A Substitute for War

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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Vick

6 Thoughts from Auburn vs Oregon

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1. Great game.  One of the best national championship games we’ve seen in recent years.

2. Disappointed to see a game get decided on a play like Dyer’s big run.  Oregon has no right to complain that it was a bad call, but there’s a clear reality that such a play is not something that can be replicated reliably by the team that benefitted from it.  Meanwhile, from the Oregon players’ perspective, clearly if there was no fear of being called for personal fouls, Dyer gets taken down.  It’s only the bizarre context of football with fears of being incorrectly seen as malicious that allowed Auburn to benefit here, and that’s a shame.

3. I was really glad Oregon got that last touchdown.  Not simply because it made the game more competitive, but because it helped damp down some of the silly narrative implying that Auburn was simply in a different league than Oregon.  The Cowherds of the world are still saying Auburn was clearly the better team, but until the last fluky drive, Oregon had gained more yards, and could’ve been up a couple touchdowns if this had broken slightly different in the red zone.

4. Cam Newton was still valuable for Auburn, but I was disappointed.   Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

January 11, 2011 at 10:13 pm

The 2010 New England Patriots are really, REALLY good

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New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08...

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I know, not exactly a news flash, but I don’t think people are getting the scale of things here.  For example, this Patriots team doesn’t have near the hype behind it that the 2007 Patriots had.  It’s understandable why this is so.  After all, the 2007 Pats were the first team to go 16-0, while the 2010 Pats are merely 14-2.  The 2010 team though is playing much better going into the playoffs than the 2007 team.

Here is a table of the top teams since 1978 (when the league went to 16 games) ranked based on how much they outscored their opponents by in games 12-16 of the regular season (roughly the December games):

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Written by Matt Johnson

January 4, 2011 at 12:31 am

Cassel the Trojan Horse

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Matt Cassel, a player on the Kansas City Chief...

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The story of the year in the NFL is clearly Michael Vick.  Big star has big comeback, hard to top that.  As much as a press magnet Vick is though, Matt Cassel is a magnet for narratives like very few guys in recent history.  And while Vick can argue to have been one of those guys back when his dog fighting habits were exposed, he can’t compare to Cassel in 2010 simply by coming back.  Quite the feat for someone with such small celebrity.

All narratives involving Cassel begin with assumptions made based on the fact that he was a back up through out his entire collegiate career.  With the powerful meme that is “the system quarterback”, any backup who has success as a starter immediately creates a narrative that diminishes both his success, and the quarterbacks who have played on the same teams he has.  Cassel kicks things up another notch by literally having far greater success at the pro level than he ever did at the college level.

This initial narrative shift crossed over in 2008 when Cassel took over for the injured Tom Brady and led the New England Patriots to a solid season.  This was used to knock Brady and his record breaking 2007 season.  What was particularly odd about this line of thinking was that the Patriots actually won 5 games less than they had the previous season, and didn’t put up anywhere near the same passing numbers.  One would think that any quarterback that could claim to have improved his team by 5 games as doing something extraordinary, but that was not the dominant narrative.

Cassel is now putting up a great year in Kansas City complete with one missed game in which the Chiefs fell apart without him.  So now, it really should be clear that he’s no system quarterback.  He’s just damn good.

Meanwhile of course, the guy who beat out Cassel for starting status, and eventual superstardom, at USC (Matt Leinart) isn’t doing anything in the pros.  Kind of begs the question of whether then USC coach Pete Carroll made the right call in favoring Leinart.  Now my opinion, I’m sure Carroll had valid reasons for his choice, and I certainly wouldn’t assert that Matt Cassell at USC would have resulted in even greater success.  Cassel’s superior NFL career is undoubtedly due to some combination of luck, perseverance and attitude – none of which was found lacking in Leinart at the college level.  However, I also have a hard time believing that we’d have seen any major fall off in USC had they been forced to rely upon Cassel’s abilities instead of Leinart’s.

Getting back to Brady, one would think that Cassel’s year would have put the last nail in the coffin of the narrative of Brady as a system quarterback, but it hasn’t.  People are still using Cassel’s success in New England as a reason for why Vick is more valuable this year.  Completely bizarre given that the drop off from success with Brady to success with Cassel is actually quite a bit greater than how much Philly has improved this year now that they have Vick as quarterback.  This goes to illustrate two points:  1) Even a good new narrative “New England discovered another diamond in the rough with Cassel”, won’t totally kill off a disprove narrative immediately and completely, and 2) People really like to think that running quarterbacks are contributing far more than standard pocket quarterbacks.  With the latter point, I don’t disagree in some cases such as Randall Cunningham on the Eagles, and quite a few college QBs like Vince Young and Cam Newton.  However in general, we still see no great trend of running quarterbacks thriving consistently in the pros.

For a bit more on the Cassel/Brady/Vick triangle, check out this solid analysis.

In the end for Brady, what this season is doing, between Cassel’s success and Brady’s own all-time great level performance, is erasing question marks that could have forever dogged him in the comparison with Peyton Manning and other great quarterbacks.  If the Mannings of the world go down in history as superior to Brady it will be because they simply accomplished more, not because of the belief that any college backup could have led the Patriots to titles.

Written by Matt Johnson

December 30, 2010 at 8:29 pm