Sunday, January 07, 2007

Breaking News!

Bobby Petrino is coming to coach the Falcons. Can't say I saw this coming. Louisville's balanced attack over the last few years has been impressive, but I don't think (hope) that Petrino will come in planning to shoehorn Mike Vick into a particular offense.

Let's hope Blank opens the checkbook for the right D coordinator too.

On that, Petrino's salary looks huge. The only thing that'll stop Blank is the salary cap.

Big catch for the Falcons.

Before this, I was thinking that Blank would hire a retread NFL guy with some experience. Someone like Dick LeBeau or Dom Capers or Jim Fassel. There are two directions coaching hires seem to go, and they tend to alternate. Hire an "experience guy", which is code for retread dude who never got over the top, or hire an assistant/college guy, typically younger, and hope that you catch lightning in a bottle.

The Texans followed Dom Capers (retread) with Gary Kubiak (assistant). The Redskins went from Marty Schottenheimer (retread) to Spurrier (college) to Joe Gibbs (not a retread, but an experience guy). The Cowboys followed Dave Campo (longtime assistant) with Bill Parcells (experience guy). The 49ers followed Dennis Erickson (retread) with Mike Nolan (assistant). Likewise, the Seahawks followed Dennis Erickson (at the time, college guy), with Mike Holmgren (experience guy). The Giants followed Jim Fassel (when hired, a longtime assistant) with Tom Coughlin (retread). The Lions went from Marty Mornhinweg (assistant) to Steve Mariucci (experience) to Rod Marinelli (assistant). The Panthers went from Dom Capers (then, his first head coaching job) to George Seifert (experience) to John Fox (assistant). The Cardinals went from Dave McGinnis (assistant) to Dennis Green (retread). The Chargers went from Mike Riley (college) to Marty Schottenheimer (retread).

See the pattern?

And the Falcons have fit the pattern for a long time, too. Jerry Glanville (experience) to June Jones (assistant) to Dan Reeves (experience) to Jim Mora (assistant). I really thought the pattern would continue, and we'd hire a retread and there'd be plenty of spin about bringing experience to the organization, more discipline and a more businesslike approach. And the fans would be bored as hell.

I like the hire right now.

But I know one guy who is definitely happier than I am: Rich Rodriguez. His biggest rival is gone, and Schiano will probably leave in a year or two. West Virginia might be looking at a minimum 7 BCS berths in the next decade. Syracuse will eventually be back. Cincinnati just hired a good coach. UConn? South Florida has the best talent pool, but is fighting with others. Louisville has fantastic facilities and a good track record of hiring coaches on the way up. But WVU has the best coach in the Big East right now, and he's pretty well locked in for a long time.


Big Game Hunting

So with the hiring of Nick Saban last week by Alabama and the way Alabama folks (and others) have been talking about "experienced coaches", I started thinking about whether particular coaches are "sure things" while others aren't. Is it reasonable for Alabama to (probably) overpay for Nick Saban if he's a "sure thing", when spending market rate for someone who isn't a "sure thing" could be more expensive in the long run?

But what is a sure thing? Is it someone with several years' experience as a head coach? I'd say no, because someone could have experience over time, but never elevate to greatness. A coach could do just enough to get by over time, and that wouldn't make him a "sure thing". Is a sure thing someone who has a great overall record for an extended period of time? Maybe, but in college football an overall record could be misleading - there are too many teams, and too many bad teams that a guy could potentially win nearly 70% of his games, but lose against almost every good team he played (a guy at Georgia in the late 1990s, perhaps?). Is that a sure thing?

So I started thinking about how particular coaches performed in "big games". Perhaps that's a better gauge of the talent of a coach. How his teams performed against top talent.

First, a few disclaimers before I get to the data.

  • For this study, I looked at a bunch of the coaches I thought were closest to "sure things" in college football today. I looked at guys with multiple years of experience, with big programs. Some guys who have recently become unemployed but still have experience. If I missed someone you think should be on the list, tell me in comments. Or feel free to run the data yourself...
  • Big Games - this is very difficult to define. Rivalry games are "big games". Conference games are "big games". I recognize that my definition is purely arbitrary and is cleary incomplete.
  • I used games against ranked opponents at the moment the game was played. Now, first off, I recognize that rankings are fluid during a season. A team that is ranked in the opening week might end up with a terrible record. Rankings during a particular week may not be a good indicator of how good that opponent is in the abstract. That said, rankings in a particular week is a good indicator as to whether the game is "big" - the perception of the opponent is good, the event is bigger. For example, in 1998, Georgia played at LSU early in the season. LSU at the time was undefeated and ranked in the top 5 or 6. Georgia won the game, and LSU fell apart, pretty much not winning another game and ending up with a losing record. That LSU team was not great, but the game against Georgia (I was there) was a huge game.
  • Another qualifier that has to be said is that not all ranked teams are the same. It's one thing if you're playing against the #1 team in the country. It's another entirely if you're playing the #25 ranked team. My numbers below are highly simplified, but I just didn't have the time to do more extended mining.
  • Finally, the numbers don't take into account how good the coach's team was or whether the wins and losses were against teams that were particularly better. For example, Jim Tressel and Pete Carroll have some of the best "big game" records. That may be because they're great in-game coaches. It also might be that they were coaching great teams against teams that, while still ranked, were ranked lower. So when looking at these numbers, take into account the teams these coaches coached. A losing record for someone like Ralph Friedgen at Maryland might not be as bad as the record suggests.
  • Some of the coaches have very small samples of games against ranked opponents. Take those numbers with a grain of salt.
  • Basically, these numbers don't really mean all that much. They're arbitrary, and small samples in some cases.
Here's how the current numbers look, ranked by winning percentage. The numbers are based upon the last 6 years, but some coaches haven't coached that long. The records are games against ranked opponents. The numbers are as of today (Tressel and Meyer naturally will add a win and a loss tomorrow). For ties, I ranked the guy with more games first.

1. Pete Carroll (USC) 20-6; .769
2. Jim Tressel (OSU) 20-7; .741
3. Mack Brown (Texas) 18-7; .720
4. Larry Coker (Miami) 21-10; .677
5. Urban Meyer (Florida, Utah) 6-3; .667 (2003-2006)
6. Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) 15-9; .625
7. Tommy Tuberville (Auburn) 14-10; .583
8. Gary Patterson (TCU) 4-3; .571
9. Steve Spurrier (Florida, USC) 9-7; .563 (2001, 2005-2006)
10. Nick Saban (LSU) 13-11; .542 (2000-2004)
11. Mark Richt (Georgia) 15-13; .536
12. Lloyd Carr (Michigan) 14-13; .519
13. Frank Beamer (Va. Tech) 11-11; .500
14. Bobby Bowden (FSU) 12-14; .462
15T. Kirk Ferentz (Iowa) 10-12; .455
15T. Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin) 10-12; .455 (2001-2005)
17T. Bobby Petrino (Louisville) 4-5; .444 (2003-2006)
17T. Charlie Weis (Notre Dame) 4-5; .444 (2005-2006)
19. Phillip Fulmer (Tennessee) 11-15; .423
20. Les Miles (LSU, Okla. St.) 10-15; .400
21. Tommy Bowden (Clemson) 8-12; .400
22. Mike Bellotti (Oregon) 9-14; .391
23. John L. Smith (Louisville, Michigan State) 7-11; .389
24T. Tom O'Brien (BC) 7-12; .368
24T. Chuck Amato (NC State) 7-12; .368
26. Pat Hill (Fresno St.) 5-9; .357
27. Tyrone Willingham (Stanford, Notre Dame, Washington) 9-18; .333
28. Ralph Friedgen (Maryland) 8-16; .333
29. Rich Rodriguez (WVU) 6-12; .333
30. Mike Price (Washington St., UTEP) 3-6; .333 (2001-2002, 2004-2006)
31. Jeff Tedford (Cal) 5-11; .313 (2002-2006)
32. Dennis Franchione (Alabama, Texas A&M) 8-18; .308
33. Houston Nutt (Arkansas) 8-20; .286
34. Mike Riley (Oregon State) 4-10; .286 (2003-2006)
35. Al Groh (Virginia) 7-18; .280
36. Gary Barnett (Colorado) 6-18; .250 (2001-2005)
37. Frank Solich (Ohio, Nebraska) 3-9; .250 (2001-2003, 2005-2006)
38. Bill Callahan (Nebraska) 2-6; .250 (2004-2006)
39T. Mike Leach (Texas Tech) 6-19; .240
39T. Joe Paterno (Penn State) 6-19; .240
41T. June Jones (Hawaii) 2-8; .200
41T. Jim Leavitt (South Florida) 2-8; .200 (can't find 2001)
43T. Jeff Bower (Southern Miss) 1-4; .200
43T. Steve Kragthorpe (Tulsa) 1-4; .200 (2003-2006)
45. Ron Zook (Florida, Illinois) 5-21; .192 (2002-2006)
46. Dan Hawkins (Colorado, Boise State) 2-10; .167
47. George O'Leary (UCF, Georgia Tech) 1-6; .143 (2001, 2004-2006)
48. Sonny Lubick (Colorado State) 1-8; .111
49. Glen Mason (Minnesota) 2-17; .105
50. Jim Grobe (Wake Forest) 2-18; .100
51. Greg Schiano (Rutgers) 1-13; .071
52. Gary Pinkel (Missouri) 1-14; .067
53. Dirk Koetter (Arizona St.) 1-18; .053
54. Paul Johnson (Navy) 0-7; .000 (2002-2006)


Like I said before, this list shouldn't be read into too deeply. The sample sizes are small, and much of these records are tautological in that good teams provide good records to coaches, and good coaches lead to good teams. It's hard to tell what's the chicken and what's the egg. But there are some interesting things to get from this list.
  • The guy with the most wins against ranked opponents since 2001 doesn't have a job right now: Larry Coker. I have to say I'm a bit surprised that his name didn't come up for any of the job openings this year. Maybe he didn't want another job. In any event, Coker should be in line for another job somewhere next year.
  • Chuck Amato and the guy who replaced him, Tom O'Brien, have identical records against ranked opponents since 2001.
  • Another thing about Chuck Amato (and something that shows how these numbers don't tell us all that much) - this past year he had a pretty good year against ranked opponents, going 2-1. He went 1-8 against the rest of his schedule.
  • The Notre Dame question? In his first two years, Charlie Weis has gone 4-5 against ranked opponents while getting crowned a coaching genius. Tyrone Willingham was 5-6 against ranked opponents in his first two years at Notre Dame (a better winning percentage). Take note, too, that under Weis, none of the teams Notre Dame beat while ranked finished the season ranked (none last year, Penn State was the only win this year and they are not currently ranked, though they may end up in the polls).
  • Looking at these numbers, I find it odd that no larger school has backed up a money truck to try to get Gary Patterson away from TCU.
  • There is sort of a pattern for coaches that have been fired recently - the inability to beat ranked opponents seems to be a large factor. Look at Dirk Koetter. 1 win over a ranked opponent in 6 years isn't going to cut it. Gary Barnett hadn't beaten a ranked opponent in his last three years at Colorado (and surprisingly, Dan Hawkins' record isn't much better). Glen Mason rode Laurence Maroney to two wins over ranked opponents, but that's it since 2000. During Ron Zook's tenure at Florida he lost at least 4 games against ranked opponents in every year, and never beat more than 2 in a year (Urban Meyer's bested that in both of his seasons). If these numbers mean much, I think Gary Pinkel should watch out (1 win in 6 years).
  • Nebraska fired Frank Solich and replaced him with Bill Callahan. They have the same winning percentage against ranked opponents (though Solich had a better record against them while at Nebraska).
  • It might seem a little odd that John L. Smith is out of a job when guys listed way below him were in line for promotions or better jobs this season. Slappy is kind of a mystery. His numbers against ranked opponents aren't too bad. But his numbers against unranked opponents aren't much better. Against unranked opponents over the same timeframe, Smith is only 33-23. 23 losses against unranked foes (about 4 a year) won't let you keep your job at a school that thinks they can compete with the best.
  • Some numbers are pretty skewed by coaching moves. Les Miles' numbers are much better at LSU than at OK State. Spurrier was naturally better at Florida than at South Carolina. Mike Price was better at Washington State than UTEP. Zook's numbers took a huge nosedive after heading to Illinois (and they weren't all that great to begin with). Willingham's numbers have tumbled because of the last two years at UW (0-9). Interestingly, Dennis Franchione has been better at A&M than he was at Alabama (I was surprised by that because it's kind of conventional wisdom that he's sucked in College Station). Half of Dan Hawkins' losses came this year at Colorado.
OK, those are trivia-level facts. What about the initial premise as to "sure thing" coaches? As I look at the list, I think there's probably a small list of coaches that fit the category of a "sure thing". Surely guys who win 70% of the games against top opponents have to be considered sure things, though an argument can be made that for Carroll, Tressel and Brown, who knows how they'd fare if they were coaching significantly less talented teams (and the response is that these guys recruit the players, so who's to say those teams would be significantly less talented...). In fact, I'd go a step further. Considering the small sample sizes and the inability to differentiate between games against higher-ranked opponents and games against lower-ranked opponents, I think a coach that's reasonably close to .500 against ranked opponents is good enough to be considered a sure thing. I think most college football fans want to go into every game against a top team with at least a 50-50 chance of winning - and the top 20 or so are the coaches that give their teams that chance.

So if the question posed is whether it was worth it for Alabama to spend $32M to sign Nick Saban, and he's one of those guys who gives you a 50-50 chance or better to win every game against top opponents, I think the answer is yes. There are very few of those kind of coaches out there. If you have one or have the chance to get one, it's probably cost effective to overpay, rather than spend nearly as much (market rate) for uncertainty or worse.

Consider: some of the top coaching candidates at various schools this year are towards the bottom of that list. Guys like Mike Leach, Greg Schiano, Steve Kragthorpe, Jim Leavitt, Jim Grobe and Paul Johnson. Their positions on this list are lower mainly because of the difficulty in winning at those locations, but also consider that the fact that they are "hot" candidates largely because of their winning records - which must be inflated by wins against unranked opponents. Each of these guys might be able to win consistently against top opponents at a school where it is easier to bring in top talent, but they're clearly not sure things - there's some level of uncertainty in hiring any of them. I think spending $4M a year for a 99% chance of getting a great coach (Nick Saban) is probably a smarter decision for Alabama than spending $2.5M+ for a guy who might only be a 60-75% chance of being a great coach (with a decent sized risk that in a few years you'll have to spend money to fire and rehire another coach - and yes, there's that risk with Saban too).


Flick the Button

Massive backlog. I need to do this more often, because I start to forget seeing movies, let alone remembering what I think about them.

1. The Dukes of Hazzard: I hit on this in a post on football already. Better than I expected, and not bad either. Embraces Southern individualism that was the heart of the show, and also kind of does a good job at pointing out that folks down here are pretty sharp and witty. Fun soundtrack, and even the actors (I expected miscast) were alright. Enjoyable with a few great moments. Steak Knives.

2. The Island: As you'll see, there are a host of big budget action films I saw this time around. The term "OK" fits this one just right. The concept is a little interesting, and the actors are definitely game (especially Johansson). Michael Bay has a style I typically hate, but here he seemed a little toned down, and the movie was better for it. Plenty of worse ways to spend a couple hours (like with most of Bay's other movies). Dull steak knives.

3. American Dreamz: Pretty boring. Conceptually, I'm not sure how this movie got made. It's not very funny. The biggest flaw is that it's hard to watch a big-screen, large budget version of American Idol that just looks infinitely more cheaply made. The set looked like they filmed it on some high school theatre stage. And there really weren't any revelations or interesting twists that wouldn't have come up in a five minute brainstorm. This seemed just slacker. You're Fired.

4. Thank You For Smoking: OK, but felt like it pulled too many punches. Very watchable, and exceptionally well casted. Paced very well. But also not quite black enough. I wanted something either more outrageous or angrier. But that's not the director's goal, I guess. I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or not, but I do think this is the first movie I've seen Maria Bello in where her clothes have remained on. Weird. Edge of fired and knives... I'll go Steak knives.

5. Cape Fear: Original version. Kind of a disappointment. Mitchum isn't quite as menacing as I was expecting. Peck is great, though. Here's what confuses me: it's set for the most part in Savannah, Peck has to fly to Atlanta for a hearing with the state bar or something, but he rents a car and hauls ass to Cape Fear and says "I'll be there in a couple of hours". Cape Fear is in North Carolina, and is pretty damn far from Atlanta. Like at least 7 hours by car now, and when this was made, I'm not sure how great the interstate road system was in the South. Did the writers have no idea about the Southeast? The last 45 minutes or so, I dwelt on that. Unfortunately I thought it kind of dated too. Some serious plot holes too, I'd argue. No way that the transient girl Mitchum pounds on wouldn't press charges. You're Fired.

6. Brokeback Mountain: Boring, Boring, Boring. About an hour too long. Nothing happens for the first 45 minutes, and the second hour is extremely repetitive. Infidelity as love story doesn't work all that well, regardless of the orientation. Even the arguments of the beautiful scenery don't fly with me - dozens of westerns are shot as well or better. The only redeeming qualities of this movie were the costumes and hair styles of Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams. Especially Hathaway. You're Fired.

7. The Constant Gardener: Pretty good. I rather liked the lack of plot arrows, and trying to figure out what I was supposed to be paying attention to. Meirelles is an exceptionally talented director (City of God is one of my favorite movies of the decade), and while this isn't his best, it's still very good. The picture of Africa in this movie will probably be emulated by dozens of films in coming years - realistic, diverse, gorgeous and hideous. Thinking back on this, I realize how much I actually liked it. There were some simplifications and lecturing in the plot, but I kind of expected more. Might be the best non-comedy I saw in this group, and I kind of want to watch it again. Let's go Cadillac.

8. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: For all my expectations and the previews I'd seen, it still blew my mind in dozens of ways. I'd argue that no character this year, and probably no film made this year is as indelible as this one, and none has become a part of cinema vernacular like this. Sacha Baron Cohen has done something amazing here. But you already knew that. All I can add is that it delivers on its promises. Cadillac.

9. Broken Flowers: Pretty forgettable. We've seen Bill Murray do this bit before and better. I think I've seen the Jeffrey Wright character before too (Portman's adoptive brother in Garden State?). Felt like a movie that confuses silence with depth, and forgets to be interesting in the process. A shrug of a movie. You're Fired.

10. Ravenous: Easily the strangest movie in this collection. This is a movie that has no idea what it is, and I as the viewer was left as confused. Kind of horror movie, kind of comedy, kind of period drama, kind of pretty-scenery-and-electronic-music movie. The actors seemed to have little guidance as to how ridiculous to perform. Carlyle goes over the top, Pearce goes restrained, and most of the other characters just go bad. Thoroughly odd. Had it chosen a particular path to go down, it might've been OK. You're Fired.

11. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: Successful. I laughed hard frequently. Reilly is great. What I liked about it is that it didn't so much mock Southern NASCAR culture as much as it mocked sprawling suburban culture and a culture of "winners and losers" divisiveness (similar theme to Little Miss Sunshine, below). There are hints that Ferrell can go on cruise control, and the movie could've gone more ridiculous (it probably would've been better as an R-rated movie, as most comedies). But still, it's an ownable movie and one that'll get put in the player or left on when it's on cable. Edge of Steak Knives and Cadillac. I'll go Cadillac because I know I'll watch it dozens more times and find funnier things each time.

12. Aleksandr Nevskiy: Eisenstein's anti-German film released at the onset of World War II. The depiction of the Teutonic knights is shocking - swastikas appear on the high priest's garb, the depictions of child-murder are interspersed with prayers. But also there's anti-semitism and the suggestion of capitalist treason (the characterization of the Novgorod merchants). Like other Eisenstein films, it seems like every frame is an amazing photograph. The point of the film is hard to find common ground with, but incredibly powerful filmmaking. Time capsule is really the best way to describe it - it places the viewer in a position where he or she must pay attention to the propaganda. Prokofiev's score haunts. A film I'm unsure I want to recommend to others, but also inarguably great. Cadillac.

13. Stay: Not as messed up as it thinks it is. The camera tricks seem like more of a crutch and ingenuity. MacGregor's pants are too short - that annoyed me. I also don't appreciate being told that I shouldn't have made the effort to pay attention. You're Fired.

14. Primer: I've said before how much I like fast paced movies, and I liked this a lot. Yes, I didn't understand it very much, and I've been asking all of my friends if they've even heard of it just so I could have someone to talk about it with. Yes, the exposition is poor. But I kind of liked that - I felt like I was tiptoeing along the unknown, just like the characters. I honestly loved the twist that technology leads up to screwing up/fixing the mundane rather than the big questions of existence. Is this sci-fi dogme? Is it even possible? Cadillac.

15. Everything is Illuminated: A book like this shouldn't have been made into a movie, because too much of the enjoyment has to get removed. The depiction of post-Soviet Ukraine is nice - realistic, not romantic, but also not as backward. Eugene Hutz makes everyone else look bad. But it's not as fun as the book. Had I never read the book, I might've liked it a lot more, but it just seemed watered down and too-directly told. You're Fired.

16. Mission: Impossible III: Watchable, but with huge problems: (a) I was totally rooting for Hoffman to kill Cruise throughout the second hour; (b) the internal traitor angle almost directly mirrored the plot of the first installment of the series; (c) Ving Rhames was totally underused (as well as the other members of the crew). But still, there were moments where I was on the edge of my seat - Abrams does a great job on Lost and here of making the viewer feel the tension well. Not a great movie, but I never once thought about turning it off or opening the computer to pay less attention. Steak Knives.

17. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Just because a film is the middle part of a trilogy doesn't mean it can't resolve anything. And it doesn't mean it has to suck ass. Unfortunately, this resolves nothing and sucks. All the fun of the first one disappears, and we're left with a plot that just keeps circling itself, a script that prides itself on using a thesaurus - but with characters using accents that makes the dialogue virtually impossible to understand, and no geographic understanding. They're supposed to be in the Caribbean, right? So how do they end up in the South Pacific and then in the Louisiana Bayou without any traveling to each place? The ending is as unsatisfying as any film in recent memory. Second parts are supposed to make you excited for the completion - this gave me no reason to want to see the third one. The worst of the movies I saw over this stretch, easily. You're Fired.

18. Little Miss Sunshine: I loved the themes, and the actors were fantastic. More Alan Arkin is a good thing. Greg Kinnear surprised me a lot. I ask why this family was together in the first place, but that didn't bother me too much. Plot devices were a little forced, but that's forgivable too. Several laugh-out-loud lines and scenes, a great soundtrack, and a satisfying ending. A very nice film, and one I'll think about with a smile. Generously, a Cadillac.

I resolve this year to do this more frequently.


A little follow up on blogbashing

Sorry to get meta for a second, but this has been on my mind for a bit.

During the second half of the Rose Bowl last Monday, Brent Musberger started going off on a rant about how the "blogs" would be all over Lloyd Carr for the relatively weak performance of the Wolverines against the Trojans. Bob Davie responded that Carr should be more interested in preparing his team for next year than what people are writing on the internet (reasonable), but Musberger kept pushing the evil of the blogs, and Herbstreit something about how there are always going to be detractors and such.

It is too often that mainstream media voices use their platform to degrade blogs, without any nuance or clear understanding of what "blogs" are. It comes off as insecure.

So here's a short primer on new media, for anyone is the old media who wants to gain a better understanding of "blogs":

  • "Blog" is not a collective term for everything on the internet. For that, you should use a term like "website" or "on the internet". A "blog" is a specific type of site - a "web log" where thoughts, impressions, factual assertions, and other opinions are posted in a chronological order. A "blog" is akin to a diary.
  • Many blogs have a function that allows readers to provide instant feedback, in the form of comments. Believe it or not, when a reader posts a comment to a blog, it does not immediately become the voice of the writer of the blog. Often readers post comments directly opposing the point of view of the writer of the blog. When a commenter posts something outrageous, such as a more caustic or irrational thought, that comment is the reader's, not the writer of the blog's. If I write a post saying "Coach X used bad clock-management on the last drive", and some commenter responds by saying "Coach X should be fired immediately, drawn and quartered and raped in front of his kids", that is not a function of the "blog" but rather a function of the way anyone can freely comment upon a blog, even morons.
  • To follow up on that last point, some have claimed that there is no accountability in the world of the "blogs". This is patently untrue. There is arguably more accountability in blogs than there is in real media. The reason is that blogs have no built in audience, such as corporate-owned, billion dollar companies that can broadcast events. If a blog wants to have readers, it must have credibility, and in order to get credibility, it must remain intellectually honest, present things in a factual manner, and continually make interesting and salient points. If a blog's only point is to say "Lloyd Carr sux, should be fired!!!!1!1!1", nobody will want to read it for very long. And at that point, there is no point. If a blog can't be relied to to provide interesting information, people will stop reading it, and at that point it has no influence whatsoever. On the other hand, a talking head on ESPN can make elementary errors, be wrong about countless predictions, dumb any analysis down to second grade level, and nothing will happen - because people are watching regardless. Additionally, commenters on blogs are subject to the same kind of accountability - if they continually make no sense, nobody's going to pay attention.
  • Some complain about anonymity on blogs. Bill Simmons wrote about how terrible it is that someone can anonymously slander people on blogs. I post anonymously, sort of. I'm sure some, if not most of the readers here know something about me. But just because I'm anonymous doesn't give me any right to slander someone. If I do publish false and malicious statements about individuals, readers won't trust me enough to read me. If a slandering tree falls in the forest and nobody's there to read about it, what is the difference? That's the great thing about the internet - it's a true meritocracy. If you continue to publish false statements, nobody will read you. That's true whether you're anonymous or not. Unfortunately, it's not true in the paid-media world. You can be wrong about countless things and continue to get a platform to spout inaccuracies.
  • Here's something else people need to understand: NOT ALL BLOGS SERVE THE SAME PURPOSE. Some blogs track an individual's lovelife. Others follow politics. Not all college football blogs are the same. Some cover a particular team. Others follow the sport generally. Some focus on individuals. Some have a focus on particular conferences. I try to follow the media. Some blogs are clear on intent, and you can read it in the name of the blog, while others you have to read a few posts to figure out what they're writing about. The point is that every blog is kind of different, just like the people who write them are all different. So by saying "the blogs are going to be all over this", you make no sense. Some blogs might take a particular point of view, but there's never a complete consensus on any point.
  • Here's a point that I think some bloggers might take issue with: Members of the media need not feel insecure about the growth of blogs and internet media. Seriously. I'm sure there are some bloggers who write online with hopes of turning that into a mainstream media job, and I also know that there are tons of online writers whose voices would be an important and excellent addition to a mainstream media outlet. But blogs are never going to eradicate old media. Never. TV pundits are still going to exist, newspaper columnists will still have their inches. Pavement-pounding journalists will always get stories because of their access. In fact, I (and I'd argue that most bloggers) want those people to keep doing their jobs. The only thing old media voices need to worry about is this: Bloggers will continue to pressure them TO DO A GOOD JOB. I don't want Stewart Mandel's job. I want him to do his better. I don't want Kirk Herbstreit to be off the air entirely, I want him to take his job seriously and provide better analysis and insight - and to be held accountable when he's wrong. We don't want your jobs, we want YOU to do them better. This is an absolutely fundamental thing about blogs that mainstream media members have to get if they ever want to understand what the point is.
  • There are things on the internet that aren't blogs, and it may be incumbent upon you to understand them some in order to not sound like a total idiot. There are things called message boards. These allow fans to write and post opinions in a forum more akin to a conversation than a blog. Think of a blog as a mini-newspaper column with instant feedback. Think of a message board as a group of people hanging out around the water cooler. Sometimes comments pages on blogs turn into ad hoc message boards at more-highly-trafficked blogs. One shouldn't paint with a broad brush though. Many message board posts are extremely well thought out and well-written. Some are not. Some message board communities have a very high-level discourse. Others may not. They're not all the same, just like the people who post on message boards. But message boards are also fundamentally different from blogs - in that they are usually faster moving, but susceptible to inaccuracies due to the speed. It's like how a 24-hour newschannel is more likely to roll with a story that might lead the wrong way than a newspaper that has all day to let the story play out before rolling to print. There are also other things, such as podcasts, youtube posts, and plenty of other technological advancements that may be incorporated into blogs, but aren't necessarily "blogs". You might want to look into these things and understand how they all aren't the same.
Much of this lesson may be already known. But the same stuff keeps coming up in mainstream media outlets. The main thing is that folks don't need to make overarching pronouncements about "blogs" that fundamentally don't understand the medium.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Some assorted football thoughts

1. I'm not doing a recap because I didn't record it, but Gameday on New Years' was pretty damn bad. Tremendous cross-promotion for the Rose Bowl (which followed almost a month of promos). It was almost as if the other games didn't happen. Plus, several minutes were spent allowing Kirk Herbstreit to order AP voters to vote for Michigan if Florida were to do what Michigan couldn't. I'm on the record - under no circumstances should media personalities have any influence on crowning a champion. And to top it all off, the Fiesta Bowl, the best game of the day (season), was barely mentioned.

2. The supposed controversy over Nick Saban saying one thing while at a job and then another after he'd taken a different job seems to me to be media driven. Coaches leave jobs, and Nick Saban (as much as Dennis Erickson) especially has lots of experience leaving jobs. It's not surprising, and nothing worth getting all this upset about. The reason people are talking about it? Because Saban semi-berated journalists who were asking impertinent (to him) questions. One writer asks Saban a few weeks ago (while he still has games to coach for Miami) about Alabama, and he denies it. Ten, twenty, thirty more writers ask the same question, and Saban snaps at them. And then he turns about face, and the journalists he snapped at call him a liar. Add those journalists' friends in the print, radio and television media get the word out. Doug Gottlieb on ESPN Radio said as much yesterday in the midst of a 5 minute rant on Saban's lack of integrity. Saban can change his mind, protect his interests, and leave for what he considers a better job. Journalists can ask questions, write stories, and even become annoying to those from whom they seek information. And journalists are free, as much as anyone else, to harbor grudges against those who disrespect them. But journalists also should mind the fact that their platform gives them certain privileges and expectations. If too many journalists use that platform to promote angles based on personal grudges, they might cause more of the consumers to turn elsewhere for something balanced. And sure, there's a meta discussion here. Blogs and message boards offer equal opportunities for personal biases to come into play. And that's surely one reason why I like transparency.

3. I blame ESPN's overhyping of the Rose Bowl and the absolutely terrible announcing crew of Musberger, Davie and Herbstreit (which truly got worse over the course of the year - I kept waiting for Herbstreit to explode with a "why must I be surrounded by frickin' idiots!") for me missing the Fiesta Bowl. After about 136 hours straight of football, topped off with a snoozefest of a game and a crew of announcers that stoop to mock those bloggers who SHOCK! want them to do a fucking better job than the unprepared, cliched shitshoveling that they do... well, I'd 'bout had enough with football. And the best damn game of the season drops in. The highlights were pretty great. I feel like an idiot.

4. I agree with Orson and Peter on the Sugar Bowl coverage. I'm about stunned that I'm writing this, but I actually didn't mind FOX's coverage of the Cotton, Orange and Sugar Bowls. For the Cotton and Orange, I got the sense that the announcers weren't talking all that much. They actually let crowd noise in. They let you hear the game instead of inanity. It was kind of weird, really. And really weird considering FOX's NFL coverage. The Sugar Bowl was a gab-fest, but the announcers were kind of entertaining. This all may just be due to the fact that I haven't gotten sick of the FOX announcing crews from all year long, like I have with every other announcer crew.

5. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl was a microcosm for my experience as a Georgia football fan. Frustration and joy. That is all.

6. I am not looking forward to playing Kentucky next year. And I've got a weird feeling that Ole Miss is going to make a leap up next year too. Georgia's schedule is not going to be easy next year.

7. One other thing about Boise State... There's been some discussion around the blogs about how Boise State should have some consideration for a title. Nobody beat them, so I say raise a banner. Boise State will finish no lower than second in the Lebowski rankings. I swear that system works. I swear!

8. I actually watched the last quarter and overtime of the Insight Bowl. Thank the Lord Glen Mason didn't take the Georgia job in 1995. Terrible coaching down the stretch.


Middle Schoolers Have No Frame of Reference

Upon request by occasional commenter The Dagger, it is my duty to comment upon the fact that Notre Dame hasn't won a bowl game in forever, though huge payout bowls keep beckoning, like a mistreated spouse.

How to put in perspective the nine game, 13 year stretch of losses for the Irish? I was thinking about listing any number of historical milestones that have come and passed since January 1, 1994. Rather focus things to football.

Since 1994...

  • 87 different teams have won at least one bowl game. (and there's a chance for two more if Western Michigan and Ohio win their bowls this weekend)
  • 30 teams have won at least FIVE bowl games.
  • 6 teams have won SIX bowl games (Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, USC, and... Colorado).
  • 4 teams have won SEVEN bowl games (FSU, Penn State, Texas, and... Utah)
  • 6 teams have won EIGHT bowl games (Boston College, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Nebraska and Wisconsin)
  • 28 teams from non-BCS-automatic-qualifying conferences have won a bowl game. (and two more potentially this weekend)
Consider, too, that there are FOURTEEN more bowls today than there were in 1994. More opportunities to make a bowl than there used to be. And about the bowls, look at how things have changed:

The following bowls have become defunct at some point since ND last won a bowl game:

Freedom Bowl (in Anaheim)
Carquest Bowl, later the MicronPC Bowl (Miami)
Seattle Bowl
Silicon Valley Classic (San Jose)

The following bowls have changed their names since ND last won a bowl game:

Copper Bowl (now Insight)
Hall of Fame Bowl (now Outback) Bowl (now Texas)
Florida Citrus Bowl (now Capital One)
Peach Bowl (now Chick-Fil-A)
The Aloha Classic and the Oahu Bowl have sort of merged to form the Hawaii Bowl

In 1994, Connecticut, Idaho and Troy were Division 1-AA teams. Each has won a bowl.
In 1994, South Florida did not have a football team at all. The Bulls have won a bowl.
In 1994, Boise State and Marshall were both in Division 1-AA. Both have won FIVE BOWLS!!!

The reason for ND's poor bowl performances that makes the most sense is that the Irish are favored by bowls and TV networks, and that means that ND typically has ended up in better bowls than they probably deserved, against opponents that have more likely "earned" their spot in the bowl from performance. I think that's a reasonable position, though I think it's probably impossible to prove empirically terms like "deserve" or"earn".

Are there other reasons for ND's inadequacies in bowls? How about coaching continuity?

Notre Dame has had 4 different full-time coaches since 1994. Add an interim coach for one bowl game (end of Bob Davie's term) and the George O'Leary debacle, and one could argue that ND has had 6 coaches since 1994. In 1994, Lou Holtz was coaching the Irish.

[[Aside: Lou Holtz isn't the only odd name you see among coaches when you look at college football in 1993-4. Here are some others: Bill Curry (Kentucky), Curley Hallman (LSU), Gary Gibbs (Oklahoma), Bill Walsh (Stanford), Dennis Erickson (Miami), Howard Schnellenberger (Louisville), Billy Brewer (Ole Miss), Gary Moeller (Michigan), and freaking George Perles at Michigan State!]]

Back to the Irish... 4 different fulltime coaches is clearly a disadvantage. But the Irish aren't the only team to suffer such a fortune. 15 other programs have had at least 4 fulltime coaches and still won a bowl game:

Alabama: 4 coaches (plus Mike Price and Nick Saban), 4 bowl wins
California: 4 coaches, 3 bowl wins
Colorado: 4 coaches (plus an interim coach), 6 bowl wins
Kentucky: 4 coaches, 1 bowl win
LSU: 4 coaches, 8 bowl wins
Louisville: 4 coaches, 3 bowl wins
Michigan State: 4 coaches (plus an interim coach and Dantonio), 2 bowl wins
Mississippi: 5 coaches, 5 bowl wins
Oklahoma: 4 coaches, 4 bowl wins
Oklahoma State: 4 coaches, 2 bowl wins
San Jose State: 4 coaches, 1 bowl win
Stanford: 4 coaches, 1 bowl win
Washington: 4 coaches, 2 bowl wins
Wyoming: 4 coaches, 1 bowl win

And then there's Boise State. Since 1994, when the Broncos were a Division 1-AA team, Boise State has had SIX different coaches that were there for at least a year. They've still won five bowls.

So what about the teams that are in Notre Dame's position, as in having no bowl wins since 1994?

Including ND, (and excluding WMU and Ohio, since they might win over the next few days), there are 30 teams that haven't won a bowl game since 1994.
  • 13 teams haven't been to a bowl since 1994 (Baylor, Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Indiana, Kent State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, SMU, Temple, Vanderbilt)
  • 12 teams have only been to one bowl since 1994, which they lost (Akron, UAB, Arkansas State, Army, Ball State, UCF, Duke, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Rice, San Diego State, Utah State)
Notre Dame is 0 for 9. Here are the other teams that have been to multiple bowl games but haven't won one:
  • Northwestern (0 for 5)
  • New Mexico (0 for 5)
  • Houston (0 for 4)
  • UTEP (0 for 3)
There's the comparable group. Man.

I feel sad for Irish fans.