So I guess yesterday was the first leg of the peonage ball playoffs? You know, the NCAA refusing to pay players fair compensation is grossly exploitative, but you have to think of competitive balance. If players were paid Alabama and Clemson might be in the championship game year after year after semi-competitive-to-ridiculously noncompetitive semi-final games. Boy would that be tedious!
Anyway, let’s survey the top writers about the real thing:
- Barnwell has his awards ballot, and it all seems sound to me. The section on Barkley is especially interesting; his remarkable athletic gifts haven’t really translated into efficient running, and I still maintain that the Giants taking him #2 in a deep QB class is going to look really bad in 5 years. The most interesting award is the MVP, and I have to agree with the choice of Mahomes. Brees is ahead in the NFL rating, but that’s because it overweights completion percentage; Mahomes is ahead — marginally but clearly — on more advanced metrics, and coaching/personnel context is pretty much a wash. I’d be fine if Brees wins it on a lifetime achievement basis, and I’m glad that between the revival of the Saints and his becoming the all-time passing leader he’s receiving his due recognition as one of the true greats, but for 2018 I’d vote for Mahomes.
- Good piece by Tanier about the surprisingly quick turnaround by the Seahawks. They’re not true contenders again yet, but considering what they looked like after last year — this was a major plus for the legacies of both Carroll and Wilson.
- I don’t really agree with the bottom line of Farrar’s piece on the Browns — I’d much rather have Arians presiding over Kitchens and Williams than give the latter the permanent job. Maybe Greggg has matured, but take away the dead cat bounce from replacing the hapless Jackson and my bet is that he’d become the same alienating hardass who failed in Buffalo and has been pretty shaky even as a DC for a few years. But, still, what’s happened since Hue and Haley were given their postmature dismissals is remarkable:
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Browns’ latest disaster: They started winning. Not only winning but winning in ways you love to see a young team win. All the key players stepped up, given the opportunity. Myles Garrett has become one of the most dangerous edge-rushers in the NFL—this season, only Dee Ford, Jerry Hughes, and J.J. Watt have more total pressures among edge defenders than Garrett’s 65, per Pro Football Focus. Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward has been a revelation; he’s one of the smartest, most athletic pass defenders in the game, and he’s done it at a position that generally requires a lot more developmental time at this level.
And of course, there’s Baker Mayfield, the quarterback who has defined this franchise in ways few others have. The cock-sure kid who put some draftniks off because of his brazen personality has proven without a doubt that he’s ready for the rigors of the NFL, and he has the discipline and mentality to face the toughest defenses the pros can throw at him. Nobody has benefited more from Kitchens’ promotion than Mayfield, and the difference was immediate. From Weeks 9 through 16, only Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and Patrick Mahomes have higher passer ratings than Mayfield’s 111.4, and if you’re more into advanced metrics, consider that since Week 9, the Browns are first overall in passing efficiency in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted stats.
Hmm, Brees, Wilson, Mayfield…I dunno, maybe drafting QBs based primarily on height, pure velcity, and JUST LOOKS LIKE A QUARTERBACK is kinda dumb? And while Josh Allen has gotten some positive reviews based on his genuinely impressive athleticism and his superiority to the competing options, he’s still been historically bad:
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) December 27, 2018
As to whether he’ll turn out to be the next Troy Aikman when he gets better surrounding personnel or whether he’ll fall more into the larger Jimmy Clausen/Blaine Gabbert group, well, I know how I’m betting.