Thursday, October 24, 2013

the meme team

"You know on Sundays like this that he'd do this for free!"

"It's like watching a little kid out on the field for the first time!"

"He's just having fun out there!"

No, those aren't quotes about The Institute ruining The Commish's weekend by winning his second game of the season. They're about this guy:

I know. Favre has come back more times than Jason Voorhies and this is all a media stunt perpetrated by ESPN to get clicks and views during the long stretch of bye weeks during the NFL season. But it's still fun to speculate, particularly when Favre's agent is saying things like this:

His arms look like a blacksmith's arms. He rides a bike probably 30-50 miles a day. He runs four or five miles a day. He's coaching at the high school and they're undefeated. He loves it. His body fat is 7.5 percent and he weighs 225 pounds. He could play today, better than a lot of them out there today.
Who is coming back? Brett Favre or Paul Bunyan? Is Bus Cook the agent for a quarterback or a mythical greek alien deity? Even John Madden never gushed about the old gunslinger quite like that.
Here's the question. Is Brett Favre at 44 really better than many NFL quarterbacks currently playing in the league? I often hear and have said myself that it is amazing that in the population of the entire world we can't even find 32 guys who can competently play quarterback at the highest level. But I decided to do a little experiment. A power ranking of the quarterback situations of the 32 NFL teams.

1. Peyton Manning, Broncos
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
3. Drew Brees, Saints
4. Tom Brady, Patriots
5. Andrew Luck, Colts
6. Tony Romo, Cowboys
7. Matt Ryan, Falcons
8. Matthew Stafford, Lions
9. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
10. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
11. Robert Griffin III, Redskins
12. Joe Flacco, Ravens
13. Eli Manning, Giants
14. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
15. Cam Newton, Panthers
16. Philip Rivers, Chargers
17. Jay Cutler, Bears
18. Michael Vick/Nick Foles, Eagles
19. Alex Smith, Chiefs
20. Andy Dalton, Bengals
21. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
22. Sam Bradford, Rams
23. Terrell Pryor, Raiders
24. Jake Locker, Titans
25. Geno Smith, Jets
26. EJ Manuel, Bills
27. Carson Palmer, Cardinals
28. Mike Glennon, Buccaneers
29. Matt Schaub/Case Keenum, Texans
30. Chad Henne/Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars
31. Jason Campbell/Brandon Weeden/Brian Hoyer, Browns
32. Christian Ponder/Matt Cassel/Josh Freeman, Vikings

You don't have to agree with my slotting of all of the potential QBs to understand the point of this exercise. It would be tough to argue that the top 19 haven't earned the right to start for an NFL team. If the standard is they give their teams under the right circumstances a chance to compete for a Super Bowl, I think these guys fit the bill. And I could make a pretty solid argument for 20-28 that we need more time before we can make a definitive decision (with the exception of Carson Palmer who is done). That leaves only four teams with a truly awful QB situation that will require a fix as soon as the 2014 draft.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the NFL quarterbacking situation is ideal. I still think there are at least 32 men on earth capable of doing the job. However, what would the teams situation look like if we did a similar list for running backs? Or tight ends? Or left tackles? Would we consistently find 20 teams with highly stable situations or only four teams with a desperate immediate need at those positions? I doubt it. We perceive quarterbacking to be weak because we focus so much on every mistake and foible, however I doubt the state of other positions is any different. Name me 20 "shutdown" cornerbacks in the NFL. You can't. They don't exist. In all likelihood, quarterback is the deepest position in the league. And I couldn't slot Brett Favre in any higher than 27 on the above list. That's not at an elite or even serviceable level. He doesn't need another shot at the league. We need to move on.

While we're on the topic of once great players well past their prime, let's turn to the BackwoodCrazyCajuns.

It seems once again he has not been able to outrun the fantasy gods. In a season that began with such promise, Brandon actually showed up to the draft. (With a woman! Who actually came to draft... Most of it.) Step one in his rehabilitation complete.

As he continued his penance, the Cajuns had by almost all accounts their best draft in years. (Even if also the slowest.)  Getting two of the consensus preseason top 5 RBs and Dez Bryant in what many expected to be an elite season for his production seemed like enough to put Brandon back in contention after so many disappointing finishes in recent years.

Then the Cajuns were who we thought they were when they took the damn field. Rolling to a 4-2 start, looking good for a playoff spot and nearing the halfway point, hope sprang anew in Brandon's locker room.

Then things took a dark turn.

First, it was a shoulder injury to Doug Martin knocking him out of the game early and draining his value for the week. CJ Spiller's struggles continued as his multi-week fight against an ankle injury resulted in one of the poorest games of his career. And just when it was clear week 7 and the momentum was lost? The death blow. Reggie Wayne. Heart and soul of the team. Veteran leadership. Nationally televised game with monster ratings. Torn ACL for all of America to cringe from.

And now I worry if Brandon can recover in time for this week's game. When a team gets rocked like that, it's important to get right back on your feet and keep fighting. Brandon made no pickups  on the waiver wire, no trades, not even a change to the starting lineup. Dead silence coming from Cajun HQ. Meanwhile, he has two QBs on bye, two RBs unlikely to play this week and a WR spot that must be solved both in the short and long term. He also has a winnable game against 40 Acres & a mule who is dealing with their own bye week issues. (And has 3 TEs currently on the roster. Go for the record! *crowd starts to quietly chant "Quinn Sypniewski"*)

After last week, Brandon may not be a champion again following this season but we will get to see if he still has a champion's heart over the next few weeks.

Following on the theme of questionable decisions by team authorities, there's a column I enjoy perusing every week by Bill Barnwell on Grantland called "Thank You For Not Coaching." Basically, it's a review of the best and worst decisions of the week by NFL head coaches. It goes well beyond the obvious choices and really attacks those few crucial moves that will actually affect the outcome of a game on any given Sunday. (BTW, if we listed the 32 NFL teams by their coaching situations we would not get even close to 20 relatively stable coaches. It's a hard job but that's no excuse to be bad at it.)

If I have to give out my own Thank You For Not Coaching Award this week, it goes to Leslie Frasier of the Minnesota Vikings. Not only have you jostled your quarterback position all year and already burned through three QBs, including the one who got you to last year's playoffs. You went Josh Freeman just two weeks after signing him. Freeman is not exactly legendary for his meticulous study of the playbook and you dialed up 53 passes in his first start? It's not as if the score dictated such a game plan. The Vikings were within two touchdowns going into the fourth quarter.

There have been reports that Adrian Peterson is dealing with a hamstring issue. But it wasn't severe enough to save him from running a meaningless play at the end of the first half as Barnwell points out.
For those of you who incurred hazard pay in watching the Giants-Vikings on Monday night, sorry about the Vikings handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson for a meaningless draw just before halftime. Peterson might be more likely to break a big one than just about anybody, but this draw was of little consequence and could have possibly led to a Peterson injury, which nobody wanted to see.
Unfortunately, that was one of only 13 carries for Peterson on the night as Freeman flung the ball all over the field and off the field in completing just 20 of his 53 attempts. (To be fair, he completed 21. It just so happened one was to the Giants.)

That kind of ineptitude can't be explained by injury or game plan or poor preparation. It's inexplicable that any coach would have a talent the level of AD on his sideline and not think within the confines of a 60 minute game that he should putting the ball in his hands far more than a quarterback still trying to learn all of his receivers' names.

This is the game we choose to play. And the Leslie Frasiers of the world will decide our fantasy fates.

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