Wednesday, June 20, 2007

MMQB: Somewhat rank

I could just kiss Brett Favre. "MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK" FOR JUNE 18


1. Peter King leads this week's column by ranking NFL quarterbacks -- more specifically, the QBs he expects will be starting on opening weekend -- from 1 to 32. To King's credit, he comes out and admits that he's just doing this because he has nothing else to write about. (Indeed, he doesn't even say anything about coffee this week.) Still, I'm a little disappointed. Any fool can write about quarterbacks and head coaches. Down and Distance does it all the time. What would really show off King's expertise would be a ranking of NFL centers, or strong safeties, or offensive coordinators. I suspect, however, that few people would read a ranking of NFL centers, so quarterbacks it is. Anyway, I was thinking that it's silly to argue with King's rankings or his reasoning; after all, they're just his opinion, and he's entitled to it. Then I read the part where he says that if you disagree with his assertion that Jon Kitna will be one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL this year, "It's fine because it's your opinion, but it's probably wrong." Once he went there, I really had no choice ...

2. At the top of the rankings, King has Peyton Manning at No. 1 and Tom Brady at No. 2. Fine. The Colts won the Super Bowl, and they beat the Patriots twice along the way, so that makes sense. King doesn't need to say anything further on the subject. In fact, I'm pleading with him not to. The whole who's-better-Brady-or-Manning debate is so 2004, and everyone's sick of it. Even Brady's Ladies must have been a little relieved to see Manning collect a ring, as it means we can finally move on to something else (like: who's better, Jon Kitna or Jeff Garcia?). But of course King has to keep talking, and that's where we get into trouble:
For years, we could say -- and not be wrong -- that all Manning does is put up great numbers. Now we've got to say he puts up intergalactic numbers while putting his team in a good position to win games.
As we all know by now, the knock on Manning was never that he didn't win games. The Colts were 60-20 in the regular season over the past five years, best in the NFL. No, the knock on Manning was that he couldn't win big games. That's not even right. It was that he couldn't beat the Patriots in the playoffs. Who on Earth has been saying that Manning doesn't put his team in a position to win? No one. King is hunting straw men, again. As for Manning's numbers, which King says have gone from "great" to "intergalactic," compare them from 2004 and 2006:


The numbers, it seems, actually got a little worse, which is why some people felt that Manning had regressed this season, when in reality this was the best year of his career. Which brings us to the unseemly discussion of "intangibles" ...

3. King wraps up his rankings with a nifty little chart breaking down the QBs' performance over the past two years according to the factors he considers most important: wins, playoff wins, yards per attempt, completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception "ratio" (we'll come back to that) and "intangibles." King explains that Brady was tops in the "intangible" category "with a 10 on a 10-point scale." The definition of intangible, mind you, is "something that cannot be perceived by the senses, defined or quantified." In other words, if you're able to rate it on a 10-point scale, it's not intangible. Call this quality "leadership" or "grit," if you must (and you're just dying to), but "intangible" is best reserved for writers seeking to explain away their man-crushes. (To wit: King gives Brett Favre an 8, while Rex Grossman gets just a 5. Come on now. I don't care how good your defense is; if you play as shitty as Grossman did and still win 13 games, that's some serious fucking intangibles.)

4. King's chart also says Manning has put up a league-leading touchdown-to-interception "ratio" of "+40" over the past two years, while Alex Smith has had the worst, "-10." I'll wait here while you go figure out what the he's trying to say. Since when are ratios expressed as positive or negative integers? In 2005-06, Manning threw 59 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. The ratio of those two numbers is 3.1-to-1. For every interception Manning threw, he passed for 3.1 touchdowns. The number King provides, however, is the touchdown-interception differential: Manning threw 40 more TDs than INTs. Calling the differential a "ratio" is a distortion, and here's why: Say Quarterback A throws 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while Quarterback B throws 15 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Who has the better numbers? If you go by differential, then QB A comes out slightly ahead (+14 vs. +12). Going by ratio, however, QB B wins in a landslide (5-to-1 compared with 2.4-to-1). If you're going to run around dropping science on us, get it right.

5. Straw men on parade: King attempts to paint a couple other choices as gutsy rather than shrug-worthy. First is his decision to put Drew Brees, at No. 3, ahead of Carson Palmer (No. 4). King has us in the audience shouting, and I quote, "Sacrilege!" Really? Is it that outside-the-box to predict Brees will have the better year? Brees played in a conference championship last season; Palmer didn't. Brees plays in the NFC South; Palmer plays in the AFC North. Brees plays indoors in the South; Palmer plays outdoors in Ohio. I do think Palmer is the better QB, but to say Brees will do better in 2007 is hardly a stretch. Finally, King acknowledges that we in the audience are calling him an "idiot," though not for the usual reasons. He says it's because he has Jon Kitna at No. 9. He goes on to explain that because Kitna is in a Mike Martz system, he should throw for more than 4,000 yards and be one of the "most effective" quarterbacks in the game in 2007. It all depends on what you mean by effectiveness, I guess. Kina did indeed pass for 4,200 yards last year. With 22 interceptions. And Detroit finished 3-13. If we think King's a fool for putting Kitna so high, it's not because we doubt that Kitna will rack up yardage in the fourth quarter when down by 17. It's because we believe it won't matter.

6. Moving on, King praises New Orleans defensive end Charles Grant for giving a team official $2,000 on the last day of camp and asking that it be used to take all the women who work in the team offices out to a fancy lunch. It was a nice gesture, but King praises it thusly: "Way to remember where you came from, Charles." Because Grant was once ... a woman in the Saints front office?

7. Jeff Garcia says he felt "personally snubbed" when the Eagles let him go in free agency after he did such an able job filling in for the injured Donovan McNabb last year. King agrees: "He still can't figure out why the Eagles didn't seriously try to sign him after he led the team to the playoffs last season. Neither can I." Well, everyone else has already figured it out. Jeff Garcia is the new Kelly Holcomb -- not a bad player, but the absolute worst guy you can have on your bench because he's not a bad player. When Garcia is your backup, you have a quarterback controversy on your hands. It happened in Detroit in 2005, and it would have happened next year in Philadelphia if the Eagles had signed him. Any time McNabb threw two interceptions in a game -- or even one in the first quarter -- the talk would have started: "Does Garcia give us a better chance to win?" "When is Garcia going in?" Can you blame Andy Reid for not wanting something like that tearing his locker room apart, just when he'd gotten it pieced back together following the Terrell Owens debacle? OK, maybe you can blame Reid, and maybe it was the wrong decision, but there's no mystery as to why it was made. So now Garcia is in Tampa Bay, where he has been handed the starting job over Chris Simms. Nothing says "building for the future" like bringing in a 37-year-old QB.

8. King's "aggravating travel note of the week" is a complaint about the Back Bay train station in Boston:
"What a dump. Grimy, smelly, humid, with a crummy waiting room. Washington's train station is a thing of beauty, almost a destination in and of itself. Baltimore's is OK, Philly's ancient and utilitarian. Even Newark has a little gem of a station, and it's always busy. But can't a great city like Boston do something about the first place many visitors see when they get to town?"
But Boston has a grand, inviting, cheery train depot, like Washington's Union Station (which is more shopping mall than train station). It's called South Station, and it's where most of the tourists arrive by Amtrak. It's on the Red Line, which means its hooked directly to Cambridge, the Common, the Freedom Trail and all that. Back Bay Station isn't much, and it isn't supposed to be. It's for commuters. It handles less than a third the traffic of South Station, which is only a mile away. I mean, it's on the Orange Line, for goodness' sake. You disembark at Back Bay, I've got no sympathy for you.


Peter is not well-connected: This week, King doesn't name-drop once. I suspect the Charles Grant anecdote may have been based on firsthand observation, but, strangely, there is no mention of anyone addressing King directly.

Total number of quotes of the week: 3.

Total number of things King thinks he thinks: 20. Total number unrelated to football before he gets to his "non-football-related thoughts": 1 (hey, the government screwed New Orleans!). Number of non-football-related thoughts in which King pretends he understood the Sopranos finale all along: 3.

Hiatus! Having reached the bottom of the barrel, King is on vacation until July 16. Just as well. Some folks haven't seen the Sporanos finale yet.

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