Archive for the ‘Unabated to the Quarterback’ Category

Unabated to the QB, Week 9: The Autumn Wind Is a Raider

“Our task as men is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks men take a long time to accomplish, that’s all.”

—Albert Camus, “The Almond Trees”

We have to be moderate here. The Raiders are not back.

The Raiders’ odds of making the playoffs this season are not very good. They have a killer schedule the rest of the way, having to go to Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and San Diego, not to mention tough home dates with Miami and Indianapolis. I don’t see them winning more than one of those games.

But we also have to understand how low Oakland had fallen these last seven years. Not only were the Raiders never in the playoffs, they were never in playoff contention. They hadn’t won three in a row since 2002, hadn’t been over .500 in November since 2002. As bad as the Bills and Lions have been in that stretch, they’ve at least had years that looked promising. Buffalo was 4-0 two years ago; Detroit was 6-2 three seasons ago.

Not the Raiders. Here are Oakland’s records through nine games in each of the last seven seasons: 2-7, 2-7, 2-7, 2-7, 3-6, 3-6, 2-7. So when we say they haven’t been over .500 in November since 2002, we also have to point out that they haven’t been .500 in November since 2002. They haven’t been within a game of being .500 in November since 2002.

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Unabated to the QB, Week 8: The Rolling Stone


“A man’s works often retrace the story of his nostalgias or his temptations, practically never his own history especially when they claim to be autobiographical. No man has ever dared describe himself as he is.”

—Albert Camus, “The Enigma”

How exactly will we remember Randy Moss?

Figuring out the legacies of football players is difficult. Just ask the NFL Network, which recently released its compilation of the 100 greatest players in NFL history to much criticism. Football isn’t baseball, where individual stats are fairly reliable. Football isn’t basketball, where a star player can and should take over almost every game. How do you judge a quarterback such as Joe Montana who played in a revolutionary offense with the receiver who NFL Network called the greatest player in the league’s history? Steve Young didn’t do too badly himself behind Montana, but does that take away from Joe or just mean that Steve was also really, really good?

These kinds of questions are ubiquitous in thinking retroactively about football players, and the topic of legacy is particularly problematic when it comes to wide receivers. At the receiver position, there is Jerry Rice, and there is everyone else. I’m not sure if Rice is indeed the greatest player in the history of the sport, but I am sure that the gap between him and the next-best receiver is wider than the gap between the best and second-best at any other position.

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Unabated to the QB, Week 7: Ending the Fantasy

“So it was with me as I peacefully died of my cure.”

—Albert Camus

This weekend finally sealed it. At season’s end, I am officially retiring from fantasy football.

I have made this threat before. In fact, it’s been kind of a mid-aughts Favrian period from me along these lines, where I consider retirement without ever making the leap (thus the distinction between mid-aughts Favre and late-aughts Favre).

I have long deplored the aesthetics of fantasy sports. In fact, I’ve already explained this earlier in the season. To wit:

“Now, I despise the idea behind fantasy football. To me, it’s a compensatory hobby designed to manufacture allegiances when you don’t otherwise have one. I don’t care who wins this game, so I will root for Aaron Rodgers to throw a touchdown pass to Donald Driver for Green Bay, and for LeSean McCoy to have a nice performance for the Eagles. This will make me happy. Fantasy football, then, is something I patently don’t need. I love the Giants, and therefore I have a strong rooting interest in almost any game that includes an NFC team. Over time, I have developed a hierarchy of affection in the AFC, and so I have mild rooting interests in its games as well. I cannot think of a single time I have watched an NFL game completely indifferent to its outcome. Continue reading

Unabated to the QB, Week 5: Perfect No More

“Everything perfect of its kind must transcend its kind: it must become something other, something incomparable.”

“Certain shortcomings are essential for the individual’s existence.”

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities

It was a thrilling moment on Sunday, when those underdog Indianapolis Colts were able to hang on and defeat the NFL’s decade-long behemoth, the Kansas City Chiefs, to finally end yet another run at perfection.

Wait, what?

The Colts did beat the Chiefs, but that’s about the only aspect of that sentence that’s accurate — unless you find field-goal kicking especially thrilling. And now, just five weeks into the NFL season, there are no unbeaten teams left.

Kinda sad, right? A potential season-long storyline gone, right? A chance at historical transcendence done with, right?

Wrong.

Well, sort of wrong.

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Unabated to the QB, Week 4: The Great White Hope

“‘Self control!’ repeated Tom incredulousy. ‘I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out…. Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.’

“Flushed with his impassioned gibberish he saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization.

“‘We’re all white here,’ murmured Jordan.”

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Running for 100 yards in back-to-back games is not much of an accomplishment in the NFL, even in these passing times. As such, running for 100 yards twice in a season is pretty commonplace. Since 2002, there have been 244 different individual seasons in which a running back has had at least two 100-yard games. Until last week, though, there was something uniform about that list.

None of those running backs were white.

That’s right. With his second consecutive 100-yard game on Sunday, Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis became the first white running back to eclipse the 100-yard mark twice in the same season since Mike Alstott in 2001. The issue, though, goes back further. Alstott was the first to do it since at least 1990, which is when I started getting tired going back through Pro-Football-Reference’s Play Index. That’s 20+ years and 500+ seasons of at least two 100-yard games. A full two are now by white guys.*

*Note: People often cite Nick Goings as a white running back who had five 100-yard running games in 2004. Goings, though, is mixed race — just like Barack Obama.

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Unabated to the QB, Week 3: This Side of Michael Vick

“It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being.”

“Youth is like having a big plate of candy. Sentimentalists think they want to be in the pure, simple state they were in before they ate the candy. They don’t. They just want the fun of eating it all over again. The matron doesn’t want her girlhood—she wants to repeat the honeymoon. I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again.”

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise

I’m pretty sure, now that I think about it, that it was the first time I had ever seen Michael Vick play, in that comeback in Morgantown. Up until 1999, Virginia Tech had been, at least to me, a banal Top 25 team, in that class with Clemson and Auburn and Georgia Tech — teams that were always ranked, that always played some good games, always played January bowl games, but never mattered in the title race. Vick, of course, changed that at Virginia Tech, and by the time I laid eyes on him, the Hokies were already No. 3 in the polls.

It was that run down the sidelines during the final drive that arrested my attention. It was so sudden and so graceful — so easy for Vick to transform the dynamic of that final minute from “Virginia Tech still needs a bunch of yards in a short amount of time” to “Oh, they’re in field-goal range now. They’re going to win.”

It was Will Hunting easy for Michael Vick to turn upfield on that play, and what seems so innocuous to us now wasn’t then. Quarterbacks didn’t do that. They weren’t that fast and elusive and graceful.*

*And if they were, they were doing it at a lower level of college football. This is my Steve McNair acknowledgment.

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Unabated to the QB, Week 2: From Beast to Least

“A man is always a prey to his truths.”

–Albert Camus

NFC BEAST. That’s what we called it. The Redskins and Cowboys, Giants and Eagles. The SEC of the NFL. It wasn’t always the best division, but it was always in the conversation.

Year after year, all talk about teams from the NFC East had to be framed with the qualifier, “but in that division.” Sure, the Redskins are better, but in that division…. The Cowboys might be the best team in the NFC, but can they grab the top seed in that division? Every team in that division is just going to beat up on each other. It was, in short, the football equivalent of “in this economy.”

But this year? Through two weeks, the NFC East is looking more Least than Beast. The Eagles, Giants, and Redskins are 1-1; the Cowboys are 0-2. Their three combined wins are over the Lions, Panthers, and, well, the Cowboys. They have lost to the Texans and Bears and Packers at home and been embarrassed by the Colts on the road.

Now, I’m not saying it’s the worst division in football — the NFC West’s crown is secure; it’s just that the NFC East is not even close to being football’s best. The AFC East, North, and South are all better, the last of them proving it in non-conference matchups. The NFC North is better (two head-to-head wins already) and the South might be.

The Cowboys aren’t as good as the ignorant mainstream media expected, what with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett looking just as shaky as his offensive line and the secondary problems from last season re-emerging. The Eagles have made a strange, win-now decision to start Michael Vick over Kevin Kolb, negating everything they did in the past off-season. The Giants aren’t as good as some extrapolated from a not-that-impressive win over the not-at-all-impressive Panthers. And the Redskins are a holding call away from blowing two home games to start the season.

The four teams will continue to beat up on each other this year, but it won’t be because they’re all good.

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