The Giants are 0-2 to start the season after a brutal loss on Monday Night Football to the Detroit Lions. The offense is abysmal and there is plenty of blame to go around. Following the loss, head coach Ben McAdoo said it was on him. But as he was asked questions he seemed to aim a lot of the blame on his veteran quarterback, Eli Manning.
Manning certainly has his share of the blame. He held on to the ball too long the few times he had a decent pocket leading to a couple sacks. He threw an awful pass behind rookie TE Evan Engram that led to a Lions score which completely changed the tenor of the game. He also failed to get the ball snapped on a crucial 4th and goal play.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall dropped a crucial pass late in the second half as the Giants were marching down field.
But this loss is a collective one and it’s on the entire organization. GM Jerry Reese did not do much to address the offensive line in the offseason. The offensive line has two first round picks and a second rounder starting. Thus far it seems clear Reese and the talent evaluators whiffed on those picks. LT Ereck Flowers was terrible Monday night. He gave up at least three sacks. RT Bobby Hart hurt his ankle and did not make it to the second half. Justin Pugh, the LG, and the other interior lineman couldn’t open a hole for the Giants running backs all night.
Yes, McAdoo said it’s on him and his play calling was atrocious. Running the ball when it’s obvious they can’t run. Failing to call timeout late in the second quarter. Also, he seemed to go away from play calling that was working in the second quarter. When I asked him why it was so difficult, he gave a curt “that’s a good question” in response.
Still, what was most surprising during the presser was the way he layed into Eli. We discussed Eli’s culpability but McAdoo went the hardest on him. He sort of let the line off the hook. Never really referring to anyone individually, just saying they need to block better. It’s almost as if the team has a mandate to not say anything negative publicly about the line, in particular Flowers.
If that is a mandate because of sensitivities around Flowers, that’s doing him and the team a huge disservice.
Watch McAdoo's full presser following the game.
Binary Thinking, Inherent Bias, And Inertia: The Issues Plaguing NFL Talent Evaluators
Blake Bortles, Scott Tolzien, Tom Savage, Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer and Mike Glennon. These are the names of quarterbacks that will be starting NFL games during the 2017 season. If you root for any of the teams that employ these players, good luck. Given their proven play — or lack thereof — the chances any one of them helps your team compete or contend is highly unlikely.
In all of sports, there is no bigger drop off in play and expected outcome from starter to second string than NFL quarterback. This is the scarcest talent position in all of sports. Is it really that hard to play quarterback in the NFL?
The rules are designed to favor offenses and make completing passes easier. Maybe the question isn’t why it’s so hard to play quarterback, but rather, why are the people in the NFL tasked with finding quarterbacks so bad at talent evaluation? Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning won’t play forever.
According to MMQB’s Albert Breer, 15 of the 32 starting quarterbacks will be 30 or older by Thanksgiving. What’s up with the young guys coming in?
As a professional sports league, only MLB rivals the NFL in conservatism (read: old and slow to change). The league is full of talent evaluators that operate from a paradigm of system quarterbacks, and I mean that in the worst possible way.
When these talent evaluators look at college quarterbacks, they use antiquated terms like “spread offense” and “pro style.” I say antiquated because that’s exactly what those terms are. As humans we are prone to binary modes of thought and analysis, either/or, good/bad, right/wrong. We place things into categories so they are easily explained. On the whole that isn’t in its entirety a bad thing. But it is when it leads to polarization and prevents deeper analysis.
Dak Prescott and Derek Carr played their college ball in spread offenses. The former completed 67.8 percent of his passes last year and threw 22 touchdowns and had only four interceptions. The latter had similar numbers and is the highest paid player in the league. “Pro style” quarterbacks like Cody Kessler, Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook were all drafted before both Prescott and Carr.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but why are NFL talent evaluators stuck in an outdated mode of quarterback evaluation? Why does “spread” have a negative connotation and “pro style” a positive one?
We’ve seen “spread” or read option quarterbacks have success in this league. Before they were run out of the league, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III had success. Kap was in the Super Bowl and one play away from going to another. RGIII set rookie quarterback records, and he, not Andrew Luck, was offensive rookie of the year in 2012. Cam Newton was the league MVP in 2015 and took the 15-win Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl and has been to another.
All of them quarterbacks whom you wouldn’t refer to as “pro style.” They are quarterbacks who talent evaluators thought could approximate to some level of success in the NFL if placed in the right situation and given the opportunity to succeed.
Surely what matters for quarterbacks and whether or not they can play and perform up to reasonable expectations given the talent around them is a bit more nuanced than whether they played a spread or pro offense in college.
First, the quarterback must have the physical tools to make the necessary throws. Talent evaluators often get way too enamored with this piece of the puzzle. Just because a player “looks the part” doesn’t mean everything else is less relevant.
Second, what is the quarterback’s responsibility in the offense? Whether you run, “spread,” “pro” or “air raid,” what is the quarterback’s job? When he gets to the line of scrimmage, does he have command and the authority to audible based on what defense he sees, switch the protections, etc? Or is he looking to the sideline every play for a call. Can he tell you why he switched out of a certain play when presented with the defense?
The final area is what NFL people like to call “intangibles.” How did he perform in the biggest games of the season? Does he inspire leadership? Is he a winner? These three factors should determine whether or not a person has the potential to play quarterback in the NFL. The prospect should grade out well above average in all of these areas.
Is it a foolproof system of evaluating quarterback talent? Of course not, there are no guarantees. Tom Brady was a sixth round pick and didn’t grade out great in these categories. There will always be outliers, but looking at this position in binary terms is not conducive to long-term success. The truth of the matter is, evaluating “spread” quarterbacks requires more work than looking at “pro style” quarterbacks.
The plays you see on tape in the “spread” are not what you run in the NFL. But that shouldn’t matter. With the countless hours of game film and people whose sole responsibility is to identify talent, this shouldn’t be too difficult a task. Identify quarterbacks that meet the criteria and have a chance to perform at the next level and then place them in a position to succeed. Apparently easier said than done.
The co-opting of Black excellence by the mainstream.
Sloane Stephens won her first career major, defeating fellow American Madison Keys at the US Open on Saturday. Two first-time major finalists, and they are Black (I know Madison just wants to “be Madison” but she is Black and that’s a beautiful thing, because Black girls are magic).
Stephens follows in the illustrious footsteps of Venus and Serena Williams, the last Black Americans to claim our country’s tennis championship. The latter, of course, is a six-time champion of the event and the greatest player of all time. Even with her absence at this year’s US Open due to the birth of her first child, Serena’s presence loomed large over this fortnight and every conversation about the future of the women’s game began and ended with her.
Serena was also a focal point in major champion Maria Sharapova’s forthcoming memoir, Unstoppable: My Life So Far. Members of the media have received preview copies of Sharapova’s memoir and she does not refer to her fellow competitor, Williams, in a positive light. I do not call them rivals because they are not, despite what most of the white media would lead you to believe. Williams owns a 19-2 career record versus Sharapova and hasn’t lost to the Russian since 2004. Whether on the court or off, the two engage in battle.
While there is probably mutual respect between the two as athletes, there is clearly no love lost. But most of it, in my opinion comes from Sharapova. Williams owns her and, as previously mentioned, is the greatest of all time. Sharapova isn’t in her class. Yet, everything Sharapova does is framed within the context of Williams, and this is by design — Sharapova’s design.
To be fair, it would be silly to think a memoir of Sharapova’s life wouldn’t include a section about Serena Williams. After all, it was with her victory over Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon Final that put her on the map.
A then 17-year-old Sharapova was the darling of the tennis and larger sports media world, a 6-foot-2 slender, blonde-haired, green-eyed image of Eurocentric beauty; the exact opposite of Serena Williams, a beautiful dark-skinned queen with hips, boobs, ass and muscles. This was the foil for Williams the white media needed and wanted. And for a brief moment in 2004, it was headed there.
Sharapova followed up her Wimbledon win over Williams by beating her in the WTA year-end championships, rallying back from being down 0-4 in the third set. Sharapova was hailed as the reigning queen of tennis and began the next year ranked No. 1 in the world. Williams beat Sharapova in Australia in January of 2005 and has been rolling her ever since. But the narrative was already set and Sharapova has been trafficking as the innocent little white girl to the brute Black force of Williams ever since.
Sharapova described Williams in her memoir, stating, “First of all her physical presence is much stronger and bigger than you realize watching TV. She has thick arms and thick legs and is so intimidating and strong. It’s the whole thing — her presence, her confidence, her personality. Even now, she can make me feel like a little girl.”
Nowhere in that statement does Sharapova talk about Williams’ intellect, tennis IQ and ability to construct a point. If you watch their matches, it is Sharapova who relies on physicality. With each successive grunt, she bludgeons the ball and attempts to hit it harder and heavier than Williams, to no avail.
Meanwhile, Williams takes control of the rallies early and forces Sharapova to be on the move, where she is not as good. She uses drop shots to pull Sharapova forward and returns shots low, forcing the 6-foot-2 major champion to get low. It’s brilliant tennis by Williams every time, and Sharapova has no answer and hasn’t for 13 years running.
Sharapova is a five-time major champion and owner of the career grand slam, so I cannot discount her as a player. She has more grand slam titles than Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis. But she isn’t in the class of a player like Justine Henin, much less twenty three-time champ Williams. But we are where we are and Sharapova knows it benefits her brand to be the foil to Williams and, yes, that means playing with racial subtleties.
I have no way of knowing how Sharapova feels about Black people or the fact that Williams is Black. She is, however, smart enough and understands the larger world and the “game” at play. That book will sell millions of copies because it plays into racial tropes and stereotypes that this country loves to feast on.
Sharapova’s continued riding of Williams coattails also plays into a long accepted history of white people profiting off the talents and labor of Black people and exploiting it to their advantage. Her two wins over Williams all the way back in 2004 allowed her to be the highest-paid female athlete for years until 2016. Think about that. A clearly inferior player earning considerably more. How’s that possible? It’s possible because it’s all part of the “game” and Sharapova and her team know how to play it.
This “game” has been going on since the dawn of time from the Great White Hype in boxing, the Tiger vs. Phil debate in golf and the Magic vs. Larry debate in the NBA. Magic and Bird faced each other four times with a championship on the line; once in the famed 1979 NCAA Championship Game and three times in the NBA Finals, 1984, 1985 and 1987. Magic was victorious three of those times in convincing fashion. The NCAA Championship was a blowout win for Magic and his Michigan State Spartans, while the Lakers beat the Celtics in six games in both '85 and '87. With the exception of the Celtics seven-game series victory in '84, Bird came up short every time he went against Magic in championship competition, yet it is seen as some kind of intense rivalry.
The Williams vs. Sharapova head-to-head record overwhelmingly favors Williams, but whenever someone mentions her, Sharapova is discussed as a rival and, more so, whenever Sharapova is mentioned, Serena is as well. The only way the two should be discussed is as contemporaries to an extent. Williams is five years older and turned pro six years before Sharapova, but they’ve spent 16 years on tour together. Sharapova’s quick ascension to the throne, aided by the media, was stopped because the true queen never vacated. Williams has reigned for more than twenty years and Sharapova is a mere footnote on Williams’ massive list of accomplishments.
The funny thing is Sharapova believes Williams spends time thinking about her, continuing in her book: “I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon. I think she hated me for taking something that she believed belonged to her. I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment. But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She’s never forgiven me for it.”
No, Maria. Serena didn’t hate you for beating her. She was angry at herself for not defending her Wimbledon title. Yes, you did take something that belonged to her — the Wimbledon title. If you spent time trying to understand what really makes Serena tick, you might fare better. Serena has often said it’s not so much about the feeling of winning but rather avoiding the feeling of losing. Those back-to-back losses in 2004 were a bitter pill to swallow and Serena’s made it her mission to never suffer that feeling again at the hands of Maria Sharapova.