Friday, February 18, 2011

Thank Goodell It's Friday!

He's good, but he's not that good (especially in big games).

Falcons Run-Game Rep Doesn’t Match Stats

It looks like Football Outsiders, ESPN’s highly respected and brilliant stats masters, who correctly predicted Green Bay winning the NFC this year, is saying something I’ve often said about the Atlanta Falcons: their reputation as a team that runs the ball well is actually a bunch of hooey. What the Falcons are is simply a team that runs the ball a lot, and that is pretty much it.

The Falcons success, particularly against weaker teams, in running the ball comes from repetition, and not skill or explosive plays, or even successful plays… just repetition. They run the ball a lot. They run the ball a lot because Mike Smith has decided that taking advantage of all of the offensive rule changes that benefit quarterbacks and wide receivers, that have opened-up NFL offenses around the league, is for the birds. They run the ball a lot because Mike Smith has decided that taking advantage of the fast track in the Georgia Dome is silly, and would rather run a plodding, vanilla, play-not-to-lose offense that does not take any chances.

The most disappointing thing about the Falcons running game, and Michael Turner in particular, is how he and it generally disappears a a big game, a big moment, or against a tough defense. Now, Turner and the run game have had some big moments, but on the whole, they've been largely disappointing when it matters most; click the hyperlink, stats don't lie. If you are team bound and determined to run the ball, against all common sense and strategy, then this is an alarming fact the Falcons need to start considering as they move forward.

Roddy White is the only player on the Falcons offense who scares a defense, and the Falcons hardly ever run him deep, and if he does, it’s as a decoy, as the coaches don’t seem to want Ryan throwing to him on anything other than the extremely safe, but very hard to throw correctly, deep out. White is like a young TO, and what the Falcons need is speed to stretch the field on offense.

But, again, as with everything, even if the Falcons were to acquire a speed receiver to complement White on the outside, the offense would then have to have the will to take advantage of the speed. Try as I might, I just do not see a Mike Smith team taking advantage of a speed advantage if they had one. The man has proven over three seasons that he coaches scared, that he loves his vanilla, play-not-to-lose offense, and that he wants his QB to make no mistakes, ever, so he handcuffs Ryan.

So, even if the Falcons were to find a speed-receiving jewel in the draft, would they even use him, as the Eagles use Jackson and Maclin, or the Packers use their fleet-footed receiving corps?

Until I see verifiable proof that Mike Smith is willing to evolve, to adapt, and drop his Martyball philosophy, then I cannot believe that.

Game Day Predictions (Academy Awards Edition, Part I)

The Academy Awards are being held in about two weeks. Yes, it is only 16 days until Hollywood throws its most self-congratulatory party, for itself, handing 12-inch tall gold statues known as Oscar.

I thought, in the absence of football of any kind, I could do a two-part Oscar Predictions segment of the more important awards (sorry, Achievement in Make-Up, I just didn’t have the time, nor the caring, for you… cue the music!).

In this first part, I will predict the four acting awards, in the next part, the writing, directing, and best picture.

Here are my acting category predictions!

Best Supporting Actress Nominations: Amy Adams, The Fighter, Melissa Leo, The Fighter, Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom, Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit, and Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Who Should Win: Hailee Steinfeld. Firstly, it is a crime that she is in this category, as she is in just about every frame of True Grit. She does not support anything; it is her film, and she is outstanding.

Who Will Win: Melissa Leo, The Fighter. She has won every award up until now, and it is a great performance in a true supporting role.

Best Supporting Actor Nominations: Christian Bale, The Fighter, John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone, Jeremy Renner, The Town, Mark Ruffalo, The Kids are Alright, Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Who Should Win: Christian Bale. Bale is electric as Dickey, the crack-addicted half-brother former boxer and trainer of Mickey Ward in The Fighter. He owns every second he’s on screen.

Who Will Win: Bale. This is as close to a slam-dunk as the Oscars get.

Best Actress Nominations: Annette Benning, The Kids are Alright, Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone, Natalie Portman, Black Swan, Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Who Should Win: Natalie Portman. Her performance in Black Swan is other-worldly, and although there are more seasoned actresses nominated ahead of her, there’s a sense that she’s “due,” and many times, a feeling like that by the voters puts a person over.

Who Will Win: Portman. Michelle Williams gives a great performance in a far more understated role in Blue Valentine, which seals it for Portman’s showy tour de force.

Best Actor Nominations: Javier Bardem, Biutiful, Jeff Bridges, True Grit, Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, Colin Firth, The King’s Speech, James Franco, 127 Hours

Who Should Win: Colin Firth. The only performance I have not seen is Bardem’s, so with all apologies to him, I say without a doubt that Firth’s performance in The King’s Speech is one of the great ones. It hits all the right notes: it is funny, it is heartbreaking, and it is the best acting performance I have seen in the last few years.

Who Will Win: James Franco. The Academy Awards are funny things. There many are times when the best performance or the best movie is not rewarded (remember Shakespeare in Love beating Saving Private Ryan… a travesty). I’m not saying Franco doesn’t do good work, he does, and although Firth did win the Golden Globe for this performance, which is usually a good indicator, I’m picking this upset because the Academy voters like a good story, and having one of the hosts win an Oscar mid-show in an upset makes for a great story. But Firth should win, and I hope he does.

Today in History

On 18 February 2001, ten years ago, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died on the final turn at the famed Daytona 500 while holding off the field from the two members of his race team ahead of him in first and second place, Michael Waltrip and his son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Dale Sr. raced with a fearless ferocity that combined with his black GM Goodwrench 3 car, earned himself the nickname The Intimidator from fans and the media. Earnhardt is still tied to this day with The King, Richard Petty, for the record of most NASCAR Winston/Sprint Cup Championships at seven, a record many thought no driver but Jeff Gordon had a shot of coming close to, until Jimmy Johnson’s brand of record-breaking racing came along.

This year’s running of the Daytona 500 will be a sad affair indeed, for many fans of NASCAR.

Smart Quote

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.

Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, 1756

Hey, Check This Out!

Would you believe The Shining was actually a feel-good, father-son comedy? Who’da thunk it?

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @UGABugKiller. Thanks!


  1. Ok, so today it only took you two paragraphs to insert your overstated opinion of Mike Smith's "play-not-to-lose offense"... Surprised MartyBall didn't make it into the article...are you slipping? My real comment is, like others, is that Norwood is supposed to be the "speed" guy out of the backfield and he was hurt (again!). When he has been healthy, he has provided that "playmaker" ability that opens up the run offense (and thusly the passing game), but frankly has just plainly been a bust. Key need in the draft...Good stuff, just need to lay off the "play-not-to-lose offense" and MartyBall crap...

  2. ease19,

    I'll lay off of it when it stops. Mike Smith's coaching philosophy on offense and defense is troubling, and we can say that now as there's three years of film from which to cull.

    Smitty's done well as a head coach, better than anyone would've guessed when he was hired, and given the Falcons a respectability they've never had, that is definitely true, but in the postseason, when it matters most, his team haven't won, and they were favored in both games. And in the game against Green Bay, they lost in the worst way possible: reactive play-not-to-lose b.s. on both sides of the ball, no aggressive play-to-win coaching or playing ANYWHERE to be found.

    The truth is, the running game would be opened up even without Norwood if Smith didn't insist on handcuffing Matt Ryan and the passing game, allowing for more shots downfield. More shots downfield, or even the threat of such a thing, opens up the running lanes, leading to bigger runs, which leads to less carries for Turner for the same kind of yardage, which means the run game works better overall.

    As for Norwood, I don't buy that the team was depending on him to be the "speed" guy... he's been hurt way too much, and the last two years I can't believe the team was "depending" on him. Maybe hoping, but not depending, which means Norwood was never a big part of their plans to being with, at least not as big a part as you and others may think.

    Which brings us back to philosophy, because if Norwood never figured into their plans and they weren't hamstrung by his absence (pun not intended), that means their philosophy is as big a failure in games that matter as I've been saying it is.

    I don't want Mike Smith to go down the Marty Schottenheimer/Bobby Cox playoff failure road. I desperately WANT him to win here, because not only is he a good coach overall, he's an outstanding person.

    But if he continues to refuse to evolve and adapt his outdated football philosophy to the 21st century NFL and its rules that outright favor QBs and WRs and the passing game as a whole, then he seals his own fate.

    Adapt and overcome. Evolve or die. That's life.

    But thanks for commenting, sincerely, and I'll try to find other things to harp on, I promise. :-)