Smart Links – 6/7/2011

Mike Leach wants everyone to chill:

leach

- The new British University model — academics for rent?

- James Surowiecki on Elizabeth Warren.

- Things continue to get weirder in West Virginia. Like silly NFL media with respect to the lockout, I’m not taking sides and my selfish interest is just Stewart, the AD, Holgorsen and co. finding some way to get a deal done so that I can watch that offense (and defense) on the field. And, speaking of defense, the X-Factor here is what defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel thinks. I don’t know him well but I have a hard time believing that he’s enjoying this between his old head coach and his new one, and I’m also not sure he needs either of them. And stuff like this fans the flames (though Holgorsen may well have been in the right if Stewart was being counterproductive; if the offense doesn’t work it’s Holgorsen’s future at stake.) Of course the best takes on this have come from Spencer Hall, per the ballad of Bill Stewart and College Coaches, Drinking, and the Two Men at the Rail.

- Southern Cal stripped of title.

- Profiles in profanity.

- Isaac Asimov on what a library really is.

- Taiwanese women “plank” for good.

Very interesting take on NFL v Brady arguments

From St. Louis University Professor Matt Bodie:

That’s why this injunction may not matter that much. Let’s say the court holds that Norris-LaGuardia prohibits the injunction. Well, that only removes the injunction against the lockout; it does not mean that the NFL won’t ultimately be liable for antitrust violations. In fact, Judge Benton seemed to indicate that antitrust damages would continue to accrue even if the lockout could not be enjoined under the NLA. Or, let’s say that the injunction is lifted because the nonstatutory labor exemption still applies. Well, even Clement admitted it can’t apply forever — so how long? Clement seemed to be pushing for at least a year, but Benton seemed comfortable with six months — which would be, according to his calculations, September 11. Would the antitrust violations and the injunction kick back in then?

So the hearing ultimately convinced me that (a) the players took a truly radical move by disclaiming and (b) this problem is not going away, even after the Eighth Circuit rules on the injunction. I had thought that the longer the lockout lasts, the more it favors the owners — players need paychecks after all. But what if the longer it lasts, the more antitrust damages that pile up against the league?

(more…)

NFL and players argue in the 8th Circuit over the legality of the lockout

Listen to the oral argument here. I highly recommend doing this and not simply reading the summaries, if for no other reason than to hear two excellent advocates — Paul Clement for the NFL and Ted Olson for the players.

Update: I just finished listening to the oral argument, and I think, if there is no settlement, the NFL definitely wins this appeal.

The Associated Press summed up the argument thusly:

The NFL and its players went back to court Friday for a pivotal hearing before a federal appeals court on the legality of the lockout, now nearly three months old with no sign of a new collective bargaining agreement that would save the 2011 season.

The two sides each got roughly 30 minutes before a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, swapping sometimes-dense arguments over the lockout imposed by owners after labor talks fell apart in March.

The panel has twice decided to keep the lockout in place pending the full appeal. It did not issue an immediate decision and Judge Kermit Bye smiled as he told the attorneys before they left the courtroom: “We wouldn’t be all that hurt if you go out and settle that case.” . . .

At the heart of the hearing was U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson’s decision on April 25 to lift the lockout, saying it was illegal and agreeing with the players that they were suffering harm.

In a case Bye called complex, given its collision of antitrust and labor law, attorneys for both sides spent most of the 68-minute hearing arguing case law and legal precedent, at times pressed to elaborate by two judges – Steven Colloton and Duane Benton – whose earlier rulings sided with the league.

(more…)

Bad Vlad: Thanks for the Super Bowl Ring

An old story I recently stumbled across:

Interception in Russia. At a conclave of global business leaders in St. Petersburg, an incident occurred that has the world, well, scratching its collective head. Executives of American companies . . . were at Konstantinovsky Palace near the north Russian metropolis on Saturday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin did his best to convince them that his country is still a safe, stable place for investors. That’s when New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in a pique of international brotherhood, decided to show Putin a prized possession: his 2005 Super Bowl XXXIX ring. Suddenly the bridge between West and East, between those who use Roman and Cyrillic alphabets, was rent. Putin tried on the diamond-encrusted ring; he pocketed it; and left the conference. Did Kraft really intend it as a gift? Even in the interests of world peace and prosperity, that seems unlikely: This was the Pats winning the Bowl, after all. In a statement oddly reminiscent of traditional Kremlin idiom, Patriots spokesman Stacey James told The Associated Press that Kraft was traveling and he hadn’t spoken to him in four or five days, despite e-mails and calls: “He’s still overseas, I can’t even tell you where. …He’s not due back until next week.” James added, “It’s an incredible story. I just haven’t been able to talk to Robert Kraft to confirm the story.” However, a Kremlin official–who spoke anonymously, fearful of compromising his position, according to the AP–maintained the ring was a gift. “Such a present was made,” the official said. He said Putin donated the ring to the Kremlin library, where other foreign gifts are kept. James said the ring’s worth was “substantially more” than $15,000, as the value had been reported.

Whoops.

Smart Notes – run and shoot, film study, best and worst, oversigning – 5/16/2011

Film study, courtesy of Brophy. Auburn’s offense versus Oregon’s defense:

Check it all out, including TCU versus Wisconsin, here.

- Shoot it. Al Black tape on installing the run and shoot, specifically the “choice” and “go” packages.

- I appreciate your (in)consistency. Good stuff from Football Study Hall:

Biggest Difference Between Best and Worst Single-Season Performance, 1986-2010
1. Boise State (0.973 difference — 1.000 max, 0.027 min)
2. Kansas State (0.972 — 0.991 max, 0.019 min)
3. Louisville (0.946 — 0.975 max, 0.029 min)
4. Washington State (0.936 — 0.944 max, 0.008 min)
5. Houston (0.925 — 0.943 max, 0.019 min)
6. TCU (0.921 — 0.983 max, 0.063 min)
7. Washington (0.907 — 0.991 max, 0.083 min)
8. Rutgers (0.907 — 0.924 max, 0.017 min)
9. North Carolina (0.888 — 0.964 max, 0.075 min)
10. Miami-Ohio (0.869 — 0.897 max, 0.028 min)
. . .

And while we’re at it … here’s a much more entertaining list…

Smallest Difference Between Best and Worst Single-Season Performances, 1986-2010*
1. UL-Monroe (0.241 — 0.250 max, 0.009 min)
2. Florida (0.311 — 1.000 max, 0.689 min)
3. Buffalo (0.317 — 0.328 max, 0.008 min)
4. Kent State (0.348 — 0.357 max, 0.009 min)
5. New Mexico State (0.367 — 0.375 max, 0.008 min)
6. Penn State (0.395 — 0.981 max, 0.586 min)
7. Florida State (0.400 — 1.000 max, 0.600 min)
8. Tennessee (0.407 — 0.982 max, 0.575 min)
9. UL-Lafayette (0.425 — 0.434 max, 0.009 min)
10. Akron (0.425 — 0.453 max, 0.028 min)

So … I guess this means UL-Monroe is the Florida of losing? Or is Florida the UL-Monroe of winning?

- What does Mark Richt know about oversigning that we don’t? From GTP:

(more…)

Smart Notes – Auburn offense, Rashard Mendenhall, UFL, Coase Theorem – 5/4/2011

Auburn cut-ups. Always good for the offseason:

- Doc Sat shows how recruits “grow”. J.J. Watt and Nate Solder each gained 65 pounds.

- Rashard Mendenhall gets himself in hot water by saying he doesn’t (necessarily) believe that Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. This isn’t the space for a long exegesis, but it very much reminds me of when Mos Def (an intelligent guy) went on the Bill Maher show (video here) and told Christopher Hitchens and Salman Rushdie (who once had a fatwa issued against his life) basically the same thing as what Mendenhall said (and Hitchens destroys him). Ta-Nehisi Coates said everything there is to say on that subject better than I could, noting that while there’s a tradition of distrust and skepticism (good things), there must be limits; Bin Laden was not exactly bashful about taking credit for 9/11 or any of his other exploits.

- How Drew Brees is working out during the lockout. Hat tip Drew Brees.

(more…)

Smart Links – 5/2/2011

The all undrafted team. A couple are quite surprising. The sad part is with the lockout these are guys who have to sit on their thumbs and wait.

- Peter Bean goes all in on Jim Tressel, here and here.

- Someone unknowingly live tweeted the Bin Laden attack. I have to say among the many big winners last night, Twitter was among them. See this for the team that performed the strike.

- Creative bookshelves.

- More on “run fits,” an area of the game fans poorly understand.

- Adults are betting on Pop Warner football. Just bizarre.

- How “dead money” haunts baseball teams.

- Airraid attack with a play-action twist? West Virginia had its spring game, and, oh, you know, Holgorsen’s offense scored 83 points (with some kind of strange scoring system he even claimed to not understand). Regardless, starting quarterback Geno Smith went 26 37 for 388 yards four touchdowns and no interceptions. But what jumped out to me from the video below were all the big plays off play-action. Video and more after the jump.
(more…)

Sometimes coaches know things we don’t (Nick Saban on James Carpenter)

It’s not always true that they know more than we do, but after watching this clip one has to wonder what was going through Nick Saban’s mind when his former player, offensive lineman James Carpenter, was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the first round:

He clearly says, incredulously, “James Carpenter went in the first round?” (In a different clip you can see Mark Ingram say, “Did they call James? I’m happy for him.”) Maybe Saban was just surprised as Carpenter was projected to go in the second round, but there’s something in his look that indicates he almost finds it funny, like he’s just marveling at the absurd, Dadaist moment he’s just witnessed.

Graph of the day – NFL draft edition

Advanced NFL Stats asks, “What happened to the first-round runningback?

In the five-year period between 1970 through 1974, running backs made up 20% of all first round NFL draft picks. That’s one out of every five. As recently as the 1985-1989 period, RBs made up 19% of first rounders. But by the most recent decade, from 2000 through 2010, RB selection was cut in half–down to about 10%. Last night, only 1 of the 32 players chosen (about 3%) was a RB, and he was chosen 28th, near the bottom of the round.

The graph below illustrates the trends in how teams favor each position over the past 41 years. Most positions are fairly stable.

draft

Fascinating graph. First, I’m completely not shocked that defensive line is at the top. It really is the most important position in football, particularly at the NFL level. Second, and more importantly, I wonder how much of the movement in the graph over time is driven by strategic trends with respect to personnel versus increased demand or rule changes. For example, in the ’70s and ’80s, most teams used “21 personnel,” i.e. the “Pro set” with either an I-formation or splitbacks. Nowadays almost all teams base from a one-back set, with the fullback having being replaced by either a third receiver, a second tight-end, or an “H-back” hybrid guy, depending on the scheme and talent.

The tight-end line on the graph is interesting in this respect. It declined in the 90s but had a slight uptick in the early part of the 2000s (almost hitting the old historic high), as teams moved to more two-tight end sets. Similarly, who was the last true “fullback” to be selected in the first-round? (Mike Alstott (a) was a true runner and (b) was a second-round pick.)

I suppose the way to control for this effect — the numbers versus importance point — would be to simply take a look at the proportion given positions have occupied over time as a percentage of the 53-man NFL roster. I.e., have teams gone from three wide receivers and four or five defensive backs to five wide receivers and seven defensive backs, thus making the uptick in those players being drafted more in the first-round simply a reflection of their increased numbers? No one doubts quarterbacks are effective, but teams only carry two or three — and there is generally less turnover there as well — so it remains low on the above graph as a percentage of all first-rounders. I’m curious if folks have any thoughts on how best to understand this.

Paragraph of the day

Spencer Hall imagines what would happen if Grantland Rice were to submit his most famous article to a certain future ESPN site.

To: GrantRice@aol.com
From: [REDACTED]@espn.com

Thank you for the submission, but we unfortunately will not be able to use your work on our new website. We are looking for voices who echo a tradition of innovative, moving sportswriting that is at once young but timeless, emotionally moving but with a eye towards clinical critique, and infused with a creativity that never ceases in its quest to expand the parameters of sportswriting.

To expand on this, I’d like to just offer a few pointers for you in order to help you in your future work.

Outlined against a blue-gray(1) October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again.(2)

1. Hyphenates are a no-no. Just say “sky.” Shorter is always better. This is always true. Trust. Me.

2. Wrestling references are a little low in the class department. This one is dated, too. When you write for us, think: “Would Malcolm Gladwell know who this is?” If not, don’t include it.

Read the whole thing. This piece echoes something I wrote awhile back about Rice’s work in comparison to popular “sports journalism” and the weirder backwaters found on the internet:

I bring all this out to show the parallels between sort of post-modern (for lack of a better term) sports writing on the internet, twitter, blogs, and the like, and the greatest sports writing ever, which has very little to do with the alternatively obsequious or bellicose 800 word columns and maddening boilerplate recaps we have become accustomed to.

“The Four Horsemen” would not have been published by a reputable institution anytime in the last fifty-years. By modern standards, it is not a very good sports story. It is merely the greatest sports story of all time.