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Cheddar Bay Leaderboard

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Clearing the decks.

Sorry to be dark the last couple days.  It was not from writer’s block.  It was worse..

What do you do when your research does not fit your narrative?

I’ve got two posts on the shelf that I can’t get 100% behind after writing them.

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Dustin Keller: too pretty.

Margus Hunt: Y U NO HAVE BETTER STATS?

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Excerpt from ‘Dustin Keller, FA target #4.’

Morin: all the glam you want.

“… First round pick from Purdue, 28, he’s got the athletic chops to be a top five tight end. 6-2/240, 4.53 40, 41in vertical, 26 225 bench reps. His numbers are good when you factor in the Jets lethargic offensive system. He led the team in receptions in 2010 and 2011. Even in his injury marred 2012, he put up the 2nd best DVOA, behind only Gronkowski.”

But I the more I dug, the more I see the Jets franchising him.  The tight end tag is the cheapest, under $6MM.  Keller is their most popular player and not that that should be a factor… but with the Jets… it’s a factor.

The other thing that bugged me was the number of glam shots when I was looking for a primary picture for the post.  In the screencap above, that’s 13 photos, one helmet:  NOT a ratio for a Browns tight end.

I still think Keller would be a nice pick-up, but I think it’s unrealistic.

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Excerpt from ‘What to make of Margus Hunt?’ (more…)

Got $8? Buy ‘Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.’

Spoiler: Harvard comes from behind to tie Yale.

Had some cycles today and teed up a favorite movie/documentary on this snowy day and I want to share it with you.

Coming straight to the point and not to oversell this:  Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is the best sports movie/documentary I’ve ever seen.

The Crimson’s classically ironic headline provided the title.

“Rafferty’s no-frills annotated replay is the best football movie I’ve ever seen: A particular day in history becomes a moment out of time.” — Village Voice.

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Where to begin?

Harvard-Yale is of course a fantastic rivalry in everything.  The football game, ‘The Game,’ is the pinnacle.  But since they’re never in the elite echelon, not much notice is paid nationally.  However in 1968, both teams were undefeated.  Yale, with Calvin Hill, was ranked 16th in the country and the clear favorite.  The better team.  Had never been behind in a game all year.

Harvard recovers fumble on their own 14, down 16, with 3:34 to go.  Inexplicable time-outs, bizarre penalties, haughty Yalies, unexpected stars emerge; heroic plays ensue.  Harvard scores 16 points in the final 42 seconds for the tie.*

This documentary consists of players’ reminiscences cut with actual game footage.  It is elegant in its simplicity.  The story of the game in itself is magnificent.  The narration by the participants is sublime.

Yale QB Brian Dowling (St. Ignatius!) had lost only one game since the sixth grade: the 63 City Championship to Benedictine. (His collarbone was broken and he didn’t play the second half of that game.)

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Interesting
Fascinating characters.

The game is one thing.  The old players, though, are what makes this film remarkable.

I was struck by the diversity of personalities.  You’ve got quirky, you’ve got the ‘good shits,’  You’ve got saintly (not meant in disparaging/sarcastic way.. one guy’s goodness of soul jumped through the screen to me).  And you’ve got a stereotype Ivy elitist, straight from central casting.

Frank Champi, Harvard backup QB.  “I love to throw the ball.  I love throwing things.  Baseballs, javelins, footballs.  To this day I’ll go out in a field and throw the ball.  I just love the aesthetics of throwing something and watching it fly.”

Pat Conway, Harvard cornerback.  A couple years before 68, he quit Harvard, joined the Marines, was at Khe Sanh, came back to Harvard, and brings unique perspective.

JP Goldsmith, Yale safety.  Just a thoughtful, intelligent, classy guy.  You can’t get enough of him.  “I got a lot more out of Yale football than it ever got out of me.”  He’s the saint referenced above.

Mike Bouscaren, Yale linebacker.  He’s the elitist stereotype.  Wonderfully unaware.  You’ll see. (more…)

The fallacy of restricted player movement as restraint of trade.

Not pictured: 200+ NBA minimum salary guys at $490,180 per.

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Back in 2011, in the aftermath of the LeBron super team thing, the NBA owners locked out the players because there was no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place.  The CBA talks broke down over ‘player movement’ issues.  Basketball Related Income distribution to the players was settled on with a band around 50% and thus a revenue sharing partnership was agreed upon.  Rookie contracts are slotted.  Max contract frameworks are defined.

The problem was player movement.

The NBA wanted a franchise tag; the players didn’t.

To me, it seemed the biggest issue.  Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard were all playing the franchise shopping game using LeBron’s template.  In so doing, they were holding their current teams hostage and alienating countless NBA fans/customers.  But ‘player movement’ as a blocking point in negotiations was diminished as a minor point.  Or at least that’s how I read the reporting at the time.

When it was discussed, the prevailing wisdom that I saw reported/tweeted/blogged ran like this:  why shouldn’t players be entirely free to work where they want.. just like you and I are?

Can’t find the tweets, but this guy does not like the franchise tag.

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I’ve got a different viewpoint on this, interested in your thoughts.  I’m using the 2011 NBA lock-out as a context.  But I’ve seen the larger player movement issued applied in the NFL and NHL.  MLB players are of course quite happy, but the macro outlook of a ‘have and have-nots’ league is dim.

The debate over ‘righteousness of free player movement’ and the ‘responsibility of a union in partnership with an enterprise’ is in hibernation but still current.  In my opinion, the NFL’s franchise tag strikes a fair balance between the sides and deserves some acclaim.

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‘The NBA is a business.’  Ok.  What does that mean exactly?

First, I think it’s useful to define the ‘business’ of the NBA.

The NBA is in the entertainment business.  Their product is ‘competitive sporting event.’  Their competitors are not Cavs vs. Heat vs. Knicks, etc.  Their competitors are NHL, NCAA Men’s Basketball, NCAA Men’s Hockey, UFA, PGA Golf, NASCAR… any other competitive sporting event that occurs in Winter and Spring.

When you look at the NBA as a singular business entity with a common goal, then it becomes easier to view the 30 teams as franchises of the NBA brand.  As the brand grows, the all the entity’s partners benefit.

As with any franchise model, the brand’s value derives from the delivery of a consistent product where ever the franchise is located.  The Big Mac I get here in New Hampshire is the same as the one you get in Elyria.

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What if Dunkin Donuts offered Super Columbian Supremo in Miami and Sanka in Cleveland?

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When Jon Barry comes to town. Why we hate ESPN, #2.

Watched the Cavs-Hornets game on ESPN last night.  It was the usual stuff that bugs you about ESPN.

All the focus is on the new shiny toy (Kyrie).

Every assessment of Cleveland-related stuff was wrong.

This doesn’t rise to a ‘Why We Hate ESPN’ rant but there were a fair number of ditties that rankled.  We’ll catalog our grievances for the sake of posterity.

Scratch that.  It rises.  Not in an all-caps way.  But it was deplorable performance by ESPN’s backup team of Jon Barry and Mark Jones last night.

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Intro:  “Cleveland is a punch-the-clock rust-bowl town…”  etc.
Just hacky.  Plus they forgot blue-collar and lunch-pail.

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The 2012 Cheddar Bay runner-up gets it.

Says here the largest employers in NEO look like this:

  • Cleveland Clinic, 34,000;
  • US Govt, 15,000;
  • University Hospitals, 14,000;
  • Summa Health, 8,000;
  • Giant Eagle, 10,000;
  • Progressive Insurance, 9,000;
  • Group Management Services, 7,000.

The Fisher Body plant closed in 1982.  Chrysler’s Twinsburg plant closed in 2009.  They stopped building Econolines in Lorain in 2005.

I won’t attempt to catalog the closings.  I’m just not sure the intro description really works anymore.

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Jon Barry:  ‘Dion Waiters, Dwyane Wade comparisons are ridiculous.’

That might not have been the exact phrasing, but it was his message.  It got me thinking, so I took the time to compare their rookie numbers, age, height, weight.

The premise doesn’t look that nuts from the stats comparison.

Even the Heat announcers see it.


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About that 2009 draft…

Jason Smith, OT, Baylor. 2nd overall, 2009. 5yr/62MM. .. Traded for Wayne Hunter.  Then cut.

So.  Jason Smith is available.  Jets released him yesterday.

Jason who?

Jason ‘second pick in the 2009 draft‘ Smith, that’s who.  Consensus top-three pick.  Rams’ next Orlando Pace.  Anchor on the line for next decade.   Busting holes for Stephen Jackson; protecting Sam Bradford’s back.

Three years later he’s being traded straight-up for journeyman OT Wayne Hunter.  Four years later he’s being cut from the 6-10 Jets.

Smith has had more than his share of injuries.  Three concussions.  Two seasons finished on the DL.  But even before that, Rams fans had concerns.

I knew we were in trouble during the 2009 training camp when aged Leonard Little was routinely beating the shit out Smith.

A lot of people were distressed when the Rams picked the former TE Smith to play one of the most important positions on the team.

Smith’s contract, signed before the new CBA, was crippling for the Rams.  So it was pretty much a train wreck of a pick.  Especially when you consider that they passed on:

That’s weird.  Of the first five picks in 2009, only Matt Stafford seems to be a significant contributor to an NFL team four years later.

If we keep going:

  • Andre Smith, rounding into form now, but it was uncertain for the first two years;
  • Darrius Heyward-Bey .. meh;
  • Eugene Monroe — solid;
  • BJ Raji — hit;
  • Michael Crabtree .. looking good;
  • Aaron Maybin, bust;
  • Knowshon Moreno .. err;

And then Orakpo, Jenkins, Cushing.

Massaging the numbers as I’m wont to do:  of the first twelve picks in 2009, only four (Stafford, Monroe, Crabtree, Raji) are slam-dunk ‘We’d take them again’ choices.  Out of those twelve, three are disasters (Smith, Maybin, Curry), three are disappointments (Jackson, Sanchez, Moreno).

When you consider thousands of hours of research by hundreds of paid league sources
33% hit rate on the top 12 is weak… and…
A whiff rate of 38% in the top 12 is a damning indictment of all the NFL personnel experts who are smarter than you.

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Prototype 5-tech JJ Watt is lined up on Ravens’ RT’s right shoulder.

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Where are you going with this, Kanick?

So let’s have fun with this drafty-picky game!

I mixed it up with minor twitter and Cleveland sports-radio celebrity Hiram Boyd tonight.  Hiram’s a Ziggy Ansah fan.  So am I.  I’m also a Margus Hunt fan.
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Investigative sports reporting done right and not at all.

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Beckett (17MM), Lester (5.75MM), and Lackey (15.9MM): ~$38MM in 2011.

The 2011 Redsox sported a $162MM payroll and a 90-72 record.  They held a nine game lead over the Rays for the wildcard on September 3.  Then they went 7-20 in September missing the playoffs, one of the worst collapses in baseball history.  Their manager was fired.

What happened?

Since this occurred in Boston and since Bob Hohler holds a role as investigative reporter for the Boston Globe, we have a pretty good idea.

“… Terry Francona lost his ability to prevent some of the lax behavior that characterized the collapse. Team sources said Francona, who has acknowledged losing influence with some former team leaders, appeared distracted during the season by issues related to his troubled marriage and to his health.”

“Drinking beer in the Sox clubhouse is permissible. So is ordering take-out chicken and biscuits. Playing video games on one of the clubhouse’s flat-screen televisions is OK, too. But for the Sox pitching trio to do all three during games, rather than show solidarity with their teammates in the dugout, violated an unwritten rule that players support each other, especially in times of crisis.

I could keep excerpting but Hohler’s story covers:

  • Francona personal problems (divorce, pain-killer use)*;
  • Starting pitchers hanging out in clubhouse instead of dugout during games;
  • Players carping about having to play a double-header (due to Hurricane Irene);
  • Lack of conditioning;
  • Personal record pursuits;
  • Public sniping between teammates;
  • Complaints about late ‘getaway’ games.

It’s a comprehensive and well-written and interesting documentation of the ugly side of the professional athletics.  Exhibit A for: ‘The Entitled Ballplayer.’

In an era where all games are on TV and all games’ statistics are online and pool reports provide the same set of bland post-game interviews for everyone… the Hohler article is a shining example that sports reporting can still be relevant.

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Compare the above to another interesting time and place:  the 2009 Browns.

Let’s see how another sports market reported on a uniquely peculiar story.

True cle-dot-com caption: “Will the back story of the Great Kokinis-Mangini Blowup ever be fully told? Tony Grossi tends to doubt it.”

The 2009 Browns are under new management with Eric Mangini as head coach and George Kokinis as GM.  The BQ/DA tandem at QB managed to crack 200 passing yards once in eight games leading to a 1-7 record at the bye week.  The last two games before the bye were 3-31 and 6-30 losses to Packers and Bears.  For these two games passing yardage was under 90 yards.

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Introducing the “Three Studs on the O-line” rule.

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No running back ever ran behind better blocking.

Emmitt Smith’s 164 rushing TDs are the most in NFL history.  His 175 TDs are second only to Jerry Rice’s 208.  (Smith’s eleven receiving TDs in 15 years says something unkind about his versatility but we don’t intend to go there.)

He also brought the NFL’s most classless touchdown celebration to all 175:

After every touchdown, Smith trotted behind the Cowboys bench and carefully tucked the touchdown football into a secured locker.

Dale Hansen.
The last honest Cowboys announcer.

From Jeff Pearlman’s Boys Will Be Boys (p. 227):

“Emmitt would score a touchdown from the two-yard-line, keep the football, and sell it at his souvenir shop back home in Pensacola,” says Dale Hansen, the Cowboys radio announcer.  “I thought it was both odd and selfish.”

Me too Dale.  Me too.  Glad I wasn’t the only one.

I always thought he should give the ball to Larry Allen.  Mark Tuinei.  Nate Newton.  Jay Novacek.  Mark Stepnoski.  Erik Williams.  Moose Johnston.  Ray Donaldson.  Flozell Adams.  Andre Gurode.  Hell, add Michael Irvin to the list, he was a great blocking WR.

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A link to pro-football ass-hattery, yours for $800+.

All of these blockers in front of Smith went to multiple pro-bowls, many all-pros, and Larry Allen is now in the Hall of Fame.

They’re why Emmitt Smith gets to append his signature with ‘HOF.’

It was painfully obvious just through the eye-ball test that Emmitt Smith was the beneficiary of one of the greatest offensive fronts ever assembled.  But his 175 incidents of douche-baggery prompted me to dig in and prove this thesis:  Emmitt Smith is the least special running back in the HOF and owes all to his offensive line.

[Here’s the link to HOF by position and by my gut take, in the RB group, I think it’s Smith and Thurman Thomas in the, ‘Really?’ category.]

After looking at the Cowboys’ impressive o-line, I started looking for other great lines with a view toward seeing whether other running backs benefitted as magnificently.  I didn’t find that.  But I did notice that great offensive lines were, generally, attached to a dynastic team.

That led me to a greater thesis which I first shared with Frowns in an email a couple years back:

“If you find a team with 3 probowl OLs, they’re pretty much in the SB; probably a dynasty.  The 90s boys were incredibly stacked.  ALL FIVE on the line plus TE and FB.  (This is why i never dug Emmitt Smith’s act.)”

To put a finer point on it, the postulate being proposed is this:

If you assemble an offensive line with three or more pro-bowlers, you’re likely going to a Super Bowl and probably more than one.

Or, more safely:

A great offensive line is an excellent indicator that you have a playoff team.

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Browns have best salary cap position in NFL.

The current Free Agent project here at kanick has uncovered some great news:

Browns are in better shape, cap-wise, than any other team. (more…)

FA target #3: Andy Levitre

Has not missed a start in four years.

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I think we’ve done good work shoring up the Browns’ defense here at kanick with the additions of Keenan Lewis at CB and Dannell Ellerbe at ILB.  Both are upgrades over the incumbent Brownie and both increase the physical presence.  Both also should be bring some needed ‘AFC North’ DNA from their old teams.  God knows we can use more Steeler and more Raven style play here.

What’s next?

Woody agrees.
All praise Woody.

Well.  When in doubt, I’m always pro investing in the offensive line.

Philosophically, I think football games are won at the line of scrimmage.  I think you build your line first.  I think all great teams share the trait of owning the LOS.  I’m old school in this way.  A great o-line can make Randall Cunningham at 15-1 QB.  A great d-line can reduce Tom Brady to a puddle.

I like the way our o-line is shaping up.  But if we’re being honest, even with Thomas, Mack, and Schwartz, we got pretty lucky at guard with Jon Greco coming in and playing great after Pinkston’s injury.  Even though he’s been pretty durable, Shawn Lauvao hasn’t been overwhelming.  We don’t know how Pinkston will be after his injury.  And putting the individual evals aside, added depth on the o-line is a good thing.  Like,, who knew losing Billy Yates would be one of the critical injuries of 2010?  But it was.

(PS, Ryan Miller is NOT depth.)

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Andy Levitre, 26, Oregon State, 6-2/306.

Hasn’t missed a start in four years.  I can’t think of a cleaner statistic for a guard.  Let’s face it:  I’m not breaking down film here so foot-work waist-bending critiques are not part of this commentary.  Stats-wise, reviewing Bills ‘sacks allowed’ isn’t a perfect metric with all the other variables involved.  (Although the Bills were 23rd in sacks allowed which is better than the Browns.)

Nice rating from PFF.  I readily admit that I don’t know how they arrive at their ratings.

Oregon State Beaver so he and Keenan Lewis will have lots to talk about.
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Just how good is the Browns’ cap position?

“I’m hearing about the Browns’ good cap position.  How good is it?”

Short answer:  Browns are in better shape, cap-wise, than any other team.

Only the Bengals have a lower current cap hit number (65MM) than the Browns (73MM).  But the Bengals need to sign Andre Smith and Michael Johnson… and there are quite a few other UFAs the Bengals need to sign or replace.

After Bengals and Browns, the Colts sit at 76MM.  All other teams are over 90MM.

Not only that:  many teams are in a world of hurt.

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I’ve been consulting spotrac.com/nfl for my data in this 2013 FA project.  I subscribed; not sure what I’m getting that you may not.  (Please let me know if I’m giving out inaccessible links.)  It seems a pretty up-to-date source.  For example, here’s their transaction tracker.

Anyway… if you look at the Browns’ 2013 cap hit page, we’re sitting at $74MM.  I don’t know, I don’t claim to know exactly what this means.  I understand it to be a snapshot of the Browns’ cap situation as it stands now.

It seems useful as a point of reference in relation to other teams’ cap situations.  For example, here are the teams whose FAs we’ve been coveting:

  • Bills = $100.5MM (with Byrd a priority, I’m tipping my hand on FA #3.);
  • Ravens = Disaster.  $106.5MM (Flacco, Kruger, Ellerbe, Pitta -and Reed- all unsigned; but Ray Lewis relief seems probable);
  • Steelers = Disaster.   $133.5MM (Roeth restructure, Harrison dump seem inevitable);
  • Browns = $74.5MM (Sheldon Brown, Cribbs, Dawson are only notable UFAs). (more…)