Saturday, July 16, 2005

Rating the Offseason

For me to grade an offseason, I try to look at what the team needed, and what is realisitc for a team to acomplish. Going into this offseason, I thought we needed to bring in starters at these positions:
SS - Walker had to go
OG - Loverne should be a backup
TE - One who could catch
DE - Redding should be a backup
I wanted to add depth at a few other positions:
FS - In case Holt doesn't suceed
WR - In case the injury bug hit again
QB - In case Joey doesn't work out

Filling all of those positions would be a tall order for any GM, but it is necessary to get this team to the next level. So how did we do?

SS - Kennedy - I'm OK with this signing as I was kinda hoping that we would wrangle Donovin Darius from Jacksonville. Their asking price was too high, so this was the next best option.

OG - DeMulling - Nice pickup at the right price.

TE - Pollard - IF he still has a good year or two left, this was a great pickup. If not, we're still looking at one of two undrafted FA's to be our starting TE. I tend to think Pollard has 2 more good seasons left.

DE - Cody - Hmmmm... The kid was great in college, and probably is a bit of a tweener DT / DE. I haven't seen him line up against the big boys yet. I'm actually more excited about Swancutt as I'm impressed with his drive. Throw these guys in with Redding, and they may suffice. Something tells me our #1 need next year will be DE though.

FS - McQuarters - Hmmmm... This guy has never impressed me much, but as a backup CB, FS and KR, he's about as versatile as you can get. Problem is we really needed a better backup FS as we really didn't need a backup CB - his natural position. I'm not overly excited here, but I think Holt will be fine, so I'm hoping that McQ never sees the field at FS.

WR - Johnson and Williams - wow. I mean WOW!!!! I guess Millen doesn't want to see Joey throwing to NFL-E type players for half the season ever again. I wanted KJ2 from the opening bell of free agency as I thought he was the perfect possession receiver for this team. He's kinda the anti-Az, as he runs great routes, has flypaper for hands, but he's not the quickest or fastest guy. I woulda been completely happy with just him, but then we pulled the coup of the draft and got BMW. I woulda taken BMW as the top pick in the draft last year - that's how much I like him. I don't want to get into too much hyperbole here, but his pick may have vaulted our O to near the top of the league. Teams just can't match up against all of our receivers. I'm still amazed that we got BMW...

QB - Garcia - Going into free agency, I think everyone in the football world knew that this was a no-brainer. What suprised me more was how we took serious looks at Brad Johnson and Kurt Warner, then how Garcia got serious talking to Denver and Seattle. This was the perfect fit for both Jeff and the Lions as he knows the system, he's been to 3 probowls running it, he's a perfect safety blanket should Joey falter, and he should push Joey hard for the starting spot in camp, likely making both players better.

So, when I add it all up, I'd give Millen a B+ for filling every spot I thought we needed to fill, a B for the actual players he brought in to fill them, and an A+ for his drafting of a true difference maker. That puts him in with an A- in my book. Damn good offseason. Honestly, I wouldn't rate any other teams off-season better than this one. Now it's up to Mooch to translate this treasure-trove of personnel upgrades into victories. My gut is telling me we're going to see success similar to his 2001 SF team (Of course SF went 4-12, 6-10 in the two preceeding years, then went 12-4 in 2001)... I just have a feeling about this...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Prediction - ViQueens lose big in 2K5...

There's been a ton of discussion lately about the Vikings and the Lions and the posters on the Den have been a bit miffed about the positive press the Queens are getting while the Lions seem to get every "Joey must put up or else"type of article written. So after a LONG thread, I decided to chime in with my view of the Vikings season this year. Let's just say I have a very different view of their chances than most media outlets have...

Here's the problem I see looming with the Queens O this year - their big-play O will see a significant downturn in production. And yes, it's all related to losing Randy Moss.

If all you lost was Randy's production, it would be one thing, but you lose so much more...

- They lost the one receiver who demanded to be double teamed that they had. This double team freed up many other options on the field as a safety would always have to cheat toward Moss. That frees up the RB's lanes, puts the other WR's in single coverage against a #2 or 3 CB, and guarantees a TE will have a LB trying to cover them. Without Moss, all those formational advantages are gone, making the other players on the Queens that much easier to cover.

- Moss was Culpepper's safety blanket - Pepper knew with Moss out there if he was in trouble, he could chuck it deep and there was a good chance something good would happen. The threat of an INT was minimal as Moss could simply out jump nearly every defender for the ball. Heck, you even played him at CB in a few games to stop Hail Mary passes, and I even remember him intercepting one. Moss made CB's look silly on deep passes the way Barry Sanders used to make entire defenses look silly trying to stop him. Now you have no one who can even remotely come close to filling that role.

- Opposing teams game plans got a lot easier. Now, instead of having to create junk D's to account for Moss on every play, they can go back to playing a very conventional style of D. There's no more cramming to install a few D packages before a team plays the Queens. The Base D's will work.

- The Queens O has been big-play based for several years. In a previous post I mentioned that you take away the 7 big plays they had in the extra-point game, and the Queens had 56 plays for 195 yards (3.5 per play) in the rest of the game. How well do you think the Big Play O will work without it's best playmaker? I'd be nowhere near as well.

- Finally, the Queens replaced him with perennially underachieving Travis Taylor and a Rook with great speed, but horrible stats. Neither of these guys even comes close to holding Randy's jock. Yet somehow people in Minnesoter think there won't be a dropoff in Culpeppers stats.

Based on the huge impact to the O, plus the well described by other posters problems with your old D Vets, I have a very negative view about the Queens. Personally, I am picking the Queens as my 'Flop' team for 2005. I think they have the best chance to go from the playoffs to picking in the top 10 in next years draft of all the playoff teams. I see them being an injury to Culpepper away from a 49ers - Dolphins type year. And I see no way that Tice is coaching them in 2006. Mark my words, as I'll add them to my blog - 2005 will be a year to forget in ViQueen land...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Digging through the dirt...

Well, I was a bit bored as I was reading through another thread tonight, and somehow made it over to Pro Football and was lookiing through stats, when something very odd hit me. It happened when I saw the following stat lines:

G | Comp Att PCT YD Y/A TD INT | Att Yards TD |
12 | 173 303 57.1 2178 7.2 11 6 | 41 229 1 |
11 | 151 270 55.9 1957 7.2 13 7 | 28 87 2 |
15 | 221 412 53.6 2489 6.0 13 15 | 44 199 2 |
14 | 215 429 50.1 2294 5.3 12 16 | 7 4 0 |
16 | 309 554 55.8 2880 5.2 17 22 | 30 86 0 |
16 | 274 489 56.0 3047 6.2 19 12 | 48 175 0 |

In case you were wondering, those were the first 3 years stats for Charlie Batch and then Joey Harrington. A few things stuck out at me when I looked thorugh them. So I decided to try to do an objective comparison between the two QB's - one who was loved until he got a huge contract, and one who is considered an enigma and received a huge contract from his first day with the team. Here is my take...

1 - Charlie's stats seemed to get slightly worse each year - his completion percentage went down each year, his yards per play and INT to TD ratio plateaued then went down. Joey's have seemed to improve each year.

I'd give the edge stats-wise to Joey, but not by much. Overall the numbers favor Charlie, but the downward trend was not a very promising sign

2 - Charlie missed a lot of games - 10 in 3 years. Joey has missed 2 - the first and last games of his rookie year.

Joey wins in a runaway here. Charlie seemed to get hurt if you breathed on him wrong, while Joey has really only missed one start since he got the starting job.

3 - Charlie's leading receivers each year were:
Year1 - Moore 82/983, Morton 69/1028, Crowell 25/464
Year 2 - Crowell 81/1338, Morton 80/1129, Sloan 47/591
Year 3 - Morton 61/788, Moore 40/434, Crowell 34/430

Joey's were:
Year 1 - Hakim 37/541, Schroeder 36/595, Anderson 25/322
Year 2 - Hakim 49/449, Schroeder 36/397, Rogers 22/243
Year 3 - Williams 54/817, Hakim 31/533, Streets 28/260

HUGE edge to Charlie. His receivers were considerably better during his first three years in Detroit - although we start to see in year 3 of Batch that the receivers are about to go into the tailspin that we have endured for the last several years.

4 - Charlie's running backs
Y1 - Sanders 343/1491
Y2 - Hill 144/542
Y3 - Stewart 339/1184

Joey's RBs
Y1 - Stewart 231/1021
Y2 - Bryson 158/606
Y3 - Jones 241/1133

Edge to Charlie but not by anywhere near as much as I would have thought. Having Barry back there his rookie year takes a huge load off any QB. If we were to extend this to year 4, I expect Joey to come out ahead because KJ's in for a monster year...

So through 4 categories, we split the tally pretty much evenly. Joey gets the advantage with things directly related to the QB's production and Charlie gets the edge with his teammates production. So why was Charlie adored and Joey reviled? Here comes the tiebreaker category...

5 - Team Win-Loss Records
Charlie Y1 - 5-11
Y2 - 8-8
Y3 - 9-7

Joey Y1 - 3-13
Y2 - 5-11
Y3 - 6-10

Edge to Charlie. Charlie's teams won 8 more games through his first 3 seasons than Joey's teams did (22 vs 14), although both were below .500 (Charlie 22-26, Joey 14-34).

Irregardless of why each player's teams won the number of games they did, Charlie is perceived as a winner, and Joey a loser by much of the fan base here in Detroit. So why is this the perception? When I look at the stats, it appears that Joey has been improving and carrying a lot more of the load, while Charlie had teammates that carried the load for him. Individual stats wise, it doesn't really seem to add up.

I think the answer is simple and relates to two things I previously mentioned - Salary and Record. Charlie got a huge contract just before the start of his third season, and a lot of people scratched their heads, and suddenly Charlie was no longer the Golden Boy - they wanted production to match his salary. The Lions went 9-7 and not too many people grumbled as they were grumbling more about the Paul Edinger FG that knocked the Lions out of the playoffs. The following season, most people thought he got the shaft by the M&M boys and got run out of town. As such, he is remembered by most Lions fans in a positive light.

Joey on the other hand was the 3rd pick in the draft, and signed a HUGE contract that goes along with that draft position. Never mind the situation and coaching he came into - joining a team that went 2-14 the year before, being told by his Y1 coach to throw it away or check down instead of taking the sack, playing with different WR's in seemingly every game (the only WR to play in all 16 games in a single one of Joey's seasons was Bill Schroeder in Joey's Y2 - think about that), and receivers who consistently drop the ball. Joey's fat contract means that the fans expect results, irregardless of the situation the player was thrust into.

And results in Detroit are centered around one thing - Wins.

Even if Joey and the Lions win 12 games this year, there will still be people calling for his head. It will take a minimum of two 10+ win seasons before the boo-birds would begin to die down - which would not suprisingly be when Joey's career W-L record would start to get back near .500. I'm expecting it to happen as I think that finally Joey will have a team around him this season for the entire season - something he hasn't had since he's been here. If this happens, and Joey's stats plateau while the team wins games, Joey will still take some criticism, but it will definitely be much less. Winning cures all ailments - even the perception of how good a QB is.