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Film Review – ’85: The Greatest Team in Pro Football History is an Amateurish Disaster

| February 8th, 2018

There are two ways I evaluate documentaries, my second favorite genre of film behind the movie musical. (1) Is the content compelling? (2) Is the presentation of the content compelling? There are plenty of documentaries that satisfy one and not the other. There are hours of Holocaust footage assembled into difficult-to-watch “documentaries” but that content isn’t presented with any artistry, most likely because it doesn’t require any. Andy Warhol’s docs are studied in film schools for their approach to the form (and Jonas Mekas’ camera work) but try sitting through Empire. Seriously. Try.

When the content and presentation are both compelling we find documentary genius. Usually this kind of work is reserved for artists like Errol Morris, Agnes Varda, Alex Gibney, Frederick Wiseman and D.A. Pennebaker. It yields films like Harlan County USA, How to Survive a Plague, Grizzly Man and, of course, Hoop Dreams.

And sports have always been a fertile playground for documentary as that last film mentioned proved. Sports lends itself perfectly to reflection, especially when additional insight from those who experienced the game is added. There are game histories; NFL Network’s America’s Game series was breathtaking. There are moments in history; the Bill Simmons-led 30-for-30 series on ESPN has popularized the art form for a whole new audience. And there are high art masterpieces; Hoop Dreams and The Two Escobars are probably the best sports docs ever made because like all great sports movies they are not about sports.

’85: The Greatest Team in Pro Football History, a documentary by Scott Prestin, is a terrible piece of filmmaking (with a stupid title). It is incoherent, boring and endlessly redundant. There is not a single new moment, not ONE piece of new information, in its entire, bloated 1:41 run time.

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Across The Middle: Alshon’s Inflated Contract Could Prohibit Bears From Attacking Receiver in FA

| February 7th, 2018

Whether they did it knowingly or not, by giving Alshon Jeffery a huge extension during the season, the Philadelphia Eagles made their success model next to impossible to duplicate.

The Eagles gave Jeffery the kind of contract the Bears would not, especially coming off his shaky-at-best 2016. AJ will average $13 million per season for the next 4 years, with a total guarantee of roughly $27 million. The Eagles are the champs so every move looks golden but what they actually did was inflate the wide receiver market by paying a premier contract to a non-premier player.

The Bears have come under constant criticism for not bringing Jeffery back but:

  • He hasn’t had 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns in a season since 2014.
  • This year he caught less than half of his targets for the Eagles.
  • After the Patriots switched Stephon Gilmore on to Jeffery in the Super Bowl, he became a ghost. It looked like it would be easy to point to Sunday and say the Bears should’ve paid him, but that game is exactly why Ryan Pace didn’t. What happened to Jeffery doesn’t happen to number one receivers and now Jeffery is paid like one.

And other receivers will want to cash in.

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Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s 2017 – Defense

| February 6th, 2018

Chicago’s defense was generally good in 2017. We all know this. They finished 10th in total yards allowed and 9th in points allowed.

Let’s take the same approach we took with the offense.

Rushing Defense

Chicago’s overall run defense was solid in 2017; they finished 11th in rushing yards against, 12th in yards per carry allowed, and 9th in touchdowns given up. Now let’s break it down by different areas of the field.

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing defense in 2017. The line at the bottom is the line of scrimmage, runs are split into 7 zones, and attempts and yards per carry are listed for each zone, with ranks relative to the rest of the NFL in parentheses. The height of the bar is proportional to yards per carry, and bars are colored green for top 10, red for bottom 10, and yellow for middle 12. Note expected yards per carry varies by region, so the colors are relative to their peers in that region.



A few thoughts:

  • There were some clear changes here from what this looked like at the bye, when the Bears were halfway through the season. That makes sense given all of the injuries that forced different personnel to play down the stretch. A few noticeable shifts include runs to left end and the middle, which I’ll expand more on individually.
  • At left end, the Bears improved a good bit in the 2nd half of the season. Halfway through, they were giving up 5.4 yards per carry there, and their work in the 2nd half dropped by a full yard per carry. Some of that might be due to a small sample size (only 18 runs in the first half), while others might be due to personnel. Cornerback Prince Amukamara largely played on that side, but he missed a large part of the first half. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee also played less there down the stretch, and replacing his lack of speed with somebody else might have helped.

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Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s 2017 Offense

| February 6th, 2018

Chicago’s offense was generally bad in 2017. We all know this. They finished 30th in the NFL in yards per game and 29th in points scored.

Those types of basic stats are easy for anybody to look up, and they can help paint an overall picture of how effective a unit performed. They do not. however, tell a complete tale. It can be useful to look deeper and see in what areas the Bears might have struggled, as well as where they might have done well. This can be useful to help identify specific areas of strength to build on going forward, as well as areas that need to be addressed through personnel and/or scheme improvements.

In an effort to do this, I used the NFL Game Statistics Information System to look at Chicago’s offensive stats in a bit more detail. I broke down rushing and passing attempts by areas of the field to see where they target the most and how successful they are. Let’s have a look.

Rushing Attack

Chicago’s overall run game was solid in 2017; they finished 16th in rushing yards, 11th in yards per carry, and 11th in touchdowns. Now let’s break it down by different areas of the field.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: A Few on 52 & Urlacher, Urlacher, Urlacher…

| February 5th, 2018

Five Super Bowl Thoughts

  • First Half Note 1: That was a horrible half of a football. Was it entertaining? Sure. But so is college football and that is rarely good either. Blown coverages, horrible tackling, wide open receivers, college-level kicking. This game should be the showcase of the league’s two best teams. Sadly, when it comes to the 2017 season, this game may be all we got.
  • First Half Note 2: The Eagles didn’t just look tougher, they looked like they had the better sideline. And even in the two Patriots Super Bowl losses, that was never the case. Pederson was running circles around Patricia.
  • Halftime: The halftime show was one of the greatest I’ve ever seen. Oh wait, no, I was cleaning my crockpot and listening to Harry Nilsson tracks in my kitchen while some people pantomimed horn playing in the middle of a football field for no reason whatsoever. Would love to see the NFL skip this worthless musical display one year and instead replace it with a speech from the Walter Payton Man of the Year winner after a short video presentation saluting that player’s work. Why not use your largest platform to promote some of the good being done by those involved in the game instead of promoting Justin Timberlake to sell some Pepsi?
  • Second Half Note 1: Tweeted a question. If you were the Eagles, and you won the Super Bowl with Foles, would you consider offering Wentz to the Browns for their two early firsts? Watching the second half, if I were the Eagles, I would even hesitate. Wentz is a terrific player but this Eagles team is proving they can win with Foles and he’s affordable. So why not stack the roster around him?
  • Second Half Note 2: Let’s be honest. This game came down to one play, the Brandon Graham sack/fumble of Brady late in the fourth. It was the only defensive play made in this Big 12 affair.
  • Final Thought: Think about what Doug Pederson and Nick Foles and the Eagles just did. They beat (a) the defending NFC champs (b) the league’s best defense and (c) Brady & Belichick en route to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. This is legendary stuff in Philadelphia.

All Urlacher…after the jump!

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Will He Get In on the First Ballot?

| February 3rd, 2018


I’m not big on debating whether or not players belong in the Hall of Fame. And honestly, I loved Brian Urlacher but I don’t much care if he gets into Canton on the first or fifth try. (I’ll be much more passionate when this conversation moves to Charles Tillman and Devin Hester – both of whom I believe fundamentally changed the NFL.) Nevertheless, tonight Urlacher will find out his fate when it comes to the first ballot. Good luck, BU.

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Super Bowl 52: Four Thoughts & Game Prediction

| February 2nd, 2018


  • Nobody on earth could convince me Carson Wentz wants the Eagles to win this game. How could he? He’s a human being with human emotions. If Nick Foles wins the first Super Bowl in Eagles history, what does Wentz do to follow that? He could win 12 games a year for the next five seasons but without the ring, he’ll never reach the historical level of Foles in Philadelphia. When Jeff Hostetler beat the Bills, Phil Simms had already won a title for the Giants and established them as his team. Wentz has established his potential. Foles can establish his legacy.
  • Is there a dumber debate than Tom Brady vs. Michael Jordan; currently being argued on every conceivable sports media platform? Here’s my answer: Brady would beat Jordan at playing quarterback but Jordan would destroy Brady at basketball. (Pete Weber would kick the shit out of both of them at the local lanes.)


  • Rob Gronkowski’s line: 8 catches, 157 yards, 2 touchdowns. Why? Because when the Patriots get in tough spots against tough defenses they overly rely on Gronk to simply manhandle whomever is asked to cover him. That will happen Sunday.
  • This year has been bizarre…and bad. And that kind of year deserves the phrase “Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles”.

Philadelphia Eagles 26

New England Patriots 24

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Data Entry: Bears’ Contract Options for Kyle Fuller

| February 1st, 2018

As we all know, Kyle Fuller had a breakout season in 2017 after missing all of 2016 with a knee injury. He led the NFL in passes broken up and ranked 17th among all cornerbacks in both completion percentage and passer rating allowed, per Pro Football Focus. Now general manager Ryan Pace has to decide what to do with Fuller, who is set to enter unrestricted free agency as one of the top cornerbacks on the market.

Let’s take a look at his options.

Franchise Tag

One weapon at Pace’s disposal is the franchise tag, which would guarantee Fuller the average of the top 5 cap hits at the cornerback position in 2018. Right now, that would look like a one year, $15.3 million contract that is fully guaranteed (per Spotrac). Pace can choose to apply this tag at any point between February 20 and March 6, and it seems likely to happen unless the Bears and Fuller can reach a long-term agreement first.

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