...but...," you protest. "The Pats essentially chose Danny Amendola over Welker"

Why is it that, when I read the above, I hear a whiny nine-year-old's voice, complaining about how another nine-year-old just wiped boogers on him?

Maybe you're a sappy, 85-year-old lady at heart who should be watching the Hallmark Channel instead of the NFL. Or maybe you just don't know football. Why do you seem so incredibly butthurt at what you perceive to be a slight against Wes Welker? Football is a business. The cruel and painful truth is that, oftentimes, a team can replace an older player with a younger one for less money, and when they can, they are stupid not to. Is this concept foreign to you?

Now, it is true that Amendola's 2013 numbers were not what the Patriots hoped they'd be (54 rec / 633 yds / 2 TD), but Amendola only played in 12 games, and only started six of them. And, as it turns out, Brady developed significant chemistry with Julian Edelman in 2013, who, after only catching 21 passes in all of 2012, performed incredibly in 2013:

Julian Edelman - 2013 stats
105 rec / 1056 yds /  6 TD

What do you know? Those numbers are positively Welker-like! In otherwords, the Patriots replaced Welker's production with someone five years younger. And cheaper. And less concussion-prone. The Patriots found a way.

So - again - Michael, please provide evidence to prove your assertion that not signing Welker was a poor football decision, when the Patriots replaced Welker's production for less money. In fact, they exceeded it. Explain, or admit that you are biased.

Erroneous assertion #2: "Welker's presence in Denver has to be especially galling to Brady"

It "has to be"? In otherwords, you can't prove it. Brady didn't say that this "galled" him. No one close to Brady said it. In short, you have exactly zero proof.

You only have the Patriots' 2013 results: They won the AFC East - again - and reached the AFC championship game, despite losing their top defensive lineman, linebacker, and cornerback. Do you think Tom Brady stormed into Belichick's office after losing to Denver, screaming that Wes Welker would have won that game for the Pats? I don't.

Despite heroic efforts by you and most other NFL journalists, you have failed to prove that there is any discord in the New England locker room. But you really, really want us to believe it anyway, because it would make you happy if there was turmoil in Patriot Nation.

Keep dreaming.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sports Mythbustin', Episode 3: Peyton Manning had the best QB season ever in 2013

For me, and the other two or three people in the known universe who don't worship Peyton Manning, it was nauseating to watch and listen to the wall-to-wall, 24-7-365 coverage of Manning's 2013 assault on the record books. When he finally threw touchdown pass number 51, I thought they were going to declare a national holiday.

Even though Peyton finished the season with 55 TD passes, five more than Tom Brady's 2007 record (which, incidentally, broke Manning's previous record of 49), and well over 5000 yards, something seemed a in my stat-addled brain. For such an otherworldly season, Peyton seemed to be involved in an awful lot of close games, and he also seemed to be mercilessly piling it on against hapless opponents.

Incidentally, did anyone else find it strange that, during the Patriots' undefeated 2007 regular season, every football journalist with an internet connection lined up to shame the Patriots for "running up the score", yet not one of them had the cojones to say the same about the the Broncos in 2013, even though those very pundits reminded us at every turn that Denver had outscored the 2007 Patriots?


At any rate, my theory on Peyton Manning has never changed: He's great when he's comfortable, but apply one bit of pressure, of the psychological or pocket variety, and he can't be counted on. Tom Brady, on the other hand, takes his game to another level when it matters the most. No, he doesn't always win, but then, Joe Montana lost a few big games, too.

If my theories on these two great quarterbacks is true, then the statistics during their respective record-setting seasons should show that Manning's performance declined against stronger opponents and during road games, when quarterbacks are less comfortable, and that Brady's numbers exceeded Manning's in these same situations.

Well, well, well. Looks like I was right again! In his supposedly transcendent 2013 season, Manning beat Brady in exactly two out of nine categories in road games, and in ZERO out of nine categories vs. opponents over .500.

Seriously guys, I know you love Peyton. He's a funny dude who makes cool commercials. And I know it pisses you off that Brady is more handsome than you (and me), and is married to a Victoria's Secret angel who also happens to be the richest model on the planet Earth. But take the emotion out of it for a minute, and look at the chart again. How many different ways do we have to say it? Peyton is not the guy you want when the going is rough.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sports Mythbustin', Episode 2: The Pats Were Saved by the "Tuck Rule"

Now that we have totally demolished the Spygate argument, it's time to explode yet another myth about the New England Patriots: The Tuck Rule.

This one's a bit harder for Patriot haters to use against us. The rule had been on the books for three years by the time this play happened, and the rule was interpreted correctly by the official. The whole thing was legitimate, and no one seriously questions that. Still, they've managed to conjure up a few feeble attacks:

"The Pats got lucky"
"The rule is stupid/unfair"
"The Pats were saved by an obscure technicality in the rulebook"
"The official was biased/in the Patriots' pocket"
Merely stating, "It was a fumble"

That last one is particularly offensive. An unmistakably-worded rule clearly says that it's an incomplete pass, not a fumble, and the response is, "It was a fumble." No, idiot, it was not a fumble. Read the rule.

Regarding the Patriots "getting lucky", let me ask you this: Is it "luck" that pass interference is against the rules? Seems to me that many TDs have been scored thanks to that rule.

"Of course not," you say. "The rule was written for a reason. You can't impede a player who's trying to catch a pass."

Yes, and the "Tuck Rule" was written for a reason, too! Or do you think some NFL official just came up with it when he was bored one Tuesday afternoon? This rule has been changed several times over the years. The league struggled with it for a long time, because it was extremely difficult for an official to make a split-second determination, at game speed, as to whether the QB had finished the passing motion and had begun pulling the ball back towards his body. On the other hand, it was very easy to see whether or not he had tucked the ball away. And before you remind me, I'm well aware that the rule was changed in March of 2013 by a 29-1 vote (with the Patriots and Raiders abstaining, natch), and that the rule now says that, if the QB loses possession of the football while attempting to bring it back to his body, it will be ruled a fumble. In otherwords, we're back to asking officials to make instantaneous decisions based on subtle arm and hand movements.

Simply, this rule is neither "stupid" nor "unfair". It was intentionally changed to prevent referees from having to make tough judgment calls. There was specific logic behind it. Luck played no part in what happened, if "luck" even exists at all.

I'm also not feeling the "obscure technicality" argument. The rule was written for a very specific circumstance, and when that circumstance occurred, the rule was applied properly. It doesn't happen  every day, so consequently, the rule is not used often. That doesn't make it any less important, any less of a rule, or any less valid. The change was properly approved by the NFL owners, just like everything else in the rulebook. If you think it's wrong, tell me why. But don't try to invalidate it because it's not used every week.

And, BTW, exactly what does "technicality" mean in this context? Does it mean that it deals with a very specific set of policies that must be enforced exactly? In that case, yes, this is a technicality--and so is 90% of the entire NFL rulebook. Guess what, guys? "Technicality" or not, a rule is a rule is a rule--and must be followed precisely. And it was.

For those of you who think referee Walt Coleman was biased, being bribed, or was a part of a huge conspiracy to help the Patriots, or send the Raiders home, your argument (aside from being silly and completely unfounded) is irrelevant. Biased or not, and there's no reason to think he was, the correct call was made. It's been reviewed 534,277 times and confirmed by everyone. There was no mistake. Prove me wrong.

But, speaking of irrelevance, here's the real news.

Nothing I've said up to this point matters. It doesn't matter what you or I think about the Tuck Rule. It doesn't matter what the rulebook says, and it doesn't matter whether you say it was a fumble or not. None of it matters in the slightest bit.

Why? Because of a little rule that reads like this:

"In covering the passer position, Referees will be particularly alert to fouls in which defenders impermissibly... use hands, arms, or other parts of the body to hit the passer forcibly in the head or neck area"
(NFL Rulebook, Section 2, Article 13, note 3)

Unlike the Tuck Rule, everybody knows this one, and everybody agrees it's legitimate. And, in case you weren't aware, it carries a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.

"But there was no Roughing the Passer on that play," you are saying.

Oh, how incredibly wrong you are...

Well, well, well. What do you know? It seems Charles Woodson broke the rules--clearly and obviously. Brady took a big, and illegal, shot to the head before any fumble or incompletion could take place. 

The line of scrimmage on that play was the Oakland 42. This would have (and should have) given the Patriots a 1st-and-10 at the Oakland 27. This is actually two yards closer than the Oakland 29, from which Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-tying field goal.

It's funny to watch people try to explain this one away after watching the video. They can't possibly deny it, so they resort to nonsense like:

"It was incidental contact/Woodson didn't mean to hit him."
Oh really? How do you know what Woodson did or did not intend to do? At any rate, go back and read that rule again, and show me the part where it says, "this penalty only gets called when the guy meant to do it". Face it: No one knows or cares whether a defensive player meant to hit the QB. It's the pass rusher's responsibility to make sure his hands are nowhere near the quarterback's helmet.

"He didn't hit him that hard."
Look at the violent way Brady's head snaps to the side after he's been hit. I thought I was watching the Zapruder Film, for Christ's sake! The hit was plenty hard--and besides, severity of the blow doesn't matter: I've seen this penalty called when a defensive player swung his hand at a QB's head and missed altogether! You've got no leg to stand on here.

"The referee missed it. Refs miss calls all the time."
What exactly are you saying here? Does this mean the penalty didn't happen? Does it mean it suddenly became a clean play? Anyway, this argument misses the point: If you are trying to tell me that the Pats "got lucky", or were the beneficiary of a bad/obscure rule, you are wrong. The Raiders very nearly won the game on a flagrant Roughing the Passer non-call. Who was lucky, again?

As we now know, Adam Vinatieri was a clutch enough kicker to make a field goal from 47 yards out, on a snowy mess of a field, with the white stuff still coming down--so it turns out the Patriots didn't need those 15 yards. But that doesn't change the fact that they should have gotten them. 

Watch the video again. Watch it 100 times if you have to. Sooner or later, you'll admit, even if just to yourself, that a missed call easily could have cost the Patriots this game--wrongly.

And it had nothing to do with the Tuck Rule.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sports Mythbustin', Episode 1: The Patriots' Offense Went into the Toilet After Spygate

Oh, you Patriot haters. How you live to bash Belichick and Brady. When you heard about that nasty little videotaping incident at the Meadowlands vs. the Jets in 2007, it must've been just like Christmas morning!

At some point during the seven seasons since that day in New Jersey, some BillBasher(s) have struck upon a series of cute soundbites that the rest of you have picked up on and parroted endlessly:



And so on. You get the idea.

Quite predictably, although 500 million of you have dutifully repeated these "stats", exactly NONE of you have thought to question the numbers one bit. And why would you? You hate the New England Patriots, you'll take any pathetic excuse for a criticism of them, and this 0-2 crap sounds pretty good.

Before we get to the fun part, let's review some basic facts. I'm quite sure that most of you can't explain what Spygate actually is, except that "The Patriots cheeeeeeeeea-ted!" Some of you probably think that Bill Belichick slapped on a ski mask, broke into Eric Mangini's hotel room and stole his playbook while he was busy watching Nympho Nurses 14. So a few points:

  1. The NFL prohibits videotaping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals during a game. A memo was sent out to all teams on September 6, 2006, clarifying this rule. Bill Belichick, thinking he had found some fine print in another section of the rulebook that permitted him to continue videotaping, went right on doing so, to his unending detriment. 
  2. The only thing Belichick was doing--and the only thing anyone has accused him of--is recording his opponents' defensive signals. The idea is, if a defense is obtuse enough not to change their signals frequently, the offense could analyze the videotape later, and eventually figure out that, for example, when the defensive coach puts his right hand on his head, the defense will be a cover-2. With this information in hand, the offense could call a certain play that works well against a cover-2. 
  3. This videotaped "signal stealing" has been going on since the 1980s, and coaches wised up to it long ago. Most of them change their defensive signals often, sometimes even during a game, so that the information is usually not too useful. So why did Bill do it? Presumably, he did so on the off chance that a team wouldn't change their signals, and he'd get lucky enough to get a big gainer or two. Every little bit helps, but no coach or NFL insider with any amount of experience pretends that videotaping provides a significant advantage. However, I understand that you're skeptical, and I need to prove my case.

So, for those of you who actually have a cluster of functioning brain cells, what your argument is saying, whether you understand it or not, is this:

A.    After the Patriots got caught videotaping in week 1 of 2007, they were no longer able to steal their opponents' defensive signals;
B.    Because they were no longer able to steal their opponents' defensive signals, their offense was less productive;
C.    Because their offense was less productive, they lost more games, including Super Bowls.

Read this next part carefully, because it's important.

The only way for your theory to work, the only way you can smear the Patriots with the Spygate slime that you so desperately want to smother them with, is if you can prove item B above. If the videotaping was helping the Patriots, if it was the crucial tool you say it was, then there should be a sharp decline in the team's offensive numbers after the 2006 season, and this dropoff ought to be as obvious as Kim Kardashian's caboose. If there was no dropoff, then the videotaping provided no significant advantage, and this whole thing is equivalent to running a yellow light.

If, for example, we were to calculate the Patriots' offensive production before and after Spygate, we ought to see huge decreases in all the major offensive categories. There should be negative numbers all over the place. Right?


Oops. Looks like your theory just went up in a haze of Cheech and Chong smoke!

How do you like that? Not only did the Patriots' offensive numbers not go down after Spygate; they actually went up! Shutting off those videocameras seems to have had a real positive impact on the team's numbers. Funny, right?

"But what about the Won-Lost records?" You are asking. "What about the Super Bowls?"

Sigh. As Frank Rizzo once said, "Do you have corn cobs between your ears?" 

Go back and review the "Read this next part carefully" section above. I'll wait.

Following me now?

Yes, I'm aware that the Patriots under Belichick lost zero playoff games before Spygate, and eight afterwards. That included two Super Bowls. But mere losses don't prove your theory. Teams lose for all sorts of reasons. There are numerous reasons why the Patriots lost the games they did, but "Dropoff in offensive production" is not one of them; except for minuscule decreases in postseason passer rating and completion percentage, New England's offense actually improved after Spygate! So, if you're going to keep harping on this crap, you're now going to have to explain to the world how it could be that stopping the videotaping of opponents' defensive signals somehow helped the offense--and simultaneously made the New England Patriots lose games. Good luck. 

This whole episode is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America today, not just in football, but in life overall. We live in the Age of Information, an unprecedented time in which you can look up most anything you want without even getting out of bed, and most of you can't even be bothered to do that. You'd rather log on to Facebook or Twitter, copying and pasting words that sound good, like the mindless, cackling automatons that you are.

I weep for the future.