WASHINGTON, DALLAS, NEW YORK, PHILADELPHIA
When it comes to the talk of sports, entertainment will always trump accuracy and accountability. Those making the boldest predictions about sports are often comically dead wrong. They may call themselves idiots afterwards, or may just ignore their previous statements entirely. It really doesn't matter.
The fact that humans err 49.999999% of the time is a killer for those on the business side of professional sports. On the media's end, it's scarcely a worry.
After the Redskins lost at home to Carolina, Inside the Locker Room's, Brian Mitchell, whom I admire and respect, called the team "terrible" and all but demanded a total and immediate coaching staff overhaul.
"...You can't tell me that this coaching staff is anywhere close to the top. They're terrible right now. The players are terrible, the coaches are terrible, and something needs to happen."
During the post-game this Sunday afternoon, he obviously adopted a different tone.
On its face, there's nothing wrong with these type of knee-jerkish reactions. Their natural. Fan's of every team in every sport feel worried and angry after a bad loss, and feel gleeful and optimistic after a big win.
But, for a moment, imagine if an owner, a coach or a quarterback displayed that kind of vicissitude. He would be killed.
It would be like if a coach brought in a perennial pro-bowler to lead an old and untalented team, and then benched the guy midway through his first season... Oh wait - that already happened, with Donovan Mc-not-in-the-league-any-more.
As you would expect, Shanahan has gotten killed every step along the way as he has tried to correct that mistake. That's sports. There are millions of people around the country that will tell you your shoes are untied - well after you trip.
The - Who the hell knows?? - aspect of sports is a force not to be taken lightly.
After week 2 this year, I felt like a smart guy and started picking games on my blog, hardeninthepaint.tumblr.com. By week 5, I was 13 games under .500, at 33-46. After yesterday, I am exactly at .500 at 63-63-2. (My selected picks are 11-4-1, however). Of course, I feel like I was incredibly dumb the first few weeks; and of course I feel like I have been incredibly astute over the past few weeks, going 9-5 in each of the past three weekends.
Neither could be the case. If it's true that you are what your record says you are, my predictions so far this season have been exactly as smart as a 2000, Delaware State Quarter.
Who the hell knows?
I watched Sunday's game at home in Chicago with my mom and bro. My mom caught me screaming at the TV after the Redskins ran an option play for minus 5-yards on a 3rd and 1. I was still yelling at the play calling midway through the 3rd period. Next thing I knew it was the fourth quarter: we had scored 31 points, hand't committed a turnover, and had only given the ball back to the Eagles with good field position one time in the game. The play calling I guess worked over the long haul. That short stuff - which wasn't always successful -set up bigger stuff later in the game. Why was I screaming, again?
Who the hell knows?
Before the season there were two conversations that are especially relevant today. One - which I have talked about before on this cite - is that several former NFL, players and coaches worried that a Robert Griffin lead Redskins offense would struggle on third downs during his rookie campaign. Those folk look almost clairvoyant today, with the Redskins near the league's cellar in terms of third down conversion.
Another conversation a little prior, a bunch of other people wondered if Santana Moss would or should be cut. Those people that argued that the team should cut ties with 12-year veteran - look less smart today. Don't worry though, if some of you are reading this, we don't remember who you are. Again, accountability and accuracy are hardly factors in sports talk today - if they ever were.
Anyway, Number 89 has been awesome for us this season.
Hard to believe it's been a month since I texted my man, former president of TMA, and proud new father, Ken Meringolo, the following observation: Santana Moss is Mr. Third Down. --Moss had just taken a screen pass to the house in the second quarter of the Giants. (He later caught another touchdown in the fourth quarter of that game).
The man does that. He makes big plays. I don't have his stats in front of me, but I would imagine that of the 37 third downs the Redskins have converted so far this season, Moss has accounted for about 15 of them: including three of those for touchdowns, and two that were 50 yard+ bombs. Those numbers also don't include at least two key fourth down conversion, one of which was accounted for the ‘Skins only touchdown in the Pittsburgh game. (The other lead to Kai Forbath's first career made field goal, against the Vikings.)
Prior to the season, opinion about whether the team should bring Moss back was split about 50/50, if not skewed a little more in favor of cutting him. That's Washington for you.
The argument against keeping him was simple enough: he was a small, 33-year-old receiver whose production had dropped and who was coming off a broken hand. Good teams know when to cut ties: like the Patriots with Randy Moss, I remember one analyst saying.
Even those that wanted to keep him, hedged their bets, saying he would be a good guy utility player if one of our younger, bigger better starting receivers went down.
If it had been announced March 15th that Moss was going to be released hardly anyone would have batted an eye. I suspect most in the Washington media would have portrayed the move as regrettable but shrewd, as the team was moving in a younger, better direction with their receiver core having just signed Joshua Morgan and Pierre Garcon.
If someone would have asked me during that time whether or not the team should keep Moss, I really have no idea what I would have said. Although I doubt it, I hope I would have been honest: and told them I had no idea what the team should do.
It's not like I didn't have enough information. I had plenty. I had seen him play 50 odd times. I had seen him have huge games, and I had seen him look invisible. I could imagine him contributing in 2012. I could imagine him, being a $3 million dollar bench player taking up a valuable roster spot for younger players that could potentially develop. I could make the case either way. I can't say I didn't have a clue - I had a million clues about what the team should do. They were just all pointing in opposite directions.
Looking back, I'm glad the team made the right decision. I'm also glad nobody asked me the question at the time - because I probably would have done what most people tend to do nowadays: pick a side and act like I'm sure, setting aside all the evidence pointing the other way.
Conventional wisdom tells you the phrase: I don't know - makes for terrible sports writing or sports talk. I think it's a crucial tool for anybody who wants to think, talk or write about sports in a serious manner.
Just because you don't know doesn't mean you don't have anything to say about a topic. You can observe the variables, the stakes; and you can state your opinions about the merits of both. You can even admit you don't know better the next guy, and still venture your best guess. (A luxury which coaches and GM's don't have.)
Just because you have a microphone or a blog - doesn't mean you are an expert worthy of making the tough decisions for every (or any) owner, general manager, coach and player in the country.
That's why I like the show Pardon the Interruption. Not only are they the first to say their wrong, they're the first to say they really don't know the answer.
For example, neither Kornheiser nor Wilbon called the NBA champion at the beginning of the season. They recognized that the Lakers and the Heat are huge favorites, while OKC has a puncher's chance - and they left it at that. Let's watch the games play out, why not.
It's probably a product of the ADD generation. Because of the unbelievable multitude of sources of opinions we have at our fingertips today, the tendency of most people is make bold declarations that would seem to standout from the crowd.
How many times have you read the headline: Ten Reasons Why The Falcons Won't Win the Super Bowl - or something like it?
Of course, there is a good - if not an excellent - chance that such a bold declaration will turn out to be 100% correct. After all, as of right now, there are twenty or so other teams at least somewhat in the mix to win it all.
For the record, I don't think the Falcons have a good chance to win the Super Bowl. They don't run the ball well and they don't rush the passer well. But I cringe whenever I read articles so needlessly inflammatory.
The same folks will write articles with headlines, like: Why Tony Romo will NEVER win a Super Bowl. Completely ignoring the fact that the VAST MAJORITY of pro quarterbacks never win a Super Bowl. Most good quarterback's never win one; and a fair number of elite quarterbacks will retire without a ring as well.
Voicing those kind of opinions with that kind of make believe certainty is the opposite of bold. It's weak. Really weak.
The only thing worse is when someone is certain about a hypothetical past circumstance, e.g. Michael Jordan would obviously had won 8 straight championship had he not retired. When I hear Bob Ryan say on Around the Horn, "Anyone but the most delusional fans knows who would have won the Super Bowl if [Gronkowski would have played]", I change the channel. It's impossible to ever prove or disprove. Meanwhile, he's calling you stupid if you don't disagree. Worse than talking for the sake of talking, that kind of statement is akin to screaming for the sake of screaming.
If you have an interesting perspective and point of view, you don't need to be Nostradamus to stir up conversation. If you have predictions and opinions, make them - and feel free to brag about the 50.00000001% of the time you're right. But don't imply that everyone that disagrees with you is delusional or dumb. That's dumb. That's delusional.
Just because sports is the candy store of life, doesn't mean we shouldn't be adults about it.
In that light, and in the interest of my weekly NFC East Round-up, let me be 100 about the Redskins and the state of the division: I think we got a legitimate shot. If that's not the most definitive thing you read today, well that's just fine with me. That brand of analysis is my cup of coffee.
If you dig it - drink up. I'm here every Tuesday and Thursday, and sometimes Saturday. If you're looking for someone to tell you which veteran coach is no good at his job; which 3-time Super Bowl winning owner/GM is criminally screwing up his franchise; which pro-bowl quarterback should be done as a starter in the NFL - please, look somewhere else for your NFC East analysis.
One more time: if you're looking for answers, look somewhere else. If you're looking for serious thoughts and much-labored over opinions, well then I got a few for you.