Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bye-Week Rant II: Talking Chiefs, Broncos, Baseball, and Media with Old No. 7

Technically, we're past the bye week, but regardless of how your favorite NFL team is playing, I imagine most pro-football fans would agree that the bye week is the toughest stretch of the gridiron season. To help kill these 14 days, Old No. 7 and I sat down to talk, among other things, AFC West. And if this chatter interests you, check out our conversation from two years ago, or my Chiefs free-agent post.

bankmeister: This past spring you said you were certain the NFL would miss some games thanks to the lockout. Share with me what your thought process was regarding such conviction. What was your foundation for it beyond the dolla’-dolla’ bill?

Old No. 7: At that time, it seemed to me that the owners were steadfast in their resolve to break the union. To be more precise, there was a faction of hard-line asshole owners who appeared ready to sacrifice the season in order to absolutely crush the players with the new collective-bargaining agreement. They wanted to radically alter the previous arrangement and swing hundreds of millions of dollars their way. The union, to their credit, was unwilling to agree to such a horrendously shitty deal. Thus, I thought we’d miss games.

Fortunately for people who like watching football, those hard-line owners were overruled by more reasonable dudes. Make no mistake: the owners still “won” this negotiation. They got shithauls of concessions, and all they had to give up was some mandatory practice time. Owners don’t care about practice time, and coaches weren’t represented at the bargaining table. It was a moderately bad deal for the players, but they’re still rich, and so are the owners, and we got a season. Hoo-ray.

bankmeister: If you feel that the work stoppage hurt teams, how do you quantify it? It seems that this year has seen all-time highs in terms of season-ending injuries, specifically with ACL and Achilles’ heel blowouts. Explore the theory that a lot of these guys simply can’t be trusted to keep in top shape on their own during the off-season.

Old No. 7: The lockout hurt everyone the same, from the standpoint that no one could work out or sign players while it was going on. Sure, this affected some teams more than others. Veteran teams that brought most everyone back were most likely affected the least due to their continuity, whereas younger teams/players and clubs that fundamentally altered their foundations might have seen more disruption. But what’s done is done, and that’s the cost of doing business in the NFL. They needed a new CBA, it’s clear that both sides needed a doomsday deadline to take negotiations seriously, and we got a deal. Do you feel that the lockout’s impact was not distributed evenly among all 32 teams?

bankmeister: No. I think it seems pretty clear that everyone was hurt on an equal level.

Old No. 7: Right. I would absolutely dispute that we’ve seen more injuries than normal this year, specifically more ACLs or Achilles’es. I recall speculation from almost every season in recent memory about this phenomenon, yet when someone actually digs through the data we find out that it’s not true. It’s football, and guys get hurt. Plus, what little I know about physiology tells me that what’s at risk if players are not in top condition are muscle and tendon (like hamstring) pulls, not ligament tears. ACLs are neither in shape nor not in shape; they just are. They get torn from violent, unnatural movements, not a lack of conditioning. My observation is that the vast majority of NFL players keep themselves in premium condition year round, lockout or no, and I haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary that’s anything more than anecdotal.

bankmeister: Interesting. Obviously, it’s too new still, but tell me about your initial thoughts on being a Denver Broncos season-ticket holder.

Old No. 7: Other than the fact that it sucked up a buttload of money I didn’t have, I love it. I’ve attended one game, which was happily the only game Denver won this year. The weather was beautiful, my kids were well-behaved, and going to a game live is nearly always a blast.

And luckily, I was able to recoup most of my costs for the season package. Friends and family purchased some games, and I sold the rest online. In fact, I parted ways with my final tickets just last week. For this I must thank Our Lord and Savior Tim Tebow. His legions of slack-jawed, inbred disciples have created far more demand for Bronco seats.

bankmeister: Slack-jawed and inbred? You have Chiefs fans in the Tebow fan club?

Old No. 7: Zing! I look at these tickets as an investment for my family. Going to a few games a year will become our traditional ritual, and when my kids are spoiled teenagers this will be one more tedious, embarrassing exercise to be tolerated with their loser dad. I can’t wait! Also, it’s possible that in 15 years the Broncos won’t be terrible.

bankmeister: Speaking of losers, when Josh McDaniels was handed a pink slip, you talked about the lack of importance in finding “the right guy” to replace him, that the team’s problems were huge in terms of personnel, that it was more important to get some quality talent in the building, develop the roster, and reassess the coaching situation after a few seasons. Has that philosophy changed at all or remained the same? How?

Old No. 7: I feel exactly the same.

bankmeister: Tell me about John Fox five weeks in, and what’s the deal with Knowshon Moreno? Is he struggling to stay healthy? Does he really only have 10 carries on the season? What’s your confidence level that he’ll bounce back and be a contributor?

Old No. 7: Fox first: He’s coached five games, and the talent level on his team is atrocious. I’m trying to be patient before passing judgment. Allow me to reveal at this time that right now I’m following the Denver Broncos in a much different way than I ever have. I watch the games, and I consume national football media like Pro Football Talk and ESPN, and I text Cecil and a few other friends, and that’s it. I don’t catch any local Denver media outside an occasional random bit on the evening news. I quit reading Bronco blogs. When it became clear that the only theme anyone covering the Broncos this year wanted to pursue was Tim Tebow, I checked out.

So I have a very limited frame of reference when it comes to assessing Fox and this team other than the results. And I have to tell you, it’s pretty nice. You know me, I normally love all the chatter and speculation and talk-radio soap opera, but I simply can’t do the Tebow thing. It’s an affront to logic. I will say that Fox seems competent, and I’m willing to buy into his commitment to rebuild the team via defense and the running game. The roster does not allow this yet, but I’ll give it some time. I’ve heard sporadic complaints about his conservative play-calling, and I’ve heard yahoos call for his job. But I prefer to ignore the ignorant mob.

As for Knowshon, he’s been hurt a lot. He doesn’t get massive, catastrophic injuries, but he’s suffered an endless string of nagging little boo-boos that cause him to miss parts of games and a couple weeks here and there. This makes it impossible to say with any certainty whether he’s good or not, but I’m just going to speculate that he’s fucking terrible. I think he’s a miserable bitch, a horrible football player, and a bad person.

Look, running backs are the most disposable, replaceable commodity in professional football. There are a few that are special, and everyone else is reliant on scheme, health and luck. Knowshon is not special. He’s fast and athletic, and if he found himself in the right situation someday he might be able to put up some fine numbers. But there is absolutely nothing separating him from about a hundred backup RBs in the NFL right now. I mean, he’s been benched in favor of Willis McGahee, who I’m pretty sure played high school football with Bill Cosby.

bankmeister: Wait. What? Miserable bitch? Horrible football player? Bad person? I thought he was (initially) regarded as one of the best selections y’all’ve made in the last six or seven years.

I’m no draftnik (at least not on the level of Cecil), so I have no idea what the conventional wisdom is or was on Knowshon’s pick. I loved his skills, and when he was drafted I loved the idea of what he might do for the Broncos. I do remember McDaniels justifying the selection by talking about how polished of a receiver Knowshon was for a college RB, but McDaniels’ offense rarely throws the ball to running backs. And again, he can’t stay healthy.

Adrian Peterson was a top-10 pick who was worth it. Darren McFadden overcame injuries to get to that point as well. But by and large, NFL teams have abandoned the idea of burning high picks on RBs. They’re also starting to sour on giving elite RBs big extensions. Given the volatility at the position, I think I’m on board with both trends. Knowshon has not been worth the resources spent to acquire him, although I don’t actually think he’s a bad person. He might truly be a swell dude.

Last year, you said something to the effect of, “Kyle Orton is a beacon of light in a steaming cesspool of suck.” We revisited that topic not long ago, and you seemed to still support the notion. In my estimation, his play seemed solid enough through two, maybe two and-a-half weeks. Did his performance fall off enough to warrant the benching, or is it the ol’ gotta-see-what-the-young-kid’s-got kind of thing?

Old No. 7: Because of my rabid distaste for Tebow, I’ve been accused of being an Orton apologist or even a full-fledged Orton fan. I’m neither. I think he got a raw deal from the fans and the media, but he absolutely played himself out of his job. Orton quarterbacked the Broncos at a reasonably high level for two and a half months last year before sucking and giving way to Tebow. This year, he’s been insanely bad. I still think he could help some team out there in a situation where he is not mercilessly booed by his home fans after every incompletion.

bankmeister: Switching gears, you and I seem to have gone in opposite-baseball directions in the past 18 months. I know you’ve always been a superfan, but you seem to have gone to even another level. Is this accurate, or am I misreading?

Old No. 7: I don’t think the intensity of my baseball fandom has increased at all. If anything, the time demands of my rapidly multiplying offspring have made me follow baseball a lot less. What I’ve done is transformed myself into a much more efficient baseball fan through technology and acquired knowledge.

Sabermetrics is part of this because it allows me to cut through 90 per cent of the romanticized garbage in which traditional baseball coverage traffics. Either this team/player/manager/strategic decision works, or he/it doesn’t. And if he/it works, then the data will prove it. This saves time and eliminates a lot of BS.
I’ve also selected a small group of incredibly talented baseball writers to read and follow on Twitter. And thus I can stay on top of the game, even if I don’t have time to watch a ton of actual games. I’d imagine that this is the same approach you apply to your beloved hockey, no?

bankmeister: Yes and no. I mean, the television is almost never on in our house anymore. Our evenings –- thanks, as you mentioned, to the offspring -– are absolutely slammed, and by the time the dishes are done, it’s pillow-thirty. I do follow the NHL’s feed, a few Blues handles, and good old Buccigross, but Blues games haven’t been televised by my cable provider for a couple of seasons now, so I’m pretty much out of the loop, save the occasional rarity.

What did you make of the Boston Globe article regarding your Red Sox?

Old No. 7: The particular article you reference was horrible. It encapsulates everything I dislike about being a Red Sox fan, namely other Red Sox fans, the Boston media, and the suffocating narcissism of the entire enterprise.
The 2011 Red Sox choked, pure and simple. They choked as a team, and every single element of the team contributed to their demise. Every player, every manager and coach, every member of the front office. I get that when things go this wrong after expectations have been raised so high, heads roll. Terry Francona and Theo Epstein are gone, which is insane to me. You know how I feel about managers and how their impact is completely overvalued. That being said, making Francona the scapegoat for this mess is beyond stupid. He’s eminently competent in that position, as is Theo in his. I don’t know how much of their departures were quitting, or getting fired, but it doesn’t matter. They’re scapegoats for the failures of others.

This is why that Globe article was such an abortion of the dying art of journalism. It threw every tired, disproved stereotype of a losing team into a giant shitpile with no attempt to perform a rational autopsy of the season. It was pure gossip and spite, which is fine from the standpoint that millions of people take the Red Sox way too seriously and they’re angry. But to stick that load of crap under the banner of a reputable American publication was embarrassing. Call me a na├»ve sap, but I still believe a little bit in the integrity of certain media entities. I know you do, too. I hope you would hold your hometown Star to a higher standard than what appears in that story.

Now, I have one burning question for you, and it’s this:

The way you follow the Chiefs is much, much different from how I follow the Broncos. You live in Kansas City, whereas I no longer live in Denver. You’re immersed in discussion of your team, which of course has its benefits and drawbacks. Prior to Tebow’s arrival in Denver, I loved the constant hubbub of Bronco Nation. I love the year-round speculation about the roster, management, the blind homerism, the definitive ignorance of all of us fools. Because we were all in it together.

As I said, I’ve checked out for a while. I think I’ll be back, but I kind of like stepping away from the nutbag echo chamber that is obsessively following my team 24/7/365. I may consider staying.

How much enjoyment do you derive from following the Chiefs? I’m not talking about enjoying the wins or hating the losses, I’m talking about The Process. What you read in the Star, what you listen to on the radio, what you inhale on the blogs, what you ingest from the dude at the grocery store or the bar. Does all of this make your Chief fandom more or less pleasant?

bankmeister: Bear with me while I draw a long, non-parallel answer up for you: I’m always behind the times. When the world went CD and DVD, I clutched my cassette and VHS tapes as if they were my last possession. I still own zero high-definition televisions, I don’t D.V. the Rs, and my phone, while perfectly functional, is not of the smart variety. There are always setbacks –- some more significant than others –- that go with this stubbornness, but I always seem to hold out for some reason. I tell you that to tell you this: Tweets come to my phone in SMS form when I select this option from particular followers.

By and large, this methodology might be the biggest love/hate relationship I’ve ever experienced. It’s a constant juggle to unselect the phone option on followers that tweet a lot, but not a lot of their tweets are of significant, immediate interest. My latest example would be the almighty Joe Posnanski. Since he moved, he’s no longer talking Royals or Chiefs, or anything of real interest to me. In short, he’s tweeting MLB playoffs, Penn State football, Apple products, and commercials, and it’s driving me insane. In fact, I may, once we wrap this up, unclick that icon on his page.

As I’m sure yours does, too, my phone buzzes a lot. I get texts from friends and family, radio stations, and the SMS tweets. Therefore, many many times since joining Twitter, I’ve wanted to smash the thing on the ground. For example, at that Broncos @ Chiefs game a couple years ago where Denver scored like 17 touchdowns to our two field goals and our wives drank eight liters of Schnapps, I was following your boy Whitlock at the time, and I think he tweeted 20-plus times during that contest.

The point is that I love Twitter, but I have purposely refrained from purchasing a smart phone because I make unhealthy commitments to things that jazz me up, i.e. this blog when we started it, Sports-Talk Radio, Twitter, etc., and then I struggle to adjust. Right now, I don’t really read the Chiefs blogs anymore, but I’ll follow a link if it sounds appealing on Twitter, and I definitely take in every word from the guys at the Star. Also, the Sports Talk stuff has sort of spun out of control for me. These days they announce what times they’ll be doing certain segments and I make significant commitments to try and catch them.

The worst part is that they usually drive me bananas. Translation: I almost always disagree and find myself needing to drive to the nearest playground so’s I can punch a few kids in the neck. The Sports-Talk relationship is just like the Twitter-SMS thing: I might like it a little better if I could find the right balance.

To finally get to an answer, I freaking hate it. Everyone’s an expert. Everyone’s “leaking” stuff. Everyone knows that if the Chiefs would only do things their way, they’d already have a Lombardi being wheeled out to them on a pedestal. It’s absurd, and frankly, nothing sounds better than what you’ve described as your current regimen for Bronco consumption.

Old No. 7: And what is your current take on Todd Haley and Scott Pioli? I’m not asking what the consensus in KC is and how you agree or disagree with that consensus. I’m asking if you think these guys are the right guys for the job and if you think they’ll stick long-term.

bankmeister: It’s really hard to parse through that thought process while avoiding the consensus, but here goes: I like Scott Pioli’s approach, and more importantly, I really liked it when he got here. Right now it’s tough because a lot of his draft picks haven’t panned out, and as I let that thought out, I wonder whether or not that’s simply the case with front offices across the league. I mean, I guess it’d be cool if you had a formula like quarterback rating or one of your sabermetric deal-y-bobs that could translate successful-pick ratios into quantitative form. In the end, much more time is needed. I really can’t see Clark Hunt firing Pioli anytime soon unless things get wicked ugly. And more importantly in my book, I don’t think Pioli should fire Haley anytime soon.

I’ve really come to appreciate his style of coaching. The number of key players that have really thrived under him in two seasons and change is admirable, and he’s got a great sense of humor, too. Also, I can relate to a guy who fails triumphantly to keep his emotions in check. Lord knows I’ve done that a few hundred times only to recognize later how stupid I looked.

Back to you for the wrap: Everyone’s hoping that they’ll win “The Price is Right” showcase that comes with Andrew Luck. Is it too early for you to be thinking 2012? Do you want your team to nab this kid? The good old Stanford Redux? Or are there other guys in the NCAA that would equally suit you? Do you have faith in Fox, etc. to have a solid draft in April?

Old No. 7: Yes, I want Luck. I have very little doubt that he’ll be at least a high-quality NFL QB, and there’s a strong chance he’ll be a franchise player.
There are simply too many moving parts, however, to actually plan or wish for that to become reality. The Broncos would need to lose an awful lot of football games, which, of course, they’re doing anyway. Other teams would have to lose even more. Luck could get hurt. A meteor could strike the earth’s surface. There’s a lot that can happen between now and April. But assuming the current status quo stays in place, yeah, I’m all like Suck For Luck.