Random Thoughts

Was unexpectedly without internet at the end of last week, hence no posts.  I’ve got some catching up to do, so here are a bunch of things I wanted to get out, in no particular order.

Riley Cooper

– If the Eagles were going to cut him, they would have done it already, right?

There are two possibilities here: Riley is racist OR Riley was drunk and said something really stupid.  It could also be a combination of both.  Regardless, my reaction to each is:

– For the “SUSPEND HIM!” crowd out there: If Riley is actually racist, being suspended from football isn’t going to make a difference.  I’m certainly no expert, but it seems to me that racism is not the type of thing you just give up cold turkey.  It’s not like Riley was going to find out he was suspended and suddenly DECIDE to change his prejudice.  Similarly, it’s not as if other players in the league who may share similar feelings would see the suspension and suddenly “see the light”.  The suspension pushers seem more like the standard knee-jerk over-reactors we see with every story like this.

– If Riley is actually racist, wouldn’t his teammates already know that? (No claim to originality here, just saying I agree with it.)  In the football team atmosphere, I think it’d be tough to completely hide any strong prejudice for that long.  If his teammates already know it, then this doesn’t seem like an issue as far as its potential to change team dynamics (If anyone already hates him, not going to hate him any more).

– If Riley was drunk and said something stupid (more likely the case, at least greater than 50% of the cause), his punishment seems appropriate.  He has to leave the team, potentially costing him the starting WR spot.  I have no idea how legitimate “treatment” is, but it seems much more likely to address his problem than a larger fine or suspension would.

– By the time the season starts, this event will have faded.  Teammates will come out and say how much they support Riley and he may even retake the second starting WR spot.

– Finally, I actually don’t think this would have played out differently if Maclin had not been injured.  The cynical way of looking at things is to assume Riley is more important now and therefore can’t be cut.  To those making that point, I’d rebut it with a simple counterpoint: he’s Riley Cooper…  It’s not like this is an All-Pro receiver.  If Kelly wanted to make an example of someone, he could hardly have chosen a better player.  Cooper is a big enough name (not just camp-fodder) to make an impression, but likely isn’t good enough to strongly affect the team by his absence.

Training Camp Hype

We’re getting deeper into training camp, and some storylines are emerging.  The QB situation is still unsettled, and will likely remain that way.  However, we do seem to have identified this year’s “training camp stars”.  Eagles fans should know the concept well.  This is not to say that Brandon Boykin and Damaris Johnson won’t translate strong training camps into successful regular seasons, it’s just a reminder that more often than not, previous regular season performance is a better indication of skill than a training camp breakout.

I was high on Damaris before camp started, so I’m very encouraged to hear that he looks good.  Also, Boykin would be an incredibly valuable “surprise”, given the position he plays.  and the Eagles current CB corps uncertainty.  Just try to keep things in perspective though.  Temper your excitement until we see them in the regular season.

On a more hopeful note, I like that we aren’t hearing raves about any of this year’s later-round draft picks.  I was half expecting to get a stream of “Earl Wolff is running with the 1s” type of stories.  Those developments seemed to occur frequently under Andy Reid, and only served to wrongfully inflate fans’ hopes.  I’m keeping an eye out for them, though.  For now, just know that ff we see one, it’s more likely a BAD sign than good.

Special Teams Focus

Readers here will already know this, but the Eagles were AWFUL on special teams last year, which really hurt both the offense and defense.  Chip Kelly is reportedly focusing more on ST than most coaches do, which means he reviewed last season and came to the same conclusions we did.  Normally STs garner less attention because they have a lesser impact on the game.  However, when you are as bad on ST as the Eagles were last year, small improvements can make a BIG difference.

I feel like that’s going to be a theme for this year.  Can the Eagles go from TERRIBLE to just plain bad in areas like STs, turnovers, and the defensive backfield?  If the answer is yes, then this is a playoff contending team.

Hall Of Fame

Quick point about the HOF discussion (left over from McNabb comments).  If I were starting the HOF from scratch, McNabb would NOT be in it.  Then again, neither would Jim Kelly, Troy Aikman, or a host of other players widely considered “greats”.  However, I am not starting the HOF from scratch and the bar has already been set.  The reason I compare McNabb to the “worst” players in the HOF is because that’s the bar he has to clear.  Comparing him to Tom Brady (which I saw Colin Cowherd do last week, supposedly dispelling the supporting cast argument) is ridiculous.  That’s not the standard he has to meet, so it’s irrelevant.

Also, to those of you making the “only X players from each era can be HOFers”: I hear you and have some sympathy for the argument, BUT let me address it with an analogy/anecdote everyone here should be familiar with; grading curves.

When I was in college, one of my finance class grades was based 100% on a semester-long simulation where teams of students ran virtual companies in direct competition with each other. The entire class was put on a grading curve, meaning a certain percentage would fail, regardless of their absolute performance.

As you can imagine, this didn’t sit right with me.  During class, I asked the TA to imagine a scenario where every person but one in the class made the “right” decision 100% of the time.  The remaining person made the “right” decision 99% of the time.  As a result of the grading structure, the student with a 99% success rate would fail the class.  Ridiculous, right?

The same idea holds for our HOF discussion.  Forget McNabb for a moment, let’s just talk in generalities.  Suppose that the 10 greatest QBs of All-Time just happened to play during the same 12 year stretch.  Inevitably, some of those QBs would be less successful than others, despite the fact that they are all among the greatest ever.  It’s likely, in fact, that several of those “great” QBs would never win a SB, since there are just 12 years in which to do it.

In this scenario, using the “X # or % of players per era” argument, we’d clearly have several all-time greats left out of the HOF, purely as a result of the fact that they played in an era with OTHER all-time greats.  In essence, that argument is applying a grading curve to each “era”.  Forget that defining an “era” is really difficult to do (McNabb really spanned at least 2).  Applying a curve, we leave ourselves open to the possibility of rewarding/penalizing players based heavily on the time period they were lucky/unlucky enough to play in, rather than on their individual skill and ability.

There’s no right answer here, but I tend to lean very heavily towards the skill/ability side of the equation.  Naturally, each player must be viewed in context with the league in which he played, but I don’t see any issue at all with having 5-6 QBs from the same “era” all making it into the HOF.  To me, that just means is was a “golden age” for QB play, and it should be recognized and celebrated rather than suppressed.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Random Thoughts

  1. Brent, do you have stats on league average starting field position from KOs vs Punts? Basically, if Chip were to put more emphasis in ST coverage units (not ST returns), which would be more beneficial? I’m sure most teams start somewhere between their own 20-25 yard line after KORs, but maybe more like 25-35 on PRs?

    Also, better to go all out on blocking punts or fair catch? I know there is a “radical” DIII coach who doesn’t even use a PR, but rather only attempts to block the kick to attempt to get the best field position. Chip seems to be on the other side by saying a fair catch every time is better than letting the ball roll [15 yards]. Is this proof as to which is “better”?

    • I have to check on that stats part. The block vs. return issue is an interesting one. There should be some yard line at which it makes sense to abandon the returner (especially since returners don’t typically field punts that land inside the 5-10 yard line anyway).

      As far as “proof” goes, I don’t think we’re there yet, otherwise we’d see a number of teams pursuing whatever was the “correct” strategy. Ill see if I can find any data that could help shed light on it though. Thanks for the idea.

      On Mon, Aug 5, 2013 at 2:03 PM, Eagles Rewind

  2. Not to belabor an already belabored point, since I truly respect your point of view on McNabb, but I do want to clarify my prior stance regarding comparing McNabb to the lowest level of Hall of Fame competition (statistically speaking). The argument is not that McNabb doesn’t compare statistically. As you pointed out in great depth he more than compares to the minimum level of statistics generated by other QBs inducted into the hall. There is no debating you on that. McNabb belongs in the discussion.

    If inclusion in the Hall were based solely on stats, one would be hard pressed to exclude McNabb. However, it is my supposition that inclusion in the hall depends on more than stats and their subsequent analysis. This position is held by a number of Hall voters. Ray Didinger among them who wrote a number of interesting perspective pieces on McNabb’s Hall worthiness. Ray Didi comes to the same conclusion as me. That for all of McNabb’s stat prowess he still falls short of a higher Hall standard that is difficult to define mathematically. He also talks about the particular offenses that Kelly and Aikman played in, particularly Aikman who consistently was asked to hand off to Emmitt Smith while in the redzone, driving down some of his stats. He falls back on a quote from John Madden, regarding induction into the Hall, in which Madden states that one should not look at stats at all when determining whether a player belongs in the Hall of Fame, but rather should ask yourself one simple question…over the course of a players career did you consistently feel like you were watching greatness. While hardly quantifiable, I would state emphatically that aside from a few select years at the beginning of his career, the answer is undoubtedly no. 2005 – poor play followed by season ending injury, 2006 – poor play followed by season ending injury, 2007 – no better than mediocre play, 2008 – poor play leading to a benching, followed by 6 great games, 2009 – mediocre play, 2010 and 2011 – simply disasterous play that landed him in early retirement with no team in a QB strapped league willing to give him a job. Simply too many years of far less than greatness to be considered a Hall of Famer.

    • Understood, and certainly a valid take on things. As you can imagine, I’m generally not a fan of when people say things like “you just know it” or something along those lines. The issue is that if that’s the case, then inevitably there are a lot of external biases that come into play.

      The consistent greatness part is perhaps the biggest knock on McNabb. I guess my response to that is everyone should calibrate “greatness” towards the situation. In general, I give McNabb a lot more credit for playing with an inferior cast than most. In my mind, putting up the stats he did with receivers like Thrash and Pinkston WAS greatness, though not as obvious. That’s also impossible to quantify though.

      Overall, that’s the real shame of McNabb’s career. He’s an ultimate “what if?” guy. We saw a flash of what he could do in 2004. Put more simply, if you put Smith/Irvin or Thomas/Reed on McNabb’s team for as long as they were with Aikman and Kelly, I think McNabb moonwalks into the HOF.

      On Mon, Aug 5, 2013 at 10:54 PM, Eagles Rewind

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