Monday, May 24, 2010

5 Wins for the Rams in 2010...?

On last Friday's edition of ESPN Live!, former Corner and Head Coach Herman Edwards made a bold statement: A franchise quarterback means 4 more wins for your football team. He didn't give us examples, or statistics, he just left that apple tart for us on the table.

From now on I am going to call this Herm Edwards' law: A franchise QB means 4 more victories.

This created some echos and reverberations around the NFC West, a division thought to have no franchise quarterbacks... but a division which is hopeful. Now that they are running a considerable number of spread-like plays and formations, the 49ers have seen Alex Smith begin to blossom. The Seahawks just made a very strange trade, and they are hopeful. The Cardinals have been developing Matt Leinhart for some time now. The Rams just invested the absolute #1 pick in the 2010 draft in Sam Bradford. You know what they are thinking.

ESPN has a good blogger named Mike Sando who is extremely performance-simulation oriented. I like reading his stuff. He always points at some pretty interesting quantitative analysis or simulations. A while ago, Sando blogged that 10,000 reps of the NFC West schedule for 2010 produced some 7,300+ division titles for the 49ers. As many of us suspect, the 49ers have to be favored to win the division this year. The same simulations showed 4 victories for the Rams in 2010. This was the most common outcome. The Rams rarely won less than 3 games, and very rarely managed 6 wins.

Let's put it all together an extrapolate:
  • The Rams had no franchise QB in 2010
  • We want to believe we have one now.
  • We won just a single game last season (1-15)
  • Herm Edwards says a franchise QB adds 4 wins to your record
  • Sando's favorite simulations say that the Rams are likely to win 4 games
So, if Devaney is right, and Sam Bradford is a franchise-making QB, we should win 5 games in the 2010 season. 1 + 4 = 5. For some this will seem plausible. For others it will not.

I am skeptical. I am usually skeptical. It is in my scientific and philosophical training. Leave no postulate unexamined. Don't presume math is reason. Never assume the model takes everything into consideration.

Here is some food for thought with this theory in mind:
  • If Sam Bradford should play in 16 games, and we accrue 5 wins, I will be willing to say Devaney's big-time gamble appears to be paying off.
  • If Sam Bradford should play in 16 games, and we accrue 5 wins, it would appear Herm Edwards' Law looks reasonable.
  • If Sam Bradford should play in 16 games and we accrue 5 wins, we will have exceeded the computer projections by 1 game. We'll give that one to Sam. He will get credit for beating the spread.
  • If Sam plays 16 and we get 6 or 7 wins, I think everybody will know what that means. He will have busted the ceiling in this case. Just remember, we're going to have to score more than 300 points to get to the 6 or 7 mark.
  • What will it mean if Sam plays 16 and we win 1 or 2?
  • What if Sam doesn't start until week 8 and we are 0-7 at that point? What if he managed 3 wins in the last 9? What will we make of this outcome?
  • What if Sam doesn't start until week 8 and we are 0-7 at that point? What if he wins 5 of the last 9? I think we will know what to make of that outcome. There will be some celebration.
  • So here is the goat-screw scenario: Suppose we start A.J. Feeley and we open up 4-0? What do we do then? That would not be such a good thing, eh?
Let me give you my personal thoughts about all this.

Troy Aikman is a name that seems to keep coming up in connection with Sam Bradford. That's not just because they are both from Oklahoma. It's not just because they are both accurate. It's because Aikman is the only absolute #1 QB pick to trigger a turn-around from kaput-worst to dynasty. Devaney knows that. I reminded him of that. He's using this imagery as propaganda to inspire us.

With that in mind, let's remember that Aikman was 0-15 during his first season as a starter. The 1 victory the Cowboys got during 1989 occurred with Steve Walsh at the helm. The Cowboys did not panic. Neither should we.

Pat Shurmur is going to be the limiting factor that busts the deal in 2010. I have not complained at all about Spagnuolo because I see him doing a tremendous job with very limited talent on the defense. Our defense rarely or never looked stupid last season. They were overwhelmed several times. Our D was betrayed many times by a pathetic offense that turned it over deep.

The offense was the problem in 2009. I can say, with great confidence, that I know our defense will be better in 2010. They are getting it. They have bought into Spagnuolo's system. They are playing like they have great confidence in their coach and his scheme. They may not be that talented a unit, bu they are trusting each other and handling their responsibilities.

I can't say any of these things about the offense. Shurmur did not manage a weak offensive unit nearly as well as Spagnuolo managed our weak defensive unit. Our offense looked downright stupid many, many times last season. This had much to do with Shurmur's lack of game management, and lack of skill in play-calling.

The offense played with enough confidence to leave a Dristan capsule half-empty. They didn't look like they understood what was expected of them. They looked like Keystone Cops in October against the 49ers. They didn't look to me like they had any confidence at all that the scheme would work. It looked to me like they were going through the motions, just trying to get the season over-with.

All of these things are a dreadful reflection on the OC.

Do we believe Shurmur is suddenly going to find his sea-legs in 2010? Do we think he is going to command the respect of the troops, and inspire them to greatness?

Do we think Shurmur will call a mean-game, like Mike Martz would? Is he suddenly going to diagnose precise weaknesses in the enemy D and viciously exploit them through well-constructed mis-matches, as Martz would?

Shurmur gave me many indications last season that he is a ridged and inflexible system guy. He is probably going to rely on the adaptation built into the WCO passing scheme to do his work for him... When he is not running the football.

Unfortunately, this is an out-moded and out-dated offense which has been systematically rendered infective by the Belichick Box. If Shurmur doesn't step outside his comfort-zone and bring some opponent-specific strategies to the table in 2010, we're not going anywhere.

This is why I want Shurmur fired. I have no confidence in this guy's ability to construct an adaptive game strategy for specific opponents.

Until we unload Pat Shurmur we need to be very cautious about calling 4 or 5 wins for the Rams in 2010.