Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The WSJ Needs to Stick to Business

Everyone else has had their take on the Brett Favre situation, so it's only fitting that Allen Barra of the Wall Street Journal had one as well. It was a steaming pile of poo, but it was a take nonetheless. It pisses me off when jokers like this have a massive platform. This guy clearly just tries to be controversial, he's not very good at formulating arguments, but because he's in the Wall Street Journal, millions of people are reading this and thinking "Hmm, he makes a good point."

I have to break this one down, because it's such a joke.

It would have been refreshing if at least one of the worshipful media folk at the press conference had replied, "Well, actually, Brett, you're here because after months of vacillating on your retirement and putting the Packers through hell -- and forcing them into using a valuable draft pick on an extra quarterback because they didn't know whether you'd be playing for them this season -- you tried to bully them into either making you the starter or trading you to a team of your choice. Like a prima donna, you put your own desires ahead of the welfare of the organization to which you professed loyalty. Now you've been dumped on one of the NFL's most desperate franchises because no one else wanted you."

1) Unless the Packers are full of crap about drafting BPA, they would have taken Brohm anyway. Nobody forced them to draft him. They could have signed a vet to be the backup.

2) After the Packers made it clear he wasn't going to start there, why should he have put the team ahead of his own interests? (If you believe Favre) The Packers told him "Playing here isn't an option." So what's he supposed to do? Stay retired just so the Packers aren't put in an uncomfortable situation? They were looking out for their own interests, he was looking out for his.

3) Saying "no one else wanted you" is incorrect, but why worry about facts.

It would be if Brett Favre were as good as Joe Montana. Mr. Montana won four Super Bowls and was arguably the greatest quarterback in football history; Mr. Favre has won just one Super Bowl and is probably the most overrated, or at the very least overhyped, quarterback in the modern NFL.

It's nice that he provides, ya know, some data to back his assertion that Favre is the most overrated/overhyped QB. (For the record, Mike Vick had a strangehold on that title before getting put in jail.) It's also nice of him to leave out the fact that Favre has never played with a Hall of Famer on offense, while Montana had one of the best supporting casts in history. And that Montana played pre-salary cap when it was easier to keep a great team together. Not to take anything away from Montana (because he clearly was amazing and I agree that he's arguably the best of all-time), but it's insane to say "OMG Favre only won one Super Bowl so he's overrated!" Look at what he was working with for most of the last decade. It wasn't Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Brent Jones, Roger Craig, Tom Rathman and a ridiculous OL....

Let's strip the Brett-to-the-Jets deal of the illusions the media has wrapped it in. What we have is a 4-12 team that has signed a 38-year-old quarterback who, though he made something of a comeback last season, hasn't otherwise finished in the top five of the league's passers since 2001. (In 2006 he was ranked 25th; in 2005, 31st.).

A 4-12 team who signed a slew of new players in addition to the 38 year old QB and added Gholston to the defense.

Even if he hasn't finished in the top 5 of league's passers lately, that's using the ridiculous QB rating stat. He's been runner up in the MVP voting twice in that span. Not that the MVP voting is the be-all-end-all either, but I'd use that as a gauge of performance before I'd use passer rating.

From 2005 to 2007, Mr. Favre has thrown 66 touchdown passes and 62 interceptions. If any other NFL quarterback had put up those numbers, his job would be on the line; instead, the New York Jets have chosen to delay the inevitable process of breaking in a new young quarterback -- and in fact have released Chad Pennington, who, according to Kerry Byrne of the Web site Cold Hard Football Facts, is "maybe the most underrated quarterback in the NFL."

So you've got one bad year when he got off to a good start before every player on the offense got hurt (They used like 7 starting RBs that year, including Rashard freaking Lee), one great year, and one mediocre year. But based on his career as a whole, it's pretty clear which of those seasons was a complete outlier.

And if Kerry Byrne said Chad Pennington is the most underrated QB in the NFL it MUST be true! Great support for the argument there. Never mind that in the last 3 years, Pennington has 29 TD passes and 28 picks. Worse numbers than Favre's, even with that one disaster of a season that isn't likely to be repeated. But Favre's job would be in question if he was any other QB and Pennington is the most underrated in the league. Makes sense.

And the delay in breaking in a young QB assumes that the QB of the Future is on the roster. The best bet for the "QB of the Future" on the Jets would be Kellen Clemens, guy with 5 TDs and 10 INTs in his career. Yeah it was stupid to go get Brett Favre. Clearly Clemens is a budding star waiting to take them to the promised land.

But there is also considerable evidence that he is nowhere near, as his admirers claim, the greatest passer ever to play the game or that he even ranks in the top 25. Mr. Favre's trademark has always been productivity over quality. He's been remarkably durable with the daring to throw the ball more than any other passer, but he hasn't always thrown it better. He has never, for instance, led the NFL in the league's passer-rating system, which measures effectiveness with various statistics. (In comparison, Joe Montana led the league twice; Mr. Montana's successor at San Francisco, Steve Young, was first six times, and Peyton Manning three times.)

Now he's not a Top-25 QB of all-time? What the hell? I'd love to see this joker's list. If you want to make the argument that he's not Top-5, I'll listen. I'll disagree, but I'll at least listen. But not Top-25? Even Sal Paolantonio thinks that's jacked up.

And here we go with using the passer rating argument again. The NFL's passer rating system is insane. And using Peyton Manning in support of your argument might not be the best idea (I'll get to that in a minute). But as long as we're considering it to be such an important stat, let's look at a few years:

In 1995, Favre was runner up to JIM FREAKING HARBAUGH! Favre's 38 Touchdowns, 13 INTs, 4400 yards, and 63% completion percentage lost out to Harbaugh's 17 Touchdowns, 5 INTs, 2500 yards and 63% completion percentage. Clearly Harbaugh was the more effective passer.

In 1996, Favre was runner up to Steve Young. Favre's 39 TDs and 13 INTs were pretty clearly inferior to Young throwing a whopping 14 Touchdowns and 6 INTs.

In 1997, Favre finished behind Young and Chris Chandler. 35 Touchdowns, 16 Picks and another MVP were no match for 19 TDs and 6 picks, or Chandler's 20 TDs, 7 picks and 2700 yards passing. Chandler was so good that he QB'ed his team to a 7-7 record that year.

Mr. Favre has probably been excused by fans for not winning a passer-rating title because its formula is so complex most fans don't understand it. However, in the single most important passing stat, yards per attempt (YPA), he has also never led the league and finished as high as second only once (in 1995 with a 7.7 average). Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger currently leads the league in active players at over 8.1 yards per throw.

There are a lot of things that I've defended Brett Favre for, but I've never seen someone rip him for never winning a passer-rating title. I'm sure he would have put that on his list of accomplishments right next to his Super Bowl title, 3 MVPs, and his ownership of every passing record in the books.

I don't deny that YPA is an important stat, but I think he's overrating it here. Ben Roethlisberger is pretty clearly the best quarterback in the league. Except that, uh oh, over three years (before last year when he was great) he had 52 TDs and 43 Interceptions, which means his job should have been on the line according to a few paragraphs ago. Last year, Favre finished behind Matt Schaub in that stat. Yup, it's a clear-cut indicator of how good a QB is.

Also, how arrogant is the first sentence in this paragraph? Pehaps our resident genius would like to come down off his high horse for a minute to explain the system to us mere mortals (without looking it up) and then tell us how it was derived and what we should be able to take from it. Why are we subtracting 30 points from the completion percentage before multiplying by .05? Why do we subtract 3 yards off YPA? Why not 5? Or 2.8? What the hell does it even mean? Surely Mr. Barra would have no trouble explaining this to us all.

Did I miss when a passer-rating title became important? Favre had 16 Touchdowns in the first five games of 1996, more than Young had the entire season. And a better TD/INT ratio to boot. But Young was pretty clearly more efficient. That system is stupid. And only stupid people make too much out of it.

It's true that Mr. Favre holds the all-time record for TD passes (442), but what isn't as well known is that he also holds the record for most interceptions (288). Perhaps the best way of understanding Mr. Favre's effectiveness is to compare him to baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan, who holds the all-time record for strikeouts but also for walks. Everyone concedes that Mr. Ryan was a legitimate Hall of Famer, but with a lifetime winning percentage of .526, no one argues that he was the best ever or even among his own contemporaries.

It's not well known that Favre has the interception record? Favre also holds the record for most wins and has a winning percentage far greater than .526. If Barra doesn't think Favre is better than some of his contemporaries, I'd love to hear the argument. I'm sure it's just as air-tight as the one he's making here. I'd love to see the names on his list of contemporaries that are better.

We've resorted to using different sports. Amazing.

Nor, it must be admitted, has Mr. Favre been a particularly good big game performer. His career postseason is a mediocre 12-10, including an embarrassing 23-20 loss to the underdog New York Giants in the NFC conference championship this past January. On his own home field Mr. Favre was outdueled by the previously unheralded Eli Manning. In fact, as a postseason passer Mr. Favre has never approached the record of the Packers' Bart Starr, who won five NFL championships from 1961 to 1967.

Well if 12-10 is medicore, I guess we have to consider Peyton Manning's 7-7 record downright piss-poor, especially considering he's played with multiple hall of famers on offense for almost his entire career (Faulk/James plus Harrison). He's 3-7 outside of that Super Bowl year, where he was just brilliant in throwing 3 touchdowns and 7 picks. So that's another guy off the list of contemporaries better than Favre.

No career record above .500 in the playoffs is mediocre. This isn't the regular season here. To be above .500 in any single given year, you have to make it to the conference championship game if you didn't have a bye (which requires winning on the road against one of the two best teams) or make it to the Super Bowl if you did have a bye. Think about that for a minute. That's a lofty standard to have a playoff record above .500 for a single year, let alone a career.

Yes, you read that right. This guy actually just wrote that an overtime loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champions was "embarrassing". If the loss to the Giants was embarrassing, I guess Tom Brady has some mud on his face as well. And this joker better not even think of calling Romo a quality QB.

The Giants were better than everyone thought, and Favre wasn't really as bad as everyone said he was in that game. He wasn't great, but his numbers compared favorably to every other QB that played that day (even the great Tom Brady threw 3 picks in similar conditions). The difference was that the Giants and Pats had a running game and defenses that stepped up. The Packers had 28 yards on the ground and couldn't get off the field defensively. That's not going to work in January. And if Ruvell Martin catches a pass that's right in his hands for a sure TD or if Brandon Jackson doesn't run into his blocker when he had nothing but endzone in front of him, Favre's numbers look a lot better.

I'm sick of hearing about Starr's 5 titles when people are discussing Favre. Again, I don't want to take anything away from Starr, but for two of those titles he had to win ONE WHOLE PLAYOFF GAME. For two of those titles, he won two playoff games each year. Not to say he would've lost if they played more games, but you can't compare the championship-deciding format back then to what it is now. And again, you can't compare the supporting casts. Those Packers teams were hall-of-famer laden. Favre has never had a future Hall of Famer on offense.

Football historian T.J. Troup feels that Mr. Favre's place among the all-time greats is difficult to assess: "In the modern NFL, the rules favor passing over defense, so statistics alone can't tell the story. Put it this way: Favre has won three MVP awards, but except maybe in 1995, he has never really been the best and not as good as many passers from 'the dead ball era,' like Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr and Roger Staubach were in theirs."

Favre wasn't the best in 1996? Credibility? Fluuuuuuuushed. I'd love to hear who was better that year (or in 95, since that year only gets a "maybe"). Favre had 39 TDs and 13 INTs, despite losing his top receiver for the season in the 7th or 8th game and having his #2 target miss a couple games and then play with a cast on his arm the rest of the year. There were games where they started Don Beebe and Terry Mickens at WR. One-Armed Freeman/Rison/Beebe/Mickens isn't going to make anyone shudder. His left tackle was a journeyman who was plugged in mid-season. But no, he wasn't the best that year. Not even close.

I'm not going to deal with trying to compare him to some of the greats from the past, but for every advantage modern players have with the rules, I'm guessing we could come up with a lot of things that hinder the QBs. Faster defenses, more blitzing (I assume), etc.

It's also worth pointing out that Mr. Consistency here once defended Peyton Manning's playoff record (3-6 at the time) by writing the following:
Four times--in 1999 against the Tennessee Titans, 2003 against the New England Patriots, 2004 against the Patriots, and last year against the Pittsburgh Steelers--the Colts have lost in the playoffs to a team that went on to the Super Bowl. Two of those losses were by just three points. Did the Colts choke, or simply lose to better teams?

I guess it's worth pointing out, then, that half of Favre's 10 playoff losses (Dallas in 93, Dallas in 95, Denver in 97, St. Louis in 01, and the Giants in 07) have come against a team that ended up in the Super Bowl. 4 of the 10 losses have been to the eventual champion.

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