Posts Tagged ‘MMQB’

Fair AND Balanced!

September 14, 2009

FairANDbalanced

For a “quick-hitting” lesson on media bias and the people that make it happen, let’s turn to this week’s edition of Monday Morning Quarterback. Peter King, our favorite Starbucks swilling doofus, has decided to cover the opening Monday Night Football games in a manner so “fair and balanced,” it would make Bill O’Reilly blush.

He begins his analysis with the (probably valid) assessment that “[ESPN’s] not going to have good games tonight.” Fair enough. The Patriots and Chargers are both heavily favored against their respective opponents, the Bills and Raiders, who are expected to be among the AFC’s worst teams. One would expect, then, that he would not have much to say about either game, right? Let me pause for a moment and remind you of the following fact: Peter King is a HUGE Patriots fan. Although you probably picked up on that if you read down to the next paragraph. Or the next one. Or the one after that. Or the chart comparing this year’s Patriots’ defense to that of the ’08 team. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy reading His Majesty’s columns, and much of what he has to say in this section is interesting to me as a fellow Patriots fan. I just feel bad for any of his readers out there who are Chargers fans. Their team only gets two dismissive sentences dedicated to it—one of which states that Richard Seymour, the long-time New England defensive lineman who was recently traded to Oakland, is the only “reason to tune in”!

To be fair, His Majesty does not make the lofty claims of objectivity that certain network news channels do—still, it would be nice if he made a little more of an effort to cover up his biases.

Update: Both Monday Night games came down to the final seconds—and ended with the favored team, led by its star quarterback, putting together a game-winning drive. Not surprisingly, King’s article this morning is all about the Patriots and Tom Brady’s triumphant return. He does not even mention the Chargers or anything to do with the second game. Hmmmm…

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Historically Speaking…

January 13, 2009

strahandoleman

This week, in MMQB, His Majesty decides to make a direct comparison between former Minnesota, Atlanta and San Francisco defensive end Chris Doleman (up for Hall of Fame consideration this year) and recently retired New York Giant defensive end Michael Strahan:

b. Defensive end Chris Doleman. Doesn’t bode well for Michael Strahan. Look at their numbers. They’re twins, and you could argue that minus the Super Bowl ring, they’re historically the same.

The comparison works quite well—Doleman had nine more career sacks (150.5 to 141.5) in 16 more games than Strahan—until His Majesty decides to proclaim that the two players are “historically the same.” Historically, they are not the same, because Strahan holds the record for the most sacks (22.5) in a single season. To use an example from a different sport, despite the fact that Roger Maris and Dante Bichette have practically identical career power numbers (275 homeruns to 274), there is no questioning Maris’ greater historical significance—because he broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. Strahan’s career statistics are nearly identical to Doleman’s but his single-season sack record (a record unlikely to be broken), as opposed to Doleman’s zero all-time records, makes Strahan, not necessarily a better player, but a more historically significant figure.

Benji and the Jets

December 22, 2008

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Rumors of the Jets’ demise have been greatly (or at least somewhat) exaggerated.

In today’s Monday Morning Quarterback, His Majesty sums up the Jets’ recent slide as follows:

The Jets have lost four straight games — games they were favored to win.

Sorry, Your Majesty, but that statement is simply not true. The Jets defeated the Bills 31-27 last week and have therefore lost three of four games, not four straight. The Jets have played terribly over the past month, and lost a game yesterday afternoon to a 3-11 team by only managing to score three points—their recent resume certainly speaks for itself. Yet, you could not resist the opportunity to use hyperbole and false statements to try to make an already undeniable point stronger…or maybe you just need to find a proofreader? I’m unemployed and already spend half of my waking hours reading through your articles…maybe I’ll include my resume in my next post…

Update: The Royal Revisionist strikes again! His Majesty went back and edited his original error. I am to assume then that anything The King writes can be secretly revised after it is published? Thanks, internet…

Ten Things Benji Thinks He Thinks

December 17, 2008

pontificate

The King doesn’t get mad, he gets even: After I abandoned him and our weekly football picking date for a weekend with Brian, His Majesty took advantage of my absence by writing a pair of columns filled with absurd and unsubstantiated assertions. In response, I have decided to create my own version of The King’s favorite (and most nonsensical/disorganized) section of his Monday Morning Quarterback articles. Just as life imitates art, Benji imitates King…

Ten Things Benji Thinks He Thinks:

1. While His Majesty certainly has a fair argument to make about the controversial touchdown call made at the end of the Ravens/Steelers game (I agree with him that there was not “indisputable evidence” to overturn the original ruling that the ball did not break the plane of the goal-line), he concludes his analysis with a strange stance on how people connected to the league might respond to the situation:

I’m sure we’ll hear cries to abolish replay in the coming days, which is ridiculous.

Why people would respond to problems with the way the replay system is utilized by calling for its removal is beyond me. Such an idea does sound “ridiculous,” Your Majesty—as you point out in the following sentence, the reason for the controversial ruling was not a failing in the replay system but one on the part of the referee in charge of making the call. There’s no way that any logical person would complain about the accuracy of a call and then demand the removal of a system which allows a play to be reviewed so that the most accurate call possible can be made.

c. In the Fine Fifteen Section of this week’s MMQB, His Majesty makes an interesting characterization of San Diego’s offensive identity in regard to its match-up with the Buccaneers this weekend:

The Bucs have the proverbial must win coming up Sunday at home against San Diego, and they’d better wear their big-boy pads for that one because the Chargers will come in rushing.

The King must have this year’s Chargers team confused with the ‘06/’07 Chargers. Back in the day, San Diego running back LaDanian Tomlinson rushed for over 1800 yards, scored 28 rushing touchdowns and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. This season, the Chargers rank 27th in the league in rushing yards per game, and Tomlinson is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry, tying the career low mark he set back in his rookie season. Perhaps Tampa Bay should focus more on quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ effective passing offense, which ranks seventh in the league in yards per game…

10. In this week’s MMQB Tuesday Edition, His Majesty responds to the following email about Matt Cassel and his father’s recent death:

“I’m amazed at how little attention Matt Cassel’s performance in the wake of his father’s passing received on a national level. When Brett Favre had a similar performance in Oakland, albeit on Monday night, the national media went nuts, he was this great warrior, etc. Yet, today, Cassel gets a small note in the middle of a webpage. Not that Cassel’s performance needs to be the lead story for the day, but the disparity is ridiculous. Another great day in the National Favre League.”

The King’s initial argument—that the wretched state of many retired NFL players who receive little to no compensation from the league was a far-reaching and important story that belonged on the front page of his article—seems reasonable. His explanation for why Favre’s dad dying (back in December 2003) was a more important story than Cassel’s dad dying, however, is both inaccurate and insensitive. His Majesty writes, “there was some real question in coach Mike Sherman’s mind if Favre would play in the game” but suggests that there was never any doubt that Cassel would suit up last weekend. First of all, this assertion simply isn’t true: Cassel’s status for the game was most certainly in doubt, evidenced by the team not announcing him as the starter until Friday evening. Second of all, the fact that Favre had less time to deal with his father’s death before his Monday Night game against Oakland (two days as opposed to six for Cassel) does not make Cassel’s situation any less of a tragedy. I understand that Favre, in 2003, was a legendary player, adored by the media and very open with his emotions, which meant that his “triumph” in the wake of his father’s death made for a better story. There’s no way, however, that any human being is capable of recovering emotionally from the unexpected loss of a parent in less than a week. I do not particularly care about who or what His Majesty chooses to write about in his articles, but it would be nice if, at the end of the day, he recognized that the players he covers are not just fodder for his hackneyed story-lines but real people with real feelings.

Michael Clayton?

December 1, 2008

michael_clayton_movie_poster2

In today’s edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, The Monarch formerly known as Doofus loses yet again at the “naming players correctly” game. Observe his paragraph on the Baltimore Ravens in his Fine Fifteen section:

6. Baltimore (8-4). A hard, but relatively friendly, remaining schedule. Three of four at home. Washington and Pittsburgh at home, at Dallas on a short week (Saturday night), Jacksonville at home. I asked sudden star wide receiver Michael Clayton what kind of rivalry the Ravens had with foe number one — Washington, seeing that the District of Columbia is 38 miles down the road from Baltimore. “I’m not sure,” Clayton said. “I don’t know really. All I know is they’re our next game.” The Ravens, obviously, are burning with passion to face their hated Beltway cousins.

I hate to break it to you, Your Majesty, but George Clooney does not play for the Ravens. Neither does Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Michael Clayton, a perpetual underachiever who has not gained as many as 400 receiving yards in a single season since his rookie year. Mark Clayton, the Baltimore Ravens receiver whom I believe you are referring to in your article, did have a career day (five catches for 164 yards) against the Bengals (the team with the second worst record in the league) but is he really a “sudden star”? In 2006, Mark Clayton had 67 receptions, 939 yards and five touchdowns. He is on pace to come up well short of those numbers this season—according to ESPN.com, his projected statistics are 37 catches, 633 yards and four touchdowns. Thanks for playing, Your Majesty. Better luck next time…

Update: As of 11 a.m., it appears that His Majesty (or some overworked intern who got a break from buffet-stocking duty) went back and edited the Clayton naming gaffe—which makes sense, I suppose, since the truth can be adjusted…

There’s No Place Like Home…

October 27, 2008

The King’s comments about the Arizona Cardinals, in this week’s edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, have left me slightly confused and more than a little perturbed. The Cardinals, if you recall, lost a close road game to the Carolina Panthers, 27-23, on Sunday afternoon. Both His Majesty and I correctly predicted the outcome of the game, but did so for very different reasons. The King, like many members of the sports media, recently fell in love with the stat depicting East Coast teams’ dominance against traveling teams from the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones. Let’s revisit his prediction:

If my predictions of Oakland and Arizona losing are correct, by 4 p.m. Sunday the NFL’s stat of the half season will be this: Pacific and Mountain time zone teams playing in Eastern time this year will be 0-13.

This morning, four days after championing the time zone theory, The King tries to distance himself from it completely:

What makes me delirious about Sunday’s games: You can’t say teams flying from west to east (in luxury, by the way, for between three and five cushy hours) can’t win. I know the Cards lost after a 2,050-mile jaunt to Charlotte, but they led for much of the game and showed no sign of sleep-walking through any part of the game.

He goes on to dismiss the formula that he used to justify his prediction for the Cardinals/Panthers game as the “silliest story angle of the 2008 season”. But it is in His justification for the Cardinals shattering the previously unbreakable time zone theory (despite the fact that they did not win their East Coast game) that The King completely ceases to make sense. First of all, San Diego led for much of its game in Buffalo last week. In fact, the Chargers were about to move ahead late in the game when Philip Rivers threw a terrible interception in the end zone. How does the Cardinals playing the Panthers close prove anything that had not already been proven the week prior? In both games, the road team had a chance to win but was done in by lackadaisical play and sloppy turnovers. The King adamantly asserts that the Cardinals “showed no sign of sleep-walking through any part of the game” but fails to mention that they turned the ball over inside their own twenty-yard line when they were up by multiple scores, which precipitated the Panthers’ comeback—if that does not qualify as “sleep-walking” then I guess I need to review my dictionary of hackneyed sports terminology.

To his credit, His Majesty starts making sense again when he questions the quality of the West Coast teams:

All the opiners wondering why teams like Seattle and San Francisco can’t win on the East Coast should consider this possibility: Maybe they stink.

Allow me to pause and congratulate The King for finally reaching the conclusion that I had arrived at several weeks ago. I would also add Oakland to the list of terrible Pacific/Mountain Time Zone teams that have lost on the East Coast this season. Furthermore, I would like to point out that of the other three teams that qualify for the time zone stat, two (the Chargers and Broncos) are maddeningly inconsistent and have terrible defenses, while the third (the Cardinals) has been great at home but awful on the road this season (MY much more substantive justification for picking the Panthers to win). Overall, the Pacific/Mountain Time Zone teams are a combined 6-17 on the road.

But despite His brief moment of sanity and coherence, The King quickly returns to his normal nonsensical ways. In the face of the overwhelming statistical evidence (the win/loss record for home teams this season is 73-42), His Majesty takes the counterargument for the time zone theory far beyond its logical conclusion, and tries to remove home field advantage/road team disadvantage from the equation completely. Observe his final assessment of Kurt Warner and the Cardinals:

Maybe when the Cards get routed at the Jets it’s because Kurt Warner’s turnover-happy that day, which he’s been at home and on the road in his career. Maybe Arizona loses at Carolina because Carolina’s better, not because the Cards had such an arduous trip east.

Carolina was the better team in its game with Arizona, but surely the fact that the Panthers were playing at home gave them some sort of advantage? I could take a page from The King’s book and write an incoherent paragraph of analysis that does not substantiate the point that I am trying to make—I’m getting sick of all this writing, though, so I’ll just present you with the teams’ home/road splits and let the stats make the argument for me.

Carolina’s record this season: Overall: 6-2, Home: 5-0, Road: 1-2.
Arizona’s record this season: Overall: 4-3, Home: 3-0, Road: 1-3.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I see a pattern there. How can this pattern exist, though, if Kurt Warner is just as careless with the football at home as he is on the road? Perhaps it is because The King’s assessment of Warner’s play has no basis. As usual, King makes a brash assertion that has a lot of bark but little statistical bite. Again, I’ll let the statistics speak for themselves:

Kurt Warner’s fumbles/INTs this season:
Overall: 6 interceptions, 6 fumbles
Home: 1 interception, 1 fumble
Away: 5 interceptions, 5 fumbles

Clearly, Warner has done a better job of taking care of the ball at home than he has on the road so far this season. Furthermore, if you look at his passing statistics, you can see that while his number of touchdown passes is consistent (seven at home and seven on the road), his completion percentage is nearly eleven points better at home than it is on the road (77.1 to 66.3 percent). Perhaps it is a bit misleading, however, for me to draw these conclusions based on such a small sample size. To save myself from an onslaught of angry emails from rabid King supporters, I will head to the vault and pull up Warner’s statistics from last year, his first and to-date only full season as the starting quarterback for the Cardinals, and see how they compare:

Kurt Warner’s fumbles/INTs in the 2007 season:
Overall: 17 interceptions, 12 fumbles
Home: 6 interceptions, 7 fumbles
Away: 11 interceptions, 5 fumbles

While the split between Warner’s home and road performances is not nearly as drastic as it has been thus far this season, he still fumbled/threw interceptions more frequently on the road than he did at home (16 to 13). Furthermore, returning to the passing statistics, his completion percentage was again significantly higher at home than it was on the road (66.7 to 57.8 percent). Last but certainly not least, the Cardinals, in his 14 starts, were 6-1 at home and 1-6 in away games. The only conclusion that one can draw from this pile of statistical evidence is that Kurt Warner and the Cardinals, over the past two seasons, have played significantly better at home than they have on the road.

Maybe there is an argument to be made for the quality of a team being more significant than home-field advantage (see: the New York Giants), but His Majesty could not have picked a pair of teams (Carolina and Arizona) and a player (Kurt Warner) more ill suited for said argument. A less knowledgeable football fan, however, might easily have been taken in by The King’s unsubstantiated analysis simply because His Majesty argues His points so adamantly. Thank you, Your Majesty, for once again justifying the existence of this blog.

(Update: In MMQB Tuesday Edition, His Majesty responds to a question about the time zone theory with a bold faced lie: “I’ve never bought into the theory that it prevents a team from showing up and playing well.” By never, I guess he means not since he posted his picks on Thursday.)

King Loves Me? King Loves Me Not?

October 22, 2008

Based on The King’s columns so far this season, one would be forced to conclude that His feelings for New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel are, dare I say, a teeny bit fickle?

Let’s recap His Majesty’s thoughts about Cassel after each of his five starts this season:

After a 19-10 Patriots win over the Jets in Week Two for which The King bestowed upon Cassel one of his highly esteemed Offensive Player of the Week awards:

A workmanlike day (16 of 23, 165 yards, no touchdowns or picks), but let’s realize what this man did. In his first start in the NFL, and his first start at quarterback since a high school playoff game in 1999, he jogged onto Favre’s new home field Sunday in New Jersey, and beat one of the top 10 quarterbacks of all time.

After a 38-13 loss to the Dolphins in Week Three:

With the bye week coming up, the question is whether New England will try to persuade Vinny Testaverde to come out of retirement at 44, or look elsewhere for quarterback help. Cassel looked really bad…

After a 31-20 win over the 49ers in Week Five:

The hounds have been released. Matt Cassel has been allowed to throw it way far downfield. See that smile on the sidelines from Randy Moss?

After a 30-10 loss to the Chargers:

Fairly predictable result last night. Chargers have a quarterback you can trust. Patriots don’t. Doesn’t Philip Rivers throw a beautiful deep ball?

And, finally, after the 41-7 win over the Broncos on Monday Night:

After statistically comparing Matt Cassel to Tom Brady in Brady’s first season, King concludes:

Eerie. And a good reason to think the Patriots have a heck of a chance to be playing January football without the best player in football.

Each week, long after Tuesday practice has ended and all of his teammates have showered and gone home, Matt Cassel sits by himself in the corner of the Patriots’ locker room with a freshly picked daisy and a laptop and reads King’s latest column, whimsically wondering aloud, “King loves me? King loves me not?”

Prison Break?

October 13, 2008

In the lead story of this week’s edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, The King reports that the Cowboys’ recent struggles are the result of inner turmoil and a lack of leadership or accountability within the organization. In His words, “We’ve got an asylum here, and the inmates are running it”. His Majesty’s assessment of the situation in Dallas may very well be true—his sources are better than mine—but I take issue with a misleading statistic that he uses to illustrate the quality of the Cowboys’ three most recent opponents and therefore the direness of the Cowboys’ current state.

In the last three games, Dallas is 1-2 — and that’s against teams with a combined record of 8-10.

Dallas’s lone win in the past three weeks came against the winless Bengals. The Cowboys were obviously expected to win that game, and while they did allow Cincinnati to forge a comeback in the fourth quarter, they ended up winning by multiple scores. If you remove the Bengals’ record (0-6) from The King’s statistic, you will note that the Cowboys’ two losses in that span were against teams with a combined record of 8-4. Both of the 4-2 teams that beat the Cowboys this year, the Redskins and the Cardinals, are likely to make the playoffs. The Cardinals are currently leading the NFC West by two games and the Redskins, who made the playoffs last year, are in great position in the NFC East (despite their loss this week to the Rams) after finishing up their inter-division road games with a record of 2-1. Both losses were close, and this most recent one was an overtime defeat on the road. In summation, the Cowboys have lost two close matches to likely playoff teams in the past three weeks. Disappointing, to be sure. But the sky is hardly falling down in Dallas. It took two fluky plays, a kick return for a touchdown to start the game and a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown to end it in overtime, for Arizona, a team that had scored 44 points against previously undefeated Buffalo the week prior and had the home-field advantage in this match-up, to beat the supposedly self-combusting Cowboys.

From misleading to useless and counterproductive—take a minute to analyze the next two statistics that King uses to back up his “Storm Clouds in Dallas” storyline:

Score: Dallas 79, Foes 78.

First downs: Dallas 54, Foes 54.

If a team loses two games in a three game span, an intelligent observer would expect said team to be outscored and to have fewer first downs than its opponents. That goes without saying. The fact that these two comparative statistics are even suggests that the Cowboys played their opponents evenly over that span. In other words, from these statistics alone, one would probably conclude that the results of those games could have gone either way.

The King may be right to criticize the way that this team is being handled internally—again, he is the lead NFL writer for Sports Illustrated with all of the inside sources, not me—but his flawed use of statistical analysis in this article severely detracts from the argument that he is attempting to make about the Cowboys’ lack of discipline.

Update:

The King, as of 1:24 P.M. has edited his original MMQB posting and added several paragraphs to his lead story after the news broke from Dallas that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has a broken pinkie and is expected to miss the next three games. His Majesty now has a stronger case for Dallas’s playoff hopes being in jeopardy, but his misleading and unhelpful stats STILL strongly detract from, rather than strengthen, his overall argument.

King’s “Most Offensive” Comment of the Week

October 6, 2008

In this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback, His Majesty bestows the third of his “Offensive Player of the Week” awards upon Tony Gonzalez, the long-time star tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs:

Tony Gonzales, TE, Kansas City. It’s a token award, but a deserving one for a great player who will toil in obscurity all season. His three catches for 17 yards gave him 841 receptions for an NFL tight-end-record 10,075 yards, passing Shannon Sharpe. Amazing thing is, he’s as healthy as a horse, is only 32, and could surely get to 1,000 catches, which I’m certain no forefather of this great game ever conceived a tight end would reach.

While I appreciate fully what Gonzalez has done to revolutionize the tight end position, and I believe that his career statistics are phenomenal, his offensive performance THIS WEEK was quite pedestrian. His team lost 34-0 to the Carolina Panthers and he only caught three passes for 17 yards. 19 other tight ends had better performances than him on Sunday, including such household names as the Colts’ Tom Santi (four catches for 27 yards and a touchdown) and the Packers’ Tory Humphrey (four catches for 67 yards). I understand that Gonzalez broke the record for most receiving yards by a tight end in this particular game, but his performance THIS WEEK, the week that he happened to break the record, was inconsequential. Let me put it in pop culture terms: Would awarding Robin Williams an Oscar for his acting in “License to Wed” be an effective way to honor him for his brilliant performances in “Good Will Hunting,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Death to Smoochy?”

It’s not that I believe that giving Tony Gonzalez recognition for his fantastic career numbers in a season which, as The King points out, he “will toil in obscurity”, is a bad thing—I just think that said recognition is out of place in the weekly awards segment of His column. His Majesty has a section of MMQB completely dedicated to random thoughts and commentary, “Ten Things I Think I Think,” and that is where this paragraph about Gonzalez’s achievement would be placed, if He were to organize His column in a sensible and coherent manner. Finally, I hate to be nitpicky (okay fine, I lied, I actually kind of enjoy it), but if you are going to honor a talented player whose career you have followed and admired for the past twelve years, I would, at the least, expect you to know how to spell his last name. Gonzalez, not Gonzales.

Fantasy Land

October 2, 2008

In this week’s MMQB, The King gave out a little piece of fantasy football advice, and I have inexplicably decided to listen to him.

6. I think if I had a spare spot on my fantasy team, I’d claim Ryan Torain, injured rookie Denver running back. Just do it. You’ll thank me when you win your league.

My team, the Green Mountain Boys, currently resides in second place in my eight-team fantasy football league. I have been happy with my team’s performance thus far this season, but I am willing to do whatever it takes to win my league. Thus, under His Majesty’s guidance, I have dropped injured Bengals backup running back Kenny Watson in favor of the immortal Ryan Torain, in the hopes of putting my team over the top. I believe that Torain will be the good luck charm that my talented squad has been missing. While His Majesty did not explicitly state his reasoning for his belief that Torain will help me “win [my] league”, I can only assume that he also sees Torain as the fantasy equivalent of a lucky penny or a rabbit’s foot. After all, in order to even have the opportunity to become a relevant fantasy player, the injured Torain would have to beat out three players currently ahead of him on the Broncos’ depth chart: a respected veteran (Michael Pittman) and two younger backs (Selvin Young and Andre Hall) who have run the ball quite successfully thus far this season (averaging 6.2 and 4.9 yards per carry respectively). Assuming that Torain did beat out these three players for the starting job, he would still need to hope for injuries to all three of them, assuring himself a full load of carries. Mike Shanahan has shown over the past few seasons that he is committed to a running back timeshare, no matter who his backs are and thus none of his running backs this season are likely to be consistent fantasy scorers regardless of how successful the Broncos are at running the ball. Finally, Denver’s offensive philosophy this season has been to pass whenever possible—and with a defense that would have difficulty stopping a college intramural team, I expect that to continue to be the case for the rest of the year.

But I am sure that His Majesty was not implying that Torain would be a high-scoring fantasy player by the season’s end; I just think that we are both very superstitious guys. Has anyone seen my lucky thong?