Monday, August 13, 2012

Luck of the draw

The main reason I started this blog was to address some of what I perceived to be the major issues that I have with mainstream coverage of the NFL. One of the biggest problems I've always had is the elevation of certain people unfairly onto "Superstar" pedestals, that is to say that certain people are essentially manufactured into personalities that they are not, because it makes good TV and juicy articles on websites. The similar but in some ways opposite of this is to vilify certain individuals unwarrantedly because it sounds good and again generates mountains of comments and page views, regardless of how accurate or not the analysis is.

Aside from the Peyton Manning/Tim Tebow example I cited the other day, two more prime examples came up this weekend. The first is Darrelle Revis, who got a highlight on the NFL Network showing his coverage. Naturally the crew in the studio verbally patted him on the back and talked about how brilliant Revis was, and how he's fitting in right away.

The only problem with their analysis was the simple fact that Revis was beaten to the inside by the receiver, who then dropped a ball that hit him in the hands. I'm not saying Revis is a terrible corner, he's not. He is one of the better corner backs in the league right now. But he is not superman either. That play had nothing really to do with him, yet it was touted as being some kind of amazing coverage, an example for young kids to follow.

This kind of lazy, made for TV analysis really winds me up, not least because all it serves to do is to further feed the ignorance of fans who turn to the TV for guidance.

The next example came with Andrew Luck. Everyone has been raving about Lucks performance, two touchdowns etc, "he's for real!!!" but we need to come back down to Earth, as does Luck if he's to avoid buying into his own hype and then crumbling at a later date.

First off, his first pass may indeed have been a 60+ yard TD play. Which is impressive. Well, it is for Donald Brown at least, who took the maybe 2-3 yard screen pass and then ran the other 60 yards with it. Do you hear anyone shouting to the rooftops about the great play by Brown? No, of course you don't, because Brown is not a juicy story. Luck throwing a 60+ yard TD pass on his first play does make for good copy though.

Then we have the pass to Austin Collie. Collie was wide open, not a defender within five yards, yet Luck still under threw him a little. It showed good presence of mind in the pocket from Luck, that much can't be taken away from him. But people need to calm the f**k down already.

Luck made perhaps three decent - not brilliant - but decent medium/long passes in a game against one of the truly worst defenses in the NFL (sorry Rams fans). Luck doesn't get to choose his opponents and he doesn't tell them to play the way they do, so you can't blame him or criticise him for that. But what we as observers can do is not get too excited either and try to keep everything in perspective.

Fans often wonder how things ended up going so badly for their team after what seemed like a promising start to the season. Part of this problem is because they buy into the hype and the bullsh*t peddled to them. Lions fans learnt this lesson hard last season when they realised that beating bad teams and making come backs against average opponents is not necessarily an indicator that you're a great team, as much as it is a damning indictment of your opposition.

When faced with some of the better caliber opposition the Lions were often blown right off the field, something their fans would have seen coming if they had actually paid attention to their games instead of listening to talking heads telling them that everything was great in Detroit.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't praise people when they do well; we absolutely should. But at the same time the analysis needs to be a little more grounded in reality instead of hyperbole, and fans really need to start conditioning themselves to actually take a step back and look deeper at what is going on on the field.

Nobody is right all the time, nobody is perfect. But it is possible with a bit of thought, study and true analysis (looking at the facts) to at least make educated guesses instead of just pure wild swings. This helps to partially explain how I managed to beat every single expert analyst at ESPN for predicting results last season.

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