Monthly Archives: January 2013

If You’ve Ever Hated Your Employer…

First off, before we start dissecting statements and allegations, every NFL fan who was braced for incessant discussion about some variation of the Harbaaaugghhhhowl, needs to offer a large amount of thanks to Tim Brown for his astonishing accusation that Raiders coach Bill Callahan purposely tanked the 2002 (played in ’03) Super Bowl like it was some catty small town high school game of revenge.

If not for Brown’s statement, we’d probably have which brother wore which superhero underpants to pass this week without an NFL game.

Tim Brown (an ex-Notre Damer, who wasn’t ready to have a soon-to-be alumnus hog that Irish spotlight) has managed to keep the NFL newscycle in high gear, in what’s typically the only slow week of news around the league from training camp until the last whistle of the Super Bowl.

So again, thank you Tim. I hope you get your mustard colored sports coat.

Brown didn’t really say what I think he said, did he? His coach just hit the deck by a southpaw jab to the chin in round one in the biggest annual sporting event this side of the planet!? Just to spite the Raiders (which usually means Al Davis), and to help his friend, and opposing coach in the game, Jon Gruden?

What!?

OK, I’m not a conspiracy THEORIST, however, I do enjoy nonchalantly twisting my neck, and out of the corner of my eye, peaking up the in sky for the black helicopters. I like to investigate, I like to disprove. In other words, let me at least check this out to the means I have available. Which is in this case we head to the box scores and the stats, and review some quotes!

Brown says Callahan wanted to pound a smaller Buccaneers defense with a heavy run game led by a massive offensive line. Then at the end of the week Callahan flipped the script and said, nope, we’re gonna throw it 60 times.

Throwing it that much wasn’t out of character for the 2002 Raiders. Watching the mostly inept Raiders these days, it’s hard to imagine any Raiders team being explosive. But that unit, engineered by Rich Gannon was quite a marvel. They were second in the league in scoring (points for you if you know who led the NFL, think about your fantasy team, think a religous Sherlock), they led the league in offense and threw for twenty more yards per game than St. Louis, which was still an effective twilight for The Greatest Show on Turf.

Now that we’ve established that Raiders could definitely air it out, was it the wise strategem for the Super Bowl? One stat tells me no f^&king way. And no again. And one more no f$%king way after that. Even though the Raiders were just 18th in the league in rushing that season – so that wasn’t necessarily a strength for them – chucking the ball all over the field in the Super Bowl against the league’s number one ranked defense was extremely unwise. But perhaps the Raiders wanted to enter battle with their sharpest sword.

You recall some of the names from that Buccaneers defense, right? Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and John Lynch. That defense was nearly inpenetrable through the air, allowing barely over a field and a half – 155 yards per game. That’s thirty yards less than the Panthers who were second against the pass that season.

Could the Raiders have stayed on the ground and had success? Tampa’s defensive unit was 5th against the run, allowing 97 yards per game.

If I were to pick my poison – and I know NFL coaches and players can be moronically stubborn – I think I would’ve sat down in the electric with Raider backs Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley, and hoped their bludgeoning of the Bucs defense would’ve forced the power to go out. Stay of execution. Possibly a Super Bowl victory.

OK, but now we’re getting to what I really wanted to pick through psychologically.

There’s a theory out there that the always domineering and constantly invasive Al Davis is the one who modified the game plan, not Callahan. Because of his oppressive reputation, I think that’s awfully plausible. Davis wants another Super Bowl and he wants it won HIS way.

Let’s delve into the mind of how Callahan would handle that.

If you’re Callahan and you despise your employer – we’ve all been in that position before, so think along with me – and I’m on the doorstep of having the words SUPER BOWL WINNING COACH before my name for the rest of eternity, I’m completely disregarding Davis’ orders. Maybe Callahan called on his best Daniel Kaffee ‘did you ever think the old man was just WRONG!?’ Perhaps he thought, yes. This way, I (Callahan) get to raise my middle finger to him (and what disgruntled employee doesn’t want to do that) AND I get to utilize the strategy that I think gives us the best chance to win the Super Bowl. If we win, then he can publically reprimand, then fire me for insubordination, but meanwhile, I get my choice of jobs because I suppressed my stubbornness and went with an uncharacteristic game plan to win the Super Bowl.

Go ahead. Fire me.

On the other hand, and we’re still thinking like disgruntled employees here, Davis tells Callahan, you’re gonna throw and you’re gonna a lot. End of story.

Callahan meekly says OK, and thinks to himself, this thing is gonna go down in flames Sunday evening. Which it did.

So now, Callahan is justified and has his revenge. But it’s a private feeling of delight knowing Davis’ planned aerial assault failed. And it failed miserably. New Coke all over again.

Privately Callahan is ecstatic, but even now, with Davis gone, I’d be stunned if Callahan came out and pinned the failed strategical adjustment on Davis. Davis as a pioneer in the game, even with his personality flaws, was revered after his passing. Callahan can’t come out now and smear that image. Can he? Would he? Even if it were true?

When it comes down to it, if I disliked my employer THAT much and had gasoline and a match, prepared to burn a bridge, I’m going with my coaching acumen, experience and instinct – maybe we win – and if he wants to fire me, go ahead.

Maybe I (Bill Callahan) am a Super Bowl head coach. There’s not many of those.

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Defensive Ends Are Pink Elephants.

Often time I question conventional wisdom. I was that kid that brought “why” or “why not” to his adult vocabulary. I’ll be even more diligent with that practice now that I’ve started a new book called Mastermind by Maria Konnikova. It’s all about the thought process of super sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Konnikova writes “Holmes’s trick is to treat every thought, every experience and every perception the way he would a pink elephant.”

As in, “Huh? Wait. There’s no such thing. Don’t be ridiculous.”

In a similar vein, from The Dark Knight Rises, from his hospital bed Commissioner Gordon promotes Officer Blake to the rank of Detective, with the advice to question everything and be cognizant that there’s such thing as coincidence. The only coincidence is that yet again fans AKA the mob, should spend Sundays where they are now – the stadium seats. I’ll concede that certain key decison makers in the Lions organization should be there as well.

Even though we’re more than three months of free agency, potential trades and exhaustive combine and scouting drills away from the draft, seemingly everywhere you look, hear or read, Lions fans want the team to take a pass rusher with their first round pick. It’s not helping that you’ll struggle to find a mock draft that doesn’t have the Lions taking a pass rusher with the 5th overall pick.

I get it, conventional wisdom says Cliff Avril won’t get the franchise tag again (thus, giving him 120% of the previous figure, as a two-time franchise tagee), and he surely won’t allow the Lions to offer a hometown discount, so Avril is as good as gone. Lawrence Jackson is a free agent, Willie Young, whose last known whereabouts were sometime in August, is a restricted free agent and Kyle Vanden Bosch, well, he’s 35 and if you’re that age and neither productive nor the spiritual leader of a cohesive (productive) unit, then you’re probably going to be looking for work, or how to apply yourself in post-football life as months come off the calender.

It looks like the Lions will have not one but TWO openings for starting defensive ends for their 2013.

That means you’re going to spend the next three months reading up on, then talking yourself (and telling me I’m wrong) into Jarvis Jones, Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore, or Barkevious Mingo. At this moment they are the elite passer rushers – either as DE’s or DE/OLB combos – of the draft. Don’t look them up, before April you’ll know them like brothers.

Fox Sports mock for you, CBS Sports, a little bloggy, but I enjoy reading Walter Football’s mocks as well.

This whole issue is my pink elephant. The Lions pass rushing need, specifically at 5, shouldn’t exist.

Outside of Calvin Johnson, if there’s something to be confident in about the Lions going into 2013, it’s that their defensive tackle combo of Suh and Fairley, just may be the best duo in the league. I’d written before the only thing we, as casual TV observers, can evaluate and make judgments off of when it comes to line play is sacks and penalties. That goes for both offensive and defensive lines. We are line ignoramuses.

I’ll let my favorite football scouting site do the work; fresh with their own analytical analysis, Profootballfocus

On Suh from the Falcons game:

After registering another three hits in last night’s game Ndamukong Suh took his season total to 19. That is the most hits for any defensive tackle in the five years we have been grading NFL games. Suh has also set a career best this season with 55 pressures (8 Sk, 19 Ht, 28 Hu) and counting.

From PFF’s Pro Bowl selections:

The more conventional 4-3 DT spots are taken by a pair of young players with Gerald McCoy finally on the field and able to show the extraordinary blend of speed and power that had the Buccaneers so excited back in 2010. He has excelled with unnerving consistency against both run and pass irrespective of the players lining up across from him. He is joined by another young player putting a turbulent start to his career behind him. Ndamukong Suh may draw the headlines but Fairley has been magnificent this season putting a slow start behind him with a scintillating run of form from Week 6 onwards. If he could stop jumping offsides he would be up with McCoy challenging for a starting spot rather than seeing off the attentions of Henry Melton whose fine performances in primetime games this season have ensured that he is well known as a defensive tackle to fear in the coming seasons.

I understand that it’s difficult to offer the Lions an umpteenth leap of faith and believe that this fine interior defensive line play will continue and pray-to-God even improve, but perhaps in a naive fashion, I’ll say Suh and Fairley will play all 16 games of 2013 as disruptively as they did the final half of this past season.

I’m all for the sound and fundamental football strategy of building from the lines out, but if you’re with me on Fairley and Suh for ’13, you’re loading up your bazooka to kill the pesky fly if you believe the Lions should add ANOTHER first round player to that line.

But Eric, Avril’s had 29 sacks the last three years!

So? He was the 92nd player taken in the 2008 draft. #BREAKING – there are only 32 picks per round.

Cliff was a third round pick.

I’m not saying the Lions should completely ignore defensive end/pass rusher in April. But when the Lions have so many desperate needs on the roster, don’t waste the 5th overall pick on a unit that already offers two Pro Bowl/All Pro type of players. It requires little hardcore football knowledge, just common sense, to comprehend that if Fairley and Suh are replicating what they did in the final half of ’12, then it should be a great deal easier for whomever is on either side of them to be a disruptive pass rushing presence.

So as the unofficially, unappointed GM of the Lions what would I do at five? Before we go through the nonsense of guys getting hyped up, or hyped down, at this very moment, without the certainty of being able to trade down, unless he has some inescapable and overt weaknesses as judged by the combine and scouts, just take Dee Milliner (he SHOULD be there at 5, I think) and call it a first round.

What about the fact that the Lions probably need receivers as badly as they do defensive ends? Heading into his third fullly healthy season, it’s time for Stafford to start making his pass catchers look better than they are. Just as Aaron Rodgers did as his receivers were in and out of the lineup all year due to injuries; James Jones led the NFL in touchdown catches. Just as Andrew Luck turned Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton into an 861 yard, 7 TD weapon. Lastly, Eric Decker was a thousand yard, 13 TD receiver snagging balls from the guy with suspect neck.

Sorry Matthew, time to make chicken salad out of of chicken shit if you’re asked. And you will be asked because you’re likely getting a monster deal so the team can get some salary cap relief.

The Lions have so many free agents, such a cap quandry, and in January there are just so many variables that need to be mulled over.

However, at this very moment, with that premium second round pick the Lions have at 36 overall, or maybe I’m trying to move up, I want the best safety in the draft. Here’s Walter Football’s list of best safeties available with their projected selection. Eric Reid? Matt Elam? Someone, anyone who can put fear in receivers with big hits, yet still have ball skills to deflect and pick off passes and if it’s not too much to ask, can you come to the line of scrimmage and plug a hole every now and then. Thanks!

The secondary conundrum, at least as far as the draft is concerned, is finally a closed cased. Elementary!

Now, about those holes on the offensive line, the lack of playmakers at linebacker, a dynamic Cobb/Harvin type out of the backfield, or in the slot, at least one, but maybe two new kicking specialists…see, the Lions ‘To Do’ list is lengthy.

This was just a simple post to state my opinion that it’s mostly unnecessary for the Lions to draft a pass rusher with their 5th overall pick in April.