Football and Me Part XVI

This is the sixteenth post in a series in which I will document this football season. It will broadly be about the Badgers and Packers but will more specifically be about myself in it. Football season does not just happen on the field. It is about great friends, foods, drinks, and merriment. My hope is that it will be interesting for readers but at the very least it will serve as a journal to look back on. I wish I had done this last year.

Back in America! Feels good to be writing although the Diet Coke is taking an especially long time to kick in this morning; I still haven’t fully kicked my jetlag from my two-week trip to Borneo (I got back on Saturday night) and wasn’t helped by only getting four hours of sleep last night. Once every week or two, I wake up about 20-30 minutes after falling asleep and it’s BRUTAL because my body feels rested. Invariably I won’t be able to get back to sleep until 3 am and the next day will be like today where I need an extra caffeine pick to become a functional person.

Anyways, it was a busy weekend for the Packers and Badgers so let’s get to the last diary of the year for the Badgers. Hopefully there are three more for the Packers but there will be at least one…

Sunday

Noon – Head to The Stretch in Wrigleyville with Horvay, to be joined by Bauer and his girlfriend, Michelle, right as kickoff is approaching, only to find it full. This was the first time this season a normal bar (read: not Will’s) was full right at noon but I think it was also the first time I went to one when the Bears were playing in the early game. Settled on Irish Oak, a bar a few doors down, which has almost as good of a screen set-up as The Stretch, but not quite. There are four ~27-inch screens in a rectangle with one 42-inch screen on each side.

12:05 – While the screen set-up was pretty good, none of the TVs were showing football yet. I frantically ask the server to get that under control. She is hungover and isn’t exactly moving urgently (I don’t blame her, it was New Year’s day) but gets on the Packers and Bears games before we’ve missed too much. Also, it’s half-priced appetizers! Tremendous upside surprise. We order two slider trios (left to right: pulled pork, corn beef, skirt steak), two orders of wings (one buffalo, one en fuego), deep fried mac and cheese wrapped in bacon (devoured before I could take a picture), and nachos. They were orded in two separate rounds but I didn’t feel like making a second bullet point about it. The nachos are actually loaded waffle fries. Delicious, despite being mis-named on the menu. The sliders took best in show. Despite this gluttony, it only ended up being about $10 per person.

Slider Trio @ Irish Oak

En Fuego Wings and "Nachos" @ Irish Oak

 

1:00 – In the five minutes before our other friends get to Irish Oak to meet us, all of the open tables get reserved for Broncos fans at 3:00 PM, and the bar doesn’t allow them to sit at the table until that game. This was a sub-optimal economic decision on the part of Irish Oak as they headed over to Deuces and, as a group of four, ran up a $450 tab. Sunday funday.

The hungover server is very cute, I ask her out via a note on the way out: “Drinks Wednesday? I promise to trim my beard and dress presentably.” I set the odds at any correspondence around 1 in 100 and this might be generous. Shockingly, I’ve yet to hear from her.

1:30 – We head to Deuces to join the other group. Deuces is sort of a weird scene. It has more than enough screens to accommodate all, or at least most, of the games but is only showing Bears-Vikings, Packers-Lions, and, for some reason, 49ers-Rams. The bar is huge and full but, despite the fact that it is in Wrigleyville, very few people are there watching football. Deuces is sort of misplaced and feels like it should be in River North. There is barely a whimper when the Bears won (the game was decided in the final two minutes) and I was getting all sorts of strange looks for yelling about the Packers as they finished off the Lions (note: these weird looks were because I was yelling about football in general, not because I was cheering for a rival team). Our server is top 1% beautiful and I try to figure out in my head what one’s income needs to be to qualify to date her. I still don’t have a precise figure nailed down but suffice to say it’s higher than mine. No point in even trying to ask this one out with a witty note.

4:00 – Deuces is slow to adapt to the transition to the afternoon games. The Falcons are up 28-0 over the Buccaneers in a meaningless game that is on big screens in several prominent locations before we even catch a glimpse of Chiefs-Broncos. We miss most of the first quarter of Chargers-Raiders (another game with big playoff implications and even more severe meaning in some of our group’s survivor pool). Some bar should hire me to manage the screens so I don’t miss any of the games. We are the only table that seems remotely bothered. Also, there is no sound on the afternoon games. Well, there’s sound, but it’s ambient techno (is that an oxymoron? I have no idea what genre to classify it as…) music, not announcers. Oh well. I feel lucky to be able to use jetlag as an excuse to abstain from the neverending flow of Jameson and Rumplemints shots.

4:30 – There is a debate about whether Matt Flynn’s unbelievable performance (more on that below) should cost Aaron Rodgers the MVP award to Drew Brees. Bauer and Andrew think yes, I think no. What it boils down to, more than any other objective or subjective reason, is what your definition of the MVP award is. If you interpret the V–valuable–literally, then Brees (or maybe even Peyton Manning) should be MVP because they accounted for a bigger differentiation in wins for their teams this year and were thus more valuable.

However, I think the MVP should be awarded to the most outstanding player and I think that Rodgers was more outstanding than Brees this season. It would seem unfair to punish Rodgers because he has a better back-up than Brees (I hope I’m not overstepping my bounds by suggesting that Matt Flynn is better than Chase Daniel), Rodgers has a better TD-INT ratio (45:6 – 46:14), a better record (14-1 – 13-3), is a much more pronounced running threat, beat him head-to-head Week 1, and has prettier eyes. Also, the Saints lost to the Rams, who were 1-14 in their other games this season. Choosing between Rodgers and Brees as your quarterback is like having the misfortune of deciding between a Bentley and Lamborghini but I’d go with Rodgers. Perhaps I’m a homer but at least I laid out reasoning to defend my bias.

Packers takeaways

– It felt really good to watch the Packers sit their three best players–Rodgers, Matthews, and Woodson–and still beat the Lions. After the NDonkey Kong Suh stomp on Thanksgiving, the Lions entered the prestigious world of sports hatred for me. Someone needs to fill the void left by the maximum-schadenfreude Bears and Vikings seasons and it was a beautiful statement that the Lions have a LONG way to go before catching the Packers.

– Matthew Stafford is criminally underrated. This season, he completed 63.5% of his passes, throwing for 5,038 yards, 41 TDs, and 16 INTs and kept the team together when it was facing adversity late in the year. In a year where quarterbacks set all sorts of records, only Rodgers, Brees, and Brady were better than Stafford. I don’t exactly look forward to playing him twice a year if he can stay healthy.

– As Gregg Rosenthal pointed out on PFT, this year the Packers are essentially in the opposite position that they were last year headed into the playoffs: they are the 1-seed instead of the 6-seed and get basically everyone back for the playoffs–most importantly, Greg Jennings, Chad Clifton, and Bryan Bulaga. Hopefully the season ends the same as last year and not the opposite.

– Matt Flynn made himself some coin. He was superb. That being said, I’d be wary of paying him established starter money after seeing what has happened with Matt Cassel and Kevin Kolb. Flynn certainly deserves a look but potential buyers (Redskins, Seahawks, Browns?) need to scout him very carefully to make sure that his success isn’t too much of a byproduct of the Packers’ system and personnel. Wherever he goes, I’ll be rooting for him. This is one of the few times I’d rather be wrong. Semi-relatedly, his beard is AWESOME.

– Gonna be a LONG two weeks before Packers-Falcons/Giants/Lions. Last game on the slate in two weeks. Come on, come onnnnnnn.

Monday

Ended up having a low key Rose Bowl, watching it at my friend Ben’s apartment with he and his family. This was only the second time this season I watched the Packers or Badgers on a couch (the first was Packers-Bears in Borneo which is a fascinating story for that trip diary) and it was a welcome transition.

The game obviously didn’t end well, here are my overall thoughts:

– Bret Bielema is a lot like Andy Reid. This isn’t as bad as it sounds; there’s a reason Reid is the longest tenured coach in the NFL. Both are outstanding talent evaluators, motivators, and game planners. They get through to their players and their team’s shortcomings can never be attributed to a lack of effort. That being said, neither has any clue how to manage the clock and timeouts and it gives their teams a defined ceiling. There are 3-4 NFL Playoff games and 4-5 NCAA games that are de facto playoff games per year and there just isn’t any way a team coached by Bielema or Reid will make it through all of them without losing one of them because of this deficiency. Bielema has absolutely no clue how to use timeouts optimally and, while it didn’t necessarily cost the Badgers the game yesterday, it cost them important opportunities to better their chances. To elaborate:

– At the end of the first half, Bielema neglected to use his timeouts when Oregon had the ball with less than two minutes to play inside the Wisconsin 10. When the Badgers finally got the ball, with about 30 seconds left and all three of their timeouts, he didn’t understand that Nick Toon was driven backwards out of bounds on a play that would keep the clock rolling and about 10 seconds poured off the clock before he realized his error. TIMEOUTS AREN’T ROLLOVER MINUTES, YOU DON’T ACCRUE MORE AFTER THE HALF IF THEY GO UNUSED. Without going into math, I would estimate that neglecting to use these timeouts cost Wisconsin an expected 3-4 points headed into halftime.

– At the beginning of the 3rd quarter, he used a timeout on 1st and 10. Wisconsin gained over 500 yards–7.06 yards per play–yesterday. A TIMEOUT IS MORE VALUABLE THAN FIVE YARDS, TAKE THE DELAY OF GAME PENALTY.

– On that almost-safety, Bielema used a timeout to try to force a booth review. If you’re going to do that, why not just challenge it? It was a pretty important play and the net result of both moves is a lost timeout.

– On the play where Abbrederis fumbled and the ball inexplicably sat still inbounds, the Badgers should have been running the ball. If he hadn’t fumbled, Wisconsin would have scored too quickly and Oregon would have marched the ball up the field at will and won. If the Badgers scored with more than two minutes left to play, there was approximately a 100% chance that Oregon would have responded.

– Wisconsin had five real games this season: Nebraska, @Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Oregon–I’m not generous enough to count @Illinois. They went 2-3 in those games and there was horrific clock management in all three losses. Even though we won the Big Ten, I don’t think I’d classify this season as a success. Typing these bullet points made me angry.

– I’m really going to miss Russell Wilson. He was superb and even better than advertised. I wish we could sign him to a contract extension.

– Chris Borland is a monster. I expect him to get national recognition next year.

– I hope Montee Ball comes back but wouldn’t begrudge his decision if he entered the NFL Draft.

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2 Responses to Football and Me Part XVI

  1. Ace Ventura says:

    “TIMEOUTS AREN’T ROLLOVER MINUTES, YOU DON’T ACCRUE MORE AFTER THE HALF IF THEY GO UNUSED. … A TIMEOUT IS MORE VALUABLE THAN FIVE YARDS, TAKE THE DELAY OF GAME PENALTY.”

    Can we send this out to every football coach (NFL and NCAAF)? There are so few that actually understand that rationale.

    Also, I’m really working hard to avoid launching into a long discussion of just how different a Bentley and a Lamborghini. We need to work on your automotive and racing knowledge.

  2. Phil rockwell says:

    Hey Ryan,

    I know you’re a big Packers fan, but you do have New England roots and barely ever mention the #1 AFC seed, the Patriots. Also, the reigning NFL MVP did have an outstanding season and led the Pats to some great comeback wins.

    Just a comment from Connecticut!

    Keep up the good work!

    Phil

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