Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Great Bart Starr Interview

Here is a great recent interview with Bart Starr from Cold, Hard, Football Facts.

It was a pretty casual conversation. In fact, if you’re looking for a hard-hitting, controversial interview, we’re sorry to disappoint you. But we’re sure there are plenty of hatchet men out there who can do it for you.
As far as the evidence tells us, there’s not a lot to criticize. We just wanted to hear things in his words, about the view of accomplishment that continue to stand the test of time, through the eyes of the guy who orchestrated them from the limited protection of a single steel bar.

It is a great read.  Who else would preface a discussion of the Ice Bowl by praising the Cowboys' performance?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Bacon Explosion

A story in the NYT about a couple of dudes who invented "The Bacon Explosion" last month.  Looks pretty good.  As a barbecue enthusiast I will definitely try it out next spring.  My one quibble with this phenomenon is that these dude are getting way too much credit.  Everyone knows that Homer Simpson originated the idea of "baconing up that sausage."  

First, the Flaming Homer becomes the Flaming Moe, and now this. . . 


Why So Many Position Coaches?

McCarthy (seemingly) rounded out the rest of his defensive coaching staff today. As has been noted, the Packers now have an almost comical number of defensive position coaches: a defensive line coach, an outside linebackers coach, and inside linebackers coach, a safeties coach, and a cornerbacks coach.

So why so many? Here is my baseless speculation. McCarthy for one reason or another felt obligated to keep Moss and Whit on his staff when he fired everyone else, but either McCarthy or Capers does not have confidence in them. Why else go out and get a second linebackers coach and second secondary coach? If he felt either man was up to the job, why keep looking for more assistants?

So why keep Moss and Whit under those circumstances? I don't know. What do I look like, someone who engages in baseless speculation?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Obama Pledge

Here's a video making the rounds of celebrities pledging to become better people in honor of President Obama.  The folks at Volokh are in a tizzy about it.  Judge for yourself:

I'm not big fan of Obama, but I have a tough time getting worked up about this.  Pretty harmless.  In fact, as a libertarian, I'd much rather have a president who inspired individuals to go forth and do good works rather than a president that wants to cram well-intentioned but  ill-conceived programs down our throats.  (Like, just hypothetically, forcing public school children to "volunteer" in their communities as a condition for their schools receiving certain federal funding.)

Mainly this video reminded me that  Anthony Kiedis is kind of a tool.  That Nicole Ritchie still exists.  And that Jason Bateman is awesome. ("I pledge to flush only after a deuce and never a single.") 

However, Bateman should have gone the extra mile and not only pledged to flush only after pooping, but also to poop less.  But, I'm nitpicking.  If Bateman comes through with an Arrested Development movie he will have done his part to make the world a better place.

And who is the dumbass who thinks "selling his obnoxious car and buying a hybrid" is going to help the planet?  All that would happen is that some other dude would be driving around in his obnoxious car while he drives around in a more efficient car.  Also, cars (even Priuses) don't grow in organically farmed fields.  They are made in factories which consume fuel and pump out C02. 

What he needs to do is at a minimum get his obnoxious car off the road.  He could give it away to an obnoxious homeless person to live in.  Or use it as a kennel to raise obnoxious stray puppies.  Or use it to fill in an obnoxious sink hole provided that it wouldn't reduce wetlands.

Or he could just keep his existing obnoxious car but drive it less.  Maybe even take the bus.  But that would require actual (obnoxious) sacrifice.


Some Of My Best Friends Are Judges

So a coke dealer's sentence was thrown out because a Milwaukee County  judge made some inappropriate (and allegedly racist) comments from the bench.  For example, the judge made a remark about the convicted's "baby mama."  It seems to me that the Judge was just trying to be "hip" and funny.  But it was a dumb thing to say.  As a young lawyer we are often told that humor in the courtroom is just a bad idea.  I guess that advice applies to judges, too.

Anyhow, what I find just amazing is the judge's defense of himself:

While I was a judge, my long-time trial partner, best friend, and Judicial Court Commissioner was African-American.

Are you kidding me?  How does this still happen?   


"It's really not that big a deal"

Those are Thompson's words about switching to the 3-4.  Wade Phillips agrees.  

I generally have a lot of faith in Thompson, but I am somewhat taken aback by his nonchalant statement.  

Again, I recognize that I'm more of a Nervous Pervis about the switch than most others.  Still this following passage must make just about everyone a little bit nervous:

Not everyone around the Senior Bowl is buying that the Packers won't have to adapt much both with the players they already have and the players they scout for the draft and free agency.

One person who worked with coach Mike McCarthy laughed when told McCarthy said "most of the pieces are already" in Green Bay to run the 3-4.

A Minnesota Vikings official was happy to hear the Packers were switching schemes.

The one thing that I find comforting about stories like this is that there are three scouts in the league that think Vince Young is a better quarterback than Aaron Rodgers.  The point is that the quality of NFL scouts varies dramatically.  So I'm not going to freak out just because a couple of them think its comical that the Packers are switching to the 3-4.  But it doesn't exactly calm my nerves.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Time to Trade Kampman?

Now, I know that McCarthy says all of the Packer players are just perfect for the new 3-4 system. But, what the hell do you expect McCarthy to say? "Yup, we need to start from scratch. We are looking at a 3 year rebuilding project here."

Of course McCarthy is going to say that all of his current players are perfect for the new system. Is it true? I have no authority (there's that word) to say one way or the other. I can only comment that whether its true or not, McCarthy has to say it. No surprise there.

It's possible that the Packers will move Kampman and he will thrive (like Jason Taylor). However, if the Packers experiment with Kampman and he flops, his trade value will plummet and the Packers will end up with close to nothing---no Kampman as we know him and no draft picks in return. The worst of both worlds.

Rather than trying to experiment with Kampman at a new position, it might make sense to strike while the iron is hot and trade him away. The Vikings gave up a 1st and two 3rds for Jared Allen last year. That stands to be a decent benchmark for Kampman's trade value. I'm not sure Kampman would get that much. He is coming off something of a down year and is three years older than Allen. That said, unlike Allen last year, Kampman is under contract so his new team will not need to make a huge cash outlay to get him. Also, Kampman does not have the character issues that Allen had.

If the Packers can get a first and a third for Kampman, I think they have to do it.

It's going to hurt, but if McCarthy is committed to changing some painful choices are unavoidable.


Switch to 3-4 Is Either Inspired or Desperate

Let it not be said that McCarthy does not have a giant set of grapefruits.

McCarthy is not on the "hot seat" per se, but he is on notice. If the defense regresses McCarthy might be lining up an offensive coordinators job this time next year.

I am not a huge fan of the move. As I alluded to a couple weeks ago, there is no guarantee that the 3-4 will be any more successful than the zone blocking system (another one of McCarthy's new ideas). A new scheme that is run successfully elsewhere may not be as successful here. It all comes back to personnel.

I think in general fans love big, bold, brash moves. I don't. I think that more often than not the big brash move is an act of desperation.

The title of Barry Alaverez's "auto"biography (which is just okay) is "Don't Flinch." I think that is generally good advice. Stay cool. Don't overreact.

That is not the same thing as stasis. By all means adapt. Revise. Fine tune. Evolve.

But, I think that more often than not "Screw it, let's just change everything and start over from square one" is going to be a losing strategy.

I really hope I'm wrong. And I am willing to give McCarthy the benefit of the doubt on this one. He's earned it. He has bet his whole career on this move. That has to count for something.


Does "Blogging" Make You An "Authority"?

Aaron has a tongue-in-cheek post up responding to my posting of a recent letter to the editor.

He concludes with this:

"Clearly, DDD wins the argument. No less an authority than Don Smith says so."

This raises an interesting question, does Aaron consider himself an "authority" simply because he has a blog? I certainly do not consider myself to be any sort of authority. Does Aaron have some other credentials that he is too modest to share with us? I understand that he is a pretty savvy Madden player. Does that make him an "authority"?

As I stated in my original post, I acknowledged that the letter to the editor were just the words of "some other ordinary joe" (like me). It was not intended to be any sort of conclusive evidence of anything. Just a well-stated letter that I agree with. But let's make one thing clear, having a blog does not make anyone smarter or more of an authority than the guy sitting at home who writes a letter to the editor. In fact, having a blog is really just a modern equivilent of writing letters to the editor.

If our opinions are worthy of consideration (and this is a highly debatable point), than I don't see why Mr. Smith's opinion is not.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Capers...

...says a "source familiar with the search process."  

I can live with it. Of the retreads, I like Capers better than Williams and much better than Nolan.

Hopefully, this is not another chain-yanking like the Nolan rumors.

If true, it is pretty funny that Capers went from noncommital to ready to sign hours after the Eagles lost and McDermott presumably became available to interview.

Well At Least I Am Not Totally Alone

Once more into the can of worms....

Last week it seemed that everyone (except me) was gushing over the Silverstein "interview" of Thompson.  There is a lengthy back and forth about it here in the comments section.  So I felt at least a little sense of validation when I read the letters to the editors this morning.  Granted, the letter is just from some other ordinary joe, but it so perfectly encapsulates my feelings towards the Silverstein "interview" in particular and the gratuitous editorializing that at times seems to pervade all of the Journal Sentinel Packer coverage.  I think it's worth sharing.

Whiny tone starts to infect Sports page

Tom Silverstein's Q&A with Packers general manager Ted Thompson last Sunday was negative, critical and whiny.  As interested as I am in Packers news, I didn't bother reading after the third veiled accusation in the form of a "question" regarding Thompson's alleged failures.

I've long ignored your editorial positions for the same general tone.  Now that the Sports page is getting infected, I'm rethinking the value of my subscription.

Don Smith, West Bend

Now, I think it's perfectly okay to be "critical," but the heavy handed (and just plain f---ing repetitive)  "journalism" coming of the JS Packer writers is irritating.    

The horse has been tortured, killed, thrown off a cliff, run over by a train, and then made into sausage that is used to beat a second dead horse.

(And I am sure someone will say that I am beating a dead horse about about the JS beating a dead horse.  Go ahead and say it.  I don't care.  I already beat you to the punch.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

McGinn Slams McCarthy

The one of the best, and harshest critiques of McCarthy to date (sub req).  His central point being that good head coaches seldom fire members of their coaching staff.

This is a point that I made about a week ago.  My assumption was that good head coaches don't fire their assistants because they surround themselves with talented people and there is never a need.  McGinn suggests that even if that was the case,  Holmgren and Reid for example "both believe that if they were going to uproot a coach's family and the hire gave his all, they would take it as a personal challenge to coach the coach and, if his work wasn't up to par, tutor him until it was."

McGinn ultimately concludes that McCarthy's mistake was not so much firing Bob Sanders, so much as hiring him in the first place.  I agree.  However---and I know I sound like an apologist here---I think the motivation behind promoting Sanders was continuity.  Bates was the third DC in three years, and he finally got the Packer defense on the right track.  At some point I think there was a trade off between getting the best man for the job and maintaining the momentum that Bates had built.  I think McCarthy concluded that Sanders was "good enough" and the Packers could avoid starting over from square one. Wrong decision in retrospect, but I think I understand where it came from.

McGinn and I both agree that if there is a "next time," it will be McCarthy's neck on the line.

The More You Know ~~~~~~*

I'm taking the three year old to the monster truck rally this Saturday.  We are both pretty geeked up about it.  

For reasons that I am sure nobody cares about I looked up "monster trucks" on Wikipedia.  Anyhow, I came across an interesting tidbit that has got to be fake (I mean it really must be fake, right?), but that really should be true:

"People in The Republic of Ireland commonly use the term 'Monster Trucks' to express excitment and satisfaction."

I want so badly to believe that this is true.

Blogging From History: SIGN FREEMAN NOW!!!

Blogging is a rather recent phenomenon. So there are a lot of events that bloggers have missed out on. So many missed opportunities to hyperventilate. Let's face it, there is not enough news today. So why not go back and comment on the stupid stuff that I missed out on the first time around?

Ten years ago today...

January 15, 1999.

What is the hold-up in signing Free? He is the premier receiver in the league. He led the league in yardage. He's coming off a Pro Bowl season. What more do you want from him?

Maybe he could light up the league while playing with a broken jaw. Oh yeah, he did that last month. Or maybe he could set a Super Bowl record with an 81-yard reception, while he still had a broken arm!

Wait, he already did that, too?

What more can Wolf possibly want from Freeman.


Freeman is all heart and it is a absolute disgrace that Ron Wolf has been so lackadaisical in getting him signed.

Fire Wolf NOW!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Even Older Style.

Last year Pabst Brewing brought back the original formula Schlitz, now they are doing the same thing to Old Style.

When I was in college, everyone drank Busch Lite, and then Miller dropped the price of High Life and everyone switched to High Life (I still enjoy High Life quite a bit).  But I had one buddy who only drank Old Style.  Foul, foul, stuff.

However, I'm a big fan of the original formula Schlitz, and I am very excited about the new Old Style.  Props to Pabst for bringing back all of these iconic brands.  

Can Classic Blatz be too far behind? 

I hope not.

Is the Journal Sentinel Staff Lacking Veteran Leadership

It is difficult to dispute that since Cliff Christl left, the Packers beat writers at the Journal Sentinel have been in a major slump. From getting scooped like Baskin Robbins by Jay Glazer, to their tendency to play fast and loose with facts, the Journal Sentinel is coming off its own losing season.

Let me ask this: do you think for one second that if Bill Belichick ran a newspaper, he would tolerate his writers poaching ideas without attribution?

No chance in hell.

So what went wrong?

The answer is clear (though perhaps a little too pat and overly simplistic): the Journal Sentinel lost too much veteran experience when Cliff Christl left. Sure they still have Bob McGinn, but I don't think that McGinn is the same type of vocal leader that the staff needs. He is just too nice of a guy and doesn't get nasty with his readers the way Cliff used to do.

Statistically speaking, the Journal Sentinel is much younger with Bedard instead of Christl. Sooner or later the Journal Sentinel is going to have to face the fact that the youth movement has been a complete failure. You can't replace a legend like Christl with some midpriced journeyman from Miami who just spent years breathing the same air as Ricky Williams (if you know what I mean).

So where does the Journal Sentinel go from here?

They clearly have to be much more aggressive in free agency. Are they really so deluded that they think they can build from within?

Does Chris Havel have a job? Now there's a writer that has demonstrated the ability to get nasty when he needs to.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Slocum Elevated to Special Teams Coach

Well that answers that question.  Interestingly, McCarthy conducted "at least" two other outside interviews that we did not find out about until after the fact.  Sneaky dude.

Here's another tid bit from the Journal Sentinel: "McCarthy is considering his options as he awaits a decision by Gregg Williams regarding the Packers' defensive coordinator job."

Is this correct?  Is the ball in Williams's court? Have the Packers extended an offer?  If so, why hasn't JS reported on it?   

This is another pet peeve of mine: don't assume facts that you don't source and report.  I haven't heard anything about the Packers waiting for Williams to make up his mind.  It seems just as likely that McCarthy is biding his time to interview coaches that are still in the playoffs.  

If McCarthy has actually extended an offer that's newsworthy: put it out there.

Jack Bauer Power Hour(s) 3 & 4

I'm a day late on this.  Last night I waited patiently until exactly 7:40 before firing up 24 on the DVR.  This is mathematically the earliest that I could watch the show straight-through without any commercials.  I flipped on the TV.  No 24.  In its place were an episode of Backyardigans and an episode of Gossip Girl.  Not cool.  Fortunately, FOX has the full episodes up now.

Anyhow, on Sunday I asked whether Jack would team up with Tony.  The answer is yes. More on that in a second.

The show opens with an ultimatum from a Fictional African dictator called "The Butcher": stand down on the intervention or thousands of Americans will die.  As Madame President recognizes, this is an impossible choice.  Which familiar territory for 24: what do we do when "the right thing to do" conflicts with our survival instinct.

Anyhow, the gang is back at FBI headquarters.  After a little "interrogation" by Jack, Tony drops a super secret CTU code word, that signals to Jack that he should call some (presumably unlisted) phone number.  At the other end is Bill Buchanan.  Awesome, awesome, awesome reveal.  

As it turns out, Bill and Chloe and Tony have formed an extra-governmental counter terrorism unit.  We later learn that Tony really was a criminal mercenary, but could not stomach the latest evil plan, so he enlisted the assistance of Bill to help bring down the conspiracy.  Oh, and the conspiracy goes all the way up to Madame President's inner-circle. (Also, familiar territory.)

Jack needs to spring Tony, so he chokes out Hot Agent Walker, whispering sweetly into her ear "don't fight it."  Smooth.  Jack Bauer: ladies man.

Then Chloe breaks into the FBI security system to assist Jack in navigating the hallways to free Tony.  Jack gets the in interrogation room and kicks the FBI Ballbreaker Guys ass.

Jack frees Tony then hotwires a car and mentions that "this is going to hurt."  Then then drives the car out of the third story of the parking garage.  Tony and Jack are picked up by Bill.


Tony and Jack set out to get back undercover with the conspiracy.

Meanwhile, Hot Agent Walker is distraught that she trusted Jack.  She sets out to make everything right.

Tony and Jack meet up with the conspiracy in some house in Georgetown.  The nondescript boss tells Jack to go down into the basement.  Then he tells Tony to go down and kill Jack.  

Chloe and Bill are listening to all of this.  Chloe asks "are we really going to let them kill Jack."  Bill says "signs point to yes."

But Jack doesn't die.  He kicks some bad guy ass, and then the nondescript boss invites Jack to join the conspiracy.

The next job for the conspiracy is to kidnap the former prime minister of the Fictional African country and deliver him to The Butcher. The prime minister lives of Foxhall Road, which is a real street, unlike "Old School."

Meanwhile, Hot Agent Walker is at the hospital (which is somewhere down near the Mall of course).  She starts interrogating The Sniper.  He asks for his lawyers.  Hot Agent Walker asks Jeanine Garofolo to run interference with the lawyers so she can do a little more "interrogation."

Jeanine Garafolo is not comfortable with this---she is really really not comfortable with this---but she does it anyway.

Hot Agent Walker then jabs her gun into The Sniper's leg and cuts off the flow of oxygen from his respirator.  She learns of the plot against the prime minister.  

The FBI alerts the prime minister of the plot against him just before the conspiracy arrives.  He darts for his panic room.


My New Years Resolution: Be Nicer to Journalists.

Aaron writes in the comment section at Cheesehead TV:

Its funny DDD - you like to write about how fans have no clue and are deluding themselves when it comes to criticizing play calling and coaches in general (which is partly true and partly absurd) and yet you have no problem continually ripping on Silverstein and Bedard for things they write and how they write them. Well…aren’t you deluding yourself as well telling professional writers how to craft stories for their newspapers? Can’t have it both ways my friend…

As to the first part. I am not opposed to any and all criticism of armchair coaching, but I do think fans should be more restrained in general. I have set out a painstakingly detailed set of guidelines that I use. I'd be very interested to find out what about these guidelines Aaron finds "absurd."

But to the bigger point: is criticising a "news" article the same thing as criticising a playcall? I just don't see it.

I don't hold the position that people shouldn't criticise anything. That's a strawman argument. If you go to a restaurant and order a steak and it comes out burnt to a crisp, you have every right to be critical.

I want a steak to be juicy and delicious. I want a news story to be well-substantiated and neutral. Most of my criticism of Silverstein and Bedard relates to their half-assed dedication to these ideals: from cherry-picking anecdotes, to extrapolating universal truths from a sample-set of four, to inserting wild conjecture into a "news" article.

I don't think you need any special training or experience to point this stuff out.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Has Everyone Forgotten That the Packers Need a Special Teams Coach

I haven't heard anything about McCarthy interviewing replacements for Stock.  No stories about possible replacements.  Nothing.  If McCarthy really is going to wait out his DC selection in order to interview McDermott, couldn't he be interviewing coach for special teams coach right now?  It's like McCarthy, the media, and Packer fans have all forgotten that the Packers need a special teams coach.


Gut Check Time For McCarthy

Nolan is going to Denver. Gregg Williams might be on his way to New Orleans. Does McCarthy have the grapefruits to hold tight and wait up to three weeks in order to interview McDermott?

I rather hope he does, as I have been advocating for a young "rising star" to become the next Packer defensive coordinator. McDermott fits that mold. I was never sold on Nolan, so I'm not too disappointed to see him go to Denver. I also have some reservations about Williams, although I think Williams is a much better option than Nolan.

Of course there is always the issue that the Packers would need permission to speak with McDermott which the Eagles could refuse. It is definitely something to think about; however, I don't know why the Eagles wouldn't accept a draft pick in exchange for McDermott. Denying him the ability to interview will only create animosity of the coaching staff and McDermott's contract is up next year anyhow.

So here is hoping McCarthy goes for broke on this one. Gregg Williams will go to New Orleans this week, and when he does Packer fans will hyperventilate. Count on it.

But some times you have to take a chance. Now is the time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Not Even the Writers Guild Can Stop Jack Bauer Forever.

Jack Bauer is back. And so are the terrorists. This time the terrorists for some odd reason decide to set up shop in DC rather than the traditional epicenter of all terrorist activity (Southern California). As a former decade long resident of DC, it's always fun to watch DC-based shows.

Great opening that was eerily similar to those Volkswagen crash commercials from last year. Some liberal computer engineer is crashed into and kidnapped (we know he is a bleeding heart because he is driving a Volvo station wagon, the luxury car of choice of wealthy DC-liberals). So anyhow, the evil guys ram into the Volvo somewhere on "Old School Street." Awesome.

Volvos really are safe cars after all. It took some serious crashes and the airbags didn't even deploy. They didn't need to deploy.

Cut to the Senate. Senator Red Forman is grilling Jack Bauer. (Another thing, the guy who played Red Forman was in Robocop. That's at least the third major appearance of a Robocop alumus. Cool.) Anyhow, Senator Red Forman asks Jack if he wants an attorney present. Jack says no. Senator Red Forman calls him a "dumbass." Jack is then swiftly escorted away to help the FBI on the Volvo-Guy kidnapping.

Cut to the FBI. My wife remarks "does that woman look like Jeanine Garofolo to you?" I say "yes."

At the FBI, Hot Agent Walker tells Jack that his presumed dead colleague Tony Freaking Almeida is behind the Volvo-Guy's kidnapping and some other stuff. Something about cracking into the one firewall that controls everything in America. By the way, this is plot from Die Hard IV. I can't get the image out of my head of Tony Almeida and his cohorts in the movie theatre chomping on their Sour Patch Kids (TM) and then looking at each other thinking: we should totally do that!

So at the evil headquarters, Tony (who now sports a full 5 O'Clock goatee, instead of the soul patch), threatens Volvo-Guy until Volvo-Guy assembles a circuit board that permits access to The Firewall. The Tony takes control of an air traffic control panel and starts guiding a passenger plane somewhere.

Jack doesn't believe Tony is involved and is certain that it must be some silly Three's Company style misunderstanding. But he reluctantly agrees to help. He somehow figures out that some dude that makes really good fake IDs is involved so he and Hot Agent Walker go to track down the Fake ID Guy. The Fake ID Guy denies that he met Tony Jack almost puts a Bic (TM) pen through his eyeball and The Fake ID Guy remembers where Tony is. But then a sniper takes out Fake ID Guy before he could tell Jack where to find Tony.


At the beginning of hour two, the FBI locks down the building containing The Sniper. Jack thinks there is a mole. Preposterous says Hot Agent Walker, and she tells Jack to go sit in the car. Which he does. But then Jack uses the old, "I need to step out and get fresh air" routine. And it totally worked. Atta boy Jack.

Meanwhile, Madame President has decided to assist a Fictional African Country in stopping genocide. Why? Because the UN are a bunch of pussies.

Jack was right about The Mole. The Mole assists The Sniper to escape. But Jack notices that The Sniper was wearing hiking boots instead of FBI shoes. He alerts Hot Agent Walker and the two of them trail The Sniper but don't tell anyone at the FBI what they are doing.

Anyhow, The Ballbreaker FBI Guy doesn't like it that Hot Agent Walker is out freelancing with Jack and so he has Jeanine Garofolo do some computery stuff to track them down.

Tony nearly crashes two airplane into each other on the runway. He tells the air traffic controllers that next time he will do it for real. Then we meet Tony' s non-descript evil boss. We also find out that the whole Die Hard IV plan has something to do with the coup in the Fictional African County.

Jack and Hot Agent Walker trail The Sniper down to the Anacostia River, where Tony is hiding out in a boat. Jack kicks The Sniper's ass and the fashions a rudimentary silencer out of some rags he found in the gutter and takes out the surveillance system. Some gunfire ensues. Jack sneaks around the boat.

He finds Tony.

Tony runs away.

Jack tells him to stop.

Tony stops.

Then Tony must have thought to himself "why am I stopping?" So Tony starts to run away again.

Jack catches up with him.

They fight.

Jack and Hot Agent Walker subdue Tony. The Ballbreaker FBI Guy shows up in a black helicopter.


Another two hours tomorrow with a promise Major Plot Twist. Is Tony somehow the good guy afterall? Will Jack help Tony? I don't know.

The Belichick Canard Strikes Back

I first mentioned the Belichick Canard last month.  In a nutshell the Belichick Canard is a unsubstantiated  belief that  Bill Belichick agrees with you asserted in support of your argument.  For example, Bedard stated that there was "no chance in hell" that Belichick would ever rely on his kicker to win a game.  When, in fact, Belichick won 2 Super Bowls on last second field goals.  And, in a third Super Bowl, he ran the ball three straight times and punted from the Eagles 35  with a minute remaining (rather than being the Agressive-Imanginary-Belichick-That-So-Obviously-Would-Have-Gone-For-The-TD-To-Put-The-Game-Out-Of-Reach-Duh).

 Silverstein brushed the Belichick Canard off this weekend to support the Veteran Leadership Theory of the 2008 Packer season.

Bill Belichick always seems to have a certain number of veteran players on his roster who are past their prime but still offer a lot of leadership, guys like Rodney Harrison, Troy Brown and Junior Seau.

On the other hand, Bill Belichick's greatest and most bold coaching move of his entire career (and it isn't even close) was jettisoning his 10-year veteran, 3 time Pro Bowl QB with Super Bowl experience in favor of a second-year sixth round draft pick.  And that's the beauty (and worthlessness) of the Belichick Canard: you can use it to support whatever point you want to make.  Silverstein uses it to show how important veteran leadership is.  I use it to show how overrated veteran leadership is.  Which one of us is correct?  Neither.  It's a stupid argument.

Go ahead and look at New England's Super Bowl winning rosters here, here, and here.  You can find examples of older players on the roster, but color me underwhelmed.  Now, in recent years you can find a lot more examples of oldtimers on Belichick's teams, for example the aforementioned Seau and Harrison.  But you know what you won't find on those teams?  A championship.

Personally, I think the 2007 Patriots are the prime example of why its bad to have too many past their prime players at key positions.  Over the first 10 games, the Patriots outscored their opponents by an average of 25 points (!) a game.  Over the last 6 games, the Patriots won by an average of 10 points a game.  Three of those six games were won by a field goal.  The Patriots also needed a couple very lucky bounces to keep their perfect record intact.  In short, the Patriots were very vulnerable towards the end of the season, and their loss to the Giants really wasn't that shocking. 

I personally think that what happened to the Patriots last year was the same thing that happened to Favre this year: they simply wore out.  I highly doubt that Belichick would not have preferred to have some players that were younger and better last year.  That is almost unfathomable to me.  But, we'll never know unless some asks him.

Lombardi is said to have ascribed to Branch Rickey's old adage that it's better to get rid of a player a year too soon than a year too late.  I think there is a lot to be said about that approach.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Three Four Once More

Andy at Packergeeks is building his case why the Packers should switch to the 3-4. So he lists the Packers defensive rakings going back to 1996. He "didn’t go back further in part because this took too long and also because our defenses just sucked before that."

For the record, the Packers had the number 2 defense in the league in 1993 and the number 6 defense in the league in 1994. 1992 was a transitional year (Holmgren's first season). And before that the Packers were running the 3-4.

Here are the those overall rankings by yardarge: 1991 10th, 1990 22nd, 1989 16th, 1988 7th, 1987 14th, 1986 12th, 1985 16th, 1984 16th, 1983 28th, 1982 8th, 1981 9th.

A handfull of respectable seasons in a lot of mediocrity (or worse). Also remember that there were only 28 teams during these years so 14th is exactly middle of the pack.

The point is that the 3-4 is not secret to success. It would be a huge mistake to change system for the sole sake of changing systems. A useful analogy is the zone blocking systems. Denver had a lot of succes with the zone blocking system, but that hasn't translated so well for the Packers. As the weight loss commercials remind us: results are not typical and individual results may vary.

It all comes back to personnel and coaching: it's the singer(s), not the song.

Okay. Winston Moss Is Not a Legitimate DC Candidate

From McGinn:

"I talked to the people at the Rams," the NFL club source said. "Even Winston admitted he wasn't ready to be a head coach. They started asking him questions about defense and he wasn't very good with it. He said, 'I think I'd just hire coordinators. I'd be the motivator.' "


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stop the Greg Jennings Hysteria.

Listened to the Cheesehead TV pod cast tonight. Aaron and Corey did (just a little) fretting about Greg Jennings. The fear is that Jennings will not redo his contract until 2010 when he can get a big payday during the "uncapped year."


I can say with 100% certainty that Greg Jennings will not leave during an uncapped 2010 because if 2010 is uncapped Jennings will not be a free agent. In an uncapped season, a player needs 6 accrued years to become eligible for unrestricted free agency. Pat Kirwan wrote an article about this a few months back. Hey, look who's picture is at the top of the page. Greg Jennings is the poster-boy for players that will get screwed over by the uncapped year.

Jennings has every incentive to work out a deal now, when there is still the threat that the NFL and players will work out a new deal that would make him a free agent.
ADDENDUM: I whole heartedly endorse the Cheesehead TV podcast. It is filled with excellent and well-measured commentary. I just had one nit to pick, and I couldn't resist.

I've Got a "Secret Source With Intimate Knowledge of Yesterday" Who Tells Me That Yesterday Was a Slow News Day

But journalist still don't get the day off so we are treated to pieces like Silverstein's today.  Silverstein writes that the Packers might be interested in Gregg Williams.  Silverstein has a secret "source with intimate knowledge of the search."

The Source dropped this bombshell---wait for it---"McCarthy's plan is to go for the best available candidates and then decide which would be the best fit for him."  And there you have it.  Exhale.

Then Silverstein let's his big brain to the rest of the work.  If McCarthy's plan is to find the "best" candidate, and Gregg Williams is a proven coach, maybe McCarthy will be interested in him?  Care to argue with that?

Silvestein also speculates that Jags will not wind up in Green Bay because there are no coaching vacancies.  While that appears true, I think Jags will end up somewhere. He will not be the OC of Seattle (Mora filled that position yesterday).  If he doesn't land an OC position I think it is still quite possible Jags will return to Green Bay is some position made especially for him.  I note that Alex Gibbs (considered the modern innovator of the NFL's zone blocking system) has spent the last dozen or so years not as an offensive coordinator as an "assistant head coach."  I think its too earlier to rule out a Jags return.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

NY Post Reports that Jags is Fired from BC

What the title says. A "source" told the NY Post "He's done." At this point Jags is considered a long shot for the Jets job, so he may come asking McCarthy for work. However, there is speculation that he may end up in Seattle instead.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Jagodzinski Reportedly Interviews with the Jets

NFP is reporting that Jeff Jagodzinski has interviewed with the Jets.  This of course comes after he was forbidden from doing so by the BC AD (hey that's cool).  Supposedly, he has been told that if interviews for the Jets job, he is fired.

If all of this is true one of two things will happen: (1) he will become the new head coach for the Jets and will be assembling his new staff, or (2) he will be looking for a new job soon.

If it's the first scenario, it will be interesting to see whether he tries to hire some of the Packer assistants (or some of the recently fired coaches).  Given that coaches often hire assistants that they have history with it will be very telling if Jags doesn't try to hire some Packers.  On the other hand, if he does go after some of the Packer assistants, McCarthy will have even more slots to fill this month.  

If it's the second scenario and Jags is looking for a new job, it might be possible that Jags will return to the Packers in some capacity next year.  Perhaps if Campen is let go (like the rumors suggest) Jags will come back as the offensive line coach/assistant head coach for a year?

Just speculation at this point, but if all of these reports are true, I think there's a good possibility that the Jags situation will affect the Packers one way or the other.

Interesting Thoughts From Andrew Brandt on the Mass Firing

Good reading at the National Football Post:

On a personal note, the Packers terminated the contracts of some friends I worked with and next to – my office was adjacent to the defensive staff’s offices – for several years. These were the same coaches who helped steer the team to 14 wins and an overtime away from the Super Bowl last season. These are some good coaches and solid people such as Lionel Washington, who arrived in Green Bay at the same time I did in1999, and helped develop and nurture Pro Bowlers Al Harris, Nick Collins and Charles Woodson. I have already received calls from teams asking for references on Lionel and a couple other of these men.

As I said earlier. I'm skeptical that teams are really tripping over themselves to hire the Packer castoffs. Still, it is always useful to hear the other side of the debate. Brandt seems to imply---without coming right out and saying it---that he believes the players squeezed out the defensive coaching staff.

Some of the Packers players wanted more aggressive schemes and more input in the game plan. Coaches should not let players coach, although the way coaches manage their input – which appens on every team in the league — says a lot. Tactful deference to players’ interests, without caving in to their demands, is integral to team dynamics.


Head Coaches, Assistants, and a Note About Lionel Washington

Here is a good metric for good coaches: are their assistants highly coveted. Talented managers surround themselves with talented employees. That was the case with Holmgren. Every year some of his assistants left for greener pastures: Rhodes, Mariucci, Gruden, Ried, Mornhinweg, Jauron. These guys all went on to bigger and better things (with varying levels of success). Two of these coaches have gone on to lead teams into the Super Bowl. This is just the list off the top of my head, I'm sure there were more that I can't remember.

Make one thing clear: Holmgren is not responsible for the success of these guys. I don't think Holmgren taught these coaches how to be good coaches. Rather, I think Holmgren identified these guys as smart, young, hardworking coaches and put them on his staff.

When Sherman took over, teams seemed to stop inquiring about Packer assistants. The only notable coach that I can think of that left for a better job was Sylvester Croom. (Eventually, Childress gave Bevel a promotion that was an act of nepotism and after Sherman was already fired.) There may have a been a few more, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.

McCarthy started out strong. After his first season, Boston College poached Jeff Jagodzinski (who was fired by Mike Sherman) to become the head coach. At the time, I thought that was an encouraging sign. Since then there has been little interest in Packer assistants, with Winston Moss being the notable exception.

Now, I realize that winning teams have more coveted assistants simply because they are winning teams. Nobody wants to hire a loser. But that is not the whole story. Sherman had plenty of winning records, but no one would touch his assistants with an eleven foot pole. McCarthy's Packers were a surprise 13-3 in 2007. How many of his assistant were busy doing interviews last winter? I can't think of any (again, not to say there were none but I can't think of any).

Now McCarthy has basically wiped the slate clean. I'm hoping he populates his staff with hungry young go-getters this time. He won't get another opportunity. There will never be a second wave of McCarthy firings. Next time it's his neck on the line.

One concluding and only tangential thought. I---like everyone---was surprised to hear that Lionel Washington got the boot yesterday. I had only heard positive things about him. That said I had only heard positive things about him from the mouths of his players like Mike McKenzie. If he was so well-regarded around the league, why is he basically doing the same job that he was doing back under Ray Rhodes. Has he ever even been interviewed for another job? Since Sherman took over the Packers, the NFL has seen 48 head coaches replaced. Are you telling me that Washington is so talented yet none of those new head coaches could find a place for him on their staff? How likely is that?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pointless Tuesday List: Vikings Season-Ending Meltdowns

Vikings season-ending meltdowns are like episodes of McGuyver,  you know all along how it's going to end but it sure is fun watching the elaborate,  unpredictable, and usually memorable way in which it unfolds.  Sometimes you just have to stand back in awe and appreciate the majesty of the Vikings.  Boldly going where no team has gone.  Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  When a game seems unloseable, the Vikings dig down deep and find that little voice that says: "yes we can."  

I love Viking season-ending meltdowns all equally in their own special way (they are like my children).  Thus it is difficult to "rank" them.  So, I will just put them in chronological order.

(5) Dallas @ Minnesota 1975: The Vikings lose to the Cowboys in the playoffs 17-12 on last second 50 yard Hail Mary pass.  

(4) Minnesota @ Washington 1987: The Vikings went on an unpredictable run to win two road playoff games (including a road win againt the Super Bowl favorite Niners)  heading into Washington.  In a tight game the Vikings drove the ball all the way down to the Redskins 6 yard line, with about one minute left and trailing by 7 points. On 4th down, Darrell Green swats away a Wade Wilson pass.  So close.

(3) Atlanta @ Minnesota 1998:  The 15-1 Vikings lose in overtime after Gary Anderson misses a 38 yard FG.  It was beautiful.  They should have sent a poet.

(2) Minnesota @ NY Giants 2000:  The Vikings lose 0-41 to the Giants.  The Vikings were actually 2-point favorites heading into the game.  Which means that the Giants beat the spread by 43 points.  After the game, Randy Moss declares: "I don't want to say Minnesota will never win a Super Bowl, but it is going to be hard."

(1)  Minnesota @ Arizona 2003: Nooooo!

Excellent Point From Packerholic RE: Switching to the 3-4

Packerholic makes an interesting point about switching the 3-4. The conventional wisdom is that it is easier to find good linebackers than good linemen. However, will that hold true if more and more teams switch to the 3-4?

Plus there is the fact that many teams will probably be switching to the 3-4 soon due to all the success lately with the scheme. In a couple of years there might be just as many 3-4 teams and then it will be harder to find players for the 3-4 (since there will be more demand for these type of players) while it will be easier to find players to the 4-3 (since there will be less demand for the players).

Good Ol' Darren Sharper.

I didn't see this until this morning, but it is worth a chuckle (even moreso).

Vikings safety Darren Sharper remembers playing in the Super Bowl, and he believes it can happen again.

Sharper sees plenty of similarities involving his 1997 Green Bay Packers team and the current Vikings, who open the playoffs today against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild-card round.

I realize that this is just rah rah pregame BS. Still, I can snicker can't I?

Potential Sanders Replacements.

Silverstein has a great rundown of the potential replacements.  I'm not a huge fan of Gregg Williams or the 3-4 defense.  Regarding Williams, it just seems to me that there is always drama around that guy.  He was the heir apparent to Gibbs in Washington but then fell out of favor because of his confrontational style among other things (including a defense that finished 30th in the league a few years back).  Then he had his very public contract situation in Jacksonville during this season.  Maybe none of this stuff is his fault, but it sends some red flags.   

I also get the impression that Williams is looking to have one great season and bolt for a head coaching gig.  I don't begrudge anyone for having higher aspirations.  Indeed, unless we are talking about a grizzled old coordinator like Jim Johnson or Monte Kiffin, I'm not even sure that I would want a defensive coordinator that did not aspire to be a head coach.  That said, do we really want another one year mercenary like Jim Bates?  Honestly, the idea of a young up and coming coach like Winston Moss is growing on me.

I also cringe at the suggestion that the Packers should switch to the 3-4.  I understand that everyone is looking for a silver bullet.  I also understand that as a rule, it is easier to find good linebackers than good defensive linemen.  Still, the Packers used to run the 3-4 back in the eighties and it was no silver bullet.  I have a bias in favor of the 4-3 because that is the defense the Packers have run during the successful years.  I will always have negative associations with the 3-4.

Anyhow, its a bad a idea for a more practical reason.  Kampmen and Jenkins are two of the Packers better defenders and wouldn't fit the scheme.   Woodson is playing great now.  Al Harris is good now.  By the time the Packers had the personnel in place to run the 3-4, Woodson and Harris will likely be past their prime and perhaps long gone.  It just seems like the wrong time to engage in another lengthy rebuilding process.  

If you were Thompson and McCarthy and you were starting to feel the heat, how hot to trot would you be to engage in another roster rebuilding phase right now?  I think the 4-3 is safe for the time being.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Barry Sanders is to Wayne Fontes As Adrian Peterson is to Brad Childress?

I think Brad Childress is a terrible coach.  I have thought so since he was at Wisconsin.    I always felt that he coasted on the talent he had at Wisconsin, but that the Badgers offense had the talent to have been much better than they were during his tenure.  Then he went to Philidelphia to become Andy Reid's chief clipbaord holder and mustache trimmer---err "offensive coordinator."  (For the record, he was Reid's offensive coordinator the same way that Sherm Lewis was Mike Holmgren's offensive coordinator.)  

I was very afraid that he was going to become the Packers head coach in 2005.   Fortunately, things seemed to work out.

Anyhow, even though I think he is a terrible coach,  I think he will be in Minnesota for as long as Adrian Peterson plays for the Vikings.  My gut tells me that as long as Peterson plays, the Vikings will always be "pretty good."  Sort of like how the Lions regularly went to the playoffs behind Barry Sanders.  Although it was obvious to the entire world that Wayne Fontes didn't have the stuff, the Lions couldn't really fire him until the team finished with a losing record or failed to make the playoffs.

I can definitely see the same thing happening in Minnesota, with Peterson wasting the best years of his career playing for Childress.  

Please, let it be so.

McGinn: Thompson Is Doing a Good Job But He Is Doing It All Wrong.

Editorial by McGinn in today's Journal Sentinel (sub req'd):

The good news is that the Packers are in the hands of an experienced football man not easily dissuaded from a proven course who is a far cry from perfect but does rank among the 10 best GMs.

The bad news?  He trades down in the draft too much and doesn't sign enough free agents.  As I said here, and Aaron at Cheesehead TV said here, now is not the time for Thompson to waiver.

I respect McGinn even if I don't always agree with him (reasonable people can disagree).  Overall, it's a good and fair peice.  Nevertheless, he falls prey to a couple fallacies here.  McGinn writes:

For one thing, he [Thompson] has to stop trading down all the time. While it is true that more picks translates into better odds of securing good players, it also almost guarantees that the Packers will remain one of, if not the, youngest team in the league.

So the Packers should be more concerned with not having a statistically "young" team than they are with landing good players?  Silly.  This also falsely assumes that drafting 12 players means keeping more players.  Maybe, maybe not.  It all depends on whether the players Thompson drafts are better than the players on the roster.  There is nothing wrong with drafting 11 or 12 players are only keeping 6 or 7 of them.  As the roster becomes more and more settled, I would expect to see this happening more and more.   [Teaser: I've taken a look at Thompson's rebuilding project and am working on a future post on why the Packers are statistically young, and why you should expect that to change soon.]

Thompson also must be more willing to take a chance in free agency or the trade market. It's OK if he stubs his toe a time or two. His record in unrestricted free agency, clearly a crapshoot, is better than the draft.

This one drive me crazy.  I don't think I'm going to far out on a limb to suggest that Thompson record with free agents and trades (Woodson, Pickett, Grant, Chillar but also Marquand Manual,  and Adrian Klemm) is a product of Thompson's deliberate approach.  Put another way, his record is good because he is selective.  His record probably will not be as good if he is not as selective.

Stick to the program, Ted.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Yet Another Slam on Favre

This time from boxing trainer (?)  and "special assistant" to Mangini, Tony Atlas.

Could this have possibly worked out any worse for Favre? 

Former Badger Football Players In the News

Not in a good way.  

Late nineties defensive back Leonard Taylor was arrested a while back for stalking and making threatening phone calls.  It turns out he has some serious mental health issues.  Hopefully, he gets the help he needs.

Michael Bennett is being sued for beating up some dude---with s0me assistance from a team mate---at an IHOP (is it just me or do all of these incidents occur at an IHOP, or a Denny's, or a Wafflehouse?).  He was apparently also flashing his gun during the incident. 

Stock Retires. Sanders, Campen and Hairston On the Way Out?

I'm sure everyone is aware that Mike Stock retired yesterday.  PFT is now quoting "a league source with knowledge of the dynamics of the team’s football operations" who says that Stock, Campen, and Hairston could soon be without jobs.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Manning Ties One of Favre's Records

Three MVPs.

Favre Throws Picks, Rodgers Takes the Sack

That's one interpretation of the year-end statistical review written up by Bob McGinn this morning.  For numbers nerds there are lots and lots of interesting tid bits.  Here are some of them and some possible conclusions:

Favre Throws Picks, Rodgers Takes the Sack

McGinn writes:

Opponents blitzed (rushed five or more) on two of Rodgers' 13 interceptions (15.4%), a major drop-off from last season when 52.9% [8 of 15] of Favre's picks came against blitzes.

On the other hand:

Aaron Rodgers was charged with 9½ sacks, whereas Favre was responsible for just three in 2007, 2½ in '06, three in '05 and 3½ in '04. He did have 10½ in '03 and 10 in '02.

It's impossible to conduct an apples-to-apples comparison because we don't know how many of the sacks came on blitzes.  But we do know that there was likely pressure on the blitzes resulting in INTs and we definitely know that there was pressure on each play resulting in a sack (unless the QB just fell down/fumbled).  Nevertheless, it appears to be the case that when pressured, Rodgers is more likely to take the sack and Favre was more likely to throw an errant pass.  Not really earth shattering.

It's Time For A New Left Tackle.

Chad Clifton has been a solid to good player (occassionally very good) for the Packers for a long time, but it's time to move on.

Clifton, with 25, led the line in "pressures" allowed. A "pressure" is defined as a sack, knockdown or hurry allowed. The 25 also is a career high for Clifton.

Clifton was also tied for the second most penalized player on the offense.  I have no idea if the Packers can move Clifton around on the line.  Maybe try him out at right tackle if Tauscher doesn't return.  I just don' t know.  But I don't think Clifton was good enough this year and I doubt he is going to be better next year.

I know a lot of fans are going to want the Packers to draft defense with that number nine pick, but I think they will be better served in the long run drafting a franchise left tackle. This is just my gut talking.

The Packers Missed Jenkins More than Fans Realize.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that the Packers missed Jenkins mainly because it reduced the depth along the line.  Statistically, however, Jenkins seemed to be on the verge of having one of the best seasons for Packer defensive linemen in recent seasons:

Jenkins had 19 "pressures" (defined as the total of sacks, knockdowns and hurries) before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in the second half of the fourth game. At that rate, he was on pace for 76, which would have broken Kampman's record of 58½ last season. The Journal Sentinel has recorded this statistic since 1998.

The good news is that Jenkins should be back next season and I would expect he should come back strong.  He is recovering from a pec injury and thankfully not a knee injury.  So even without any offseason moves, the Packers will get a boost on their defensive line.  They still need more bodies, but I'm not completely convinced that the defensive line is in as dire shape as fans currently think.

Odds and Ends

  • Bush is terrible.  He can't tackle and he draws more flags in fewer snaps than almost anyone else on the team.
  • "Excluding five clock-stopping spikes, Rodgers threw away 19 passes. Favre, who didn't throw away a single pass in 2007."
  • Poppinga led the team in tackles for a loss.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Book Review: Outliers

I mentioned a while back that intended to put up a book review of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.   (And if you haven't got around to reading Gladwell's piece in the New Yorker about selecting NFL QBs it's worth a read.  I have a post about it here.)

The premise of Outliers is that the extremely successful (Bill Gates and the Beatles are two of his example) were successful primarily because they were "lucky."  In Bill Gates's case he was fortunate to attend one of the only high schools in the world that had access to a mainframe computer.  In the case of the Beatles, they spent years playing music day after day in eight hour shifts in strip clubs in Germany.  Then, when the world needed computer programmers and rock stars, Bill Gates and the Beetles had an advantage over all other candidates because they developed a proficiency that few others (if any) had developed.

Gladwell's stated goal is to debunk the American myth of the "self-made man" made popular in Horatio Algers stories.  Outliers is packed with interesting anecdotes,  but they don't really add up to support his central thesis.  For example, Gladwell quotes Bill Gates:

It was my obsession....I skipped athletics.  I went up there at night.  We were programming on weekends.  It would be a rare week when we wouldn't get twenty of thirty hours in.  There was a period where Paul Allen and I got in trouble for stealing a bunch of passwords and crashing the system.  We got kicked out.  I didn't get to use the computer for the whole summer.  This is when I was fifteen or sixteen and sixteen.  Then I found out Paul found a computer that was free at the University of Washington.  They had these machines in their  medical center and physics departments.  They were on a twenty four hour schedule, but with this big slack period, so that between three and six in the morning they never scheduled anything.  I'd leave at night, after my bedtime. Or I'd take the bus.

This does not sound like mere good fortune to me.  That sounds like a lot of hard work.

Another problem is that the anecdotes are cherry picked.  We never get the complete picture of the about obstacles and roadblocks that his subjects faced.  In Bill Gates's case we find out that he was kicked out of a computer lab so he started to sneak out at night without his parents' permission to log hours at the University of Washington.  A nerd with less perseverance might have moved on to model rocketry or writing Lord of the Rings fan-fiction or something.  But that is really the only obstacle that we find out about in the book.  I suspect that someone could write a book about only the roadblocks, obstacles, and misfortune suffered by the people Galdwell writes about.  

Gladwell also has an entire chapter about the "10,000 Hour Rule."  The 10,000 hour rule states that acquiring expertise in anything requires 10,000 hours of practice.  But, nobody accumulates 10,000 hours of practice by being fortunate.  It takes hard work.

Although he doesn't say it this way, his book shows that to be successful at anything requires a lot of hard work, but to extremely successful (an outlier) takes ton a hard work and good fortune.  But I don't think that conclusion is nearly as controversial or insightful as Gladwell thinks it is.