The NFC South – Tradition and Excellence
Jul 24th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Greg from Atlanta writes:
How are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking for this year?

Here’s the great thing about the NFC South – it has the least amount of “tradition” of any division in any of the four major sports, except that hockey one with Atlanta, Carolina and Washington. I would like to tell you a quick story about tradition, but it involves Boston-bashing, of which I am trying to do LESS. I know many wonderful people in the Boston area and if I get on the bandwagon of hating sports fans in that area, I am going to lose real friends. So none of that!

But anyway, I was on a bus back from Bills-Saints right before 9/11 and this worthless chowd starts giving me shit about the Blue Jays and their lack of tradition. He was lamenting how they won the World Series twice and, at the time, the Red Sox hadn’t in like 8,000 years. “No tradition,” he hissed.

Now, he was a terrible sports fan (Stieb, Barfield, Bell, Cox, Jimy, Carter, Alomar, etc.) but it shocked me that people actually care about that sort of thing. We shouldn’t! Teams shouldn’t get advantages because they were good 50 years ago, and that’s why, even though the NFC South is pretty terrible, we do manage to dump a decent team into the mix each season. In fact, I’d bet that the NFC South has had the least amount of time elapse since all 4 teams made it to the Championship game of their respective conference. I am not going to look it up, but the last one to make it was Tampa Bay in 2002: Bills/Browns/Texans/Chiefs haven’t been there recently in the AFC, and Cowboys/Lions/Niners in the NFC. I’m sure there were others, but honestly, I think about horrible sports teams enough in my free time, I’m trying to keep the blog more professional.

So with that in mind, I can answer the question about the chances of the Bucs, Falcons, Panthers and Saints by saying anything we think we know is completely irrelevant! I think Atlanta will win the division, and here is why:

– How many drives were killed by a combination of Vick and Harrington and the awful hands of Falcons’ receivers? I looked it up, and 872 drives were negatively affected by the QBs not being able to pass and the receivers not being able to catch, skills which help both positions. No wonder they run the hell out of the ball, usually. Chris Redman was the best pure quarterback they had in ages. But because of the worst-to-first tendencies in the NFL, I am convinced that Matt Ryan will be a star.

— Last year they had a clearly disinterested coach, and while I don’t think it’s necessary to go to bed at 3:00 AM and wake up in your office at 5:12 AM, having a guy who seems somewhat happier to be there in Mike Smith is going to make a clear difference.

— I have gleefully pointed to the Saints’ schedule as the worst one in franchise history (worst, as in, contains the most terrible teams) but the Falcons benefit as well. Detroit, KC, Chicago, Oakland, and St. Louis. The Falcons suffer because they can’t play the Falcons twice, but those are otherwise five games I would actually favor them in to start the season. Anything can happen in a division game, so let’s say they split – 8-8 is very possible without having made a ridiculous argument yet.

— There should be an important statistical analysis of the receivers, linemen, staff and playbook of the Falcons inserted here. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a good PECOTA tool for football, so none of it matters. A prediction supported by my nonsense has just as much chance as ringing true as one with actual numbers behind it.

So that’s what I feel about the division. On paper, I think the Saints have the most talent, due to the fact that they brought in Shockey, Vilma, Sedrick Ellis and Randall GAY, but they also have the only coach capable of losing games on his own in the division. (I will give Mike Smith the benefit of the doubt here, it’s quite possible I’m wrong and he tries to ice a victory by having a beleaguered halfback attempt a reverse with the WR with the worst hands in the league, and… okay, no, that’s not possible.) The Bucs have the best coach, but I can’t believe that John Fox is on the hot seat. Well, what can you say, it is what it is.

Everything is up for grabs, but my early prediction is that whoever wins the division is playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The NFC South will have played the most worst teams, probably suffered the least amount of injuries and had the most pressure on their coaches. We may see one good team and three squads of abortion that are horrible enough that Fref Phelps starts protesting outside the stadia, but still.

The Jeremy Shockey / Jason Taylor Trades
Jul 22nd, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

How nice of the Saints to deal for Jeremy Shockey during football week here at JC!

The deal was a 2nd and 5th round pick in the 2009 draft for Shockey. I had really hoped that the Saints weren’t going to give a second up, but, well. At the same time, the track record of draft picks for the Saints has been almost universally terrible, and if football were subject to the same kind of statistical analysis as baseball, I’d suggest a stat like Average Team Draft Pick Worth, where we see that a draft pick by, say, the Steelers is worth a lot more than one by the Saints, because the Saints are so bad at it.

I think the Saints had a good draft this year. They were terrible in 07. It was great in 06. Why not roll the dice on Shockey? He makes the team better immediately, and head coach Sean Payton doesn’t have a contract for 2009. For as good an offense the Saints had in 2006, the 2007 Saints were held to low points many times and just couldn’t get it going. So they now have another option.

The knocks on Shockey is that he is an enormous douchebag, that Eli Manning got better when he wasn’t around, and that he drops some catchable balls. I don’t care about the first. I really don’t – so he called Bill Parcells a homo. I’m pretty sure that Bill Parcells has said some mean things to his players over the years. Everyone’s a (rich) (well-compensated) (don’t feel sorry for them) adult here. I haven’t seen anyone deny that he leaves it all on the field.

Manning may have gotten better with Shockey not around, but that’s not going to be an issue with Drew Brees, who helped make an All-Pro out of TE Antonio Gates in San Diego. Brees is in his prime, and if the two of them put in the work they should play well together.

As for dropping balls, well, that puts Shockey right at home with the other receivers on the team except Colston. (It is amazing to see Marques Colston work – when he drops one, it’s because someone took his legs out from him. When Devery Henderson misses one, it’s because someone threw it to him in a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere.) Everybody needs to work on their pass catching in the Saints offense, particularly Reggie Bush, so Shockey can benefits from the drills, too. (And we have no idea what kind of hands Robert Meachem has in the pro game.)

So, I guess I like the move. A second rounder is very, very valuable, and I don’t think the Giants had much leverage, so I am not in love with the trade or anything. Giant fans don’t seem to be thrilled with it, which means they don’t feel they ripped off the Saints. Likewise, Saints fans aren’t whooping it up like when we got two first-rounders from the Dolphins for Ricky Williams. I know that on ESPN’s “1st and Ten” the categorically announced this as a triumph of the Giants, but in the NFL you really, really don’t want those kinds of people on those kinds of shows in your corner.

The other big trade was Jason Taylor from Miami to the Redskins. The Skins sort of… well, sort of had to make this move, with defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Alex Buzbee both lost for the season. Taylor is a much, much better player than Shockey, but he’s also older. Taylor says he’ll finish out his contract, so that gives Washington at least two years of good production. Unlike most of the other defensive ends in the game, Taylor is not an anthropomorphic lard field that cavemen dump their waste into, so if he does regress some, it’s not going to be because of his weight.

Washington had made a bunch of horrible moves to get veterans since Daniel Snyder took over the team, but I don’t know if they have ever really brought in someone of Taylor’s quality before? So the shitty moves before colors the good acquisition now. As for Miami, they had to make this move, and good for them to get the second they were looking for. I am very hesitant to say that they will suck next years, because worst-to-first turnarounds in the NFL happen all the time. But they are posing themselves to get back into the playoffs in 2010 with moves like this.

State of the Saints
Jul 21st, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I’ll make you a deal! You please, please, please read even the football posts and I will try to keep them funny even if you hate football!

All right! When it comes to the NFL and ICJ, things are pretty fucked up! I like a team I picked when I was about four and they have probably been the worst professional sports team in my lifetime, with the possible exceptions of the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Texans. The Saints went to the NFC Championship Game two years ago, and I think since they started playing the Super Bowl, the only other NFC team that has not done that is the Cardinals? The Cardinals had some good teams in the 70s, but I can’t recall how far they got. Anyway, going almost 40 years and still being a game from the Super Bowl is not great. Them’s my Saints!

Last year was a complete horror, featuring an 0-4 start, a four game win streak to get even and then a loss against a Rams team that was 0-8 at the time. I was at a friend’s wedding for the Rams game, but I knew leading up to it that the Saints would lose. And I am one of the more positive fans! The Saints don’t beat teams featuring a new, inexperienced quarterback, and they never, ever beat teams that are winless that far into the season.

So it all comes down to this. What has to happen for the Saints to make the playoffs?

– They have to win the winnable games on their schedule. No offense to anybody on the teams the Saints play, but you’re all horrible. The best team the Saints play is San Diego, and that game is in England, where anything can happen! That’s a pretty shitty flight for the Chargers, I guess new and terrible NFL commish Roger Goodell couldn’t quite work out the logistics of flying LT and Merriman to Deimos? Maybe next year, let’s get a team there! (David Stern is stroking his chin, pondering moving the Kings there right now.)

– Nobody can get worse! The offensive line for the Saints needs to hold and nobody can get hurt or take a step back. That will be tough because nothing like that ever happens.

– Reggie Bush doesn’t need to get 25 carries a game, but he does need to get positive yardage when he touches the ball. Always. My friend Brian, after viewing the GET LAMP trailer, said that I was wearing the jersey of the most overrated running back since Ricky Williams, a shot I couldn’t defend! If Bush is scoring every other game, returning punts and generating a little more yardage than he generated in 2006, he’s gonna be fine.

– I can’t even get started with the defense. Jason David was the worst free agent pick-up of all time. If Reggie White was an example of picking someone up correctly, like getting a beautiful escort you pay thousands of dollars for and are honestly worried if she’ll do you at the end of the evening because of how classy she is,  Jason David was going into the prostitute zone within your home town ten blocks from the police station, and yelling that you’ll pay a hundred dollars for a hummer through a megaphone. Doing it that way, you’re overpaying, you’re negotiating poorly, you’re drawing unwanted attention to yourself and Peyton Manning and/or the cops is/are going to set the tone for the night and pick on you.

There are some new players coming in on the defense and honestly, I don’t know that the Saints lost anyone that clutch. They are coming to Denver this year, so I will get a chance to see them and so far nobody has been crippled in workouts, which is a plus! I think that the Patriots are going to go on a revenge-fueled tear through the beginning of the season and ultimately win it all (though I do think someone takes a shot at Brady’s knees if they keep running it up), so all of this is ultimately moot. Hopelessness hasn’t stopped me from buying the NFL Ticket again though, because if you are only going to follow the Saints when it looks like a good deal of hope is involved, you haven’t figured out what rooting for the Saints is like.

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