Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mark Sanchez's "reputation" negates his better "fit" for Eagles' offense than Bradford

What Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly exactly saw in quarterback Sam Bradford seems unclear, unless like St. Louis he had an unwanted quarterback to trade, and Bradford was the best he could do. After a promising rookie season, injuries and overall inadequate play, including a seeming inability to make plays downfield, Bradford hasn’t progressed at all in Kelly’s offense. He has had only one “good” game this season, and his 26-46, 205 yards, no TDs and one interception against Carolina has been rule rather than exception, regardless if the defenses he faced were good, bad or indifferent. 

The problem is that Bradford is a one-dimensional pocket passer and entirely predictable. He had what is a slightly below “average” completion percentage with the Rams (when he was actually on the field), and one may note that his yards-per-completion was even lower than the average. When his completion percentage is down with the same YPC, as he is with the Eagles, efficiency in the passing game obviously suffers. Tom Brady can get away with low YPC because his completion percentage and typical yardage per pass is consistent enough to move the chains. 

Some will say that Bradford is still “new” to Kelly’s offense. This explanation simply doesn’t wash. He’s had at least as much time to “learn” the system as Mark Sanchez did last season, and Sanchez showed if not a “mastery” of the system, an ability to function adequately in it. In fact, Sanchez can clearly be seen now as a better fit in the system. Last season in nine games he had an 88.2 passer rating, completed 64 percent of his passes, averaged over 270 yards passing per game, and threw 14 touchdown passes, although 11 interceptions obviously was a reason for his many detractors to continue to detract him. Sanchez can also do things that Bradford apparently can’t do, like use his feet (he scored 13 career touchdowns compared to Bradford’s 2), and throw downfield (7.8 yards-per-pass compared to 6.4).

Bradford through seven games has a 76.4 passer rating, 9 TD passes and 10 interceptions. Unfortunately for Sanchez, none of this matters, because for whatever reason his detractors have their own dark reasons in the back of their minds that they don’t want to stain their own reputations with publicly, and they don’t want to give Sanchez the same consideration they give quarterbacks with lesser skills. His reputation is unfortunately tied to his years with the Jets, which under Rex Ryan put a low priority on the offense, as can be seen now in Buffalo. Instead of being allowed to develop, he was simply thrown into the starter’s role expecting miracles to happen, and the team only regressed personnel-wise after Sanchez’s second season. 

Not only that, but the Jets didn’t have a coherent offensive identity to begin with—even Brett Favre the season before couldn’t quite “master” it with the same personnel)—having neither a star-quality running back to establish a running attack, nor talented non-headcase receivers to provide a confident consistency in the passing game; one may recall that a wild Favre had such a receiver in his early years, Sterling Sharp,  who would have had a Hall of Fame career had it not been cut short by a neck injury. 

Sanchez’s career seemed to find a personal renaissance in Kelly’s offense-first philosophy, and his overall play improved dramatically, at least statistically. No doubt this demonstrated he had abilities that could have been improved upon had he started his career in a professionally supportive environment on a team that already had a ready-made supporting cast and “system.”

The question now is why commentators and analysts are not talking about what a poor fit Bradford’s “skill set” is in this offense, and the equal probability that Sanchez’s does, and how long is this charade going to continue; it is already surprising that Bradford has remained upright this far into the season.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Week 7 NFL notes

Another “work, work, work” weekend, but fortunately there were only a few games of interest this week. One them was not the London game between the Bills and the Jaguars, which I listened to on the radio on my way to work Sunday morning. That is not to say that it wasn’t interesting, particularly on back-to-back plays in which an interception and fumble returned for touchdowns gave the Jaguars an early 21-3 lead, soon extended to 27-3. But now back-up quarterback E.J. Manuel led the Bills on the comeback road, and eventually a late pick-6 thrown by Blake Bortles gave the Bills the lead 31-27. Bortles, who was just plain bad otherwise, managed to complete some key passes, and a critical pass interference call on third down eventually gave Bortles a shot at redemption, throwing for the winning score with 2 minutes to play, 34-31. 

Otherwise, the Packers had their by-week as did the Broncos, the Jets failed to humble the Patriots, and former offensive coordinator-turned-fired-coach of the Dolphins, Joe Philbin, must be wondering how he could have mishandled this team so badly after it looked like an offensive juggernaut for the second straight week since his departure.

Oh yes, there was a Thursday night game:

Seahawks 20 49ers 3. After fourth  quarter defensive collapses the past two weeks, the Seahawks throttled Colin Kaepernick and company on their own home field, 20-3; the 49ers managed just 141 yards of total offense  This may say more about Kaepernick than his supporters and apologists can bring themselves to admit. Last week the Packer defense allowed almost 550 yards of total offense to San Diego, including 503 passing yards by Phillip Rivers, yet this was the same defense that held the 49ers to 196 yards of total offense in a 17-3 victory. What’s the problem?

We are told by the likes of ESPN’s Herm Edwards that Kaepernick’s “athletic skills” are not being properly utilized. He doesn’t have to be an “accurate” passer if he is allowed to run at will. The truth of the matter is that Kaepernick thinks he is (or wants to be) a great passing quarterback, not to be known as merely a “running” quarterback. While Kaepernick occasionally ran for large chunks of yards against teams like Green Bay in the past, as long as Frank Gore was behind him, Kaepernick running on broken plays and failed reads  kept opposing defenses guessing—like a good chess players might be initially confused by the “strategy” of a novice who doesn’t actually know what he is doing. 

Kaepernick actually didn’t run that much in years previous as people might think; in fact Kaepernick had career bests 104 rush attempts for 639 yards last season—and the 49ers finished 8-8. A late season game against San Diego demonstrated the limitations of the just let the quarterback act “natural.” The 49ers ran wild on the Chargers, gaining 355 yards rushing—158 from Frank Gore, 151 from Kaepernick (although 90 yards came on one run). Yet the 49ers still lost in overtime. Why? Because when a real drop-back passer like Phillip Rivers gets on track after a couple of early interceptions helped put the Chargers in a 28-7 first half hole, and finally tie the game in regulation and win it, and the 49er running game began to have a power outage—eventually you have to get the ball downfield another way, and Kaepernick was his “natural” self in that regard, throwing for just 114 yards on 24 pass attempts—and he wasn’t sacked once the entire game. 

It isn’t “100 percent” on the coaching, management or agent that Kaepernick isn’t being “properly” used. Kaepernick doesn’t want to be known as a “running quarterback” because he knows that places an asterisk next to his “QB” position. He sees all these numbers that these other quarterbacks like Brady, Rodgers and Manning are putting up, and his own do not “measure up.” That is why he complained that even though he threw 46 passes against Pittsburgh earlier in the season that the team hadn’t passed often enough in a 43-18 blow-out loss. The truth of the matter is that while Kaepernick has a strong arm, he has poor mechanics, makes poor reads and even poorer judgment.  

Even when he does put up “big” passing numbers, they are less than what they appear to be. For example, against the Steelers, outside of two long pass plays, 31 of Kaepernick’s completions went for just 217 yards, less than 5 yards per pass attempt. Against the  Ravens last week, 179 of his 340 passing yards came on just three pass completions, and the 49ers just escaped with a win over a bad Baltimore team (1-5) with an equally over-rated quarterback (Joe Flacco). But these numbers place in his mind that he is something more than he is, and all these pundits and defenders (like Edwards) who insist that Kaepernick is being misused and abused by others entirely misunderstand their man. Edwards also claims that Kaepernick would fit in quite nicely in Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia, because it doesn’t need an “accurate” passer. This is odd, since Kelly apparently thinks the opposite, given his choice of Bradford, who can pass accurately (at times) but can’t run if his life depended on it.

Meanwhile, Russell Wilson has come under scrutiny by a few analysts who breaking down his play find that he doesn’t appear to be a natural reader of defenses or make proper adjustments at the line like other “elite” quarterbacks, in fact there is little evidence that he does. The favorite local target of criticism of the Seahawks is offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell; maybe there is a good reason for his “conservative” play-calling. A USA Today analysis after the Carolina loss showed how even on the occasions that Wilson had great line protection, he still missed wide open receivers—sometimes two on the same play at the same time—instead making a bad pass or taking a sack. 

Although superficially Wilson’s passing numbers seem impressive, they somehow don’t show up on the score tally. Whether or not this has anything to do with his ability to “see” over the line remains subject to debate.  So far in his career Wilson has had luck on his side, and he has been the recipient of some miraculous plays downfield. But some analysts are noting that Wilson takes too many chances with the ball, apparently evidence of poor decision-making and being too confident in his ability to make “plays”; at some point that tendency has to come back to “bite.”

Getting the story "right" not easy for some reporters

A few days ago, a shooting incident occurred in Auburn in which two men were shot while standing near a bus stop. This is how the Seattle Times initially reported the incident:

The shooting happened around 5 p.m. as the father and his two sons sat with some belongings at a bus stop at 17th Street Southeast and B Street Southeast in a neighborhood off A Street, Stocker said. It was unclear why the three were using the bus stop because there’s no route that goes there, and it’s in a construction zone, he (a police spokesperson) said.

The younger, uninjured son, who witnessed the shooting, was being questioned by police. The family apparently lives in the area.

Investigators don’t yet know whether the victims and shooter or shooters knew each other, but it appears the 17-year-old approached the car. Stocker said there may have been some kind of dispute before the shooting.

How are we to interpret this version of events? It is implied here that the victims were up to something unsavory, perhaps a drug deal gone bad. Perhaps they were gang members. Regardless, it is suggested that one of the victims instigated the shooting.

The follow-up story the next day:

A family friend identified Angel Mireles, 19, and his stepfather, 41-year-old Mark Rivera, as the victims of the drive-by shooting.

Kari Frazier said four members of the Rivera family, including the victims, had gathered at her house in Auburn on Tuesday evening to visit before heading home for dinner.

Rivera, Mireles and Rivera’s 13-year-old son, Isaiah, left Kari and James Frazier’s house a few minutes early to grab some items at the store across the street before meeting up with the boys’ mother, Victoria, at a nearby bus stop.

As Victoria Rivera chatted with Kari and her husband, the sharp snap of gunfire sounded outside, Kari Frazier said.

Looking out the bay window in the Fraziers’ living room, the three saw a commotion at the bus stop where Victoria Rivera’s family had agreed to meet, said Frazier.

The Fraziers ran outside — a few steps ahead of Victoria Rivera — and found two of their friends gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Kari Frazier said she could barely recognize Mark Rivera and Angel Mireles because of the blood.

Mireles died at the scene after being shot around 5 p.m. Tuesday; Rivera died at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center on Wednesday.

Isaiah, who witnessed the shooting, was not hurt.

Speaking Wednesday from her home, Kari Frazier’s voice was raspy and full of emotion. She identified members of the Rivera family for The Seattle Times.

She said the Riveras were longtime friends. She met Victoria when the two women volunteered at an Auburn food bank more than a decade ago.

Mark Rivera was a warehouse worker and Victoria a stay-at-home mom, she said. In addition to Angel and Isaiah, the couple have a 15-year-old son and 12-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.

Mireles was the father of a 1-year-old son, who he was raising with his girlfriend, Frazier said. Mireles was the son of Victoria Rivera from a previous relationship.

“This family has been through so much,” Frazier said. “They’re low-income, they’re down on their luck. They’re really good people.”

Now, instead of the barely concealed suggestion that this shooting was gang or crime-related, the victims are given a human face, a hard-working family paying a visit to friends, with a perfectly legitimate reason for why they waiting where they were standing. The next day the paper reported an arrest in the crime:

“A suspect has been arrested and we believe he’s the shooter,” Stocker said. “Our detectives did great work.”

A 19-year-old man was booked into King County Jail early Thursday on investigation of homicide, two counts of assault, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen vehicle.

The man arrested has a juvenile criminal history and two felony convictions this year: one for unlawful possession of a firearm and another for taking a vehicle without permission.

The surviving son who witnessed the shooting said the shooter and his girlfriend simply drove up to the victims and apparently began mouthing off, instigating an argument—likely providing a “justification” for the shooter. This shouldn’t be surprising; after all, a man recently pleaded guilty to killing a man who he tried to steal his cell phone, merely because the would-be victim of the theft called 9-1-1, and the killer didn’t want a “witness.” He also completed his theft, but complained that the phone wasn’t “a nice model.” In the present case, it was now reported that Mireles approached the car, and the shooter (still not identified, but police conceded that he did have gang affiliations) pointed a gun at him, at which time Mireles apparently tried to disarm him, but was shot in the head. When the father rushed over, he was shot too, and the younger son was also fired on, but managed to escape. 

The difference between the two reports cannot be explained merely by the fact of follow-up information. The first story was written by Sara Jean Green, with help for her cohort in selective reporting, Jessica Lee. The second story was written by Jennifer Sullivan, apparently with an assist from Green’s reporting from the police blotter. The difference in the “style” and substance of the reporting is striking. Green’s story indicates sloppy, lazy reporting, disinterest and a casual assumptions about males, and apparently stereotypes about certain racial groups. Sullivan, on the other hand, took the time to put a human face on the victims, depriving bigots of making assumptions and prejudices that Green preferred to leave behind. 

You think I’m making that up as I go along? In response to email I wrote about her advocacy “journalism” style that little more than personal opinion than fact, Green wrote back to me in an indignant (to put it gently) huff that she claimed to have seen many horrible crimes committed against women; since women—and white women in particular—are the least likely demographic to victimized by violent crime, it was clear that she is selective in her world view. Perhaps what she had “seen” were shelters for victims of domestic violence, or at least those who claim to be. I once read a story in one of the local weeklies years ago where the writer of an article admitted that of the women in shelters like this were—to put it in the most sympathetic light—“difficult” to be around or otherwise feel empathy for (unless, of course, you believe their stories—as some fanatics did of Jodi Arias’). 

Green also sees prostitutes as “victims,” although the irony, of course, is that it is the prostitutes who are preying on the weakness of a few men for money. But what struck me in particular was the obvious misandrist attitude of Green and her belief in an inflated gender myths, and I suspect her attitude toward the victims of this shooting was “colored” by current stereotypes about Hispanic males. I wrote to an editor about the evidence of the philosophical underpinning of Green’s reporting, and he asked me to send Green’s missive to him. I don’t think Green responds to readers any more—unless, of course, they share her misandrist attitude.

In regard to the Auburn shooting, I felt compelled to send an email to Green commenting on her first report and how much it differed in “outrage” when the victim was a (white) female. I didn’t receive a response, but surprisingly the Times printed another story on the shooting—surprising because the victims were Hispanic—on Friday, of which Green took sole credit. Perhaps also not surprising, Green had another agenda, to “justify” her first report. It began with the “facts” of the case: “Was well-known to police as a “violent street-gang member,” court records show…Froilan Hermenegildo was arrested along with his 16-year-old girlfriend…bail was set at $2 million.” The 13-year-old son who escaped was quoted as saying the shooter simply drove up to the stop they were waiting at, offered some unsolicited commentary that resulted in a “What’s your problem” exchange, eventually leading to the aforementioned final denouement. 

But after those previously reported facts, Green got down to her real business, noting that the shooter is connected to the Rancho San Pedro, a Latino street gang supposedly connected to the “Mexican Mafia,” whatever that is; Green probably just made it up. The RSP is your typical neighborhood gang centered in an impoverished housing project in San Pedro, California, and while it has a history typical of gangs, it isn’t connected to some mythical “Mexican Mafia,” which Green was probably told by someone who also doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.

Furthermore, the suspect is not Latino, but Filipino. Latino gang violence in this state is of a rather lesser degree than that of certain other demographics, and this particularly violent character is likely the kind who because he was Asian and not Latino, thought it would improve his street “cred” by being more violent, out-of-control and conscious of “respect”—just another word for inspiring suitable “fear” in another person. Green’s is obviously out of her league when it comes to thinking outside her insular, self-obsessed white female worldview.

The upshot is that whenever you read in report in a newspaper, don’t assume that “objectivity” is the standard, because many reporters are poisoned by a personal agenda.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

“Calm” and “commanding” won’t bring back Benghazi martyrs of Clinton’s bungling

Do Hillary Clinton’s fawning (or desperate) supporters in the media really take us for imbeciles and empty vessels to be “filled” by their propaganda? “Commanding” has been a term frequently used to describe Clinton by the media of late, most usually to either neuter any positive impression voters might have of Bernie Sanders and his positions—and ignore her lack of standing for anything other than her own ego—or off-set any negative impression that voters might have about her disingenuousness and deception about, say, the Benghazi tragedy in which Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed by local insurgents, likely inspired by Al-Qaeda operatives. 

During the new congressional hearings on the event, the media reported that Clinton was “calm” and “commanding,” but failed to mention that she illuminated almost nothing. She claimed to take “responsibility” for the tragedy; yet while she implied that she personally did not deny the requested extra security for the Benghazi mission, this allows one to speculate that her devoted disciples did it for her, since the needed security never happened, despite the fact it was Clinton’s personal “responsibility.” 

Clinton spent much of the hearing burnishing her limpid diplomatic record, higher on calories than protein. One thing Clinton is good at is talking (and sounding “commanding”), but as famous line in that Wendy’s commercial from years back went, “Where’s the beef?” Clinton can’t point to one single positive thing that can be credited to her during her four years as Secretary of State, save some personal gender-related projects. In the meantime, Clinton’s many supporters in the media characterized her interrogators as engaging in juvenile nitpicking and bullying, in contrast to Clinton’s “calm” and “commanding” demeanor. Uh-huh. I suppose on one level it can be said that the Republicans on the committee were allowing their frustrations to show from Clinton’s stolid front of non-accountability and obfuscation. Is she a pathological fibber? Is she well versed in the art of disingenuousness and deception? Is she in self-denial, perhaps because she sees herself as a “victim”? Or is she actually telling the truth, that she was out of touch with the reality on the ground as we are then forced to believe? 

Let me leave you with this thought: When Barack Obama was first elected president, the country was in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. His election brought an expectation of “change,” and if you count health care reform, that was “change” of high magnitude, and many people who oppose it now will eventually grudgingly concede the need for it. Before the Democrats were knocked out of the House, a jobs bill, an auto industry bailout and an admittedly watered-down financial industry regulation bill was passed. While the Republicans now only promise to roll back the country to chaos, what is Clinton offering as an alternative, other than impressing her supporters in the media by appearing “presidential”? That she will be the first female president? Will we be “entertained” by the tit-for-tat between a sarcastic Clinton and indignant Republicans? That Clinton will show her true “colors” like her husband did and “compromise” with Republicans on policies that hurt the most vulnerable people in this country? At least Sanders stands for something other than himself.