Saturday, November 20, 2010
NFC North mini-weekend mailbag
By Kevin Seifert
News and other priorities have forced us to cut back on weekend mailbags. I get the sense everyone is humming along in life just fine without them, but after taking a stroll through your mailbag comments, I wanted to respond to some of the more interesting rip jobs you sent my way.
Duane of Falls Church, Va., echoed a common complaint about Wednesday's analysis of the Detroit Lions' unforced errors, writing that it "violates basic statistical procedures, so your conclusions are likely wrong." The high frequency of right guard Stephen Peterman's penalties creates an anomaly that, subtracted from the total, would put the Lions closer to the middle of the NFL rankings.
Duane also suggested that we not use drops as a raw statistic, but instead compare it to the total number of passes. He concluded: "If you are going to use statistics don't use them like a uses drunk a light post to hold you up but like the light itself, to help guide you on your way."
Kevin Seifert: I understand what you're saying Duane, but I would argue that in a team sport, the raw numbers are more important than whether they contain anomalies or the extent to which they're based on opportunity.
On the first point: Whether it's one player or spread equally among everyone, the most important factor is that penalties are occurring. They have the same impact on the team.
Instead of saying the Lions are a highly penalized team, should we say that the Lions are an average-penalized team with an out-of-control right guard? To me, the distinction is irrelevant. The team is still being hurt the same way, be it by one player or spread equally among everyone, If you want, we can say the Lions are impacted more by penalties than all but one NFL team. That's as far as I can go.
I realize Peterman has 11 penalties this season, a full 12.5 percent of the Lions' team total. But this isn't the same as a poll of, say, 53 citizens' participation in charity work. That is a measure of individual accomplishment, a measure that doesn't matter in a team sport.
I didn't suggest the Lions' have a roster full of undisciplined players. It doesn't matter who commits penalties in a team game. Games are won by collective effort and lost by collective mistakes, even if that collective average is weighed down by the disproportionate mishaps of one player. If anything, you wonder what it says about the Lions' regime that one player would keep his starting job despite so many penalties.
As for measuring drops based on opportunity: Generally speaking, I agree that context is important when using statistics. But to me, 27 drops are 27 drops. There are other teams with equal opportunities who have dropped far less passes. Drops are not something that should naturally increase with opportunities. They just shouldn't happen in high numbers -- at all.
Joe writes: Your continued reference to Theatre of the Absurd with respect to the Minnesota Vikings is a bit insulting to the small percentage of your readers who actually understand what this movement was/is. Further, it's irrelevant to the Vikings situation if you were to properly understand this form's intent.
Kevin Seifert: I figured this was coming. I know just enough about Theatre of the Absurd to realize that a dysfunctional football team isn't what the movement originally contemplated. The online dictionary defines it as "theater in which standard or naturalistic conventions of plot, characterization, and thematic structure are ignored or distorted in order to convey the irrational or fictive nature of reality and the essential isolation of humanity in a meaningless world."
No, that has nothing to do with the Vikings.
Seriously, while it's been fun to refer to the Vikings using a phrase that makes me look smarter than I am, it probably was never a good idea. Educated people and football people should never mix.
The Vikings have been great theater this year, and much of what has happened is in fact absurd. But it hasn't been true Theatre of the Absurd, and I apologize to the small percentage of readers who care.
I'm supposed to be a writer by trade, so by next week I'll have founded my own dramatic movement to more accurately describe the Vikings' season. Suggestions are welcome.
Metalsman of Ames, Iowa, notes that some readers suggested I should have submitted to a Free Head Exam for passing up a trip to South Florida for Thursday night's game between the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins.
Kevin Seifert: No loss. I heard it was 84 degrees and slightly overcast. That isn't beach weather.
Brett of Jacksonville, Fla., just had an epiphany: The Packers got one coach fired this year (Wade Phillips, result of a 45-7 shellacking). Can they make it two (Brad Childress, result of ???-? massacre)? You, our resident NFC North blogger and Viking-lover, would downplay this of course. But that would be an awesome record to have. Two coaches fired after losses to 2010 Packers.
Kevin Seifert: Yes, because a midseason firing would leave me absolutely, positively nothing to write about. And despite the insistence of many to the contrary, that's all I ever root for: good material. As for the possibility of your dream scenario, I really don't know if that will happen regardless of the outcome of the game.
We now know that owner Zygi Wilf would owe Childress a relatively reasonable $6.6 million to settle up on his contract for 2011 and 2012. But I don't think money is at the top of Wilf's priority list right now. As we discussed earlier in the week, Wilf aggressively maintains continuity. I'm not sure he's going to give up on Childress in midseason unless it is for cause or if the situation grows much more hopeless than it already is.