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Bill Barnwell on the TE revolution

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  1. BananaRepublican

    BananaRepublican Banned

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    This Only time will tell if football has permanently changed - Grantland is a look primarily at the stats for TEs vs WRs over the span of their careers to prove a marked drop off for the TEs. The disturbing part is how TEs have traditionally had a couple of years of breakout and then really faded, probably due to the pounding.

    He also cites a couple of case studies of teams that have tried (and failed) to copycat the Patriots. His logic is flawless with regard to how and why the Patriots ended up with quality dual TEs. This is lost on the other teams.

    Barnwell wrote another one there on the probability of the Niners repeating last year's success. I'd read it if you're thinking of betting any farms on the Niners.

    Has anybody else seen this Grantland site before? I'm new to it. It's a Bill Simmons site and seems to have some top notch writers.
  2. Gwedd

    Gwedd PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I would only offer that, in New England's case, it's Tight End Evolution, vice Revolution. Bill is evolving the position and it's employment in order to counter what he sees as the threats posed by other teams, as well as to make the best use of the resources the team has available.

    I honestly think that that is what is lost on other teams: That Coach B takes a LOT of time to assess what, how and why other teams are doing, what resources New England currently has, and how best to exploit both.

    To that end, his use of the Tight Ends and the players he's been able to get for that position has evolved to meet the perceived/potential threats posed by other teams.

    YMMV, but that's how I see it.
  3. BradyFTW!

    BradyFTW! PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Bill Barnwell is a pretty good mouthpiece, but that's all that he is. For better or worse, he basically just parrots Football Outsiders stats. The next original thought that he expresses in a Grantland column will probably be his first. The only quasi-compelling point that he made was that tight ends are generally more injury-prone than WRs, which has been common knowledge since forever.

    As for whether the emergence of the tight end is a fluke... of course it's not. It's a direct response to the decline in running the ball across the NFL, and the resulting tendency of guys like Rex Ryan to flood the field with defensive backs. If nickel is the new base defense, then of course you want a 6'7" ogre who's too big for DBs to cover, and who can also help clear a path to plow right over them in the ground game.

    I don't understand why anyone's treating this as a flash in the pan; innovative minds have been searching high and low to find game-changing tight ends for years. The only difference is that now they're actually finding them. There's a reason why Belichick has drafted 7 tight ends since 2002, including two first rounders and a second rounder. Ever since Tony Gonzalez worked out, other teams have all but resorted to dragging guys off the basketball court.

    Will Gronk catch 17 TDs every year? Of course not, and I hope that nobody here needed Bill Barnwell to tell them that. Will his body break down in his early 30s, if not before? Wouldn't surprise me. But so what? The article's insight into the matter basically consisted of naming three examples, then two counterexamples, and calling it a 'disturbing trend'. Let's just say that he didn't exactly blow the null hypothesis out of the water, especially when two of the three guys he cited played in an era where a torn ACL was a career-ender. His larger analysis, by ignoring players who haven't yet retired, is similarly skewed.

    He did miss a cool opportunity, when discussing the 'undervalued assets' perspective, to tie it back to Moneyball. This same exact phenomenon is well-documented in the MLB. After the A's had some success, Moneyball came out, and big-market teams started hiring Billy Beane disciples, everyone started going after high OBP guys. Why? Because that's what Moneyball had been about... except it wasn't. OBP happened to be the stat that Beane had correlated to winning that happened to most undervalued in the market at the time. So every front office that took that takeaway from Moneyball was learning exactly the wrong lesson, because within a couple of years OBP was intensely overvalued. Look at Oakland now - they aggressively pursue defense, because it's extremely undervalued at the moment.

    The Patriots are Billy Beane in this scenario, except they're not crippled by having to compete with one quarter of the Yankees' payroll. Everyone who's trying to play catch up by snatching up tight ends in a seller's market is, again, kind of learning the wrong lesson. They're right in that tight ends are a valuable commodity against DB-heavy defenses. They're wrong in that tight ends are no longer undervalued. Foresight benefited the Patriots in a huge way just to get Gronk and Hernandez, but they're probably going to have to pay more than they originally anticipated if they hope to keep both of them.

    Anyway, it's actually pretty easy to strip out all of the filler and distil this article down to a couple of (admittedly awesome) sentences:

    Good news for the rest of the league - that's the blueprint right there! Now you just need someone as intelligent and visionary as Bill Belichick to pull it off.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2012
  4. celticboy04

    celticboy04 Rookie

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    Greetings,
    I have always felt BB was better at actually being successful at implementing things into the NFL that others tried to do, but did not have nearly as much success with. An example is the 3-4 defense and the two tight-end offense. As opposed to merely creating them on his own.

    Celticboy04
  5. patfanken

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    Damned you BradyFTW, I was just going to post that quote. ;)

    I'm not as familiar with Barnwell, so I went into the article without any bias. Clearly you don't like the guy. However I thought it was a fairly well written article that flowed well and while not exactly teeming with new info, providing the reader with several points of view that were well backed up with facts. As BB might say, "some were more obvious than others", but they did end with a great quote we both noticed as special. And since I took the time to copy them before coming back to this thread, they are good enough to repeat. :D

    If you want to run your team like the Patriots, you don't steal what the Patriots are doing now. You steal what the Patriots are going to do next.
  6. BradyFTW!

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    I don't have any dislike for Barnwell - I actually like the fact that he brings supporting data to his arguments, and that data is usually pretty illuminating. He also wrote for Football Outsiders before jumping over to Grantland, and I love FO and buy their almanac every year. I just think that he's kind of a one-trick pony; he looks for historical comparables using some relevant Football Outsiders stat, then he uses that comp to take a position that goes against prevailing media sentiment.

    There's nothing wrong with that, and I think it makes him a worthy counterbalance to more traditional writers. Even my criticism of his style isn't really much of a criticism: he is what he is, and there's nothing wrong with that. But the style also has some limitations, and one of those limitations is that looking exclusively to past comps without attempting to understand their context within the ongoing evolution of the game makes you makes an unreliable source for describing and understanding innovation. Am I really supposed to care about Braylon Edwards' career arc when evaluating Gronkowski, despite the fact that they play completely different positions, just because Braylon's best year yielded a similar statistical output? If that's the closest comp that he could find to Gronk, then Gronk truly has no comp, which should itself speak to how limited this whole methodology is for the topic at hand.

    When written best, I think that the FO style can account for these things by doing a better job of acknowledging what it doesn't know, because it very frequently gets things very, very wrong. At its worst, which is how I'd characterize this article, I'd say that it does little more than restate the main point of Moneyball and then assert a point--tight ends get injured more--that nobody ever really disputed in the first place.

    Also, Barnwell is uncommonly high on both the Jets and the Dolphins this season, so **** him.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2012
  7. Shockt327

    Shockt327 Rookie

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    Grantland is great; Chris Brown, of Smart Football, does great work on that site...

    EDIT: But I cannot help but think that Bill Barnwell contradicted his own point. He tried to point to the next big trend in his second to last paragraph; RBs used in the passing game. How? By simply looking at how the Saints (an already successful team) currently use Darren Sproles (an already successful player). Um, hey Barnwell? That's simply copying an already established trend - sort of like how all those unsuccessful teams tried to copy Gronk+Hernandez; something you just criticized and mocked.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  8. Gwedd

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    I'd add to what I wrote above that, looking over the whole league, what you find is Coach Belichick (and a couple others) is playing Chess while everyone else is playing football.

    By that i mean that he's not just dealing with the current roster, and schedule, but also looking 3-5 years down the pike, trying to gameplan for what trends may be developing, new rules, etc. And it's not just Coach B, but Ernie Adams too.
  9. ctpatsfan77

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    OTOH, here's the interesting thing: the "TE revolution" is actually something BB's been trying to do ever since he became HC of the Cleveland Browns.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  10. patfanken

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    But he just might have a point Shock. Think about it. While everyone and his mother spent the off season working on how to stop the Pats 2 TE's, I think BB might have been working on how he can use that knowledge and counter it with his trio of 3 RB's who can also catch the ball.

    So while its not exactly using the NO example, but rather BB staying one step ahead of the game. He already knows that teams will make it harder to get the ball to Gronk and Hernandez, because that's what defenses do. That's what HE's done time and again over the years. Offenses explode and defenses catch up (and visa versa). But rather than rest on his laurels. BB and Josh will recognize this and since they have the luxury of 3 RB's with plus receiving skills he can counter whatever plans DC's have for shutting down the TE (as best they can) by unleashing a NEW offensive attack, coming from an entirely different area.
  11. signbabybrady

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    Its not just the backs either. The best way to slow down the patriots was to overload the middle of the field to try and take away the TEs and Wes so what does BB do this off season? He goes and gets a player in Lloyd he will threaten another part of the field and with the developement of Vareen and Ridley in the passing game he will threaten yet another part of the field.

    He will stretch you vertical with Lloyd
    He will stretch you horizontally with the backs and screen game
    and once you are stretched out the middle will be unstoppable. I mean it was almost unstoppable last year and defenses were able to bunch the middle.
  12. Deus Irae

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    I expect Don Coryell is looking down and wondering what all the fuss is.
  13. BananaRepublican

    BananaRepublican Banned

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    Just a guess at what Barnwell would reply: It's about the quality of a Sproles, not the RB/receiver concept. Likewise there always were 2TE sets, but not at the high level of quality of Gronk/Hernandez.

    As he pointed out it's not necessarily achieved by drafting TEs or RBs but by drafting good values and then designing an offense around what you have.

    Oddly even Reggie Bush doesn't want to think of himself as a receiver. There is resistance to that concept but it could be a huge mistake. He wants to lead the league in rushing. I just shake my head. 300 carries huh, Reggie?

    I'd love to see what Josh and Brady could do with Reggie Bush. There you go - I think that's what Barnwell was driving at. It takes a creative application of an existing formula to make a new trend.
  14. BananaRepublican

    BananaRepublican Banned

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    I would bet that is true because that is the defintion of staying a step ahead. There is nothing wrong with building on what you did the year before (with the TEs) but the next implementation must be highly innovative or it will not be their main focus.

    I do like what Woodhead and Vereen can do though. I think perhaps we'll see Gronk's numbers down since he'll have the wet blanket all over him. We'll see Hernandez' numbers shoot up and we'll see an innovative use of the backfield.

    Besides that will be the obligatory shots down the field that are going to make this team one of the funner teams to watch.
  15. BananaRepublican

    BananaRepublican Banned

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    It's a good point. I see this coaching staff as being at the absolute peak of their creative powers, and being gifted with some pretty good talent. They are going to make it very difficult to cover every possible weapon.

    You need quality talent to make this happen though or the defense won't respect it. Perhaps Vereen will be the breakout guy on that side of the ball. He does have a huge upside. I think he fell into the right offense with the right OC and QB to reach his potential.

    I'm not sold on Ridley as a receiver yet. I think he has a concentration problem after the catch.
  16. jason423

    jason423 Rookie

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    I think this is a really excellent post. One of the things that always bugged me about FO (and I like them) is the find am observation and then apply it to everyone. Forget whether or not Sanchez is any good on the Jets, when he was a rookie all they did was compare him to Russell because statistically it was so close. Nobody does stats that way. Aikman and Elway were both far worse so the takeaway was that Sanchez would have somehow been better if he was even worse as a rookie? The timeframes you mentioned are also bad. Going back AFL/NFL merger is way too far to draw meaningful conclusions because the game has changed so much. Its one of the things with their DVOA that should also be updated since its based on pretty old data. The past can give you ideas about future prospects but by giving you ranges of outcomes not a cut and dry answer.

    In comparing TEs and WRs there are two things that should have been taken into account. One is that the old TE was an in-line blocker that took a beating and had two jobs. Did players get injured because they were used as a blocker? Did players get released because they couldnt block anymore? Jimmy Graham isnt blocking anyone. Hes a bulked up wideout. He isnt getting released because he cant block and he isnt getting hurt because of blocking. Thats a big reason to limit the set to match the more modern game.

    Secondly TE's get paid far less than wide receivers. The cap has been in place since 93 and the ramifications probably felt starting around 1998 or so on a leaguewide basis. It is much more difficult to release wide receivers because of the salary cap than most tight ends. They are also easier to replace as WRs often take years to develop(though that seems to be changing) while TEs do not. So the downtrending TE gets dumped while the WR gets to keep the job.

    I always though the Patriots tried to employ a TE attack so Im not sure I agree with the takeaway that they designed their offense because they had those two guys (though they clearly changed philosophy post-Moss which was an incredible bit of coaching by Belichick), but you guys would know better than me on that. To me the most impressive thing was the contract they gave Gronkowski that pretty much keeps him in New England in what should be his prime years and then has him go to some other team for the decline. The more I study the NE cap the more I realize how good they have been with the contracts outside of some of the veteran experiments.
  17. everlong

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    These organizations end up staying behind the curve by trying to keep up with what the Patriots were just doing. They're focusing on the wrong thing.The Patriots went after their star tight ends because they were both undervalued assets on draft day; Gronkowski declared for the draft after missing his entire junior year with that back injury, and Hernandez had a reputation as a stoner. The Patriots then modified their offense to play to their young talents' strengths, and by 2011, they were golden. The lesson to learn there, NFL organizations, is not to go out and acquire two tight ends! It's to identify undervalued asset types, integrate them into your organization appropriately, and continue to stay ahead of the curve.4 If you want to run your team like the Patriots, you don't steal what the Patriots are doing now. You steal what the Patriots are going to do next.

    Best paragraph of the article. You see it year after year just in the AFC East with all the reactionary moves and it's why they stay a step behind. Always looking for that quick fix to put them ahead instead of building solid value from top to bottom.
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