Elitist Sports Takes from the Ivory Tower

with The Guru, Esq. and Dr. Dropout Ph.DIvory Tower

This is a new feature that we are trying out here at Random Thoughts Illustrated. Since this is the first article, let me take a moment to give a little overview of what you can expect.

1)       The Contributors

  1. Dr. Dropout Ph.D is new to the site. He’s the only Ph.D I know who does not have a high school diploma or GED. He was that smart. He’s an Astrophysicist by trade and has a few opinions on things and he can say them using 175% more words that if you said them.
  2. The Guru, Esq. is The Guru. A Lawyer by trade, he enjoys most sports and debating even the most minute details of sport. He is also the Human Trade Machine for potential baseball trades.
  3. The Moderator is a janitor here at RTI, Inc. He wasn’t busy so we decided that this would be a good gig for him. He will pose the topic or question to our highly intelligent contributors and then insert himself only when necessary.

2)       The Idea – Anyone who has spent any time in a fantasy league with The Guru, Esq. and Dr. Dropout, Ph.D. is aware that these two men can argue for 40 minutes about ANYTHING. Not only that, even if they agree as a whole they can argue about one tiny element just to have the debate. They are both gifted minds and we thought that giving them this outlet might just save a few of the rest of us from having to engage in some of those debates.

3)       The Format – Each column, the Moderator will serve up a topic for debate. Sometimes it will be general and sometimes it will be specific. There will be some back and forth and closing arguments. Some of them you should take at face value, and some you should probably assume are tongue in cheek.

4)       The Title – This is what happens when you give the talent complete creative control. The Swami was going to overrule them, but it started a debate so he gave up.

Moderator:  I’m getting paid for this, right?! Anyway, after roto rootering the RTI drain to remove a #10 Giants jersey an idea hit me for this week’s topic – The Manning Brothers… discussMannings

Dr. Dropout, Ph.D:

I find family members in sports to be fascinating.  (Moderator: Do The Swami & The Guru count?!) Nature vs. nurture?  Well, siblings in sports give a lot of weight to the “nature” side of that argument.  The Williams sisters, the Lopez twins, the Canseco twins, Michael and Marcus Vick…wow, that went off the rails quickly.  But you get the point.

Awkward introduction over!  Let’s talk about the Manning brothers, sans Cooper.

Allow me to state the obvious, that Peyton is having an incredible start to his season, on pace to break personal and league records.  If you break down some of the slightly advanced stats, it’s on par with his 2004 season where he set the then-records for passing TDs and passer rating (since surpassed by Brady and Rodgers, respectively).  In 2013, his completion percentages and Touchdowns are even better, and on recording-setting paces.  All from a guy who, 20 months ago, we thought might have taken his last NFL snap.

He is, quite clearly, on PEDs.

Now please don’t accuse me of slander.  It is not.  I resent that.  Slander is spoken, in print it’s libel.  And I do not claim to have any hard evidence or insider information to support this.  No, I am going to apply the standard we sports fans love to apply and go with my gut and superficial evidence, to try him in the court of public opinion that has found Bonds and Clemens guilty and has kept Piazza and Bagwell out of Cooperstown without even any circumstantial evidence beyond “played in the steroid era.”  The case against Manning:

(1) The record-setting pace described above is that of a 37-year-old man with four neck surgeries in his rear window.  Other than pesky things like the “testimony” of “PED suppliers,” isn’t this the main piece of circumstantial evidence against Bonds and Clemens, the late-30s career peaks?

(2) That’s not entirely fair, for Bonds there is also this.  If only Manning exhibited such clear signs of…oh.  Of course, not content with the airfield that he calls a forehead, what did Manning do in his first foray into free agency?  Team up with someone else with exaggerated facial features.

(3) Can we bring in drug use by family members?  No?  Are you sure?

Which naturally (*IRONIC WORD CHOICE*) brings us to Eli.  But I’ll hold that thought for a bit while we hear from The Guru…

The Guru, Esq.:

If you want “weight” added to the nature side of the argument, maybe you should lead with the Klitchko brothers.  Klitsch

Nevertheless, your grasp of the obvious is impressive.  Peyton is, indeed, having an incredible season thus far.  Not only do the advanced stats support this, but the lack of a competent defense for Denver means it is unlikely Denver will find many 4th quarters to rest its starters.  This means Peyton’s current pace would have him complete 475 of 640 (74.2 completion %) for 5,810 yards, 59 TDs, and only 5 INTs.  That would shatter the yardage record set by Drew Brees 2 years ago (5,476) and the TD record set by Tom Brady in 2007 (50).  It has the potential to be the best passing season of all time.

So the question remains – how is he doing it?  Your thesis, supported by ample bald allegations, is strong (and as an attorney, I was heartened to see your slander/libel comment).  Yet there may be a few holes in it. Manning’s forehead isn’t any larger today than it was when he was yelling at kids to stay in the Port-A-Let in 2007. There isn’t any of that pesky “testimony” to link him to PEDs, so apparently it is enough to just compare him to players in a different sport.  There is no evidence of bacne (though that is apparently enough to slander Piazza and Bagwell) or any noticeable difference in muscle tone.  And bouts of rage?  Again, go look at the United Way commercial from 6 years ago.  Honestly, there are only two possibilities here.

The first is that he is simply a freakishly good quarterback who has the highest level of skill position players he’s ever had, combined with the years of experience and knowledge that helps him exploit any matchup.  There is definitely a difference between last year (as seen here) and this year.  That difference, though, goes under the moniker “nerve regeneration.”  Apparently, if the nerve controlling the tricep of your throwing arm is affected by your four neck surgeries, you have issues throwing the ball.  When the nerve regenerates and you have an entire offseason to work out, you can throw the ball better.  Brilliant!

There is one other possibility, though.  Peyton has never shown much emotion, but he has shown even less this season.  He is unable to move his neck 180 degrees.  His arm strength is outstanding.  And there was an unsubstantiated rumor that he actually rushed for a touchdown against Dallas.  Nobody has 4 neck surgeries in a short time period only to return and play at this level.  This leads to the inevitable conclusion that Peyton Manning is now a cyborg.  You may scoff now, but when he disintegrates Justin Houston with his eye lasers in Week 11, you will be crying foul like all the other Chiefs fans.Cyborg

I am curious to hear your thoughts about Eli, though, Dr. Dropout.  I’m sure they’ll be scintillating and well-considered.

Dr. Dropout, Ph.D:

As anyone who has been on the e-mail list for our fantasy leagues knows, I’m all about the common ground (Moderator: I attempted to fact-check this with The Swami, but when I read him Dr. Dropout’s quote he fell into a cycle of shaking his head, laughing, and crying, so I gave up).  So I note that you are implicitly agreeing that Manning’s resurgence involves PEDs:  Performance Enhancing Diodes.

Let’s move on to Eli.  In addition to being one of the best arguments for “nature” that we discussed earlier, the Manning brothers also represent an incredible yin and yang.  Peyton is the regular season cyborg who struggles, relatively speaking, in the playoffs, and won his only Superbowl while playing poorly by his own standards.  His game is based around timing and precision.  Rumors of a rushing TD against Dallas aside, he is as mobile as…all the cities in Alabama that aren’t named “Mobile.”  As we took our turns as Captain Obvious pointing out, he is having arguably a career year at age 37.  Contrast that with Eli, the up-and-down regular season performer with several magical playoff moments.  He epitomizes dumb luck, perhaps literally, and his game is much more free-wheeling and erratic than his brother.  And as Peyton is having his best season, Eli happens to be having his worst season as a pro outside of his rookie year.  If Peyton is the epitome of emotionless, robotic (literally!) precision (that struggles in the playoffs), then Eli is the essence of humanness in both his successes and failures.  I’m not relying on outdated, statistically insignificant notions of “clutch” as the underlying explanation, I am just describing results:  Eli is better in the playoffs than in the regular season, and Peyton is quite the opposite, based on simple, traditional—but still meaningful—stats like QB rating and TD/Int ratio.

So what to do with Eli in this dumpster fire of a year for the Giants?  The answer has surprisingly little to do with Eli.  Rather, the issue is that the team around him is terrible.  The once-vaunted Giants D-line has been wrecked by defections, age, and injury.  The O-line cannot protect Eli, they do not have much of running game, and there are also concerns about injury/defection among the WRs.  Only two years removed from a Superbowl victory, this team will not be good any time soon.  They are also likely to undergo a massive change in their organization, with Coughlin unlikely to be the coach in 2014, instead choosing to make his face red from sunning himself at the beach rather than screaming at players in subzero New York winters.

Which is why it’s time for the Giants to do to Eli what the Colts did to his brother:  tank the season and move on to the New Hotness at QB.  As a fan of a team who wound up with the #1 pick in a year with no consensus franchise QB, it pains me that we were one year too late to snag Andrew Luck and one year too early to Bomb for Bridgewater (or any of the other QBs in this allegedly strong class of 2014).  Eli will be 33 before this season’s playoffs are over, not that he’ll be involved in those.  It is generous to say that Eli is at the tail end of his prime.  Even if we grant this, do we honestly believe he has a Peyton-like resurgence coming in his mid- to late-30s?  The Giants should be more than happy that they managed to get two Superbowl wins out of Eli, thanks to his uncanny, nigh-inexplicable increase in performance in the playoffs (I haven’t even said “Helmet Catch” yet).  To bring things full circle, if you won two World Series with Ozzie Canseco, wouldn’t you cash in your chips while you were ahead?

Eli can still fetch a good draft pick (to borrow from Bill Simmons, who says no to Cleveland sending the Colts 1st round pick from the Richardson trade for Eli?).  And just to zig when you might think I was going to zag, as bad as Eli has been, the best way for the Giants to Bomb for Bridgewater is with him on the bench or an another team.  After all, who is the Giants backup QB?  No, seriously, I had to look it up—who is the Giants backup QB?

The same guy who helped the Colts move on from Peyton and land Andrew Luck:  the immortal Curtis Painter.Curtis Painter

Your move, Guru.

The Guru, Esq.:

You speak much truth, up to the point that you’re purporting to make actual football decisions.  Eli and Peyton, for all the reasons you discussed, do present a yin and yang of Manning-hood (Cooper comprises the yawn, little-known third brother of yin and yang).  You forgot the most obvious example, though — their respective Saturday Night Live hosting gigs.  Apparently, SNL is most akin to a regular season game, because Peyton destroyed any opposition in his appearance, while Eli’s was solid, but not spectacular in any way.

The Giants are, as you say, a dumpster fire.  Their offensive line is, well, offensive.  They have no functioning running backs.  I mean, Brandon Jacobs is starting again, and he runs like a Molina brother. Their defense is the worst it has been in years. They will be lucky to win 4 games this year.  Guess what?  That doesn’t mean they have to trade their QB.  I know it may come as a shock to you, Dr. Dropout, but Teddy Bridgewater is not the answer to the Giants’ problems.  If they had a functioning offensive line, running game, and defense, Eli would look a heck of a lot better than he does.  Exchanging Eli for a pick to take a QB who will have to grow into the role doesn’t fill ANY of those holes.

Trading Hakeem Nicks?  Sure.  Get a mid-round pick for a WR who is a free agent at the end of the season, to fill another hole.  The Giants might even be able to re-sign Nicks after the season.  Oh, Eli isn’t a free agent, though?  I guess that means the salary cap matters.  I’m sure a franchise QB won’t have a large cap hit…oh, it would be $14.85 million?  And the Giants have less than $1.5 million in cap room?  Hmmm, that might complicate matters.  At least the team doesn’t play in/near a city like New York, where the fans would largely crucify (*note – not literally) the front office for the move.  Oh…    Hey, at least Dr. Dropout is only willing to trade him for a guaranteed top-5 pick…what, the Colts’ pick will probably be somewhere in the bottom 1/3 of the first round?  Crap.

So the franchise QB who has won 2 Super Bowls and is 5 years younger than the Cyborg could be shipped off for a pick used to take his successor, where first-round QB’s have a 50% success rate…or the Giants could keep Eli, rebuild the offensive line, make a couple of smart free agent pickups,and  not take a massive cap hit they can’t afford.  If they want to use a 2nd-4th round pick on a QB to compete with Ryan Nassib (oh, they already drafted a “QB of the future” last year?) to back up and eventually replace Eli, that would not be a bad decision.  But trading the face of your franchise, who likely still has the ability to be a top 12 QB for a couple of additional years, with no valid basis to do that?  I don’t think so.

And that doesn’t even address the fact that installing Curtis Painter as your starting QB behind a suspect offensive line (because you don’t want Ryan Nassib to get PTSD this season) is a surefire way to alienate much of your fan base.  Especially when Jacksonville is much more likely to stay perfect (0-16) and have first choice of QB.  You know the only time Curtis Painter played extended minutes was, as you stated, for the Colts in 2011.  His QB rating for the season?  66.6.  Is Curtis Painter the Anti-Christ?  I don’t know, but the Giants faithful might begin to believe.

In short, Eli stays, and Dr. Dropout hires a capologist for the next discussion.

Moderator: These guys are making me dizzy… I think I’ll make them wrap up. Dizzy

Dr. Dropout, Ph.D:

Perhaps it is selling low on Eli to give him up for the late first round pick I (knowingly) was suggesting, but we both agree that the Giants are far from competing.  The plan The Guru laid out is a recipe for short- and long-term mediocrity, with the upside hinging on an erratic, turnover-prone QB suddenly playing the smartest football of his career just as his physical skills begin to decline.  With regard to the cap, why not take the cap hit now, and get rid of other dead weight while you’re at it in order to make it work?  Even if Bridgewater or another highly selected QB is not a panacea (and after Jacksonville’s game against Denver, perhaps they have some feistiness in them after all and will play themselves out of the Bridgewater sweepstakes…or not), why not give an incoming HC the thing everyone incoming QB wants:  a potential franchise QB that you can mold while you rebuild the rest of the team?

And if not, maybe Peyton will lend Eli some of those diodes…

The Guru, Esq.:

If the cap situation for the Giants was different, I might co-sign your plan.  But here’s the problem.  How could they possibly make the cap hits work?  The “dead money” would be the cap hit if the player is cut or traded.  If it is more than their base salary for this year, that’s additional cap room necessary to make the move (I realize you understand this, I’m explaining for those who may not have spent excessive time on such matters).  Much of the Giants’ salary cap is taken up by a small number of players.  Could the Giants execute a Tuck-and-Rolle (cheesiness factor – 6) cut in addition to trading Nicks?  Yes, but it still wouldn’t be close to sufficient to trade Eli and those spots would still have to be filled.  The level of roster-gutting necessary would leave the Giants just short of the Jaguars in talent, with more holes than a box full of Cheerios.  Players whose depth would have to be restocked by the “extra” draft choices gained and by low-level free agent signings.  The team would not be set up to “reload,” but it would be a full “rebuild” on a 3-4 year plan.  That isn’t doable in the Big Apple*.

In short, getting Eli hooked up with some of Peyton’s diodes seems more realistic than trading Eli.  My plan simply recognizes this and tries to make the best of it.

*Yeah, it’s New Jersey.  But they don’t treat it that way.

Moderator: zzzzzz….wha?! Oh, sorry, fell asleep. So what do you think? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Most importantly, did ANYONE read the whole thing and stay awake? This is an interactive column, so please, give us feedback on what you think. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think Dr. Dropout just lived up to his name and I need to clean the restroom.

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