Robo-Umps are chumps, sort of: my solution for the automated strike zone debate

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ESPN is running a series in the lead up to Rob Manfred’s one-year anniversary as MLB commissioner that asks various writers to discuss one innovation they would like to see the game implement. In his take, Dan Szymborski says that automated strike zones are a necessity if the game wants to retain viability among fans.

There are three sides to the debate. Those in Szymborski’s corner abide by the “technology is available” principle, which states it is ludicrous to discard appropriate high-tech methods in the name of preserving tradition. Then, you have the people who believe absolutely no technology should be used – these are the types who decry instant replay to this day, and who believe that baseball should be as pure and unburdened with buttons and gadgets as it was in 1876.

The third side, a position which I take, is somewhere in the middle. Technology is great and should be used, but there should be limits to its implementation. In essence, neither side is wrong. We just need to add a few tweaks here or there.

Replay’s impact

First, let’s talk about replay. It was a godsend when it was implemented. It took a while to catch on and there were some kinks to work out, but it has become a generally smooth and much-appreciated addition to the game, an addition that was sorely needed.

People who say replay killed baseball need to take a step back. People who think replay indicates the potential success of automated strike zones need to do the same.

Replay did not fundamentally change how baseball is played. It was a rule change that made competition more fair and eliminated an aspect of human error. At worst, it essentially spelled the end of manager-umpire confrontations, which traditionalists bemoan but which was really more of a sideshow than something that had any real impact on the outcome of a game. Consensus: replay is good.

Replay is also limited. Managers are allowed one challenge, and gifted another should the first end up correct. This is how it should be done. It takes a viable technology and makes it instantly useful while introducing new strategical quirks into the game that could determine whether a certain call is challenged or not. You could argue that replay implementation was about as perfect as it could have possibly been.

Automated strike zones: a literal game-changer

Fully automating strike zones would be the antithesis of limited replay. That isn’t to say they shouldn’t be implemented. I’ll get to that. But it should not be a universal change. I mentioned that replay did not fundamentally change the game; automated strike zones would do that and then some. It would change how pitchers attack the corners of the zone. It would impact the importance of a 2-1 count versus a 1-2 count. It would alter catcher mechanics and setups. Most of all, it would completely revolutionize how hitters select pitches to swing at knowing that the dimensions of the strike zone are consistent on every delivery.

These are not bad changes, but they are big changes. We’re talking Steroids Era-level changes here, not in the sense that it would increase power, but in the sense that it would completely alter stat lines for players across the board. In the same way the NFL has tarnished the record books by allowing receivers to run down the field untouched, so would an automated strike zone lead to statistical changes that could rewrite history. An extreme viewpoint? Perhaps, but there is no question that baseball would be forever changed.

Many say that that is the way it should be, that the only reason automated strike zones were not in play previously is because the technology wasn’t available. If baseball started today, they say, automation would be an obvious addition. And they’re not wrong. But that’s not baseball.

The umpire effect

More than any other sport, umpires are part of the game. They are involved on every play, every movement. The saying goes that people don’t pay to see the umps – sort of true, I suppose, but you actually are paying to see the umps because they’re not some sideline-occupying entity without a say. They are part of the game, literally part of it, they are on the field and interact with the players, and when an ump is behind the plate, he is actually influencing the game on every level. That’s not some sideshow, that’s part of the game, and that’s what is important.

Whether or not you believe umpires are awful, or they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, you cannot deny as a fan that they are integral to what makes baseball baseball. Eliminating that aspect of the game would be like replacing managers with computers that make every call based on sabermetric guidelines. Sure, it would still work in theory, but it would do away with the very essence of baseball. Managers are as much a part of the game as umpires are. Hitters, fielders, pitchers, managers, and umpires do a dance every evening to present a product unlike any in sports.

As a Nationals fan, I’ve been on the wrong end of some bad calls. And no one can ever say this didn’t happen:

And something like that shouldn’t be allowed to happen in baseball. But fully automating the strike zone is too radical a change, a switch that would permeate the soul of the sport that millions around the country love. So we can’t have it both ways. What’s the solution?

Replay as a window into automated strike zones

I’ll come back to this point again: replay’s ultimate success came because it was and is limited. Those who want fully automated strike zones don’t exactly go around campaigning for unlimited manager challenges. Just because there are more balls and strikes in a game in comparison to close calls in the field and on the basepaths does not mean every single one of those pitches needs to be automatically assessed.

When a baserunner is called out on a close play and a manager has no challenges left, fans do not cry foul. They accept that the play must go on because of a logical limitation in the rule. This should be applied to automatic strike zones, but with a major difference that would make the game much more interesting: put the call in the hands of the hitter.

Here’s my solution: keep the umpires, but allow each hitter one ball/strike challenge in each at bat he has in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. If the game goes to extra innings, each batter has one challenge for the duration of extra play. Some may say it sounds dumb, but it could work very well.

The major argument against it would be that it would take too much time. I beg to differ. These aren’t calls that need to be scrutinized on video for minutes on end. The hitter simply has to call for a challenge, and have the automated view of the strike zone appear on the scoreboard or some other screen once the challenge is issued. That takes literally two seconds.

Another argument against this is that by limiting the challenges to the last three innings, you’re essentially scrapping the importance of the first six innings. My counter would be that the same principle applies to replay. Managers have shown constantly that they prefer to save challenges until later in the game, unless the play in question was so game-changing that it warranted immediate viewing. It’s just another example of introducing a new rule that also adds a new layer of strategy to the proceedings.

This will never happen

The dueling views of baseball – tradition versus technology – are much like the current political climate in America. It’s my way or the highway in most circles, and conceding only shows weakness. Baseball is the oldest sport in America, with the most tradition and history, so this debate rages on like no other debate in any sport. Because of this, a limited automation solution will likely never see the light of day. It’s either going to be all umps, all the time, or no umps, none of the time (interestingly enough, this year’s political climate will similarly decide if we have all Trump, all the time, or no Trump, none of the time).

The problem is that the issue is novel. Replay was revolutionary, but it had precedent in the three other major sports leagues in the U.S. Ball/strike calls are exclusive to baseball, meaning that there is no where to turn for reference.

Except for replay. You can turn to replay. It worked well, and the same principles can work well again.

The Capitals’ new big 3

 

The Big Three. It’s a vastly overused term in the sports lexicon, meant to describe a triad of athletes who combine their skill sets to create an in-game product that masks the deficiencies of the rest of the team.

Jordan, Pippen, Rodman.

James, Wade, Bosh.

Aikman, Smith, Irvin.

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A decidedly more important Big Three

The Washington Capitals used to have the most exciting Big Three in hockey: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin combined for 123 goals and 294 points in 2009, a juggernaut that was all for naught following the most disappointing playoff exit in D.C. sports history. That trio was unmatched in its skill and brilliance, but it lacked one major quality: versatility.

Fast forward to 2015. Ovechkin and Backstrom are still playing at elite levels (Semin has been cast away to the KHL), but things have changed. There’s a new Big Three in Washington, and it involves neither of these phenomenally talented athletes.

Meet Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Meet John Carlson.

Meet Braden Holtby.

While Ovechkin and Backstrom are the entrenched stars, and T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams garnered the offseason headlines, it is these in-house success stories that are currently driving the Caps up the NHL ladder, and will position them for massive success well into the future.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

Many of you will chide me for leaving Backstrom out of this Big Three, which is understandable. Backstrom is arguably having just as good a year as Kuznetsov and is still only 28 years old (holy crap). But for the sake of sounding hip, let’s talk about my man Evgeny.

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First of all, that’s YE-vgeny, not EH-vgeny, as many have mistakenly pronounced. Just like how it was Sem-YON Var-LA-mov and not SEM-eeyon VAR-luhmov. Get your Russian straight, people!

Kuznetsov broke onto the scene last year with a respectable 37 points in 80 games after a rookie year where he only took 22 shots in 17 games. Kuzy showed enough to earn a larger role and he has run with it. He leads the Caps in points and assists and ESPN projects him to finish with 77 points. For context, Jamie Benn led the NHL in scoring last year with 87 points. Kuzy is 23 years old.

More than that, he’s added a new weapon to a Caps team already loaded with them. This may be the most balanced offense in hockey due in part to Kuznetsov’s emergence, which only goes to prove that the best free agent a team can afford is an in-house solution that gets better with age.

You think he’s good now? This is a potential 90 to 100-point player at his peak, with speed and dexterity matched only by a select few. I haven’t seen a dangler with this much ability since Semin was fooling around at the Phone Booth. The difference is, this guy can play within a system and Semin was only looking for the next goal. I  don’t know if Kuzy has MVP potential but I do think he’ll be in the conversation once he fills out and gains a bit more experience.

John Carlson

I go to Canada every year. I have family there. I’m a Canadian citizen. And every year, I get to watch the World Juniors.

If you’re not a hockey fan, you don’t know about the World Juniors because ESPN doesn’t even deign to put it on the ticker scrolling beneath World Series of Poker reruns. But in Canada, the Juniors are a big deal and guess what – the U.S. has a pretty good squad. Back in 2010, this was my introduction to John Carlson:

And my, my, my has he become a hockey player. Carlson came into his own last season with a career high 55 points and a plus-11. This year, he’s firmly entrenched himself as one of the best all-around defensemen in hockey and is in the discussion for the Norris Trophy. Through 30 games he has 24 points (Sidney Crosby has 19 hahahaha) and is the Caps’ leader in ice time, logging 24:27 per game. He anchors the defense and provides punch inside the offensive zone, a slightly less-skilled Mike Green who is so, so much better than Mike Green. Carlson, by the way, is on pace for 66 points.

He’s not exactly an unknown among Caps fans – in fact, he’s something of a fan favorite. But in D.C. as a whole, as it often goes with hockey, he is far too much of a stranger. Carlson is only 25 and will be here for a long time as one of the pivotal members of a team that looks as if it will make the playoffs for the next decade. Here, we have a legitimate defenseman with charisma who can literally do it all on the ice.

Braden Holtby

There is only one D.C. athlete better than Braden Holtby right now, and that’s Bryce Harper. Other than that, this is Holtby’s town, and the gap between him and third place is widening each and every day.

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I’ll write more about him in the future because he’s as deserving of the spotlight as anyone. For a quick rundown, here’s the skinny: Holtby is no longer that overachieving star of last year who broke onto the scene after showing promise. No, no longer. He is now not only the best player on the team and the best goaltender in hockey, he may be the most valuable player in the NHL. Holtby is a god among men right now, and the Caps are all too happy to play in his shadow.

The numbers are ludicrous: first in wins (20, and in only 26 games), first in goals against average (1.83) and second in save percentage (.935, and that’s only because stupid Michal Neuvirth is at .937 in only 16 games. Shut up, Neuvy).

In six December games, he’s given up nine goals while posting a sparkling .955 save percentage.

I still remember the Jose Theodor experiment. I still remember fans pining for Varlamov after his miracle save against Crosby. I still remember Neuvirth putting in work and trying to cement his spot as the goalie of the future in D.C. And don’t forget the fans calling back to the “glory days” of Olie Kolzig. All of that is gone. What we have now is something Washington hasn’t had, maybe ever: the clear-cut best goaltender in all of hockey. Even if Carey Price was healthy, I’m still quite sure Holtby would be outperforming him.

This man is only 26 and playing like a vacuum. And he’s the single biggest reason why I believe the Caps will make it to the Stanley Cup in 2016. Through all the scheme iterations of the last decade, the great offenses of the late 2000s and the great defenses of the early 2010s, the only thing that has never been consistent is the goaltending. Now, the Caps have a Lundqvist-esque advantage between the pipes, a guy who can literally steal three games in a seven-game series.

This is the most well-rounded team the Caps have probably ever had, and Holtby is the icing on top that makes them the best team in hockey.

 

 

Kirk Cousins is a top-15 quarterback in the NFL, and may be having the best season in Redskins history

 

 

That headline is not a typo, and it is not hyperbole. Some context may be required, so please read on. All will be explained. (All photos courtesy of Redskins.com)

The Stats

Kirk Cousins leads the NFL in completion percentage. Fans chide this metric as inconclusive, because even Tim Tebow could theoretically be that efficient if the right plays were called.

People who believe this are idiots.

Cousins’ 69.2 completion rate is currently a top-10 all-time number. Yes, top-10 all time, a mere two percentage points behind Drew Brees’ record-setting 71.2 percent in 2011. And yes, you heathens, Cousins throws his share of screens and dinks and dunks – but look a little deeper, please.

In today’s NFL, every quarterback throws short and mixes in screens. It’s the norm. This is how the NFL works now, trading inefficient long throws for yards-after-catch and surefire drag routes. To say that Cousins is an Alex Smith level of game manager is to fundamentally misunderstand the trends pervading the NFL in 2015.

There’s another hugely important thing to consider when discussing Cousins’ efficiency: he’s not being handcuffed by his coaching staff. If you think Cousins completes his passes at a high clip because he’s not throwing that much, you’re in for a surprise. He’s the most efficient passer in the NFL while throwing the 10th-most passes and completing the sixth-most. So it’s completely correct to say that Cousins is performing at an elite level of efficiency while handling a top-10 usage rate.

This isn’t a 15 for 20, 180-yard player, folks. Cousins has completed at least 20 passes and thrown at least one touchdown in every game this season, while averaging 254 yards through the air. That’s in addition to a top-15 rate in yards per attempt, proving that he isn’t shoveling the ball two yards down the field on every throw. You could theoretically say that he is having the most statistically efficient season in Redskins history.

“But David, he throws too many interceptions! How can we depend on a quarterback who turns the ball over that much?” Okay, that’s a fair point…if it held any water at all. Do people even consider the value of progress these days? Through six games Cousins threw eight picks, which is deplorable. But in his last seven games, he’s thrown three. THREE. Sure, a few bad decisions got lucky but that’s how playing quarterback works in the NFL. Since his last two-interception game against the Jets in Week 6, he’s thrown for 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. Shut up with your turnover-mongering. He seems to have figured something out.

You know what else is incredible? His consistency. We’re not talking about a guy who completes 45 percent one game and 90 percent the next. This is a guy who constantly pours in throws at a 65 percent clip or higher. In only two games this year has he had a completion percentage under 60, and I can’t even count one of those because his receiver dropped seven passes.

The Competition

“David, you say Kirk Cousins is a top-15 quarterback. I call bullshit. I can name 20 quarterbacks that are clearly better.”

No, you can’t. Here is a list of the quarterbacks that have been clearly, inarguably better than Cousins this season:

Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson

You can make cases for a number of other quarterbacks, but that list of 11 are the only ones that have DEFINITELY had a better year.

Ryan  Fitzpatrick? Cousins has more yards, more completions, and a better rating. Ryan Tannehill? Same deal. Matthew Stafford? Very similar numbers, not clearly better. Alex Smith, Jay Cutler, Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor…it is clearly arguable that Cousins has been better than all of them (and in Taylor’s case, simply because of usage rate).

The point is this: whether or not you believe Cousins is one of the 15 best quarterbacks in the NFL, the one thing that no one can deny is that there’s a legitimate conversation to be had. Taking things like fourth-quarter performance into consideration, I’d definitely put Cousins in that second tier, just outside the top.

His team is not helping him

When the Patriots are hampered with injuries and Tom Brady has a bad game, everyone is quick to point out that it’s not Brady’s fault. Same for Aaron Rodgers and any other number of quarterbacks.

Why does Kirk Cousins not get this treatment? Cousins has one reliable receiver – ONE. His name is Jordan Reed and he is a tight end, not even a guy who lines up on the outside. DeSean Jackson was hurt half the year and is really only good for a bomb and one or two screens, Pierre Garcon is a shell of himself and can’t get separation, Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Andre Roberts, and Rashad Ross are hardly NFL caliber at this point. Frankly, Cousins has very few reliable options to throw to.

In addition, he operates in an offense with a running game that can only be described as running through quicksand. Young quarterbacks rely on play-action; Cousins, whose numbers off play-action are superb, simply can’t benefit from that as much because of the flagrant ineffectiveness of the ground game. It’s not just ineffective, it’s often non-existent.

One reliable receiver, one sometimes-good receiver, and literally zero running game. Yet he leads the NFL in completion percentage and is putting together arguable one of the best seasons in the sordid history of Washington quarterbacks. Please, all of you, especially you RG3 proselytizers, take this into account.

The best the franchise has to offer?

What is the best statistical season a Redskins’ quarterback has ever put together? It is a question that has no ready answer, because there has rarely been a season in which a Washington quarterback did anything remotely memorable or spectacular. Remember: we’re going stats here, not wins or losses or overall impact.

Robert Griffin’s 2012 comes to mind, though the tailored scheme from Mike Shanahan and his rapid decline certainly puts a damper on the thought. That being said, outside of what Sammy Baugh did a long, long time ago, this was probably the most complete season a Redskins quarterback ever put together in all facets up until this year.

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Joe Theismann’s 1983 season included 3,714 yards and 29 touchdowns with a 60 percent completion rate…but that was an era where he only completed 276 balls. Cousins already has 314 completions, meaning that he’s used far more than Theismann ever was.

Jay Schroeder has the all-time franchise record for yards with 4,109 in 1986, but he also completed 51 percent of his passes and threw 22 interceptions. Hardly a competitor.

The fact that Jason Campbell’s 2009 (3,618 yards, 20 touchdowns, 64.5 percent) is even in the conversation shows the lack of solid play under center for this franchise.

By yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage, the best seasons in franchise history would produce a stat line of 4,109 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 69.2 percent of passes completed. Cousins is on pace to throw for over 4,100 yards and the completion percentage belongs to him.

In the uninspiring lexicon of Redskins quarterback history, Kirk Cousins might be putting together the most statistically accomplished campaign.

Keep that in mind the next time you chastise him for making a poor decision.

To those offended by this post, I promise you this: Cousins is not perfect at ALL and I will be publishing something later this week discussing his biggest issue that could hamper his future viability as a franchise quarterback. We cover all sides here at Next Year, D.C.

 

Redskins vs Cowboys: Everyone is picking Washington, for some reason

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NFLpickwatch.com compiles a list of every prediction from every expert each week of the NFL season. A quick glance reveals one very obvious thing: across the web, the picks are either very, very right, or very, very wrong. This should surprise no one, because that’s what the NFL is – a sport where favorites win most of the time, but two or three surprises crop up every week. For example, the Internet came to a 99% consensus the Bengals would defeat the Browns. An octopus snorting cocaine could have called this game right, and the Bengals atomized Cleveland in every facet.

But the Internet also determined the Patriots had a 97% chance to win against the Eagles. Again, solid choice. The Patriots had been 47-4 in their last 51 home games, had lost consecutive games only five times with Tom Brady at the helm, and were playing an Eagles team that had given up 90 points in consecutive losses to the Buccaneers and Lions. Of course, the Eagles scored 35 points in a row and stunned the Patriots in Foxborough.92

The point is this. All week, I’ve heard experts and pundits claiming the Washington Redskins will clean the Dallas Cowboys’ clocks. I’ve never heard such consistency across the board. For a game that Vegas considers nearly a draw on a neutral field, I find it strange. NFLpickwatch.com pegs the Redskins as 92% favorites. Ninety-two percent! The spread is 3.5 points and the experts think the Redskins will win 92 times out of 100!

I’m not here to spell doom and gloom and say the Redskins will lose the game. Personally, I do think they’ll win. Stop the run, win the turnover battle. If they do those two things, they will win.

But my god, people. You’re acting like the Redskins are a world-beater and the Cowboys are a college team. Yes, the Redskins play well at home. Yes, the Cowboys are terrible offensively without Tony Romo under center. But this is still the Cowboys. They still have Dez Bryant on the outside and Jason Witten up the middle. They still have arguably the game’s best offensive line, by a lot. They still have the 6th-ranked defense in the NFL and the most accurate kicker in the history of the sport. This is not a team the Redskins will roll over, barring some turnover-fest in favor of the burgundy and gold.

The Redskins are in control of their destiny and the Cowboys have less than a prayer of making the playoffs. This is what happens in the NFL. In reality, though, this game is so much closer than people are claiming. A 5-6 team against a 3-8 team is like a 47-win NBA team going up against a 41-win opponent. You’d never come to a 92% consensus on that. Never!

Matchups

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Quarterback

Here, the Redskins have a clear advantage. Matt Cassel is terrible, Kirk Cousins is a top-15 quarterback (I will back that claim up later this week, I promise). Each will probably throw an interception and struggle at times, but Cousins has far more going for him than Cassel. Namely, Cousins like to get rid of the ball and Cassel likes to hold it. Advantage: Redskins

Running back

This is dumb. I believe the Redskins have better running backs, but I’m almost positive the Cowboys will outrun their opposition. Not because Washington’s run defense is terrible, but because the Redskins just cannot run the ball. I don’t understand it. They have a grind-and-pound starter, a fast and punishing backup, and a change-of-pace third down back. They have the full package! Yet that starter has no burst, that backup cannot hold on to the ball, and that change-of-pace back is too small to withstand regular carries. It’s running back purgatory. On Dallas’ side, Darren McFadden isn’t much better. He’s actually pretty terrible, a 60-yards-per-game guy who sprinkles in 150 every now and then. It will probably come tonight, but I’m still giving the edge to the Redskins on depth alone. It’s the most uninspiring position comparison I think I’ve ever written in my life. Advantage: Redskins, somehow

Wide receiver

If DeSean Jackson plays tonight, this comp will be a lot closer. But it still stands that Dallas has one of the best receivers in the league in Dez Bryant, as well as a host of little dudes that compliment him quite well. Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley stack up pretty well against Jackson, Garcon, and Crowder. It’s just that Bryant is good enough for the entire lot of them. Advantage: Cowboys

Tight end

I can’t remember the last time the Redskins had an offensive player as good as Jordan Reed. These players just don’t come to Washington very often. Reed is a bona-fide star, a top-5 tight end who, when he plays, instantly makes the offense that much better. I don’t care who the Cowboys use to cover him tonight, it won’t work. Expect Reed to thoroughly outplay Jason Witten (who is still quite good, I might add). Reed is automatic for at least six catches and a chance at a touchdown. No one in the entire league can cover him and on a pound-for-pound basis, he may be the most talented tight end in football. Now if only he’d stop grabbing the dang opponent’s jersey so much! Advantage: Redskins

Offensive line

Just because McFadden isn’t channeling his inner DeMarco Murray, and Matt Cassel likes hitting the ground a little bit too much, it doesn’t mean that Dallas’ offensive line has regressed. It is still a force to be reckoned with, and boasts at least three All Pro-caliber players.

This is the most important match-up of the game, bar none. When the Redskins get pressure on quarterbacks and stop the run, they win. When they don’t, they lose. It’s that simple. All of you expected a Washington romp need look no further than the trenches to see where this game will ultimately be decided. Advantage: Cowboys

Defensive line

Here, we reach another worrying part of the game: Dallas’ defense. Remember how these guys were the worst unit in league history a few years ago? No longer. In fact, if the Cowboys scored 21 points per game, they probably would have left the Redskins in their wake long ago. The defense feeds off the line, which is underrated. Everyone talks about Greg Hardy (who is having something of a down year). But Tyrone Crawford is a monster in the middle and Jeremy Mincey is solid off the edge. They may not get gaudy numbers but they still produce.

Enough harping on the Cowboys’ line, though. Here, the Redskins do have an advantage. Terrance Knighton will be an absolutely critical part of disrupting Dallas’ offensive line plans, Jason Hatcher will no doubt be motivated to stick it to his old team, and Chris Baker has been arguably the defense’s top performer short of Bashaud Breeland. The Redskins get a slight edge here, though it is important that they work hard so that Dallas’ offensive line doesn’t negate their effectiveness. Advantage: Redskins

Linebackers

This was likely a Redskins sweep until the news broke that Perry Riley would be out three to six weeks with a foot injury. Keenan Robinson is questionable. It will be up to Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy, Will Compton, and Preston Smith to cover Witten and stop McFadden. Still, the Cowboys’ dynamic combo of Sean Lee and Rolando McClain can hold its own against most teams. Because of the injuries, I’d call this a push. Advantage: Push

Defensive backs

This is such an interesting position in Washington. On paper, it looks like a trainwreck – but then you get performances like last week. People say it was inspiring in the absence of Chris Culliver, I say it was partially because Culliver was out. We shall see. Breeland is absolutely an ace in the hole and if he plays Bryant as well as he did in Dallas last year, the Redskins will more than likely win the game. The Cowboys, though, have more depth at both corner and safety. It looks like a push until you also learn that the Cowboys’ corners haven’t had an interception in over 400 passes. The Redskins eke out an advantage. Advantage: Redskins

Special teams

This hinges on one thing, and one thing only: if DeSean Jackson is back there returning punts, the Redskins automatically gain a huge advantage. Say what you want about Jackson, he’s dynamic in the open field in a way that no one in the NFL can match.

Kicker and punter could not be more of a push. Tress Way averages 45.9 yards per punt for Washington, Chris Jones is at 45.8. Dustin Hopkins and Dan Bailey have been similarly superb. But the Redskins’ potential return game gives them a slight edge. Advantage: Redskins.

Coaching

I’m in the minority. I love Jay Gruden. I think he’s the best coach the Redskins have had since Gibbs 2.0 and I think his gameplanning abilities are of a quality displayed by only a few other coaches in the game. He still has a lot to prove and I’m not entirely sold on his overall coaching acumen – but from an X’s and O’s standpoint, I do believe the Redskins have a clear advantage over the puppet that stands on the opposite sideline. How does Jason Garrett still have a job? Advantage: Redskins

Hey, look at that! I count seven advantages for Washington, two for Dallas, and a push. Now it seems like this game is more in the Redskins’ favor than previously assumed, especially considering it’s at home.

I’m still calling a close one, though. Redskins win 23-17.

The utter importance of tonight’s game

The Redskins are 5-6. They are a mediocre team. I’m as thrilled as anyone that they sit atop their division, but this fact still stands. Their remaining schedule is a cakewalk, but they could just as easily go 5-0 as they could go 0-5.

It is this thought that makes this game so important. The Redskins should not expect to win their final five games, no matter what prior history tells us is possible. They cannot win on the road and they still cannot win consecutive games. You have to assume that they will lose one or two or even three in the next five weeks.

Tonight, they play a 3-8 division opponent at home. Losing this game would not derail the season, but it would make winning the division that much harder. Road dates at Philadelphia, Chicago, and Dallas still loom.

If the Redskins want to make the playoffs, this is the game they have to win. It provides them with a much-needed room for error for when that inevitable loss comes. Right now, they remain in the driver’s seat. It’s up to them to continue pressing the gas.

Comparing the 2015 Washington Capitals to the 2009 team

 

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Next Year, DC thrives on the ineptitude of sports in Washington. And for good reason: a point I reiterate often is that every major city has seen a team play a conference final since 1998, except for Washington. Hooray, us.

Yet, I often say it’s not all bad. And when it’s not all bad, it’s usually because of the Washington Capitals.

The 2009 team will forever be remembered in infamy, falling in the first round of the playoffs and breaking the hearts of red rockers everywhere. But I prefer to think of that team differently: the most dominant collection of talent on display in Washington since the Redskins of the 1980s.

Now, in 2015, we have another iteration. The Caps currently lead the Metropolitan Division with a sterling 17-5-1 record. They are in the midst of a five-game winning streak and have cemented themselves as one of the top three teams in the NHL. The question on everyone’s mind: is this the year they finally take the next step?

Seeing as this is the best Caps team since that 2009 juggernaut, I figured a bit of comparison is in order.

2009

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You’ll never get me to think otherwise. The 2012 and 2014 Nationals come close, but the 2009 Capitals are the best team D.C. has seen in the last two decades. In fact, they may be the best hockey team the NHL has seen since the 2005 Detroit Red Wings posted a plus-96 goal differential on the way to 124 points. The only difference between the Caps and other legendary teams is that they didn’t win a Stanley Cup.

Had Jaroslav Halak not been born, I’m convinced it would have gone differently. This team wasn’t just good – it was absolutely, unequivocally, absurdly dominant. You know what happened in 2009? It became almost impossible to score. That was the year when the precipitous decline in goals began. You know who wasn’t affected? Alex Ovechkin and his band of sniping miscreants. The Caps scored 313 goals in 2009. The next-highest total since then was the 2011 Pittsburgh Penguins, who netted a measly 273. In fact, the Caps were so good on offense in 2009 that they outscored the second-highest-scoring team by 45 goals. The league average was 233 that year!

And defensively, they weren’t pushovers either. They weren’t great, no – they were average, but the script that says they were horrid is simply wrong. They allowed 227 goals.

This team was just…I can’t even find the words. They scored first so many times it was impossible to count. I know offense isn’t everything but this type of offense was so wholly destructive that other teams really didn’t stand a chance save for a goalie standing on his head. The Caps had 10 players score at least 10 goals, and seven scored at least 21. SEVEN GUYS SCORED AT LEAST 21 GOALS. Even Mike Green set a record for consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman. They were the only team to have a 50-goal scorer, a 40-goal scorer, and a 30-goal scorer. They won 13 consecutive games. This group was incredible.

Scoring
Rk Player Pos Age GP G ▾ A PTS +/-
1 Alex Ovechkin LW 24 72 50 59 109 45
2 Alexander Semin LW 25 73 40 44 84 36
3 Nicklas Backstrom C 22 82 33 68 101 37
4 Mike Knuble RW 37 69 29 24 53 23
5 Brooks Laich C 26 78 25 34 59 16
6 Tomas Fleischmann LW 25 69 23 28 51 9
7 Eric Fehr RW 24 69 21 18 39 18
8 Mike Green D 24 75 19 57 76 39
9 Brendan Morrison C 34 74 12 30 42 23
10 Matt Bradley RW 31 77 10 14 24 6

Yet they had two flaws that ultimately led to their undoing. One, they couldn’t kill penalties. Not at all. Their defense overall wasn’t terrible but that penalty kill was horrendous, coming in at only 78 percent.

The other problem was a lack of net presence. Jose Theodore was brought in to shore up the goalie issue but he didn’t pan out; Semyon Varlamov was not ready, though he posted decent numbers; Michal Neuvirth showed promise but ultimately was nothing special. These three thoroughly average goaltenders were one of the main causes of the Caps’ undoing in the playoffs.

121 points. Nothing to show for it. Forever remembered as dominant, and forever known as an abject failure.

2015

And here we have the modern-day Caps. Many of the names are still the same: Ovechkin continues his stellar play, Backstrom remains arguably the league’s best overall center, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Jason Chimera, and Jay Beagle still hold down the fort.

They are not as dominant. But they are just as good.

After that 2009 season, the Caps decided that defense was the way to go. This caused their offense to suffer, and Ovechkin failed to find footing. Simply put, this team could either play good defense and not score, or play good offense and not defend.

This year is the first in a long time where this is no longer true. The Caps can score with the best of them and are as stingy as any team in the league at preventing goals. And there are two reasons for this, two huge reasons that the 2009 team lacked.

First is coaching. Bruce Boudreau is a phenomenal coach and one of the seminal figures in the last 15 years of D.C. sports. Without him, the Caps never would have become the annual playoff contender they are. Remember: this was a bad, bad, baaaad team, and he literally turned them around mid-season to become a division winner in 2008. Boudreau is one of the most successful coaches this city has ever seen, and his influence is still prominent in Anaheim, where the Ducks are perennial contenders.

But Boudreau was passive about defense and his teams lacked toughness. Dale Hunter and Adam Oates brought toughness but no offense. Enter Barry Trotz, centerpiece of one of my favorite pictures…

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…and who has crafted a team as skilled as it is physical, something this town has been clamoring for. Trotz has turned Ovechkin into a true two-way player, and he has made his skilled forwards passionate about playing on both sides of the ice. Frankly, this is a different team because of Trotz.

More importantly than Trotz, though, is the savior between the pipes. Braden Holtby is one of the most underrated athletes in his own city and he may be the most important. Fans seem to have this mentality that Holtby is not as good as people say. Fans who think this are wrong. He is not aggressively dominant, but he is clearly – CLEARLY, people – a top-five goaltender and provides an edge that the Caps have missed for years. Die hards will always pine for the glory days (why?) of Olie Kolzig, but Holtby is far better. Far, far better. And he’s the reason this team is more Cup-ready than that 121-point buzzsaw from 2009.

This is the year

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I’m not saying the Caps will win the Stanley Cup. That would be foolish. Hockey, more than almost any other sport, is based on factors other than skill. An impossible save here. A bad bounce there. Anything can happen, and anything will happen.

But folks, this is the best chance we have. This is the best chance for Next Year, D.C. to mean “next year, we will win ANOTHER championship” instead of the depressing penultimate droll it currently stands for. I thought the Nationals would be that chance; I was dead wrong.

This is it. This is the year. This is the year that Washington could finally celebrate that golden moment, kissing Lord Stanley’s Cup while the fans literally paint the town red.

Safety last

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The defensive backfield in Washington has been unsettled for years, with no cure in sight

The 2004 NFL Draft saw the Miami Hurricanes gift six players to the NFL in the first round, a record that still stands.

In the eye of that perfect storm of promise, one Hurricane stood above all. His name was Sean Taylor and he was selected fifth overall by the Washington Redskins. Taylor was the cream of the crop. The first of many. A God among titans, as the NFL deemed.

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The best of the best

It’s important to remember Taylor’s skill and ability. He was better than good, he was transcendent, the type of player who despite having his life tragically cut short will always be remembered among the very best of the best. It’s important to remember this. Because in the wake of Sean Taylor’s departure from the halls of FedEx Field, a trail of destruction is all that remains.

Where opponents once feared to run, they now gallop like gazelles on a flat plain. Where quarterbacks once deigned to throw, they now find vast open pastures. An offense used to be in jeopardy when #21 roamed the defensive backfield, but that is no longer the case. Not even close.

Washington’s 16-year game of roulette under center garners the headlines, and deservedly so. But the situation at safety is just as bad, if not worse. The last decade has produced enough holes in the defensive backfield to play a full 18, plus a tiebreak. The problem? The Redskins attacked the problem in the most Redskins way imaginable.

The Redskins Way

You only need two ingredients to properly concoct the Redskins Way: a bumbling, fantastical owner, and truckloads of expendable dough. Together, they create a stew of ineptitude and any salt added to taste only finds its way into the wound. In both the draft and free agency, Dan Synder’s organization has failed beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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Loin cloth with glasses

First, the draft. Dan Snyder does not like the draft. Or, to phrase it better, he does not see the value in the draft. Snyder sees the value in the Robert Griffins and the Brian Orakpos, the Chris Samuelses and the LaVar Arringtons. But beyond that first round, he sees a detritus of useless throwaways. The Patriots, a team far superior to the Redskins in more ways than should be possible, are known for hoarding draft picks and developing players. Washington only truly cares about that first pick, that star pupil, the franchise savior that renders anything after the first round superfluous.

To his credit, Snyder has improved in this regard – more out of necessity than anything related to his football acumen – but it still stands. The Redskins do not draft well outside of the first round, and to say they even draft well in the first round is doubtful. Since 2006, Washington has drafted exactly zero Pro Bowl or All-Pro safeties, and every safety they’ve drafted is no longer with the team. Reed Doughty, LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore, Chris Horton, DeJon Gomes, Jordan Bernstein, Phillip Thomas, and Bacarri Rambo – none of these names will sniff the ring of honor. Some had their moments, but all flamed out quickly. Only one, Landry, was drafted with any kind of realistic dream of stardom.

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Most accomplished, only because he stayed on the longest

The most damning aspect of the Redskins’ inability to draft safeties is that Doughty is probably the most accomplished of that bunch. Half deaf, slow, without a single notable physical attribute, he became one of the most beloved Redskins despite his subpar play. When Reed Doughty is the crown jewel in a decade of drafts, something is seriously amiss.

Washington can’t draft safeties. So why is that? Why is it that they always seem to draft projects and prospects, as opposed to shoe-in starters like Landry was supposed to be?

Free agent free-for-alls

Here, we find ourselves in step two of the Redskins Way: money. Washington has failed to draft any talent at safety since LaRon Landry, but context is important. It’s not that Snyder and Co. were simply disregarding safeties, they were disregarding the draft itself – and turning to free agency. In 2006, for example, the Redskins (unsurprisingly lacking a first-round pick) settled on Rocky McIntosh despite future impact safeties Roman Harper, Danieal Manning and Bernard Pollard still being on the board. Why not address the position? Because they already had.

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Archu-let the team down

Instead of re-signing Ryan Clark, at the time a criminally underrated player who had blossomed into a home-grown star in the last great defense Washington has seen, the Redskins stiffed him and tossed money in the direction of Adam Archuleta. Lots of money. TONS OF MONEY. While Clark went on to be a Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion as a member of the fearsome Steelers defenses of the late 2000s, Archuleta lasted for seven total starts after being handed a six-year, $30 million contract – at the time, the biggest contract ever bestowed upon an NFL safety. Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb are the highest-profile busts in recent Redskins memory, but Archuleta is right up there as one of the biggest mistakes Snyder has ever made. Washington ended up trading Archuleta to the Bears for a sixth-round pick the following season, which they promptly wasted on Carson Palmer’s brother, Jordan.

Archuleta stands as one of the shining epitomes of Snyder’s tenure.

The great duo

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This was supposed to work out better

If there’s one thing that Snyder did right in addressing the safety position, it was drafting LaRon Landry in 2007. Don’t scoff: it’s the same way I feel about Snyder gifting the Rams a multitude of picks to draft Robert Griffin. Neither move panned out particularly well, but you can’t fault the man for making a move that, at the time, was logical. Anyone would have done it.

Landry was the clear-cut best safety in the draft with some scouts regarding him as the best defensive player, period. Drafting him ended up costing Washington dearly down the road but no one questioned the decision. The consensus was that Joe Gibbs now had two premier safeties to play with, Landry and Taylor, a dynamic duo if ever there was one.

And for at least half a season, Landry and Taylor patrolled the so-called Area 51, arguably the greatest combination of hitting power ever put in a defensive backfield. Madden’s hit stick couldn’t do these two justice. Receivers were afraid to approach the crushing young stars. Weekly, it seemed as though the two were competing to see who could knock more opponents out cold.

Landry was a Pro Bowl alternate that year and played admirably opposite Doughty following Taylor’s death, but he never grew as a player in the following years. The knock on him was consistent: a player who too often goes for the big hit while disregarding coverage. Highlight reel stuff, to be sure, but the Redskins’ defense ultimately suffered because of it.

Soon, Landry became a hassle. He rated as one of the worst safeties in football in 2008 and 2009 before having a career resurgence following a move to strong safety in 2010. Before a season-ending injury after nine games, Landry was near the top of many Defensive Player of the Year lists. Injuries continued to plague him, and his tenure ended when the Redskins chose not to re-sign him at the end of the 2011 season.

Calling Landry a failure is cruel, though he did save his only Pro Bowl appearance for the next season, his first with the New York Jets (in typical former Redskin fashion). He played well at times and made an undeniable impact. The hard part about Landry’s legacy is what the Redskins missed out on: Adrian Peterson was picked immediately after him

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Steroids, feat. LaRon Landry

, followed by Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, and Darrelle Revis, to name a few. Landry is known more for not being Adrian Peterson and for being the human manifestation of the Incredible Hulk than he is for being a safety.

It’s the perfect example of Snyder making the right call, but having it blow up in his face. Instead of having the greatest safety tandem in the history of football, Washington ended up with tragedy and an under-performer. The Redskins never recovered.

Safeties from a hat

LaRon Landry’s 2010 campaign was the last season a Redskins safety had any positive impact whatsoever. Snyder tried everything to replace him, and simply could not do it. In 2011 and 2012, he resorted to throwing the kitchen sink at the problem, a strategy akin to picking names from a hat and stapling them to a contract.

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A day in the life of Oshiomogho Atogwe

Before Landry’s first injury in 2011, Snyder ponied up for another vastly overrated safety from the St. Louis Rams. Learning nothing from the Archuleta disaster, he dipped into the Rams’ “talent pool” and nabbed Oshiomogho Atogwe for five years and $26 million, despite St. Louis releasing him in the second year of a five year, $32 million deal. Needless to say, this didn’t work out; Atogwe was known only for snagging eight interceptions in 2007 and couldn’t play the position otherwise. He was released the following year, another massive bust on Snyder’s ever-growing ledger.

Clearly frustrated with the lack of progress on the safety, front, Snyder literally picked anyone he could find in 2012. The NFL can be a quick-fix league but they have to be smart fixes, and this was not one of them. He signed the legendary triumvirate of Brandon Meriweather, Madieu Williams, and Tanard Jackson. They all promptly failed in bizarrely unique ways: Williams was simply ineffective, Meriweather couldn’t stop tearing his own muscles while illegally pulverizing the opposition’s heads, and Jackson never saw the field because of injury and a recurring drug problem.

Bacarri Rambo proves you should never play for the Redskins

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Don’t snap the ball without me, guys!

So, as you can see, Washington had failed in every imaginable way. Every way. No bones about it. In 2013, Snyder decided it was time to address the problem with the draft once again.

Well, that didn’t work. After drafting David Amerson to fill a similarly glaring hole at cornerback (Amerson, shocking absolutely nobody, is no longer on the team), the Redskins looked safety. They drafted Phillip Thomas out of Fresno State in the fourth round (passing on the disappointing but immaculately named safety Shamarko Thomas eight picks earlier. Shamarko Shamarko Shamarko). At the time, experts thought it could become a sneaky-good steal. Thomas was a project, but one that could ultimately develop into a full-time starter. In the sixth round, they picked up Bacarri Rambo, another project, but who had excelled in the battlefields of the SEC.

Jesus, playing safety for the Redskins is worse than being the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. Inevitably, Thomas never saw the field during the regular season, suffering an injury in the first preseason game and missing the entire season. He was released in 2015 without playing a down.

Rambo played…well…terribly when forced into action, as any sixth-round pick would. He was benched and then came back and struggled again. He was released near the start of 2014.

And then it happened. The most predictable storyline of all time. Rambo was picked up by the Buffalo Bills and is currently enjoying the best season of his career. He’s not a Pro Bowler, but he picked off Aaron Rodgers twice – something so impossible to do that I have a better chance of bending a spoon with my mind. He even won AFC defensive player of the week for his performance on national fucking television against the Jets, forcing two fumbles, recovering one (the other was recovered for a touchdown), and winning the game with an interception inside of a minute.

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Godammit

This, more than anything, is a decisive example of Washington’s failure to properly address the position.

These issues define the Redskins more than their perpetually rotating quarterback carousel. If anything, this situation makes the quarterback problem seem simple by comparison. Because while there might be a blue-chip passer in the next draft or two, the can’t-miss safety is a rarer proposition. Great safeties aren’t megastars; they make their unit better by their play  and if that unit is broken, there’s nothing one defensive player can do to fix it. The Redskins need more than a safety. They need an organizational overhaul, one that is currently taking place under general manager Scot McCloughan. His philosophy is the ultimate trump card and could be the saving grace for a stumbling defense.

So how do we fix this problem?

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Our Lord and Savior

Ahhh, the million-dollar question. The answer?

You don’t.

You don’t fix the problem. It’s impossible, at this point. The Redskins could have Earl Thomas and the ghost of Ronnie Lott back there and it would hardly make a difference. The defense itself is broken. The lineman don’t have gap discipline, there’s no pass rush, the cornerbacks can’t cover consistently, the linebackers have no chance in coverage…no safety will thrive in this environment until the defense as a whole improves.

That doesn’t mean disregarding the position entirely – far from it, in fact; if the Redskins find themselves in a position to sign or draft an impact safety, they should. But they should also remember that a star safety does not a great defense make. More than the opposite side of the ball, defense is about unit cohesion. It’s about teamwork and communication. To fix the problem at safety, they need to fix everything else first. A piece here, a piece there. A solid signing every now and again. A change in philosophy. Building blocks for the future, building, building, building, creating a unit proud to patrol the field.

Somehow, that makes the problem seem more manageable.

I shuffle my Spotify playlist through 10 songs and defend what happens next

I will never, ever admit that my taste in music is anything special. I know I’m impossible. I once liked Nickelback, for crying out loud. Not just like – I mean REALLY like, as in, when I was in middle school Nickelback was my favorite band. I have since wised up, but we all know liking Nickelback at any time is unforgivable.

For my first Not About Sports post on Next Year D.C., I decided to assess my music tastes in a 10-song sample. I shuffled through 10 songs and put those 10 songs on paper, without question. Since these are 10 songs out of thousands, they won’t be a legitimate representation of my musical whims. But they certainly run the gamut, representing the best of what I like and re-introducing me to some inexplicably bad selections that have somehow stayed glued to my Spotify account. Here we have some jewels, and some that constitute the nadir of music as a whole. Without hesitation, let the judgement commence:

The Invisible Girl – Parov Stelar

Listening to Parov Stelar is like kicking back at a speakeasy with your best gal and a better cigar. Parov, I tip my 1920s-era fedora (which, by the way, is often confused with the far less stylish trilby, a hat which gives a bad name to fedoras everywhere. But I digress)! I seriously recommend you check out more. A friend introduced me to this throwback magic and I haven’t looked back.


Take The Money And Run – Steve Miller Band

Hey look, #2 isn’t embarrassing either! Not only that, it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. I couldn’t tell you why, other than that I always listen to it whenever it comes on, without hesitation. Imagine my disdain when I saw a certain Taco Bell commercial rip the song to shreds just to sell some goddamn Crunch Wrap sliders.

Seriously? It sounds like a 28-year old man joined a recording session at the Kidz Bop recording studio. It sounds like something Smash Mouth would have done way better in 1999. Get it together, Taco Bell.

But seriously, this song is great. Steve Miller Band is great. You can’t judge me on this one.


On Top Of The World – T.I. feat. Ludacris & B.o.B.

Haha. Full disclosure: I am not a huge rap fan, but I do appreciate the genre. No one will mistake On Top Of The World for, like, Tupac or anything, but it’s a fun song, right? Right? Because we all know that I’m swimming in the money and the cars and girls.

Also, where did B.o.B. run off to? It feels like he hasn’t done anything interesting in years. Maybe I’m just super disconnected from the rap scene. That dude is seriously talented, though. He should get it going again.


Party Up – DMX

I am the whitest person who ever lived. Sour cream. Mayonnaise. Vanilla. You know why? I didn’t even know this song existed until 2002. That’s because in 2002, this happened:

Guys, I LOVED this movie as a kid. It’s sooooo bad, but soooooo good at the same time. And yes, it’s true, I didn’t know what a ‘DMX’ was before this. Is that unforgivable? Either way, it’s magnificent that a DMX song showed up in a movie directed squarely at children.


Work – Iggy Azalea

Oh God, here we go. The first one where I truly have to do some explaining. The problem is, I don’t have a good excuse. I heard this song in the car once, and I added it to my playlist. Simple as that. No lies. Nothing misleading. I have money, I have family, I’m 23 and I’ve never been to Miami. I just thought it was catchy, okay?

Now, of course, I think it’s the scourge of the earth and upon having it shuffled into my ear canal I immediately deleted it. Because even though I have been up some nights working on my shit and trying to get that rich, I’ve never given a blowjob in the name of designer shoes (which, by the way, goes down as the dumbest lyric I’ve heard in years).


Stupid – Kacey Musgraves

Country music is both misunderstood and completely, utterly understood. For those of you that think country music is about cute girls in Daisy Dukes drinking beer and shoveling hay onto your truck’s tailgate, well, you’re completely correct. That’s the shitty side of country music. That’s Florida-Georgia Line degrading women and Blake Shelton excoriating you for being a New Yorker, ya damn city slicker.

Then there are artists like Kacey Musgraves, artists who actually try to write music instead of pulling lyrics out of the bottom of a beer cooler. Highly recommended, even if I have literally no connection to anything related to good ol’ country living.


In One Ear – Cage the Elephant

Ahhhhh why do I have this song? Deleted. Cage the Elephant is a terrible garage band that some producer thought could make a hit. And they did. No Rest For The Wicked is catchy as hell. Everything else they’ve done is unadulterated crap. Don’t tell this to my brother, who idolized these rock god wannabes when he was younger. Yuck. The singer, who must have throat cancer at this point in his career, sings about his words going “in one ear and right out the other” and I’m sure he’d be proud to know that this is exactly what happened when I listened to it.


Like A G6 – Far East Movement

WHAT THE FUCK. Why did I ever add this song to any playlist of any kind at any time? You know what – I think I’m more embarrassed about this song being on the playlist than Iggy. At least Iggy seems, I don’t know, genuine about her work. These guys basically say “We like to party and when we do, it’s like we’re the Gulfsteam G650, a twin engine jet airplane. We so fly yo hahahaha” oh my god I’m so embarrassed right now. This song came out in 2010 so it means at some point over the last five years – while I was in COLLEGE aghhhh – I considered it decent enough for listening. Holy mother of God I cannot defend this abomination. To the many people who say my music tastes are awful: here is your fuel. Burn me at the stake.


Love Train – The O’Jays

Ugh, I feel like I need to shower after that last song. Thankfully, The O’Jays are here to help! I can’t disassociate this song with shitty beer, but it’s still a jivin’ good time.

This is a song that will brighten your day no matter how bad it’s been. And if you happened to listen to Like A G6 recently, here is your medicine. You have been cleansed.


Bossa Nova Baby – Elvis Presley

I love Elvis. I love Elvis so much. I’m really glad this came up, because now I can wax poetic about The King. I have probably 100 Elvis songs on this playlist so you had to assume it would show up eventually. This one is far from my favorite (that honor goes to the elegant, beautiful, passionate Now And Then There’s A Fool Such As I), but it’s the perfect introduction for the Elvis beginner. Upbeat, fun, energetic as hell. Oooooh yeah. This was a good finish.


For those interested, the next five songs that came up on shuffle were Tombstone Blues (Bob Dylan), Like Toy Soldiers (Eminem), The House Is Rockin’ (Stevie Ray Vaughan), Patiently Waiting (50 Cent), and Way Down (Elvis Presley).

There you have it. Judge me. Criticize me. Agree with me? Hey, it took balls to do this, alright? I have zero regrets.