You Got Served - Freak out! (not)

Happy Tuesday, friends.  I had a nice Labor Day weekend, and I hope you did too.  It was busy, though, and I’m coming back to a busy workweek, so I’m kind of squeezed for time from both ends.  That said, I’m going to get moving and play for maximum value over minimum time.  I may even offend some people, with or without really meaning to.  Ready… BEGIN!!!

1.  Our friends at the DP rubed out again this weekend, breathlessly reporting that the Broncos would definitely be hitting the waiver wire hard before seeing them claim nobody at all.  As a staff, we were laughing at what seems to be the front office’s new practice of building up the expectations of the local media, only to make them look bad when things don’t happen the way they were speculated.  Woody is already bitching about John Fox’s skill in saying nothing at all while saying many words, as Doug pointed out in Monday’s Lard.

Personally, I’m not very surprised at all that the Broncos didn’t claim anybody.  I did a fairly basic exercise on Saturday where I picked through a lot of chaff looking for wheat, and I didn’t find much quality among young players who were waived.  The only guy I really liked was Tavares Gooden, and I can’t make a great case that Gooden is better than Mario Haggan or Nate Irving.  Of course, when you claim a guy on waivers, he goes to the active roster and you have to immediately cut a player to make room for him.

As for vested veteran free agents, there were considerably more of those who I liked, and I expect that a lot of them will get action after Week 1, because any of those players (meaning those who have accrued four or more NFL seasons) who are on the roster on Thursday will have their entire 2011 base salaries guaranteed.  The Broncos expressed that they were loath to take on any existing contracts, which explains the lack of waiver claims, but I’m sure that they’d also rather guarantee as few contracts as possible.  (The Broncos are certainly not the only team who would/should be thinking that way.  The action will likely heat up a week from today.)

I found it funny that so many Broncos fans were freaking out on Twitter about the lack of major action.  I bet they were positively apoplectic at the DP comments section and on other Broncos sites.  I can only conclude after getting past the familiarity bias which I once held (that all Broncos fans were like me) that the true nature of the Broncos fan is to freak out over small things.

It occurred to me on Saturday that I don’t think that this site is any kind of voice for the average Broncos fan.  Rather, I think we represent the loyal insurgency that’s interested in being calm and reasonable.  You’ll never hear any of us do any podcast rants near tears, nor will you read any work by us that makes liberal use of capitalized words. 

I say this because with a simple deep breath and a step back, I think that you’ll agree with me that nobody claimed anybody on waivers Saturday who will make an immediate material impact on a football team.  I thought that the Jonathan Wilhite signing was kind of meh, but I can see the benefit of keeping five Cornerbacks rather than the four that the Broncos had when they initially cut down to 53 on Friday.

Let’s all relax and release everything that’s been getting us worked up since the last time the Broncos played in a real game, and start fresh next Monday night.  I mean everything; who the starting (or backup.... REALLY?) QB is, why didn’t they sign more DTs, I wish they wore orange more often, all of it.  Let’s just see what happens against a Raiders team that physically dominated our guys twice last year.  In the old-school football sense, I think that this game will be about as good a yardstick as we can have to start a season, and I think that the Broncos are going to be ready to show very well against that test.

2.  As for the matter of the practice squad, I’m a big believer that it’s pretty overrated as a player stashing/development vehicle.  It’s actually designed to simply be a vehicle for the augmentation of a roster to allow for effective practices.  For example, no team keeps 10 offensive linemen, but you need at least five backups to have a scout team.  The same can be true of CBs, where for scout team sub packages, you may need some extras. 

I say this because I don’t see a lot of operational wisdom in keeping six offensive players out of the eight spots, and I especially don’t see the wisdom in keeping Adam Weber.  There are never going to be any reps for that guy in regular season practice, so even if you think he can be a solid backup someday, it’s really kind of a wasted spot.

Andrew Mason was praising the team on Twitter for keeping eight players from their own training camp, as if that’s some kind of badge of honor. In response, I raised this concern that the Broncos may be short-changing their ability to hold effective practices in the name of familiarity and player development.  He was actually kind of unreceptive to even considering that, which is the second time that I've found that to be the case with him.  

I think the makeup of the practice squad is weird, and very sub-optimal.  It looks like a fantasy football player put it together, with a QB, a RB, a FB, and two WR.  I don’t have anything against any of the players who are there, I just think it could be better conceived.  I’m not freaking out, though, and neither should you.  Chances are, this inch doesn’t matter that much at all to the inches that teams need to get on the football field.

3.  We received a question Saturday on our Facebook page (where you should totally be liking us if you’re not already) from reader Nate Jones (not the awful CB who just got cut), and we decided to answer it in YGS.

Nate Jones

You've catapulted past Orangemane to become my favorite and go to Broncos site. Suggestion for you guys to write on: How exactly does instant review work. Do the teams' coaches view the live tv feed to suggest if the team reviews the calls or not? How much does the broadcaster's subjectivity in replying the plays effect the game? Do games that the station has more camera angles effect reviews? Many thank.

I’ve actually never heard of Orangemane, to be honest, but we’re happy to be at the top of your list, Nate.  Replay is an interesting and evolving topic.  Here’s the general jist of how it works:

a.  Teams have two challenges to use during the course of a game.  If they’re successful on both challenges, they’re awarded a third.  If they’re unsuccessful on any challenges, they lose a timeout.

b.  Challenges can be used at any time in the game, except for in the last two minutes of each half, or on a scoring play.  For example, a team can challenge the first two plays of the game, lose one or both, and have no more challenges available for the rest of the game.  (It’s often incorrectly assumed that teams have one per half.)

c.  During the last two minutes of each half, the replay official in the booth is responsible for initiating all replay reviews.  He/she (probably he) buzzes the referee if there is a good reason to review something. 

d.  New in 2011, all scoring plays are automatically reviewed by the replay official, and he has the option to also buzz the referee to make an extended review of the play, for the possibility of overturning the original call.  No timeouts or challenges (as assets of either team) are at stake.

e.  Teams cannot use any technology to aid in review decisions except for what is played on the stadium video screen.  The local TV feed is expressly not available in either booth, so the commentary of clowns like Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have no bearing on whether a play is reviewed.

f.  Nate asks a good question about whether national primetime broadcasts that have a higher production value and more cameras affects the quality of replay reviews.  The answer is yes.  The booth official has access to all angles that the televising company has captured, and nothing can be assumed about any view that CBS or FOX missed.  NBC and ESPN tend to deploy more cameras for their games, and that adds to the ability of the officials to make good decisions on replay reviews.

I hope that was valuable for you, Nate (and everybody else), and we thank you all for being readers.

4.  The Terrelle Pryor noise-fest has been annoying me, and it’s gotten worse with the hiring of Jim Tressel by the Colts to be a replay consultant.  (Germane to the last topic, all he can really be asked to do is watch specifically what’s happening with the ball and be focused on as much detail around that as possible.)  Pryor, you’ll recall, was suspended for five games upon entry into the NFL.

The commentary around this is enormously stupid, because it seems like nobody wanted to take the NFL at its word, and it’s forced the Colts to do something equally stupid that validates the asinine speculation and commentary.  Follow me here.

The NFL didn’t want to let Pryor into the Supplemental Draft, because he didn’t meet the eligibility requirements that the League has had in place for a long time.  To wit, he hadn’t experienced a change in his eligibility to play college football.  He had left the Ohio State program, but he was still nominally eligible to play somewhere, because he hadn’t officially been declared ineligible to do so.  His personal standing with the NCAA was good, by virtue of not having been declared to be bad.  Changes in eligibility generally tend to stem from either academic performance (graduation, dismissal, probation, etc.), or from misconduct.  Pryor had some misconduct, but he was merely suspended five games for it, and not declared ineligible.

Keep this concept of eligibility in mind.  Presently having nowhere to play is not a change in eligibility.  You can be kicked off a team like Janoris Jenkins was at Florida, and still be eligible to go play at North Alabama.  Pryor was in the same situation.  A guy like Michael McAdoo, who was declared permanently ineligible at North Carolina due to misconduct with agents, had a clear change in eligibility.  The Supplemental Draft is not designed to accommodate people who simply changed their minds about going pro after the cutoff, regardless of the reason.

Pryor decided to go pro after leaving the OSU program, and when the NFL notified his advisory team that he wasn’t eligible under their rules (because there was no change in NCAA eligibility), Pryor willfully set out to have himself declared ineligible.  OSU helped him out (the only way to see it is as a favor), and put out word that they would have ultimately declared Pryor to be completely ineligible to play college football, which rings pretty hollow since DeVier Posey and the other players who were involved in the scandal remain eligible once their suspensions end.  That maneuver overcame Pryor’s problem of not being able to meet the NFL’s requirements.  He also hired an agent, and I would suspect that he quit attending classes at some point too.

The NFL rightly thought that Pryor was manipulating the situation and making a mockery of its entry rules.  They’ve said that that was the reason for the five-game suspension, and they wanted to prevent future maneuvering of the “Hey buddy, declare me ineligible please” sort.  The suspension is basically a half-measure, and it's clear that the NFL wanted to balance an aversion to getting sued by Pryor for not letting him enter the NFL with their own desire to keep their own rules enforceable.

Now, the NFL was admittedly tactically stupid to make its suspension five games, which was the same amount as Pryor’s OSU suspension, because it directly led to a lot of dumb commentary that the NFL had decided to be in the business of suspending people for running afoul of the NCAA’s rules.  

This has gotten into the double-digit IQ football echo chamber, and now the NFL’s legitimate action in protecting its own rules has been delegitimized.  Now you have the Colts suspending Tressel for six games, and the NFL saying that they were prepared to also suspend Tressel.  This has all served to make the idiot reporters and talking heads look like they were right all along that the NFL was now suspending people for NCAA violations.  Quite clearly, though, the NFL sensed that the narrative on this topic had gotten way away from them, and they decided to force Tressel to take a bullet to shut the topic down in the news cycle.

What I’d like to have seen is Roger Goodell putting out a statement that directly called the agitating reporters stupid, and clearly explained the NFL’s case.  Sometimes the Peter Kings of the world need a good beating.  Instead, next year, the question is going to be, “Well if you suspended Pryor and Tressel, why didn’t you suspend Johnny from Miami, or whatever.  They broke NCAA rules too!  It’s unfair!”

The NFL has a long way to go in figuring out how the news cycle now works, and in controlling a narrative.  Frankly, with so many stupid people able to make a stupid comment and then retweet another one that they saw on Twitter - to the point where even intelligent people believe the stupid narrative - the only effective media strategy can be to make things so dumbed-down and simple that it’s impossible for the message to be mistaken by anybody.

That’s all the time I have for today, friends.  I’m going to take a look at some Raiders video from their abysmal preseason and see if I can glean any insight to share with you on Friday.  Until then, have a great short 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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You Got Served