Monday, January 17, 2011

Eagles Coaching Moves

Are the Eagles making the right coaching moves as the season wraps up, or are they just making their problems worse?

First, they sack defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. I've killed him numerous times during the season, and his faults are worth repeating in this post-mortem...there were too many unsound blitzes, especially on third-and-long. Too many times I watched defensive linemen helplessly attempt to keep up with wide receivers. Really, the Eagles blitzed a little too much in general. Teams would routinely beat them with screens, rollouts, or max-protect schemes to take advantage of the one-on-one matchups down the field. Part of the effectiveness of the blitz is surprise, and if the other team is never surprised, it is less effective. So did McDermott have some improvements to make schematically? Of course he did.

But he is a very young coach who was forced to fill a legend's shoes when Jim Johnson unexpectedly died. Too often I thought he was being overly creative with his schemes, possibly to prove that he belonged in the same breath as Johnson. But if he's a bright and hard-working as Andy constantly claimed, then surely he would have learned from his mistakes and made corrections in the fall, right? And any improvement in the personnel would surely make him look even better. The Eagles started 7 players who were seventh-round picks or undrafted free agents on defense in the playoffs, and still held the Packers to 21 points.

Why not have this conversation, instead of firing McDermott?

Andy: I think you blitzed a little too much this season. I'd like to see more coverage, especially on third-and-long. And when you do blitz, it has to be fundamentally sound.
Sean: Will do, boss.

If McDermott's unwilling to accept that criticism, or too stupid to implement those changes, then the real indictment goes to the guy who hired him. He's either a smart, hard-working guy who can learn from his mistakes...or he's an idiot that should have never had control of the defense to begin with.

It would be one thing if a brilliant 4-3 coach was available, but there isn't. The Eagles are scraping the bottom of the barrel, interviewing colossal coaching failures like Jim Mora Jr. and Dick Jauron to take McDermott's place. Seriously? With a lockout looming, the new coach won't even have a full offseason to implement his new scheme.

They've also fired defensive line coach Rory Segrest. I don't know enough about DL technique to give you an informed opinion about his effectiveness, but there is some logic to this move. Two Eagles castoffs - Chris Clemons and Jason Babin - had 10+ sacks with new teams. Of course, I thought Babin was a keeper and should have been re-signed, so that's more of a personnel failure (Andy) than a coaching one. Clemons was useless in Philly, though, so maybe the coach just wasn't able to get enough out of him.

Overall, this season was more about personnel failures. Trading Sheldon Brown for nothing and replacing him with an ineffective fourth-round draft pick. Oops! Having huge holes on the offensive line and spending zero out of thirteen picks to shore them up. Oops! Releasing Will Witherspoon, who played terrifically for Tennessee this year, and replacing him with a terrible Ernie Sims. Oops!

But if we are going to talk about coaching failures, how about the 16 points scored in a playoff game? The ridiculous ineptitude with the challenge flag? The constant FG attempts when the Eagles needed a TD instead? The bone-headed insistence on deep-drop play-action when teams blitz every down? The abandonment of a Pro Bowl running back on a weekly basis? Big Red needs to stop finding scapegoats and take a real hard look at his own stubborness. The worst gameday coach in the NFL needs to make changes to himself, not to his staff.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yes he's crazy. Kill him anyway.

Need to catch up on a few day's worth of topics...

Read an article with an interesting logical argument: If you think Gabrielle Gifford's shooter committed murder because he was insane, and not because he was pushed to violence by overheated political rhetoric...then surely you'd support an innocent verdict by reason of insanity? I enjoyed the attempt, because I relish a good syllogism as much as the next guy, but there's a rather large flawed assumption at the base of this reasoning. Just because I call someone crazy, nuts, fucked-in-the-head, and/or insane, I'm not restricting myself to the legal definition of insanity, ie: Cannot tell the difference between right and wrong. Someone who can tell the difference clearly, but acts evil anyway (especially when there is no self-benefit involved), is a clear wacko. Yet they wouldn't qualify for an insanity defense. Committing murder for pleasure or fame is crazy, but the killer still needs to die. Case closed.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin's response to this incident would be funny if it wasn't sad. Sad because someone so hypocritical, illogical, and ignorant as Palin is going to have immense support to be our next president. From a country that elected W twice, I would expect nothing more. In one breath she absolves herself of any responsibility for the violence, saying that "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them". But in the next breath, she condemns the media for inciting violence. She also ignores her own recent stance against the Ground Zero Mosque (more accurately known as the Two Blocks From Ground Zero Muslim Community Center), where she insists that all Muslims bear the burden of crimes committed by a few. Anyone with even an inkling to vote for Palin should be placed under psychiatric care immediately.

Obama, on the other hand, struck the perfect tone in his speech at the memorial service in Tuscon. While he has done everything in his power to expand government and bankrupt the country, exactly as I warned he would, it is a welcome change to have a presidential leader that doesn't embarrass himself and his country every time he opens his mouth. Of course I'd rather have a fiscally responsible president than a good orator, but Bush was neither. At least Obama has one thing going for him.

Finally, I read about the ongoing ecological disaster that is China, and I was sickly pleased by it. Not because I enjoy environmental destruction (I don't, honest!), but because I feel bombarded by media stories which accentuate American decline and offer China's economic rise as a counterpoint. China's even more fucked up than we are, they're just starting from such a poverty-stricken low point that their growth rate looks impressive. And it emphasizes - again - that environmental legislation in America will do very little, if anything, to solve worldwide ecological problems. We'll either find technological solutions to generate clean power, or we'll be forced into behavioral change by a crisis. Anyone who tells you we can cap-and-trade our way to a clean environment is either outrageously ignorant or a money-grabbing charlatan.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

NFL Prediction Scorecard

At the beginning of the season, I did a team-by-team preview that included predictions about the finishing order of all NFL teams. I pointed out how, in spite of steady 50% turnover rate in the playoff field over the last decade, media pundits routinely picked the same teams. Turnover ranged from 12% to 25% - I was unable to find a single NFL 'expert' on,, or who predicted a statistically reasonable amount of change.

Oddly, this was the most stable playoff field in seven years, with only 5/12 (42%) teams changing. Still, that's a lot close to 50% than the 20% favored by safe-picking pundits.

So, enough stalling, how did I do?

I predicted 7/12 playoff teams correctly, a meager 58%. Doesn't sound like much, until you start comparing it against the other experts.

  • Vic Carucci: 6/12, didn't think the Patriots (14-2) would make it in.
  • Gil Brandt: 7/12, liked the Texans and the Cowboys to make conference championships
  • Bucky Brooks: 8/12, he kicked my ass, so I won't point out that he whiffed on the Patriots also.
  • Pat Kirwan: 6/12, had the Bengals (4-12) in the Super Bowl.
  • Jason La Canfora: 7/12, rode the Titans to the AFC championship.
  • Michael Lombardi: 5/12, Chargers in the Super Bowl.
  • Steve Wyche: 6/12, Cowboys in the NFC Championship.

Meanwhile, Don Banks only picks division winners, so his numbers don't compare neatly. He got exactly 1/8 right, but four of his division winners made it in as wildcards, so it's a better than a 12.5% performance, but I'm not sure how to measure it.

So what does this mean? Even in a year where the playoff turnover was less than the historical average, I still fared better than your average paid NFL pundit. Exactly one picked more teams correctly than me, and most picked less.