The sports columnist is a unique individual. They live and breath sports 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year... All have different styles, and some gather faithful hoards of readers that take what they write as very close to gospel.
Joining us today on Turf Show Times is a writer who is fast becoming an iconic sports columnist. Yahoo Sports Doug Farrar has gained a solid reputation while writing for "Shutdown Corner", and has become a part of my, and millions of other sports fan's, regular daily read. He's also one of the contributing authors for "The Football Outsiders Almanac", the bedside bible for all things football.
Please welcome Doug Farrar to Turf Show Times...
Me - The NFL started the 2011 season with some huge surprises. Teams that have been also-rans, like Buffalo, Detroit and Cincinnati seem to rise, while powerhouses like Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Atlanta sank. Give me your top three surprises and failures so far for the 2011 NFL season and why?
Doug Farrar - The biggest surprise for me has been the success of rookie spread offense quarterbacks in a league that usually eats those types of players for a quick pre-breakfast snack. Maybe it’s a function of the lockout having defenses on their heels to start, but the progressions shown by Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, and Tim Tebow (who is effectively a rookie when it comes to starts in this system) have been very impressive. I didn’t expect to see Newton handle pressure this well, nor did I think Dalton’s deep arm would be this consistent, nor was I convinced that any NFL team would be flexible enough to design an offense around Tebow. So, that’s me at 0-for-3.
The second surprise has to do with two defenses – the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers. Both teams had some talent on their rosters, but the ways in which Mike Zimmer and Vic Fangio have addressed specific personnel and schematic concerns is pretty amazing.
I’d say the third surprise has to be the Eagles. I didn’t buy the "Dream Team" hype, but the extent to which this team has given up borders on disgusting. I was in the press box for the Seahawks-Eagles game, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game in which so many receivers kind of slow-rolled their routes. Juan Castillo is a completele and total disaster as a defensive coordinator – turns out he’s the first guy on the NFL to burn Nnamdi Asomugha on a consistent basis – and I could see Andy Reid losing his job over this disaster.
Sooooo much more to read from Doug Farrar after the jump!
Me - The NFC West has taken a great deal of heat for being the worst division in the NFL. It seems to me there are other divisions trying very hard to stake there claim to the worst division? Give me your views on the fall from grace of the AFC West, AFC South, and the NFC West.
Doug Farrar - AFC West: I thought the Chiefs were a mirage last year, and as for the Chargers, this is the year A.J. Smith’s hubris finally caught up to him.
AFC South: Colts’ problem is obvious, but I don’t think this was a playoff team even with Manning. The Jaguars are a mess from the personnel side, so it’s not a great idea to give GM Gene Smith a 3-year extension just as Wayne Weaver is selling the team.
NFC West: Clearly the 49ers are in the driver’s seat now, and for the foreseeable future. Seahawks are probably a quarterback and a year of player growth away from playoff contention. The Cardinals just spend $60 million on a backup quarterback, and they’ll feel that for at least the next three years. The Rams obviously need a from-the-bricks overhaul.
Me - You've been a part of the rouges gallery of contributing authors for the Football Outsiders Almanac since 2006. How did you get involved with the project? Is there a Doug Farrar penned novel, or non-fiction book on the horizon?
Doug Farrar - I first started corresponding with FO majordomo Aaron Schatz in 2005, the year the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl. I was a fan of sabermetrics from the early Bill James days, and when I first saw FO in 2004, I just lost my mind, because football was obviously my preferred sport. He didn’t have a West Coast guy in 2005, so he leaned on me a little that year for analysis, and in 2006, I started doing spec pieces for the site. I was brought on as a full staff member in the summer of 2006, and my role expanded over time. Through FO, I’ve also been able to write for multiple newspapers and just about every major internet outlet on the planet. The Yahoo gig that now takes up the majority of my time also cane through FO – Yahoo wanted Bill Barnwell, who was otherwise occupied, and Barnwell recommended me, for which I’m eternally grateful. There may indeed be a Farrar-penned book on the horizon – stay tuned!
Me - Tim Ruskell wants his job back in Seattle. He says he'll bring Matt Forte with him, but Paul Allen leaves the decision up to you?
Doug Farrar - Tim Ruskell could offer to bring Walter Payton back from the great beyond and it wouldn’t matter, because he’s never be able to build the rest of the team around Payton . The fact that this man still has a job in the NFL is most curious.
*** These two questions is courtesy of Ryan Van Bibber, Turf Show Times Manager and puppy juggling, evil overlord:
Ryan - I'd like to know your take on Sam Bradford. What do you see as the struggles for Bradford in year three? Is it just the offensive line or a lack of talent? Or more?
Doug Farrar - Part of the problem is Bradford himself – he seems to be a bit more fidgety in the pocket this year, though that’s a product of his protection as well. The lack of targets is still an issue, but I think the real problem is that he’s been bounced around two systems in two seasons, and neither one has really played to his strengths.
Ryan - What is your take on Justin Blackmon versus Alshon Jeffrey?
Doug Farrar - Haven’t really studied Jeffrey in depth – would prefer to not answer this question as a result.
Me - How shocked are you at the rise of the San Francisco 49ers this year? Can any team in the NFC West beat them this year? If so, which team is most likely to knock them off?
Doug Farrar - I’m surprised at how well the defense has played, but I expected Harbaugh to erase the culture of mediocrity that infested that team for a decade. They’re a real force, and they will be for a long time.
Me - The Rams coaching staff and front office is on the proverbial hot seat. By the powers vested in me by no one in-particular, I now pronounce you the all powerful OZ of the Rams organization. Give me your top three replacements you have in mind for a new head coach and for GM of the St. Louis Rams?
Doug Farrar - I’d have to look more closely at assistant personnel guys to know who the best replacements would be for this roster – I’d rather not just throw the obvious names out there. As far as the head coach, I’m not entirely convinced that Spags should be fired. I am, however, convinced that Josh McDaniels must be stopped. Should Spags have to go, I’d again resist the obvious names and look at guys like Mike Zimmer and Rob Chudzinski. The Rams need to look for coaches who are expert in improving current personnel instead of throwing everything out – there are too many highly-priced and highly-placed players for that to be a feasible solution.
Me - The St. Louis Rams season has been marred by injuries to a almost unheard of level at Cornerback. Wide receivers have dropped passes to the point of being comical. One of the higher priced offensive lines in football seems to have taken Matador lessons in the off-season. Our offensive coordinator has a line of sportswear coming out called: McHoody's. Question: Why aren't the Rams going to the Super Bowl?
Doug Farrar - Uh … well, you just answered your question in the question. Seriously, there are major issues here. You can’t draft two offensive linemen that high and just decide that they’re ready for the scrapheap. You can’t draft a quarterback that high and surround him with nothing from a receiver angle. I think that Billy Devaney is a good guy, but when he loses his job in the offseason, he shouldn’t have to go too far to ask why.
Me - One of the true bright spots on for the St. Louis Rams has been James Laurinaitis. How does he rank among the best players at the Middle Linebacker position in the NFL?
Doug Farrar - Love him. He’s one of the very few pure three-down linebackers in the NFL. By that, I mean that he can excel in short-yardage run fits, intermediate flat-seam assignments, and deep Tampa-style coverage. He reminds me of Derrick Brooks and the early version of Lofa Tatupu. The optimal 4-3 MIKE linebacker.
Me - How crucial was the acquisition of Brandon Lloyd for the Rams? Should drafting a #1 wide receiver still be a top priority in the 2012 NFL Draft?
Doug Farrar - It was important, but Bradford obviously needs more. I’m generally against taking a receiver in the first round unless you’re pretty sure you’re getting an elite-plus player, and it really depends on the system installed by the new coaching staff if what I think is going to happen happens. But in this specific sense – yeah, probably. The Rams have quantity at the receiver position; it’s time for quality. They need that A+ player.
Me - Speaking of the college draft, which Cornerbacks have peaked your interest?
Doug Farrar - When it comes to draft eval, I don’t really start watching tape seriously until the NFL season is over – there just isn’t time. Maybe we should do a separate pre-draft Q & A later?
Me - Don't groan, but I have to ask - Do you think Peyton Manning will ever play again, and if so, when? Will Irsay mortgage the farm if the Indianapolis Colts don't have the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to take Andrew Luck?
Doug Farrar - I don’t think Manning will play again, and if I were Polian, I’d trade the #1 pick (which he will have) for as many draft picks as I could possibly get. That team is in trouble at almost every position.
Me - Tebow - Bizarrely good or just bizarre?
Doug Farrar - Both. He’s advancing his skill set every week, and as I said before, it’s important to remember that he’s basically a rookie from a starting perspective. I think there are ways in which the Broncos could build their team around him for multiple seasons.
Me - Let's trade pieces of "Doug" wisdom? My offering would be: Don't eat soup in the rain... You'll never finish!
Doug Farrar - "I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it." -- Groucho Marx
Doug Farrar - I’m going on pure talent as I see it here, not on scheme or specific team need, since we don’t yet know who will draft where:
1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Matt Barkley
4. Matt Kalil
5. Robert Griffin
6. David Decastro
7. Justin Blackmon
8. Riley Reiff
9. Morris Claiborne
10. Michael Floyd