Reading and Thinking Football

Football, including books thereon and idiosyncratic thinking thereabout


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I was watching college basketball earlier today, specifically the Purdue-Michigan State game on CBS. One of the commentators, I believe PBP man Gus Johnson, mentioned that Purdue coach Matt Painter wanted his team to “play with a greater sense of urgency” than they had in their previous game, a loss to Northwestern. Now, this sense of “playing with a sense of urgency” is one I’ve heard before from football commentators, and I must confuse I have absolutely no idea what it means aside from “play better”. At best, I guess it could be referring to some sort of vague combination of hustle and playing hard (in that case, why not use more direct words, except maybe those are white connotations), but I really suspect it’s much more anodyne than that-something silly like “be on the lucky end of your expected distribution instead of the unlucky end.” I guess it’s petty to be annoyed at good thoughts toward a team, but that’s who I am. It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise to see that I’m going to try to “blog with a greater sense of urgency”. When it gets to the point where you don’t want to organize your bookmarks because you don’t want to see how many there are (about 340), yeah, you’ve reached that point. Of course, since I’m committing to something meaningless, I don’t know what I’m committing myself to. Anyway, on with the show.

Long and not that boring interview with Joe Tiller. It’s interesting to read this in conjunction with Smart Football’s posts on defense catching up with the spread offense. Tiller’s comments on not reading a football book in the past decade and instead reading management posts trying to connect with kids is also interesting and potentially along the same lines.

This is a basketball link, but the same thing exists in football-Tim Duncan as a player with an innate sense of spatial relationships. That’s the difference between a safety who gets there in time to break up the pass and the one who gets beat by half a second-the former guy probably has that special innate sense, whereas the other guy is reading and reacting.

Were I a different person, with a different sense of priorities and different time commitments, I’d tell you in detail just why this is a bad article. Instead, I’ll simply aver that.

One of the fun things about being a snarky blogger is you get to make fun of media people for being contradictory. In this case, check out David Climer in January and March. Yes, this is front-running at its most able to remind me why almost all columnists are worthless finest.

Scott Coy and Darren DeMeio, idiots of the week. The Westminster College football coaches were in Nashville for a convention and decided it would be a good idea to go wrestling in the atrium, whereupon they crashed their way through a plate-glass window to fall four stories. When I mention this occurred at 4:15 A.M., you may surmise that alcohol was probably involved, or at least that was my surmise.

A useful data dump: the likelihood of a TD or FG based on starting field position, based on 8 years of NFL data.

Adam Schefter had some nice excerpts from Jim Schwartz’s presser talking with the Detroit media. Nothing too groundbreaking here, but he’s very kind when he mentions, “Obviously some holes in the roster. No different, though, than probably half the teams in the NFL at this time of the year that are evaluating their roster…” Yes, except those other teams’ priority lists include “replace right guard” and “upgrade at running back”, not “find 7 average-quality players to start on defense.”

Of course, Jim’s task isn’t simply to collect talented players, but to build a team. A couple good examples here from hockey-a nice scene in Miracle, where Herb Brooks mentions his job isn’t to pick the 20 best players, but instead the right ones. The second is the difference between the Canadian Olympic team in 1998 and 2002-the former was more of a collection of talent built to achieve an agenda as much as win (Bobby Clarke building up Eric Lindros), whereas the latter was built to win.

Lee Igel had a nice article at NFP on how coaches are hired. It sounds a lot like how hiring is done is the world at large, which isn’t very surprising.

Mike Lombardi had a nice list of keys to remember for a big game that he put together based in part on observations of Bill Walsh.

Mike Lombardi again, with some insightful words on Jon Gruden and his inability to fall in love with players. Gruden’s a guy who’ll never be successful if he has a young quarterback or a competent backup.

Jack Bechta with NFP with some insight on agent inducements to get players to sign. Most of it, of course, it just time-shifting payment (see life-cycle hypothesis).

Chris of Smart Football had a very nice breakdown of a deep crossing route, focusing on Larry Fitzgerald’s TD against the Panthers and also bringing in Norm Chow and Texas Tech’s versions of the same play. See also Chris’s resource post for Texas Tech/Airraid information.

More cross-sport perspective: vintage Bill James, from the 1984 Baseball Abstract, on inside out perspective. Key difference, in my mind: the insiders deal with the people, while the outsiders can’t see the people for the most part. Both parties, as James points out, lose valuable information because of it.

Finally, a very interesting post from Andrew Brandt of NFP on the effects of 2010 as an uncapped year.


Written by Tom Gower

March 8, 2009 at 22:13

Posted in Uncategorized

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