Ross Tucker
Friday August 8th, 2008

With no football to play for the first time in 18 years, former pro Ross Tucker is passing the time reading about his favorite sport. What follows are a few links to NFL-related articles he found and his take on them.

The Brett Favre soap opera mercifully came to an end once No. 4 finally opened up to the possibility of playing for a team other than Minnesota. Everyone seems to be giving and receiving kudos for their efforts: the Packers for successfully moving on and shipping Favre to the AFC; the Jets for securing Favre's services and upgrading the quarterback position; and Favre for landing on a team that truly wants him, with enough time remaining during camp to be ready for the opener.

So it's a win-win for everybody, right? Not exactly.

One team lost in the Favre trade and it wasn't the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though they may rue not making a stronger effort to land Favre.

No, the sigh of disappointment you heard after the trade went down came from western New York, where the Buffalo Bills are clearly on the rise, with enough talent to sneak into the playoffs as a sleeper team in 2008. But their chances of breaking an eight-year playoff drought got a whole lot slimmer when Favre joined Gang Green.

The Jets had already made strides to close the gap on the Bills with their free-agent spending spree this offseason. Landing Favre could vault them over the young Bills for second place in the AFC East behind New England. At the very least, the Jets-Bills games in Week 9 and 15 could be a lot more interesting.

I have no problem with players asking for an upgrade of their contracts if they have clearly outperformed them. The Bills' Jason Peters, the Giants' Plaxico Burress and the Eagles' Brian Westbrook all should, and probably will, receive a significant raise this year that is commensurate with the value they provide their teams. But there are some players who look foolish for griping about their current deal.

The Browns' Josh Cribbs is one of them. He's apparently dissatisfied just one year into a six-year, nearly $6 million deal. That's right, Cribbs has five years remaining on his current deal.

In fairness to Cribbs, he was so unhappy with the deal shortly signing it that he fired his agent. He then went out and had a Pro Bowl season as a returner and watched somewhat comparable players like the Texans' Andre Davis and the Bears' Devin Hester sign lucrative deals. He recently had his value as a receiver to the Browns increase as a result of the persistent knee issues of teammate Joe Jurevicius.

That being said, Cribbs should not have signed the deal in the first place and it is not the organization's fault he did not have representation he was happy with. Though Cribbs will eventually get an adjusted deal, the Browns simply cannot set the precedent of upgrading long-term contracts after only one year, especially with star playmakers like Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow hungry for new deals.

Lito Sheppard is another player unhappy with his contract, and the Eagles, like any other team in a similar situation, are more than happy to point out why the deal should not be upgraded at this point. But quoting an obscure statistic that lacks merit is a bit of a stretch. And having the owner mention it while talking to the media is just silly. Yet, that's exactly what Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie did when discussing the cornerback's status with the Philadelphia media.

Though there is certainly room in the NFL to have a greater quantitative component in place when evaluating players, the statistics used must be somewhat qualified. Lurie said he wanted to see Sheppard improve his YPA or yards per attempt. The statistic is typically used when evaluating quarterbacks, not cornerbacks. It is not commonly associated with corners, and for good reason.

That is because any attempt to detail that number as it relates to a player in the secondary would require an intimate knowledge of the Eagles defensive scheme and coverage. Just because Sheppard was in the vicinity of the receiver when the ball was caught or made the tackle does not mean the reception was Sheppard's responsibility.

NFL cornerbacks are rarely left entirely on an island without any help. And if they are, that would mean the coaching staff has an abundance of confidence in that player in order to be willing to put him in that type of precarious position. Not to mention zone coverage, missed assignments, blitzers not getting to the quarterback on time, and more. The list of flaws associated with attempting to quantify a corner's productivity based on YPA is long.

Though there may be some practical use for YPA, it is neither the right stat for Lurie to be mentioning.

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