The title of this post is a hilarious and curt quote said by John Maynard Keynes in response to someone calling him out for switching his position on some issue. Recently, I've read some stuff that makes me thinks the facts have changed about the Bengals. And so I'm going to write a really long, wordy post about it.
Sometime last week, blinded by my irrational love for TJ I got into a comment back and forth with tide182. He did not like TJ. I did. The argument basically went like this:
Tide: stop talking about TJ, he was way overrated
Me (feeling very smug): yes, him and his awesome stats (which I threw out) were overrated, riiiiight, why don't you back up your argument with actual facts?
Tide: (throws out tons of more detailed and better contextual stats) here is why he was overrated, he's also old, let's all move on
Me: yeah...well...fuck you
The point? Do not argue stats with tide182. But in that argument tide182 graciously reintroduced me to a site that I had forgotten to visit for quite awhile, ProFootballFocus, which charts the performance of every player, on every play of every game. They then grade the players. This makes PFF's performance evaluation, even despite inevitable flaws, about a zillion times more methodical, objective and elaborate than almost any casual fan and a majority of professional analysts as well.
The site got a nice facelift since I last visited and I started reading their Bengals focused articles or articles that touched upon the Bengals. The guys at PFF raised concerns that definitely manifested themselves quite clearly against the Patriots so I'm becoming sympathetic to their insights. Here's insight number 1:
This would not have surprised me if we were discussing 2007 or 2008 (or really any season before last year). We at WDR shat all over the amounts paid to Geathers, Smith, Peko, Thornton, etc. for a horribly weak pass rush in years past. But last year? I remember thinking we got decent pressure (particularly early in the season) and were much more solid. Well, here's PFF's thoughts on the Bengals front 4:
29. Cincinnati Bengals (Run defense No. 22, pass rush No. 32)
Two division winners from last season in the bottom four might be somewhat of a surprise, but it shows that although good lines help they aren’t the only factor in producing a winning team. In Cincinnati in particular, the back seven on defense outperformed what their front four gave them in 2009. There is much room for improvement here, but in spite of improvements from the linebackers and defensive backs, Marvin Lewis is yet to deliver a strong defensive line in Cincinnati. With the likely return of smash-mouth football to Pittsburgh, the pressure is on this group to reach new heights.
On an individual basis they note (unsurprisingly):
Best player: Antwan Odom
Under pressure: Domata Peko
Peko seems to benefit at times from how easy he is to recognize. You can’t miss the hair coming out of his helmet, and so you can’t help but notice his positive plays. That doesn’t seem to work for his bad plays, however, and consequently his continuing poor play continues to go unnoticed. The Bengals need to do a better job of getting him snaps on passing downs (+1.6 grade highest among the Bengals’ D-tackles), and he needs to do a better job defending the run (-8.5 grade, lowest among Cincinnati DTs).
If it wasn't painfully obvious, even a depleted Pats line had no trouble whatsoever keeping our linemen safely away from Brady in game 1. Our back 7 may be good but they can't cover 5 receiving targets forever.
Here's insight number 2:
The Bengals had one of the best offensive lines in all of football last year.
Again, not necessarily surprising when discussing the run game but it is surprising in a few other ways. First, they rate the pass blocking highly, even higher than the run blocking. Their methodology should to some extent control for the short QB drop backs and short routes too.
Second, they note the unbalanced line gimmicks while useful perhaps at first actually smacked of desperation and did not do any good for the most part. I thought perhaps Brat should get some credit for this, but the PFF guys tell me I can hate him for this as well. So I will definitely go ahead and do that. They note in particular:
In addition, as the season wore on, the permutations and frequency of use of unbalanced lines became less a sign of clear strategy and more an indication of desperation.
And last (more shitting on the coaching - not sure which coach takes the heat here though), the Bengals continue to not play their best lineman:
With Evan Mathis installed as the full-time starting LG the Bengals won six of seven games and he played as well as anyone. But when he returned from mid-season injury the coaches saw fit to rotate him with the vastly inferior Nate Livings...Can the coaches just settle on the best five guys they have and stop trying to over-think the whole thing?
A quick glance at the depth chart heading into this season shows you that Mathis still sits behind Livings for whatever reason. This despite the fact that PFF rated him last season among the best LGs (if not the best) in the league last season when he played. You can find more here and here.
Yesterday, the Bengals got no pressure on Brady from a line ranked 29 out of 32. Not surprising. And with their best LG sitting safely on the bench it sure seemed like the offensive line played mediocre at best (and bad when the game was in reach).
I didn't get to watch the preseason after the hall of fame game basically...but I couldn't help but notice the consistently poor first team defensive performances on paper. I brushed this off, assuming the defense would be as reliable as last year when the season came around. I thought the facts were that we had a solid defense and question marks on the offensive line. But I am beginning to wonder if the facts changed. And so I should therefore change my mind. I will wait for more football, but perhaps it's the talent on the defensive side of the ball, not the offenside that I need to be concerned about.