The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for November, 2007

Roundball Roundtable

Posted by disappointmentzone on 29 November 2007

Probably no formal post today — it’s hard to write while holding your breath waiting to see if LBJ’s finger injury is serious — but I wanted to point everyone’s eyes over to Rebuilding Year, where each week for the past two weeks I’ve engaged in a roundtable discussion of the NBA. Another one will be going up today or tomorrow. In it I argue for LBJ as MVP. It’s not like it took much to make this argument, but it might be good reading nonetheless.

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Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, Other Blogs | 3 Comments »

Browns Playoff Odds Report: 78.8%

Posted by disappointmentzone on 28 November 2007

Quick show of hands: How many Browns fans were eagerly awaiting a Dolphins touchdown Monday night against the Steelers? I know I was. Thanks to the rain and new sod seven points would’ve saved the fins from the embarrassment of a 0-16 season while serving the Steelers their second consecutive loss to a crap team. It would have also put the Browns in great position to nab the AFC North title from the Steelers, which is what I was hoping for more than anything. Sadly, none of that happened.

Instead Browns fans will have to settle for being 78.8% certain that the Browns will be in the playoffs this season. This sets a new season high, up from 56.9% last week. And while at the beginning of the season it would’ve been impossible to believe, the Browns are now expected to win 10 games. That’s like one for each finger! This number should climb to around 11 if the Browns beat those pesky Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, at which point roughly 50% of Browns Nation will have to resort to toes to count that extra win.

And that, dear readers, is probably as close to TV-M as this blog will ever get.

Posted in Cleveland Sports | 6 Comments »

How Bill Livingston Failed Cleveland

Posted by disappointmentzone on 27 November 2007

On Sunday Bill Livingston, columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote an column imploring the Browns organization and Browns fans to be clear minded when approaching the topic of Derek Anderson, who is set to become a free agent after this season. Livingston lays out a list of reasons why it would be reckless to sign Anderson to a long-term contract extension and then argues that the Browns should offer him a one-year contract for $2.5 million.

This makes sense. Such a contract would give the Browns ample protection against losing Anderson. The team could still match any offer Anderson received and if they didn’t match the offer then they’d be compensated with the first-round and third-round draft picks of the team that does sign him. This is a heavy bounty for any NFL team to pay, especially for a quarterback with only a year of NFL experience, which is why such huge signings rarely take place. Simply put, if the Browns want to keep Anderson around for one more season without doing serious damage to their salary cap then they’ll likely be able to do so. The $2.5 million contract offer is the best way to do that. Barring something completely unforeseen, this is what will happen.

So why did I call Livingston’s column idiotic?

My issue with Livingston’s column is that it fails spectacularly to address the interests of any faction of Browns fans. It takes an extraordinary effort to swing and miss that spectacularly. Let’s dive in to how he accomplished such a feat.

Livingston’s column begins with a simplistic view of Anderson’s performances so far this season, which serves as the basis for his argument that it would be reckless to sign him to a big contract. For example, Livingston writes:

“Most of Anderson’s big games have come against the league’s dregs. His two monster games were against Miami (now 0-10) and St. Louis (now 2-8). Cincinnati provided his third big quarterback rating game.”

Simply put, that Anderson’s best games came against his worst opponents is the dumbest rationale for anything ever. I do not know what this is supposed to prove. Were I playing small forward for the Knicks and assigned to guard LeBron James I would hope he’d have his best game against me. But that he had his best game against me wouldn’t prove anything about his ability as a player, and it certainly wouldn’t provide any evidence against the position that he’s an elite NBA player worthy of a monster contract extension. (1) (2)

Furthermore, in addition to the simplistic view of quarterback performance Livingston also invokes the unfounded view of quarterback performance, citing Anderson’s “two straight unimpressive performances” against the Steelers and Ravens.

When you consider that the Steelers and Ravens lay claim to the NFL’s first and sixth best defenses it is worth placing Anderson’s performances against each in context. After all, that’s what Livingston does when considering his games against weaker competition. So in context how does Anderson stack up?

Against the Steelers Anderson had a below-average QB Score per play (.46). It’s probably fair to say that this was an unimpressive performance, even if the game came on the road. No arguing with Livingston here. On the whole Anderson did indeed fail to impress against the Steelers.

Against the Ravens, however, Anderson had an above-average QB Score per play (2.59). Only a cynical ignoramus would think that playing above average against an elite defense in a division game on the road would constitute an unimpressive performance.

True, Anderson didn’t put up All Pro numbers against those two teams. But hardly anyone puts up All Pro numbers against these teams. Most quarterbacks put up undeniably terrible numbers in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Anderson falls somewhere in between, and he’s an awful lot closer to the positive end of the spectrum than the negative.

Now, I agree that the prudent thing for the Browns to do is offer Anderson a one-year deal. I don’t think anyone who knows anything about football would disagree. Which is precisely one failing of the column. This column is not serving the needs of interested Browns fans. When you’re the lead sports columnist for the largest newspaper in a region filled with rabid Browns fans, this is probably not the best way to go about things. In this regard he’s preaching to the choir. It’s the column equivalent of the straw man. He mailed it in.

Newsflash, Livy: LeBron James is good at basketball. There, I wrote your next column.

The column he wrote about Anderson best serves people who are only casual fans of football — namely, the people who think locking up Anderson to a six year deal right now is the best option for the Browns. However, if he really meant for this column to be aimed at casual Browns fans then he’s doing them a huge disservice by relying upon simplistic, unfounded views for evaluating a quarterback. He’s misinforming the people. He’s keeping the wool pulled over their eyes. Here’s a guy with an audience of thousands and the opportunity to affect people’s appreciation of sports for the better and yet he does no such thing. In fact, he reinforces bad habits and the same irrational Sports Talk Radio views that make so much of the mainstream sports media difficult to stomach anymore.

In one column Livingston fails the interested fans and fails the casual fans. He fails twice over, which, as I said, is a pretty spectacular feat. Failing on one level isn’t too difficult but failing on all levels really takes some effort. Failing on all levels is also the sign of a bad column.

Which is why I called it idiotic.

fn 1: Please dear god let the Cavs sign LBJ to a monster contract extension.

fn 2: Moreover, in a column imploring Browns fans to think about Anderson with a clear head — the implication being that we’re wonderstruck by inflated statistics earned against inferior competition — there is something incredibly weak about using a straw man Livingston to set up his argument. It’s a pompous move that’s completely full of bluster, like when a senile man on the streets says that unless you stop wearing red the devil will get you.

Posted in Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Sports, media | 16 Comments »

Cleveland Browns: QB Score: Week 12

Posted by disappointmentzone on 26 November 2007

The Browns’ 27-17 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday was the team’s most complete and dominating game of the season. The offense was methodical and the defense actually showed up. To that end, it’s worth saying…

Someone buy Brandon McDonald a beer!

With starting cornerback Eric Wright out with a knee injury, rookie Brandon McDonald came up with the game of his life, which might not be saying much since he’s about twelve years old (actual age: 22). All game long McDonald lined up across from Andre Johnson, one of the best receivers in the NFL, and he held him to three receptions for 37 yards. McDonald had three pass defenses, a game-clinching interception, and three tackles, or one more tackle than three of the four starting linebackers, who are remain missing, presumably still somewhere in Pittsburgh, having missed the bus to the Steelers game three weeks ago.

The defense held the Texans to 17 points, which is phenomenally good considering that the Texans a) were given a short field after a Derek Anderson interception and b) scored a meaningless touchdown with about three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Texans were held to a scant 77 yards rushing and only had 237 yards passing, which includes about 70 yards on the Texans’ final drive of the game, when the Browns were playing prevent defense and were more interested in the game ending than shutting down Matt Schaub. Until that point the Texans had gained only 15 yards of net offense in the second half. And how’s this: from 7:00 to go in the second quarter until 2:34 to go in the fourth quarter the Texans didn’t score. The Texans can consider themselves thoroughly dominated.

The Browns’ offense was equally as impressive. They had three drives of 60+ yards, two ending with touchdowns, the other ending with a field goal. Jamal Lewis shook off a slow start to finish with 134 yards rushing on 29 carries, his first 100 yard game since the third week of the season. And once again the Browns scored 27 points only to see their scoring average go down. That’s actually kinda cool, right?

As for Derek Anderson, he played fairly well. He was markedly better than he had been in the previous two games, but he didn’t play at that All Pro level many have come to expect from him against much weaker defenses. This should make that idiot Bill Livingston happy.

Early in the game the ball was sailing on Anderson, which led to a number of incomplete passes. He suffered from a few bad drops and then on the one pass when he needed to overthrow his receiver he threw it off his back foot only to see it come up short and in the arms of Texans CB Fred Bennett. After that INT, though, Anderson calmed down and went on to blitz the Texans with a string of short and intermediate passes that essentially crippled their morale. Many people will point to Jamal Lewis as the delivering the decisive blow, but it really was the passing attack that did in the Texans. They came into the game wanting to take the deep ball away from the Browns — and they did. Unfortunately for the Texans they had nothing to stop the shorter routes. When your defensive strategy goes according to plan and you still give up 27 points you know you’ve been whooped by a good offense.

Dominating on defense + dominating on offense = quality victory.

So now the Browns find themselves in the novel position of controlling their own playoff destiny. If they win out they’ll earn a Wild Card berth and go to the playoffs for the first time in five years. The limping Arizona Cardinals, losers of a disgraceful game against the 49ers, are up next for the Browns. If the Browns play next week how they played this week they’ll win easily. Of course, if the Browns play how they did this week they can beat pretty much anybody.

One final note: The Browns have now scored more points (315) than they’ve allowed (311). This is the first time all season this is the case, which is kinda amazing when you consider that the Browns very easily could be 9-2.

QB Score: 111
QB Score per play: 3.17

(Historical average: 1.85)

Posted in Cleveland Browns, statistics | 8 Comments »

LSU Down; Go Oklahoma!

Posted by disappointmentzone on 23 November 2007

LSU is about three huge plays from being a four or five loss team, but we’ll settle for them being a two loss team.

Next up: Root, root for Oklahoma to win the Big 12. That would assuredly put OSU back in the BCS Championship Game, likely against WVU. Of course, if WVU trips down the stretch, that leaves the door open for…wow, a whole bunch of teams. Georgia? Oklahoma? USC?

Posted in Cleveland Sports | 3 Comments »

Browns: 56.9%

Posted by disappointmentzone on 21 November 2007

Last week the Browns had a 30% chance of making the playoffs, down from a season high of 39% the previous week. But after a victory over the hated Baltimore Ravens the Browns now find themselves favored to make the playoffs. That’s right, folks: we’re finally above a coin toss! 56.9% to be exact. Rejoice, rejoice!

Also of note are the Browns’ chances of winning the division. My guess was that they’d have about a 7% chance. Turns out I was off by quite a bit. Thanks to the Steelers botching one against the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets the Browns now have a whopping 17.6% chance of stealing the division from the steely golden grasp of our rivals to the East. This is also a season high.

Curiously the Browns have a 1.1% chance of earning the #2 seed in the AFC. This actually seems a bit low to me. I would have figured that number would be closer to 3%. Oh well.

Posted in Cleveland Browns | 3 Comments »

“The Quarterback Position”

Posted by disappointmentzone on 20 November 2007

Quick question: When did it become popular to say “the quarterback position”?

More important question: Is there ever a justifiable excuse for saying “the quarterback position”?

Answer Q1: Beats me.

Answer Q2: No.

I find this the most absolutely unnecessary and frustrating feature of all NFL talk today. Did coaches and announcers and analysts huddle up and decide that since they’re now referring to injuries by the body part — he’s out with a knee — that they’d take the extra information they’re saving there and add it to talking about quarterbacks?

Here is one example. During Monday’s press conference Ravens coach Brian Billick was talking about preparing his team for adversity during the season, including “a change at the quarterback position.”

Why not say a change at quarterback? What is the utility of the word position here? It’s completely redundant! Is there ever a time when the meaning of quarterback is not at least implicitly tied to the concept of a position?

Answer: No.

A quarterback is above all else a position. The American Heritage Dictionary defines quarterback as “a player positioned behind the center who directs a team’s offensive play.” The word position is right there in the definition! That’s the A1 definition of position (i.e., location). But the 3rd definition of position is also implicit whenever we discuss quarterbacks (i.e., situation or circumstance that affects one’s power to act). Hell, why else does the NFL restrict which uniform numbers a quarterback can wear?

I’m going to start collecting unnecessary uses of the phrase ‘quarterback position’ and keep a running tally on a page here at the DZ. My prediction is that Shannon Sharp uses this phrase the most, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Steve Young is right there with him. Any help with this effort will be much appreciated.

Posted in flotsam and Jetsam | 11 Comments »

Cleveland Browns: QB Score: Week 11

Posted by disappointmentzone on 20 November 2007

The the past two weeks Derek Anderson and the Browns have faced two of the five best defenses in the NFL. All things considered — elite defenses, on the road, division rivals — he’s done quite well.

After facing Pittsburgh, with the league’s second best defense, Baltimore might have seemed like an easier task. Granted, they have the league’s fifth best defense, but Anderson did fairly well.

Yes, he threw a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown and was sacked twice for minus 11 yards. But he completed 63% of his passes — his highest completion percentage of the season — and made a number of huge throws. The biggest throw might have bee the third-and-ten pass to Winslow, but the most impressive was the pass to Braylon Edwards that set up the game tying field goal. The Baltimore Ravens defensive line was draped all over him and yet he still threw a strike down the middle of the field. On the road, against a division rival, in a game with playoff implications, Anderson put his team in a position to win. That’s the sign of a quality quarterback. He has the prototypical size and arm strength to be a very good quarterback. The Edwards pass was a glimpse of that potential. A weak-armed quarterback doesn’t make that throw (Charlie Frye). A short quarterback doesn’t make that throw (Jeff Garcia). Derek Anderson makes that throw.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Browns game without at least one problem, and for the second week in a row that distinction goes to the defense.

In the second half the Baltimore Ravens — owners of the league’s 29th worst offense and 30th worst passing attack — had drives of:

75 yards (TD)
46 yards (INT)
62 yards (FG)
43 yards (FG)
83 yards (TD)
49 yards (FG)

Including penalty yardage the Ravens gained 359 yards on offense in the second half. This is beyond inexcusable and after a first half in which the Ravens had a total of 37 yards on offense it’s also a little baffling.

The Ravens offense scored 23 points in the second half, which is a terrible sign for the Browns defense. Romeo Crennel was touted as a defensive mastermind when he was brought in to lead the Browns back to the promise land. While a defensive coordinator with the Patriots he was able to seamlessly integrate Troy Brown — a wide receiver — into his defense, using complex schemes to hide areas of vulnerability. Contrast that to the Browns. There is absolutely nothing complex about what the Browns are doing. The script is basically the same each week. The defense gets burned for more yards and points than they should and the offense comes to the rescue with more points than anyone ever would have expected. It’s not clear if Crennel has any input whatsoever over what’s happening with his defense.

The most glaring weakness is the defensive line. They are rarely sacking the opposing quarterback and often when they do get pressure it’s the result of great coverage in the secondary. I have no idea of anyone keeps track of coverage sacks but my hunch is that coverage sacks are a high percentage of all sacks for the Browns this season. This is a problem.

Coverage sacks occur when the secondary covers the receivers long enough for the quarterback’s protection to break down. Breakdowns in protection will happen eventually, usually within about four to five seconds, and so these sacks are the inevitable outcome of good coverage. The defensive line gets the credit for the sack, but it’s because of the secondary.

Conversely, it’s nearly impossible for the secondary to cover all receivers for more than four to five seconds. Even the best cornerbacks can’t stay with a receiver for longer than that. It’s impossible. The receiver has too great an advantage. If the defensive line doesn’t pressure the quarterback into a throw within that window then the advantage swings to the offense in a huge way. Big passes and long drives are the inevitable outcome of a poor pass rush.

And there you have the Browns pass defense in a nutshell.

As for the linebackers, I guess they’re still wondering the streets of Pittsburgh looking for a ride to the stadium.

The Browns have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the entire NFL, but if the defense is routinely giving up 20+ points per game (or 20+ points per half) then the burden on the offense and special teams to score might be too much to overcome. The offense is still very young. Not only the key players, many of whom are still within their first three years in the league, but the offense in general: this is only the first season under Rob Chudzinski and it’s only his first season as an offensive coordinator. Still, you’ve got to like our chances.

QB Score: 106
QB Score per play: 2.59

(Historical average is 1.85)

Posted in Cleveland Sports | 4 Comments »

Can The Browns Win The Division?

Posted by disappointmentzone on 19 November 2007

[Editor’s note: The weekly QB score column will be up late tonight or first thing tomorrow morning. Sorry for the delay.]

Exactly zero people saw it coming, but there it is in all its glory: Pittsburgh 13, New York Jets 16.

The loss drops the Steelers to 7-3. They now lead the Browns by only one game. Can Cleveland win the division?

Maybe.

This much is clear: The Browns would have to win out. This is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities, though, especially if the defense learns how to pressure a quarterback. The toughest test remaining for the Browns comes in two weeks at Arizona. Following that they get a resurgent Buffalo at home, which is probably the next toughest game, and at Cincinnati should be a fight. But none of the last six opponents is particularly daunting. Running the table is on the table.

The same is not true for the Steelers. Pittsburgh still has the Patriots on their schedule, which is as certain a loss as any game this season. Unfortunately, the Steelers own the tie breaker over the Browns, which means that the Steelers would need to lose two games for the Browns to have a chance to sneak past them. They host Jacksonville on December 16th. That’s no gimme. Neither is at St. Louis on the 20th — road game on three days’ rest? Yikes. Then they finish at Baltimore, which is never an easy place to win (as the Browns discovered). That’s three tough games in 14 days.

Anyone want to put odds on the chances the Browns win the division?

Posted in Cleveland Browns | 6 Comments »

How OSU Gets to the BCS Title Game

Posted by disappointmentzone on 18 November 2007

There is no simple line for OSU back into the BCS Championship Game, but they are definitely still in contention. Looking at the standings the Buckeyes need any two of the following three things to happen in order to play in New Orleans come January.

* The Big 12 South Division champion wins the Big 12 Championship. This would ensure both Kansas (#2) and Missouri (#3) finish the season with another loss. Yesterday you were rooting for Oklahoma to lose. Now you want Oklahoma to win.

* West Virginia loses one of its last two games.

* LSU loses one of its last two games.

There is always a chance that even if two of the three happen that a team like Georgia could leapfrog the Buckeyes, maybe even Arizona State. If all three happen, however, then the Buckeyes should stamp their tickets to the Bayou. There is no way both Georgia and ASU pass OSU.

Posted in Ohio State Buckeyes | 3 Comments »