The Bartlett Defense: Part 1 - Personnel and alignment

In football, I’m an offense guy, going way back to when I was a kid.  I’ve always thought deeply about the passing game, and been able to really see concepts, and understand why they do what they do.  This is despite not playing the game at a high level, or coaching at any level above Pop Warner.  I just feel offense, and as such, I’ve read dozens of books written about offense and watched hundreds of games, and the result is that I can do what I do with the subject matter. 

In transitioning out of my current job, I have a couple of visitors in Cleveland to document my processes, and one of them paid me the compliment Monday of saying that I do a good job of explaining complicated things.  I appreciated her saying that, and really, I think that it stems from the writing I’ve done on football sites over the last four years. I know what knowledge I ultimately want to share, and I plan out a logical way of getting there, all while making sure all of the important interim knowledge points along the way are disseminated in an order which makes sense, and which lays a strong foundation for holistic understanding of the major knowledge item at the end.  Like Lester Freamon said, we’re building something here, and we’re building it from scratch, and all the pieces matter.

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NFL’s kangaroo court on full display Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! There was plenty of drama yesterday in NYC, where the NFL held the appeal hearing for the Saints bounty case.

Saints LB Jonathan Vilma left the hearing early, claiming the league refused to present evidence of the alleged bounty system. Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, called the day's events "shocking and shameful" while saying that former DC Gregg Williams and former assistant Michael Cerullo had retracted their admissions that players had participated in such a system. Ginsberg accused the Ginger Hammer of distorting facts, misrepresenting the words attributed to Williams, and manipulating the media via information leaks.

Following the hearing, the league gathered a group of reporters, including Mike Freeman and Peter King, to present some of the evidence, which can be seen here. A $35K bounty was allegedly placed on Vikings QB Brett Favre during the 2009 NFC title game, but this is according to a typed transcription of handwritten notes which were not shown. The league even accused Saints interim coach Joe Vitt of contributing to the bounty fund for the first time yesterday.

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Studying third-down theory, Part 2

When we started talking about third downs last week, I put up a set of numbers on how many third downs Brian Billick said that you could expect per game. Some readers found it light on total first downs, and they were right. Part of the reason the number seems low was that I left a set out deliberately - the number of third downs that you should expect in the red zone. It’s an entire area of study on its own, and I’m going to talk about it separately next time.

For today, we’re going to take on the offensive coordinator’s headache - third and long, both third and 7-10 yards and third and eleven or more. They are handled in much the same way, but the odds of success are understandably different.

There’s nothing surprising about it. The toughest third downs are the longer ones, just as you’d expect. When you’re dealing with a third down and more than ten yards, your odds of success are down between 12% and 18% for getting a first down. It’s a little better at 7-10 yards - about 20-25%. You can’t overestimate the importance of gaining your average of four or more yards on first and second down - how well you convert your third downs depends on it.

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Peter King does not make for a good football historian Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In today's MMQB column, Peter King pronounces the Sproles type to be one of the five most versatile running backs of the past 30 years.

Now, PK writes a lot of stupid stuff, but this is really high on the list of Stupid Stuff PK Thinks He Thought to Think. Sproles is a versatile player for sure, and a dangerous one at that, but he's also more of a receiver and return man than he is a running back, and do we really want to go around ranking him on a list with Marshall Faulk, LDT, Thurman Thomas, and Marcus Allen?

As for which players should be sitting on this list instead of the Sproles type, that's easy. How about rushing/receiving threats Roger Craig, Curtis Martin, Tiki Barber, Edgerrin James, Warrick Dunn, and Ricky Watters, to name a few?

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Former Bronco joins Cromartie to create nonprofit for über dads

New York--Former Broncos running back Travis Henry today announced he is joining current Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie in creating a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the cause of super fathers.

"It's like MENSA," said Henry via telephone from an undisclosed location.  "Except for dudes with exceedingly high sperm counts."

The nonprofit, called KHAN (Keep Her Away Now) is named for the legendary warrior Genghis Khan, who it's thought is the ancestor to over 16 million people living today.  It's estimated the Mongolian warlord fathered thousands of children with hundreds of women during his lifetime.

"Genghis is my boy," said Cromartie.  "He really tapped that ass. The cat was the straight up pimp of 1206."

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Tomlinson to retire, not be missed by Denver fans Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! An old, great Denver nemesis has decided to call it a day: LaDainian Tomlinson will sign what will presumably be a one-day contract with the Chargers this week so he can retire with the franchise he spent his first nine of eleven NFL seasons.

Tomlinson was drafted fifth overall by the Chargers in 2001 after the team traded down from the #1 pick (Michael Vick). Incidentally, that trade also netted them WR Tim Dwight, whose career highlight was a 94-yard kick return TD against the Broncos in SB 33. With their own second-rounder that year, San Diego drafted Drew Brees.

But, back to LDT: although Tomlinson's career against the Broncos amounted to just a 10-9 record in 19 games (including one as a Jet in 2010; he didn't play in last year's meeting), Denver's success against his teams mostly came early. To wit, LDT's Chargers went 3-7 against Denver before winning six of the next eight matchups following the ascension of Philip Rivers to replace Brees as the starting QB in 2006, with one of the two exceptions being the notorious Hochuli Game.

Updated 12:20 pm ET

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NFL to extract extra $10 out of fawning football viewing public Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Ah, the NFL is so sly. After getting the football and sports blogosphere in a gigantic tizzy over the forthcoming availability of All-22 film to the general public, they've already pulled a fast one on us all by increasing the price by $10 overnight.

Those bastards.

Obviously, it's still a great deal, and All-22 access will mean better football writing across the board. Charley Casserly and Mike Freeman think this will open coaches and players up to unreasonable criticism, but really this makes no sense at all. More information and knowledge is always a good thing, unless you're coming from the parochial viewpoint of someone like Casserly who probably figures lowly fans won't know what to do with the added info. Or, perhaps you're one of those fools who thinks that either film or stats alone is all you need, or you played/coached the game in junior high school, so you have a feel for which guys have "it" and which don't.

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Friday article, Take 2

Hello, readers.  For the first time ever, I've taken down an article that I wrote.  I got a rude email from a reader complaining about the one I wrote earlier, and my first instinct was to want to put a clown suit on the guy, but after thinking about it, I decided that the article was a little more self-referencing than I had meant it to be.  Just because the guy was rude doesn't mean I didn't maybe go a few inches too far.  I'm still going to write about what I want to write about, but I'll remember this experience, all the same.

So, here goes second take.  For my longtime readers who didn't read the article from earlier, and who know me as a guy who lives in Cleveland, I've accepted a new job in the Tallahassee, Florida area, and I'll be moving in a couple weeks.  It's a much better opportunity than the one I am leaving, and I'm glad to move on to a more motivating professional environment, in a place with better weather.  Now, when I reference living in Florida, you won't be confused, and I feel like it's important to let those who know me know what's going on with me.

Big football news came out on Frday, and I decided to write about it until my girlfriend and I go out to dinner.  The NFL announced that they'll be offering enhanced online game video, including all-22 coaches film, with a couple of different angles.  The price is $59.99 per year, and it's available here.  I'll definitely be buying it, and if you want to see the game in its most detailed form, I recommend you do the same.

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Let the thumb twiddling commence Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! The team wrapped up its mandatory minicamp yesterday (BTV, photos, more photos) with a demand from John Fox (video) that each player return to training camp on July 25 in the best shape of his life (ITBSOHL).

Former Colts OC Tom Moore was again in attendance, and had the following to say about his star pupil Peyton Manning:

Watching these three days, he looked excellent to me. There's lots of things that enter into it, obviously, accuracy, anticipation, touch, arm strength, you know, it's an all-involved thing. He looks good. He looks excellent.

Practice was highlighted by a couple of tipped interceptions of Manning, improving mechanics from Brock Osweiler, and more first-team reps for Rahim Moore and Sealver Siliga.

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Studying third-down theory, Part 1

Looking through the library this week, I rediscovered a text by Super Bowl-winning ex-Ravens coach Brian Billick on the theory behind establishing an offense - a detailed discussion of the development of an offensive game plan. First published in 1996, some of the information in Developing an Offensive Game Plan might seem a bit dated, but I found that taking a walk through his wheelhouse is an exercise in learning how extensive the knowledge of the game has to be to coach on his level. As I read through the text, it occurred to me that most of the perspective would be new to the majority of fans. It was to me, as well. Billick laid out a remarkably thorough process for creating an offense, and it was one that I hadn’t seen in quite that way before.

One of the many things that stood out was his perspective on achieving success on third downs. Billick subdivided that down into multiple categories and talked about exactly how many plays he’d allocate to handling the various options of down and distance. Like Bill Walsh and many of his followers, Billick considers establishing your weekly offense to be a matter of pre-scripting plays and creating specific options on each potential possibility that are effective given the team’s personnel. It’s just one aspect of the overall process of charting your needs, but to Billick it’s an essential one.

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