Unverified Baby, Stay For My Voracity Comment Count

Brian December 31st, 2008 at 12:28 PM

Baby, please don't go. The looming terror hovering over Michigan's basketball season is the potential departure of Manny Harris, and looming terror two is the potential departure of Deshawn Sims. So let's see what Chad Ford has to say in his year-end "naughty and nice" list. Sims checks in on the nice list, (un?)fortunately:

DeShawn Sims, F, Michigan
Sims is a tough player to project. Many scouts question whether he's a 3 or a 4, and much dreaded "tweener" talk is out there. But his production of late has been undeniable. He scored 28 and 12 points in two contests against Duke and an impressive 20 points and 20 rebounds Monday night versus Florida Gulf Coast. If Sims can answer questions about whom he'll guard in the NBA (offensively, he can play both positions well), he could become a late first-round pick.

(The answer to "who can he guard," of course, is NO ONE. Not even Adam Morrison. I talked to Joe Dumars and Jerry West and God about this, I swear.)

"Could become a late first-round pick" sounds like a guy who's likely to return for his senior year in an attempt to guarantee himself that first round cheddar. Ford currently ranks him #46 on his top 100, safely in the return-to-school zone.

Meanwhile, Manny actually checks in below Sims at #48, which seems wildly improbable and totally awesome if it actually represents the opinion of NBA general managers. It might. After all, they continue to trade for Allen Iverson and could well be totally bats. Personally, I don't believe it and am bracing for a departure.

Tempo-free. Excellent chart from Spartans Weblog as we enter the Big Ten basketball season:

tempo-free-aerialTeams to the right are good at offense, teams towards the top are good at defense, and vice versa. These are opposition-adjusted numbers, FWIW, so you can't plead schedule strength: Michigan has by far the best offense in the Big Ten. And, uh, the worst defense.

This comes as little surprise. Michigan's killer weakness in the post results in a lot of faulty man-to-man defending, an over-reliance on the not quite ready for prime time 1-3-1, and poor defensive rebounding. But it affects Michigan's perimeter-oriented offense not at all. Yeah, verily, Michigan is the platonic ideal of the Perimeter Oriented Team, so post guys can get bent. On offense anyway.

BTW: I watched yesterday's Purdue-Illinois game and I'm concerned about UI's skilled, 7'1" center, especially given Michigan's issues with the 1-3-1 of late. The only guys on the team who remotely match up with that guy are redshirting or stupidly at Baylor; I think the Illini are a bad matchup for us. Hopefully Alex Legion takes a zillion stupid shots with 30 seconds on the shot clock. This has a 50-50 chance of happening.

(Note that there's an entire Big Ten Wonk homage blog, a now-annual reprise of the Big Ten Wonk tempo-free aerial (above), and you can see terms like POT pop up on any half-decent blog covering Big Ten Basketball. Wonk is dead, long live Wonk.)

Physician, heal thyself. I read a lot about the decline of newspaper because it's a business interest—and, yes, I relish the day when I get off the freeway and see Drew Sharp holding a sign that says "will annoy for food"—and one of the most common complaints from the old guard is about how darn unreliable those blogs are in comparison to newspapers. This is sort of true, but it's sort of true in the way "average quality" goes down whenever barriers to media contribution are lowered. Any whippersnapper with an e-blog can post whatever they want, sure, but if it's crap the reader will move on, never to return. When there is a panoply of sources the average quality of items written goes down; the average quality of items read goes up.

Anyway, if you're trying to make the case newspapers are more reliable you probably shouldn't do this:

Departed defensive coordinator sworn to not rip Michigan

That's the title of a Mark Snyder post on the Free Press' website that details the verrrry suspicious clause in Scott Shafer's contract that says he can't disparage the university in public and keep his moneys. People contacted for blog post: 0. Disclaimer-type verbiage that would indicate uncertainty about how significant this is, as you would find on many of the "this is speculation!" sort of posts here and elsewhere in the blogosphere: 0. Blog posts that completely blow this out of the water: 1.

Here's MVictors:

Instead of speculating on this I shot a quick note to local attorney Nick Roumel whose firm (Nick Roumel and Associates) handles sports and entertainment contracts. I asked for his take on these terms and in particular, whether this language prohibiting Shafer to “demean or disparage” the football program is unusual.

Roumel responds that the terms sleuthed out by the FIOA experts at the Free Press are "typical for most employment separation agreements"; MVictors then notes that's just one lawyer's opinion—see what I'm saying about proper framing of information?—but that "it's one more attorney than was asked to comment on the Snyder post."

Owned picture goes here.


Meanwhile, the New York Times just published an article in which an Oklahoma commit—five-star DT Jamarcus McFarland—claimed he visited a wild Texas-sponsored coke orgy with naked women "romancing each other" and painted Mack Brown—perhaps the country's most successful recruiter not named Pete Carroll—as a self-centered jerkass more concerned about his flatscreen TVs than this kid and didn't bother to ask Brown for comment. The author of this hit job used to work for Oklahoma's Scout site! McFarland himself admitted the passages in his school paper about the Studio 54 scene were "spiced up" when Scout/Rivals reporters asked him about it, which this Thayer Evans didn't think to do before he published his gullible article in the New York Times(!).

One: though blogs traffic in information far less certain than do mainstream newspapers, they do a much a better job giving you a certainty level for that information and do a much, much better job of swiftly punishing idiots.

Two: your content is as good as the people writing it, and when it comes to sports my money is on nuclear engineers and bored lawyers over journalists who other journalists scorn for playing in the kiddie pool.

Never punt. So there's this insane high school coach in Arkansas who never punts. "Never" as in twice last year, once because they were trying not to run up the score. This insane guy just won the Arkansas state championship. Insane like a fox!

As you might expect, Kevin Kelley—the coach in question—was inspired by one paper in particular:

Kelley had tinkered with eschewing the punting game since winning his first state championship in 2003. He became further emboldened after reading several studies, including "Do Firms Maximize? Evidence from Pro Football," by University of California-Berkeley economics professor David Romer.

The Romer paper put together a statistical model of a football field and concluded that NFL head coaches were way too conservative when it came to going on fourth down, but not even "Do Firms Maximize?" does away with the punt entirely. The only place I've seen that suggested was at Football Outsiders, which published a guest article about eschewing the punt a couple years ago. The idea was so weird that FO took pains to clarify their editorial stance on the matter:

There are many writers at Football Outsiders, and sometimes its hard to convince people that an article on our site represents "the author says X" rather than "Football Outsiders says X." This is extra true for guest columns. This article should not be taken to mean "Football Outsiders says never punt."

That out of the way, the article launches into a discussion of "actual turnover ratio" that counts punts and successful onside kicks and etc etc. It's very dense, and I don't agree some of the lot of assumptions made, but at the very least it's interesting.

My off-the-cuff stance: this strategy works well enough in high school, but that's a land where kickers are often dire and so are defenses. High-level college stuff is much closer to the NFL than high school, and the Romer paper, which suggested you punt on fourth and long yardage, as much better argued. I don't think this applicable past high school.



December 31st, 2008 at 1:09 PM ^

I guess my Urinal Cakes post makes me a loser.

Seriously, this blog gets better because the content is awesome and the input at every level is (majority of the time) informative. Like a successful team, we all keep each other accountable.

Who am I kidding, we do not make this thing better. It is all Brian.


December 31st, 2008 at 1:24 PM ^

Disclaimer: I have a dire hatred of punting, born of Lloyd's tendency to punt on fourth and 2 or so from withing 3 yards of the opponent's 40 yard line and get less than 25 yards of field position because it was always a touchback, rather than having Hart grind for the few yards. This is in direct conflict with my desire to see our Beloved Space Emperor win the Heisman.

If you adjusted your offensive playcalling such that four down ball was your default with the occasional punt thrown in when going for it would be truly ludicrous, I think it could work in college. If you go into it knowing you'll go for it on 4th, then running on 3rd and 6 makes more sense if you can reliably get it down to 4th and 1 or 2. You would need at least two of the following factors to your offense though: A great short-yardage back, a good dual-threat QB and/or a very good short yardage passing game comprised of at least two "make them miss in space" wide-receivers.

Sgt. Wolverine

December 31st, 2008 at 1:33 PM ^

So wait. The issue isn't that Snyder wrote something untrue, but that he made a big deal out of something that isn't a big deal? I know the decline of the newspaper industry is of great interest here, but I don't think Snyder's story is as big a deal as you're making it.

chitownblue (not verified)

December 31st, 2008 at 2:18 PM ^

Well, he suggests that Shafer WOULD be mouthing off, which is speculation, seeing as no coach ever makes a practive of bashing their former employer.

Evan's point below hits it on the head - this is a clause in any contract that a coach would sign, and the press would like to spin it into a story about RR trying to sqash dissent. I mean, have they done a FOIA claim on Marinelli's contract?

Further, he makes an issue about something he doesn't know anything about, without bothering to consult a person who actually does know something about such things. That's lazy.

chitownblue (not verified)

December 31st, 2008 at 7:15 PM ^

I mean, Blogs definitely have their problems. There are lots of shitty ones. If you're reading them for "coverage", there are even fewer.

However, if you're truly interested in, for isntance, election coverage, I'd defy you to find any major media news outlet that did it better than 538. Or, obviously, if you're interested in Michigan football, the quality and quantity of content here dwarfs anything else you will find.

Good blogs do a really good job of being near fanatical about a very small range of topics. Newspapers can't POSSIBLY match that level of attention. Add in that newspapers employ people like Drew Sharp, Michael Rosenber, Jay Marriotti, Woody Hayes, Skip Bayless, Scoop Jackson, Steven A. Smith, Bill Plaschke, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum - all of whom have an open disdain for what I call "good writing", and it gets worse. There are good newspaper writers - Joe Posnanski at the KC Star comes to mind. But the "featured" columnists - the ones making the largest salaries and getting the featured placements are, by and large, overwrought, intentionally confrontational blowhards.

Sgt. Wolverine

January 1st, 2009 at 1:31 PM ^

That's my concern about the whole newspapers vs. blogs argument: I don't think it needs to be one or the other, and I don't think it would necessarily be healthy to have just one or the other with blogs being what they are right now. I like that blogs tend to be fanatic about one specific topic, but I think we need sources of broad coverage of a wide variety of events, too -- maybe not on a national scale, but on a smaller scale for areas and communities.


January 2nd, 2009 at 12:14 AM ^

Sgt., I think you read too much into it. I interpret Brian's contempt for traditional MSM to be due to its condescension of blogs despite the fact that it fills voids the newspapers never could/would (eg., mGo UFR analysis, Smart Football theory, EDSBS humor, etc.)

Giving an opponent a deserving kick in the ribs while they're going down is not only human, it's fun (try it!)


December 31st, 2008 at 1:36 PM ^

this comment,

"If Pulaski has a fourth-and-8 at its own 5-yard line, Kelley said his explosive offense likely will convert a first down at least 50 percent of the time. If it fails to convert, statistical data from the college level shows that an opponent acquiring the ball inside the 10-yard line scores a touchdown 90 percent of the time. If Pulaski punts away (i.e., a 40-yard punt with a 10-yard return) the other team will start with the ball on the 38-yard line and score a touchdown 77 percent of the time. The difference is only 13 percent."

certainly does not translate into the NFL. Teams that start with the ball on their opponents 38 do not score TD's 77% of the time. Not even close. It's not the same stat but the BEST red zone TD percentage (percentage of times you score a TD when you get inside the 20)is 69%. An average team is right around 50%. And thats from 18 yards closer. Giving them the ball on the 5 or the 35 represents a much bigger difference in the NFL, I think. 4th and 8 percentages can't be 50% in the NFL either. Plus, net punting of 30 yards or so in the NFL is crappy and gets, at least, your punter fired. An average team is about 8 yards better and the worst 3 yards better.

Having said that, I still hate punting (and FGs). That's one of the reasons why I like Heinz Field. It's nearly impossible to make wussy long FGs and mid-rangers are no sure thing.


December 31st, 2008 at 1:43 PM ^

I'm glad you pointed out the weirdness about that article re: Shafer's non-disparagement clause. That is a standard clause in separation agreements. Think about it: you give a guy $1,000 bucks when he leaves, and he turns around and tells everyone you're an idiot. You'd feel like a chump. So you put in a clause that basically says please don't make me look foolish by taking my money and then talking smack about me. I imaging if you did a survey of executive separation agreements, you would see this clause in at least 95%, and the few that don't have it are evidence of lazy lawyering (or at least something unusual that would lead a good lawyer for the employer to agree to take out that clause). There are a variety of ways to negotiate a non-disparagement clause depending on the circumstances, but the language quoted in the Freep is pretty light stuff, which indicates to me Shafer probably doesn't have much desire to say something bad about Michigan. There are no carve-outs in the language quoted by the Freep, which indicates he doesn't fear he'll be forced to say something bad about Michigan, although there might be carve-outs that just aren't in the Freep quote. I'd be interested to see the full clause if anyone has a link to a copy of his full agreement.

Wow, I just read the Samuelson blog saying this is evidence of RichRod's thin skin. This is patently ridiculous. If I am Michigan and my lawyer does not put a non-disparagement clause in a significant separation agreement, I would get rid of that lawyer. It is standard. If I am Shafer's lawyer and I read the non-disparagement clause, I ask Shafer if he's bothered by it. Shafer says no. I leave it in, it's an easy give unless there is significant negative information that Shafer may be compelled to reveal in a legal or other administrative proceeding, in which case I negotiate carve-outs (which there might be).

I am a lawyer and I am familiar with executive separation agreements. So we have two opinions from lawyers now.


Other Chris

December 31st, 2008 at 2:57 PM ^

Compared to the basketball pep band, anyway. So I think they use more filler when they are in the house.

Night before last, the "text and vote" was for three AC/DC songs (Back in Black, Shook Me All Night, TNT) and my husband was really disappointed it was a recording, because he would have paid money to hear the alumni band play any of those.

My name ... is Tim

December 31st, 2008 at 3:14 PM ^

At the very least, I don't see there's anyway they get the attention they need to get into the first round of the draft UNLESS we make the tournament and win at least one game there.

At that point, I'd obviously not like them to leave but let's just say I'd take that result and be very, very pleased.

Additionally, watching this game, it's very clear that we are probably the worst defensive team in the Big Ten. This is putrid. I'll still take this awful defense combined with an exciting 3-point happy offense in a loss to Wisconsin over an Amaker era 41-38 win over Iowa any day of the week though.


December 31st, 2008 at 3:26 PM ^

I think that statements of this type are misleading "if it's crap the reader will move on, never to return." This is the journalism equivalent of market-based economics (working very well right now). People read what they agree with, not what necessarily what is well researched or well written. What is more popular, the classics or Stephen King? Fox News or PBS? At least in the classic professional journalism world (periodicals, newspapers, TV, and radio) there is some level of internal quality filtering that blogs do not possess (credentials) although the content itself may or may not be well filtered.

"When there is a panoply of sources the average quality of items written goes down; the average quality of items read goes up." The analog here is the music industry. More uncontrolled content generation has done what to the music industry? What gets listened to more? I think you'll find that the statistical distribution gets narrower or even skewed on the lower side, bringing down the average.

Sorry Brian, but blogs only increase the entropy of the universe. I'm glad that you hold yourself to a higher measure but for every mgoblog there are 100 firelloydcarr.coms. Additionally, quoting source material only serves as corroboration if the sources are considered viable by the status quo. In the scope of sports journalism opinion reporting, sources are almost worthless.

It would be interesting to know whether this type of gag clause was present in termination agreements from the previous administration (Jim Herrmann, etc.)


December 31st, 2008 at 3:44 PM ^

If the non-disparagement clause wasn't in previous agreements, it's just evidence that UM's lawyers are getting with the program.

Having that clause can be taken as evidence that Shafer didn't have anything bad to say about UM. It's easy to agree to that clause if you don't have anything bad to say. It's harder if you have lots of bad things to say and then you'll worry that you'll accidentally slip up and speak your mind, so you would fight to have the non-disparagement clause eliminated or restricted. The language quoted by the Freep is nothing special, which makes me think it's UM's standard language and Shafer said "whatever, doesn't effect me" and didn't push back on it (same caveat that I haven't seen the entire clause, maybe the rest of it is scary, but if that is the case I am sure the Freep would have published it).


Rush N Attack

December 31st, 2008 at 4:48 PM ^

Or are you just a devoted mgoblogger who didn't want to post a dissenting opinion about the blog you frequent?

"Additionally, quoting source material only serves as corroboration if the sources are considered viable by the status quo. In the scope of sports journalism opinion reporting, sources are almost worthless."

Which is why EVERY single article written by the Sports Opinion writers like Drew Sharp, Roseneberg, etc. should begin like this:

"The following story that you are about to read is worthless. It is just my opinion. It is as worthless as your own opinion on the same matter. The difference is, I am paid to give my opinion, whereas you are not.

I am too lazy to find a source to corroborate my opinion, or perhaps I just have such a stupid opinion, that I couldn't actually find someone to corroborate it."

If quoting sources is worthless to them, then why do they always quote "un-named sources"?

Also: "At least in the classic professional journalism world (periodicals, newspapers, TV, and radio) there is some level of internal quality filtering that blogs do not possess (credentials)...".

This is all the more reason for them to be producing better content than a blog. They are supposedly "more qualified", and have better access. Sadly, this doesn't mean that they have good content. Frankly, they SHOULD be held to a higher standard. Brian could be a homeless, drug addicted, World of Warcraft playing high school dropout, but you know what? The content is great. This is why people come back. If it wasn't, people would move on.

And if this is true: "People read what they agree with, not what necessarily what is well researched or well written."

Then why are you on here?


December 31st, 2008 at 6:10 PM ^

Any mom and pop shop with any degree of legal counsel has confidentiality clauses, noncompetes, and/or nondisparagment language written into their contracts. This type of article displays only ignorance or lack of integrity.


January 1st, 2009 at 1:07 AM ^

I can believe that rating for Manny. He's a great college player, but at the next level, he won't be tall enough to play SF like he is now - he's got to be a PG or SG. His ballhandling skills aren't good enough to be a PG, so the 2 it is. But at that position, you want a really good outside shooter, and he isn't that. He's a good slasher, but you can't get by in the pros on that alone unless you have unreal, MJ-like athleticism, and he doesn't. He needs to improve his jumper and his handle before he'll be a first-round pick - and if he doesn't project to be a first-rounder, he shouldn't leave. (Second-rounders and undrafted rookies get way less money and nothing guaranteed beyond the first year.)


January 1st, 2009 at 10:19 AM ^

If I was Manny I would think that if Beilien can help me improve my game this much in a year, I should give him another and I might be a lottery pick. Hopefully he feels the same way.
I have been really impressed with the improvement in Manny and Sims. I think it should give reason to kids in HS with similar talent to consider coming to UM.


January 1st, 2009 at 11:45 AM ^

Couple of sundry points:

1. Even on a bad defensive team, I thought Sims stood out yesterday. He did not seem to be able to stop any penetration and was late in getting his hand in the face of shooters. I hope his torpor is a symptom of having a cold rather than being bad at defense.

2. Did you guys see that the Arkansas coach goes for the onside kick 75% of the time? Statistically, it seems likely onside kicks are under-utilized in the college game (ostensibly the same reasons as punting too much: coaches are deterred from high-risk, high-reward strategies). Do y'all know of any evidence-based reviews of onside kick strategy?


January 3rd, 2009 at 12:32 AM ^

I don't know of any quantitative studies, but I think "always onside kick" (or even "usually") is probably a much higher-risk strategy than "never punt". I don't know what the percentages are in high school or college, but the success rate on onside kicks in the NFL is usually in the 15-25% range. Surprise onside kicks have significantly higher success rates - maybe up around 50% - but if you're doing it every time, it's not really a surprise. You can probably improve on the usual success rate given that your kicker and hands team get a lot more practice at it, but I'd be very surprised if it comes anywhere near 50%. The difference in field position is significant enough that I suspect you'd have to be up around 1 in 3 just to break even, and I have a hard time imagining anyone getting much beyond that success rate.

An estimate of the break-even point would be where [avg points for opp from regular kickoff field position] = [avg points for opp from failed onside field position] * (1 - success rate) - [avg points for you from successful onside field position] * success rate. (This ignores the effects of field position if the team ends up punting or turning the ball over, so it's not fully accurate, but it's a start). Using numbers from http://www.sundaymorningqb.com/2008/1/6/203748/5887 (the beginning of an interesting series of stat-wonk fanposts there), the approximate point numbers (taking the 25 for regular kickoffs and 40 for onside kicks) are 2.0, 3.5, and 2.6, respectively.

This actually suggests the break-even point is lower than I had expected: at 25%, there's a very slight advantage to the onside kick. If you have a high-power offense that is more likely to score than average, or if your defense is either really good (such that the opponent isn't likely to score even from the 40) or really awful (such that giving up a TD is likely even after a normal kickoff), the odds shift further in favor of an onside kick. In high school, where kickoffs usually don't go as far anyway, that also will bring down the gap between a regular kickoff and failed onside, making the onside more attractive.


January 3rd, 2009 at 1:28 AM ^

Evan's covered it thoroughly, and 3ballcharlie covered it right. If that clause was not originally in his contract or a later separation agreement considering the value, they're morons.

I third the opinion Synder's work is a non-story in the legal sense. (UM Law grad, MI barred and practicing corporate attorney.)

NO PUNT... BUT: Most coaches punt too often, especially on the offensive end of the field. But 4th & long just doesn't seem to pay off, save Madden (and Brett Favre against Philly).