Competition

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled [“Football’s Future If the Players Win”][1]. In it, Goodell lays out his vision of what the NFL will look like if the players win the Brady vs. NFL case currently wending it’s way through the court system.

Though I’m not an attorney, I’ve read enough informed opinion believe that the players would probably win the Brady case if it ever came in front of a judge. I also believe that the case won’t come in front of a judge, because the NFL owners and players will reach a collective bargaining agreement before the case reaches trial next year.

However, let’s say that I’m wrong, the case does go in front of a judge, and the players win. Let’s look at this doomsday scenario, as Goodell describes it:

  • No NFL Draft
  • No minimum team payroll
  • No minimum player salary
  • No standard guarantee to compensate injured players
  • No limits on free agency
  • No league-wide training camp/off season workout limits
  • No league-wide drug testing policy

In other words, the NFL landscape would be a lot different than what we know and love. Sounds scary.

Goodell’s editorial is designed to provoke fear in fans, thereby garnering public support. However, while Goodell is right that there wouldn’t be any league-wide minimums, guarantees, workout limits, etc.*, that doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be any minimum salaries, guarantees, workout limits, etc.

*The reason these things wouldn’t exist is because they are probably illegal if there is no collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the NFLPA (or whatever union takes the NFLPA’s place). Whether or not they are actually illegal is one of the things being decided in the Brady case.

Instead of league-wide rules, each individual team would be forced to come up with their own formal or informal policies on these issues. This would be a major headache.

Under the “old system”, teams competing for free agents really had just a few ways to differentiate themselves: salary, bonuses, facilities, location, coaching staff, potential playing time, and teammates. Everything else was identical between teams, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement.

If there is no collective bargaining agreement, then teams can use virtually everything as a bargaining chip: the above factors plus things like health care program, retirement program, private transportation, housing for families and/or mistresses, educational programs, cell phone allowance, percent of concessions, and a million other things that I haven’t thought of.

The rules, regulations, and player benefits that Goodell describes wouldn’t go away, they would just vary by team. Again, this is a headache, but it’s a headache that virtually every private employer in the country has to deal with. Welcome to reality, NFL.

The old saw about the NFL is that the league has succeeded because it’s taken a bunch of capitalist millionaires and billionaires and made them behave like socialists. If the players win, then the socialist system in the NFL would be replaced by a competitive market in which the teams jockey to sign players. Teams would use all of the bargaining chips available: if a team couldn’t pay a high salary, they would have to get creative to try to sign players.

A truly free market for players is exactly what Goodell and the owners fear: it would be more complex, more expensive, and less predictable than the collectively bargained market. Football wouldn’t go away: teams would find a way to compete. Winning in football is the product of smarts, skill, and luck, and while money can help to cover for a lack of smarts, skill, or luck, money alone isn’t enough. Goodell’s fear mongering aside, teams would find a way, just like they do in baseball.

However, football would be changed in complex and unpredictable ways that would probably make the NFL a more difficult business. If the owners and/or the players wish to avoid the unknown consequences of the change, then I’d suggest they get back to the bargaining table. The players have long stated that they just wanted the status quo. It’s up to the owners to convince them otherwise.

[1]: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704132204576285090526726626.html

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Assessing Willie Roaf's Hall of Fame Chances

Now that the year-long celebration of the Saints’ Super Bowl victory is finally over, I thought it’d be interesting to look at Hall of Fame chances of The Greatest Saint*, Willie Roaf.

*Drew Brees will probably retire with the title of Greatest Saint, but it’ll take another couple of years. He’s only been the Saints’ QB for 5 years, whereas Roaf played 9 years with the Saints at a similarly high level at a position that’s nearly as important as QB. Rickey Jackson has a good argument, as well, after 13 great years as a Saint. However, OLB isn’t nearly as important a position as LT or QB, so that penalizes him a bit.

Maybe I’ll break this down further at some point. But, for now, I’ll consider Roaf to be The Greatest Saint. If you disagree, that’s fine.

As you may have heard, Willie Roaf [wasn’t elected into the Hall of Fame this year][1]. He made the final 10, but wasn’t one of the 5 chosen for enshrinement. Roaf lost to Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol.*

*I’m ignoring the Seniors Committee folks because they’re elected under a different process, so Roaf wasn’t really competing against them.

First thing’s first: I don’t have a problem with any of those 5 people getting selected over Willie Roaf. The committee can only choose 5 honorees each year, and this year’s 5 are all deserving. Sanders and Shannon Sharpe were among the finest to ever play their position. Marshall Faulk was, too, and was a new running back prototype, changing the way the position was played. Ed Sabol founded NFL Films, which is a huge part of why the NFL is as popular as it is.

A lot of people have decried Sabol’s inclusion, saying he shouldn’t take away a spot from a player. I agree that the contributors should be elected separately from the players, but they aren’t. Since Ed Sabol is a no-doubt Hall-of-Famer, what should the writers have done? They can’t change the bylaws.

If I were choosing, I would probably pick Roaf over Richard Dent, but Dent has been waiting for quite some time, and his credentials are solid.

Of course, Willie Roaf’s credentials are solid, too. He was a top-3 left tackle for most of his career, and had several seasons when he was probably the best tackle in the NFL. There is no doubt in my mind that Willie Roaf will eventually get elected into the Hall of Fame. The question is: when will we he get elected?

Let’s look at the upcoming Hall of Fame candidates to see where Roaf might fit in, keeping in mind that the writers can only elect 5 people per year.

First, the leftovers from 2011: there were several deserving players who weren’t elected this year. In addition to Roaf, the rest of this year’s “top 10″ included Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed, Dermonti Dawson, and Tim Brown.

This group is a difficult one to rank, because they were all great players at a bunch of different positions. I’d probably guess that Roaf ranks above the receivers (Andre Reed and Tim Brown) and below Dermonti Dawson. Dawson (a center) and Willie Roaf had very similar careers: they each made the All Pro team 6 times in 12-year careers, though Roaf made the Pro Bowl more often*. Roaf played the more important position, although center is arguably as important as left tackle and certainly is more important than any other line position. Plus, Dawson’s been waiting for 5 more years. If I were a voter, I’d probably put Dawson in before Roaf, just because of that waiting time.

*I recognize that it’s goofy to use All Pro and Pro Bowl teams as evidence of how good a player was. However, it’s one of the only things that the Hall of Fame voters have to go by, since there aren’t great statistics for offensive line play.

So, for the fun of it, let’s put Roaf second in that group, behind Dawson and ahead of Cortez Kennedy and the receivers. That would mean he has a good shot at making the final 5, but don’t forget that there’ll be newly eligible players and coaches next year.

The new candidates will include Drew Bledsoe, Bill Cowher, Bill Parcells, Marty Schottenheimer, and Will Shields. Does Roaf belong in the top 5 of this expanded group?

Drew Bledsoe, Marty Schottenheimer, and Bill Cowher aren’t Hall-of-Famers, so you can cross them off the list. Even if you mistakenly think Cowher is a Hall-of-Famer, he’s not likely to get voted in next year: the voters are typically hesitant to elect someone who might return to the sidelines (ask Bill Parcells).

Parcells will get elected to the Hall of Fame, but might suffer because the writers aren’t convinced that he’s truly retired. If they are convinced, though, then he probably deserves to be in over Roaf.

Will Shields poses a bit of a problem for Roaf. Put simply, Shields was a better guard than Roaf was tackle. He was elected to the Pro Bowl 12 times, was a 9-time all pro, never missed a game, and was named Man of the Year in 2003 (which shouldn’t matter, but might). Further complicating things, Roaf and Shields played on the same offensive line in Kansas City, which means that they might split some votes. In Roaf’s favor, Shields was a guard, which is a less important position than left tackle.

If you rank Roaf and Shields as approximately equal, then Roaf’s chances in 2012 come down to one question: will the voters really vote in 3 offensive linemen in 2012? If not, are you sure that Roaf will be in front of Dawson and Shields?

The offensive line is underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, but I don’t think the writers will use 2012 to catch up. Instead, I think they’ll use the lack of new skill position players as a chance to put some of the old skill position players (Andre Reed, and perhaps Chris Carter or Curtis Martin, neither of whom made the final cut this year) into the Hall.

So, I believe Roaf will only get elected in 2012 if the voters think he was greater than Dawson and/or Shields. The voters might put 2 linemen in, but I just can’t see them putting in 3. Still, there’s a good chance he’ll make it in 2012.

If Roaf isn’t selected in 2012, things will get difficult. Let’s look at who becomes eligible in subsequent years:

2013: Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Michael Strahan. Frankly, Roaf won’t get selected over any of these players, especially with the media love that a few of them got. I’d probably vote Roaf in ahead of Strahan, but I’m not sure about the rest of them. It’s a tough call. Either way, 2013 probably isn’t Roaf’s year.

2014: Shaun Alexander, Derrick Brooks, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, Rodney Harrison, Mike Holmgren. Roaf would probably get picked over all of these guys except Derrick Brooks. The question is: which of the previous candidates are remaining? Is Jonathan Ogden still waiting to get elected? He’ll get picked before Roaf, as he was probably (slightly) better than Roaf and played on a championship team in Baltimore.

2015: Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace, Junior Seau, Kurt Warner. Roaf belongs in before everyone here except Junior Seau, who was about as good a player as Roaf at a much different position. However, at this point, there will likely be a LOT of Hall-worthy linemen waiting to get in, which means Roaf still might be passed over.

It looks like 2012 needs to be Roaf’s year. If not, then the mechanics of the Hall of Fame election process could mean he’ll be waiting until 2015 or later. It’s a tough gig to get.

[1]: http://www.profootballhof.com/enshrinement/2011/2/6/pro-football-hall-of-fame-class-of-2011-announced/

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Super Bowl Prediction

Well, I guess I’m supposed to make a Super Bowl prediction. This will likely be a close game, as the advanced stats suggest. Advanced NFL Stats has this as (essentially) a 50-50 matchup. Football Outsiders says the Packers are slight favorites. Pro Football Reference’s SRS has the Packers as a slight favorite.

In last week’s NFC South Report, I picked the Steelers to win in a close one. However, that was before Pouncey was ruled out, which is a significant difference. I think the Steelers’ banged up offensive line will probably make the difference, so I’ll reverse what I said in last week’s NFC South Report and pick the Packers to win. This could be a great game, though, which would be nice.

Of course, nothing will top last year’s game :)

Last week, some website called SeatGeek asked me for a prediction as part of a roundup/contest they’re having. You can check out my prediction over there. I picked the Steelers (again, this was before the Pouncey situation), so I guess I can claim I was right no matter who wins. Not bad, eh?

The kind folks at SeatGeek asked me to post the following to be part of the contest:

Check out my Super Bowl XLV predictions on SeatGeek. SeatGeek is the leading ticket search engine that enables fans to discover the best deals for sports and concerts. Take a look at SeatGeek next season when you’re looking to buy [NFL tickets][6].

So, there’s that.

[6]: http://seatgeek.com/nfl-tickets/

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Season Review Coming this Week

The Who Dat Report Season review is coming later this week. Sorry about the delay.

-Stuart

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Coaches and Super Bowl Wins

It’s coach-hiring season in the NFL, and with it comes the annual hand-wringing over whether teams should hire an up-and-coming coordinator (like the Saints did with Sean Payton a few years ago) or a coach with a proven track record (like they did with Ditka a few years before that).

I don’t have a strong opinion about which route teams should take (the likely answer: it depends), but I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at one oft-quoted piece of information that’s often used to justify hiring a no-name coach: no coach has ever won a Super Bowl with two different franchises.

While that statement is certainly true, how meaningful is it? Let’s see if we can find out.

According to Pro Football Reference, [there have been 236 coaches in the Super Bowl era][1]. Of these, only 27 (about 11%) have won a Super Bowl. So, when we say that no Super Bowl-winning coach has guided two franchises to a Super Bowl, we’re really talking about a small subsample of all the coaches in NFL history.

Of those 27 coaches, only 15 coached multiple franchises in the Super Bowl era (Weeb Ewbank coached the Baltimore Colts and New York Jets, and even won an NFL championship with the Colts, but only coached the Jets during the Super Bowl era). Those coaches are:

  • Hank Stram
  • Don McCaferty
  • Mike Holmgren
  • Jon Gruden
  • Tony Dungy
  • Mike Ditka
  • Tom Coughlin
  • Don Shula
  • Mike Shanahan
  • George Seifert
  • Bill Parcells
  • Vince Lombardi
  • Jimmy Johnson
  • Tom Flores
  • Bill Belichick

If you only include coaches who won Super Bowls and THEN coached another franchise, the list shrinks to 10:

  • Hank Stram
  • Don McCaferty
  • Mike Holmgren
  • Mike Ditka
  • Mike Shanahan
  • George Seifert
  • Bill Parcells
  • Vince Lombardi
  • Jimmy Johnson
  • Tom Flores

Depending on how you consider it, you’re talking about 10 or 15 guys that make up this sample of Super Bowl winning coaches who have disappointed at other franchises. That’s not a big enough group to draw any conclusions from.

Remember, roughly 89% of the coaches hired in the Super Bowl-era NFL never even win a single Super Bowl, and only 12 coaches (4.7%) have won multiple Super Bowls. In light of all of that, the idea that none of these coaches has repeated with a different franchise isn’t really that interesting.

Teams would be best off finding a good coach who is the right fit, regardless of pedigree.

Of course, that’s what teams usually do. They just bring up the “no coach has won a Super Bowl with 2 franchises” thingy to appease their fan base after hiring a no-name over someone like Bill Cowher.

A random fun fact:

The combined record of the 15 coaches with their non-Super Bowl franchises was 563-532 (51.4%). That’s not great, but it’s the approximate career winning percentage of Steve Marriucci (thanks to his stint in Detroit), higher than that of John Fox, and just a little lower than that of Dick Vermeil. Plus, that includes the mail-in jobs like the one that Mike Ditka did, and quite a few coaches taking over teams in really bad shape (Hank Stram with the Saints, for example).

[1]: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/

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Show Schedule

Hello, listeners,

I wanted to give you a quick update on the podcast schedule. I am recording a post-season breakdown this week, and I hope to get it out by the end of the week or early next week. We’ll see.

We will be broadcasting during the offseason, but a bit less regularly. There are a bunch of topics that I want to cover that we can’t necessarily get to during the season, so I’ll try to touch on them now that the season’s over. Look for a new show every month or so, along with occasional writing/analysis for both WhoDatReport.com and Canal Street Chronicles.

It’s been a great first year for the Who Dat Report, let’s hope 2011 is even better.

Thanks,

Stuart

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And another Marshawn Lynch video

I really should stop doing this to myself’

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That stunk

The Saints-Seahawks game didn’t quite turn out as planned. Everyone calls it a shocking loss, but I can’t imagine anyone who was paying attention actually being shocked. I’ll have thoughts up by Friday, but I need a while to process.

In the meantime, here’s a question: what’s a bigger need for the Saints in the offseason? Offensive line or defensive line?

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The Marshawn Lynch run, explained

The Who Dat Report isn’t a link-blog, but I had to post this, no matter how painful it might be:

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Judging Kickers

_The NFL playoffs are starting, and kickers often end up playing the role of hero or goat by making or missing a clutch kick. I thought it’d be worth it to re-post something I wrote back when the [Saints lost to Arizona][1] earlier this year. Saints kicker Garrett Hartley was excellent in the playoffs last year, but got off to a rocky start this year. After the jump, I argue that it’s virtually impossible to judge a field goal kicker’s accuracy with any certainty. Gives you a lot of confidence, doesn’t it?

_

The Saints’ special teams struggles are well-documented. However, it’s really difficult to tell whether the missed field goals are the result of poor kicking or poor luck. Judging kickers is really difficult because of sample size issues. In most years, a kicker will attempt between 20-40 field goals. This sample is too small to tell whether a kicker’s success (or lack thereof) is due to skill or luck. Let’s look at a quick example to show what I mean.

_ _

Let’s say that we have a robot kicker that is 80% accurate on field goal attempts (we’ll ignore the effects of field goal distance for this example). That’s a very good success rate. If that kicker attempts 30 field goals in a year, then the kicker has about a 51% chance of making 23, 24, or 25 of those field goals and a about a 76% chance of making between 23 and 30 of the field goals. However, the kicker also has about a 24% chance of making 22 or fewer field goals, and about a 6% chance of making 20 or fewer field goals.*

*Statistical note for nerds: I’m considering kicks to be Bernoulli trials here with n= 30 and p=0.8. Disagree? Tell me what I’m doing wrong in the comment thread.

In other words, in any one year, there’s about a 1 out of 4 chance that even a good field goal kicker will miss a whole bunch of field goals. And, even if a kicker is having a good year, he may miss several field goals in a row. That’s just the way that probability goes. That’s why judging a kicker is very tough, and I’m a bit indifferent on the Hartley-Carney debate. I do wonder about kickers’ confidence levels and whether they influence field goal percentage, but, given the small samples, there’s no good way to study it.

As one of my dissertation committee members phrased it: Probability’s a bitch. It’s really hard to tell if a kicker’s good or bad. The real secret is to score touchdowns and let the other team worry about their kicker.

[1]: http://www.whodatreport.com/2010/10/cardinals-30-saints-20/

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