Saturday, May 23, 2015

GO FOR IT! My Proposed Rule Change for Kicking: No Ties via Extra Points.

   My proposal for the NFL is to modify the extra point rule as follows:   Force teams to go for the lead rather than the tie.   NFL players, and more importantly to the NFL, the networks, hate tie games and indeterminate game lengths.  They also think that two point conversions might be more exciting than the boring one point kicks.  So how about not allowing teams to kick for a one point conversion when they are behind by one point?  Instead, make them go for  two points and either take the lead or fail and fall behind.  

The NFL is concerned that the Extra Point is boring, and teams have too many tie games at the end of regulation.  So what does the NFL do?  Allow the Extra Point to create more tie games.  

So, suppose one team scores a TD and kicks the extra point.   They go up 7-0.  Now the other team marches down the field and they score a touchdown making it 7-6.  Now, however, they are not allowed to go for a one point conversion.  They have to go for two so that at the end of the play it is either 8-7 or 7-6 but it is not a tie.  Similarly, I wouldn't let teams tie the game in the second half with a field goal.  Go for the Hail Mary, a way more exciting play than watching some soccer guy kick the darn thing.  Going for a TD or two point conversion is much more exciting and decisive, as the strategy of playing for a tie is not only boring, but contrary to the desires of players and friends who want to go for the win. 
This is going to greatly reduce the possibility of tie games, which is what the NFL says they want to do.    You could still have tie games, but they would be much less frequent.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Why Did the Browns Offense fall apart in 2014?

    The Browns started off the 2014 season playing at a high level on offense and defense.  But by the end of the year, the Browns faltered badly, especially an offense as they seemed to lose the ability to move the ball.   Much of it was simply injury related, as the Browns lost Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack. But in my opinion, Mack's situation was made worse by odd personnel decisions at the end of training camp.  This and other disfunctions can be traced to a disfunction between Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan and General Manager Ray Farmer.  The upshot was that the team was short of personnel and Shanahan was unable to compensate for the loss of a star player.  

  First let's review what went right.     The fact is that the Offense was very formidable early in the year, with Joe Thomas, newcomer Joel Bitonio and Alex Mack all playing at or near Pro Bowl level.  On the right side, John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz also played well,  The offensive line seemed to thrive on Shanahan's zone blocking schcme.  

    Early on, opposing defenses thought they could challenge the Browns by playing 8 man fronts all day long, daring Hoyer to throw deep.  Well, Hoyer was able to hit  Taylor Gabriel and  Andrew Hawkins with the deep ball, with Miles Austin proving to be a reliable possession receiver and Jordan Cameron also disrupting defenses foolish enough to stay in 8 man fronts too long.   All three running backs excelled on the ground, including starter Ben Tate and the two rookies, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell.   However, the Browns rarely threw to the running backs.

    One of the most peculiar roster moves was almost completely gutting the offensive line deptch at the end of training camp, cutting  Reid Fragel, Garrett Gilkey, Donald Hawkins, Alex Parsons, Abasi Salimu and Martin Wallace.  Only Paul McQuistan survived, probably because he had guaranteed money.   My guess is that Offensive Coordinator Shanahan may have asked for the purge, frustrated by the inability of less talented players to pick up his complex blocking schemes.

    Everything fell apart when Center Alex Mack  broke his leg.  The Browns, having cut all of their backup linemen, had only Paul McQuistan ready to play, and he was ineffective.   By Game 8, they switched to newcomer Nick McDonald at center, followed soon by Ryan Seymour.   But the offensive line never regained its early season form.

"Look out, Brian!"  The Browns O-Line was much less effective after the injury to Alex Mack, partly because all the backup linemen except Paul McQuistan had been purged at the end of training camp.

    The Browns also lost confidence in Ben Tate, and shockingly released him in mid-season.   Ben is a very good player, and was always lobbying for more playing time.  This kind of "bad attitude" I am totally ok with it.  Nevertheless, the Browns seemingly couldn't tolerate it, and coupled with his declining performance after a hot start, Tate was gone by mid November.   The Browns kind of got away with this because of the emergence of West and Crowell, but in my opinion Shanahan probably forced Farmer's hand to get rid of the admittedly underperforming Tate.  

    Yet another oddity is that GM Ray Famer was known to be high on running back Glenn Winston, who destroyed defenses in pres-season for the 49ers, and was one of their last players cut.   Yet the number of carries that he could obtain in the Shanahan offense?  Zero.   Especially in an offense that could not move the ball the last five games of the year it is preposterous to think that the guy wasn't worth a carry or two.  No, the signs point squarely to a feud between Shanahan and Farmer, with Shanahan forcing a number of questionable personnel decisions and then not being able to compensate when his starters went down.    

Kyle Shanahan refused to play Glenn Winston at running back, probably to show Farmer who's boss.

Eventually Miles Austin was injured and replaced by Josh Gordon, returning from a drug suspension.  Gordon was just not the same player as he was before the suspension.  The 2014 Gordon was out of shape,  flabby and did not learn the playbook.  He was just a shadow of his former self, and not nearly able to replace Austin.

In turn, Hoyer cooled off and was unable to rally the troops.  He eventually finished the year as the 31st highest ranked quarterback in the NFL.  The talented but drug infested Johnny Manziel started two games and made a fool of himself before giving way to an unspectacular Connor Shaw.  

Clearly the Browns were talented at first string, but when injuries hit they had no answer.  Shanahan was brilliant at designing plays for the first string but could not deal with lesser talents.  In particular, they gutted the team of backup offensive linemen, and then the team fell apart when they had no trained backup linemen.   Certainly that was their own fault.  To the extent that Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan contributed to this dysfunctional offense, it is probably a good thing that he has left the team.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

No Capital Punishment for Deflategate

    I don't think the NFL will do much about Deflategate.   The reason is that the NFL is guilty of a few things also.
    First and foremost, they have a rule but no punishment associated with it.  What kind of rule is that?   If they had wanted to "send a strong message" as many have suggested, they should have said what the penalty was going to be.  
        Second, the NFL did not log the pressure of the balls prior to the game.  If 12.5 psi is so important to people, they ought to measure it to see if the pressure is right.  Moreover they need to decide how they are going to measure it, with what pressure gauge and so on, or otherwise they will get different answers depending on who does the measurement.  Two officials made measurements at the Indianapolis game, and they differed by as much as 0.4 psi.   That's okay for inflating tires, but if 12.5 psi is really some cherished number to fans, they need more accuracy.   
        Third, the NFL was completely unprepared to enforce the rule. They had no procedure in place what to do.  Basically, the officials just said, "well, that's interesting," and sent the matter back to headquarters.  In baseball, if a pitcher is caught doctoring the baseball, they throw him out of the game on the spot.    In this case, they were unprepared for anything other than to let Brady continue to play while they referred the issue to the Commissioner's office later.  That little fiasco is on the NFL.  
     Fouth,  what is normal to expect after a bunch of 300 pound guys fall on the darn thing? If the pressure were to decrease in a ball during the game, what action do we want the officials to take?  
        Fifth, nobody has any idea whether other NFL teams have violated ball-related regs.  They just have not paid attention.  Again, that is the NFL's fault.
      Thus,  I think if I were the NFL commissioner I would do two things:
        First, thanks to the Patriots proving that teams can not be trusted, there now needs to be a layer of regulation and oversight to monitor the football and other equipment specifications.  The NFL will probably have to hire 100 or so specialists because of what the Patriots did.  That is going to be a massive headache and will cost big time money, and for that reason I think the Patriots should be levied a massive fine to help pay for this nonsense.
       As for Brady himself over-doctoring the footballs, there should be some sort of on-the-field penalty as well. But as I argue above the current system is unworkable, so I think it is difficult to assess a major penalty.  I think it is thus comparable to the use of stickum or some other illegal tweaking of game equipment, so I think he may be suspended for a game or so.   
     On the field, this will not harm the Patriots a bit.  They are interested to see how hotshot new kid Jimmy Garoppolo can play anyway.  I think he'll be good if not great if he gets a chance.   If they suspend Brady for 8 games, that would keep him fresh for the playoffs more than anything else.    


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Meet the New Browns---2015 Draftees

     For the first time in years, I have a good feeling about the Browns draft.  No weird trades, no dope fiends or lunatics.   No longshot Messianic would-be saviors.  We didn't mortgage the future to get some hotshot quarterback.  Just solid players that are going to improve the weaknesses of the team.

     In past years I had a sick, sick feeling about the NFL draft and our Cleveland Browns.  Like when we drafted a 28 year old quarterback with a first round pick, and used four draft picks including the fourth overall to select a running back who Jim Brown said was comparable to a third round draft pick....or when we used three picks to get a running back who had had major knee surgery on both knees...or picked up a talented dope fiend wide receiver.  Even last year there was a sneaking suspicion that the owner may have made the selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel.  This year felt different. 

     The plan is that we are going to play Power Football in the AFC North.   We are going to fix the worst defensive line in the NFL  We are going to run the ball six ways from sundown and we are going to beat up other teams.

Welcome to Cleveland....

Danny Shelton, Nose Tackle, Round 1, Pick 12 (12), 6'2" 339 Washington.  The Browns were last in the NFL in run defense.  That is going to change.  

Cameron Erving Center,  Round 1, Pick 19 (19) (from Bills), 6'5" 313 Florida St.  The Browns season was torpedoed when Alex Mack went down.   Cameron Erving can play center, but he also started at tackle at FSU.  I think he might challenge John Greco for a starting job at right guard.    

Nate Orchard, Outside Linebacker, Round 2, Pick 19 (51) (from Texans) 6'3" 250 Utah.   Nate was the #2 sacks leader in college football.   Opposing Quarterbacks were very comfortable in 2014, and Nate will make them feel much less comfortable.  Look our Mr. Barkevious Mingo, this kid might take your job.

Duke Johnson, Running Back and Kick Returner,  Round 3, Pick 13 (77) 5'9" 207 Miami.    Duke gives the Browns pass catching ability that they lacked in 2014.  He can immediately become the third down back while leaving the heavy lifting to Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West and Glenn Winston. He was a tremendous kickoff returner, and the Browns will probably try him at Punt Returner, where they were also at the bottom of the league.  

Xavier Cooper, Defensive End, Round 3, Pick 32 (96) (from Patriots)  6'3" 293 Washington St. Though listed as a defensive tackle, he will probably play defensive end in the Browns 3-4.   Look, you guys finished last in the NFL in run defense, so Ray Farmer is going to draft three new guys for the defensive line, plus free agent and former Pro Bowler Randy Starks.

Ibraheim Campbell, Strong Safety,  Round 4, Pick 16 (115) (from Bills) 5'11" 208 Northwestern.   This fellow would be a backup for Donte Whitner, but I'll bet that he will get a shot on special teams.

Vince Mayle, Wide Receiver, Round 4, Pick 24 (123) (from Cardinals) 6'2" 224 Washington St. Browns Nation has been screaming for quarterbacks and wide receivers, so Farmer throws them a bone finally.  We get a guy who is more of a physical possession type receiver for cold weather football, rather than the burner to catch bombs in a wind-free dome.   Folks, we don't play in a dome, quit crying for guys who excel in a dome environment.  Mayle will compete for the #5 receiver spot.

Charles Gaines  Cornerback, Round 6, Pick 13 (189), 5'10" 180 Louisville.  Do the Browns need a cornerback with two Pro Bowlers (Joe Haden and Tramon Williams)  plus rookies  K'Waun Williams, Pierre Desir and Justin Gilbert? Yes, because Desir and especially Gilbert struggled as rookies.   Gilbert is trying to play himself out of the league despite being a first round pick, and Desir was also very erratic.

Malcolm Johnson Fullback and H-Back, Round 6, Pick 19 (195) (from Texans). 6'2" 231, Mississippi St.   This fellow is listed as a tight end, but he played both fullback and tight end in college.  My guess is that he will be a fullback or H-Back type player used for run blocking.  

Randall Telfer, Tight End, Round 6, Pick 22 (198) (from Cardinals).   6'4" 250 USC .  Telfer is regarded highly as a blocker, rather than a pass catcher.   The Browns already have receiving tight ends in Gary Barnidge,  Rob Housler and Jim Dray

Hayes Pullard, Inside Linebacker, Round 7, Pick 2 (219) (from Patriots through Titans) 6'0" 240 USC .  They say he is good in pass coverage.  

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Round 7, Pick 24 (241) (from Cardinals) 5'9" 192 Oregon.   This guy was highly rated but coming back from serious knee surgery.  This is the kind of guy the Browns used to take in the second round.