Monday, July 16, 2018

RIchie Scheinblum, My Favorite Ballplayer

Richie Scheinblum was my favorite ballplayer as a kid, even though he batted only .218 for the Indians with one home run. 

    My favorite baseball player as a kid?  That's easy.  He was Richie Scheinblum of my hometown Cleveland Indians.   Why?  Well, it's a little bit hard to explain, but Richie came along in the late 1960s when I was old enough to think about baseball a little.  Richie represented inspiration, ambition and hope, and later I identified with his struggles against adversity.   I also liked his name, which sort of rolls off your tongue, almost as good as Rocky Colavito. I didn't realize it was a Jewish name at the time, not that it mattered to me, but later I came to appreciate that he was one of a relatively small number of Jewish ballplayers in the Major Leagues.   
      The Cleveland Indians of 1968 were brilliant defensively and had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, with Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Seibert and Steve Hargan. The ERA for the staff was 2.66, which was absolutely amazing.   They just couldn't hit.  Tony Horton and Duke Sims were the only real power hitters, with 25 home runs between the two of them. The entire rest of the team hit only 36 for the year, and unbelievably low number.  Star rightfielder Rocky Colavito had been sent away the previous year, and well, the stage was set for someone new to step in.
     Here comes Richie Scheinblum, who played right field like Colavito.  He has bashed the baseball all over the place in the minor leagues, and most importantly, he was a switch hitter.   That was huge.  I knew that Mickey Mantle was a switch hitter, and that he had been taught by his Dad, "Mutt" Mantle.  Mutt had the idea that switch hitting would be the wave of the future.  The reason is that a right handed pitcher can throw a curve ball at your head, and have it curve for a strike.  Now how can you hit something like that?  Well, Mutt Mantle's solution was to learn to bat left-handed to take away the advantage of the curve ball.  His boy Mickey seemed to do okay, slugging the third most home runs in history up to that time, despite a difficult injury history. 
     In 1968, it wasn't crazy to think that everyone would become switch hitters, and in fact the Yankees took it seriously.  They had a ton of them in addition to Mantle.  Roy White, Tom Tresh, Horace Clark and Gene Michael could all switch hit.  Then a bit south of Cleveland in Cincinnati, Pete Rose was a switch hitter in addition to being the most hustling ballplayer around.  Pete only led the majors in batting average, what the heck. Perhaps 1968 was the high water mark for switch hitting.
   Could Richie Scheinblum be the answer to the Yankees dominance in switch hitting?   Why not? 
       But Richie got off to a horrible start with the Indians in 1969, going 0 for 34 to start the year.  He was terrible.  But if anything this only cemented my bond with him, because I was equally terrible.  I was in a slump of my own that year, and in fact went hitless the entire year.  In fact my slump would continue the rest of my adolescence, and it was not until my junior year in High School that I learned how to hit.  22 years later I would resume my hardball career playing in Japan, this time with moderate success, but that is another story.   But back to Richie.  I  suffered with him,  as he never did turn it around for the Indians, hitting only .186 with a single home run.  But I never gave up on him.  Never ever. 

      It crushed me when the Indians sent him down to the Minor Leagues.  Back then, they had a rule that once you had been back and forth a few times between the Minors and Majors, you had to stay in the Minors for an entire season.  At age 27, that is usually the kiss of death.   
      But Richie starred again in the Minor Leagues and was ultimately traded to the Washington Senators.  Richie destroyed Triple-A, batting over .400 most of the year before ending up at .388.  Alas, he still could not succeed at the Major League level, once again hitting under .200 after a late season call-up.  Not even having Ted Williams as a manager could help him  
       But then something weird happened.  He was traded to Kansas City and installed as the every day right fielder, and lo and behold he started to hit.  A lot.  In fact he was leading the league in hitting in June before getting injured, but still wound up at .300 for the year.  Then just to prove it was no fluke, he hit .307 the next year. After that he slumped and bounced around for a few years and eventually went to Japan where he had two excellent seasons as a power hitting rightfielder for the Hiroshima Carp.   An Achilles injury cut short his further adventures, but he was in the Bigs long enough to show that he belonged. 
    So Richie Scheinblum made it in the Major Leagues, though he did not revolutionize Cleveland baseball like I had expected. Maybe that is kind of symbolic in its own way.  His Cleveland experience was sheer agony, but he went on to great success elsewhere.  Cleveland sports fans would see that pattern repeated a few times over the years.  
    I had an analogous experience as a late blooming ballplayer, though at the amateur level of course.. I never felt that I played up to my ability in Pony League, mainly because I psyched myself out worrying (kind of like Richie in his early days).  So at age 39, 22 years after my last whiff in Pony League, I found myself in Japan (like Richie).  While working as a research scientist,  I decided to moonlight in hardball again (Not softball!  Japanese people can not understand why grown adults want to play soft-toss. Shouldn't that be for little children?).  I was okay as a backup right fielder for the Sapporo O-Jays (yes we were named after the music group, a favorite of my manager Kanno-san).  We played only like 10 games and I had fewer than 20 at bats.  But I got a few hits, and stole a few bases despite my ripe old age.  The next year I returned to Dayton and played two more years of amateur baseball, one year as a starter and one year as a scrub.  I was not good but I did hit over .300.   

Sugoi Richie!  Richie starred for the Hiroshima Carp for two full seasons before an Achilles injury ended his career.   
I was not a big success in Japanese baseball.  But I felt like I belonged.  Note my Ichiro Suzuki "Blue Wave" cap.  Very stylish.  

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Cincinnati Reds, Joe Morgan and Reinventing the Second Batter

Four key cogs in the Big Red Machine:  Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan & Pete Rose.

Let's wind the clock back a few years to the late 1960s, when pitchers were dominant and home runs were a rarity.  1968, the Year of the Pitcher, stands out because Carl Yastrzemski was the only guy to hit .300 in the entire American League, while in the National League no one was able to hit 40 home runs (Willie McCovey was tops with 36) and only four guys hit 30 or more home runs.  That year the Los Angeles Dodgers had no one with more than 10 home runs. 

Low scoring, and low power numbers resulted in a much different game than today's game.  Late 1960s baseball featured much more emphasis on stolen bases and bunts.  Consequently, the second batter in the lineup was often the team's best bunter.  For example, Cincinnati's Pete Rose was a very good leadoff hitter and the Reds liked to have light hitting Tommy Helms batting behind Rose in order to bunt him over or run the hit-and-run. 

This all changed when the Reds made a huge trade before the 1972 season, giving up Helms and slugger Lee May for  Joe Morgan, pitcher Jack Billingham and outfielder Cesar Geronimo.  Now they had a guy who stood 5'6" with a tiny strike zone and excellent discipline at the plate, so he got on base as often as Rose plus Joe was a prolific base stealer.  They experimented with Joe at leadoff, second and third in the order, although Pete greatly preferred batting leadoff.   Little Joe wasn't very big, so in his early career the thought was that he should be a contact hitter,  hit to the opposite field, bunt and move the runner along. In other words, his career trajectory was more or less similar to Tommy Helms, with the added dimension that Joe could steal bases and get on via walks.  

The Reds' brain trust, with Manager Sparky Anderson  and Hitting Coach Ted Kluczewski, settled on an unorthodox strategy.  Rose would bat leadoff rather than the faster Morgan, but instead of trying to steal bases, he was to stay put on first base.  That opens up the right side of the infield as the second baseman has to cheat over a little anticipating the steal attempt and the first baseman has to hold the runner on.  Forget about the bunt, let's move Mr. Rose along with a base hit, shall we?  Joe, a left-handed batter, was going to look to PULL the ball and bat Rose over to third base or even drive him in with extra bases.  In other words, the second position in the order was going to do damage rather than giving himself up most of the time.  After Morgan, the Reds were going to come at you with the likes of Bobby Tolan, Johnny Bench, and Tony Perez.

Probably the Reds were not the only team to consciously reinvent the role of the #2 batter, but they were among the most obvious practitioners and benefactors. They won the pennant in 1972 after going 82-80 the previous year.  It may surprise you to be reminded that the 1972 Reds didn't hit that many home runs, but they were second in the league in runs scored because of their super productive front end of the batting order.  At that time, Dave Concepcion hadn't learned to hit, and so the 6-7-8 batters were Dennis Menke,  Cesar Geronimo and Concepcion, none of whom distinguished themselves offensively that year.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Woman Who Replaced Hammerin' Hank Aaron

BELIEVE IT! Toni Stone played  second base in the Negro Leagues, replacing a young prospect whose contract had been sold to the Milwaukee Braves, one Henry Aaron. 
    Some people have wondered whether a woman could play professional baseball against men, and in recent years a few players have done so:  Eri Yoshida and Ila Borders come to mind. But it's not really a new phenomenon. 
     Back in 1952, the Indianapolis Clowns were a professional baseball team in the Negro American League.  As their name implies, they were partly sports and partly entertainment, a little like the basketball Harlem Globetrotters.  However, they were serious enough about baseball to play well enough to to win  Pennant, led by a star shortstop named Henry Aaron.   The shortstop caught the attention of the Major Leagues, and it wasn't long before he was signed by the Milwaukee Braves.  
   So who replaced Henry Aaron on the Clowns?  Believe it or not, Henry was replaced by Toni Stone, a young woman who had played on men's semi-pro teams as a teenager.  It was mor0e than a gimmick, as she hit a respectable batting average (.243) including a hit against the legendary Satchel Paige.   Her contract was eventually sold to the Kansas City Monarchs
    Nor was Toni the only female player and maybe not the best.  Mamie "Peanut" Johnson managed win with 33 games versus 8 defeats for the Clowns.  She was joined by Connie Morgan, who like Toni played second base.  She is shown below with former Negro League star Jackie Robinson.

Second Lieutenant Jackie Robinson gives a few batting tips to Connie Morgan of the Indianapolis Clowns.  

    I remember years ago, someone asked Hammerin' Hank if he thought a woman would ever play Major League Baseball, and he replied that he thought a woman might be able to play second base.  I thought that was a curious comment...until now I can put two and two together and know that three women actually did play baseball in the Negro Leagues.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

LeBron James, the Next NBA Player Coach?

Would LeBron Agree to be the Player Coach of the Cavaliers?  I think they should find out, and Tyronn Lue is on his way out anyway.  

     I believe LeBron is gone from Cleveland and hated owner Dan Gilbert.  He can get any amount of money he wants from any team in the NBA, so I don't really care who he signs with.  If there is any chance of keeping him in Cleveland I would do it.  But we don't have that great of a team to offer him.  Kevin Love and Larry Nance Junior are okay, but not superstars like Durant or Hardin or guys like that.  But what if we made him the Player Coach?  Maybe that would be appealing enough that he might consider it.   
   There have been several player coaches in the NBA, with Bill Russell being by far the most successful, winning two world championships.  Other notables include Lenny Wilkins, Dave Cowens and Bob Cousy.   
    So why not LeBron?  Lost in his athletic greatness is the fact that he has an incredible basketball mind, with near total recall in breaking down a game that he has just played in.  For that reason, he is incredible to listen to when he is interviewed.  

    Part of the reason that Tyronn Lue is getting criticized is that LeBron had too much power, so no one would listen to the Coach.  That problem gets fixed if LeBron is the Coach.  In any case, Lue could not get his team to play acceptable defense.  Maybe LeBron could exert better control on the players.   
    I think the Cavs' recruiting pbolems are due to uncertainty surrounding LeBron.  If he were definitely going to play, the team should have no problem in recruiting star players to join the team.  That's going to happen as players will descend on Cleveland in the off-season, hoping to have a shot at playing with and for LeBron.  
    What have we got to lose?
     LeBron for Player Coach.  Fire Lue.    

Monday, May 28, 2018

What about Super Bowl III did you not get? Kansas City Chiefs Destroy Vikes in SB IV.

Hank Stram and the Kansas City Chiefs were miles ahead of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.  

     Did the NFL learn anything from its ignominious defeat in Super Bowl III?  Not really, and neither did the sporting world, judging by the 14 point spread favoring the Minnesota Vikings over the Kansas City Chiefs for Super Bowl IV after the 1969 season.
    I continue to be amazed at how many people still make excuses for Baltimore even to this day. 
    Well, it was that washed up old man Earl Morrall's fault. Really?  The NFL Man of the Year, who later would earn 3 Super Bowl rings?  He's the reason the Colts lost?
      Well, the Colts would have won if they had started Johnny Unitas.  So you're 18 point favorites and you have the NFL MVP at quarterback, but you want to bench him for the Super Bowl and start a guy who had 11 completions on the year?  Really?  

    Be that as it may, the sporting world pretty much regarded Super Bowl III as a fluke. Maybe  Joe Namath was a sorcerer and cast a spell on Baltimore.  But this would all be rectified by the Minnesota Vikings, who--this time--really were the greatest team of all time, or so went the narrative.  Hence, the Vikings, aka the Purple People Eaters,  were installed as 14 point favorites over the Kansas City Chiefs.   
    The 1968 Colts had set several defensive NFL records.  But all those records were broken by the Purple People Eaters, led by a front four of Alan Page, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller and Gary Larson.  All four made the Pro Bowl along with safety Paul Krause. They gave up the fewest points in history, even fewer than the Colts, fewer than 10 points per game.  Incredibly, they were the number one defense versus the run, AND the number one defense versus the pass, and it wasn't close.  They also let the NFL with 30 INTs. 
     Quarterback Joe Kapp, who had come to the Vikings from the Canadian Football League, also made the Pro Bowl along with receiver Gene Washington, as the Vikings also led the NFL in points scored.  
    So, what about the AFL?  Well, frankly they were considered to be 14 points worse than the NFL, a scant four points better than the underdog Jets of Super Bowl III.  But there would be no Namath to create a miracle for the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Chiefs were led by two-time NFL reject Len Dawson at quarterback, who had been traded by Pittsburgh and then cut by the Cleveland Browns.  Dawson was another guy who had stats that look silly by today's yardstick, with 9 TDs and 13 INTs.  That get's you benched today, but it got Dawson to the AFL Pro Bowl (actually referred to as the AFL All Star game at that time).   Weirdly, backup Mike Livingston also made the AFL All Star game after subbing admirably for an injured Dawson for about half the season.  Fullback Robert Holmes, who plowed forward for 612 yards, also made the All Star game, even though  halfback Mike Garrett actually led the team with 732 rushing yards and another 432 receiving yards.  They also had Otis Taylor and Frank Pitts at WR. Defenders who made the All Star game included LBs Willie Lanier and Bobby Bell, CB Jim Marsalis, and S Bobby Bell. Yet despite that impressive list, there was not much question in the minds of most observers that the Chiefs did not match up against the Vikings.  Nor for that matter, did any of the other NFL teams.  The Vikings were just too good and could not be challenged by any other team on earth.  Any hope for another Joe Namath miracle evaporated when the Chiefs beat them in the AFL playoffs.  Hence, there could be no stopping the Vikings in Super Bowl IV. 
     There is only one slight problem with the narrative.  The Vikings did not blow away the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Instead, the Chiefs took the Vikings behind the tool shed and beat them up, much worse than the Jets had beaten Baltimore the previous year.  And just like the previous year, the NFL turned the ball over repeatedly against the zone defense.  Was it just bad luck? Well, how do you explain the utter humiliation of the Vikings Front Four?  Remember, all  four made the NFL Pro Bowl, but the Chiefs rang up 151 yards on 42 carries. 42 carries?  That is an insane total.  In 1969, I doubt if there was any team that lost an NFL game with 42 carries.       For those who want to blame Super Bowl III on Earl Morrall or Johnny Unitas, neither of those two star players was in Super Bowl IV.  
   Once again, the AFL won without an aerial bombardment.  QB Len Dawson was ruthlessly efficient, but never challenged and did not have to throw much.  He threw the ball only 17 times all game long, because the Chiefs were so thoroughly dominant there was no great need. 

Hi Mr. Kapp.  Please meet Buck Buchanan and Curly Culp.   

   One of the great things about this game was that Coach Hank Stram was wired for sound, and he is hilariously funny yet also insightful.   Some of the best quotes, 

"Just keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!"

 "Kassulke (Viking SS Karl Kassulke) was running around there like it was a (foreign) fire drill. They didn't know where Mike (Garrett) was. Didn't know where he was! They look like they're flat as hell."

" Nice going, baby! The mentor! 65 toss power trap! I tell ya that thing was there, yes sir boys!"

In addition to providing entertainment for us fans, Stram's mike conveys the obvious truth that the Vikings could not cope with the Chief's playbook.  Dawson would later write, "It was obvious that their offense had never seen a defense like ours.(Len Dawson, "Super Bowl IV," Super Bowl: The Game of Their Lives, Danny Peary, editor. Macmillan, 1997. ISBN 0-02-860841-0)"  There were a huge number of innovations that the AFL had, that the NFL was only starting to recognize by 1969.  They first of all had the zone defense with the bump and run press coverage.  It wasn't really a secret by that time, but the Vikings were not used to playing against it, whereas all of the Chiefs' games used it.  The AFL had the hot read, in which the receivers would shorten their routes in the event of a blitz. 
      Stram had a very complex "Offense of the Future" which used multiple formations, shifts and unorthodox plays.  Stram loved to call reverses on overagressive defenses, and speedy Frank PItts ran three of them against the Vikings.  It's not so bad if they catch you once with a reverse.  But if you get caught three times, that usually means you are slow learners. Stram was able to read the brute-force Vikings like a textbook, whereas the Vikings were still trying to progress from DC Comics to Marvel.
   The final score was 23-7, and it could have been much worse.  Just like the Jets the previous year, there was little reason to throw the ball, and for the most part Kansas City was willing to grind it out on the ground.  So that's what they did.

     At some point, you have to admit that the AFL was not so weak after all.  One game might be a fluke.  But the Jets gained 142 yards on the ground, and the Chiefs gained 151.  Thus, these games were won in the trenches, not due to some flukey quarterback play.  It would be fair to say that two years in a row, the NFL got  pounded into submission.  Had the situation demanded more throwing, the AFL passing game would have probably made the statistical difference even worse. John Madden used to say, "the best team really does win the Super Bowl," and I believe he was right.  The Chiefs really were that good.  Over two games, the NFL had been favored by 32 points, and they lost by 25.  That's a 57 point swing in two games.  I mean, come on, you have to realize at some point that something was up.  In my opinion this probably represents the worst failure of Las Vegas oddsmakers to handicap football games. One game might be a statistical fluke, but two upsets in a row with a combined 57 point swing?   They were incredibly off.  
   In this observer's mind at least, the Jets and Chiefs were playing with significantly better playbooks, and that has a lot to do with their dominant wins in the Super Bowl.  Their advantage was lost to some extent in the 1970 off-season, as the leagues merged, and NFL Coordinators were at last obliged to figure out what was in the AFL playbooks.  In 1970, the merged leagues saw the old NFL teams generally outplay their AFL counterparts, though the new American Football Conference won the Super Bowl again, with Baltimore now residing in the AFC.  Ironically, this time Johnny Unitas started but got injured, and Earl Morrall came in and rang up 10 unanswered points as the Colts eked out a 16-13 victory over the Cowboys, who like the Vikings were an expansion team beginning to flex their muscles.   Youth was being served, both inside the NFL as well as the AFL.  

Um, don't look at this, kids.  Maybe the key to the Super Bowl was to have a nice cigarette at halftime (this photo is actually from SB#1).   


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Cleveland Browns Acquired Team Guys on Offense

Jeff Janis has only 17 catches in his career but is a special teams ace and valued backup.  
Drew Stanton's numbers are not exciting.  But he is a backup QB that has a habit of winning games.  

     The Browns have gone out of their way to obtain guys who are good leaders in the clubhouse, paying a steep price for "character guys" in each position group on offense, including quarterback Drew Stanton, OL Donald Stephenson, WR Jeff Janis.  These guys are not the necessarily the best available players but do stabilize an offensive unit that was essentially devoid of veteran leadership when Josh McCown was sent packing and Joe Thomas wound up on IR. You can see a plan emerging.  The team will have at least one sane voice in each meeting room during the week. 

Stanton, Stephenson and Janis do not have eye-popping scouting reports from Pro Football Focus, and in fact are each considered below average,  but they are all Coach-on-the-field type guys that will act as a bridge between the coaching staff and the young Browns players. None of these guys figure to be starters, but they are going to establish the right kind of leadership.

     Janis may be particularly important because the Browns' best receivers are not considered quite the bedrock of stabilty, with off-suspended Josh Gordon and protege Antonio Calloway.  Corey Coleman has also generated some minor off season drama with an alleged off-the-field altercation as well being called out for inadequate conditioning in 2016.  Hopefully Janis can help to stabilize these talented but possible troubled players.     

The Cleveland Browns contemptuously trashed their veteran leadership last year.  Unquestionably the leader of the offense was Josh McCown, a guy who would do anything for the team, and supported the other quarterbacks no matter what.   No less an authority than the Browns' bad boy Johnny Manziel explained it thusly on Twitter: 

   "Draft a QB in the first round and put him into a toxic Quarterback room vs. what it was like my second year with [Josh] McCown,” Manziel said. “COMPLETELY different situation. It’s all about the right fit and mine in Cleveland wasn’t right. That’s just the facts. I also have nobody to blame but myself.”   

     Manziel's tweet was probably a bit ill advised, as even the mildest of controversy is not what his career needs right now, but nevertheless the salient point is that he articulated very well the need for sanity in the quarterbacks' meeting room. Josh McCown created a much better environment for the other quarterbacks as they tried to assimilate the complexities of the Browns' offense.  The quarterback room is like a war room, where plans are made up and plays are created and modified. Most of the burden falls on the Coaching Staff, but the players are part of that process also.  

     Browns GM Sashi Brown, on the other hand seemed determined to eliminate veteran leadership, for reasons that are not clear.  Perhaps he thought he could help to mold a new cadre of loyal Browns by relying on younger minds.  In any case, McCown was sent packing as well as the unquestioned leader of the defense in Joe Haden. Also sent packing were star linebacker DeMario Davis, S Jordan Poyer, CB Tramon Williams and other guys who have been around the league for a while.  

     This year, the Browns again ejected all quarterbacks including DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan.  But most importantly, future Hall of Fame lineman Joe Thomas is retired.  This presented the Browns with a leadership vacuum among the players if not a talent vacuum and that is probably why the Browns brought in Janis, Stanton and Stephenson.  Having veteran starters like Tyrod Taylor and Carlos Hyde is going to help also.      
     Veteran defensive starters Jason McCourty, Jamar Taylor, and Danny Shelton are also gone this year, despite seeming to have played well last year. In their place are E. J. Gaines, Demarious Randall and T. J. Curry. The Browns have addtional veteran presence on defense with former All Pro Jamie Collins, Jamie Meder, Chris Kirksey and perhaps Tank Carder, so on that side of the ball they were better off than the offense. 
     The Browns seem to have pursued a plan of acquiring not just talent but leadership on the offensive side of the ball.   My guess is that even if the box score doesn't mention guys like Stanton, Janis and Stephenson, their presence is going to be felt by the rest of the team. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Browns WRs in 2017 Struggled. How Bad was It?

Corey Coleman had a shot to keep the Browns' last drive alive last year, but came up short, sending them to their 16th loss of the season. 

      Looking back on the infamous 2017 Cleveland Browns season, one of the most painful subjects is the wide receivers.  I'm actually an optimist about the Browns.  You might not have recognized that last year when I had the audacity to suggest that they were only a four win team, much of it due to weakness at the wide receiver position.  
   "Four wins?  Kennel, have you flipped your lid?  Hey, they signed Kenny Britt!  Plus young prospects like speedy Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis and Hollywood Higgins!  Victories are assured!"   
   Well, that's not what happened.  They were even worse than I imagined.  Corey Coleman broke the same hand he injured last year, and never showed an ability to catch the ball, though he is fast and elusive with the ball. 
    The table provides a few stats about how bad they were, but in reality does not begin to tell the full story.

Wide Receivers Catch Percentage and PFF Ranking.  
Add caption
    In terms of catch percentage (balls caught divided by targets), they were epic underperformers. The Browns did have Hollywood Higgins catching more than half his chances, but all the other wideouts were under 50 percent. Frankly this is incredible. The table shows their rank according to percentile both for Catch percentage as well as their overall ranking by Pro Football Focus.  Not that PFF is always right, and I doubt whether the Browns get the same level of attention as other teams, but at least they made the effort. 

  PFF's ranking is based on 116 WRs in the NFL which is essentially three starters per team, plus 20 extra top extra wide receivers.
   The catch percentage stat is based on a different pool from Pro Football Reference, because they include tight ends and running backs, resulting in a total pool of 212 players.  So I used a percentile basis.  So, for example, PFF ranks Josh Gordon as 83rd percentile meaning that 83% of the group is not as good as him.  Conversely, his catch percentage 2.8 percentile means only 2.8% of the group was worse. 
     Josh did see a lot of double coverage and did not have a very accurate qb throwing passes his way, but I wonder if his ranking by PFF might be a bit generous. How could you be 83rd percentile in overall performance if you're one of the poorest performers at catching the ball?   

     But no matter how you slice it, the rest of the Browns wide receivers struggled to catch the ball, and the guys at PFF were not very impressed.  It would be very hard to conceive that a guy ranked 12th percentile (i.e., Corey Coleman) could be an NFL starter.  Catching fewer than 40% of the balls thrown his way is just an amazing stat and not in a good way.  Corey will either improve or a new starter will be found.  
     You can blame some of the problem on young quarterback DeShone Kizer, but tight ends David Njoku and Seth DeValve plus halfback/slot Duke Johnson had respectable stats with the same quarterback.  Wide receivers just really did have a difficult time in 2017.  
     Kenny Britt actually was sent away last year, but it would not be surprising to see the other Browns receivers pushed for their jobs in 2018.   

Hooray for Hollywood!  Rashard Higgins caught a few footballs in 2018 but is considered by PFF to be in the bottom 5% of the NFL.  Ouch. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Super Bowl Drought for the Old Guard NFL, 1968-1983

     You might imagine that the old school NFL--teams that were established prior to the merger of the All America Conference and the NFL in 1950--continued to dominate.  In fact, that pattern started to emerge with Super Bowl I and II taken by Green Bay, who basically obliterated everything in their path. The pattern was shattered by the New York Jets and Joe Namath after the 1968 season. But would you believe that it would take FIFTEEN YEARS before the old school would win another Super Bowl?

That's correct.   To clarify, by Old School I am referring to the teams that were with the NFL prior to the merger with the All America Conference in 1950,  and stayed in the NFC after the merger with the AFL in 1970. Specifically, these teams were New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, St. Louis (formerly Chicago) Cardinals, and Los Angeles (formerly Cleveland) Rams. 

I got interested in this question based on some commentary in the Remember the AFL group on Facebook.

The old Cleveland Browns (now Ravens) and San Francisco 49ers were originally in the AAC and joined the NFL in 1950. But the Browns as well as the Steelers and Baltimore Colts (who actually replaced the defunct Dallas Texans in 1953) joined the AFL in 1970.  So for the purposes of accounting, I have grouped the former AAC teams with the Steelers and Colts.  They are all transplanted teams, and thus differentiated from the Old Guard.  

The NFL expanded a few times as well.  It seems like the Dallas Cowboys have always been in the NFL, but in reality they were an expansion team, along with the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, set up to counter the AFL.  They were later followed by Tampa, Seattle, Houston and the new Browns. Generally the expansion teams not from Dallas have had a hard time winning Super Bowls.  

So, let's recount the 15 year drought between wins by the Old School.  

AFL teams namely the Jets, Chiefs and (transplanted) Colts won Super Bowls III through V.   The next teams that won were the expansion Cowboys (twice), and the AFL Dolphins (also twice). The Steelers won four times in the 1970s, and the Raiders won twice. They were followed by the 49ers winning the first of their four championships, before Washington finally managed to win Super Bowl XVII.

A case could be made that the Old School had become stodgy and complacent.  The new, hungrier teams from the AFL as well as the new expansion teams (especially the highly innovative Dallas Cowboys) created a superior brand of football.  

The NFC had a comeback of sorts, winning 13 straight between 1985 and 1997.  But even  that was not so much the Old Guard reasserting itself, but the continuing success of the Cowboys (Expansion) and 49ers (Transplants), both of whom were among the dominant teams.  In all, the Old School won the Super Bowl only 11 times after its dominant 2-0 start. That's fewer than either the transplant teams or the AFL teams. 

Dallas skews the results among Expansion Teams with 5 wins, while Tampa Bay, Seattle and the Saints are the other Expansion Teams to have turned in a win.

Old School                            13 wins
Transplanted AFL +AAC       16 wins
NFL Expansion Teams           8  wins
AFL Teams                           15 wins.

Once the script changed in Super Bowl 3, the football world was changed forever, and the Old Guard never fully recovered.  

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Super Bowl III was not a Fluke. Why the AFL beat a Superior Team

     Super Bowl III, considered by many sports historians was not a fluke in my opinion. The New York Jets were 18 point underdogs, and yet they spanked the Colts 16-7, and it wasn't that close.  New York led 16-0 and gave up a fourth quarter touchdown after Baltimore pulled quarterback Earl Morrall in favor of Johnny Unitas, who had been injured all year. 
      This was a case of a superior game plan defeating a team with superior athletes.  The Colts never saw it coming, just as Goliath never thought about the need to defend against a 120 mile an hour stone until a split second before his death. 
      I've been interested in this literally for decades, but I really learned a lot from corresponding with sports historian and author Bob Lederer, who collected great information for his new book, Beyond Broadway Joe--The Super Bowl Team That Changed Football.

     In Super Bowl III, the poor Colts defenders wondered why it was that quarterback Joe Namath always seemed to have the right play called to defeat their hitherto invincible Blitz. How could Joe know that the blitz was coming?  Well, the answer is that Joe didn't know. Bob was able to confirm for me that the Jets knew how to change the play after the snap via the "hot read," and the Baltimore Colts did not.  The Jets actually changed the play when the Blitz came, AFTER the snap. The "hot receiver" would shorten his route so that Namath could dump it off quickly.  The Colts had no such play, meaning that they had to guess whether the Blitz was coming BEFORE the snap, and they were basically stuck running the play that was called. If it was the wrong play, they just had to live with the results. So no wonder Namath always had the answer for the Baltimore Blitz.  He could adapt in the middle of the play, whereas Baltimore could not.  They just couldn't figure it out.  
      Bob Lederer confirmed that for me, after I had wondered about that for years. Try as I might, I couldn't find a reference on the internet explaining the origin of the "hot read."  I once met Browns star running back Greg Pruitt at a Browns Backers affair at Tuty's in Beavercreek Ohio, and asked him that question.  Greg came along a few years later (1973) and wasn't completely sure when the hot read came along, but did say that the Browns implemented a form of that for him.  His job changed depending on who he was supposed to block.  If it was a linebacker, it was his job to pass block.  But if it was a defensive lineman, then he was to head out in the flat for a short pass. 
     Bob also reminded me that in 1968, many quarterbacks did not even have the option of creating an audible.  The strategy varied from team to team, but play calls were sent in from the sideline when a substitute player would enter the game on every play; i.e., a "messenger guard" or "messenger tight end."  They knew how to use the audible, but not all quarterbacks had permission under most circumstances. 

    On the other hand, Namath was allowed to call an audible at the line of scrimmage based on what he was seeing from the defense.   If Joe wanted to change the play call, he could, and then if the blitz came, there was yet another change in the middle of the play.   That was one of the strategic advantages that the Jets had. 
    Another huge advantage was the way that the quarterback dropped back to pass.  Earl Morrall backpedaled with short steps, facing forward to see the entire field all the time.  It was like dink dink dink dink dink dink dink clunk clunk bloop.    Namath, on the other hand, turned sideways and glided back about 12 yards in his seven step drop and threw a noticeably faster ball.  It was like swoosh swoosh swoosh kapow.  Hence he had much more time to throw.  

     Namath's Jets won with  ball control, dink and dunk offense that avoided turnovers and sacks.  The Jets also had a sophisticated defense, using zone coverage and the "bump and run."  These tactics were evolved in the AFL.  The Colts were one of the first teams in the NFL to use the zone defense, but that was old hat for the Jets.    
       Defensive lineman Gerry Philbin made me laugh in some interviews many years later. Do you know the old adage that defensive linemen hate ALL quarterbacks, including the quarterback of their OWN team?   Well, it's probably true.  Gerry seemed to be really frustrated by Joe's tendency to be erratic at times. His viewpoint seemed to be that the defense was going to win the game as long as Namath didn't screw it up.  Maybe he was right.  
     In that same vein, Curt Gowdy mentions during the Super Bowl III telecast that the Colts used to refer to star halfback Tom Matte (a converted quarterback) as the "Garbage Can."  Gowdy explains that that Matte always gains a lot of yards "without really looking like it."  But that's not it at all. That nickname was applied by defensive lineman Alex Karras, who scornfully implied that Matte padded his stats by getting supposedly easy yards in non-key situations, rather than the "tough yards."  Matte, it must be understood, was handsome like a quarterback, dressed well and spoke well.  That was enough to earn him the same type of flak normally reserved for the quarterback. Matte's teammates thought it was funny, and the nickname stuck.   
     But no matter.  Although Joe Namath was unquestionably the most sensational star of the AFL that's not the only story.  There's also the AFL tactics that gave them a major advantage.  Then, just to prove it was no fluke, the Kansas City Chiefs beat up the Minnesota Vikings, the Purple People Eater team that was even better than Baltimore, so they said.    

Bob Lederer's book is not out yet, but I have already ordered mine from 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review of the Browns 2018 Draft

The last time the Browns drafted a quarterback and a cornerback in the same round ?   Just four years ago, amazingly enough.  So, is Mayfield the next Johnny Manziel, and is Denzel Ward going to be the next Justin Gilbert?  Stay tuned Browns fans.  

   The Browns had an excellent draft by any measure.  Some fans are complaining, they should have taken so-and-so, and nobody else in the NFL is worth drafting.  Of course, that's nonsense.  If you have a guy who can throw the ball farther than John Elway, it can't be that bad.
     Baker Mayfield throws the ball better than anyone I can remember. He's in the class of Marino and Elway  Are there risks?  Sure there are.  Off the field, he has a penchant for getting in trouble, and that could cost him and ruin his career.  But this is football, no one is guaranteed to be able to suit up more than one game at a time.  
     Selecting Denzel Ward at fourth overall disappointed a lot of fans given that big bad Bradley Chubb was still available.  Defensive end is hugely important, and these guys get their name called all the time for sacking the qb and stopping the run.  Cornerbacks are boring. If they are very good, nothing happens all game long because the qb never throws at him.  So it may be that Ward is a much more significant force than you might imagine based on media impact.  We drafted him because we have to beat a team that has Antonio Brown on the roster.  
    If you've read Mark F Barnes' excellent reviews of Austin Corbett, this is a guy with very good OL skills who will be considered at tackle or guard if Joel Bitonio moves outside to replace Joe T.  
    Nick Chubb is a guy I've really liked.  People are worried about a knee operation 3 years ago, but he was devestating at the end of last year, 145 yards versus Oklahoma.    He is a power back, perfect for a cold weather ball control team.  
    In the 3rd round they went DE with Chad Thomas.  He is not going to start because of Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah, and Carl Nassib is pretty decent too.  They must think he's pretty good to take a defensive end at that point of the draft.  
    Anthony Calloway (Round 4)  is a first round wide receiver who can't stay out of trouble.  Can the Browns help him turn his life around?  Maybe, but we have more than our share of troubled wide receivers. 
    In the back of the draft, you start looking for specialty team players and longshots.  Probably linebacker Geneard Avery,  5th round, Damion Rately (6th), and Simieon Thomas (also 6th) will probably not start unless they make a big splash in the Pre-Season. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Village Elliot's 2018 NFL Draft Scorecard: He Knows Nothing About NFL Football!

So, how'd I do in prognosticating the draft?  It's rather humbling, because the main result is that it proved once again that I know nothing about NFL football.   But here is my self assessment concerning my main predictions.

1.  Josh Allen would be the first overall pick:  WHIFF!
2. Bills move up in the draft for a qb:  CORRECT.
3.  Giants Draft Barkley:  CORRECT. 
4.  First three picks will be QBs:  WHIFF.
5.  4 QBs taken in the Top 10:  CORRECT.
5.  Huge 3 team deal:  WHIFF.
6.  Jets draft Darnold:  CORRECT.
7.  6 QBs in Round 1:  WHIFF
8.  Browns trade down from Pick 4:  WHIFF
9.  Dolphins trade up for Rosen:  WHIFF
10.  Denzel Ward drafted before Minkah Fitzpatrick: CORRECT
11.  Mason Rudolph drafted in Round 1 (Arizona):  WHIFF.
12.  Patriots draft Lamar Jackson and Shaquem Griffin in Round 1. WHIFF!  WHIFF!

Pics  I totally blew are Shaquem Griffin, who I believe will be a star on defense and would make the end of the first round; Mason Rudolph who I felt was a first rounder; ditto for Combine freak Will Hernandez and Derrius Guice.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph Belong in the First Round.

"Elliot Kennel, you stupid jerk!  Did you really say Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph might be better than me?  Man, I'm putting you on my enemies list!"
Call me crazy but Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph are darned good and belong in the first Round.   Let's think this through a little bit, shall we?
   First, Mason Rudolph has done everything Baker Mayfield has done, except get arrested or grab his crotch on national TV.   I mean, 4900 passing yards, 37 TDs and 9 INTs. Jeepers.  Well, of course he did that in the Big 12,  and it may be argued the Big 12 does not know how to play pass defense.  
    That may be true, but isn't that the same conference that Oklahoma plays in?   Mason Rudolph is known for having a deadly accurate deep ball and has plenty of arm strength, though quite not at the level of Mayfield or Allen.  I think both Mayfield and Rudolph are candidates  to play in Game 1, depending on who drafts them.   Rudolph seems to have the right kind of work ethic to succeed in the NFL, whereas Mayfield is going to have to work hard to shake off the comparisons with Johnny Manziel. 
    Like Mayfield, Josh Rosen has also alienated a few people with his mouth.  It's not that he's said or done anything bad,  but there is some concern that he might not have the right kind of personality to play quarterback in the NFL   
   CBS Sportsline, incidentally, ranks Mason Rudolph as the top quarterback in America in at least one mock draft, but 10th overall.  They also like Lamar Jackson at 11th overall. That's probably not a bad estimate for where he will be taken. The main gripes against Lamar are that he is a running quarterback, has his mother for an agent, and scored poorly on the Wonderlic intelligence test.    Well, all those are true.  
    I am not crazy about running quarterbacks, either, but this fellow is just as talented if not more so than DeShaun Watson. Jackson will probably never have to pass against a seven man front, because other teams are going to have to stack the line to prevent him from running wild.  So it may be that Jackson is not quite the passer of the other five, but he doesn't have to be.  He will succeed.
    The Wonderlic flop didn't have to happen.  I blame his inexperienced agent (namely his mother) for not preparing him for the test.  There are test taking strategies that a normal agent would prepare his client for (i.e., if you don't know an answer, should you guess or not?  How much time should you spend on a tough problem before giving up and moving to the next). I doubt whether his well-intentioned but inexperienced agent knew how to prepare. Hence her son wound up being embarrassed.  Thanks, Mom.  But irrespective of test scores, he ran a complex Louisville Offense and is clearly football smart. I'm not buying the stupid quarterback narrative.  Jackson will be a star.       
    Per my own evaluation, I'd go with the following order:  Allen, Darnold, Jackson, Rudolph, Rosen and Mayfield.  But I think the draft order will be Allen, Mayfield, Rosen, Darnold, Jackson, and  Rudolph at the end of Round 1.  Really I'm comfortable with all 6 guys.  Although Mayfield and Rosen may have some perceived risk factors, it's still a worthy gamble that they will grow up to be star players.   

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Village Elliot's 2018 Mock Draft 3.0 Saquon to Giants, Lamar Jackson to Pats , Browns trade back, Buffalo, Denver trade up.

  I updated the draft after the New England deal that brought them an extra first round pick.  I think that becomes Lamar Jackson.  


  Of course, mock drafts are ridiculous because there are so many things that people can do that every prediction will soon fall apart. Nevertheless, like a moth driven to fly into a flame, I have a compulsion to try to predict the future and read the minds of NFL General Managers. I'm going to take my best shot at predicting some absolutely improbable future events. Thus, I have the following outlandish scenario to propose for my mock:   I think the Bills want to move up, and the Browns and Giants are interested in moving down.  The first three picks are going to be quarterbacks.

Here's how it goes:
1.  Browns draft Josh Allen.  He has the most talent but lousy stats.  I think that the stats can be overcome. Mainly, he needs to throw to people better than a converted point guard as his top wide receiver and things will improve.
2.  A three way deal with the Browns, Giants and Buffalo results in Buffalo moving up all the way to Number 2 and they draft Baker Mayfield. I didn't make this up completely, as it was rumored a few weeks ago.  Buffalo sends a  2nd and 3rd round draft pick to the Giants, who move back to 4th overall.   Buffalo then sends the Browns two number one picks this year (12th and 22nd) and their first round pick in 2019.  So, when all the carnage is over, Buffalo gave up 1,1,2,3 plus number 1 in 2019.  Phew!  But if Baker Mayfield is good enough to lead them into the playoffs, it's worth it (he won't).  
3.  The Jets are up next, and they go for Sam Darnold, the gunslinger from USC.  
4.    The  Giants get their guy to help out Eli, namely Saquon Barkley, to create a more balanced offense.  
5.  Miami Dolphins move up by trading Denver three picks in including 11th overall in order to get their guy, Josh Rosen. 

6.  Indianapolis drafts Bradley Chubb, the brilliant defensive lineman.  They really didn't want a quarterback anyway, since they are banking on Andrew Luck coming back. 
7.  Tampa Bay solidifies their secondary by drafting Denzel Ward, the shutdown corner from Ohio State
8.  Chicago Bears draft Quenton Nelson,  to take care of Franchise QB (they hope) Mitchell Trubisky. 
9. San Francisco 49ers take Minkah Fitzpatrick.   The draft always seem to deliver top defensive talent to San Francisco in Round 1. 
10. Oakland Raiders select Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia. Jon Gruden needs to fix the Raiders' defense. 
11. Denver stakes Will Hernandez, G, UTEP, who was a Combine stud.  
12.  With the Bill's pick, Cleveland goes for Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. They need to replace Joe Thomas. This is a no-brainer. 
13. Washington Redskins go with defense, Vita Vea, DT, Washington. 
14. Green Bay Packers  The Packers try to plug a leaky secondary with Derwin James, SS, Florida State. 
15. Arizona Cardinals.  Hey, did everyone forget about Mason Rudolph?  He had four fantastic years with Oklahoma State and is ready to play NOW.  He might make the All-Rookie Team.  Arizona was not able to move up, and  is overjoyed with Rudolph. 
16. Baltimore Ravens address a need for a wide receiver, by selecting Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. 
17. Los Angeles Chargers select Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. If you want a great defense, just draft someone from Alabama. 
18. Seattle Seahawks need to replace Richard Sherman, and pick Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. 
19. Dallas Cowboys pick Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist.
20. Detroit Lions get a pash rusher by selecting Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. 
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo) adds to Marvin Lewis' defense with  Tremaine Edmunds, ILB, Virginia Tech.  They have to replace often-suspended Vontaze Burfict.
22. Cleveland Browns did not get Saquon Barkley, so they take another stud runner in Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. 
23. New England selects Lamar Jackson, and the entire NFL groans. Why didn't we think of that?  Jackson is the most talented qb in the draft, but obviously fits a running quarterback style offense that most teams don't like. The Patriots don't care, they can morph into any kind of team that they want on a particular Sunday. Jackson may also decide to be on the field at the same time as Tom Brady, and emulate Kordell Slash Stewart.  
24. Carolina Panthers get Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia. They want to protect Cam Newton.  
25. Tennessee Titans draft to re-establish their defensive line, and they go with Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan.
26. Atlanta Falcons bolster their front line with Taven Bryan, DT, Florida. 
27. New Orleans Saints recently learned how to play defense.  Great idea, so they will add  Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama. 
28. Pittsburgh Steelers select  Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars were hoping for a qb to slide because they hate current starter Blake Bortles.  Finding none, they take James Washington, WR Oklahoma State.  Nobody could cover him at the Senior Bowl.  
30. Minnesota Vikings  go with Leighton Vander Esch ILB, a sideline-to-sideline linebacker.
31. New England Patriots draft Shaquem Griffin.  He's gotten plenty of attention for overcoming the handicap of having only one hand, but what is being missed is that he is an incredible player.  He also weighs 229 and runs a 4.3 40 yard dash. People who think he is a day 3 pick are insane. Watch the film and believe your eyes.  He is a first round draft pick.  
32. Philadelphia Eagles need some O-Line help and go with Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA. 
Well that's a lot to have happen.  Do you think I will get anything right?     

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Cleveland Browns' Plan to Weaken the Rest of the NFL

Comebacking Johnny Manziel is seeking to add to the burgeoning list of ex-Browns quarterbacks making a living in the NFL.  

It seems as the Cleveland Browns want to make  as many trades as possible, especially their ex-quarterbacks, in order to  weaken the rest of the NFL. It may be working.  Come to think of it, right now there are an unbelievable 9 former Browns quarterbacks on NFL rosters, plus another two or three hoping to catch on somewhere, including Johnny Manziel.  Amazingly, the retread crew combined for 39 starts in 2017, including last year's one-and-done champion, DeShone Kizer who started 15 times for the Cleveland Browns. Still would you have guessed that the other ex-Browns had combined for 24 additional starts?  

Some will no doubt be gone after training camp, but for now they are (with the number of 2017 starts, if any):   

Brian Hoyer, Patriots, 6 starts for SF
Colt McCoy, Redskins
Josh Johnson, Raiders
Josh McCown, Jets, 13 starts in NY.
Robert Griffin III, Ravens
Cody Kessler, Jaguars
Kevin Hogan, Washington, 1 start for the Browns
Brock Osweiler, Dolphins, 4 starts for the Broncos.  
DeShone Kizer, Packers, 15 starts for the Browns

Also looking for a new job are three guys with an outside chance of getting on an NFL roster this year.  

Derek Anderson
Johnny Manziel
Thad Lewis

Honorable Mention:
Doug Pederson, now the Super Bowl winning coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.  

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Tracking Josh Allen's Worst Game in 2017 vs Oregon: Was He Inaccurate or Not?

Why didn't Josh Allen complete more passes against the Oregon Ducks? 

     I've been very interested in determining whether to agree with the popular assessment that Josh Allen is a strong armed but inaccurate passer.  Accordingly, I've asked for readers to cite examples of inaccuracy on game film, but so far none have emerged.    

     I don't have a vested interest one way or the other.  I'm an amateur at this, not a Pro, and I don't claim to be a good talent evaluator.  Nevertheless I wanted to from my own opinion on Allen's accuracy or lack of it.   
     Elsewhere, I've documented that the Cowboys team was depleted in offense in 2017, as 4800 yards of total offense (receiving and rushing yards) graduated after 2016.  See   Why Josh Allen's Low Completion Percentage Does Not Matter

     That's their best two wide receivers, tight end and running back, so the 2017 crew was very, very thin. Their best guy is a converted quarterback who seems to be a good athlete, but he is just learning the position.  

      Anyway, I looked at the worst game of Josh Allen's career, a 49-13 drubbing by Oregon last Sept 16 2017.  Allen's stat line was 9 for 24 for 64 yards and an INT.  Wow, that was horrible, 37.5% completion percentage.  So Josh must be horribly inaccurate, right? 
    I went through and cataloged each pass from the video record and tabulated the results below including one extra pass that was called back due to penalty.  I saw passes hit receivers in the hands and bounce off.  I saw receivers fall down and others run the wrong route.  I saw receivers covered, and the ball thrown out of bounds to avoid a sack. Look, the stats suck.  But I didn't see much inaccuracy. Maybe one pass that was clearly overthrown, and a few others that were higher than desirable but catchable.  Is that the reason we are going to turn down an opportunity to draft a guy who throws the ball better than John Elway?   
   No.  Maybe a scout can determine that Allen makes bad decisions, doesn't go through his progressions well or has no touch.  I don't know about that.  But the accuracy narrative is not what the film says. 
    As previously noted, the Wyoming team graduated 4800 yards of offense after the 2016 season, with corresponding stars to replace the players they lost. Moreover, they are an FBS team playing a Pac 12 team.  So of course they are going to be totally ouclassed, at least at that early point of the season.  To put it bluntly, the receivers couldn't get open and they couldn't catch.  
    Given that the 2016 Cowboys had four guys on offense that made NFL rosters.  Maybe a better question is why Josh didn't put up better numbers in 2016 with all that talent. He also threw 15 INTs in 2016 verus 6 in 2017.  Maybe he wasn't very good in 2016.  To me the data suggests that he really did get a lot better in 2017, even though the stats show the opposite.  
    Maybe someone else can find some other game films where Josh misses several open receivers.  I invite you to do so and publish the results.  Until we see the evidence, however, I disbelieve the inaccuracy narrative.  It's easy to read the stats and note that sub-60% accuracy is not very good.  But I strongly suspect that the writers claiming Allen is inaccurate just didn't watch much film.  Just look at the tally below.  For these reasons I believe Josh Allen is the no-brainer first pick of the 2018 draft.