Tuesday, December 05, 2006

60%, Running the Ball & Records

60% is the three-point field goal percentage the UW Men's Basketball team allowed Winthrop University (located in temperate South Carolina) to shoot on Monday night. But we'll get back to that later.

First, I'd like to discuss what the hell is happening with the Packers. Our defense has played terribly over the past three weeks, and it's doubly weird because they managed to get turnovers in each game. Maybe it's because Bob Sanders, who is in his first year of being a defensive coordinator in any capacity, isn't very good at his job. I'm guessing that it's also partly due to having a secondary coach, Kurt Schottenheimer who has been proven to be terrible. In fact, Schottenheimer demonstrated that he was terrible at his job two seasons ago when he was doing a poor job of coaching what was largely the same group of players. It's bizarre he's even on the staff. Football teams are symbiotic creatures though, so much of the fault falls on the offense. If the offense can't hold onto the ball, then the defense keeps getting put back on the field. And during our current three game losing stretch (a stretch where we've also been missing Mark Tauscher, the lineman who was apparently doing the best job of the bunch), the offense has been pathetic. Conspicuous. So everything has gone to shitter.
In the last game, the trip to the facilities included throwing the ball nearly 50 times and running the ball just over 20. This excellent disparity led to a whopping total of 10 points. On TMQ on the worldwide leader's website, Mr. Eastercreek notes that on our 40 plus passing plays, the Packers averaged 4.1 yards and had three turnovers, and on our 20 odd running plays, the Packers averaged 6.5 yards and turned the ball over zero times. He then concludes that the Packers are throwing so often because the coaches are trying to have Favre break Marino's career touchdown record. I emailed him, noting that by calling so many pass plays in obvious passing situations (that is, when you're down 31-0), the coaches appear to be more interested in having Favre break the all-time interception record.
This exchange gave rise to several questions in my mind: (1) why are we passing so much of late, and (2) does the coaching staff care about Favre's career records?
I'm guessing the answers to the first question are: (a) we've been down a lot, and (b) every coach seems to believe that the only way to get back into a game when you're losing is by scoring quickly via the pass. But is that last premise true? You'd think that if you're down by less than two scores and there's more than 10 minutes left you'd be able to, or maybe if you're down a colossal amount of points at halftime (lets say 31, just for fun), you might run the ball and slowly score more points just to make the game less embarrassing. I understand that incompletions stop the clock, so passing takes less time and thus preserves more time for a comeback. But I think people need to stop with the "down more than one score, must pass" mentality.
For example, the Falcons, the best rushing team in the league, never managed to rally to win games because they stop running the ball and have Ron Mexico run 7 step drops play after play. Memo to Falcones coach-- Vick isn't that good of a passer, especially when the defense knows what's coming. If they ran the ball more, even when they're down, I think they'd have at least 2 more wins.
In our case, Eastercreek is just wrong when he states that the Packers run game was effective against the Jets. We had more than 2/3 of our rushing yards in the second half when the Jets clearly had an eye toward the airport. But I think the "don't go to the pass so much when you're down theory" still applies. If we're losing and the other team is in Nickle, screw it, find your gonads and run the ball until they go back to a base defense. Then pass. If you're worried about the clock, run sweeps.
Second, I don't know if the coaching staff thinks much about Favre's career records. It'd probably be nice for them if he breaks Marino's record because it would distract everyone from how bad this season has been and how all of our young players have plateaued or regressed in the past four weeks. And I'm sure they like Brett. After all, if it weren't for him we might be 1 and 11. But I think they're more focused on trying to win, or at least make the bad losses seem palatable. Everyone in the NFL is or should be constantly worried about their jobs, especially at fungible position coaching positions (position, position). Unless you're Matt Millen. Consider Sherman, former GM and Head Coach of the Packers with a career winning record and several playoff appearances, now offensive line coach on one of the least successful teams in the league. The mighty fall quite quickly, and I'm pretty sure that these guys are just trying to stay employed.

Now back to the male basketballing Badgers and their 60%. We're not talking about a game where Winthrop shot five 3's and made three. No, Winthrop shot twenty-five (25) 3-pointers, and made fifteen of them. That's 15 (giving you the numerals for emphasis). This set a record for any team at the newish Kohl('s Department Store) Center. And somehow the Badgers still managed to win. I don't know whether to feel good or terrible. Apparently, our perimeter defense can be terrible, and at times, Flowers, Bohannon, Taylor and the Hoft completely lose the ability to man anybody up. What good teams will we be playing that shoot a lot of 3's? Yes, that'd be Marquette and Ohio A&M (twice). Hmmm. By the way, we haven't won at the Bradley Center since 2001.
Maybe I'm being too gloomy. We beat a team that friggin' hit fifteen 3-pointers on us! Crazy! The stat line shows that we outrebounded them like crazy (40-18), and that, for once, we got a ton of offensive rebounds. And Flowers scored 21 points, potentially establishing him as another guy that can be a legitimate scoring threat. Before the game I'd have said that our only established offensive threats were Kam, Butch, and of course, Alando. Hopefully Flowers will give teams another guy to pay attention to. The first half of last season Landry was also establishing himself as one of those guys. He's got a lot less playing time this season, it seems, and thus had less of a chance to show off his stuff and work on his offensive game. Maybe Bo objects to the Horace Grant goggles. Later in the week-- secularists vs. the papists preview!

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