Barnwell: Broncos should be going Moneyball route with its kickers

NFL's Frequent-Flier Phenomenon
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But it’s not entirely clear that Matt Prater was an above-average kicker in 2011, and Denver’s decision to lock him up represents one of the many ways in which organizations fool themselves into spending money in the wrong places…he’s now hit 78.4 percent of his field goals across five pro seasons. That ranks 37th out of 44 regular kickers over that time frame, so it’s safe to say that Prater’s not known for his accuracy.

As for the walkoffs, while they were valuable, they’re far more indicative of opportunity than skill…Consider that Prater had three game-winners in overtime this past season and just one over his previous four years in the league.

Denver’s thin air allows them to get more out of average kickers than anyone else in football. They should use that to their advantage and exploit a built-in market inefficiency by being thrifty at kicker and applying the savings elsewhere. Instead, the Broncos have handcuffed themselves to a known mediocrity for years to come.

As noted yesterday, I'm glad the Broncos didn't give as much of a guarantee to Prater as had been speculated. But his accuracy issues from 40-49 yards remains a serious concern, and one to keep an eye on going forward.

BTW, I've updated the distance splits on the prior columns, because PFR is oddly missing that data from 2009. So, Prater is actually 20 of 33 from 40-49 yards - not 12 of 23 - as I'd written yesterday and prior. This is a more palatable success rate, but still a very poor one, especially for a kicker with a reputation of a strong leg and a contract to match.

New blackout rule unlikely to curb fan abuse Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Just two days ago we applauded news that the NFL would be relaxing its blackout rules, thus allowing more hometown fans to watch games on TV.

But there's of course a catch, and the Chargers - who accounted for two of the league's sixteen blackouts last season, with four blackouts the year before - say they will not take advantage of the change.

Traditionally, when a team fails to sell out a game, local fans get screwed over by losing the ability to watch that game on television. The idea here is that the blackout rule encourages fans to attend games in person and drop $100 for a ticket, $40 for parking, and $10 per beer, rather than stay on the couch, watch the game for free, and change the channel during commercials and halftime. As if that's a reasonable choice for many people.

Of all the NFL policies that serve to abuse its loyal fans, there's probably nothing worse than the blackout rule. Fans in areas like San Diego are stressing about whether they'll actually see the upcoming game, rather than anticipating it with excitement. And obviously, plenty of these fans cannot afford the time or money required to attend games in person.

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Tackling the fundamentals

Jack Del Rio hadn’t been with the Denver Broncos for long when he announced flatly that the team was going to stress defensive fundamentals in 2012. The two areas that he mentioned directly were establishing a much stronger emphasis on proper tackling and a game-shaping recognition that the best pass defense is a defensive line that constantly harrasses the quarterback. Rookies Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson were the choices for strengthening the defensive line. In the team’s choices for potential linebackers out of the 2011 class, Del Rio has gained the people to attack both problems.

As I’ve mentioned before, sixth-round linebacker Danny Trevathan was playing with the first string nickel package during the last of the June OTAs. Trevathan, you’ll recall, led the SEC in tackling over both the 2010 (144 tackles) and 2011 (143 tackles) seasons. Danny also led the nation’s linebackers with five forced fumbles last year.

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Broncos sign Prater to four-year deal

John Elway announced the Broncos have signed placekicker Matt Prater to a four-year deal:

Happy to announce we have signed kicker Matt Prater to a new four-year deal. This was the final piece in setting our roster for camp, and we are thrilled Matt is going to be a Bronco for a long time. Matt has developed into one of the NFL’s elite kickers and is a big part of our team.

Denver had used its franchise tag on Prater earlier in the offseason, but the seventh-year kicker had not signed it, and skipped the team's recent OTAs with negotiations ongoing. The two sides had faced a July 16 deadline to agree to a long-term deal.

Updated 10:41am ET July 3, 2012 to correct statistics (PFR is missing Prater's 2009 distance splits)

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Legendary Broncos return man Rick Upchurch battling leukemia

Former Bronco Rick Upchurch embraced warmly by Puebloans
www.chieftain.com

“I am not the first and I won’t be the last (to have cancer), so for all the cancer survivors and everybody that is going through it right now, we are all going through it together and we can defeat this,” Upchurch said.

Former Broncos offensive tackle Dave Studdard was at the event supporting his best friend. “Rick and I have known each other since 1979. He took an offensive lineman under his wing and we’ve been buddies ever since,” Studdard said.

Studdard, a cancer survivor himself, said if anyone can beat the disease, it’s Upchurch. “Anything I can do to be there for Rick, I will do it. He’s like a brother to me and I have five brothers. You could never have enough brothers,” Studdard said with a laugh. “Rick right now is just understanding what is going on in his life and it sucks. He will deal with this and he already is doing a good job of it. I will love him until we both die.”

Our thoughts go out to Upchurch, the Broncos' all-time franchise leader in punt returns, punt return yards, and punt return touchdowns. During nine seasons with Denver, Upchurch was named to four Pro Bowls, was a three-time first-team All-Pro, and dated someone who would later become far more famous than he. (via PFT)

Shame on Mark Kiszla Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! There's nothing happening in the football world, but one can always rely upon the Denver Post for low-hanging fruit to bat around.

Mark Kiszla wrote a blatantly xenophobic column about the Nuggets' draft the other day, got called out for it, and his reaction is rather pathetic.

It's this simple: the lazy, ugly angle Kiszla took is no better (and hardly any different) than criticizing the pick based upon the color of the guy's skin or the way his name sounds. It's one thing to stir up one's readers to debate an athlete's skills, but it's altogether something else to incite them over a player's country of origin.

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1990s Broncos inspired RGIII to play football Lard

Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! Only days after pushing late kickoffs back 10 minutes, the NFL will reportedly make more important changes to improve the gameday experience for both ticketholders and home viewers:

  1. Teams will have the flexibility to set blackout thresholds as low as 85%, allowing teams to both add seating and avoid blackouts
  2. During replay reviews, fans in attendance will be able to see the same footage as officials
  3. Fans will no longer be on their own when it comes to creating noise before key downs; of course, this will be key with the wine and cheese crowd at SAF@MH
  4. Some or all stadiums will finally have free WiFi
  5. Smartphone apps will allow fans to listen to mic'd up players

All of these changes are welcome and long overdue, especially those first three items. Along with the later kickoffs and the coming availability of All-22 film, the league has taken several fan-friendly steps of late. It's not often we say this, but well done, NFL.

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Donovan McNabb is starting to sound like Terrell Owens Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Yesterday marked the first annual Drive for Dinger, a golf tournament held at Vanderbilt to honor the late Mike Heimerdinger. Of course, Dinger was a longtime Broncos, Titans, and Jets coach, and the college roommate who saved Mike Shanahan's life after he had ruptured a kidney during practice at Eastern Illinois.

Shanahan, Gary Kubiak, Rick Dennison, Jay Cutler, and Brandon Marshall were among those who gathered in Tennessee yesterday to honor their late friend/coach. Said Kubes, "I really miss him. It’s still hard to believe."

The kindest words for Dinger surprisingly came from Marshall, who tends to be quite stingy in his praise for coaches:

That first year, he was on me. He treated me like a rookie, but it was for my best interest. He has a talent for pushing people to the limit, but keeping that respect there, getting the most out of people and also showing them love at the same time.

RIP, Dinger.

Continue reading "Donovan McNabb is starting to sound like Terrell Owens Lard"

Weekly Limerick Schtick

You can stop emailing me. Back by popular demand, it's peanut butter jelly time--otherwise known as IAOFM's Weekly Limerick Schtick.  This week's topic? Demaryius Thomas' route tree:

Demaryius Thomas so free
did not run the routes from the tree.
But the Teebs is gone,
replaced by The Don
of quarterbacks John could decree.

Take your own shot--if you've got something clever and can remember the finer arts of anapest meter. Or you may be drunk.  In that case, just try and rhyme without passing out.

Phrase of the day: Willis McGahee’s pimpette

A Blow-By-Blow Account Of The Fred Davis Lawsuit, Which Is The Strangest Lawsuit Involving A Female Pimp We’ve Seen Today
www.sportsgrid.com

Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis has been involved in an 18-month legal battle that is among the strangest we’ve ever seen. Makini Chaka, a 33-year old woman that Davis alleges to be a “pimpette,” was granted a temporary restraining order with regard to Davis back in January 2011, and later sued for a permanent one…She also claims that Davis continually violates the temporary restraining order and “harasses” her, and that he “blacklisted” her from DC nightclubs with his influence, and that he once impersonated Santana Moss on the phone to keep her out of one, saying no Redskins would go if she was allowed in. She claims this has lost her business and clients, and she wants compensation. Davis says she’s extorting him.

Of course, Chaka says it’s not about money. To prove that, she boasted a bit. Davis claims she’s a “pimpette,” providing prostitutes for athletes. A man named “Prince,” who has worked as Davis’s bodyguard and is also friends with Chaka, backed up the claim that Chaka is a “madam/pimpette,” saying that it’s widely known in DC. Chaka denied that, describing herself as a “celebrity broker who organizes parties for sports and entertainment stars.” She claimed that she does well and doesn’t need money from Davis, citing that one of her main clients, Willis McGahee, “happens to be a first round draft pick. He makes over 40 million dollars… yet you’re saying that I want to get Mr. Davis for money and he’s a second-round draft pick, and his, he doesn’t even gross anywhere close to Willis.” Boom, roasted, Fred! For the record, McGahee is a veteran with significantly more career earnings than Davis, but Davis is making much more than McGahee this season. She also name-dropped Snoop Dogg, Vonta Leach and others as clients.

Moral to the story: if you must impersonate Santana Moss, do a better job of it.

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