Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tales of a vulture (as featured on ESPN's TrueHoop)


I hover above the struggling bodies.

They crawl, one arm in front of the other, across the barren desert. There is nothing on the horizon, no structures, no trees, no sign of hope. Just empty miles of sand.

I watch them from above, hungry, waiting for my chance to swoop down and devour the carrion. I can smell the meat, I can picture the feast.

But they keep crawling, and I keep circling.

One seems to slip behind the pack. He looks exhausted, like there's no point in moving any longer. He's tired, he's going to lay down.

But a short man in a suit helps him up with a wry eye toward the sky.

I am a basketball vulture.

In 2008, when Clay Bennett and Co. ripped the collective heart out of the city of Seattle by stealing our NBA franchise, the Seattle SuperSonics, I watched every minute of it happen. I was witness to one of the most despicable acts in sports history. This was no fight in the stands, it was no post-game riot, it was the disembowelment of a city's soul. I heard the Save Our Sonics chants, I saw the rallies and the picket boards. I read Sherman Alexie, the great poet and author, as he begged and pleaded for the team to stay, for the city to help, for anyone to stop this dumbfounding madness that was happening in front of our eyes and outside of our control.

I wept the day the team left, listening to the radio in disbelief like I was listening to a phone call that a close relative had passed away.

I watch my team, MY TEAM, play in different colored uniforms, with different names, different fans, different faces. They don't look like the same players I knew, they look haunted by their forced hands. I scowl at the name as it flashes on TV or my computer screen. I cringe when I sift through box scores and see they've won. But I'm tired now, I've given up hope that my Seattle Sonics will ever come back to town.

And so I wait.

The NBA is in full swing now. LeBron is dancing. Oden is injured. Artest is drunk and falling down a flight of stairs.

But it's not my NBA anymore. I'm still drifting in thermals above the fray. I don't want to be here, I don't want to be looking for a meal, but I'm starved, deprived, hurt and vengeful. I want to sink my teeth into an unfortunate carcass as the last breath leaves the body. I'm talking about you, Sacramento. You too, New Orleans.

And yet, I see the bodies struggling, financial disasters so dramatic David Stern had to loan out millions upon millions to his own teams to keep them from falling dead in the sand, and I start to lose my appetite. I don't want that meat. It's tainted, it's cannibalistic. I don't want to become the very thing that I loathe. I don't want to succumb to the very thing that destroyed basketball in Seattle. If another team fails and we reap the benefits, I simply become the man in the desert and another fan, another city, becomes the vulture. The NBA shouldn't be so karmic.

But what am I supposed to do? Every loss, every injury, every mistake in the front office from one of the failing franchises feels like a glimmer of hope. I start to descend, slowly, in a wide, mile-long circle. I feel so light, I can smell the meat from here. But that man in the suit reappears, "Have some water," he says.

I'm torn. The fans of those other cities don't deserve what happened to us. I see little kids wearing Sonics jerseys on the street, knowing they'll never get to watch another Sonics game at the Key. I see little kids with vintage Payton and Kemp jerseys. They weren't there for the glory years, but through the jersey alone, they get to somehow be a part of it. They get to extend into the past, and the past gets to extend into the present.

But our present is gone. We just have the past. We have memories and images and players and names. We have shared joy and shared defeat. We all have that, as a city, collectively. There is a void here now, an emptiness in the winter that no one wants to talk about. The NBA is a four-letter word, as it should be, but we still miss pro basketball.

Every fan in this city still has that hope, the hope that one day the NBA will return to Seattle. And so we hover above the bodies, the water-starved souls, conflicted but desperate, hoping that a body will finally drop, succumb to the harsh environment. Will the man in the suit ever let it happen? I don't know. Do we even want it to happen? I don't think so. But we're out of options, league expansion will never happen under Stern's watch. League contraction won't either. We are simply stuck, stuck in the clouds looking down, waiting ... waiting.

I am a basketball vulture; perhaps I'm always meant to be one.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Matt Hasselbeck is not a good quarterback


These past few weeks have been brutal, haven't they Seahawks fans?

The sinking ship that was the Seahawks franchise is in monumental disarray: No veteran talent, no young talent, bad coaches, lost leadership, no General Manager, injury issues, pathetic offensive and defensive execution, and a complete lack of passion and heart.

But there has been one constant that has remained above the fray of angry sports writers, radio hosts, and Seahawks fans:

Matt Hasselbeck.

I'm not sure if it's his temperate grin, his baby-bald head, or his "Gee shucks" sense of humor about losing, but for some reason, people in Seattle love their quarterback. Last week he had five turnovers, at home, against a 1-12 team, in one of the worst losses in the history of the franchise. So what were people saying?


"[Hasselbeck will] walk in here in a few minutes and probably take the blame for the game. And he shouldn't. The guy is doing an excellent job leading this football team on the field." -Head Coach Jim Mora

"He'll bounce back quickly." -Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp (apologies for his title, I realize "coordinator" implies that the offense is ... well ... coordinated)

"Don't blame Hasselbeck for Sunday's defeat." -Seattle Times NFL reporter Danny O'Neil

"I believe Hass will be fine once he has an O-Line and isn't held together with bubblegum and bailing wire." -Seahawks fan's comment on the Seattle Times Web site


I became intrigued by all the talk about Hasselbeck (or lack thereof). Nearly every caller into KJR 950 sports radio in Seattle would haphazardly toss into the conversation, "He's a Pro-Bowler," referring to the three times Hasselbeck has received a Pro-Bowl nod at the end of the season.

But I've been watching the games, I've seen a weak-armed Hasselbeck underthrow receivers (on the rare occasion he actually throws beyond three or four yards). I've seen a shaky Hasselbeck dissolve into the turf under any type of defensive pressure. I've seen the "Pro-Bowler" throw dumbfounding picks, misread defenses and routes, refuse to audible out of doomed plays, mismanage time, mismanage yardage, and generally mismanage the offense. That's a reflection of the play-calling, no doubt about that, but a "good" quarterback, as Hasselbeck is constantly referred to, makes adjustments and succeeds. That's the bottom line. Make adjustments and win some damn games.

Is Hasselbeck really a good quarterback?

I decided to compare his stats, using an arbitrary amount of games to establish a "career standard," and compared statistical careers of 33 current NFL quarterbacks. I call it my "300 Theory" ... 300 games, equal footing, and let the math get Muppets on the situation. These numbers are statistical forecasting and in no way can factor in injures, benchings, trades, etc. However, they are a forecasting snapshot, an educated, research-based estimate, of relative statistical comparison.

As Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre currently has 287 games played, highest among all active quarterbacks, 300 games was chosen as the control number to create statistical equivalency. Some of the numbers are skewed, of course, based on players who have had extremely short careers (Detroit Lions QB Matt Stafford, a rookie, would be on pace for an extraordinary amount of interceptions if he were to play 300 games), and extremely long careers, but what this really comes down to is relativity.

Is Hasselbeck an accurate passer, relative to the rest of the league? Does Hasselbeck get sacked a lot? Does he throw a lot of touchdowns in comparison to all other quarterbacks? Interceptions? Does he throw a lot of deep passes?

These are the questions that are addressed in eye-opening fashion through the statistical forecasted analysis. The numbers speak for themselves.


The 300 Theory: A Statistical Breakdown

Player Team G Compl. % Yds Yds/G Yards/Compl. TD INT TD/INT Ratio 20+ 40+ Sck
Kurt Warner ARI 300 65.5 78,690 262.3 7.9 507 315 1.61 1020 187 634
Matt Ryan ATL 300 59.8 63,030 210.1 7.2 354 246 1.43 761 129 343
Joe Flacco BAL 300 62.1 63,150 210.5 7.2 330 230 1.43 770 180 600
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF 300 57.5 42,300 141 5.6 193 289 0.67 332 75 739
Jake Delhomme CAR 300 59.2 61,530 205.1 7.2 380 291 1.31 807 170 495
Jay Cutler CHI 300 62 71,430 238.1 7.1 429 365 1.18 888 124 482
Carson Palmer CIN 300 63.4 70,590 235.3 7.2 478 296 1.62 843 171 505
Brady Quinn CLE 300 52.1 40,770 135.9 5.4 214 193 1.11 364 85.7 429
Tony Romo DAL 300 63.2 53,520 178.4 8.1 385 196 1.96 741 170 356
Kyle Orton DEN 300 57.6 54,270 180.9 6.3 300 223 1.34 600 95.7 530
Matthew Stafford DET 300 53.3 68,010 226.7 6 390 600 0.65 780 180 720
Aaron Rodgers GB 300 63.8 67,530 225.1 7.7 462 170 2.71 803 259 746
Matt Schaub HOU 300 65.5 42,570 141.9 7.8 223 154 1.45 527 130 300
Peyton Manning IND 300 64.8 78,690 262.3 7.7 578 284 2.03 971 171 339
David Garrard JAC 300 61 55,200 184 7 274 154 1.78 664 60 604
Matt Cassel KC 300 59.3 45,240 150.8 6.6 265 181 1.46 516 83.7 642
Chad Henne MIA 300 59.3 49,650 165.5 6.4 200 240 0.83 400 80 420
Brett Favre MIN 300 61.9 71,790 239.3 7.1 513 331 1.55 863 165 523
Tom Brady NE 300 63.2 71,790 239.3 7.3 522 231 2.26 860 165 515
Drew Brees NO 300 64.6 75,330 251.1 7.4 498 273 1.83 964 188 392
Eli Manning NYG 300 56.7 62,790 209.3 6.7 428 293 1.46 741 145 493
Mark Sanchez NYJ 300 53.5 52,500 175 6.9 277 462 0.6 785 185 554
Bruce Gradkowski OAK 300 53.3 32,580 108.6 5.4 173 185 0.94 335 57.7 485
Donovan McNabb PHI 300 59.1 66,420 221.4 6.9 438 203 2.15 861 214 717
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 300 63.4 66,420 221.4 8 434 282 1.54 872 180 829
Philip Rivers SD 300 62.9 66,300 221 7.8 468 205 2.29 864 150 464
Matt Hasselbeck SEA 300 60.3 51,060 170.2 7 316 206 1.53 625 76 534
Alex Smith SF 300 56 48,120 160.4 5.9 256 315 0.81 622 95.1 724
Marc Bulger STL 300 62.1 71,280 237.6 7.2 381 291 1.31 950 125 794
Josh Freeman TB 300 53.5 52,950 176.5 6.2 338 525 0.64 788 75 600
Kerry Collins TEN 300 55.7 62,610 208.7 6.6 311 303 1.03 780 117 517
Vince Young TEN 300 58 45,930 153.1 6.7 223 251 0.89 558 76.7 426
Jason Campbell WAS 300 61.1 62,280 207.6 6.7 318 222 1.43 690 102 624


Across the board, Hasselbeck appears to be a lot lower in areas where he's often lauded. And in comparison with the rest of the league, pouring over this data causes significant head-scratching.

His career completion percentage is just 60.3 percent?
His average yards per game is 170.2 ypg?
His touchdown to interception ratio isn't that great?
He's the 10th-least productive quarterback on throws over 20+ yards?
He's the third-least productive quarterback on throws over 40+ yards?
It's also telling that he's near the bottom in total times sacked? Think about that ...

But it's hard to sift through all of that data and really understand what we're looking at.

So ranking the players by their numbers in each critical category clears through the fog and shows exactly what type of quarterback the Seattle Seahawks have, the same quarterback our future is on hold for so that he can get healthy, the same quarterback we entrust year-after-year to stay healthy even though his body is worn to the point of no return, the same quarterback we excuse after every game and shake misguided fists at the football gods for what they've done to poor Matt Hasselbeck's protection. If he only had more time, he'd be legendary ... or so they say.

The numbers, however, disagree.

The 300 Theory: Rankings Per Category

Player Team Compl. % Yds Yds/G Yards/Compl. TD INT TD/INT Ratio 20+ 40+ Sck 300
Peyton Manning IND 3 2 2 7 1 19 5 2 10 2 53
Drew Brees NO 4 3 3 9 5 18 6 3 3 5 59
Kurt Warner ARI 1 1 1 3 4 28 10 1 4 25 78
Tom Brady NE 9 4 4 8 2 14 3 10 13 15 82
Philip Rivers SD 10 13 13 4 6 8 2 6 15 8 85
Aaron Rodgers GB 5 10 10 6 9 3 1 13 1 32 90
Carson Palmer CIN 7 9 9 12 7 25 8 12 8 14 111
Tony Romo DAL 8 22 22 1 14 6 7 21 12 4 117
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 6 12 12 2 10 20 11 7 7 33 120
Donovan McNabb PHI 22 11 11 20 8 9 4 8 2 27 122
Brett Favre MIN 14 5 5 15 3 30 12 9 14 17 124
Jay Cutler CHI 13 7 7 16 12 29 23 5 19 10 141
Marc Bulger STL 12 6 6 10 15 22 21 4 20 31 147
Joe Flacco BAL 11 14 14 11 20 13 17 18 9 21 148
Matt Ryan ATL 18 15 15 13 17 16 18 20 18 3 153
Matt Schaub HOU 2 29 29 5 30 1 16 28 17 1 158
Jake Delhomme CAR 21 20 20 14 16 23 22 11 11 13 171
Eli Manning NYG 26 16 16 21 11 24 15 19 16 11 175
David Garrard JAC 16 19 19 17 25 2 9 23 31 23 184
Jason Campbell WAS 15 18 18 22 19 12 20 22 22 24 192
Matt Hasselbeck SEA 17 25 25 18 21 10 13 24 30 20 203
Matthew Stafford DET 32 8 8 30 13 33 32 17 6 28 207
Kerry Collins TEN 28 17 17 24 22 26 25 16 21 16 212
Kyle Orton DEN 24 21 21 27 23 11 19 26 23 18 213
Mark Sanchez NYJ 29 24 24 19 24 32 33 15 5 19 224
Matt Cassel KC 19 30 30 25 26 4 14 30 26 26 230
Vince Young TEN 23 28 28 23 28 17 27 27 28 6 235
Chad Henne MIA 20 26 26 26 32 15 28 29 27 7 236
Josh Freeman TB 30 23 23 28 18 31 31 14 29 22 249
Brady Quinn CLE 33 31 31 31 29 7 24 32 25 9 252
Bruce Gradkowski OAK 31 33 33 33 33 5 26 31 33 12 270
Alex Smith SF 27 27 27 29 27 27 30 25 24 30 273
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF 25 32 32 32 31 21 29 33 32 29 296


Based on this analysis, Hasselbeck is the 23rd best quarterback in the league currently using the "300 Theory."

His saving grace is essentially his medicore thrown interceptions and his touchdown-to-interception ratio. Outside of those numbers, the bell curve turns into a plateau Mordor consider prime real estate.

  • 17th in completion percentage (60.3%)
  • 25th in total yards
  • 25th in yards per game (170.2 ypg)
  • 18th in yards per completion (7 ypc)
  • 21st in touchdowns thrown
  • 24th in throws over 20+ yards
  • 30th in throws over 40+ yards

Essentially, all of those numbers can combine to build a forecasted quarterback scorecard ... The 300 Theory Ranking. Combining all of the individual rankings from each category provides the final 300 Rank, the lower the score the better.

Player Team 300 Score
Peyton Manning IND 53
Drew Brees NO 59
Kurt Warner ARI 78
Tom Brady NE 82
Philip Rivers SD 85
Aaron Rodgers GB 90
Carson Palmer CIN 111
Tony Romo DAL 117
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 120
Donovan McNabb PHI 122
Brett Favre MIN 124
Jay Cutler CHI 141
Marc Bulger STL 147
Joe Flacco BAL 148
Matt Ryan ATL 153
Matt Schaub HOU 158
Jake Delhomme CAR 171
Eli Manning NYG 175
David Garrard JAC 184
Jason Campbell WAS 192
Matt Hasselbeck SEA 203
Matthew Stafford DET 207
Kerry Collins TEN 212
Kyle Orton DEN 213
Mark Sanchez NYJ 224
Matt Cassel KC 230
Vince Young TEN 235
Chad Henne MIA 236
Josh Freeman TB 249
Brady Quinn CLE 252
Bruce Gradkowski OAK 270
Alex Smith SF 273
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF 296


Not surprisingly, the top quarterbacks ranked one-through-six in the QB Scorecard are 1) Peyton Manning, 2) Drew Brees, 3) Kurt Warner, 4) Tom Brady, 5) Philip Rivers, & 6) Aaron Rodgers.

So where is the "great" Matt Hasselbeck?

21st.

The future of our football team is a 34-year-old, injury-prone quarterback with a bad arm, a bad offensive line protecting him, a bad core of receivers to throw to, bad play-calling from an utterly inept offensive coordinator, and no future options on the horizon other than Mike Teel, the rookie quarterback the Seahawks drafted in 2009, who hasn't even been given a shot to play the last two weeks so the front office can assess potential quarterback needs heading into the 2010 draft.

It's time to come to grips, Seahawks fans ... Matt Hasselbeck is not a good quarterback.