Last Week's Question: What should replacement
commissioners do when they inherit a broken set of rules?
In my Week
13 column, I described the problem of forum poster TNG, who
got more than he bargained for when he agreed to take over for a
The rules he inherited prohibited certain kinds of behavior, but
did not specify punishments for transgressors. It's all well and
good to say, "Thou shalt not steal," but suppose somebody
ignores you and steals anyway. What do you do then? There needs
to be some fine print under the commandment that explains what the
punishment for stealing is.
If you will pardon an absurd analogy, a replacement commissioner
may sometimes feel like an armed security guard with no training
who is patrolling a park studded with signs that read, "Do
not walk on the grass" and "Do not feed the animals"
and "Do not litter."
A visitor to the park unwraps a granola bar, throw the wrapper on
the ground, and walks across the grass to feed the granola bar to
a squirrel. The security guard yells, "Hey! You're not supposed
to do any of that!" The visitor shrugs and continues to feed
the squirrel. Concerned parents rush to the guard and say, "Do
something! We don't want our children to see that there are no consequences
for breaking the rules!"
The security guard could shoot the rule breaker, but that might
be considered an extreme reaction by all observers not named Benito
The squirrel has already eaten the granola bar, so there is not
much the security guard can do about that. Now he is left to clean
up the visitor's mess (by picking up the discarded wrapper himself)
and to chase after the visitor, which means that he must himself
disregard the signs that say "Do not walk on the grass."
Whatever the security guard is being paid, he decides it isn't enough.
"Screw this," he says to himself--and starts looking for
a job at a park with fences around the grass instead of signs.
Replacement commissioners, many of whom receive no form of compensation
whatsoever, are even more likely than the security guard to throw
up their hands in frustration when owners disregard the rules. So
where do they turn for help when their rules do not specify a punishment
for a rule violation than can be proven to have occurred? According
to Nick, they can productively ask their league closed questions,
but not open ones:
I'm not sure what TNG should do, but the one
thing he should not do is ask the members of his league for their
opinions. If a commissioner sends out an email that says, "Hey
guys, how should I handle this?", he is just opening himself
up to a bunch of pointless bitching and moaning that won't go anywhere.
If you require the owners to vote on a limited set of options, you
can get an answer to a question. If you just ask for their general
advice, you will end up with way more questions than answers.
Cody thinks commissioners who don't know how to solve a problem
should definitely ask for advice, but he is skeptical about most
of the complaints he reads on the FFToday boards and other sources
(including my column):
The problem with all of these "I need advice"
discussions is that they are always written from just one perspective.
How am I supposed to judge what the commissioner has to say if I
can't also hear from the person who (allegedly!) broke the rules.
It's good for leagues that are having problems to ask people for
advice, but they should be required to post at least two perspectives,
not just one. What kind of judge delivers a verdict without hearing
from the plaintiff and the defendant?
And yet that's what happens with these second-guessing conversations
about rule violations in FF leagues all the time. We hear one person's
story about a broken rule and say, "Well here's what I would
do to that other guy . . ." I don't think any of us should
form an opinion about what sort of punishment is fair until we get
both sides of the story.
I have tremendous respect for Cody's position, though I suspect
it may be harder to get both sides of every story than he imagines.
I use my judgment when dealing with queries from commissioners,
and often I refuse to print a question because of blatantly one-sided
phraseology. In some cases, I have asked commissioners to put me
in touch with the FFers they are complaining about, but there are
a lot of folks who belong to FF leagues even though they do not
take FF very seriously. They wouldn't bother to write up their own
side of a dispute even if I promised to print it word-for-word in
advance. In principle, I agree with the importance Cody attaches
to hearing both sides of the story, but in practice . . . well,
good luck with that.
Frank did not have an answer relevant to TNG's situation, but he
wanted to weigh in on "replacement commissioners" as a
If a commissioner leaves a league that has been
around for a long time, maybe the rest of the owners should ask
themselves why. Have they, as a group, become a PITA? Is the league
not fun anymore because no one can agree on how to fix a broken
With websites doing most of the work for leagues these days, people
think commissioners don't really matter. In good leagues, they matter
a lot. A good commissioner is the heart and soul of any league that
has a chance of lasting for decades.
No league worth being in runs itself.
Thanks for the reminder, Frank. I did not mean to offend any reader
with my depiction (in last week's column) of how a replacement commissioner
can get talked into taking on the job just because "the website
does most of the work." It was an attempt (and not a very good
one) at humor, and I offer my apologies to any readers who felt
that I was in any way belittling the valuable work that commissioners
do for the FF community.
This Week's Question: Can we identify the
habits of highly successful fantasy owners?
Some people say that fantasy championships are won or lost on draft
day. Some say they are won or lost on the waiver wire. Some FFers
consider trading a key to their success; others consider it a waste
of time and energy.
With the possible exception of RG3, there is probably no single
"key" to winning in fantasy football. In the end, winning
is about putting up more points than your opponent, so it may have
less to do with the good decisions you make than the bad decisions
of your competitor.
But fantasy football is definitely about the decisions we make every
week. Who do we start? Who do we sit? Who do we cut? Who do we acquire?
How deep is our bench? How do we respond when that star quarterback
has to miss a month of action thanks to a concussion?
Do you have a theory as to why you ended up wherever you ended up
in your league's standings?
Why didn't you make the playoffs? Do you think you weren't active
enough on the waiver wire? Did you carry too many receivers all
season because you never gave up on Greg Jennings?
Alternatively, why did you make the playoffs? Was it because of
your brilliant picks in rounds 8 through 10? Or did you sucker other
owners out of their best players by trading away the likes of Kevin
Ogletree and Brian Hartline when they were overvalued?
Whatever you imagine the key to your success was, can you please
take a few minutes to look over the rest of your league and see
if that key to success applied to other successful owners in general?
And whatever you think your biggest mistake was, can you find any
evidence that other owners who committed the same mistake ended
up facing the same consequences?
I have formulated a list of ten questions below, and I
will be grateful to readers who work through all ten questions
in an effort to determine whether there is anything typical about
the top-seeded teams in FF leagues. Please don't approach the list
with your mind made up about anything in advance. Don't use your
league to prove that waivers matter more than the draft (or vice
versa) just because you have an axe to grind. Try to have an open,
curious mind. And have fun answering the questions if you can.
1) Number of teams in your league
2) Number of players per roster
3) Is the top-seeded team especially deep at one position? If so,
4) Is the top-seeded team especially shallow at one position? If
so, which position?
5) Number of waiver wire transactions for the top-seeded team during
the regular season. Is this number higher, lower, or about the same
as the number of waiver transactions for other playoff teams? How
does it compare to non-playoff teams?
6) Number of trades for the top-seeded team during the regular season.
Is this number higher, lower, or about the same as the number of
trades for other playoff teams? How does it compare to non-playoff
7) Examine the Week 1 roster of the top-seeded team in your league.
How many of that team's top five draft picks (in draft leagues)
or most expensive players (in auction leagues) turned out to be
8) Examine the Week 1 roster of the top-seeded team in your league.
How many of the team's bottom five draft picks (in draft leagues)
or least expensive players (in auction leagues) turned out to be
9) If you have an opinion about the key to the success of the top-seeded
team in your league, share it here.
10) If there are specific questions that you think should have been
included in this list but were omitted, what were they?
Feel free to modify the questions as necessary to make them relevant
to your league.
Last Man Standing - Week 14
(Courtesy of Matthew
Editor's note: Our
LMS expert went 4-0 last week, which is not unusual. It is worth
pointing out, however, that his top pick (the Bills) won decisively
and that his trap game analysis called for Andrew Luck to lead the
Colts to victory over the Lions on a late scoring drive. At this
point in the season, Mr. Schiff has extremely limited options left
in each category, so he will only be going further out on a limb
Trap Game: Jacksonville over N.Y. Jets (7-6,
Wash, CLE, TB, Den, ATL, SF, NYG, NO, MIA, DET, IND):
The Jags and Jets are both out of the playoff picture, but the teams
are playing with very different attitudes about the meaningless
games left on their schedules. Chad Henne has re-energized a Jaguar
offense that has all but lost its star (MJD) for the rest of the
season. Montell Owens will get his second start at running back
and improve on his 7 rushes for 29 yards this week against the Jets'
29th ranked rushing defense (which yields almost 140 yards per game
on the ground). As I mentioned last week, this offense also has
a pair of good receivers in Shorts and Blackmon who can stretch
the field and help loosen up the run. Jacksonville fans have good
reason to be excited about their emerging offensive stars, but the
defense continues to be a major problem (ranked 28th or worse in
Total Yards, Passing Yards, Rushing Yards and Total Points allowed).
But as bad as the Jacksonville defense is, no Jets quarterback (not
even Joe Namath) can carry a team that has lost the will to compete.
In this one, you have to love the home underdog that is starting
to click with next year’s stars.
#3: Seattle over Arizona (12-1: PHI, TB,
CHI, AZ, HOU, BAL, GB, SF, SD, NE, WASH, DEN, DAL):
Russell Wilson pulled off a come-from-behind win that had many sports
talk show analysts wondering, “What is wrong with the Bears
defense?” The first year quarterback out of Wisconsin has
a 95.2 QB rating and a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Not
since Dan Marino in 1983 has a rookie had so high a ratio. In an
offense that up until recently was “restricted” even
according to Coach Carroll, it should be interesting to see what
this rookie QB can do against a Cardinal defense that is ranked
7th overall and against which he posted 153 yards, one TD and one
interception in his first NFL game. The Seahawks control their own
destiny and only play one team (the 49ers) with a winning record
over the remainder of the season. Don’t be surprised if Marino’s
record is broken by one of the lesser known rookies of the 2012
#2: Cleveland over Kansas City (10-3: CHI,
WASH, NO, HOU, SF, PIT, MIN, NE, ATL, BAL, DEN, IND, GB):
Wait a minute . . . Cleveland? Isn’t there a better game than
this? If you’ve already used Tampa this season, then no. All
the other good prospects this week were used up early on. That’s
the bad news. The good news is that you’ve made it this far
in your Survival Pool, and now you get the thrill of relying on
the rookie duo of Trent Richardson and Brendan Weeden to keep you
going. Richardson hasn’t seemed to hit that “rookie
wall” and needs only 173 yards to go over the 1000-yard mark
as a rookie. Weeden, while not hyped like the other rookie starters,
has quietly put up solid numbers with 2800 yards and 13 TDs. More
importantly, he now has a chance to help Cleveland win three in
a row for the first time since Derek Andersen did in 2009 against
the Steelers, Chiefs, and Raiders. The only negative is that Weeden
has thrown 15 INTs, but against a Kansas City Defense that has only
7 on the season, there should be nothing to worry about in spite
of the inspired play of a Chiefs team that lost Javon Belcher last
#1: Tampa Bay over Philadelphia (12-1: HOU,
SF, IND, BAL, NYG, ATL, NE, CHI, GB, PIT, DAL, CIN, BUF):
The Bucs are 6-6 and coming home to face a reeling Eagles squad.
Andy Reid is making the best of a bad situation by showcasing the
talent of his squad for next year’s head coach, and some of
those players are pretty good. Bryce Brown has rushed for over 150
yards in each of his last two starts (in relief of LeSean McCoy,
MIA with a concussion) . The fact that Philadelphia's season is
all but lost might lead us to think that this game is a pushover
. However, Reid knows how to get a team prepared for each game and
might even be getting more respect from the backups who are getting
their chance to shine. The Bucs have an outside shot of still making
the playoffs and should be focused enough to win this one at home,
but they will be lucky to win by more than three against this 3-9
team. It’s all about the matchups the rest of the way.
For responses to this month's fantasy question please email