## Monday, November 08, 2004

### Week 9: Simple Math

Washington 17, Detroit 10

I've never claimed to be a mathematician, and the numbers I study have little to do with standard deviation, critical value and confounding factors; I instead rely on yards per completion, third down conversions, and touchdown to interception ratios. I try not to get too deep into the numbers--I leave that to the folks at Football Outsiders--because football is a game where hunches, trends and gambles can pay off great dividends. Patriots coach Bill Belichick stuck with Tom Brady under center though his starter, Drew Bledsoe, was back from injury. Rookie Ben Roethlisberger has gotten the nod for the Steelers' remaining games by coach Bill Cowher despite having the proven Tommy Maddox available and ready to play. Everyone knows now that Brady and Big Ben have rewarded these coaches with awesome displays of poise, confidence, and success.

Such choices don't always work. Case in point: Coach Joe Gibbs and Mark Brunell. Anyone from casual fan to gridiron bean-counter can see that Coach Gibbs' love affair with quarterback Mark Brunell is illogical, undeserved, and unproductive.

I have said, for a number of weeks now, that Brunell is rapidly becoming dead weight on the franchise by his continual poor accuracy, suspect time management, and bereft leadership. And I'd like to say it again, but this time, I'll let the numbers do the talkin'. Here are St. Mark's game statistics (readers with delicate sensitivities may want to skip ahead):

vs. Buccaneers: 13 completions, 24 attempts, 125 yards (Skins win)

vs. Giants: 10 completions, 18 attempts, 92 yards (through 2 1/2 quarters)

vs. Cowboys: 25 completions, 43 attempts, 325 yards, 2 touchdowns

vs. Browns: 17 completions, 32 attempts, 192 yards

vs. Ravens: 13 completions, 29 attempts, 83 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception

vs. Bears: 8 completions, 22 attempts, 95 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception (Skins win)

vs. Packers: 25 completions, 44 attempts, 218 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions

vs. Lions: 6 completions, 17 attempts, 58 yards (Skins win)

Third down efficiency: 28 attempts, 76 completions, 2 touchdowns, three interceptions, seven sacks.

QB Rating: 67.4 Total yards: 1188. Only Kyle "Bullseye" Boller 65.9/1101) and Jay Fielder (67.0/1185) have worse numbers.

Ugh.

On Sunday, Marky Mark and the Offense faced the bottom-half ranked Detroit Lions defense. I respect that His Joeness may gameplan a particular attack philosophy to exploit specific weaknesses. Fine. But two pass attempts (one completed) in the second half?!? When did Brunell turn into Adam Vinatieri? Granted, the Redskins were up by 10 and our defense was sparkling. But was this performance a demonstration of how little faith Gibbs has in his hand-picked, personal choice for quarterback?

Despite the win, I'm telling Mark Brunell to Hang Your Head. Yes, Coles and Rod "Negative Fantasy Points" Gardner dropped some catchable balls. But 58 total yards against a suspect defense is deplorable. Redskin fans can only imagine if Brunell was simply average in our five losses. I think we could've taken the Browns, Cowchips and Packers. Maybe even the Ravens. I joke not. That takes us to a very healthy 6-2 or dreamy 7-1. Emphasis on dreamy.

Strangely enough, with the combined win for Washington and losses by everyone else in the NFC East, the Skins have a moderate chance of making something of our season. A look at the NFL standings today shows that the Haves sit comfortably at 6 or more wins; fifteen teams are either 3-5, 4-4, and 5-3. So what does Washington have to do? Those two division losses really, really hurt. So Washington's gotta run the friggin' table between now and January.

You can stop laughing now.

WHAT WORKED

One rarely sees, in box scores or highlights, excellent Special Teams play unless it's some kickoff/punt return. But Sunday even NFL Primetime found the Redskins' punt coverage worthy of notice. From punter Tom "Borderline" Tupa's precision work to James Thrash's heads-up goal line stops, to the verrry rare punt block by Taylor "Tell It To My Heart" Jacobs and touchdown by Walt "On By" Harris, this squad won the game for Washington. What else can you ask of a team?

Also, lots of love to "Mr. President" Clinton Portis. Yes, it's true: when Portis runs for more than 100 yards, the Skins win. Portis put down more than 140 yards and did something Brunell couldn't: throw a touchdown.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK

Mark Brunell. 'Nuff said. And yep, I have a big bottle of Haterade on tap at home.

SCORECARD

OFFENSE: C+ (I feel bad for penalizing Portis despite his excellent performance. He earned an A.)

DEFENSE: A (One field goal and one garbage time, desparate touchdown allowed? I'll take it. Hopefully Arrington will come back in time for the rest of the gauntlet that is our final weeks.)

Sp. TEAMS: A+ (Free drinks on me!)

FANTASY FOOTBALL REPORT

Due to bye weeks for Atlanta and Jacksonville, I was forced to scrounge through the free agent castoffs for a team's quarterback. I went with the Giants, believing in Kutmasta Kurt Warner and the Giants offense's resurrection. I was mistaken. Warner threw two interceptions and fumbled twice. I earned five points. I did wisely go with my perennial defensive choice, Pittsburgh, who did not disappoint (3 points allowed, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 113 yards allowed). Accordingly, Owens was shut down. So tonight I wait for Brandon Stokely, Marcus Robinson, Mike Vanderjiggy and Mewelde Moore to give me 21 total points for the win over the Teddy Tax team.

NEXT UP

One of my favorite coaches, Marvin Lewis, steps back into Landover with his Cincinnati Bengals. I'll be in the stands for this one. I'll analyze this later this week (promise!), but for now I like a Skins win, 16-10.