Saturday, August 29, 2009

You, Sir, Are Wrong

While Jason La Canfora helmed the good ship Redskins Insider he had a reputation for being a hater. To be more precise, he let his (alleged) dislike of the organization pepper many of his posts, even posts with subjects unrelated to decisions made by the organization.

La Canfora's Insder posts were frequently duplicitous; in one paragraph he'd land a jab, in the next he'd ice the bruise. While throwing jabs is what any objective journalist should do (leaving aside what objectivity a reporter should bring to a blogging role), regular readers of Insider noticed the jabs were of the nasty sort, and the ice was never very cold.

Posts critical of top-Skins brass (Snyder and Cerrato) often relied anonymous execs, scouts, or sources from around the league. Some of his commenters mused that many of these league execs were Jason himself.

Plus, he's a Ravens fan.

Anyway, he leapt from a readership of mindless Redskins homers to league wide reporting and blogging for NFL junkies on the Network. He recently issued his picks for the 2009 season and, based on his background of blog bias against the burgundy and gold, I was interested to read his take on the NFC East.
NFC East
Winner: Eagles. This has been a real struggle for me, with the Eagles and Giants both suffering significant losses this preseason...I'll stick with the Eagles for now, but not by much, and this smells like a three-team race to me.

Loser: Redskins. The Redskins look like a team with a top-5 defense and a bottom-5-10 offense, which is roughly what they have been for five years now. Winning 7-8 games seems about right -- they'd beat[sic] start quickly before the schedule and weather turn severe -- which probably puts them bottom of the pack, unless a division foe gets ravaged by injuries.

Now maybe Jason is right in claim but he's absolutely wrong in substance. Way wrong.

Putting aside the Redskins 2 playoff appearances in the last 4 seasons. Forgetting that just last year they swept the Eagles, who went on to the NFC championship game. Chuck out our 13-17 record against the NFL east the past 5 years; a record that includes 2 coaching changes and 3 offensive coordinators (a better metric would be our 3-3 record just last year, Jim Zorn's first). Let's not posit that, given big-name departures and preseason injuries in the East, the Redskins actually appear to be the most stable team in the division.

Nope. None of that.

Let's just look at the claim—the entire basis of Jason's prediction—that the Redskins have been a bottom 10-5 offense over the past 5 seasons.

2008 #19 (ahead of the Superbowl winning Steelers (#22))
2007 #15 (ahead of the Superbowl winning Giants (#16))
2006 #13 (ahead of the NFC champion Bears (#15))
2005 #11 (ahead of the AFC champion Superbowl winning Steelers #15))
2004 #30 (...OK he has our number here)

So, in the last five years they've been a bottom 5-10 offense once. And, to add an asterisk, the one year was Joe Gibbs' first, playing with a Spurrier squad. Not exactly the cellar dwellers he claims they are.

…but, wait-wait-wait, he probably meant the Redskins were bad at scoring points (though the top-5 D is derived using the same system, yds/g, so it hardly seems fair to mix and match methodologies). 2 of the last 5 years featured the Redskins among the NFL's 10 worst point scorers. One of those, again, Joe Gibbs' first year righting a very wronged ship; the other, Jim Zorn's first. Two new coaches, two point scoring deficient seasons.

La Canfora probably tried to slide this by the editors:
8-8 feels about right, given their division and what I percieve to be their talent level. I don't even think an improved D and a year of marriage between Zorn and Campbell will help. Given that I berated the organization for not drafting o-linemen, and chided the picks of David, Kelly and Thomas, I'm going to double-down and root for failure. Hey, I've invested too much time inveighing against those draft picks to even consider the possibility that even one of them could produce this year. Nope. Not going to do it. Hell, 8-8 is liberal of me really.

His pick could be accurate if it read:
The Redskins have shown productivity on the offensive side of the ball where yardage is concerned, but have struggled to convert those yards in to points. Part of the problem is the absence of big play (insert paltry big play stats here), the other is a top-5 D that in 2008 didn't force many turnovers or score any points (1 of 4 teams without a defensive TD in 2008). Though the additions of Albert Haynsworth and rookie DE Brian Orakpo may remedy the problem of too-few forced turnovers, they came at the expense of an aging O-Line that stuggled to stay healthy in 2008. I again see them starting strong in 2009, but, as last year with a 6-2 start turned 2-6, just one major o-line injury could leave this team again mourning past draft picks traded for aging vets, when o-line depth could have been addressed.

See Jason, I even managed to jab Cerrato.

Whatever. It's hard, I'm sure, to know the ins-and-outs of 32 squads but if you make a statistical claim, dammit check that it's an accurate one. Otherwise, Jason, you're what your haters always said you were: A hater.

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