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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Introducing the Mulligan
Q & A: Week 6

Last Week's Question: Should commissioners stay out of the morale game?

My column for Week 5 featured the comments of Carlos, who dislikes it when commissioners take pains to keep owners from losing interest in a league. Carlos probably wouldn't be a big fan of Mark's league, which "pays out a weekly prize for highest overall points for the week" because such game mechanics keep "owners who are out of the playoff hunt interested in recouping some of their investment."

In Carlos' opinion, however, once commissioners get into the business of tinkering with owner morale, they compromise the competitive nature of FF by taking momentum ("Big Mo") out of the equation. Carlos thinks owners who want to give up should be allowed to "check out" if they want to (primarily so that he can have their spot in the playoffs).

Andy can understand where Carlos is coming from as an owner, but he contends that the problem is a little more nuanced once one adopts the perspective of a commissioner:

While I agree with Carlos' sentiment that owners should be self-motivated, and that the strong owners deserve to be better because they pay attention more, as a long-time multi-league commish, there are some very practical 'unintended consequences' of just leaving owners to their own devices.

For example, let's say I run a league with mostly solid owners but a few who just mail it in at the first sign of trouble. The point Carlos made was that these crappy owners deserve to be bad and if they can't motivate themselves then the commish shouldn't get involved, BUT their behavior often affects the good teams.

Let's say Carlos and Tom are fighting it out for the last playoff spot, and Tom is just as solid and diligent as Carlos is. On the last week of the season, Tom plays a guy who is out of the playoffs, but is still plugging away just for pride because he's a good owner. But Carlos is playing a guy who mailed it in weeks ago and doesn't even have a starting QB when he loses to Carlos.

So, Carlos gets the win over this absentee owner, but he ONLY gets the win because the guy didn't even bother to set his lineup. So, for Carlos, it works out just as he said it would: He wins because he's diligent AND because another owner isn't paying attention. That part is fine.

BUT, Tom knows that he would have made the playoffs if Carlos' opponent had just done the bare minimum. As a commish, what may happen is that I end up losing a good owner, Tom, because he thinks it's silly that he misses out on the playoffs not because of anything he did, or even anything the team that beat him out did, but rather he misses out because some third-party decided not to pay attention.

One final note: while I don't like to offer 'goodies' to trick teams to stay involved, I most definitely will kick a guy out of my league if he continually doesn't stay at least minimally active. As my post suggests, that type of owner can affect some of my good owners, and I've got a lot of good owners in my leagues and I don't want to lose them.

I don't know how many readers out there have experienced the "Tom" syndrome, but it's hardly unheard of to get burned in just the way that Andy describes. Most of the responses I received this week were shorter iterations of Andy's note. According to Geoffrey, "Commissioners should do everything in their power to keep all of their owners as competitive as possible. It's part of the job."

There might be some folks who share Carlos' opinion that commissioners should "butt out" of the morale business, but none of them wrote in. One reader, however, took issue with the idea that when commissioners create special rules to boost owner morale, it's pretty much the same thing as Roger Goodell calling up the winless Troy Polamalu to say, "Hang in there, buddy!" According to Shane:

The main reason FF owners give up on their teams at the first sign of trouble is BECAUSE THEY CAN. If you get off to a [lousy] start in your fantasy league, all you have to do to escape the misery is just stop logging in to the website. BAM! You're done.

There won't be any reporters stalking you at the grocery store to find out if you're just waiting around for the top pick in next year's draft. When your kids bring home their friends from school, none of them will say, "Hey, your fantasy team blows this year. You really embarrassed yourself on Monday night."

If the Steelers, Falcons, and Giants all just give up, they'll get negative feedback from a million different directions. When a fantasy owner gives up, all he has to do is decide not to open emails from his commissioner for the rest of the season. Problem solved.

If fantasy owners were under the same kind of pressure as real NFL owners, then commissioners wouldn't have to take extra measures to keep them involved. But [since FFers aren't under any real pressure], I think commissioners are justified in doing whatever they can to keep their leagues competitive.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in. I feel less guilty now about aiding and abetting mettlesome commissioners over the years.

This Week's Question: What do you think of Randy's mulligan?

In head-to-head leagues, the single most frustrating thing that can happen is to produce the second-highest score for the entire league . . . only to learn that the team with the highest overall score is your opponent. This problem got to be bad enough in Randy's league that he and his co-owners decided to do something about it.

In case any of your readers find this stuff interesting, I wanted to shoot you a quick explanation of how I won my Week 3 game with a 'mulligan.'

[In our league, only] one team each year gets a mulligan, and it can only be used once. It goes to the team that had the highest losing score in the previous season, and it gives the owner a do-over on a lineup decision.

In Week 3, I had A.J. Green active and Antonio Brown on the bench. After Brown racked up nearly 200 yards, I used my mulligan to put Brown in Green's spot, which was enough to let me squeak past a divisional rival.

I wanted to use my mulligan as soon as I could because they don't carry over from year to year, and we don't allow them in the playoffs. It felt good to have something positive come out of [my most disappointing loss] last season, so I figured I would share it with you.

Thanks for sharing, Randy. The mulligan idea sounds like an intriguing way of spreading misery and resentment (just kidding . . . mostly). As someone who had Anquan Boldin on the bench for Week 1, I would have been stoked about any weird rule that would have allowed me to activate him after his career day was done.

Changing a fantasy lineup after the game has been played definitely qualifies as a mulligan in my book, but I suspect there are other leagues out there that permit different kinds of "do-overs." If you allow mulligans of any variety in your league, please let me know what form the mulligan takes and under what circumstances it is permitted. I'll also be glad to collect feedback on what folks think about the mulligan in Randy's league. It sounds like a lot of fun for everybody except the guy Randy beat by substituting Brown for Green.

Survivor Picks - Week 6 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: San Francisco over Arizona
The Cardinals have more wins than losses (which is surprising); they have the same record as the defending NFC champion 49ers (which is stunning); and they're only one win behind the formidable Seahawks (which is astounding). As we head into Week 6, the Cards are in a position to challenge for the NFC West title. Even so, they come into this game as 11-point underdogs against a 49er team that is also just 1 game behind Seattle in the standings. The Cardinals have traditionally been on the losing end of this battle, but this year they have found a way to limit opposing offenses to less than 20 points per game. And with a 49ers offense that hardly scares most defenses (only 321 total yards and 22 points per game), this is the type of game that should be avoided straight up. You always want to steer clear of divisional matchups with so much at stake for both teams. When you stir the ingredient of a double-digit spread into this mix, you end up with the perfect batter for baking a trap game.

#3: Denver over Jacksonville (4-1: KC, NEP, MN, NO, SF)
This week the Denver running game should be showcased in a contest that pits the league's number one overall offense against the 32nd-ranked rushing defense (23rd overall). Knowshon Moreno , Ronnie Hillman and yes, even Montee Ball may each go over the century mark in a game where Peyton Manning and company are expected to win by one of the largest margins since 1976 (when the Pittsburgh Steelers were favored over the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Should the Jags pull this one off in Denver, it would be the biggest upset ever. Take the Broncos and rest easy.

#2: Houston over St. Louis (3-2: DEN, PHL, SF, IND, STL)
The Texans host a Rams team that on paper has no chance to win in Houston. But Matt Schaub has thrown a pick-six in each of his last four games and is in danger of losing his starting job to North Carolina standout T.J. Yates. Houston's season is far from over, but the Texans need to do a better job holding on to the ball against a Rams defense that is third in fumble recoveries. The Rams offense probably doesn't scare the top-ranked Texan defense (which only gives up 266 yards per game), but turnovers will be the deciding factor in a game that should help the Texans get back on track.

#1: Chicago over New York Giants (4-1: IND, OAK, SEA, DEN, ATL)
Exactly how bad are the Giants? Really bad. Eli Manning looked lost in the fourth quarter against an Eagles secondary that had been burned by Alex Smith and Phillip Rivers in previous weeks, and the Giants lead the league in turnovers (something uncharacteristic for a Tom Coughlin team. With a rushing game that only averages 60 yards per game, the Giants have taken to the air . . . because if your O-line can't block for your RBs, then you should at least give Eli plenty of opportunities to be sacked and throw interceptions. Meanwhile, the Giant defense has given up a league-leading 36.4 points a game. New York's bruised and battered secondary must be very excited to have a chance to be picked apart by Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffrey. Look for the Bears to get back on track Thursday night at Soldier Field against a team that won the Super Bowl two years ago and suddenly has a realistic shot at winning the first draft pick in the 2014 draft.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999. As a landlocked Oklahoman who longs for the sound of ocean waves, he also writes about ocean colonization under the pen name Studio Dongo. The latest installment in his science fiction series can be found here.