Chris Wesseling has had it up to HERE with the faulty football logic he's seen flying fast and furious lately. Below, he thoroughly -- if a bit crankily -- debunks some of the more galling popular fallacies that have taken root:
Why you don't insult the Cook
The signing was met with snickers in St. Louis, where downtrodden Rams fans watched Cook drop passes, bungle blocking assignments and vanish from the offense for long stretches of three seasons.
Even before Jordy Nelson's rib injury, Cook had emerged as Aaron Rodgers' secret weapon, stretching the seam and converting crucial third downs. With Cook in the lineup this season, Rodgers boasts a sparkling 31:2 TD-to-INT ratio, 113.3 passer rating and 10 wins versus two losses, per NFL Media Research. In the six games Cook missed due to a severely sprained ankle, those figures dipped to a 15:6 TD-to-INT ratio with a 92.3 passer rating and just two victories.
So why did so many critics fail to envision a size-speed advantage such as Cook's succeeding in an offense that has needed a seam-stretching tight end since Jermichael Finley was forced into early retirement after the 2013 season?
Cook is representative of the analytics conundrum. Whereas baseball lends itself to advanced metrics, football is less measurable and more inherently subjective. Everything is interconnected. One player cannot be extracted from the 10 teammates aligning alongside him or the coaching staff calling plays and scheming battle plans.
All 32 NFL organizations take advantage of analytics in personnel evaluation and financial matters. As far as the on-field product, though, the frontier remains. Our knowledge is limited by factors that only those tasked with drawing up the game plans and grading assignments fully understand.
"Our game is so team-oriented. Our game is so teamwork-oriented," Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian explained at the Sloan Analytics Conference in 2010. "Our game is so technical in terms of technique, systems. The Patriots use a defensive system, for example, that is antithetical to [the Colts]. They're 180 degrees apart. So they take two different styles of players, types of players to play. And, tactically, they're totally different. The techniques are completely different. So one size does not fit all, as it does in baseball or it may in basketball. We've talked a lot with baseball people, and there's a clear divergence there."
Polian wondered how analytics could capture the complexity of 22 interconnected players executing different and completely unrelated techniques more than 60 times per game.
"How do we measure that, Polian asked, "beyond saying, This guy can play, that guy can't play?"
The 6-foot-5, 254-pound Cook was written off as a perennial tease because his extraordinary 4.50 speed and 41-inch vertical leap rarely translated to consistent production while catching wayward passes from the likes of Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Jake Locker, Nick Foles and Case Keenum in Jeff Fisher's outdated offenses. He couldn't play.
Surrounded by ineptitude for the majority of his career, Cook naturally lost confidence. He's never going to have Larry Fitzgerald's vise-grip hands or Travis Kelce's lateral agility. Those flaws are amplified by shoddy quarterback play -- but the inverse is true in Green Bay. It's easy to overlook Cook's weaknesses when Rodgers is throwing him open and hitting him in stride. Now he can play.
Cook is far from an isolated case.
DeAndre Hopkins earned Pro Bowl honors in 2015, becoming the first player in NFL history to reach the 100-yard mark with four different quarterbacks in a season. His skill set as the league's most acrobatic boundary receiver went to waste this season with Brock Osweiler, a quarterback incapable of hitting throws outside the numbers and down the field.
Future Hall of Famer Randy Moss averaged 50 receptions, 775 yards, eight touchdowns and a 49.5 catch percentage in three seasons with the Vikings and Raiders from 2004 through 2006. Set free in New England, Moss' averages spiked to 83 receptions, 1,255 yards, 16 touchdowns and a 59.2 catch percentage in his next three years with Tom Brady, Matt Cassel and the Patriots' braintrust.
Credit Thompson for having the similar foresight to pair Cook with a transcendent quarterback capable of maximizing a specific skill set at tight end.
That's how football is supposed to work. It's a symbiotic relationship.
Save your screenshots, you filthy animals
Travis Kelce earned All-Pro honors in 2016, replacing gridiron godRob Gronkowski as the game's greatest run-after-catch threat at tight end. We should be discussing his emergence as Kansas City's long-awaited playmaking savior. Instead, he has whipped Chiefs fans into an embarrassing whining frenzy, trying to convince the football world that Eric Fisher's blatant hold on James Harrison cost his team the victory in a game the Steelers thoroughly dominated for 55 minutes.
"It's the right call. Fisher wrapped his left hand, his left arm around Harrison, yanked him down," NFL Network analyst Nate Burleson explained on "Good Morning Football." "Here's the thing about Fisher: He should've just let him go, because it's a wide release by Harrison. He's not going to get to Alex Smith. ... If you have peripheral vision, you've got to know that you see Alex stepping up in the pocket -- and just wash him away instead of trying to control him with that left arm. The refs are going to see that. It's just like a receiver if I grab cloth or if I push off before I catch the ball."
With the luxury of slow-motion instant replay running on an endless loop, Kelce and Chiefs fans are asking an official not to trust his eyes in a split-second decision after he saw Fisher grab Harrison's jersey by the neck hole with one hand and twist the pass rusher's lower back with the other hand.
"It was a hold," former Ravens coach Brian Billick added on "Good Morning Football." "Do you want the game to end like that? The officialsdon't want to have to make that call. Trust me. But it was a hold. Had the positions been reversed, had it been the Steelers attempting it and converted and a hold hadn't been called on Justin Houston, I got a feeling Travis Kelce would have been apoplectic on that one, as well. So, yeah, it was a hold."
Fisher conceded his costly mistake after the game.
"With the game on the line, for me to let the team down," Fisher said, via The MMQB, "it's going to be a hard one to let go."
Here's the truth: The Steelers could have won that game without a punter. They had as many yards in field goals (227) as the Chiefs managed in total. After three quarters, Le'Veon Bell had more yards alone than the entire Kansas City offense. Bell ended up setting a new franchise record for postseason rushing yards (170) while Antonio Brown had 100 yards by halftime. The Steelers spent the game gaining ground while the Chiefs conceded territory. If the ball had bounced differently, Pittsburgh might have won that game by 20 points or more.
The Chiefs were outclassed on their own hallowed grounds by a more talented team. Suggesting they lost the game because the official didn't swallow the whistle on an obvious holding penalty is laughable.
So stop obsessing over selective social media screen grabs, you filthy animals. Resist the temptation to plagiarize excuses from Imright.com or @footballalibi when there's a Matterhorn of evidence that your team was outplayed. Give my Twitter "block" button a rest and cease this deranged practice of ignoring every other factor in your team's deserved demise.
While I'm at it ...
1) Has quoting Mike Tyson replaced "Iron sharpens iron" as football's most monotonous cliché? Asked by FOX's Erin Andrews about stopping Cowboys rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott, Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels borrowed from Tyson: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Elliott proceeded to pound out 125 yards on 22 carries, gashing Green Bay's defense. You know why? Because Elliott's plan was to punch the Packers' front seven in the mouth before they could punch him in the mouth. The NFL: 32 teams figuratively punching each other in the mouth.
2) When it comes to Texans coach Bill O'Brien and his quarterback room, we've learned not to trust a word he says. Not even "Hello." Remember when he spun this gem on HBO's "Hard Knocks"? "Nobody talks about the Houston Texans because nobody thinks we're gonna win. And the disrespect that they show our quarterbacks? I'm tired of that, too. Because both those kids can play. They just need a chance, and one of them is going to get it. Enough is enough."
Brian Hoyer went on to "beat out" Ryan Mallett for the starting job, only to get benched three quarters into the season opener. Since that Hamlet routine, O'Brien has changed starting quarterbacks no less than a half-dozen times, nearly costing his team a pair of silver-platter playoff berths. O'Brien is a fine coach. But when he says it's "too early to know" if Brock Osweiler will enter next season as the starter, he's out of his tree. Putting the $72 million boondoggle back under center in Week 1 is a professional death wish.
3) Atlanta's defense has improved statistically over the past five outings, allowing an average of just 19.0 points after hemorrhaging 27.6 points per game early in the season. Coach Dan Quinn's explanation, via The MMQB: "We get better every week because we've got young guys still learning our defense." That sounds plausible, right? The Falcons are certainly a faster, harder-hitting defense after hitting the jackpot with their last three draft classes.
Here's the problem with Quinn's pie-in-the-sky hypothesis: There's too much statistical noise in his defense's sudden stinginess. That five-game sample includes overwhelmed Rams quarterback Jared Goff, San Francisco's talent-starved offense, Cam Newton in the midst of one of the most scattershot stretches of the 21st century and a Seattle attack that turns inept behind a swinging-gate offensive line on the road. When Quinn's troops face Aaron Rodgers, we're going to see the third-worst red-zone defense among all teams since 2000.