Last Week's Question: What Offseason Factors
Best Indicate a Team's Stability, Improvement, or Decline from Year
In last week's column, I suggested
that there is a lot of guesswork when it comes to assessing how
well or poorly various NFL franchises navigate the offseason. For
example, back in 2005, I was one of many analysts who gave the Dolphins
high marks for hiring Nick Saban as the head coach. When the Dolphins
missed the playoffs in his first year, I had to back off my enthusiasm
for Saban. And when he abruptly departed for Alabama in 2007, I
saw that what had initially struck me as a windfall for Miami was
really nothing but a protracted disruption.
Any time a team gets a new head coach, writers and observers are
happy to grade the team on its choice. Jerry Jones got high marks
from plenty of Dallas fans for hiring Bill Parcells (who never won
a playoff game with the Cowboys, much less a Super Bowl). Wayne
Weaver got high marks from most Jaguar fans for firing Tom Coughlin
(who went on to win a Super Bowl with the Giants while his replacement
in Jacksonville, Jack Del Rio, has only made the playoffs twice
in eight years without so much as sniffing a championship). No one
goes back to grade the analysts on the grades that they assign to
franchises, and the result is that we are allowed to keep making
the same mistakes in our offseason assessments year after year.
I asked for readers to make specific predictions about the offseason
moves of particular teams and to explain their reasons, but clearly
not all readers understood my request. It was marginally funny (but
not enlightening) to learn that the Cowboys will continue to suck
because Romo is still a homo. And I think one reader was trying
to be funny by saying that the Eagles will not win a game this season
because Michael Vick is evil. Maybe it wasn't supposed to be funny,
but creepy. Whatever that assertion was supposed to be, it was not
the sort of response I was looking for.
In light of what passes for "reasoning" with some readers,
I am particularly grateful to Ken for taking the time to develop
his thoughts in response to last week's question:
When thinking about offseason changes, I'm certainly
not any better than anyone else. However, pretty much everyone else
sucks as well. I think conventional wisdom, which is always a big
part of FF offseason chatter, is more jacked up around this issue
than most other aspects of the game. I think this might be because
information is so limited and controlled - and it's also pretty
unclear to the teams themselves, I think. Anyway, here are my answers
to the questions you pose, and you'll sense a couple of themes here:
Team 1 - Colts - (made payoffs last year, but won't this year).
I have to say I'm taking the easy call here, but I'm contrasting
it to team 3. The Colts will miss the playoffs because of the injury
to Manning, but that's a little like saying I'm going to miss a
mortgage payment because my 13-year-old car broke down. At some
point, the car is going to break down, and the question is going
to be whether or not you have prepared adequately for that eventuality.
This year, the Colts will pay the price for not having looked ahead.
Manning has made some pretty average receivers elite; the idea that
you have possibly the smartest QB to ever play the game and you
do not have him mentor a younger QB with elite potential [suggests
an astonishing] lack of foresight. Who knew a professional football
player might miss games at some point during 13 seasons? As a bonus
pick, my reach here is the Eagles. They might have a great defense,
but they did not address the O-line sufficiently--and as a result
might suffer some serious and surprising consequences.
Team 2 - Redskins - (missed playoffs last year, but will make the
cut this year). Why? They got rid of distractions, but most importantly
they continued to build on their core strength, the run game (which
happens to be a traditional strength of the team). Their O-Line
stayed together and was ready as soon as camp began. They traded
for a runner who could excel in the system, and they made sure they
are stocked at backups in case of injury. Compare the stable this
year to last year, and the contrast with the Colts is overwhelming.
The other issue is that by focusing on the run game, they can cover
a multitude of sins. Have a suspect defense? Slow down the game
and limit scoring opportunities for the opponent. Have a question
at QB? Have him hand off the ball 60-65% of the time. The 4th quarter
against the Skins could suck for a number of teams. (BTW, I am a
Cowboys fan, so it really hurts to say all of this.)
P.S. The Chargers are the obvious answer here, and a correct one,
I think. They kept their core strengths intact and added pieces
to the defense that are no big deal if they don't pan out, but could
be dramatic upgrades. But that would be too easy of a call.
Team 3 - Patriots - (continuity). Ok, here I am taking the easy
call. The Patriots (who I dislike with a passion usually reserved
for lawyers and virii) are an unbelievably well-run organization.
Not only do they have the star, a la Indianapolis, but they are
able to trust that star power to keep egos in line (allowing them
to bring in reclamation projects such as Haynesworth and Ocho) as
well as mentor very capable backups. Everyone knows Cassell, but
when I watched Mallett this preseason, I was shocked. He might be
the best of this year's crop when all is said in done, in part because
he is getting to learn from one of the best in the game. So yeah,
they are dirty and they cheat, and I root against them. But they
know how to keep an organization on top year after year. They are
insulated against the inevitable injury because the franchise player
helps to develop his own capable backup. They could suffer 5 injuries
at the skill positions and still make the playoffs.
Thanks Ken for the coherent, reasoned feedback. I look forward to
reviewing your predictions at the end of the season. My gut tells
me that you may be overemphasizing the offensive line in your assessment
of the Eagles (as Vick's mobility can certainly compensate for breakdowns
and missed blocks), but time will tell.
Week's Question: What is the best glossary of fantasy football terminology
available for public consumption on the internet?
This week's question is inspired by David, who wrote in to ask about
the etymology of "handcuffing" in fantasy football:
My brother isn't into fantasy sports, but I
was telling him the story of how I totally conquered our draft last
night . . . including the detail of getting both MJD and his handcuff
Deji Karim. He asked, "What does handcuff mean?" I told
him it was the guy who backs up a player on the NFL team, so if
the main guy goes down to injury or incarceration, you [already
have his replacement on your roster]. And he asked, "Ok, but
why do they call that handcuffing? It sounds more like an insurance
policy." After two hours of googling, I couldn't really convince
him that the term makes a lick of sense.
What do you think? What's the connection between shackles that a
criminal wears and a reserve player?
I fear I can't be much help on this question. I have written about
handcuffs in FF in various columns over the years, but I confess
I have not given the term itself much thought. I don't remember
making an effort to learn the word, so its meaning must have been
contextually clear to me the first time I encountered it. Still
it does seem an odd lexical choice now that David brings it to my
A query to FFToday's Mike Krueger about who first popularized the
use of the term yielded this response: "I would say it's grown
in popularity and become commonplace as an ff term over the last
4-5 years, but [I am unsure of its] origin."
I will be happy to include specific responses to David's question
in next week's column, but I thought a broader question about fantasy
football terminology might be interesting to readers of this column.
When I googled "fantasy football terminology," I was surprised
at the number of glossaries there were to choose from. The second
link in my search took me to a printer-friendly
list of terms compiled by Ron Knight. Knight's list is easy
to read, organized alphabetically, and useful--but he has no entry
for "handcuff." Martin
Signore's list of fantasy football terms (on the "For Dummies"
website: defines a handcuff, but is far less thorough than Knight's
(omitting key terms such as RBBC and dynasty leagues). I suspect
that somewhere out there lurks a commissioner who has put together
a fantasy football glossary as a labor of love. Perhaps his website
doesn't get enough traffic to get a high score on the standard web
search. If you know of such a glossary, please
bring it to my attention (with a link and a brief explanation
of what makes it useful).
(Courtesy of Matthew
Week #1 was exactly what everyone had hoped that it would be:
exciting. The big upset of the week was the Bills' win in Kansas
City, which looked bad from the beginning with the Chiefs fumbling
the opening kickoff. The Chargers started off the same way that
last season ended; a kickoff return given up for a touchdown put
them down 7-0 immediately--and to add INJURY to insult (that is
not a typo), they lost Kaeding for the season with a torn ACL
trying to tackle the return man.
I don't believe that there truly is one this week. I say this
because if you are going to be like 90-95 of your LMS competitors,
the smart bet is on the Steelers. It's for that reason alone that
your "spidey" sense should be up. The fans will just
"will" the Steelers to a win if they are behind at the
end of this game. It would be very unusual to see them come out
of the gate 0-2 in a division in which they are already one game
behind the Ravens.
#3 GB over Carolina (0-1 KC):
Green Bay will be an easy pick most of the season, but there is
not a great reason to use them this week after their extended
rest coming off the Thursday night win over New Orleans. Cam Newton
introduced the Carolina faithful to an upbeat, emotional game
in which he broke the debut passing record of Peyton Manning by
throwing for 422 yards. This game should be a treat for Carolina
fans who didn't have much to cheer for last year. Maybe the Panthers
will be lucky enough to do what the Saints couldn't do on Thursday
and pull off a come-from-behind win in the last minute. But it's
more realistic that Mr. Newton will be schooled by a Green Bay
defense that had almost 3 sacks per game in 2010.
#2: Detroit over KC (1-0 AZ):
Matthew Stafford racked up 305 yards against Tampa Bay in Week
1. He has to be looking forward to the chance to play a Kansas
City team that yielded 4 passing TDs to the Buffalo Bills' Ryan
Fitzpatrick. The Chiefs played horribly at home in their opener,
and it is difficult to see why their performance will improve
without Eric Berry in the secondary when they travel to Detroit.
Wish Matt Cassell and Jamal Charles luck; they will need it.
#1 Pittsburgh over Seattle (1-0 SD):
Pete Carroll's Seahawks are in a tough spot. They know they played
poorly against a division rival in Week 1--and now must face a
Steelers team that has something to prove. The Steelers received
a drubbing at the hands of the Ravens in a game that Steeler fans
will do their best to forget until the rematch in Week 9. Pittsburgh
has ground to make up--and should start the recovery process against
a Seahawk team that fared poorly against a 49er offense that isn't
nearly as good as that of Pittsburgh. The Seahawks only gave up
209 yards to Frisco, but Ben Roethlisberger is a lot better than
Alex Smith. The Steelers should win this one running away (on
offense and defense). If they don't, it would be an even better
bet that 90% of Survivor/LMS Pools will be cleaned out.
For responses to this month's fantasy question please email