I don't spend much time and energy critiquing the analysis of others. God knows I've been off the mark with my assessments (and even facts) on more than one occasion. I do however take pride in at least trying to add something different to the narrative about our favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. I always tell guys like Jim Wexell and Ed Bouchette thanks for all their hard work bringing us the day to day reporting. Without their and others hard work on the beat, our fan experience would be less enjoyable, and I certainly wouldn't be able to do a site like this. Because those guys are in the mix on a daily basis, they tend to have prescient, accurate insights about the team, even if their professional craft limits them from being subjective very often in their writing.
But even though the nitty gritty reporting drives the narrative, it's the ability to add something new to the mix that today's fans want. We can't get enough commentary and conversation about our favorite teams. Thankfully, today's communication technologies have democratized the production and distribution of sports media. It's a freakin' game, not rocket science requiring advanced degrees and years of intensive, specialized training. It's absurd to think that we should have to rely on just a handful of places for information and analysis about the same game that we're all watching.
That same principle applies to BTSC. This site is great not because I'm some unworldly expert. No, the site is informative and enriching and fun because we all have a voice and are able to bring something unique to the table -- from maryrose, to momma, to Homer J., to 5020, to Neal and John, and to all of you that write in the fanposts and add to the discussion with comments.
Over the past five years, the sites has morphed from a pure hobby to one that's part of my regular 'working' life. But I'm still just a fan like you. A guy with a real job(s) wholly unrelated to football. This, excuses me from being held 'accountable' for the occasional error or lack of brilliant analysis on this or that development. This is why you don't have to pay to read my thoughts, and why it's reasonable for certain professionals with insider access to charge for their content. But those real pros...the guys who earn their living exclusively analyzing football or charge a fee to read their stuff? It's hard to believe some of the mediocrity that's put out there by the 'experts'. Let me be clear though, I'm talking about guys and gals who write about an entire sport rather than just a single team. The specialized guys are outstanding and well worth reading diligently and even paying for. Those who attempt to tackle an entire league as complex as the NFL? Not so much.
In case you don't get to the end of the article, let me say right now that there are exceptions to the rule. Michael Lombardi comes to mind as a guy who has a solid pulse on all 32 NFL teams. Rob Neyer in the world of baseball, or Bill Simmons with the NBA also come to mind. But it's difficult, very difficult to pull off.
Here's a relevant example written by a guy you're going to be hearing and seeing a whole lot of in the forthcoming months -- ESPN draft 'guru' Todd McShay. I don't question McShay's prowess at analyzing college talent and how it might translate to the NFL game. But how could a guy like him (or the countless other self-proclaimed draftniks) possibily immerse himself in all the college football viewing required to do his job and keep a close enough eye on the NFL to be able to tie it all together? It's a tough challenge. For all I know McShay understands these limitations and would prefer to be a bit more specialized. But his editors have him overextended and here's an example why. What follows is McShay's assessment of the Steelers draft needs:
"Obviously, the depth on their offensive line is an issue that needs to be addressed. Where they wind up doing it, we'll find out. But they need to continue to bring in players and try to figure out what they're trying to do long-term. I think Flozell Adams played better after he moved to the right side, but he's nearing the end of his career with one more year left on his contract. Willie Colon is probably a better guard than a right tackle. He spent the whole season on [injured reserve] with his Achilles. Jonathan Scott did okay when he was plugged in there, but he's a journeyman-type offensive lineman. So I think that's probably the biggest need area is figuring out what they want to do and what holes they want to address at tackle and guard. Cornerback is another. I think [Bryant] McFadden and [William] Gay are two of the weaker links in that group and need to get better there."
Now, McShay is clearly giving an overview, not a comprehensive report about the Steelers draft needs. But even so, McShay doesn't do his job which is to educate diehard fans with his assessments of teams draft needs and the prospects that might help fill those holes. Anyway, McShay, who like I said will be seen repeatedly on TV alongside Mel Kiper Jr. in the next few months, isn't wrong when he says that offensive line and cornerback are probably the team's two biggest areas of need. Bravo, but even the most casual of fan knows that. What else you got McShay? Not much, at least not in this blurb. I take issue with the following:
"The depth on their offensive line is an issue that needs to be addressed." Really? So, a team loses its top two tackles to injury and then must mix and match at right guard....you'd think a team with shoddy depth along the line would have crumbled. Uh, not quite. The line improved as the season went on thanks to the solid depth the Steelers have along the offensive line. The problem is not depth. The problem is there's too many 'depth' guys and not enough top-shelf talent. The Steelers could stand to add a blue chip prospect no doubt, but it's just erroneous and lazy analysis to say that depth is the problem. Now, McShay isn't wrong in stating that the Steelers have some tough choices to make along the line. It just has nothing to do with depth and everything to do with which complimentary pieces might need to be let go in order to make room for the addition of another stud like Maurkice Pouncey.
"Willie Colon is probably a better guard than a right tackle." What in God's name does he base that off of? I mean, yes, we've speculated about Colon's potential at guard. But that's exactly what it is when trying to assess how Colon would fare at guard -- speculation. McShay doesn't write 'Colon might be better suited to play at guard...' Instead he says that Colon is a better guard than than tackle. I'm just not sure how he'd back that up considering Colon has never played guard at this level. I don't even think Colon played any guard at Hofstra. Again though, another ten minutes of thought and writing and he might make the argument that Colon should maybe be moved over to right guard for one year while Flozell Adams finishes his contract.
- "Jonathan Scott did okay when he was plugged in there, but he's a journeyman-type offensive lineman." Again, nothing flagrantly wrong with this, but in my mind at least, it's another example of lazy, shallow analysis. Okay, so Jonathan Scott fills in for the injured Max Starks mid-season and definitely has his fair share of struggles early on. By season's end, Scott was playing his best football -- against the best competition, mind you. I'm not trying to argue that Scott is a 'long term' solution, but he's more than proven that he's worth retaining as a reserve. What do you know? The Steelers have already had some preliminary talks with Scott's agent about retaining the former Texas Longhorn. That's really not the point though. McShay begins by talking about a lack of depth, then proceeds to say that Scott did a pretty good job in a pinch. Isn't that what your reserves are supposed to do? No mention of Max Starks either, whose under contract through 2012 and shown no real signs of being injury prone in his career prior to this past season. McShay writes as if the Steelers are hanging their hat on Scott on the left side. Not so necessarily, but between Starks (28) and Scott (27), the Steelers have two left tackles in the prime of their careers that they have confidence in.
"I think [Bryant] McFadden and [William] Gay are two of the weaker links in that group and need to get better there." Wow, considering how only Anthony Madison started even a single game at corner outside the trio of Taylor, McFadden and Gay, that's a bold statement. No mention of guys like Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler, guys the Steelers used draft picks on in recent years. Instead, we get the enlightening analysis that between Taylor, B-Mac and Gay, B-Mac and Gay were the weaker links. Mind blowing.
McShay knows the college game, don't get me wrong. And the guy is as good as anyone at breaking down film, identifying a prospect's strengths and weaknesses, and then communicating what he's seeing in a way that's accessible to the everyday fan. But I now know I'm wasting my time trying to learn anything from him about my favorite team. He may know a draft class, but he doesn't understand my favorite team. If he does and is just too lazy or incapable of explaining himself in a cogent, analytical way, well that's just as disappointing.
One of the main reasons I started this site over five years ago is it's just so damn disappointing to rely on the national guys to give us fans solid analysis on a regular basis. My little breakdown of McShay's post really isn't intended to be an indictment of his football acumen. The man definitely knows infinitely more about the game than me. But let's be real...guys like McShay keep their jobs on TV because they're good on camera and very believable with their delivery.
In today's digital age though, where there's a much more even playing field in terms of access to information and the ability to publish one's own thoughts, there's no reason to rely on guys whose attention is spread so thin. It's just impossible to bring today's fans what they want when you're trying to bring the goods about the Steelers, the Colts, the Redskins, etc. etc.
Anyway, even though I'll likely be gagging myself with a spoon on numerous occasions over the next few months, I've gotten my one rant of the year out of the way. Now, it's back to doing my best at bringing something different and thoughtful to the table for us to discuss and debate during the long NFL offseason.