You Got Served (a day late)

Happy Tuesday Wednesday, friends - and welcome to the Year in Review Edition of You Got Served.  Since that sterling example of journalistic football excellence, Peter King, ran his YIR piece Monday, I feel like I need to one-up him today, as I review the year that has been.

Here goes...

January, 2010 – I left MileHighReport.com and started a website that I was sure was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Sliced bread is pretty damn great, so I was setting a high standard for myself.

February, 2010 – I started to realize that writing all of the content, doing all of the site’s technology management, and still working a full-time job was a lot.  Still, I pressed on.

March, 2010 – I still pressed on, and imagined that I was learning what it was like to bang my head against a wall repeatedly.

April, 2010 – I felt burned out from football writing, and after the Draft, I took a break that ultimately resulted in being the end of SmarterFans.com.  It wasn’t that good from the beginning anyway, and I knew it.  On the bright side, I got asked to play in a golf tournament at work - never having played much golf, I bought clubs, started taking lessons, and set about trying not to embarrass myself in June, when it was time to play.

May, 2010 – I wanted a change, so I moved from a suburban duplex into an apartment in downtown Cleveland that has a view of Lake Erie.  Downside: I couldn’t get DirecTV there.  Upside:  My office is a block away.  I still can’t ever get there on time, of course.  Luckily, it doesn’t really matter.  I also enrolled in an MBA program, basically on a whim.  It was such a whim that I literally took the GMAT the morning after I decided to start the program, without practicing, and I somehow did well enough that Duke University continues to harass me by email about going to school there.  (No, thanks; I don’t think I have it in my character to be a Dukie.)

June, 2010 – I played in the aforementioned golf tournament, which benefited Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, and I actually didn’t play that badly, for a guy literally playing his second round of golf ever.  It turned out, I actually kind of liked golf.  A lot.  When I bought my new car in June, a 2010 Ford Focus, one of the selling points was that the trunk had a design that perfectly accommodated a golf bag laying sideways.  (Side note:  Did you know that Playhouse Square is the second largest theater complex in the United States, behind New York’s Lincoln Center?  Go Cleveland!)

June – September, 2010 – I pretty much spent all of my time either working, going to school, or golfing.  I improved a lot at golf, and actively sought ways to be more efficient in finishing my work so I could get out of work by 5pm and go shoot 9 somewhere, or hit the driving range.  Yeah, it was like that.  The only weekends I took off from playing were for a bachelor party in Las Vegas and a wedding in Santa Barbara, California.  I also eventually dropped $1,500 on nice clubs, after only shelling out $300 for the Walter Hagen specials when I was starting out.  Yes.  I do have an addictive personality.  Thanks for noticing.

Labor Day Weekend, 2010 – I flew to Miami and hung out with my Navy buddy Chris Dillon for a few days.  Chris was working in Miami Beach renovating the IT infrastructure in an old hotel.  I never knew how Eurofied it is down there, with people not tipping at restaurants, and skinny jerkoffs in designer clothes blowing cigarette smoke in your face.  It wasn’t really my scene, to be honest, but I had to go there to know that.  Then, we drove north to our old stomping grounds of Jacksonville, for an informal reunion of about 35-40 people we served with aboard USS Spruance.  Beer was drank, stories were told, drama was experienced, and I was (defensively) involved in my first bar altercation in about 10 years.  I held off the guy who wildly swung on me until the bouncers grabbed him, pummeled him outside, and then turned him over to the police.  Then we laughed at the fool as he sat in the back of the squad car, bleeding and looking stupid.  All around, it was a good trip.

September, 2010 – I decided that I didn’t want to completely sit out the 2010 season from a writing standpoint, and I launched a simple WordPress blog called OneManFootball.com.  I wrote on it when I felt like it, and didn’t when I didn’t.  In other news, I badly missed DirecTV, and couldn’t watch games as easily as I like to, as I was stuck with Time Warner Cable, the worst cable company on Earth.

2010 NFL Season  - The Broncos sucked, the Head Coach got fired, I wrote sometimes, and became a godfather, even though I’m agnostic-at-best.  (I’d take care of my niece, if necessary, and I take that commitment very seriously, religion or no religion.)  I didn’t ever wear Dockers or any clothing with epaulets.  I had a gun pulled on me, and talked my way out of it, for the third time in my life.  I started liking wine for the first time in my life, at age 33.  Doug asked me to join the Fat Man team, and after thinking about it for a few weeks, I decided that I should join up, and I’m glad I did.

As years, go, it wasn’t my best or my worst, but it’s something to build on.  I’m looking at the same slow news week as PK, but since I already knew how to copy and paste, I felt like there was more value in going through all of that than there was in PK’s regurgitation of a column yesterday.  He set a pretty low standard.  Now, though, it’s on to football.  Ready… BEGIN!

1.  Mike Klis had an article this week that speculated that the #2 pick would increase in trade value if there was a rookie salary cap as part of the new CBA, as expected.  It was a fairly prescient, and non-obvious point, and when one of the DP guys has one of those, it’s definitely a rare day. 

Pork Chop noted Monday that the number 2 pick hasn’t been traded in 11 years, and therefore (apparently), doing so wouldn’t be easy.  That’s a stupid point, which is normal for Bill, and which tells me that I am probably not dreaming about Klis making a worthwhile point.  Sunshine, meet dog’s ass.

The problem with top 10 picks in the last 10-15 years has been that nobody really wants them, because the financial commitments you’ve had to make force teams to make terrible risk management decisions.  Think about it like this.  You sign Julius Peppers as a free agent, and you pay him $84 million over 6 years.  In reality, it’s more like 4 years, $54 million, because the Bears are unlikely to pay $30 million to a guy who will be 35 and 36 in those seasons.  They may even cut him after 3 years, and not pay him $12.9 million in 2013, if a reasonable forecast of his production doesn’t warrant it.  In any case, though, they signed a known quantity, and they structured the contract such that they are only really locked into the guy for three years.  It was a sound signing, and it has a solid risk profile.

Now, imagine that you have the first pick in the Draft, and Da’Quan Bowers’ agent is basing his demands on Peppers’ deal, since the two players play DE.  Do you want to pay Bowers that kind of money, having no idea what he’ll do in the NFL?  The risk that he won’t be worth it is very high, but teams still have to pay these young guys big money, under the current system.

Jimmy Johnson's Trade Value Chart, which has been ubiquitous in the last 20 years, has been way wrong in the Top 10 picks, with the huge dropoffs between selections.  That’s a big reason why teams haven’t made trades in that area, and when they have, they’ve often included veteran players rather than picks.  Every fan and reporter in the world thinks they know what good draft trade value is, and that handcuffs GMs, unless they want to listen to a bunch of griping and questioning of their math skills.

Now, finally, if the highest picks are actually the most valuable picks, you can see some trading of them.  Pork Chop is wrong, and Klis is right.  With managed salaries, the higher-talent guys are definitely the higher-value guys, and at some point, draft picks become players.

Let’s work through a scenario here.  Everybody (meaning reporters and fans) always wants to trade down, and it’s a wonder that teams are able to find anybody who wants to move up.  They’ll do it, generally, for premium positions, if they have a strong commitment to somebody at them.  The Falcons traded up for Michael Vick and the Jets traded up for Mark Sanchez, for example.  When we say premium positions, we’re talking about QBs, pass rushers, Defensive Tackles (in certain schemes), and Left Offensive Tackles, and not much else.  Every other position has a lot of depth in the NFL, and you can find good-enough guys later in the Draft, by letting them come to you.  I’d be shocked if anybody traded up for A.J. Green or Patrick Peterson, for example.

I think that the Panthers are ultimately going to talk themselves into taking Cameron Newton out of Auburn first overall.  He’s going to look really good in shorts throughout the spring, and they know they need a QB, after seeing Jimmy Clausen for a year.  (I saw Clausen in person this year, and although he made one excellent deep sideline throw to set up a possible game-winning field goal (it was missed), I didn’t like what I saw during the rest of the game.)

That’s going to leave the Broncos in a really strong position at #2, because both Buffalo and Arizona are in the market for QBs, and if either (or both) like Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, the Broncos can sell the pick off to the highest bidder.  Buffalo would possibly offer two third-rounders to move up one spot (their second-round pick is worth too many points in the value chart.)  Arizona, though, would have to give up the #5, #38, and #69 picks and maybe a player, or something middle-to-late next year to get their guy.  (Denver's pick at #2 is worth 2,600 points, and the three Arizona picks total 2,465.)  If you love the QB though, don’t you do it?

Let’s say the Cardinals want Gabbert that badly, and the Broncos decide that they’re perfectly happy to drop back to the 5th-overall pick in the Draft and take the best guy left of Auburn DT Nick Fairley, A&M linebacker Von Miller and Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers.  Or Bama's DT Marcell Dareus, if you’re so inclined (I’m not).  Whatever; they need defense, there’s a lot of it, and by selling the #2 pick for a QB, they guarantee that one of those guys is going to be available to them, and get an extra second- and third-rounder for not being picky which one.  Let’s say the Broncos also get FS Rashad Johnson, who was a 3rd-round pick last year, and played some as a backup for the Cardinals in 2010.

What does Buffalo do at #3?  They need 3-4 outside pass rush badly, if they can’t get a QB, so I think they’d take Miller, based on scheme fit.  At #4 Cincinnati needs defensive line help, and even after taking Carlos Dunlap last year, I still think they’d favor the upside of Bowers over the somewhat surer thing in Fairley.  That leaves the Broncos to pick between Fairley and Dareus at #5.  I’ll give them Fairley.  They go to sleep really happy on Thursday night.

Given this scenario, on Friday they'd have picks #36 (their own), #38 (from Arizona), #46 (from Miami for Brandon Marshall), #67(their own), and #69 (from Arizona).  With those picks, since we’re keeping this simple, let’s pencil in RT Benjamin Ijalana out of Nova (36), Texas CB Aaron Williams (38), LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard (46), Gators SS Ahmad Black (67), and DE Brooks Reed of Arizona (69).  Including Fairley, that’s two immediate starters (Fairley and Ijalana) and four other guys who are going to compete to start right away, and who all will be gameday actives, contributing in some way.

Remember, I’m generally suspicious of trade-down schemes, because you need a team that will actually want to deal with you, but I think if Carolina takes Newton, Arizona could be motivated to do this deal.  They went from the Super Bowl to 5-11 because they didn’t have a QB, and if they get the right guy, they have to think they can be right back in the mix in the NFC West, like the Rams were in 2010.

The Browns aren’t trading up for A.J. Green, though, because the only real threats to take him are Carolina and Cincinnati, and neither is especially likely to do so.  In fact, I think Green could possibly fall out of the top 10 due to the position he plays, and the need profiles of the top 10.

2.  I was interested and pleased to see that the NFL and NFLPA actually agreed to enter into mediation last week.  Mediation in labor negotiations is getting more and more prevalent, and that’s a good thing.  An experienced federal mediator is provided by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, (that’s the FMCS that Albert Breer is always tweeting about) and he or she focuses on facilitating a non-adversarial negotiation toward a win-win outcome.

The focus stops being on specific demands, and starts being on more abstract goals.  Rather than what the parties want, the mediator guides the sides into exploring and articulating why they feel like they need what they are seeking.  It’s all really non-combative, and tends to lead to constructive outcomes.

The NFL needs more income to support its overstated values, but they don’t want to admit that.  The players don’t want to do more work for less money, and their orientation is that the NFL should grow their income primarily at the top line (revenue) level.  Both sides have their own ideas of what is fair.  Each side also has things about the other that really angers them.  The players want to see the owners’ books, and the owners want the players to give up on the idea that there should be any federal oversight over the NFL.  (Federal judgments have mostly not favored the NFL.)

I think that the news of mediation was the best sign we’ve had in this negotiation, and it reinforces my thought of a couple weeks ago that there wasn’t really all THAT much distance between the two sides.  Peter King may be offended that it’s gone hush-hush, but I’m not at all.  He, and other reporters, idiotically think that posturing is meaningful in some way, because it gives them something to write about, but it never is in any negotiation.  They make it sound nasty and personal, but it’s all just business, and the participants understand that.  The recent presence of resolution-seeking work, and absence of posturing tells me clearly that both sides recognize that the time has come to figure out a solution.

3.  A little bit tangentially, Tommy Craggs from Deadspin is always good, but you should read this piece he wrote about our boy PK being such a willing butt-boy for Roger Goodell and the owners.  He makes the key point that a potential labor action would be NFL-initiated, and that PK and his ilk are not reporting it that way.  At best, they’re acting like both sides are equally to blame, and that’s definitely not the case. 

I’m getting on my soapbox, and I’m about to lament the lack of real journalism in America, because current events have me troubled on that score, more than usual.  Be warned that I’m going to talk 95% about policy and 5% about politics.  If you want to skip ahead to #4, that’s cool, and I’ll see you there. 

Lapdoggery like PK’s is par for the course in a mainstream media which is corporate-owned, and therefore often pervaded by one-sided union-busting fact mangling/ignoring.  I’m not in a union, and I honestly have mixed feelings about them, and their effects on business and society.  There are times when unions legitimately need to concede some things, or they’ll put their company out of business.  I think that any reasonable person would see both pros and cons with unions.  It’s undeniable, though, that unions are consistently demonized by concerted propaganda campaigns, which are enthusiastically cosigned by the mainstream media. 

Look no further than Wisconsin.  Wisconsin’s budget shortfall has nothing at all to do with state employee unions, and everything to do with choosing to give tax breaks to large businesses.  You can’t get any national mainstream TV or newspaper people to say that, though.  The new Governor Scott Walker actually inherited a surplus in January, and cynically and intentionally chose to create a deficit for a specific political purpose.  He’s actively trying to make the unions (AKA middle-class taxpayers) pay for the handouts he’s giving to the wealthy, by effectively casting union workers as welfare cases, who are intent on taking handouts from (other additional non-union) middle-class taxpayers.

Let me repeat this key fact, which is indisputable.  The Governor of Wisconsin is trying to directly go into the pockets of middle-class workers to pay for handouts that he gave to businesses and, on a pass-through basis, the relatively wealthy people who own them.  He’s the anti-Robin Hood, and this is redistribution of wealth, just as much as establishing a program to help people get out of poverty is.

If we had any kind of journalism in this country, facts would be presented as facts, and misrepresentations would be decried as misrepresentations, and stories would be divorced from politics.  Some people honestly think that giving handouts to the wealthy, and working to depress the earnings and quality of life for middle-class working people is the way to maximize the effectiveness of our economy.  I clearly don’t agree with that thinking, but I strongly support those people in exercising their rights in the American political process to trying to make that happen.  That’s what freedom really means.  You do your best to advance the policies you favor, and when voters can see exactly what it is you’re trying to do, and how it affects them, they can decide if they’re with you or not.

We need a media which will report what is actually happening, and empower voters and taxpayers to evaluate where their interests really lie in that factual context.  I wish there was a great way to make that happen, and more than anything else in current events, the lack of an effective, honest, agenda-free media troubles me the most.  I wish I knew how to make sure one could be established for the first time in American history.  If I thought I did, I might just make it my life’s work to make it happen.

/dismount from soap box

4.  The news that Ryan Harris was nearly traded was interesting to me.  Clearly, the Josh McDaniels-led staff was down on Harris after he came back from his ankle injury, to the point where they played Zane Beadles out of position at RT, and a terrible combination of Stanley Daniels and Russ Hochstein at LG.  I just shuddered a little thinking about that lineup.

Harris was one of the best RTs in the NFL in 2008 and over the first 6 games of 2009.  He rebounded in the second half of 2010 to probably be one of the top 10 guys in the NFL at that position (a weak one League-wide), but he didn’t get all the way back to top form.

I often learn things when I read Michael Lombardi’s work, and a couple years ago, he made the point that durability is a vital job skill of offensive linemen.  If you think about what those players are doing 60-70 times a game for 5 seconds at a time, it makes a lot of sense.  Staying healthy is a skill, and some are better at it than others.  I wonder if Harris will ever be a consistently durable player, because in the NFL, he only has one season where he was consistently pretty healthy (2008).  He played consistently at Notre Dame, but he had some back troubles there too. 

I’d keep the guy, personally, especially since Tim Tebow is a lefty, but I think the Broncos are probably going to let him walk, and try to fill his spot with cheap and/or young guys.  Either approach is defensible, and it bears watching what the Broncos will ultimately do.

5.  Michael Lombardi caused a stir among Broncos fans Monday by saying that holdovers in the Broncos organization were distancing themselves from Tim Tebow.  That sounds bad, right?  We should all take a deep breath, though, and think about what that means, because it’s not much.

First of all, whenever there’s a change of leadership in any environment, the holdovers always try to figure out where to stand, and the main thing they all want to do is avoid being seen as owning anything controversial or risky.  Just as John Elway and John Fox didn’t draft Tim Tebow, they also didn’t bring in any of these holdovers into the Broncos organization, so they’re walking on ice which is just as thin as any holdover player.  The tone that everybody wants to take is something like “Yeah, we kind of liked him, but Josh loved him.  We thought he had a chance to be good, and we still think that he does.”  By taking that tack, the holdovers are just hedging their bets, whether Tebow is successful or not.  It’s a little spineless, but it’s how the game gets played in business. 

One guy who I don’t think can distance himself too much is Brian Xanders.  He was all over TV on that Year of the Quarterback episode talking about how Tebow had everything that the Broncos looked for in a QB.  If we’re to believe that he was a good personnel guy then, and is a good personnel guy now, we have to believe that he did actually like Tebow, because he said so on TV.

The best thing about all of this is Tebow’s attitude.  I liked where he said that he was ready to compete for the job, and how there was no pretense that he had earned anything yet.  Quarterbacks are considered by lamebrain reporters to somehow be different than other football players, in that their jobs should never be in question.  This guy is the Starting QB, period.  If that guy isn’t elite, maybe some other guy is the Quarterback of the Future.  A lot of QBs tend to buy into this themselves, and they seem to get upset when it’s suggested that they may have to compete for their jobs, like real football players.

That’s definitely not where Tebow is coming from, and I find that very refreshing.  I’d rather get a 2011 draft pick for Kyle Orton, but even if both Tebow and Orton really are competing for the starting job in Training Camp, I’m pretty sure that Tebow will win the job.  If he doesn’t, it will be because Orton played really well, and just beat him out, and Tebow is still there as a top-notch backup.  In either case, that’s not a bad situation to have.

The bottom line is that they’ll all claim Tebow if he performs well and becomes a winning NFL QB.  If he doesn’t, they won’t.  Tebow is not some emotionally fragile guy, and I highly doubt that stuff like this even bothers him.  You’re not going to read any stories about his confidence being shaken, because nobody would come out and proclaim publicly that they loved him this offseason.  I guarantee that he’s working on getting better every day.  He knows he needs to improve and make the most of his opportunities.  I’m positive that he’ll do so, and that everybody will eventually be falling over themselves to talk about how good they all thought he was going to be.  This isn’t even a bump in the road.

6.  I’m very pleased to see Champ Bailey re-signed, like just about everybody else.  Again, there was meaningless posturing about selling his house, and to me, it all seemed meaningless as it happened.  Hopefully, this gets us out of the silly discussion about drafting a press-man guy like Patrick Peterson to play a bunch of zone coverage. 

Champ is actually better in zone than he is in man-to-man, because he can watch the backfield, and react to what’s happening.  He’s one of the fastest processors of information that I’ve ever seen on a football field, and that skill translates very well into continued success for Champ as a player. 

7.  Retired for John Elway.  (Good job on the Bailey signing, John!)

8.  To wrap up, I wanted to briefly address something that Captain Obvious had written, which Doug included in Wednesday’s Daily Lard.  It’s the most obvious thing in the world that a coach who came from one place to another may try to sign players who he is familiar with from his last job.  That’s why people like the Captain and Pork Chop are incessantly talking about which Panthers the Broncos are going to sign.

For one thing, I don’t think the Broncos are going to be huge spenders in free agency.  I suspect that they’d seek some bargains, like Jabar Gaffney was/is, in the four years, $10-million type of area.  I personally don’t think that paying big money for DeAngelo Williams is very wise, or that it will happen.  Another Panther name, CB Richard Marshall, is an average player.  I don’t think he’s better than Andre’ Goodman, and I believe that both Perrish Cox and Syd’Quan Thompson will eventually be as good as Marshall.  He’s also not a guy I’d shell out a lot of money for.  DE Charles Johnson had a good season in 2010, but his 10.5 sacks are going to cost some money, and with Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil in place, I don’t know if he represents wise asset allocation either.

The one Panther who I’d spend some money for is SLB Thomas Davis.  He started his career a little slowly, moving from SS in college to OLB in the pros, but he’s become one of the very best 4-3 LBs in the NFL, when he’s healthy.  He missed nine games in 2009, and still had 61 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions in just seven games.  He went on to miss all of 2010 with a knee injury.  If his knee checks out, I think he’s a guy who the Broncos could buy low on, and who could help a lot in quickly repairing the defense.  Assuming that the first-rounder will go for defensive line help, free agency should focus on linebacker and safety, and re-signing Marcus Thomas, if you ask me.

I’m sorry for being a day late with this, but it’s been a pretty crazy week for me, and my home computer may have died on Monday night - thankfully, right after I saved the first 3,500 words of this.  I hope you’re having a great week.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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