Monday, August 16, 2010

Kick-off Returns: Think Big.

Here is a list of the top kick off returners (by average return) for the Packers since 1997:

Year Player Average Weight
2009 Jordy Nelson 25.4 217
2008 Will Blackmon 21 202
2007 Koren Robinson 23.8 205
2006 Robert Ferguson 22 219
2005 ReShard Lee 21.3 220
2004 Robert Ferguson 25 219
2003 Najeh Davenport 31.6 247
2002 Javon Walker 22 215
2001 Dorsey Levens 25.9 230
2000 Allen Rossum 25.8 178
1999 Basil Mitchell 22.1 207
1998 Roell Preston 26.3 187
1997 Roell Preston 30.1 187

Of the bunch, Roell Preston is easily the best return man. Nevertheless, Najeh Davenport posted the best seasonal average (in full disclosure, on fewer attempts). Dorsey Levens wasn't too shabby either.

Neither of these guys (Davenport or Levens) are your stereotypical kick-off returner. They are big dudes (Davenport was 6'1", 247lbs). But they were big dudes that were surprisingly fast for their size (Davenport ran a 4.57 40). This doesn't prove anything other than there is more than one way to skin a cat. A battering ram with a head of steam can be an effective kick off return man. He may not be a touchdown threat, but if he can consistently get the ball near and beyond the 30 yard line, I'd be happy.

Having return man like Roell Preston is a great luxury. If you don't have one, you may need to improvise. In recent years, the Packers have fallen in the trap of trying out every back-up wideout and defensive back for the kick-off returner gig with so-so results. I understand the thinking of seeking out players with "quickness" but, that is also a liability when these same players do things like come to a complete stop, or run backwards, and generally dance rather na move the ball forward. There is something to be said about a no-nonsense return man who has no pretenses that he is the next Deion Sanders, but rather dodges oncoming tacklers as best he can but runs forward at all times and uses his significant momentum to plunge forward several yards after first contact.

Here are a couple of guys I'd like to see get a chance to return kick-offs. What the hell, its preseason. Why not?
  • Brad Jones: 6'3", 242lbs, 4.54/40.
  • Andrew Quarless,6'4", 252lbs, 4.57/40.
  • Alex Joseph: 6'2", 240lbs, 4.64/40.
  • Spencer Havner, 6'3", 250lbs, 4.64/40.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Athletic Has Three Syllables.

  • Passing offense aside, pretty dismal start: terrible special teams, weak defense, non-existent running game.
  • I don't understand the decision to move Pickett out to end. I understand wanting to get Raji on the field, but let Raji earnhis way unto the field. Why play key players out of position? Last year it was Kampman, but that was excusable as it was out of necessity. Rather then worrying about getting the best combination of players on the field, the Packers should focus on getting the best man at each individual position and the rest of the stuff will work itself out. The Packers have floundered for years trying to find the "best combination" along the offensive line and the results have varied from underwhelming to disaster. Rather than getting the "best five men on the field," maybe they should get the best "one player" at "every position." On the other side of the line, there is no question in my mind that Pickett is the best NT the Packers have. If Raji can play his way into one of the end positions, he should back up Pickett. (Pickett will definitely need a few "breathers.")
  • Sam Shields cut himself tonight.
  • The running back situation is troubling. I'm actually higher than most on Ryan Grant but after him its a whole lot of practice squad quality. I don't know what the deal is with Jackson, but McCarthy does not seem to like to call his number.
  • Flynn looks a lot more like Ty Detmer than Mark Brunell or Matt Hasslebeck. If he were really one of the best back-ups in the league he should have been picking apart the 3rd and 4th string Browns. He should have been able to put on a clinic. There were a couple times when he had all day to throw he had to settle for a 6 yard pass to his check down. I still think Flynn is a capable back-up, but I'm beginning to think that maybe what you see is really what you get with him. He doesn't seem to have improved that much between years 1 and 3.
  • Rodgers is awesome. He's Mr. Third Down.
  • The Packers have got to find a way to get Hawk off the field. The standard line has been that he is a "solid player" but not worthy of a top 5 pick. I'm not so sure the first part is true anymore.
  • Special teams was terrible. Just terrible.
  • Goofy antics on the side line tonight. Matthews doing his Jersey Shore fist-pump, Driver with the cup on his head, and Rodgers busting out the "air bass."
  • I still love Kuhn because he is still awesome.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Christl Thinks the Packers Should Retire #5

Cliff Christl argues that the Packers should retire #5 in honor of Paul Hornung (sub req'd).

I completely disagree. As a preliminary matter, if any running back should have his number retired, it should be Jim Taylor.

The fact is the Packers have too rich a history to retire every great player. If the Packers retired the numbers of all their great players, the Packers would run out of numbers.

The Packers have 20 players in the Hall of Fame, but only the five have their numbers retired. A player should not have his number retired unless his name is in the conversation of all time NFL greats at their position. Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Reggie White: these guys make the cut. (Tony Canadeao is something of a special case, because he played in the earlier years of the NFL.)

Favre is a tweener who I would keep out for his poor play in in big games, but will probably see his number retired eventually.

Paul Hornung does not make the cut.


Blitzing is Not the Answer

Nagler says that the Packers need to blitz more:

"The coach abandoned the run!"

"The play calling was too conservative!"

"The defense needs to blitz more!"

This is the type of crap you can hear every Sunday during football season coming from the mouths of slobbering drunks with Buffalo wing sauce on their shirts. And its usually wrong.

Now, that said, sometimes---sometimes---the slobbering drunk is right. Even a blind monkey will find a banana every now and then. The point being: if you are reciting one of those hoary cliches (which are usually wrong), you should support your argument with some compelling evidence.

What is Nagler's evidence? Al Harris got torched by Ochocinco or something:

Its popular to say, for instance, that the team was “forced” to play Jarrett Bush because of the domino effect of having Harris out. But there he is in Week Two getting torched by Chad Johnson for a big play. How could that be? I thought the company line was that he was only playing because Harris got hurt?

Really? As if Al Harris getting torched by a premier receiver is a rare event like Haley's Freaking Comet or something?

Its well-established that elite quarterbacks are going are going to punish you when you blitz.

Nagler makes an excellent point that Clay Mathews should rush the quarterback more and drop in pass coverage less. Capers should be playing to the strength of his team. That part is obvious. But I am unconvinced that "blitzing more" is the answer.

As an aside, Nagler cherry picks a clip where the Packers rush only three. As a point of fact, the Packers rushed only three men only around 9% of defensive snaps last season (per Football Outsiders).

ADDENDUM: Carriveau writes "I think it was primarily a personnel issue last year, a team that was forced to play backups that just weren’t up to par." Totally agree, but I'm not sure I would confine the problem solely to the back-ups.

SECOND ADDENDUM: It turns out I misread Naglers' point, his point was that Bush was torched by Johnson in week two. Is his point that in order to put the best personnel on the field Capers should have had an additional rusher as opposed to a liability in coverage? Maybe I could buy that. But the fact remains that Capers didn't really have the luxury of keeping coverage liabilities on the bench for most of the season.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"The Bears Were Not a Weaker Team Than the Packers a Year Ago."

Says some dude named Jeff Hughes at Chicago Now Dot Com.

Apparently the news is "just in" that the "Chicago Bears are Good."

Is it that time of year again?

Yes it is.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Packers a Global Role-Model for Small-Market Teams

Here's an interesting story from New Zealand. The CEO of small-market rugby team the Southland Stags is vacationing in Green Bay:

Meanwhile, Clark spent yesterday looking at the infrastructure of NFL team the Green Bay Packers, ahead of a holiday in the United States

"It's a dream come true. I'd planned a holiday around doing the Green Bay thing because it's so close to Southland and the Highlanders, but mainly Southland."

The Packers have been one of the most successful teams in professional sport despite drawing on relatively small commercial and population bases.

While in the United States Clark, who is also chief executive of Warbirds over Wanaka, will visit the Oskkosh Airshow, thought to be the biggest of its kind in the world.

Something, something, segue... New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.


Harry Galbreath Passes Away

Sad (and somewhat strange) news: Harry Galbreath passed away at the age of 45.

Galbreath signed with the Packers shortly after before Reggie White. Both of the Packers first two big free agents have passed away a very young ages. Like, Reggie, Galbreath attended the University of Tennessee.


Monday, July 26, 2010

A Possible Explanation for the Jolly Suspension

Mark Chmura claims that he has heard that Jolly failed 20 drug tests. We can forgive Chmura for his rumor-mongering because he has never faced legal troubles of his own that could have learned from.

There actually is a possible explanation. Under NFL substance abuse policy a missed test is the same as a failed test. One possibility---this is speculation---is that Jolly was worried about failing an NFL mandated drug test and (perhaps even on the advice of counsel) repeatedly skipped an NFL test. Each skipped test counts as a failed drug test. If the NFL reschedules the tests close together, it would not be that hard for Jolly to rack up numerous failed tests.

Jolly may have skipped these tests because the prosecution in his criminal case would have tried to subpoena the records and used the results against him. Given that Jolly was ordered not to use drugs or alcohol while out on bail, the NFL test could have been evidence of contempt of court.

Like I said, this is just speculation, but it would explain how Jolly went straight to indefinite suspension under the NFL's substance abuse policy, and would be consistent with Chmura's rumors.

I Know a Few Current Packers Who Could Use Piano Lessons.

Here is a piece of Packer-lore that I had never heard before. Vince Lombardi recommended piano lessons to his players. From the obit on Ms. Sadie Berman Jerry, a Green Bay musician and teacher:

She taught piano and organ for over 70 years and it was not uncommon for her to have taught several generations of students within one family. More than a piano teacher, Sadie helped her students with life lessons. As a result, it was not unusual for former students to visit her when returning to Green Bay or to come up to her in the store decades later to thank her. Special students of hers were Herb Adderly and Lionel Aldrich of the 1960's Packers. They were encouraged to take piano lessons by Coach Lombardi in order to improve their dexterity with the football. An early supporter of the Green Bay Packers, in the 1950's, she was a founding member of the Women's Quarterback Club, along with her sister, Arleen, and best friend, Lois Kerin.


Dirty Dining at Lambeau Field

Gross revelations:

"Two locations were cited after an employee "did not wash hands after blowing nose or eating food prior to handling customer food or ice."

This is a teachable moment: drink more beer.

Al Harris Raps for the Lord

In 2008, the two finally got serious about putting together an album, but this time with the religious twist. Both have teenage sons, and each says his hope is to use the music to steer their children and their peers away from falling into the street hustle.

"If all they listen to is, 'I am smoking weed,' or, 'I am going to shoot up this guy, or I am going to go do this,' then a lot of the times you tend to veer off that way," said Harris. "I want to be able to put on a CD my son and I can be into, with a positive message, but one that still has a hardcore, street feel."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Metaphor Fail: McGinn Edition

"In truth, general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy could hardly have hoped for any more from Aaron Rodgers after they mortgaged their futures by trading Brett Favre."

How does this make sense? When you give the bank a mortgage on your house, the bank gives you money today. If you fail to pay the bank, the mortgage gives the bank the right to take your home.

To "mortgage the future" means to get some benefit today in exchange for a gloomier future outlook. The Vikings "mortgaged their future" by trading away 3 first-round picks and 3 second-round draft picks for Herschel Walker. Mike Sherman "mortgaged the future" of the Packers in the early 2000s by trading away draft picks and entering back-loaded contracts that everyone knew would put the Packers in future salary cap hell. Teams "mortgage the future" when they think think they need a "final piece" to a championship team.

This is definitely not what Thompson did with Favre. It was actually the exact opposite. When Thompson let Favre go he risked a gloomier present in exchange for the possibility of a rosier future. While Thompson certainly gambled his future with the Packers, he hardly "mortgaged his future."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Crosby Show

Here's a story that I apparently missed during my hibernation: McCarthy is not going to bring in competition to Mason Crosby.

I just don't understand this (non)move. The only explanation that I can come up with is that McCarthy is trying to rebuild Crosby's confidence. But if Crosby can't handle the pressure of another kicker in camp, how is he possibly going to handle the pressure of kicking a 52-yard field goal with time expiring?

I'd love to be proven wrong here, but I would predict at least one loss due to field goal kicking. And if I am right, this is completely inexcusable. In the NFL, one game is the difference between hosting a playoff game and traveling on wildcard weekend.

The Adrian Peterson Question

One of the most intriguing questions (to me) regarding the upcoming season is whether Adrian Peterson will bounce back from his disappointing 2009 season. While Peterson did have 1300+ yards last season, that doesn't tell the whole story (and besides Ryan Grant had 1200+, but no one would confuse him with a franchise back). Peterson averaged 5.15 per carry during the first six games of the season, but only a mediocre 3.94 over the last 10 games. During the last 10 games of the season, Peterson posted only one 100 yard performance.

As I posted last season, the Vikings worked Peterson hard in 2008, giving him 363 carries in the regular season. This is significant because Peterson flirted with hitting 370 carries. Football Outsiders has developed the "Curse of 370" which states that running backs who rush the ball 370 in the regular season will suffer a major drop in effectiveness the following season.

So the question is: can Peterson bounce back? The answer to this question will have a profound impact on the NFC North standings this season. Apparently, the answer is that you should not bet on Peterson returning to form:

Well, if we look at the past, this trend isn't just a one-year deal. It's sort of like "the Beast" in that episode of Seinfeld.

It tends to linger.

Of the 22 running backs to post one or more seasons with 370 or more carries, 93 percent of them failed to ever rush for the same number of yards again. In fact, Dickerson, Smith and Tomlinson are the lone backs to post more rushing yards in a single season after a 370 campaign. Here's another little tidbit to wrap your mind around.

Two years removed from a 370 season, no running back has ever equaled the same number of rushing yards.


Not even the all-time greats could post better yardage totals two seasons removed from the dreaded 370. Not Dickerson, not Smith, not Tomlinson. Not even Walter Payton, Marcus Allen or Earl Campbell could do it. And you can't blame age on their respective statistical declines, either.

Outside of John Riggins (1983), Payton (1984) and Martin (2004), none of the 370 runners was older than 28. In fact, most of them were 26 or younger.

Moreover, you have to wonder how much punishment Peterson is going to take this season without Chester Taylor to share the load.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Football Outsiders, Third-Down, & Aaron Rodgers

I have been laying low for a few months but it is definitely time to ramp up again. I missed some great stuff like the NFL draft, the Bucks playoff run, and the Lost series finale. Suffice it to say that all these events were awesome except for one half of the Lost finale (purgatory? really?).

Anyhow, I'm sitting here plucking through the Football Outsiders 2010 Almanac. While it is still essential pre-season reading, I have quite a few more nit and quibbles this year. ("Predicting" how many injuries each team will have this year?!). But I don't want to start off on a negative note.

FO predicts that the Packers will be the team to beat in the NFC North---and here's the kicker---despite the fact that the Packers "are in the middle of . . . rebuilding." As counter-intuitive as that sounds, I think FO is correct.

Interestingly, last year FO predicted that the Packer offense was due for a slide, because the Packer offense

was flukily-effective on third down last year. We've found that teams that play much better on third down than they do on first or second down in a given season almost always see their third down play decline in the subsequent season. The Packers were 11th in the league in first down offensive DVOA last year, and 22nd on second down, but had the second-best offense in the league on third down. That's extremely unlikely to recur.

At the time, I was skeptical that the Law of Third Down would hold true for the Packers in 2009:

I have done my own---profoundly unscientific---study and I'm not sure that that FO's reasoning will hold true for the Packers this season. The thing that strikes me when looking at the Packers 2008 3rd down opportunities is the number of big plays on third and short. McCarthy is a very aggressive third down playcaller (in part because he is more willing to go for it on fourth down). While the conventional team will plunge forward for 1, 2, 3 or 4 yards to pick up third and short, McCarthy (again completely unscientific here) at least seems to be far more willing to attack through the air. . . .I suspect that this approach might skew the third down DVOA, which measures each play's outcome versus the typical outcome. When the typical outcome on third and short is a 2 or 3 yard gain, and the Packers connect on a 30 yard pass, I suspect it is going to skew the third down DVOA quite a bit. Just a hunch.

As it turned out, the Packers were even better on third down in 2009 than they were in 2008, finishing the season as the top-ranked third down offense as measured by FO. And even more interesting, FO has abandoned the Law of Third Down as it applies to offensive production.

However, FO still thinks that Rodgers, individually, cannot sustain his third-down production boldly stating that Rodgers third-down production is "dramatic outlier" that is "unsustainable in any way." Now, I will concede that Rodgers was insanely good on third-down last season (especially on third and long), and if I had to lay money, I would of course predict that he will slip at least a little, but I doubt it will be nearly as much as FO would anticipate. Aggressive third down play calling will continue to skew the third down averages, both for Rodgers and the offense as a whole.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The unbearable silliness of Favre fans

TWo week ago, Some-Guy-Who-Writes-About-"Sports" at wrote:

Rodgers played a great game against Arizona and ran up incredible statistics. He led his team. He made tough passes and spread the ball around. But he missed on the big one.

And just for the sake of getting under everybody's skin, I will maintain that Brett Favre doesn't miss that pass.

Well, well, well. After Favre's predicatable choke job, Some-Guy-Who-Writes-About-"Sports" is certainly going to man up and admit he was wrong, right? Of course not, because part of what makes Favre such an amazing hero is that he always chokes in key situations or something:

However, if you have an ounce of sense or compassion, you love him in spite of that throw. Or maybe even because of it. Heroes don't need to be perfect. In fact, we love them even more when they aren't.

Here's something we can all agree upon: if Favre continues to play another five seasons for the Vikings and continues to choke like that, all is forgiven.

(But he still should not have his number retired.)

Brad Childress Shakes The Devil Off

Fist bump to the Daily Drink.

Pouring One Out For the Daily Drink

The big blogging news from yesterday is that is shutting it down. While some blogs, like Railbird Central will thankfully live on, the Daily Drink is hanging them up.

This really stinks. For the record, Daily Drink readers are not saying "boo-urns." Anyhow, there remains but one acceptable tribute when good blogs are found bloated on the bathroom floor. Good bye, Daily Drink:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What a letdown.

Last May I wrote:

The combined choking power of the Vikings and Favre has the potential to be the Hall & Oates of choking, the Cagney & Lacey of season ending disasters, and the Tango & Cash of missed opportunities

Well, the Favrikings choked. I know this much is true.

But, I was expecting something epic, like Favre intercepting his own pass and returning it the wrong way for a safety. I guess I have to settle for the Vikings lining up for their final play to set up field goal, but instead get called for 12 men in the huddle, which forces the Vikings to pass, which forces Favre to force the pass, which is intercepted. It's still good stuff. In the neighborhood of Chris Webber's extra timeout call. But, I guess I was expecting something more.

Favre is still finding ways to disappoint me.