Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Understanding The Ferguson Decision

Darren Wilson wasn't indicted in the shooting of Mike Brown, a 17 year old unarmed black teenager. Unless you literally live under you rock you've seen the public outrage over the decision, be it the riots in Ferguson, or public rants on social media. Before anybody tries to justify the ruling by the grand jury in the case I want explain the legal aspect of it. Once you understand you simply cannot justify not indicting Officer Wilson.

An indictment is not a trial, an indictment is formally charging someone with a crime. It's a standard procedure before every criminal trial to make sure that the court system doesn't waste its time with a case that doesn't have any backing. How does the jury make this determination? They weigh the evidence presented against a standard of proof.

In a criminal trial, the standard of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt." It is by far the most difficult standard of proof to meet. Basically, if after hearing all the testimony and evidence, a reasonable person would doubt that the defendant committed the crime then the defendant should be exonerated. A more lax standard is the "preponderance of the evidence." This is used in civil trials and means that the evidence must be more likely than not, a far cry from beyond a reasonable doubt. To put it another way if 51% of the evidence says you're guilty, then you're guilty. Now ladies and gentlemen there is an even lower standard of proof that I'm sure you've heard before: probable cause.

Probable cause is one of the lowest standards of proof, second only to reasonable suspicion. All you need is a reasonable basis to believe a crime MAY have been committed. So to give you an idea, an empty beer can in the passenger seat of a car, is probable cause for an officer to search you on suspicions of a DUI. It is NOT enough to convict you of the crime, but enough to meet probable cause.

Can you guess which standard of proof is required to issue an indictment? Yup, it's probable cause. Now let's apply that to the Brown case. Let's look at the facts for a minute and see if we have probable cause, not to convict Wilson, but simply to see if we should bother finding out what happened that day.

  • Brown was unarmed
  • Brown was shot six times
  • Brown was 17 years old
  • Brown is dead
  • Officer Wilson suffered no serious injuries

Do these facts make you believe that maybe, just maybe, Mike Brown's killing wasn't justified self-defense? If so then we have met the burden of probable cause, Wilson should have been indicted and the trial should have moved forward. Ask any attorney how blatantly absurd it is for a person not be indicted after putting 6 bullets into a kid and you'll see why everybody is so outraged.

It would be one thing if Wilson wasn't convicted after a trial, then you could make the argument that the evidence wasn't there for a conviction under "beyond a reasonable doubt" but that didn't happen. He was let off scott-free without any effort to find out what happened, and that's the worst part of this. The system proves time and time again that black people's lives are worth less than a white person's. No supposed petty-crime deserves being executed without a trial, yet Darren Wilson is free, and a lot richer because he killed a young black boy.

I'm not even going to get into riot aspect of it except by saying all my Maryland readers should remember in 2002 when Maryland won the national championship how much destruction was caused by drunk rioters over a college basketball game. And yet people want to complain about rioting when the justice system let's a murderer walk free without a trial? If you're complaining about the riots then you just don't get it. There's no other way to put it. Maybe it'll take another 50-100 years but right now, post-racial America is nothing but a child's fantasy.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Football, Sportswriters and The Stock Market

Stop me if you've heard this one before. X player plays well. Y analyst writes how he's the next incarnation of Jesus. Next week X player doesn't play well. Y analyst writes about how he's worse than Ryan Leaf.

The NFL is unique in terms of sports leagues. If a team loses a game in the NBA, NHL or MLB it's not the end of time. They still have a bagillion more games to play and fluke wins and losses don't usually play a huge factor in their final regular season record. There's only 16 weeks of football and every single game counts. That's why football fans go nuts on Sundays and sports media have so much to say after every single game.

We've seen the Kirk Cousins hype. He played two good games early on in the season and people we're quick to say he's a better quarterback than RG3, that the Redskins are saved and that RG3's career is over. He's now sitting behind RG3 and Colt McCoy on the depth chart.

More recently, as I spend most of football season in Pennsylvania, I saw last week's Eagles game. Quarterback Nick Foles, who led Philadelphia to a solid 5-2 record this year after finishing last season with 27 TDs and only 2 interceptions. Foles has been getting beaten up in recent weeks and went out of the game with a broken clavicle in the first quarter after throwing a touchdown and a pick-6 to keep the score even at 7-7. Enter disgraced ex-Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. He comes and throws a slighty underthrown bomb to Jeremy Maclin for a 74 yard gain on his first play. He finished with two touchdown passes and two interceptions and, more importantly, an Eagles win.

"Sports analysts", even the "good" ones on started writing about how Mark Sanchez is reviving his career and how the Jets ruined him. Some say that he's the replacement for Nick Foles and that he's going to lead the Eagles even after Foles is healthy. After 3 quarters of football people want to dethrone the most consistent quarterback Philadelphia has had since Donovan McNabb for a proven turnover machine that even the New York Jets didn't want. For those who forget, Geno Smith has a better career completion percentage than Sanchez, add-in the facts that Sanchez left New York with more turnovers than scores and the fact that he's from USC and you see why these so-called analysts are really quick to jump the gun.

Let's turn now to the news. You ever hear people freaking out on the news because the Dow fell by 7 points or the S&P 500 is down 5 points? Do you know why most investors don't really care? Because they aren't in the stock market for a single day. Regardless of any single day's gains and losses (even the 08 crash took more than an single day) investors are pretty sure that over the long run they will end up with some positive growth. The smart people realize that anything can happen in a single sitting and that they need to observe a stock or fund for an extended period of time before making extreme judgments on it.

Sportswriters and fans are like the people who get extremely upset or happy after watching the day's stock market activity. Too reactive and too stupid to see the big picture. Is anyone questioning Tom Brady's job security now? No. And someone call in me in about 5 weeks after we see what Mark Sanchez's career renaissance looks like. I'm betting nobody will want to see him under-center next season.

The NFL is an extremely complicated sport. Game-planning and learning offenses and defenses are so much more complicated than any other sport. Players need time to develop their mental abilities to catch up to their physical capabilities. Receivers need to know when to break-off their routes and sit in a zone and what their quarterback is expecting of them on every route. The quarterback needs to be able to the read the defense pre-snap, make adjustments and then see what his options are when the play starts. This isn't something that happens overnight. Experience is necessary to become a solid NFL player. Russell Wilson & Andrew Luck are exceptions to the rule but their play is getting even better than their phenomenal rookie seasons with some NFL experience under their belt. Teams, coaches and players take time to develop and a smart fan never reads too much into any single game or even a single season. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I'll Still Take Kirk Cousins Over Colt McCoy

After two turnovers in the first half Jay Gruden told Colt McCoy he was going to get some playing time today. McCoy played the entire 2nd half and with the team down by one point, lead the team down the field for the game winning field goal. I'm going to tell you why I still want Kirk Cousins to start against Dallas.

I was present at the game today, sitting up high in the nosebleeds at FedEx Field. When you watch a football game on television you don't see any passing plays develop. You can't see the defensive backs and you can't see the wide receivers. When Kirk Cousins lost the fumble he was in the pocket waiting for something to develop and not a single receiver broke open in the 5 seconds he had to throw. Not excusing him completely as he shouldn't have fumbled but if the receivers did their job then Cousins wouldn't have gotten sacked on the play. What I saw on the field today was not a failure of the quarterback to move the offense, but a failure in the play calling and offense as a whole.

Both of Cousins' turnovers were in situations where he had time to throw, but nobody was open. The interception was a classic Cousins throw, dead accurate into the hands of a linebacker. That one proved to be the nail in his coffin and he was benched shortly thereafter. He made a couple nice throws, one under duress to Niles Paul to start off the game and a deep throw on third down to DeSean Jackson. He moved the ball but was never able to score a touchdown in the redzone. He finished 10/16 for 139 with no scores and two turnovers.

Enter Colt McCoy, steps in and throws a 70 yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon. Electrifying, some would say. But that touchdown was 99% Garcon. He ran a simple 6ish yard hitch route and McCoy delivered the ball on time. Any high school quarterback could've make that throw. He didn't even go through a progression, he just started down Garcon and threw the hitch on time. If that exact play is called with Cousins I guarantee Garcon still catches a 70 yard touchdown. Gruden's play calling simplified when McCoy started throwing. A vast majority of his 11 completions were to wide open receivers on really simple routes. Take away the 70 yard touchdown -which only traveled 6 yards in the air- and McCoy's average completion comes out to 5.8 yards. Gruden simplified his play calling and that allowed McCoy to move the ball on the game winning drive.

I'm not saying that Gruden's offense is too complicated or that Cousins couldn't handle it, but rather when the receivers consistently aren't getting open on a consistent basis there's some blame on the coaches as well. Most of the time Gruden would isolate a receiver and have him beat the corner by running a simple timing route. High percentage pass plays make the quarterback more comfortable and get a couple yards. If you get really lucky like McCoy did then they turn into 70 yard touchdowns. This might be why Cousins is 2-1 coming off the bench unprepared but 1-7 as a starter.

The one thing McCoy had over Cousins was evident on three separate plays that didn't work out. People didn't get open so on two occasions McCoy tucked it and ran, and on another he ran away from some pass rushers and threw the ball away. No bone headed turnovers and methodical short passing was enough to win this football game. Could Cousins have led the team back in the 2nd half, absolutely. Would he have thrown an 'accurate interception' on that final drive? Possibly, and that 'possibly' is why Gruden benched Kirk.

I stand by what I said before. Cousins has shown flashes of being an upper echelon quarterback, he just needs to stop turning the ball over. It's a mental hurdle that can get better with experience. He definitely won't be getting over the hump sitting on the bench watching Colt McCoy throw 5 yard out routes. There will be no Superbowl in 2014 for the Washington Redskins and until RG3 is fully healthy I'd rather see Cousins play. Experience will help him get better and the offense is more potent with Cousins at the helm. McCoy had 24 games with Cleveland as the starter before he was written-off. Cousins has 8 scattered games across 3 seasons as the #2 quarterback living in Robert Griffin III's shadow. Give him a fair shot before labeling him as a career backup.

Keep in mind that during this game and the past 3 games where the offense has slowed down, Cousins has gotten zero help from his running game. It's hard enough to play quarterback when you learned the offense as a 2nd stringer during the off-season. That difficulty is significantly amplified when you become a one dimensional offense. The offensive line is decent at pass protection but horrendous at getting a push in the running game. That needs to change before the quarterback does.

Other notes:

  • As injury riddled as our defense is they've been playing winnable football over the past few weeks. Holding Seattle and Arizona and only folding after giving the offense plenty of chances to get ahead. 
  • Bashaud Breeland is getting better every week and is giving great production for a 4th round draft pick. Our two starting corners are young, physical and good tacklers. A bright spot on a poor team if you will. 
  • Tress Way is one a hell of a punter, consistently boots it far and keeps it inside the 20 when he can. 
  • This game should've been a rout but when you can't run the ball your offense isn't going to score points. I don't blame Gruden for not giving Morris carries, the line just isn't powerful enough to create running lanes.
  • It's Dallas week and while the Cowboys are looking like one of the top teams in the NFL, it's important to note that when the Redskins and Cowboys play it doesn't matter where either team stands. Anything can happen. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

To the Morons Who Want Colt McCoy to Start

Kirk Cousins had a bad day last Sunday, failing to sustain drives and throwing 3 4th quarter interceptions to put the dagger in what was easily a winnable game. Because most NFL fans are short sighted and stupid to apply a hair of logic to a situation I have to write this article to say this: if you believe Colt McCoy is the answer at quarterback until RG3 gets back you are an idiot. Plain and simple.

If the Cleveland Browns, a franchise just as inept as Washington has been over the past decade, releases you after 3 years you are not starting quarterback material. He hasn't played a full season of NFL football in the five years he's been in the league. The most was 13 games in 2011 where he threw for 14 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Not only is McCoy skilled at turning the ball over, he's also been historically terrible at actually generating points. In terms of third string quarterbacks, he's pretty good. Maybe he could come off the bench one day and win you a game, but he isn't a starter. He's had a chance to prove it and he lost it. Both McCoy and Cousins have a good relationship with interceptions and fumbles but at least Cousins also flirts with touchdowns here and there.

Kirk Cousins has shown that he isn't clutch. Aside from the Ravens and Browns game in 2012 Cousins has simply been unable to get the job done. He went 0-3 as a starter in 2013 and he's 0-4 as a starter this year. He puts up gaudy passing numbers but always accompanies them with something that makes us question whether he's really that good. Against Philadelphia he threw a key interception and when he had a chance to redeem himself he threw three straight incompletions to end the game. Against the Giants he destroyed any chance of a comeback with 5 turnovers. Against Seattle he played okay but couldn't move the ball on several chances given to him by the defense. Against Arizona he had a total meltdown with 3 fourth quarter interceptions to end the game.

In my expert opinion as an ex-junior varsity-benchwarmer-quarterback Cousins lacks the mental focus to be a winner. There are three mental elements required to be a successful quarterback:
1. The complete understanding of the offense to where you aren't thinking but rather naturally reacting to what you get from the defense.
2. The ability to shake-off a bad play and throw like it never happened.
3. The ability to ignore high pressure situations and play as if it's any other drive.

In my opinion Cousins has number 1 but lacks either 2, 3 or possibly both. When he messes up he compounds it 100 times more instead of moving on. The "damn I just let my team down with an interception" feeling stays in his mind well after he throws an interception and messes with his ability to naturally read and react to the defense. This results in some pretty ugly looking interceptions at the worst possible times. This has never been a problem with RG3.

This is a fix-able problem and it only gets fixed with experience. He shows great potential, especially for a 4th round pick. With 10 touchdowns in only 5 games he'd be on pace for 32 in a full season, which would be good for #4 in the NFL last year. He needs to get over the mental hurdles and once he does that he will easily be one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Unlike McCoy, Cousins actually shows some ability as a upper-level quarterback who can move the ball well.

Quarterbacks used to develop for years before being thrust into starting duty. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton & 2012 RG3 are all exceptional athletes who've raised expectations to unreal levels. Alex Smith was a late bloomer and there's nothing saying Cousins won't figure out how to shake off the bad plays. Will he? I have no idea but I sure hope he does. Until then however, he should still be the undisputed starter until RG3 comes back. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On Kirk Cousins' Performance Against Philly

Last week I wrote an article saying that we need to tap the brakes on the Kirk Cousins bandwagon and actually let him play against a real team before we jump to such conclusions. Well ladies and gentlemen the time to jump is now. Kirk Cousins' performance today was amazing in multiple respects.

So from a basic statistical look he had fantastic numbers: 30/48 (62.5%) 427 Yards 3 TDs and 1 Interception,  numbers we haven't seen in D.C. in a long time. Cousins currently has a 105.8 QB rating which is good for 5th best in the NFL.

A slightly more in depth observation shows that MANY of Cousins' incompletions were right on the money in pressure situations but were forced out by defensive backs or dropped. Cousins rarely missed on his 48 pass attempts. His deep balls were always right there, he didn't overthrow on any long pass attempts. He also wasn't sacked and showed good awareness in both moving around the pocket and getting rid of the football on time, again almost always on the money.

Additionally, Jay Gruden put the team on Cousins' back as the running game was not there as it was against Jacksonville. Alfred Morris averaged 3.3 yards on 22 carries and Cousins was forced to move the ball through the air. He did so admirably, throwing for a whopping 427 yards. It's a lot harder to move the ball when you're one dimensional as the defense has a leg up on what you're going to do. It's hard to run when you can't pass and vice-versa but Cousins showed he can come through when we need him.

The one flaw everyone noticed at the end of the game was that Cousins isn't "clutch". Now this is a hard trait to define statistically or what have you, and is more anecdotal than anything but it's legitimate. It's sort of the like the concept of momentum in a game, hard to define but you know when it's there. With the team down a score Cousins came onto the field with 7 minutes to go in the 4th looking to even out the score. Instead of driving down he threw an interception, it looked like a mis-communication but nonetheless he turned it over. After getting the ball back Cousins lead a scoring drive to bring them to within 3. The defense held strong and got them the ball back on the Eagles' 44 yard line, maybe 9 yards away from field goal range. Cousins threw three straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs and go on to lose the game by 3 points.

Here's what this means, if Cousins continues to play like this then Jay Gruden can't let RG3 play. The good from Cousins outweighed the bad. It's not a case of who has more upside or who did the team give up 2 first rounders to draft, it's a simple case of don't fix it if it ain't broken. Why would you bench a top 5 NFL quarterback? You simply can't justify it, especially when RG3 hasn't played a full season of NFL football straight through without getting hurt. If Cousins puts up 4 consecutive stinkers after this then we can talk, but at the very least he's earned the opportunity to show what he's capable of this season.

Other notes from the game:

  • You can't win when you have 130+ yards in penalties, plain and simple. 
  • Special teams gave up a touchdown and missed a field goal. That's -10 points for your team and is the difference in a game that ended 34-37
  • Redskins run defense is amazing, giving up less than 25 yards to both Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy, speedy backs who've burned the Redskins in the past. 
  • Chris Baker's hit was dirty and inexcusable, division rival or not, there's no place in football for dirty play like that. 
  • The Redskins pass defense was porous to say the least and will be worse off without DeAngelo Hall, who could potentially be out for the season with that torn achilles. Tracy Porter has yet to play because of a messed up hamstring leaving three healthy corners on the roster. They might bring up Chase Minnifield from the practice squad or sign a veteran to fill the void. 
  • There's still 13 games left in the season and the way the team played against one of the better teams in the NFC is a good sign looking forward. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

On RG3 and the Redskins Quarterback Situation

So as some may have noticed we are now two weeks into the season and this is my first Redskins article. I found that for the most part my post game reaction pieces were mostly repeating the phrase "run the football" in as many different ways as possible. (Thanks Rashad!) That being said I'm now only going to write every now and then to keep my content fresh and insightful.

So Robert Griffin III got hurt after landing awkwardly on his ankle in the beginning of the Jacksonville game and was carted off the field. We now know that he has a dislocated ankle that won't require surgery and will leave him with the opportunity to return within a matter of weeks. In the meantime Kirk Cousins did an admirable job of stepping in and leading the offense to a massive 41 point finish after the 6 point dud last week.

"Sports analysts" and many fans are extremely impatient and draw way too much from single games. People are now saying that Kirk Cousins is the savior and was better than RG3 all along and that RG3's career is over. Let's be clear, there is no question as to who is the better quarterback, it's RG3. RG3 lead us to the playoffs while only throwing 5 picks the entire season. Then he had his nasty leg injury and spent the entire offseason recovering and played 2013 with a single week of practice under his belt. He had no play-makers at the receiver position besides Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed, the latter of whom missed plenty of time with injuries. Despite this Griffin put up average numbers in 13 games. Not bad numbers but not great ones either. Matt Stafford, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco all had a similar quarterback rating last season.

 The team as a whole was garbage last year, Griffin didn't fair too well but Kirk Cousins was terrible. The three games he started were enough to make him the least efficient passer in the NFL. RG3 had 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a ratio of 1.33 to 1 and a completion percentage just a hair above 60%. With the same team Kirk Cousins managed 4 touchdowns, 7 interceptions for a ratio of 0.571 to 1, a completion percentage of 52%, the worst quarterback rating in the NFL and not a single win in his 3 games.

In every game he's started he's turned the ball over until yesterday. He's 2-3 as a starter, both of his wins came against very weak teams that weren't sure if he was going to play that week.

Griffin was playing well in the limited action we saw this year. Last week he was really efficient against the Texans, throwing for 276 yards with a 78% completion percentage. Keep in mind that J.J Watt and the Texans defensive front forced the Redskins to take short 3 step drops for most the game and he didn't have time to throw it deep. RG3 made most of the passes from the pocket and was very accurate. Against Jacksonville, RG3 ran for two first downs, and had a deep bomb to DeSean Jackson that was right on the money but was ruled an incompletion by the incompetent referees. All signs pointed the Redskins offense having a good day until Griffin got hurt.

I'm not trying to bash Kirk Cousins, I love the guy and loved watching him go to work on Sunday. He's a little more polished in terms of being a pocket passer than Griffin because that's how he's played quarterback his whole life. What I'm trying to point out here is that we need to see some consistency from Kirk Cousins, especially against better teams. The evidence of the past 2 seasons shows that Griffin is the better quarterback with more upside and better decision making. Until we see a few more quality games against good defenses there is simply no quarterback situation and Robert Griffin III will be taking snaps as soon as he's healthy again. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Senator Ben Cardin's Response to My Letter

So about 10 days ago I started a letter writing campaign to ask Senator Cardin to condemn the civilian massacre that's going on in Gaza. I received a response and well...let's just say it wasn't the one I was hoping for.

Dear Mr. Ahsan:

     Thank you for contacting me regarding the conflict between the State of Israel and Hamas. I am deeply concerned by the escalating violence.

     I strongly support Israel's right to defend its citizens against threats to its security and existence. The recent military action taken by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza is a direct response to Hamas' ongoing barrage of rocket and mortar attacks against civilians in Israel. 

     Hamas poses a critical challenge to the regional peace process. Labeled as a terrorist organization, Hamas' leaders encourage violence and cling to the belief that Israel should be destroyed. Hamas' actions to extend its reach deeper into Israel and its failure to end continuing attacks exacerbate the already fragile humanitarian situation for the residents of Gaza and undermine efforts to attain peace and security in the region. 

     On July 10, 2014, I joined 41 of my Senate colleagues in introducing Senate Resolution 498. This resolution reaffirms the United States' support for Israel's right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel, condemns the unprovoked rocket fire at Israel, calls on Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel, and calls on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas and condemn the attacks on Israel.

     We must find a way to advance a stable and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. Hamas must end its rocket and mortar attacks, recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and honor all past agreements to peacefully move toward a two-state solution. I want to assure you that the United States will continue to do all that is within our power to promote peace and stability in the region.

            Thank you again for contacting me on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on this or any other matter of concern to you.

Now here's my letter with the points Cardin chose to ignore highlighted:

Senator Cardin refused to acknowledge the civillian aspect of my letter and only mentioned in passing! "Fragile humanitarian situation" and "escalating violence"? No, that makes it sound two-sided when really the best word to describe it is genocide. He ignored the fact that Israel has an Iron Dome protecting it from Hamas's crap rockets. He ignored the fact that innocent people are being blown to bits by Israeli rockets, not Hamas militants but ordinary civilians who have never held a weapon before in their lives. He ignored the fact that Israel is receiving massive amounts of foreign aid in spite of the violence. And in his concluding paragraph he says Hamas must do A, B, C, D & E and not a word about Israel stopping it's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Senator Cardin is a coward as is President Barack Obama and everyone in the Senate who voted for SR498. Russia shot one rocket at a civilian aircraft and the U.N. is crippling Russia with sanctions. Israel has killed 3 times the amount of people on the plane and has injured and maimed thousands more and the U.S. has stayed silent. The only time any media outlet dared to criticize Israel was when Israel blamed Secretary of State John Kerry for faltering peace-talks, only then did anyone get the balls to say anything negative about Israel.

Politics is not a game, it's an auction and the highest bidder holds power. If you had any doubt as to how corrupt our political system is your eyes have been opened. The hypocrisy of the United States is appalling, they spent the past decade holding a war on terrorism and when they have an open opportunity to stop international terrorism they sit back and do nothing. Why? Because they need the money for their next campaign, where voters will still vote for them because the media has brainwashed most people into thinking Hamas is terrorizing the innocent Israelis and that any Palestinian person is an automatic ally of Hamas.

It sickens me how helpless the people are but I encourage anyone who hasn't already to CONTINUE WRITING TO SENATOR CARDIN. Let him know that his constituents won't stand for open terrorism.