Category Archives: Features
**(Hey so remember when I said that I was stepping away from the Cooler? That was apparently a lie.)
Have you ever seen baby turtles hatch from a nest? It’s frantic free for all. Hundreds of minute-old turtles scramble for their lives on the beach as seagulls swoop down from above and eat them whole. It’s a truly mesmerizing and horrific scene found in nature. The same happens with NFL quarterbacks. There are countless young players from robust programs with their own pages of the record books that are indiscriminately swallowed whole and crapped out onto your car. The benching of Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Johnny Manziel is a welcoming reminder of that fact.
Why? All three quarterbacks were taken in the first round and none of them will be starting on opening day. Many fans will see this news as a disappointment on the player’s part or a poor managerial decision by the coaching staff, which is grossly unfair. Just because it has become the norm for teams to trot out rookie QB’s doesn’t mean that it’s right. The main argument from the angry masses:
“He’s a first round pick!”
I hate this complaint. It’s short-sighted and misguided and generally makes me want to slap you in the face (it’s more rewarding than a punch!). Let me explain by stating a few simple things:
- College football and professional football and not the same game. Out of the 11 Heisman winners prior to Manziel in 2012, seven of them have been duds at the NFL level. The other four (Carson Palmer, Mark Ingram, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III) have had varying degrees of success. Success in college does not directly translate to the pros. the same even goes for coaches.
- First round picks in all sports are based on potential, not immediate impact. Sure, I could use a Thunderstone to evolve my Pikachu at level 5, but my Raichu is not going to be nearly as badass, nahmean? Some top talents need time to develop. Remember Drew Brees in San Diego?
- Human error exists. This last fact more or less covers the idea that some players get selected in the first round that have no business doing so. These players were misjudged by often desperate and/or simply bad teams and were then unfairly classified. For examples, consult your local Raiders fan!
With that argument dead and buried, let’s move on to the next major complaint:
“He should get the experience!”
This is slap-worthy as well because the phrase by default means that sitting on the bench is not a means of gaining experience. However, there is value in waiting and watching and learning. The idea of “the game slowing down” is often mentioned by players who are looking to make the leap. The adjustments within the system come naturally, allowing them to play without hesitation. Also, when you consider that a rookie QB has four to five months before the season starts and the majority of that time is spent in shorts against no pressure, it’s reasonable to believe that some aren’t ready to play, no?
So while Bortles, Manziel, and Bridgewater are first round picks and starting experience would be nice, it’s important to understand that sometimes the best way for a turtle to reach the ocean is to zig-zag rather than run a straight line.
Rejoice! The doldrums of summer, and the seemingly-endless stream of unsubstantiated speculation about the coming season is mercifully subsiding. Eagles training camp is here, and thus marks the official unofficial start of the 2014 NFL season. Huzzah! Now we have some actual news to read about!
But games that count are still quite a ways away, and something has been bugging me. While perusing the various forms of Philadelphia sports talk-radio over the last couple of weeks (Hey! Have you heard our excellent podcast yet?), I noticed that one of the more persistent topics of
unsubstantiated conjecture debate has been “Are Chip Kelly’s Eagles going to improve or decline in year two?”
The argument generally breaks down into one of two run-on sentences: 1) Chip’s offense has been torn apart in NFL film rooms all offseason, and it’s a college offense anyway, and it was sort of a flukey year, and the defense still sucks, so the Eagles will be worse in 2014, or 2) Chip is a genius, so when opposing teams make adjustments, Chip’ll adjust them right back, the team is used to Chip now, and the defense didn’t get any worse but the offense is gonna get better, so the Eagles will be better than last year.
Frankly, both sides make a somewhat cogent point. What bothers me – what always bothers me – is the lack of context…
It’s about 2 a.m. on a humid Wednesday morning. My sporadic insomnia has sent me to my comfort zone, YouTube, where I watch the usual—TED talks, WorldStar Vine compilations, and some of the weird stuff, like the effects of a cluster headache. But on this night, as my copy of Turn Blue by The Black Keys uploads to my iTunes, I watched scientist Bill Nye debate author Ken Ham on Evolution versus Creationism.
To keep things as organic and objective as possible, I won’t share my thoughts. But I think there is one theory we can all agree on— the theory of ‘Devolution.’
When it comes to the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers’ right hander Josh Beckett’s no-hitter in a 6-0 win Sunday at Citizens Bank Park completes the Phillies’ transformation from a Major League powerhouse, to a Major League laughing stock.
Devolution: The act of reverse evolution. This word has been coined by the band “Devo”. Devolution is a process which mankind is permanently engaged in, and is irreversible. There’s nothing one can do about it, so enjoy the ride. (Source: Urban Dictionary)
According to Urban Dictionary’s definition, society is devolving at a rate that we can no longer control. While there may be some truth in that—we are a world that went from loving Beethoven, to adoring Led Zeppelin, to current hysteria over Miley Cyrus—we can’t deny the steady downfall that Ruben Amaro Jr.’s reign has awarded the Phillies; one that transitioned the team from a World Series champion, to a team that sits alone at the bottom of the National League East standings.
But how did the team get to the point that it was no-hit for the first time since St. Louis Cardinals’ righty Bob Forsch silenced the Phillies’ bats in 1978?
DISCLAIMER: I don’t tend to do this often. Rarely do I want to bring my own personal life or philosophies outside of sports into my writing but certain instances warrant such a response.
I have always held the belief that sports are a canvas for what we would ideally want life to be like. Everyone can be included based off their merit, despite any other traits or beliefs that they might hold. Everyone is respected and appreciated to the extent that they earn. Everyone is allowed to partake and have fun.
Following the Donald Sterling one-on-one interview that aired on Monday night on CNN, my feelings toward the entire debacle elevated to a new level.
[Note: This is a write-up that Hank did last year following the 2013 draft, but it’s still totally accurate and well worth your time.]
Mock drafts are stupid.
There, I said it. You and I know that as much as we all love them, they’re not consequential. They’re not inherently insightful. They’re often nothing more than speculative conversation pieces. At best, they’re educated guesswork.
Now I’m likely to be dragged to the town square and stoned for saying that, but so be it, it needed to be said. I’ll die a martyr for the cause of reasonable, retrospective sports analysis. A worthy ideal, certainly.
Sarcasm aside, I really was convinced that if there ever were a year when I could successfully prove that the draftniks really are all just soothsaying con-men, this was the year. There were no sure-fire top-5 quarterbacks, no stud wide outs or corners. No truly obvious picks. The consensus seemed to be that the real talent in this draft was along the lines, some of the hardest positions in the sport to scout. If there really is such a thing as a “draft guru,” this is the kind of draft that would expose him as either a true expert or a useless hack.
With this hypothesis in mind, I collected an assortment of 14 “final” 1st-round mock drafts published before the draft started last Thursday. As a control, I asked my buddy Frank to submit his own 1st-round mock. Frank watches far more college and pro football than anybody can reasonably consider healthy, but he’s not a paid analyst, nor does he have a support team, league sources, game film, nor any other resources that pro analysts or sports columnists can access.
Here’s what I found out.
[Note from Vince: This is the first article from Mark Whited here at the Cooler, he’ll be giving us a special look into anything and everything sports. He’s also known for his famous invention: the Can You Smell What the Rock is Cookin’? Scratch and Sniff game!]
Sunday night marked the 30th installment of the yearly World Wrestling Entertainment spectacle known as Wrestlemania. Writing the final chapter of a controversial year for the company – a year which saw fan favorite CM Punk leave – the biggest controversy of all may have been when Brock Lesnar pinned the Undertaker in front of 75,167 fans in New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome, ending his legendary Wrestlemania win streak at 21 consecutive victories.
With that moment, fans of the wrestling industry were left shocked. Whether you were at the Superdome or in your living room, you could hear a pin drop. The unexpected, the impossible, the unbelievable had happened. Social media exploded as fans took to Twitter, making the event the No.1 trending topic worldwide.
Though it was scripted, the reaction could not be. You didn’t even need to have been a fan. Somehow, someway, you came across news of the Undertaker’s defeat and understood the awesome circumstances of what had happened.
Like myself, you’ll never forget where you were when the Undertaker’s streak came to an end.
I was headed eastbound on the Market-Frankford Line, leaving York-Dauphin Station in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. I spent most of the night at an Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous clubhouse. I was there doing research and interviewing recovering drug addicts for an article that I was writing on the neighborhood’s drug culture.
While Daniel Bryan was busy beating Triple H in his first of two matches, I was listening to someone tell me about the worst moments of his life – about being homeless, losing his entire family, ending up in prison and eventually ending up at The Last Stop, an outreach clubhouse which acts as a rehabilitation program for those struggling to break their addictive habits.
The class for the 2014 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was released yesterday. The group is headlined by NBA greats Alonzo Mourning and Mitch Richmond, former outspoken Alabama Head Coach and National Champion Nolan Richardson and recently retired NBA commissioner David Stern.
The list of 2014 honorees also has its own sense of local flavor.
Going into the hall this year will be former Temple basketball great, Guy Rodgers and the 1972-74 Immaculata Women’s Basketball team.
Rodgers was elected into the hall via the Veterans Committee. Rodgers led Temple University to two Final Four appearances in 1956 and 1958. Rodgers was a unanimous First Team All American in 1958 and made the All-Tournament team that year.
Shout out to the pro-football-reference.com database for the stats in this article. You guys rock.
So we’ve all heard the rumblings from the NFL’s competition committee recently: “The extra point is sort of boring. Let’s screw with it!” seems to be the general gist of the conversation.
The Commish himself has gone on record about his distaste for the extra point. “I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd. So it’s a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play.”
The gripe might be legitimate. In the last ten season, NFL kickers have completed the extra point attempt a whopping 98.9% of the time (11058 attempts). In 2013, the success rate was 99.6% (1267 attempts). This is as close to automatic as it is going to get in the NFL. The problem, of course, is that there are still 21 players besides the kicker on the field, so major injuries can still occur. Rob Gronkowski, the Pats’ ginormous, extraordinarily gifted tight end, famously broke his forearm on a simple extra-point attempt. While that was a highly visible incident, there are undoubtedly countless, unreported minor traumas that occur during extra point attempts every season. The logic is that the 1.1% of kicks that aren’t made are outweighed in importance by the danger of the play.
Goodell intimated that there are several proposals to change the rule, including one where the point is automatically given after the touchdown unless the offense wants to attempt a two-point conversion. But football purists are certain to be appalled by the idea of taking another step to remove feet from football, so this complete removal of the kick attempt would be a fairly radical move to make in one fell swoop.
So the NFL competition committee is floating a compromise idea: Move extra point kick attempts to the 25 yard line, making the kick a 42 yard attempt rather than its current 19. This solution makes some sense on its face. Teams are still allowed the option of attempting a slightly-riskier but still very makeable extra point, or they can go for the two-point play from the regular spot two yards out. This presumably would leave the strategy of the game intact but provide for a more interesting post-touchdown play.
But this proposal has a major flaw: Any team that chooses to kick in that scenario is run by stupid people. Here’s why:
If they move the extra point kick back pretty much at all, statistically minded coaches will stop attempting it almost completely. There’s a graph above that says so! The yellow line is how much extra points would be “worth” on average from a given yardage, and the horizontal lines are multiple approximations for the expected points of any regular two-point conversion attempt. Extra Point attempts start being worth less than two-point conversions if they are attempted from 15-16 yards out, so if the extra point were moved to the 25, smart teams would go for two almost every time.
I’ll admit the above graph doesn’t have the best labels in the world, so please allow me to elaborate. Explanation after the jump.
The year has turned, snow is in the air and the music of the playoffs is in our hearts. Our Birds will be making the push to a Superbowl and we decided to chat with our pals over at 3DPhillySports about what could be a cinderella story. Joining us to break down Saturday’s game as well as the league-wide goodness are Derrick Alvarez, Dave Bennett, Randy Jobst. Hank and I give our take as well.
First, the Birds!
The Eagles are in the playoffs! Does this make Chip Kelly Coach of the Year?
Which player on the team (outside of Foles and McCoy) is most pivotal to the team’s success?
Are you happy the Eagles drew the Saints over the 49ers?
How far do you expect the Eagles to go?
Does it bother you seeing Andy Reid in the playoffs?
Which playoff team is the biggest surprise this year?
Which match-up this weekend do you think will be the best game?
You’re making the odds in Vegas: Who’s your favorite to win the Super Bowl?
I’ll stick with my preseason pick, the Seahawks, because of the home-field advantage and their defense, but I’m not very confident in that pick. Hell I’m almost inclined to pick the Eagles here because they protect the football, run the ball well and the
Vince: Seattle. The best complete team in the league with the best home field advantage will likely play in a cold Super Bowl. Not to know Peyton in the cold, but rather I’m knocking the reliance on the passing game in the cold. Seahawks win. The Peyton legacy takes a tough hit. And Marshawn Lynch lives in a house made of skittles.
Going into this week one of the major stories will be (as always) LeSean McCoy. Shady is set to break a couple of the Eagles franchise records on Sunday. One of which will be Brian Westbrook’s 2,104 all-purpose yards en route to the league rushing title. Simply put, he’s having a hell of a season.
Now while all the love will be going to Shady I just wanted to take the time to go back and give my man B-West his props.
Westbrook, a native of Fort Washington, Maryland, was recruited to Villanova and turned into a walking (but hobbled) record book. He had 41 school records, 13 A-10 records, five NCAA records and the I-AA record for all-purpose yards with 9,885.
I was actually fortunate enough to see him play Millersville when I was a kid and it was comical how good he was. Check the box score for yourself it’s incredible. And after that game I was positive Westbrook was going to be a stud. As history would have it, he moved down the main line and into midnight green.
Now we all remember his highlights…hell you may remember where you were for some of them. But the reason I want to give Westbrook his love is because he’s what I consider to be the perfect Philadelphia player. He was an undersized, underrated overachiever that played with a ton of heart (and no drama).
While the 2000’s will always be remembered as Donvan McNabb’s era Westbrook was the heart of those teams. The Eagles were 3-7 without Westbrook in the lineup from 2004-2008 (the pre Shady Era) and 43-26-1 with him in playing in the regular season. Now part of what makes Westbrook so special was that when he was in a game, it was really the only time he played football. He was always so beat up that he was never able to practice, yet he always performed on Sundays. He was a really special player.
All of this isn’t to take anything away from McCoy. He’s the best back in the league and could very well have a Hall of Fame career. However, it’s important to understand that despite all of the madness and the wild success of Shady and the Eagles, Westbrook was just as valuable to the Eagles back in the day.
Much love, B-West.
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