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20/20 Hindsight - Week 4

As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday's "Fantasy Football Confessional."

The first quarter of the NFL season is in the books and it's time to pay a little visit to the optometrist. Is Hindsight truly 20/20? Time to exam the results thus far.

1. Playing to win feels better than playing not to lose—Not only does it feel better, but it's also a more successful strategy. Unfortunately, I haven't followed my own advice. Going into week 4, I decided to put some heavy hitters into my FFTOC lineup as an attempt to jump-start my season. Before I made this decision, I originally had Byron Leftwich as my starting quarterback. Although I used Leftwich in two other leagues, I played it safe and went with Donovan McNabb in FFTOC. This turned into a 3-point mistake, minor but with 599 opponents, significant.

2. Ride the player if the trend is clear—There are several players that have been worth riding thus far.

  • Isaac Bruce has had four consecutive 100-yard games this year.
  • Chris Brown had three consecutive 100-yard games until Sunday.
  • Daniel Graham has four touchdowns in three games and at least one score in each.
  • Roy Williams has two consecutive games with two touchdowns.
  • Terrell Owens has four consecutive games with a touchdown.
  • Curtis Martin three consecutive games with 100 yards and a touchdown.
  • Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have thrown at least two touchdowns in every game in 2004.

Of course trends always have a stopping point, but early production is a good indicator of success.

3. Exploit passing match ups against the Texans—From a perspective of touchdowns this is a good choice, but there is better to be had in the same division!

 Opponent  QB Yds  TDs  WR 100 Yd 300 Yd Gms
Chargers 209 2 1 0
Lions 176 3 0 0
Chiefs 224 3 1 0
Raiders 237 0 0 0

 Opponent  QB Yds  TDs  WR 100 Yd 300 Yd Gms
Patriots 335 3 0 1
Titans 273 0 1 0
Packers 360 4 1 1
Jaguars 318 1 0 1

Although a bye week comes in week six for Indianapolis, don't count on the passing defense to get much better right away. Put a saddle on the Colts and ride them for what it's worth.

4. The Raiders are going to surprise this year. They have an offense filled with fantasy spoilers. The Ravens offensive starters are spoiling many owners' shot at a good start to a fantasy season. The raiders have had their share of fantasy spoilers. Week one, the stars are Gannon, Gabriel, and Whitted. Week two it's Curry and week three Tyrone Wheatley. Week four? Amos Zereoue. Maybe the only consistent player has been wide receiver Ronald Curry. Collins should have a healthy week against the Colts, but he's not the type of player one feels confident using when the opposing defense is the tiebreaker between him and another decent quarterback. The Ravens (excluding last night) have had one big game from Jamal Lewis and a nice game from Randy Hymes. Not exactly what a fantasy owner would expect.

5. Riding an opposing defense's performance can be as successful as riding a players'. See the Colts and Texans defense against the pass or the Chiefs, Bengals, and Packers against the run.

So far these look like pretty good lessons—now it's time to begin incorporating them more often in my fantasy lineups for the FFTOC. Unfortunately, I haven't done so thus far in this tournament…

FFTOC Week 4 Lineup
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB D. McNabb 15.68 Leftwich had his best game against a decimated Colts secondary: 18.72 points—not much more, but it could help!
RB J. Lewis 13.3 Still would have went with him—especially with the possibility of a suspension imminent
RB A. Green 10.6 Not the great game from him that I was counting on this week, but still decent numbers. Consistency pays.
WR J. Smith 11.9 Yardage totals could have been greater if Leftwich were accurate on a couple more deep balls—but still a decent total.
WR R. Gardner 1.9 A dud performance to follow up a terrific effort in week 3. Maybe it’s time to study a “let down” percentage.
WR T. Holt 2.8 What a disappointment, but I should have known the Niners would roll over quickly.
TE E. Johnson 11.3 It’s a little sad when the best decision of the week might be picking a TE!
K M. Vanderjagt 6 The Colts are just too good to have drives stall very often in the red zone. Probably good do be disappointed now than later.
DEF Oakland 2 The Texans would have been the better defense to play! But who would have known?
   Total 75.48  

This is the third consecutive week my performance has trended downward. Here's hoping for a better second quarter of the season. Time to look at the week four files of 20/20 Hindsight.

Would've (From The Who Would Have Known File)

Drew Brees would be productive against the Titans.
I have to admit, I'm a Brees fan. He's gotten a raw deal in San Diego. Brees was the first pick in the second round of the 2001 draft. After his first appearance in a regular season game, Brees generated a buzz among NFL fans when he relieved an injured Doug Flutie and brought the Chargers back with 221 yards and a td in the second half in a comeback effort that almost beat the Kansas City Chiefs. San Diego's teammates, fans, and the organization remarked about his poise and accuracy. Tomlinson and Brees were a combination The Chargers' touted as building blocks of a winning future.

John Butler, the late-GM and former front office man on the talent-laden, Bills of the Jim Kelly era was very confident in Brees: "Never did I think we'd get so lucky to have Drew Brees sitting there when we had the top pick in the second round. Some people are special in life and in their profession, and Drew's one of them." PFW's Jeff Reynold's once wrote that Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan views Brees as one of the most intelligent quarterbacks in the league.

So what happened? In 2002, Brees and Tomlinson led the Chargers to first-place tie with the Broncos in the AFC West heading into week 12, but the bottom fell out. In 2003, the Chargers got rid of Brees' most reliable receiver in Curtis Conway and replaced him with the unreliable David Boston and rookie Reche Caldwell. Not a good combination for a quarterback about to start his second full season. Brees' had a bad year and next thing you know, the Chargers were drafting a quarterback.

Seems to me this was a reaction A.J. Smith made in regards to Brees where John Butler would have been more patient. True, Brees was Butler's guy, so it's common sense that Butler would have likely gave the former Purdue star more time. Ever a conspiracy theorist, there are a number of things that don't make sense about this move.

When a player has a dissenting view of an organizational move that is strong enough for him to state it in the media, that's worth noting. LaDainian Tomlinson believed that the Chargers' still had their quarterback of the future in Brees heading into the 2004 draft. It's true the two players are close and share a similar football background in terms of being overlooked and under-appreciated until they made the big-time college football programs pay for their mistakes. This can create a sense of loyalty to a teammate that Tomlinson obviously has for Brees. But don't think a sense of a loyalty from a player as competitive as Tomlinson is going to cloud his judgment about a teammate's ability to help him win.

That leads us once again to the late, great John Butler. This is a man that was known as one of the best evaluators of talent in the NFL. I just have a hard time believing the San Diego Chargers would have ever drafted a quarterback in 2004 if Butler were still alive and in the role he had with the team. Sure, even the best make mistakes now and then, but Brees' stats from 2002—his first full season as a starter—don't appear to be indicative of a future back up:

Brees' First Full Season As A Starter
 Last  First  Year  Team  G  Pct  P-Yd  P-TD  INT  R-Yd  R-Att  R-TD  FF Pts
Brees Drew 2002 sdg 16 60.84% 3284 17 16 130 38 1 251.2

The nearly 61% completion percentage should catch your eye. It caught mine. How many other quarterbacks completed at least 59% of their passes in their second year as a quarterback? The results yielded a fairly impressive roster of signalmen:

2nd Year QBs
 Last  First  Rookie  Year  Tm  G  Comp  Att  Pct  P Yd  P TD  INT  R Yd  R Att  R TD
Staubach Roger 1969 1971 dal 13 126 211 59.72% 1882 15 4 343 41 2
Deberg Steve 1978 1979 sfo 16 347 578 60.03% 3652 17 21 10 17 0
Fuller Steve 1979 1980 kan 14 193 320 60.31% 2250 10 12 274 60 4
Montana Joe 1979 1980 sfo 15 176 273 64.47% 1795 15 9 77 32 2
Simms Phil 1979 1990 nyg 14 184 311 59.16% 2284 15 4 61 21 1
Eason Tony 1983 1984 nwe 16 259 431 60.09% 3228 23 8 154 40 5
Marino Dan 1983 1984 mia 16 362 564 64.18% 5084 48 17 -7 28 0
O'Brien Ken 1984 1985 nyj 16 297 488 60.86% 3888 25 8 58 25 0
Kelly Jim 1986 1987 buf 12 250 419 59.67% 2798 19 11 133 29 0
George Jeff 1990 1991 clt 16 292 485 60.21% 2910 10 12 36 16 0
Favre Brett 1991 1992 gnb 15 302 471 64.12% 3227 18 13 198 47 1
Johnson Brad 1994 1996 min 12 195 311 62.70% 2258 17 10 90 34 1
Plummer Jake 1997 1998 crd 16 324 547 59.23% 3737 17 20 217 51 4
Manning Peyton 1998 1999 clt 16 331 533 62.10% 4135 26 15 73 35 2
Warner Kurt 1998 1999 ram 16 325 499 65.13% 4353 41 13 92 23 1
Culpepper Daunte 1999 2000 min 16 297 474 62.66% 3937 33 16 470 90 7
Garcia Jeff 1999 2000 sfo 16 355 561 63.28% 4278 31 10 415 71 4
Couch Tim 1999 2001 cle 16 272 454 59.91% 3040 17 21 128 38 0
Brady Tom 2000 2001 nwe 15 264 413 63.92% 2843 18 12 43 36 0
Pennington Chad 2000 2002 nyj 15 276 400 69.00% 3128 22 6 49 30 2
Brees Drew 2001 2002 sdg 16 320 526 60.84% 3284 17 16 130 38 1
Bulger Marc 2002 2003 ram 15 336 532 63.16% 3845 22 22 75 29 4

Notice the correlation among quarterbacks that threw more touchdowns than interceptions and were long-term starters in this league? Other than Brees, all fifteen of the players in this table with more scores than picks were undisputed starters for their team. Ten of those fourteen led their team to a Super Bowl at least once. Interestingly enough, the remaining quarterbacks with a higher pick-score ratio wound up as backups or disappointments: Jake Plummer, Jeff George, Tim Couch, Steve DeBerg, and Steve Fuller.

I wonder if this information some how lends itself to why Eli Manning refused to be a Charger? Was it the presence of head coach Marty Schottenheimer? As oft stated as this point is, I find this too convenient an explanation. Schottenheimer may be old school in his approach, but he's also been known to let his quarterbacks air it out (Bernie Kosar in Cleveland and Montana in KC). Is it the offensive line? I'm pretty sure after Manning's relief appearance against the Eagles, the rookie discovered the Giants' line isn't much better. What was the issue?

We may never truly know, but one has to wonder if Eli Manning didn't want to go to an organization that was so quick to hook a promising player like Brees—especially when other key teammates still believed in his ability to lead the team. As good as Manning is, its just human nature to look at the Chargers and wonder if the organization just doesn't know how to handle quarterback talent.

But let's get back to Brees. This is a player that's always had a chip on his shoulder. Brees wanted to play for Texas A&M, but wasn't recruited and wound up at Purdue—one of the only division one schools to offer him a scholarship—where he proceeded to tear up the NCAA. Seems to me that Brees is in yet another situation where few tend to give him a chance. Unless the Chargers keep winning with him under center, Brees will likely be demoted and fighting for a back up spot elsewhere in 2005.

Yet, there is a contingent of knowledgeable NFL types that see Brees as a quarterback with the ability to be a productive starter and the stats seem to illustrate this potential. Against the Texans and now the Titans, Brees has been impressive. If he can hold on to his starting job between weeks 6-8, he has the type of schedule that could make him a surprisingly good fantasy backup—at the very least.

Lesson Learned: Pay attention to the actual performance of a player rather than listen to the witty (and not so witty) twenty-second sounds bites in the media.

Could've (From The Who Could Have Known File)

Amos Zereoue would post two Tds and 117 yards.
Norv Turner has stated that he will stick with the back in the game that performs the best early in the game. Unless you believed these are empty words from the coach to the media, it's a fantasy nightmare for anyone trying to rely upon the Raiders' ground game. Wheatley looked like a good choice to be the consistent guy—especially after 27 yards on 3 carries early in the game. But the former Michigan star got hurt and it was Zereoue's show.

Lesson Learned: Unless you are a masochist, stay away from the Raiders' running game until the situation settles on one player. You probably won't have a shot at the feature player by then, but you might not have lost several games as a result of relying on something to turn your way, either.

Should've (From The I Knew I Should Have File)

Started Byron Leftwich against the Colts.
Not only did this potential decision qualify under the guideline of exploiting a bad passing defense, but it also covered the theory of starting quarterbacks matched up against a quarterback of similar or more ability. Many of you may not agree that Leftwich is even in the same atmosphere as Manning at this point, but I contend the Jags' starter has better overall leadership skills than Manning did in his second year, and his quarterback skills will soon follow. One thing you can't argue is Leftwich's ability in the clutch. He's led the Jags' to two of their three wins on the final drive of the game. It might have happened against Indianapolis if the coaching staff put the ball in Leftwich's hands instead of Fred Taylor on the fourth and short situation.

Lesson Learned: Although McNabb was a decent start because he faced a decimated secondary, Leftwich qualified under Hindsight Rules: a bad secondary, quarterback match up, and playing to win rather than not to lose.

For those of you that made the right decisions this week, congratulations. For those of you that didn't: Hindsight's a …