Saturday, February 21, 2015

Defensive Gun Use in Politico Magazine: What to Believe

Recently, two authors--Evan DeFillipis and Devin Hughes--published an article in Politico Magazine criticizing a two-decade-old study by Gary Kleck and Marc Getz. Kleck just published a response. (The remainder of this post assumes you've read both.)
Let's look at what DeFillipis and Hughes said and what Kleck said in response. 

D & H: 

"In 1992, Gary Kleck and Marc Getz, criminologists at Florida State University, conducted a random digit-dial survey to establish the annual number of defensive gun uses in the United States. They surveyed 5,000 individuals, asking them if they had used a firearm in self-defense in the past year and, if so, for what reason and to what effect. Sixty-six incidences of defensive gun use were reported from the sample. The researchers then extrapolated their findings to the entire U.S. population, resulting in an estimate of between 1 million and 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year."

Kleck does not refute this. 

When presented with a list of reasons why his survey respondents might have had reason to exaggerate the number of times they used guns in self-defense--social desirability bias, awareness of the political context of the questions, and "telescoping"--Kleck does not refute any of these things, either. He doesn't say they don't matter; he doesn't argue against them, or even address them. 

His approach is, instead, to criticize DeFillipis and Hughes's credentials, say he's heard all of this before, question their motives, and pooh-pooh the very idea of criticism. 

His sole argument against DeFillipis and Hughes is this: "The authors’ discussion of possible flaws in survey estimates of DGU frequency is conspicuously one-sided, addressing only supposed flaws that could make the estimates too high—but none that could make the estimates too low."

In other words, 'It may be wrong one way, but it could be wrong the other way, too!'

He also makes numerous claims about supporting evidence, mentioning the "well-documented failure of many survey respondents to report criminal victimization, gun ownership or their own crimes" and saying "at least 18 national surveys have confirmed that DGUs are very common", but unlike DeFillipis and Hughes, he does not include specific results from other surveys that corroborate his beliefs, or include links to his supporting evidence. This is not persuasive. 

Finally, he postulates that DGUs would be underreported instead of overreported, because survey respondents could be admitting to criminal activity, and people are unlikely to report their own crimes. 

This seems to me to be nonsense, because Kleck and Geis conducted a presumably anonymous phone survey to get their results in the first place. They didn't ask people to march down to the local police precinct and confess. There would be no consequences for someone saying they used their gun in self-defense, even if it was illegal. 

Obviously, we're now getting into the heads of the survey respondents, and asking whether the biases DeFillipis and Hughes pointed out would have outweighed the tendency not to report a crime. But again, it's telling that DeFillipis and Hughes point to well-understood biases that have been confirmed by studies from other organizations. Kleck does not back up anything he says with links or the names of other organizations who have conducted studies to corroborate him. 

Ultimately, however, the question is whether a sample of 66 'yes' results out of 5,000 people can be fairly extrapolated to the whole country, what those unnamed eighteen studies Kleck said confirmed his results actually said, and what to make of the Arizona study, the NCVS data, and the Gun Violence Archive data in DeFillipis and Hughes's column that all provide reason not to accept Kleck's numbers at face value. 

On the face of it, there is much more reason to believe DeFillipis and Hughes--who seem to have made considerable efforts to survey the state of research in the field of defensive gun violence and account for biases--than to believe Kleck, who does not back up what he says with supporting evidence or other organizations, and who spends much more time bad-mouthing his critics than he does actually refuting what they have to say. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Letter to Christian Schneider

Dear Christian Schneider, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Columnist,

It seems to have escaped you, in your haste to pooh-pooh the New York Times’ coverage of Walker’s attempt to rewrite the century-old Wisconsin Idea, that Walker did not make a drafting error; he made a deliberate attempt to change the University of Wisconsin’s mission from “the search for truth” to “workforce development”. This has been covered in detail by the Journal Sentinel. It is hard to see how you could continue to refer to that as a drafting error without a heavy dose of sarcasm. (Either that, or Walker has shockingly little control over his staff!)

It’s also rather telling that you seem to admire Walker’s straightforwardness (“actually practices the conservatism he preaches”, yet you mention two incidents in which he completely failed to own his beliefs. The clumsy attribution of his intent re: the Wisconsin Idea to a drafting error was one. Declining to answer whether he believed in evolution was another. And despite being on the stage at one of the world’s most respected foreign policy think tanks, he declined to answer any foreign-policy questions of consequence. That doesn’t bother you at all? (Also, you called the evolution question a ‘political question’, which puzzled me. There are questions asked of a presumptive presidential candidate that are not political in nature?)

This is a pattern for Walker; he declined repeatedly to state his beliefs on the issue of Wisconsin’s since-overturned gay marriage ban, although he continued to order his attorney general to defend it in court. That is not very forthright behavior, nor is it in line with the image he attempts to promote. It is simply the behavior of someone who is unabashedly seeking higher office and attempting to make himself seem more electable by emitting nothing but anodyne bromides and misleading or false information. You lament liberals’ potshots on the aforementioned social issues and for taking shots at Walker’s status as a college dropout. Very well; let us examine his real qualifications.

Walker falsely claimed during his reelection campaign that he had given the state a $535M surplus instead of a $1.8B deficit, which was measured as such using the same methods that resulted in the $3.6B budget deficit he hammered Jim Doyle for after taking office. But now that that method of calculating the budget is inconvenient for him, he repudiates it entirely. He cherry-picks the numbers to make himself look good, and he is wrong, and he doesn’t appear to care. He has demonstrated that he has no considered opinions on US foreign policy in an issue as important as Syria. In seeking to validate his stance on unions as a foreign-policy issue, he made up Soviet documents that never existed.

His much-touted jobs agency has not only failed to hit its job-creation marks, but has done everything wrong that a job-creation agency can do. Per Reuters: “State legislative audits have found that WEDC has mismanaged taxpayer funds and handed out awards to companies that should not have been eligible for them. The agency also didn't follow up to ensure that jobs were actually being created and failed to track whether businesses were paying their loans back on time, according to reviews in 2012 and 2013. Lassa said the agency had improved its performance somewhat since then.” (You didn’t mention this one in your roundup of recent Walker coverage. Perhaps it hit too close to home.)

He has declined hundreds of millions of federal dollars in money to build a high-speed rail line and to expand public health care in Wisconsin. And he just kicked $108M in loan payments down the road, just like Jim Doyle did… which will hurt more in the long run, as any responsible fiscal conservative will tell you. By declining federal money, kicking debt down the road, setting up a shell of a job-creation agency, and now attempting to gut the UW-Madison system—which will be bad for state business as well as state education—he is attempting to make himself look good for primary voters at the expense of the state that is unfortunate enough to host him.

I’m glad you’ve noticed that liberals are angry about what Walker is doing to Wisconsin.

Why aren’t you?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Biking in New Orleans

Two things before we start. One: I’m completely unharmed, for friends and family reading this. Two: There is no hyperbole in this post.

I just started work at an IT consulting company in downtown New Orleans, about three miles down St. Charles Avenue from where I live. Since it was 50 degrees a few mornings ago, I decided to bike to work.

The first major intersection between my house and downtown is Napoleon Avenue. Around that area, St. Charles has a boulevard where the streetcar runs, one lane of traffic and a curb lane. Bike lanes run from approximately Octavia Avenue all the way west to the riverbend, but there are no bike lanes going east (downtown) from where I live. Because of this, I usually stay fairly close to the parked cars in the curb lane.

I waited for the light to change and crossed Napoleon Avenue, getting up to speed as I did so. There was a bright blue car, possibly a minivan, possibly a sedan, sitting on the curb about 20-30 feet past the intersection. As my front wheel passed the car’s left rear wheel, I saw the driver’s door begin to open, perhaps five or six inches outward, directly in front of me. 

What happened next was pure instinct; the thinking part of my brain was not involved. I had less than a second to react. I yanked on the handlebars as hard as I ever have. The bike slewed crazily to the left and out into the middle of the driving lane. I cleared the edge of the car door by no more than two or three inches. Thankfully, the car coming through the intersection behind me either threw on the brakes or was already pretty far behind me, because I was not hit.

Less than a second.

At this point, I started thinking again. My bike has road tires, which are not built to grip the road during violent 45-degree turns, and it was wobbling like crazy and still going at a pretty high speed. I’m going to crash in the middle of the street, I thought, imagined myself falling, and started preparing to take the blow on my forearms.

Again, my body had other ideas. Without orders from the top, I slammed both my forearms down on the handlebars, which were weaving back and forth. That stabilized them, the bike stopped weaving, and I began to guide it back towards the curb lane. I turned around and looked back during this process and heard a woman shout “Sorry!” This all took place in a second or two but seemed much longer.

As I got back out of the driving lane, I shouted “Jesus! Fuck! Christ!” On “Christ”, the car behind me—a white SUV—pulled alongside me, and the man inside hollered “Are you okay?” I said something reassuring, I don’t remember what, and he drove off.

That was the end of it. I wasn’t hurt. I stopped a few blocks later to adjust my clothing and whatnot, but that was it. I missed it entirely. I went to work, did work things, and eventually got out of work. 

Around 5:35 that evening, I was biking home on St. Charles, having just passed Lee Circle and passed under the freeway bridge. Again, I was biking fairly close to the parked cars. I was wearing grey pants and a dark green sweatshirt. I had my red taillight and white headlight on, although they were not flashing so that any idiot could see them. Apparently that’s necessary here.

I never saw the black sedan until it pulled up alongside me. Its lights were on, and so was its turn signal. It began to turn directly into my path. I have no reason to believe he saw me.

This time was different. Instead of an instant of pure reflex and a violent change, everything seemed to be happening in pleasant slow motion. I pulled back on the brakes, again instinctively, but I had time to lazily contemplate the movement of the car. It didn’t register that I was about to hit it. It was moving ponderously into my path, and I remember thinking that the driver was cutting it pretty fine.

I was lucky again. We were in the middle of a block. Instead of turning onto a street, he turned into a driveway that happened to have a gate. That meant he was slowing down almost as much as I was. The angles kept changing as we raced to the bottom.

Because of this, instead of hitting him at full speed, I only nudged his right rear door with my left handlebar as he finished cutting me off. We came to a stop.

I was too disgusted to say or do anything. I remember being completely unsurprised that this had happened again. There was no noise from the car, so I pulled off the sock that served me as a glove, gave a big smile and a sardonic thumbs-up, and got back on the bike, shaking from the waist down.

I can think of three possible explanations for me not hitting the first car. Either the driver paused in the middle of opening the door, or she realized what was happening and pulled it back in a split second, or I simply dodged it entirely. Whatever it was, that was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. I have no doubt that if I’d been just a touch slower to recognize and react to what was happening, I would have smashed into the car door and suffered serious injury. The same goes for the second car. If I hadn’t recognized what was happening and slowed down, I would have plowed into its side at a considerable speed.

I’m very glad I can do that. I hope it does not prove necessary on every single commute. Who needs coffee when you have a heart attack?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Breaking Down the Red Cross's Response to the Damning ProPublica Report of 10/29

As someone who served as an Americorps volunteer with FEMA in the five months following Tropical Storm Sandy, the waste, mismanagement of resources, inadequate treatment of volunteers and prioritization of "looking good" over "doing good" described in ProPublica's article is completely unsurprising. FEMA was guilty of all of these sins, so it is not surprising that FEMA's close partner organization is also guilty of those sins.

When a large organization is guilty of bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, the last thing you would expect them to do is make a honest accounting of their sins and own up to what went wrong. The Red Cross, in this respect, is no different from any other agency that has been caught out.

Let's parse their anodyne, noncommittal, deeply outraged response, shall we? Actual lines from the press release (which is here) will be in bold, commentary in regular text.

It is regrettable

Translation: We wish you hadn't aired our dirty laundry.

that ProPublica and NPR have used the two-year anniversary (sigh) of Superstorm Sandy's landfall to paint a distorted and inaccurate picture of a Red Cross response that helped tens of thousands of people who urgently needed our services with hot meals, shelter, relief supplies and financial support.

No doubt the Red Cross did indeed do this. ProPublica even mentions in its article that the Red Cross, when challenged, likes to throw out huge numbers of people it says it helped--and that shouldn't be discounted or underplayed. At the same time, doing a lot of things right does not obliterate the things they did very, very wrong--like allowing sex offenders into childrens' play areas, for example, or wasting 30% of available meals ostensibly for disaster survivors. Just because you did a lot of good is not a valid argument that you didn't also do some bad. It's more a PR shield than an actual response--note that their objection is to "the inaccurate picture" painted--and the Red Cross doesn't respond directly to most of the specific charges from ProPublica.

Our mission is to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies, and that alone is what guided our service delivery decisions during Sandy and during every emergency. [Italics theirs]

This is the exception. They say this so boldly--alone--but then why is there an internal Red Cross document that alludes to Red Cross Headquarters "diverting assests [sic] for public relations purposes"? Why is there an email from a Mass Care officer, a guy on the ground, from 11/18/12, reporting that 15 of 37 trucks were diverted at one point for public relations purposes? Not responding directly to these pieces of evidence--which come, again, from within the Red Cross--seems a lot to me like the "ignore it and hope it goes away" approach to PR, which is an idiotic way to approach the problem. Repeat after me: The existence of the ProPublica article is not a PR problem that you have to solve. The problems within your organization that lead to poor service are the real problems that you need to solve.

We are proud of the work of our 17,000 Sandy workers – nearly all of them volunteers– who served more than 17.5 million meals and snacks, distributed 7 million relief items, and provided 74,000 overnight stays in shelters. Two years after Sandy’s landfall, the Red Cross has spent or committed to spend $310 million, which is 99 percent of the $311.5 million raised for our Sandy response. 

Yes, true, but how much was wasted? And given the Mass Care officer's testimony that 30% of meals were wasted, one wonders if that 17.5 million number covers meals actually served, or merely the total number of meals ordered, without accounting for waste and inefficiency? How do situations like the one described in the article, where a Red Cross kitchen serving 22,000 meals was ordered to scale up to 220,000 the next day, count? Would you count the number of meals that actually made it into the mouths of disaster survivors (something like 70,000 Danishes delivered, half of those wasted, according to ProPublica) or would you ring up 220,000 on your balance sheet and say you did that? This is a real question because the internal report revealed that the size of the disaster "crippled" the Red Cross's ability to tabulate what it had accomplished, and apparently the Red Cross is unusually opaque when it comes to telling the public how it actually spends its money. That $310 million that was spent lost some percentage to administrative overhead and waste, but it's impossible to tell how much from the numbers they provide the public.

And our surveys show that the overwhelming majority of the people we served had a positive experience with the Red Cross and the services we provided.

Will you make those surveys, or aggregated numbers from them, available to the public? What was your surveying methodology? Who was asked, and when? Is it possible that survivors rated you well on the whole because you fed and sheltered them during and after the storm, but nevertheless had concerns about your management? What is an "overwhelming majority", on a percentage basis of the people asked? Do the surveys contain leading questions? Is there a place for survivors to provide suggestions, and have you taken those suggestions into account? Again, as a random schmuck, I have no reason to reflexively believe you when you're in full cover-your-ass mode and won't make the details that back up what you're saying available to me.

In the chaotic first few hours and days after a disaster, it is impossible to meet every need, especially on a disaster as big as Sandy. When problems occur, we try to fix them quickly, and we always strive to do better. 

This is true, and should not be underplayed (although that is their job). But there is a difference, as my fellow FEMA Corps members and I learned in the FEMA response, between problems that are inherent to the crazy post-disaster environment and problems created by bureaucratic mismanagement, lousy priorities (I point again to the food trucks diverted for photo opportunities), and infighting. I'm glad that the Red Cross says it fixes problems, but since it has not acknowledged in this release that any of the problems outlined in the article actually exist, that tends to make me pessimistic about whether those problems were actually fixed.

As we do with all major disasters, the Red Cross proactively sought feedback from hundreds of volunteers, staff and others as part of a thorough review of its response to Sandy. Based on that feedback, and our own evaluation, we implemented changes to continuously strengthen our service delivery. 

'Continuously strengthen' is such a mealymouthed phrase; it describes fixing problems without ever acknowledging that there were problems that needed to be fixed. I don't have much to say about this part; it's simply impossible to judge its veracity until the next major disaster. It is possible that the Red Cross made some changes, as the internal review conducted away from the cold light of the press was far more honest and candid than the Red Cross was willing to be in this release. However, when the first item on the list of "Hinderances" [sic] is the Red Cross National Headquarters, whose sins include "Direct involvement in Service Delivery decisions without local understanding" and "Diverting assests [sic] for public relations purposes"... well, I don't feel like the public has much reason to be optimistic. If the senior leadership is part of the problem, what are the odds that they spontaneously became part of the solution without any outside pressure to change, up until this point? It smells to me like there's plenty of work to be done here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brave Crusaders and Amoral Idiots

I have not seen very many Hollywood movies about the days of slavery, or the days of the civil rights movement. The only one I've seen recently is Steven Spielberg's Amistad, where the focus of the movie is the legal question of whether rebelling slaves aboard a slave ship can be legally considered people. Of course, the good guys win, against great odds. But what struck me most about the movie was the character and tenor of the opposition. To the early-21st-century white liberal viewer, like me, they appear hopelessly backwards. Their arguments don't make sense. There's nothing they can say that would make their side of the case, denying legal personhood to rebelling slaves, okay.
Immediately after the movie, I wondered what modern-day issues of civil or women's or sexual rights are going to look equally one-sided in the Hollywood movies of fifty years from now. I feel like it's common among my friends to look forward and say "Well, the people fighting gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. Boy, aren't they going to look like idiots in a generation or two". And they probably are.
Something that's been on my mind for a few days, though, is the opinions of the other side. By virtue of being young and liberal and socializing mostly with young liberals who share my views, I don't often run into anybody who disagrees with me on issues like 'Should gay people be allowed to get married?'. There was a column, however, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, right after the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeals of several states whose bans on gay marriage had been struck down. The column was by a supporter of the bans, and you can read it here.
I disagree completely with this column, but that's not why I'm posting it. For the first time in a considerable time, I was reading the genuine, unfiltered opinions of The Other Side. And for the first time in a considerable time, I began to understand why they believe what they believe. You read through the column and see lines like these: "Marriage is not a creation of the state — it existed before the state. The state appropriately seeks to protect it. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and it matters to the state because that's the only sexual union naturally capable of producing children — Wisconsin's future taxpayers, workers, leaders and more."
Again, I'm not arguing in favor of this statement. I disagree with it. I believe marriage is a human institution created for human reasons, and it is up to humans to decide when to change the laws that govern us; I also believe that the state does not have a compelling interest in regulating marriage, as expressed by the judge who rejected the State of Wisconsin's arguments on those grounds.
But I read that paragraph, and I read that column, and for the first time in a considerable time I began to understand the internal logic that goes into the arguments with which I disagree. Of course if you believe marriage exists above the state, you disagree with a legal effort to change what it means. Of course if you genuinely believe that kids are better off with one man and one woman as parents, studies be damned, you'll structure your beliefs based on that. That's why the author believes what she believes, and that is where the opposition comes from. It's a popular pastime among liberal columnists (well, columnists on both sides, really) to pick at the underlying reasons why people believe what they believe; well, conservatives are afraid of change, so of course they oppose gay marriage. Well, liberals can't rely on themselves, so of course they support big government. It's a popular sport. This is something different: actually trying to understand why the opposition believes what they believe.
It's fair to say that I'm too far removed from this issue and too dispassionate about it to really hold this view. After all, if the state restricted my right to marry, or sit at a lunch counter, because of my religion or skin color, it's fair to say I'd be less interested in understanding why the Other Side believes what they believe, and more interested in overturning the real-world consequences of those beliefs that interfered with my life.
But this is important because, regardless of the Hollywood version of events where the Amistad opposition is reduced to helpless flabbling and eventually melts into the background while John Quincy Adams orates magnificently about the rights of man, there is always going to be opposition to what we like to call "progressive" social changes. There are always going to be people who dig in their heels to it, based on tradition, religion, or some other reason. I was just reading the Supreme Court decision in a case called Lombard, et al. vs. Louisiana, a civil rights case from the sixties, involving the state of Louisiana trying to punish four activists (three black, one white) who sat at a whites-only lunch counter and asked to be served. The opinion, authored by Chief Justice Earl Warren, contained the following quotes from Louisiana authorities:
"The Superintendent of Police issued a highly publicized statement which discussed the incident and stated that "We wish to urge the parents of both white and Negro students who participated in today's sit-in demonstration to urge upon these young people that such actions are not in the community interest. . . . [W]e want everyone to fully understand that the police department and its personnel is ready and able to enforce the laws of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana." 2 On September 13, [373 U.S. 267, 271] four days before petitioners' arrest, the Mayor of New Orleans issued an unequivocal statement condemning such conduct and demanding its cessation. This statement was also widely publicized; it read in part:
"I have today directed the superintendent of police that no additional sit-in demonstrations . . . will be permitted . . . regardless of the avowed purpose or intent of the participants . . . .
. . . . .
"It is my determination that the community interest, the public safety, and the economic welfare of this city require that such demonstrations cease and that henceforth they be prohibited by the police department." 
After Lombard, et. al. won the case, these people didn't just go away, right? That's the Mayor and the Superintendent of Police. The Mayor was a three-time candidate for Governor of Louisiana; the Superintendent of Police was active in public life for decades afterward, eventually becoming a member of the New Orleans City Council. You read a retrospective like this about white parents rushing to pull their children out of newly integrated schools. The parents didn't just go away when the court case was won, right? They presumably were still out there, grudgingly living with the new reality, fighting tooth and nail every change for the betterment of black New Orleanians. 
Community interest. Public safety. Economic welfare. There are always going to be these kinds of respectable veneers for racism, sexism, religious discrimination, and all the other evils. I'm suggesting that without giving in to those evils, it is worth our while, once in a while, to shed the Amistad perspective of the progressive liberal side of things as brave crusaders opposed by amoral idiots and adopt a perspective of people opposed by other people who happen to be wrong. I truly believe that the way to change peoples' minds is to understand what they believe and why. Only then can you effectively argue against it. It's so much more effective than just yelling at each other. Remember, the Other Side thinks you're crazy, too, and they're not going away. They don't shamefacedly walk offscreen at the end of the movie and disappear forever. They're going to keep resisting and resisting and resisting. If your view is that they're all hopeless old lunatics and eventually they'll all die and young liberals will reign supreme, well, that's great. In the meantime, they're going to be here, and we might as well try to understand what they believe. Not, for the umpteenth time, because we agree, but because "it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it", as the quote attributed to Aristotle goes, and because understanding the Other Side's views will help you engage with them and hopefully change them. That's how you move beyond partisanship, that's how you get off cable news and late-night television, that's how you get people to talk to each other, that's how you change minds.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Packers-Lions Tape Tales: One Personnel Package to Rule them All and Other Stories

Once upon a time, Mike McCarthy used to be known as the king of swapping out personnel to find the most advantageous matchup; he'd go with an inverted wishbone, two-fullback look one snap, and split four wides and a TE out on the next snap. At least against the Lions, those days seemed to be over with. Except for a brief period in the third quarter when they went with four wides, the Packers ran their three-WR, one-TE, one-RB package exclusively. Not once did anyone go in motion before the snap, Cobb was always the slot WR and was never alone on a side, and the main variation seemed to be whether the TE was split out or tight; it was almost always shotgun. No two-TE sets, no fullback on the field (kuuuuuuhn?), no bunches or stacked WRs, nothing. I mention this not as a criticism necessarily--after all, if it worked, who would complain--but it was very jarring to see on tape.

-Speaking of the offense, there was much blather this week about Rodgers focusing too much on Nelson, but I really didn't see that on tape. He was targeting Quarless and Cobb with decent results right up until the bitter end.

-Ndamukong Suh, he of ill fame, *abused* Lang and Linsley inside. Another much-ballyhooed topic this week was Lacy and his lousy 3.1 yards per carry. Well, a lot of those runs were out of the shotgun, and I counted three times where Lacy wanted to take it straight upfield but Suh had destroyed Lang inside--and I mean destroyed; the first time it happened, Suh's initial punch turned Lang completely around, putting him perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. When that happened, Lacy inevitably bounced it outside and got strung out, since he lacks great speed, and smothered. This happened to Harris as well. Starks seemed much better at picking his way through trash and turning upfield, perhaps because he committed to the inside runs more beyond the initial read.

-The Packers ran some really weird blocking schemes in an effort to control Suh, Nick Fairley and their comrades. Here's an example. First and 10 in the first quarter.  Ezekiel Ansah is the RDE, Fairley the RDT. Opposite them are Bakhtiari, Sitton and Richard Rodgers, tight to the line next to Bakhtiari. At the snap, Sitton immediately pulls to the second level, Rodgers takes the DE, and Bakhtiari turns and blocks Fairley from the side as he flies upfield, effectively trapping him out of the play. (The play went south because of Suh's crushing Lang as previously mentioned, but that had little to do with this blocking pattern.) The Packers pulled Sitton, Lang and Linsley quite a few times, mixed in cut-blocks on passing plays, and once double-teamed both Suh and Fairley while leaving Ansah unblocked (which somehow worked). It looked like a lot of time and effort went into controlling Detroit's defensive front, but with one TE and no FB, I saw a lot of DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch flying into the line and getting past a guard or center whose job it was to deal with him. Corey Linsley, bless his heart, looked very unaware on the second level when trying to pick up LBs.

-I think we get spoiled by Rodgers’ ability to make something happen outside the pocket; usually, it’s a first down to Cobb or some other big play. Today, Rodgers always seemed to be facing very tight coverage when he rolled to the right, and ended up throwing into coverage or throwing it away. I think this was because of the ubiquitous Suh and Fairley, who several times shot into the backfield on passing plays and forced Rodgers to move sooner than he’d have liked to. Because the receivers didn’t have as much time to lose their coverage, as they usually do on a Rodgers rollout that takes 4-5 seconds to develop, the rollouts didn’t look nearly as good.

-On defense, the Packers had no answer for Reggie Bush. Whenever the Lions wanted Bush, or third-down back “The Chronicles of” Theo Riddick, the back would circle out of the backfield, wide-open, and catch the ball for an easy five yards before the CB or S wrapped him up. The Packers’ ILBs were either too slow to get over to Bush from the middle of the field or were looking at beautiful butterflies, but almost every time the Lions tried it, it worked.

-The Lions never had an answer for Peppers. He had several hits on the QB in addition to his sack, all of them after flying around the corner against the Lions’ woeful RTs. He shared partial responsibility for Neal’s sack, forced another two incomplete passes with QB hits, and was as responsible as anyone for keeping Green Bay in the game.

-Two depressing things to close. One: No matter how many Packers are on the field, third-and-short for the enemy always feels like a foregone conclusion, whether they’re running against the nickel or a four-DT line. Two: Tramon Williams and Micah Hyde delivered some solid hits, and the D-line was generally able to cover people up, but man, our linebackers. Neal, Hawk, Lattimore, Barrington: when they’re not bouncing off backs or receivers and letting them churn forward for more yardage, they’re getting driven backwards for extra yardage even when they make the tackle. You watch footage from the 2010 team, like the Redskins game in Week 5: when someone catches a ball over the middle or runs up the gut, they get stopped. It doesn’t have to be a blow-up hit, but the ballcarrier generally stops moving forward when hit. Must be nice to be the Seahawks or somebody and take that sort of thing for granted, because we can’t do it consistently.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sammy Baugh's Weird, Wonderful Wikipedia Page

Sammy Baugh's Wikipedia page has a weird historical quirk--scratch that, a million weird historical quirks. He was a QB, a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1963 and is one of the Redskins' greatest players. But check this out:
-Baugh was a three-sport athlete at TCU, and was offered a job as a football coach at TCU after his senior year. Instead, he signed a minor-league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals before getting discouraged and turning to football. He was then drafted sixth overall in 1937.
-As the sixth overall pick, he got a one-year contract.
-Per Wikipedia, on being drafted by the Redskins, he said "I didn't know what they were talking about, because frankly, I had never heard of either the draft or the Washington Redskins." I will pray every day from now until the 2015 draft that someone says this during the pre-draft craziness.
-He also said this: "I didn't know how much pro players were making, but I thought they were making pretty good money. So I asked Mr. Marshall for $8,000, and I finally got it. Later I felt like a robber when I found out what Cliff Battles and some of those other good players were making. I'll tell you what the highest-priced boy in Washington was getting the year before—not half as much as $8,000! Three of them—Cliff Battles, Turk Edwards and Wayne Millner—got peanuts, and all of 'em in the Hall of Fame now. If I had known what they were getting I'd have never asked for $8,000."
-The government's CPI inflation calculator runs that to about $132,140.00 in modern dollars. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION.
-Playing both ways, he once threw four touchdown passes and picked off four enemy passes IN THE SAME GAME. In 1943, which might as well be 943, he led the league in completion percentage (55.6%), interceptions (11), and punting average (45.9 yards); the top in the NFL in 2013 was 48.9 by a guy who plays in Oakland, so, you know, not bad. He also holds the best all-time single-season average, 51.4 yards.
-On Halloween 1943 vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers, he became the first player to ever throw for six touchdowns; he did it again on "Sammy Baugh Day" in 1947 vs. the Cardinals, amassing 355 yards. In 1947.
-Weirdest of all: he was a five-time All-Star, five-time All-Pro, two-time Player of the Year (some kind of primitive MVP award) and led the league in passing six times, which only Steve Young has ever matched, and is in the Hall of Fame... but only made one Pro Bowl in his career. (It was discontinued in 1942 and revived only in 1950.) Also, the Pro Bowl used to be the defending champions against the rest of the league's all-stars, which, why can't we have that nowadays????? That'd be amazing!