Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Value of Quarterbacks In The NFL Draft.

This past draft we have seen four teams, three inside the top 8, use first round draft picks on quarterbacks (including No.1 overall pick holder Indianapolis and the Redskins, who traded up to pick No.2). In 2011 we saw four teams use picks inside the top 12 on QBs.

As the league becomes increasingly dominated by the passing game, it's not hard to see that teams are placing a higher value than ever on the quarterback position and the necessity of having a "franchise" quarterback. In some cases, this has led to guys probably getting drafted higher than they should be (Ryan Tannehill this year, Christian Ponder the year before).

However, all this drafting needs to be tempered with a quick reminder. There are 32 teams in the NFL - that means 32 starting QB spots. The number of teams that have taken QBs high the last two years will mean that in the next couple of years, demand for quarterbacks will be much lower. Teams generally will give a QB at least three years to prove himself before looking at other options.

Next year USC's Matt Barkley is considered the most likely No.1 pick - he would probably have gone in the top 5 this year had he declared. The team that picks No.1 probably got there because they couldn't get anything from their QB so will probably take him regardless. After that, however, you have three or four QBs (Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, West Virginia's Geno Smith) who would probably have been first round picks this year. And that's not even considering a guy who makes a charge up draft boards this year after a sterling season. Who had RG3 as the No.2 pick before the start of the last college season? I remember reading about him as a borderline first rounder.

Assuming that besides Barkley (who, barring injury or a horrendous drop off, will at least be a top-5 pick) you have four other guys who would be first round picks. Who would take them? Let's take a look at every team's QB status.

AFC North
Baltimore: Joe Flacco may not be a top-5 QB but he's got the Ravens to the playoffs every season he's played and was a dropped pass/missed FG away from the Super Bowl this year. No Chance
I can see the Steelers taking a QB in the next couple of years to groom behind Roethlisberger, given he's on the wrong side of 30 and probably won't play at this level for too long given the way he gets hit - but unless the value's really good I can't see them taking a guy in the first. Slim chance
Cincinnati: The Bengals took Andy Dalton in the second round last year. He made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season and looks like their franchise guy for years to come. No Chance.
Cleveland: They used the 22nd pick this year on Brandon Weeden. He's going to get a few years even with his age. No Chance

AFC East
New England: They have that Brady guy. Plus they picked up Ryan Mallett as a development guy last year. No Chance.
New York Jets: Who knows with the Jets? That said, with the extension they gave Sanchez in the off-season followed by the trade for Tebow...I don't think they'd look at other QB options before 2014. If Sanchez struggles this year I can see them giving Tebow a shot though. Slim chance.
Miami: Ryan Tannehill is the QB of the future in South Beach, and Matt Moore is the short term starter. They're not looking elsewhere right now. No Chance.
Buffalo: The Bills are the first team I can see taking a first round QB next year. Their team has suddenly become stacked after a great free agency/draft period, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is injury prone and may not even be that good. If they get another high pick next year I can see them taking a QB. Good chance.

AFC South
Houston: Matt Schaub may be a free agent end of this year, but he's a good fit with their offense and was doing pretty well before his injury. Besides, TJ Yates looked like an NFL quarterback when spelled into duty last year and will probably be their guy should Schaub not come back. No Chance.
Indianapolis: They just drafted Andrew Luck with the No.1 pick. No Chance.
Jacksonville: The Jags are interesting. They used last year's No.10 pick on Blaine Gabbert, but he looked pretty bad most of last year. Now he has a stud receiver to go with a top running game and defense - the excuses are almost up. If Gabbert doesn't show more this year the Jags will possibly look at other options, but again the three-year rule. Slim chance.
Tennessee: They took Jake Locker high last year and he may be their starter this season - if not, Matt Hasselbeck looked rejuvenated in his first season in Tennessee. They may have tried to get Peyton Manning but drafting a guy is totally different. Locker is the guy in Nashville. No chance.

AFC West
Denver: Not with that Manning guy. Plus, they drafted Brock Osweiler as QB of the Future this year. No chance.
San Diego: Rivers had a poor season last year but I can't see the Chargers moving away from him, even if he's on the wrong side of 30. I can possibly see them taking a mid-round guy to develop behind him though. Slim chance.
Kansas City: The Chiefs are loaded with talent and depth everywhere but quarterback. If Matt Cassel can't get them to the playoffs this year I can see them looking at a quarterback in the 2013 draft. Good chance.
Oakland: My Raiders pissed two high draft picks away on Carson Palmer last year (fuck you very much Hue Jackson) and we have Terrelle Pryor. Unless Reggie McKenzie really wants to get his own guy in I don't see it. Slim chance

NFC North
Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers. Nuff said. No chance.
Chicago: Only if their offensive linemen finally have Jay Cutler killed as they've been trying to do for the last three years. No chance.
Detroit: In Matt Stafford's first year not cut short by injury we saw what he could do. He has the potential to become the best QB in the league within a couple of years if he holds together and the Lions keep building around him. No chance.
Minnesota: Similar to Jax, I can see the Vikings looking at their options next draft if Christian Ponder can't put it together in his first full season as a starter, especially with their new stadium coming. I don't think it's likely though unless there's a full management/coaching change. Slim chance.

NFC East
New York Giants: They have a two-time Super Bowl winner under center. Eli may be 30 but I don't see them looking elsewhere for a few years. No chance.
Philadelphia: Andy Reid is always looking at new options at QB, and Michael Vick probably doesn't have a long career ahead of him given the way he plays. That said, if the Eagles take a first round QB next year it probably means something has gone horribly wrong. Slim chance.
Washington: RG3 cost them their first next year. He's the guy in DC for the present and future long as he plays good. And they used a fourth round pick on Kirk Cousins to be his backup in a move that still confuses me. No chance.
Dallas: If the Cowboys miss the playoffs and Tony Romo continues to self destruct in the clutch I can see the Cowboys taking a quarterback in the first. Jerry may love Romo but his patience isn't infinite. That said, he's recently come out and claimed that this team's window isn't open for long so I don't see him gambling with an unproven first rounder. Slim chance

NFC South
Carolina: They gambled on Cam Newton with the No.1 pick in 2011. That gamble has them looking like a playoff team for the next decade. No chance.
New Orleans: What the hell is going on with Drew Brees? How the hell are they dumb enough to low-ball him? Then again this is the team that...look, if Brees doesn't re-sign with the team, refuses to play this year and flops? They'll be in the running for Barkley and it'll be moot. If he comes back? They're still a SB contender. Either way, they won't be drafting a QB in 2013 because you'd have to think they come to their senses soon. No chance.
Atlanta: Matt Ryan needs to take this team to the next level, but I can't see the Falcons giving up on him this year even if he can't win in the playoffs. No chance.
Tampa Bay: The Bucs have a lot of problems but quarterback isn't one of them. Josh Freeman may have struggled last year in the maelstrom that was One Buccaneer Place last year but you'd have to think a more harmonious atmosphere and committed teammates (along with Vincent Jackson) will get him back to his 2010 form. No chance.

NFC West
San Francisco: Even if Alex Smith isn't the long term answer, they have Colin Kaepernick (last year's second round pick) waiting in the wings. It's possible that they could look at options though. Slim chance.
Arizona: Probably the most likely team in the league along with Kansas City and Buffalo. The Cardinals are pretty good everywhere else but Kevin Kolb struggled last year before getting a concussion. If he can't perform with a full off-season and a first round receiver in Michael Floyd opposite Larry Fitzgerald Zona will probably take a quarterback, barring a star turn from John Skelton. Good chance.
Seattle: If we've learnt one thing over the past year it's that Pete Carroll doesn't care what anyone thinks when drafting, so it's impossible to guess what the Seahawks will do. You'd have to think that signing Matt Flynn in free agency and drafting Russell Wilson in the third round this year would put them out of the QB market for now though. Who the hell knows?
St Louis: Sam Bradford was in the same boat as Josh Freeman last year - he spent half the season running for his life and the other half injured after he couldn't run any more. The fact that he's on his third offensive coordinator in three years is worrying but he showed enough in his rookie season to suggest he has future star potential. The Rams won't give up on him next year unless they have another 2-14 season. No chance.

 There you go. In a draft with a bunch of quarterbacks, I can only see three teams (Buffalo, Kansas City and Arizona) actively looking for a quarterback next year. If a team like Minnesota or Jacksonville winds up with the No.1 pick I can see them taking Matt Barkley or the best available prospect - but not otherwise.

What does this mean? In short, it'll be a reversal of the last couple of years. Where you've seen marginal first round talents get taken in the first high, 2013 will see one or two guys with legit top-15 pick talent drop into the late first/early second round. At that point you'll see one of the good Slim Chance teams (a Philly, a Pittsburgh) take them and hope they have the next Aaron Rodgers on their squad.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I Hate Queensland.

Look, I really don’t have much to say about last night’s game. It’s been more than half a day. I’ve slept, showered (twice) and wanked (three times) since then and I’m still furious about it to the point where I may be tempted to king hit any dickhead I see in a QLD jersey on principle. If you’re a QLDer – even the few decent ones amongst you admit you got a BIG helping hand from the refs.

I’ll accept that Cronk probably got spear tackled. If I really wanted to be unbiased (believe me I don’t) I could even concede that Jennings probably deserved 10 in the bin for his punch, even though it’s Origin and that shit comes with the territory. If we had lost 12-10, there would have been other things to look at like the decision to go for 2 on the 40m line (one which, by the way, I agreed with at the time and still do) and some of the defensive breakdowns on the edges.

But there is absolutely no way anybody can defend the Inglis no try that wasn’t.

Anyone who watched it in full speed and thinks Farah actually played at the ball is either completely blinkered, never played any footy in their life or mentally retarded. Farah’s eyes were completely on Inglis. He wasn’t watching his foot or the ball. His goal was to get the man and try stop the try.

Then look at his leg in slow motion. It’s obvious he doesn’t make any extra movement to play at the ball. The motion of his leg is consistent throughout.

That’s all I have to say on the worst call in sports since the Tuck Rule. Enjoy your hollow victory, cane toad scum.

I have something else I want to write about today as well.

A few weeks ago, I was in Brisbane for a concert (the story of which will be a future blog for the three of you who haven’t heard it yet) and before the show I had a bite with my mate Brad. (Brad, by the way, writes the excellent satirical blog The Bogue and Boguette Show – check it out if you enjoy satire on modern Australian suburban life or if you have a sense of humour at all).

Even though he’s a masters degree-styduing commie-pinko-vego-libtard, Brad’s also a Wests Tigers fan and a transplanted New South Welshman, so along the way we ended up talking footy for a while and specifically Origin. Along the way he made an interesting point – that Queenslanders, no matter how many series they win, will always hate New South Welshmen more than us NSWers will ever hate them. Sure we all love mocking them for being inbred, braindead, redneck bogans…but that sheer pathological hate isn’t there.

I wasn’t completely sure how to react to this, because around Origin time my hate for the shitstains goes through the roof. I once even passed up the chance to go to an Origin game in Brisbane because I know I would have either been arrested or killed before kickoff for getting amongst it with some of the filth. And, to be honest, I can’t say I have too much love for them even outside of Origin. Queensland is, after all, the state that kept Joh Bjelke-Petersen (rot in the ground you old cunt) in power for so long. Admittedly, I thought about moving there earlier this year but realized soon enough that being around Queenslanders all the time would probably be what finally pushed me over the edge to become a serial killer.

While my hatred may be pretty deep, I know I’m not the only one. You talk to NSW fans around my age and you’ll hear similar sentiments for sure.

The reasons aren’t rocket science. We are a generation who have come of age with our state as the nail to their hammer. Six straight losses in Origin, constant talk of the QLD dynasty, the fact that one of the best players on that team was born and raised in NSW, our dickhead friends who claim to support QLD even though they were born and raised in Sydney because they’re dickriding cocksuckers…look, it’s a perfect storm to build the hate.

Maybe at first NSW didn’t have the same hate for QLD. We are, after all, a state with many things going for it. We have the best city in the country and one of the  (if not the) best in the world (and I’ve traveled a bit and still make this statement). A far greater proportion of Australia’s thinkers and intellectuals, artists and entertainers come from our state than theirs – Smart State my arse. When you travel outside Australia, people ask “are you from Sydney?” when you mention you’re Australian or they hear you speak. Our city and state has enough going for it that we didn’t need to define ourselves by squashing a few cane toads every year, as much fun as it was when we did.

All these years later, we still have all those advantages over our inbred cousins to the north. But they have that shield and fuck do they love reminding us of it. It’s the one thing they can hold over us. At first it was cute, but like a little brother getting overly excited over beating his brother in ping pong (and yes, you’re damn right I just compared Origin to ping pong) and acting like a dickhead about it, it just got annoying. Then when they kept winning, we got mad. Very mad. And now you have a generation of NSWers who hate QLD every bit as much as they hate us. And that’s the way it should be.

Mate against Mate? Fuck off.

Monday, May 21, 2012

In Search Of The Black Matilda.

If I had known, I wouldn’t have had that tenth beer.

It’s St Patrick’s Day, and I am about to land arse-first on one of the most infamous sticky carpets in Sydney city. Why I’m floating through the air on the hands of strangers, I don’t know. The spirit of St Patrick and the inspiration to , drink, party and fuck up flows through us all on the 17th, even us with about as much Irish blood as Jackie Chan. 

However, even the most insane of movies require a soundtrack. Tonight, there could be only one band to provide that. Luckily for me, Sydney city’s finest purveyors of rotgut ‘n roll, the Rumjacks, were obliging this humble fan by playing a show at the Sandringham Hotel on this auspicious night.

I wish I could sit here and explain every part of the sonic experience to you. The point when Gabriel’s guitar went out of tune during I’ll Tell Me Ma or when Anthony threw in an extra drum fill on Crosses for Eyes…but quite frankly I was more interested in testing the human capacity to fly. I do remember Frankie picking me up when I fell on my knees on the stage. I think he may have even given me a hug. I like to think that he did.

Either way, I left the Sando that night with a rare sense of content. All was good in the world. I had my mates by my side, beers in my guts and the Rumjacks would continue to rule the Sydney punk scene for a while to come. Next step for them - the world. If it was a big enough stage for Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys surely there was room for a band of lads from Sydney city? I was feeling so good that in the next pub (ironically we went straight to Kelly’s on King – one of the pseudo-Irish pubs so savaged by the boys in An Irish Pub Song) I even started doodling a new tattoo of a woman, like one of those old sailor-style chicks with a comely face and bound by vines or shit. Only difference was this was going to be a black woman named Matilda.

A few days later I was jamming with a new guy, when I mentioned in passing that I was a Rumjacks fan.
“Oh yeah they’re pretty good. Too bad they won’t be together much longer.”
“Eh?” I thought I’d heard him wrong.
“Yeah, Frankie, the singer, he’s going to jail. He bashed some girl, raped his missus or something.”
“Oh yeah. Right. That. Heard that somewhere.” At this point I’m just bullshitting cause I’m knocked off my feet. The guy worked in the music biz so he knew what he was talking about but fuck. Please let this be some kind of sick joke.

Nup. No joke here. All it took was a Google search soon as I got home. Fuck. Frankie’s really getting hauled off to jail. Turns out he beat his missus and breached an AVO. Double fuck.

I’m not going to comment on domestic violence because quite frankly if you have an opinion on it other than “it’s very bad”, you’re a weapons grade cunt. I don’t know what happened with Frankie and his Mrs or if it’s true, but if it is at all so he deserves to be in jail. Now the next question I had was – what are they gonna do next?

At this point I had the small pipe dream that they’d look for a new singer. Someone who could step in and replace Frankie – preferably someone who knew all the songs – and surely not being Scots/Irish wouldn’t be a dealbreaker? Someone like, you know, me?

No such luck. Next day comes the hiatus announcement. No more shows for a while. It’s possible that I may never get to seem them again if shit changes once Frankie gets out of the nick.

At this point, I’m just trying to figure out why I care so much when really the answer is obvious. As much as those of us in the underground deny it the fact is that we’re almost like hipsters in that we want to be the first to say we discovered a band or artist. If and when the Rumjacks had gone global I wanted to be able to tell the story of getting a hug from Frankie as he picked me up off the carpet or the time I had a beer with Anthony and Will at the Gaelic when they opened for Guttermouth. Especially since they were from Sydney and sang about it. It’s a weird thing for the largest city in the country but the Sydney music scene does seem at times to have a bit of an inferiority complex, especially compared to Melbourne (the supposed arts fucking capital of the country) and even Brisbane (which can probably lay claim to being the birthplace of Australian punk, with the Saints and all). A lot of bands move to Sydney for the audience but it sometimes feels like nothing really great comes up to the world’s notice from our punk underground even though we got some pretty sick bands there and always have.

The Rumjacks had the potential to be that band, the one that came up from the sticky carpets of Newtown and Annandale and made music about being fuckin proud of it. Now it’s back to the drawing board.

I’m still getting that tattoo though. Only change I’ve made is a nod to my people’s history. In Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna was meant to be very dark – and he’s always drawn in blue. I’m doing the same when I get my Black Matilda. I think it’s only appropriate that a band that sang so much about their heritage should inspire me to grow even a bit more connected to my own.

And to be honest? I would have still had that tenth beer.

Peace out.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Moneyball, the Sharks and the NRL.

Being a casual Oakland As fan, I was pretty well acquainted with the story behind Moneyball well before it was made into a Brad Pitt movie. Ever since the movie dropped, however, every second sports columnist has been comparing every second team to the Moneyball As, generally through dubious means ("oh, they lost a star but they're doing fine.") That's not Moneyball, that's Ewing Theory.

When it comes to rugby league, it's hard to take a true Moneyball approach. One thing the movie didn't really touch on in great depth (for good reason, since it doesn't make for great drama) was the level of advanced statistical analysis (known as sabermetrics) that was involved. Sabermetric stats like RBIs, WHIPs and what not else (don't ask me what they mean cause I don't know) had been around for ages but Billy Beane and the As were the first team to really take them seriously when it comes to player evaluation. Now basically every major league side does it.

Baseball, however, is one of the most empirical of all sports. You can take data in baseball and, with the right methods of extrapolation, get a fair idea of whether a player is quality or not. In footy, that's nearly impossible. Firstly, we don't have that level of statistical analysis at any level of our game - and even if we did, it would be near useless due to the level of intangibles that exist in footy. You could probably come up with some fancy statistical methods to show the value of a Paul Gallen, but how would you use the same stats for a halfback or winger? Would you have to weight by position? You see the problem.

That said, let's not forget one of the other lessons of Moneyball. While the guys Beane picked up were all great on Excel spreadsheets, there's a reason why they were easy and relatively cheap to pick up - there was something wrong with all of them in the eyes of the conventionally-minded scouts, be it injury history, age, unorthodox style or whatever else.

Being a Sharks fan, I'm always going to give love to my boys - however, I reckon it's pretty clear to see that we made the two defining Moneyball moves in last year's player market.

The first and most obvious was picking up Todd Carney. Todd is a classic example of what I just mentioned - a guy who's issues (in his case, off-field incidents) overshadowed the value he could bring to a team. At some point, assuming he keeps his nose clean (which I firmly believe he will), I'll write more about Todd, but for now let's focus on the deal. I was genuinely stunned when he was let go and I didn't hear about 15 teams chasing him. This is a guy who may be one of the best five-eighths in football when he's playing well. We picked him up when his value was lowest and now he's happy enough that he'll probably re-sign end of this year or sometime next.

Of course, questions of character like the ones asked about Todd pose a different set of questions to ones over playing idiosyncrasies. The second group of transactions I'm thinking of, however, are straight out of the Billy Beane playbook.

Remember the scene in the movie after Jason Giambi leaves and the scouts are trying to convince Beane that Player X, Player Y are the guys to replace Giambi? What does he say to them? It's been a while since I actually saw it so I don't remember the exact words, but the essence was; we're not going to replace these guys with just anyone. It's impossible. What we're gonna do is find guys who can replace their production, however that may be.

You may recall within the space of a few weeks last year we lost our two relatively young, borderline State of Origin props in Luke Douglas and Kade Snowden. The panic thing to do would have been to throw a bunch of cash at replacements for them. Our football team, small as it may be, had the brains to not do this. Instead they took advantage of the Tigers splurging on Adam Blair (a profoundly anti-Moneyball move, which I will discuss later) to pick up Bryce Gibbs an old school workhorse prop who plays tough and makes up for his lack of try-scoring prowess with the best Twitter account in the NRL along with Andrew Fifita (a damaging ball runner who's most effective in short spurts off the bench) and former Shark Ben Ross from the Bunnies. We also trawled for bargain backups in Mark Taufua and Jon Green - all of whom have been effective when called upon.

Surprisingly, the reason why I wrote this post is not just to crow about the great recruitment of my Sharks. I've read enough of the mainstream media talking up our recruitment class of 2012.

What I want to talk about here is the mentality of player movement. Fans perpetually believe that it's the big buy that matters, the one that will always put them over the top. The Adam Blairs, the Chris Sandows. Hell, I won't lie here - Cronulla's smart shopping has largely been a case of necessity due to our recent well-documented financial issues. Even now fans continue to clamor for another big name signing (usually an outside back). But let's be honest here. How many of you can remember, off the top of your head, the year when your team caught the biggest fish in the free agent ocean and went on to win the title the next year?

Here's the thing. The $500 000 guy is rarely the guy who puts you over the top. Look at Wests with Blair or Parra with Sandow (who of course let Jeff Robson trot right into our arms). Think they aren't suffering a slight case of buyers remorse? Generally, if you need to spend that kind of money on a free agent it's a sign that there's a real problem at your club in that position, something systemic that a flashy purchase won't necessarily solve. We Sharks fans learnt that with Nigel Vagana.

It's all about buying smart. The Broncos do it consistently. Melbourne did it before and after they got pinged. Manly as well. You rarely hear about those teams going after the $500 000 man - they use their salary cap space to keep their best players and snap up stud juniors and undervalued guys from other teams blinded by fools gold. This year, Cronulla learnt their lesson and did just that.

Are we witnessing a revolution? The principles of Moneyball, after all, were fast adopted by almost every other team in Major League Baseball. One of the ironies of the story is that Beane's emphasis on unorthodox methods of evaluation to find undervalued players originated as a way to keep the low-payroll As competitive in the salary-capless MLB, only to see them come to fruition with the big-spending Boston Red Sox two years later.

I'm not sure that you'll see this happen in footy though. As long as fans continue to fetishise the big names, clubs will feel pressured to go out and sign them lest be seen as "doing nothing" by their fans. Hell, the Sharks themselves basically caught a massive break when Todd was released. However they were smart enough to grab it. It remains to be seen if teams in the future will be more uniformly so.