9/30/16 Mailbag: Why Do Bad Teams Stay Bad?

Ronnie: Do you think the Panthers struggle to protect Cam this year could be combatted with a more quick-hitting predicated gameplan? Maybe they don’t feel that they have anyone that can get open quickly. Just feels like these slow-developing pass plays isn’t how you beat man-blitzes with a bad OL.

Sure, an offense with more predication on the quick pass game would help in theory, but you already described the rub – the Panthers’ personnel isn’t really suited for it at all. Mastering the quick pass game requires an incredible time and resource commitment, and they’re probably better off mastering the things that their personnel is built to do. Fleshing out their runningback and tight end screen game would probably be a better way to complement their deep drop pass game.

Teams like Denver and Minnesota are obviously bad matchups for their offense. But remember that the Denver defense also beat Tom Brady twice last year, and the New England pass game is as predicated on the quick game as you can possibly be.

Brent: Does a healthy Marqise Lee make the offense worse? It almost seems like Jags are obligated to feed him.

It’s not that they’re obligated to feed him, it’s that defenses are finding ways to funnel the ball to the Jaguars’ worst skill position players. It’s not unlike the problem Green Bay has with the ball being funneled to Davante Adams.

The crutch is that good quarterbacks make bad players look better than they are. The last throw I wrote about in this week’s Bortles piece is a perfect example of a quarterback playing poorly and making his wide receiver look worse. Lee’s bad enough as is, he doesn’t need help looking worse.

Azeem: Who will be good at football first – the Jags or Tarheels?

Both should just focus on themselves.

Lucas: Why do bad teams stay bad, and vice versa? With coaching/GM/player turnover, I feel like there should be more parity, but there definitely isn’t. Related: will the Bears ever be good again? Pls say yes.

A lot of it is because there’s way more dissension and political backstabbing inside most NFL buildings than you’d ever be led to believe. Remember that an NFL organization is bound by the limits of humans being forced to interact with each other. You’ve got different personality types, ways of learning and processing information, and a LOT of ego. And, ultimately, everybody is really looking out for their own best interests. I say often that what’s good for a GM or coach’s job security isn’t necessarily what’s in the best interest of the team. Good teams stay good because they don’t need to convince themselves that the shit they’ve bought is, in fact, shit. Self-scouting is the hardest type of scouting.

Also, there’s only like 3-5 teams at a time with a quarterback capable of covering up for a poor roster’s flaws. GMs know that if they find #theguy, they’re basically set forever. Look how long Ryan Grigson has been GM of the Colts, and the only thing he’s not fucked up in Indianapolis was picking Andrew Luck first overall. Strong resume there. The tantalization of finding the guy and then coasting on that leads to a lot of repetitive patterns for franchises.

Thomas: Is Dave Caldwell too tied to Gus Bradley for him to stay even if Gus is fired?

Hank and I talked about this on the latest Keep Choppin’ Wood episode, and it’s a good follow-up to the previous question. You can already see how Caldwell can set this up pretty easily to absolve himself of blame (remember that GMs are snakes, and everybody’s #1 concern in the NFL is to keep their job as long as possible). He can say that Gus has made bad coaching hires, mismanaged their talent, etc.

The black mark against Caldwell right now is he’s put a ton of draft capital into the offense, and few of those investments have paid off. Most GMs are judged by their quarterback selection, and very few get to make a second one. If Bortles’ poor play continues, I think you have to seriously consider bringing in someone new who has an unbiased opinion of Bortles and the other players on the roster. If Blake isn’t the guy, the worst possible outcome is retaining Caldwell, forcing his (bad) quarterback on coaching candidates and narrowing the pool, and ultimately wasting another two years. Caldwell isn’t as bad as his predecessor by any means, but you can see history repeating itself identically as to when the Jaguars hired Mularkey because they couldn’t get anyone reputable willing to coach Gabbert.

Ben: You have gone on and on about Blake Bortles’ regression and his current badness. But there of course is the question of why/how he’s gotten here?

I’ve said before that he’s not an overly-intellectual player, and that he plays off instinct. He’s not trusting what he sees, he’s not seeing the field clearly, and his accuracy has gone to shit.

Also, this is nothing but conjecture, but I really think Blake and this entire team got gassed up by their own hype (how a 5-11 team has hype, I’ll never know) and believed that they had arrived before they were even good. Example:


JT: Can you explain why Zero WR is an especially bad fantasy draft strategy?

Honestly, the best fantasy team I ever drafted was a Zero WR team (RIP Josh Gordon), and I think in standard scoring leagues it might even be the optimal strategy. If you play PPR, it’s probably not the best strategy, but (like any draft strategy) it is viable if you pick the right players. However, you shouldn’t be playing PPR willingly (DFS excluded) because PPR is for fucking cowards and PPR with Flex spots is downright un-American.

I first read about RBx5 or Zero WR from this piece on Rotoviz. Gordon in the 8th round was really the key that made this entire strategy work. 2013 was honestly an amazing year for that strategy. I’ve had up-and-down success with it since then, but mostly I really like how disorienting it is during the draft for your leaguemates. People see the RB supply drying up even faster than usual, reaches happen, and shit gets weird. Having a league that is very trade-friendly helps too. If you have a bunch of assholes who sit on the same roster all year, you could end up screwing yourself.

Ask yourself this: if you had started a fantasy draft off with Ezekiel Elliot, CJ Anderson, Melvin Gordon, and LeGarrette Blount in the first four rounds, you’d probably be feeling pretty good about your team right now – wide receiver be damned. What if you had gone WR heavy and started with a Julio Jones/Sammy Watkins duo or Dez Bryant/Keenan Allen? It really always comes back to picking the right dudes, having good luck with injuries, and fixing your weak spots through the waiver wire or trades.

Colin: What do you think about poops after you shower? 

It’s almost as bad as PPR leagues with multiple flex spots.


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