Quotulatiousness

July 19, 2014

The moment the Chris Kluwe saga went surreal

Filed under: Football, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:43

For the few of you who care, the Minnesota Vikings released a summary of the full report on Mike Priefer’s homophobic comments yesterday (you can read the PDF here). The conclusion is pretty anodyne:

In sum, our review of RKMC’s investigative materials you provided fails to establish that Kluwe’s activism in support of marriage equality and other equal rights motivated his release from the team in May of 2013. We also did not find sufficient evidence to establish that members of the Vikings organization attempted to discourage Kluwe from engaging in marriage equality or equal rights activism or that the Vikings harbored a homophobic hostile work environment. The record does, however, support the conclusion that the distractions caused by the level, but not the nature, of Kluwe’s activism did create some discomfort in the organization during the 2012 season in which Kluwe’s punting performance was unsatisfactory to the team. The investigation materials support that the Vikings released Kluwe for football performance reasons and not his views on marriage equality.

The report includes comments that are not complimentary to Kluwe himself:

The record does not support the claim that the Vikings released Kluwe because of his activism on behalf of marriage equality, but instead because of his declining punting performance in 2012 and potentially because of the distraction caused by Kluwe’s activism, as opposed to the substance of such.

Throughout the independent investigation, interviewees characterized Kluwe in similar ways: someone who is highly intelligent, reads a lot, a prankster or jokester, comfortable with the media and seems to enjoy attention. Walsh stated that Kluwe spent much of his free time in the locker room doing interviews. Walsh also said that Kluwe “loves the attention,” “was focused on everything but football,” and wanted to be in the spotlight.

Kluwe’s locker room behavior stood out to some interviewees and included stories about Kluwe dropping his pants in front of 20-25 business people as they were being escorted through the locker room on a tour. Interviewees also recalled Kluwe making fun of the coaches’ speeches on the white board in the locker room and leaving it there even when the press came in. Kluwe also made fun of the Vikings’ then Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Kanavy, an alumnus of ‒ and former coach at ‒ Penn State University, concerning the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State situation. In his interview, Kanavy explained that Kluwe cut the seat out of his pants and then put them on to imitate a victim of the Penn State child-abuse scandal. According to Kanavy, Kluwe said that he was a “Penn State victim” and to “stay away” from him while his buttocks were exposed.

There is consistent and weighty evidence from the record, mostly from Kluwe himself, that he viewed his performance as a member of the Vikings in an inflated manner. For instance, Kluwe, in at least one article, described himself as a very good punter. In another he stated that his performance in 2012 was consistent with his previous years’ performance with the Vikings. He also stated that he believed he had a good year in 2012.

It should be no surprise to anyone that Kluwe was not satisfied with the results, and set off to rally the troops on Twitter:

And that’s the point where I stopped thinking Chris Kluwe was just trying to ensure that justice was done. If he himself knew of a sex crime and didn’t report it, it rather pales in importance to the situation he found himself in, yet he doesn’t seem to recognize it. Perhaps it really all is about him after all.

The team has suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer for three games and is requiring that he take additional sensitivity training. Priefer has apologized for his remarks, while Kluwe said he will be filing his suit as soon as possible. Priefer’s statement:

“I owe an apology to many people — the Wilf family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and fans, my family, the LGBT community, Chris Kluwe and anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark,” he said. “I regret what has occurred and what I said. I am extremely sorry but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect.”

July 15, 2014

Investigation bingo, Minnesota style

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:26

The long-running investigation into whether Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer made homophobic comments to former punter Chris Kluwe may come to some form of resolution today (but that’s not likely), as the Minnesota Vikings have received the report from the investigators. What’s not clear is the next step, as Chris Kluwe and his attorney are holding a press conference a bit later this morning to complain that the Vikings are not releasing the report as they had agreed (or, at least, have not shared the report with Kluwe). Until the team makes some sort of official announcement, we’re watching Chris Kluwe drive the media agenda. Eric Thompson has thoughtfully prepared a handy-dandy little bingo card we can all use when the press conference gets underway:

Chris Kluwe press conference bingo card

I’ll update this post after Chris Kluwe’s press conference and the expected official team announcement/response.

(more…)

June 30, 2014

Differences between NFL and CFL rules

Filed under: Cancon, Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Current Chicago Bears coach (and former Montreal Alouettes coach) Marc Trestman talks about his time in the CFL and what the differences are between real maple-flavoured football and the NFL variety:

There are now nine teams in the CFL, and because of that there is a great deal of familiarity between the organizations. The league itself is tradition-filled and more than 100 years old. Each team plays each other up to three times during the 18-game season. Here are some more CFL nuances:

  • The game is played on a 110-yard field with 20-yard end zones.
  • The field is 65 yards wide (compared to the NFL’s 53 yards), with a 20-second time clock between plays. That leads to action-packed football.
  • There are only three downs to make 10 yards, not four.
  • They play 12 players to a side, and the defensive line must line up a yard off the ball.
  • Six eligible receivers can be in motion prior to the snap.
  • On kicking teams, there are no fair catches, which makes for a very exciting punting game with the wide field.

[...]

Another important difference between the CFL and NFL: the makeup of the teams. In the CFL, you have a 42-man game-day roster, and 20 of the 42 players must have Canadian heritage. The two quarterbacks don’t count against the ratio and you have to start seven Canadians among your 24 starters. But, there is no difference in the competitive makeup of each player. The men in the Montreal locker room were essentially no different than the men in our Chicago locker room. The players truly love the game, train extremely hard in the off-season, are highly competitive and “football intelligent,” and the game is as important to them as the NFL players I have coached. The only difference is the CFL player salary is significantly less than the NFL player. The CFL has a collective bargaining agreement, but the salary cap is $125 million lower than the NFL’s this year.

[...]

The rules in Canada were brilliantly conceived. It’s more of a mental challenge on game day. For example, on a missed field goal, the kicking team gets a point. But if the opponent runs it out of the end zone, the point is taken off the board. There are many tedious rules like this that make it challenging to manage a game. But the rules make sense and are tied to making the game extremely challenging from a game management point of view.

Because you have three downs to make a first down instead of four like U.S. football, most people would say, “You’ve got to make a first down in two downs, or punt on third down.” But because the defense is a yard off the ball, if you are third-and-one or less, most teams go for it. So if you make nine yards on two downs your chances of moving the chains are very good. The kicking game is extremely exciting. Because there are no fair catches, the covering team has to leave a five-yard halo around the returner so he can catch the ball. The return game therefore has more chances for explosive plays. With the wider field, the quicker players can make more things happen.

This may all be of interest to US television viewers, as ESPN just announced a deal to allow them the US broadcast rights for the CFL:

ESPN has acquired exclusive rights in the United States to Canadian Football League (CFL) games through a multi-year agreement, beginning with the 2014 season. ESPN will present at least 86 games in 2014 with 17 or more contests to be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS, including the 102nd Grey Cup. An additional 69 games will be carried on ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network, ESPN3.

The TV schedule kicks off Saturday, June 28, at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2 when the Calgary Stampeders host the Montreal Alouettes, whose star wide receiver is Duron Carter, son of ESPN NFL analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter. Canada’s Sports Leader TSN will work with ESPN on game productions and their team of commentators will call the games.

ESPN’s relationship with the CFL spans more than three decades. In 1980, ESPN televised its first live football telecast ever – the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts vs. Montreal Alouettes – and continued televising CFL games from 1980-84, 1986-89, 1994-97 and in 2013. Additionally, ESPN3 has carried CFL games since 2008, including 54 games in 2013.

June 29, 2014

NFL Films may have key evidence in the concussion dispute

Filed under: Football, Health, Law — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:02

At Viking Update, John Holler says an old NFL Films product may become very important in the ongoing dispute between the league and former players over concussions:

The ongoing concussion lawsuit that appears to be close to being settled out of court is making progress to be finalized. The bottom line is that players needing help will get significantly more assistance than they have in the past because the spotlight is on and both sides are compelled to try to reach a mutually-agreed upon decision.

But, if the case remains unsettled, the NFL equivalent to the Zapruder film may well already be in possession of the NFL.

Many of the former players who are seeking reparations for the injuries they sustained during their playing days played the sport at a much different time. They weren’t just Old School. They played in the school that was replaced by the school now referred to as Old School.

Over the weekend, thanks to the good people at Netflix, I watched a three-disc NFL Films series called “Inside the Vault.” The series highlighted the NFL of the 1960s and early 1970s and, while used as a promotional tool, gave unprecedented access to what actually happened on the sidelines of games when injured players were being treated and, at times, sent back into action.

The footage contained on the DVDs was both fascinating and troubling. At the time the “vault” was opened in 2003, NFL Films was getting involved in the new medium of marketing and selling itself. The DVD market of the time created “The Vault.”

What the NFL Films set portrayed was a testament to the bravado of the NFL and the players, coaches and sideline personnel involved. Ed Sabol founded NFL Films and, in the “Vault” collection, he was interviewed and quoted as saying that he instructed his camera crews not to unnecessarily throw away any film that wasn’t spoiled in developing.

June 26, 2014

QotD: Football players are “not the brightest people”

Filed under: Football, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Football is football. I mean, come on guys, we’re talking about a bunch of football players,” he said. “It’s not tough to learn an offense. At the end of the day, you have a formation, you have protection, you have a direction to run the ball and you have a route to run as a receiver. It’s not that tough. If you can’t learn an NFL offense, then obviously you shouldn’t be there. … I’m saying, we’re not the brightest people, so therefore how hard can an NFL offense be?

Joe Flacco, quoted by Sarah Ellison in “Late For Work 6/25: Joe Flacco Opens Up About Relationship With Gary Kubiak”, BaltimoreRavens.com, 2014-06-25.

June 19, 2014

The NFL conspiracy theorist

Filed under: Football, Humour, Sports — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

“Draw Play” Dave Rappoccio is running a series of cartoons on the various sub-groups of NFL fans. This week’s subject is the Conspiracy Theorist:

Draw Play - The Conspiracy Theorist
Click to see full cartoon.

He also talks about the mentality of the conspiracy theorist fan in some detail:

A part of me struggles to accept that people this deluded actually exist, but they do. I’ve heard stories, and I’ve seen the occasional online post about it. These people are few, but not fictional. There are actually people who think the NFL is scripted.

Like most conspiracy theories it sounds absolutely stupid at first, then part of you might go “well, I guess that was kinda perfect that it happened just that way”, then you think about it a little more and you realize that yup, it’s still stupid and the logic falls apart. But some people don’t get past that second stage. I can’t figure out why. The best guess I can muster is that most of the fans are somehow bitter about the way their team loses or something.

[...]

But some people legit think it’s scripted like pro wrestling. These people are…I can’t defend them. They are deluded. For everything that sounds like it might make some sense, lots of other things just make it feel so forced. The NFL has been around for a long time, and started as a small time game. It has grown into the giant it is not overnight, but over decades. There has never, ever, been any evidence that has come out to suggest it’s scripted. No retired referees, no disgruntled employees, nothing. Over decades. Come on. There are so many people covering the league now, so many media members, so many pundits, so many sources. The NFL being scripted would be a huge story, but none of them have ever investigated it? Nothing? No player, current or former, EVER, in all this time, has come out and said things weren’t right. None have even suggested it. You think in a league with players treated as poorly as they are in medical coverage that one wouldn’t want to blow the lid off the biggest sports story ever? There is no evidence of scripted play, and if you think it is, you are dumb. We are not sheeple, you are gullible & trying to find deeper issues where they don’t exist.

I forwarded the link to a friend of mine who is emphatically not a sports fan, but who has floated the occasional theory about “the fix” being in in all professional sports in one way or another. His response was entertaining:

As for the article, I’m not entirely sure of his point. Is he arguing that pro sports cannot possibly be fixed because the key games are often so boring? The author so wants to believe in his fantasy land where men wearing shiny tight pants can bum-pat and hug each other without feeling a little bit weird about it that he’s willing to overlook any possibility of there being corruption in the game. [...]

Football gives the illusion of one team being better than another through its very short season. With just 16 games, you just do not have a very large sample size to gauge performance. It’s like me typing 16 words without an error: I must therefore be the world’s best typist. If the NFL season dragged on as long as the insufferable NHL season, I bet we’d see all of the teams finish much closer together in their win-loss-tie figures. With a larger sample, we’d likely see that all the teams are likely pretty much the same.

But pro sports fans really want to believe in heart and giving a-hundred-and-ten-per-cent and playing a good psychological game and putting the biscuit in the basket and all of that other crap. Even if refs and players came forward and admitted to throwing games I suspect that the fans would not want to believe them. Look how the fans keep coming back even after players’ strikes — these are people so desperate for a fix that they will put almost anything in their veins.

May 21, 2014

QotD: February in Minneapolis

Filed under: Football, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:17

It’s not surprising that the Wilfs, the Vikings and downtown Minneapolis business leaders want the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Their pockets will be lined, and with more than fur.

The question is why the average Minnesotan would want the Super Bowl here in February.

We don’t invite friends and relatives to Minnesota in February. Why would we invite the world?

Especially the portion of the world that wields laptops and cameras?

You remember February, unless your therapist has helped you block it out. February is when we suffer from cabin fever and cold sores, when we lock ourselves indoors with a fire (whether we have a fireplace or not) and stare at screens until our skin matches the blue fluorescent glow emanating from the TV.

And those are the good days.

I’ve spoken to visitors who are forced to travel here during winter. They ask why we live here. They laugh at us. When Jerry Seinfeld did a show in downtown Minneapolis this winter, he referred to our skyways as “Habitrails.”

The rest of the country cannot fathom why we put ourselves through this, and let’s be honest: We can’t either when we’re in the throes of winter. We all just pile on layers and pray that, this year, summer will fall on a Saturday.

Jim Souhan, “We’re back on center stage, with frozen warts and all”, Star Tribune, 2014-05-21.

Minnesota’s new stadium to host Super Bowl LII

Filed under: Business, Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:21

As I noted in an update to yesterday’s post on Bud Grant’s 87th birthday, the NFL has awarded the hosting rights for Super Bowl LII in 2018 to the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota - Home of Super Bowl LII

Pretty clearly, the winning edge during the bid process was the attraction of having a brand new stadium in which to hold the event, which is why even the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans came in second in the bidding. (That, plus the fact that New Orleans has already hosted the Super Bowl ten times…)

At 1500ESPN.com, Judd Zulgad talks about the winning bid:

Depending on whom you listen to, the NFL’s decision to award 2018 Super Bowl to the Twin Cities on Tuesday is either going to bring great financial gain or it’s going to be a nuisance that’s not worth the time and money that will be spent to host the game.

Making the argument either way is easy.

It’s no different than the spin that was put on building the Xcel Energy Center, Target Field or the new Vikings stadium.

The pro-stadium folks point to the benefits of the venues, and the fact they either attract a team or keep one in town, and the anti-stadium groups rail on the amount of public money that is invested in building a playground for billionaire owners and millionaire athletes.

But what can’t be argued is this: Hosting events such as the Super Bowl, or this summer’s All-Star Game, are what make a city, and state, big league in the public eye.

Patrick Reusse, my colleague at 1500 ESPN and a longtime Star Tribune sports columnist, did a blog for the paper in 2013 that attempted to trace the use of the phrase, “a cold Omaha.”

Reusse wrote that Hubert Humphrey was credited with having said the Twin Cities would become “a cold Omaha” without the presence of major league sports. This dated to 1976, as the back-and-forth was picking up about the Vikings and Twins needing a new home to replace Metropolitan Stadium.

That new stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, would open in 1982 and host numerous big events, including the 1992 Super Bowl, before meeting its demise this year.

As a Vikings fan, I’m delighted that the team’s new facility will be front-and-centre during the 2018 Super Bowl media blitz (although the non-football-fans among the taxpayers of Minnesota may be less than happy with how some of their tax dollars have been used to build a sports complex for billionaires to be used by millionaires). The optimists in Minneapolis may hope that 2018 will be the first time ever that the Super Bowl champions can be crowned in their own stadium, but that’s unlikely (not impossible, but it hasn’t happened yet).

Update: Speaking of optimists, here’s The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover, right on schedule.

After 40 plus years of pessimism and waiting for the other shoe to drop, it’s time to get positive about this team, the new coaching staff, the new stadium, Teddy Bridgewater, and hosting a Super Bowl. Why?

The stadium was dead in the water. Better luck next time, Minnesota. Maybe next year. Then not only wasn’t it dead, it passed in record time for a bill moving through the legislature.

The Vikings blew their chance to get a potential franchise quarterback in the draft, after they had an opportunity to get one early on. Better luck next time, Minnesota, maybe next year. Then Teddy Bridgewater fell in to their laps.

New Orleans was going to get that Super Bowl bid. Better luck next time, Minnesota. Maybe next year. Then they won. And oh yeah…FUCK THOSE GUYS.

Franchise changing moment, turning the corner, things looking up — use whatever phrase you want. I am of the belief that the events of the last couple of seasons (new stadium, new coach, last few drafts) are milestones in the history of this franchise, and twenty years from now, when we look back on it, we’ll look at these events and say:

“Here. It all started right here.”

May 20, 2014

Happy 87th birthday, former Viking and Blue Bomber coach Bud Grant

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:38

On the official Minnesota Vikings page today, an infographic to celebrate former coach Bud Grant’s 87th birthday:

Click to see full infographic

Click to see full infographic

Update: Minnesota will host SuperBowl LII in 2018:

May 19, 2014

First look at the Vikings 2014 draft class and undrafted free agents

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:42

Over this past weekend, the Minnesota Vikings held a three-day rookie camp for their 2014 draft class, undrafted free agents, and members of the 2013 practice squad. By NFL rules, the session didn’t feature any full-contact drills or scrimmages, but it begins the process of determining who will be on the full roster when the team goes to training camp this summer. On the official team website, Mike Wobschall says some players clearly stood out during the weekend sessions:

Anthony Barr was without question a standout player during the camp. He looks every bit the part of a top 10-type of player. His combination of size and speed is what captures your attention first, but I’ve also been hearing positive things about how he’s picking up the defense. I was impressed with Bridgewater overall, but particularly with his drop back and separation from the line of scrimmage, and then his release. The entire process is quick, and I think his ability to reach the top of his drop quickly and release the ball quickly is a big reason why he was such an accurate passer and had so few passes batted down at the line of scrimmage despite being 6-2. A few others who stood out included receiver Kain Colter, safety Antone Exum, cornerback Kendall James and tight end AC Leonard.

At Vikings Corner, Daniel House discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Teddy Bridgewater’s game (keeping in mind that his resumé is all college, no meaningful NFL stats yet):

Teddy Bridgewater was easily the most accurate quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft class. He throws with nice touch in tight spaces and his arm velocity allows him to place balls in areas where only the receiver can make the play. ESPN Stats and Info recently performed a study using standardized completion percentage as the basis of argument.

[...]

Teddy Bridgewater currently holds a percentage of 78.3%, which fits perfectly behind Russell Wilson and RG3. Bridgewater held the top spot for standardized completion percentage among the 2014 NFL Draft quarterbacks. Johnny Manziel finished a close second with a 76.2% standardized completion percentage. As a whole, Teddy Bridgewater is a capable pocket passer with excellent precision passing abilities, making him one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in this class.

Mr. Cool

Arguably one of most impressive statistics from Bridgewater is his ability to stay cool under pressure. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Bridgewater completed 53.5 % of his throws under duress in 2013, with a 7-1 ratio; he also completed 70.1% of his attempts against pass rushes of five blitzers or more. The Vikings face top tier pressure in the NFC North every week and need a quarterback that doesn’t display “happy-feet” at the first sign of pressure.

[...]

Cold-Blooded in the 4th Quarter

When tied or trailing by 7 or less in the 4th quarter during 2013, Bridgewater completed 75.0% of his passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 126.9. The Vikings need a quarterback who can make plays when the team needs a score late in the game. Head Coach Mike Zimmer has stressed that he is looking for a quarterback who can make plays late in the game and lead the team to victory. Bridgewater definitely has a pedigree in this area and is calm during pressure as I explained during the blitz statistic above. If Bridgewater is provided time to make a decision, he can make an athletic play down the field with his arm.

On the Move

Not only can Teddy Bridgewater make throws inside the pocket, but he is extremely functional outside the pocket. His throwing mechanics are very solid and he has been able to throw well, while rolling to his left or right with absolute ease. When he hits the outside of the pocket, he has an impressive ability to throw accurately with superior velocity into tight spaces. His ability to roll either direction in an offense allows him the chance to be effective in the play-action passing game.

May 17, 2014

Weird NFL lawsuit – “remember that anyone can file a lawsuit for almost anything”

Filed under: Football, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:53

A very unusual lawsuit has been filed against Jacksonville Jaguars first round pick Blake Bortles by David Rothrock and “Theodore Bridgewater”, from a prison in Pennsylvania:

Injunction against Blake Bortles

A bizarre, handwritten restraining order has been filed against Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick Blake Bortles and the NFL in a Central Florida court in what appears to be an attempt to bar Bortles from playing for the Jaguars and in the National Football League.

The plaintiffs, listed as “Theodore Bridgewater” and David Rothrock, allege that Bortles is under the influence of steroids and also HIV positive. The lawsuit was filed from a Pennsylvania prison, presumably where Rothrock is incarcerated, and lists the co-plaintiff as “Theodore Bridgewater,” with a P.O. Box in Louisville, Ky., as the address. The plaintiff named on the suit is surely not Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, despite a P.O. Box in Louisville, KY being listed as the address.

The filing not only accuses Bortles of taking steroids and HGH, but also alleges he’s been involved in some other nefarious dealings including an allegation that Bortles framed Rothrock for a crime so he would be jailed and unable to talk to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who approached Rothrock about the distribution of steroids and HGH.

The plaintiff in the case is representing himself “pro se,” which means he is advocating on his own behalf.

H/T to Vikings Territory for the link.

Update, 23 May. Further proof that anyone can file a lawsuit for almost any reason. This one is against Cleveland Browns first round draft pick Johnny Manziel:

A person has filed for a restraining order against Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel and is seeking $25 million in damages, claiming he has sexually harassed a woman for more than a year.

The document, filed in federal court in Florida on May 16, makes numerous salacious allegations against Manziel centered on him allegedly sending nude photos of himself to a woman. It lists a woman’s name on the complaint, but a deputy court clerk in Tampa said the complaint arrived by mail and the court has no way of confirming who sent it. The court clerk, who did not wish to be named, said the filing was mailed in Trenton, N.J.

The document also does not list an attorney, and no other supporting documents could be found in the record in a search by USA TODAY Sports on Friday.

Manziel’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, immediately wrote on Twitter that the complaint is “fake” and “frivolous.”

“It’s insanity,” Burkhardt told USA TODAY Sports. “You can read the thing for yourself.

“What some people will do for publicity is just embarrassing. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

May 13, 2014

The NFL’s first openly gay player

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:03

Michael Sam was drafted this weekend by the St. Louis Rams. He’s the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team. Back in February, I wrote:

In addition to the questions about whether Sam’s collegiate talents will be enough to allow him to flourish in the NFL, and whether a given team would welcome an openly gay team-mate in the locker room, there’s also the “Tim Tebow” problem … the team that drafts Sam will be in the unrelenting focus of the media’s publicity floodlights. Just drafting Sam would only be the start of the media’s attention. Everything to do with Sam will draw TV cameras, paparazzi, and the team’s beat writers for local media outlets.

Perhaps I misjudged the degree of ongoing interest by media outlets, as after the initial flurry of coverage, I heard very little about Michael Sam until he was actually drafted, as a photo of him kissing his boyfriend hit Twitter (and the knuckle-dragging idiots came out in droves). In February, I didn’t think Sam would be drafted, but I was wrong. However, as David Boaz points out, he was drafted far later than he would likely have been if he wasn’t “out”:

… this past weekend has reminded us that we haven’t quite achieved “opportunity to the talented.” Michael Sam was the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the country’s strongest football conference, yet many people wondered if any NFL team would draft the league’s first openly gay player. Turns out they were right to wonder. Here’s a revealing chart published in yesterday’s Washington Post (based on data from pro-football-reference.com and published alongside this article in the print edition but apparently not online).

2014 NFL draft and Michael Sam

Every other SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the past decade, including the athlete who shared the award this year with Michael Sam, was among the top 33 picks in the draft, and only one was below number 17. Does that mean that being gay cost Michael Sam 232 places in the draft, compared to his Co-Defensive Player of the Year? Maybe not. There are doubts about Sam’s abilities at the professional level. But there are doubts about many of the players who were drafted ahead of him, in the first 248 picks this year. Looking at this chart, I think it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Sam paid a price for being openly gay. That’s why classical liberals – which in this broad sense should encompass most American libertarians, liberals, and conservatives – should continue to press for a society in which the careers are truly open to the talents. That doesn’t mean we need laws, regulations, or mandates. It means that we want to live in a society that is open to talent wherever it appears. As Scott Shackford writes at Reason, Sam’s drafting is “a significant cultural development toward a country that actually doesn’t care about individual sexual orientation. The apathetic should celebrate this development, as it is a harbinger of a future where such revelations become less and less of a big deal.” Let’s continue to look forward to a society in which it’s not news that a Jewish, Catholic, African-American, Mormon, redneck, or gay person achieves a personal goal.

Update: Draw Play Dave gets it exactly right.

May 12, 2014

Evaluating NFL team drafts

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:25

It’s said that you can’t evaluate a draft class until three years later, because you need at least that long to see which players have established careers and which ones are no longer in the league, rather than who won the popularity contest before the draft. Despite that, many talking heads on TV have been eagerly assigning grades to the just-concluded NFL draft, and the fans of each team eagerly follow the narrative. Even Arif Hasan has fallen victim to this temptation, although he’s at least trying to follow a methodology to determine the overall strength or weakness of each team’s 2014 draft class.

One of the interesting things about gathering Big Boards across the country and finding the different ways that evaluators grade the players is that it gives us an ability to take a look at the draft from their perspective. There’s a big stigma against “grading the draft,” that I don’t think makes a lot of sense because we’re so willing to share our opinions on the players and teams who drafted them in every other way.

It seems we can give opinions about individual players and their teams without criticism. but as soon as we summarize it in a letter grade, we’re doing something wrong and have to wait. Instead, it may be better to wait three years to judge it.

But that’s no fun, and we want feedback. We just have to acknowledge we have a high band of uncertainty and give our impressions of the draft.

But how about instead of inserting post-hoc opinions about our favorite team, we take a look at a metric we’ve already laid the groundwork for? Let’s compare a team’s draft capital to what the Big Boards accumulated said.

It’s not perfect, especially in a deep draft, but by assigning players in their rankings an amount of points equal to the trade charts’ equivalent pick value, we can find out what players are considered to be worth. Using the NFL Trade Value Chart (put together by Jimmy Johnson way back when), we can compare the amount of draft capital a team entered the draft with to the “value” of players selected. This is perhaps the most appropriate way to gauge the number of “steals” and “reaches” a team makes and quantifying.

Spoiler:

Arif's 2014 draft grades-partial

May 11, 2014

Vikings day 3 draft picks

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:05

“Trader” Rick Spielman was in full wheel-and-deal mode on Saturday, as the Vikings traded back a few times to stockpile extra picks. Despite some moaning on the part of the fan base, this is something he’s been remarkably consistent about — he likes to have about ten picks in a given draft. He’ll move up to get a particular player (like Harrison Smith in 2012, Cordarrelle Patterson in 2013, and Teddy Bridgewater this year), but in general he prefers to trade down to get more opportunities to draft players for the long term. There was a particularly persuasive article about this at Vox.com a few days back, arguing that teams should always try to maximize the number of players they draft, to increase their chance of getting players who will be around for a long time in the league:

Draft picks can be traded, and the success of any one player picked is highly uncertain. Because of that, their data says that in the current trade market, teams are always better off trading down — that is, trading one high pick for multiple lower ones — but many teams become overconfident in their evaluation of one particular player and do the exact opposite: package several low picks for the right to take one player very early.

“There are one or two teams out there that philosophically follow this idea,” says Massey, who serves as a draft consultant with several NFL teams that he can’t disclose. “But in my experience, teams always say they’re on board with it in January. Then when April rolls around, and they’ve been preparing for the draft for a long time, they fall in love with players, get more and more confident in their analysis, and fall back into the same patterns.”

My only disagreement with this argument is that due to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, there’s a discontinuity in the data at the bottom of the first round: teams get an optional fifth year on contracts with first round players. For this reason, I think Minnesota was right to trade up to get Bridgewater at the bottom of the first round, to get that option instead of waiting until they were next on the clock (which would have been eight picks later in the second round).

At the Daily Norseman, KJ Segall looks at the draft philosophy being employed by Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer:

As we agonized through the pre-draft build up, I contemplated the basic two directions the Vikings could go — solving the offense with relatively few moves, or focusing on a defense that had holes everywhere. On one hand, we needed three things to have an offense worthy of contending in the NFC North: a good quarterback, a good offensive guard, and a reliable backup running back. (Not bad when one of the things you need is a backup position.) If we fixed that, then our solid WR corps, strong Oline, and superstar RB would be giving opposing DCs nightmares… but, that would also mean that our defense would have missed out on some upgrades, and many a team might simply outscore us no matter what we could do with the ball. On the other hand, letting the offense be with the adequate Matt Cassel, Charlie Johnson, and (fill-in-the-blank backup running back), all while attempting to plug as many holes on the leaky longship that was our defense could create a relatively well-balanced team that might not scare a lot of people but could still sneak out some surprises.

So it came down to this — be mediocre across the board, or be great at one thing and weak at another. Ultimately, through FA and what has been a shockingly good draft (shockingly because when you get the hands-down best QB available at freakin’ pick 32… well, the mind, it gets blown), they basically have gone with the latter. Yes, we solved our quarterback situation beyond our wildest expectations, and our offense will in fact be much, much better this year (and it wasn’t even all that terrible last year, either). And yes, by drafting Daddy David Yankey and Jerick McKinnon, we did technically solve those other two holes- although McKinnon is most definitely a project at first, and Yankey’s ability to unseat Charlie Johnson yet remains to be seen. (Although he should hopefully do so at some point in the season.) In reality, we focused pretty heavily on defense throughout the draft, starting off with the selection of Anthony Barr. The Bridgewater awesomeness aside, it would appear that the Vikings were determined to work on the defensive upgrades made in free agency as their primary focus.

On to the actual day three picks below the fold.

(more…)

May 10, 2014

Vikings second day draft picks

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:47

Having traded away their original second round pick to Seattle to move back up to the bottom of the first round to get Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings started the evening with only two third round picks. There was some speculation about Rick Spielman trading back up into the second round, but nobody had solid ideas about which player the team might have wanted urgently enough to give up any more later round picks. Spielman later said that they’d tried to “make some movement” but that they couldn’t come up with “a deal we felt comfortable with”.

Scott ChrichtonThe Vikings selected Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton with the first of their third round picks. The Daily Norseman‘s Eric Thompson says this was a good selection:

With many fans expecting the team to go after a corner with the 72nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Vikings got another talented pass rusher in Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton. It was definitely a “value” pick — Crichton had a second round grade on most draft boards and was widely considered one of the best five or six edge rushers available in the draft. Mere moments after being chosen by the Vikings, Crichton jumped on a conference call to talk with Twin Cities beat writers.

[...]

Crichton played a little linebacker his freshman year at Oregon State, but make no mistake about it–he’ll be on the field to get after the quarterback. The Beavers ran a 4-3 defense and Crichton’s bread and butter was his pass rush. “That’s my thing. I love to get after the quarterback.” He played on both sides of the line with the Beavers along with some plays. Like most draft pundits Crichton expected to be drafted in the third round but nonchalantly claimed that the “third round’s fine”. “I’m just grateful for this opportunity. I’m ready to show what I can do and prove people wrong for not picking me earlier.”

At the press conference after the selection, Rick Spielman said “He’s not very nice on the field, which you like to see.”

Jerick McKinnonWith their last pick of the evening, the Vikings selected running back Jerick McKinnon from Georgia Southern. Arif Hasan said that McKinnon had been a stand-out performer at the combine, but that he’ll be a bit of a project (despite “insane measureables”). He’s certainly not a carbon copy of Toby Gerhart, being 5’9″ tall, weighing 209 lbs, and boasting a 4.4 time at the combine. His college football career was an odd one: started out as a cornerback, then eventually becoming a quarterback and running back (Ben Goessling refers to his role as having been “triple-option”, which is a new one on me). His role isn’t as clear-cut as you’d think, despite being drafted as a running back, during the NFL Network draft coverage, Mike Mayock said he could even start at safety in the NFL. On the official Vikings overview, his weaknesses make you think the team has other plans for him: “On the short side. Runs a bit upright and hesitant. Average burst to the perimeter. Not a creative, make-you-miss runner. Very limited career receiving production (10 career catches). Not stout in pass protection.” Those last two items are not what you’d expect if the team was planning to use McKinnon to spell Adrian Peterson on third down. Ideally, your third round running back would be an experienced receiver with good blocking skills.

With both Chrichton and McKinnon, the Vikings clearly valued their athletic potential or “upside” over more polished players with lower theoretical potential. That’s a strong indication of confidence that they can teach technique on both sides of the ball. And given the strength of the new coaching staff, that’s a sensible approach. Neither of these players is likely to start as rookies, but they both have versatility in the roles they could fill and given a year of seasoning, they could become useful parts of the puzzle down the road.

The Vikings have four picks remaining in today’s final four rounds of the draft: 145th (5th), 148th (5th), 184th (6th) and 223rd (7th) … before we account for Trader Rick’s taste for wheeling and dealing, anyway.

Update: Arif Hasan profiles Scott Chrichton and Jerick McKinnon. Arif’s always good at analysis.

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