The Cold, Hard Football Facts proposed the shiny hood ornament theory
years ago as we grappled with the obsession so many football fans and pigskin "pundits" have with flashy wide receivers.
The theory has three basic parts.
ONE – Wide receivers, for all their eye-catching flash and dash, are little more than shiny ornaments on the hood of an NFL offense. Oh, sure, they're nice to have. But they don't necessarily make your offense any better – and they rarely if ever make your team any better.
TWO – You should add a flashy wide receiver only when all the other pieces of a great team are in place: a great driver (the quarterback), some sporty tires that provide plenty of traction (the offensive line and ground game), a powerful motor (the defense) and a great transmission (special teams) that allows you to change gears quickly and effectively.
THREE – Even the greatest receivers of all time can make a big impact only when all those pieces are in place, and even then the impact is largely overstated. Even the great Jerry Rice, for example, touched the ball just four to five times per game. So the impact of even the greatest at the position is minimal compared with the impact of a certain position that touches the ball on every offensive snap. And remember, Rice did not make the 49ers a great team. He was drafted by the 18-1 defending Super Bowl champ 49ers in 1985.
We proposed the shiny hood ornament theory after the preponderance of evidence overwhelmed us and as we watched in frustration each off-season when NFL teams, looking for an instant shot of firepower, stupidly wasted valuable resources chasing big-named wideouts in the draft and in free agency.
Well, after looking back and studying the 2010 season, we are now ready to take a bold new step into the future of football analysis. We are, for the first time, taking a Cold, Hard Football Facts theory and issuing it as Cold, Hard Football Facts Man Law.
That's right: the shiny hood ornament theory is now the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law. You will live by its wisdom or be banished from the realm of Manhood.
Let's just look back at the big news in wide receivers from the 2010 season that caused us to elevate the theory to Man Law.
1. Denver, Dallas foolishly draft WRs in first round, fire head coaches mid-season
– Long before we discovered the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law, we profiled the long history of epic fails among wide receivers
drafted in the first round. They seem to have a surprisingly high rate of failure – many rarely even stepping onto the field in regular season games, let alone merely disappointing the teams over the course of their careers.
Yet in the 2010 draft, the Broncos and Cowboys foolishly placed their first-round hopes and dreams in wide receivers. Denver selected Demaryius Thomas with the No. 22 overall pick. He battled a foot injury in training camp, later suffered an ankle injury and a concussion, and missed a total six regular-season games. He ended the year with 22 catches for 283 yards and 2 TDs. Oh, and he tore his Achilles' tendon last week – an injury from which it could take him up to eight months to recover. So the 2011 season does not look to promising either.
Dallas, meanwhile, was actually stupid enough to trade UP to the No. 24 pick to land a wideout – in this case Dez Bryant out of Oklahoma State. Bryant put up some decent numbers for a rookie receiver: 45 catches, 561 yards, 6 TD.
But Bryant fractured an ankle and missed the final four games of the season. Hey, remember, it was always easy to snap those shiny hood ornaments off the front end of the Caddy. And it seems it's always easy to snap these fragile performers off the hood of your NFL offense, too.
And Bryant's performances hardly helped the Cowboys. Dallas was an 11-5 playoff team in 2009; Dallas was a 6-10 also-ran in 2010. In fact, the Cowboys were 1-7 at one point with Bryant in the lineup when head coach Wade Phillips got canned. Dallas went 4-8 with Bryant; 2-2 without him.
The Broncos can relate: they were 8-8 in 2009 and 4-12 after drafting Thomas in 2010. Oh, and they canned head coach Josh McDaniels 12 games into the 2010 season.
So 2010 was a banner year for coaches who put their hopes and dreams into Shiny Hood Ornaments – against the better judgement of Man Law.
2. Miami gets WR fever, and zero benefit, when it trades two draft picks for "The Beast" – The Dolphins offense had a respectable little season in 2009. They scored 360 points, good enough for 15th in the NFL.
And like many teams that had nice little offensive seasons, the Dolphins came down with a bad case of Shiny Hood Ornament Fever in its wake. The Miami brain trust, not to mention its fandom, sat around last spring and said, "Shit,
if only we had a stud wide receiver, we could really take it to the next level."
In this case, instead of wasting a high draft pick on an unproven college wide receiver, the Dolphins wasted two draft picks on a proven NFL wide receiver. They traded two second-round draft picks (2010 and 2011) to Denver for Brandon Marshall.
And what happened? Well, "The Beast" had a nice season in his first year with the Dolphins: 86 catches, 1,014 yards, 3 TD – and absolutely 0 impact on the fortunes of the team or its struggling young quarterback.
The Dolphins went 7-9 in 2009. They went 7-9 in 2010. The Dolphins ranked 15th in scoring (360 points) when little-known Davone Bess led the team in receiving (76 catches, 758 yards, 2 TD) in 2009; the Dolphins ranked 30th in scoring (273 points) when "The Beast" led the team in receiving in 2010.
Maybe Miami failed to notice that Denver never won more than eight games with Marshall a fulltime starter, even as he caught 100 passes each year. Miami management was impressed by the production. The Cold, Hard Football Facts, because of Man Law, knew that this production was fairly meaningless in the big teamwide picture.
If Miami truly wants to improve its situation, it will have to what every team must do to improve its offense: find a legit No. 1 quarterback. Chad Henne, for his part, showed absolutely zero improvement with Marshall as his batterymate.
Henne completed 60.8 percent of his passes with 12 TD, 14 INT, 6.4 YPA and a 75.2 rating in 2009.
Henne completed 61.4 percent of his passes with 15 TD, 19 INT, 6.7 YPA and a 75.4 rating in 2010.
Henne's statistical mediocrity both years highlights a corollary of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law: receivers are far more dependent on high-quality quarterbacks than quarterbacks are dependent upon high-quality receivers. For proof, just see the next point.
3. New England dumps Randy Moss, Tom Brady and the offense explode
– As architects of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law, the Cold, Hard Football Facts knew long before everybody else that it was time for the
Patriots to dump Shiny Hood Ornament extraordinaire Randy Moss. In fact, we told them to do it at the end of the 2009 season
with our friends at WEEI in Boston.
The pundits – not to mention sadly misguided Patriots fans – were apoplectic. They could not imagine any way in which a team could improve by dumping its proverbial "deep threat" wide receiver.
These folks were ignorant of Man Law. Patriots brain trust was not. Because they dumped Moss just three games into the 2010 season after watching the declining production
he had brought to the team – even as fans and "pundits" were oblivious.
New England even replaced him with Deion Branch, a receiver who sparkled with the Patriots (MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX) but struggled when paired with quarterbacks not named Tom Brady.
And what happened? After a couple weeks reinventing its offense in midseason, Brady and the Patriots exploded. New England scored 518 points – the second most in franchise history and joining a short list of teams to top 500 points in a single season.
Oh, and Brady was brilliant without his former Binkie. He posted a 111.0 passer rating, the fifth highest mark in NFL history, set an NFL record with 36 TD passes against just 4 INT and, just for statistical shits and giggles, became the first unanimous MVP in NFL history.
Moss, meanwhile, spent time with both Minnesota and Tennessee after being shipped out of New England, and it was a disaster for both teams. Hell, some people, overcome with a hideous case of Shiny Hood Ornament Fever, actually thought that the tandem of Moss and BrettFavre might lift the Vikings out of their early season doldrums.
Some people are so funny.
4. Carson Palmer plays Week 16 without T.Ocho and has best game of career – Bad organizations make bad decisions, and the Bengals have long been a bad organization.
Their worst decision of 2010 was acquiring infamous Bad Boy Terrell Owens and pairing him up with their existing Shiny Hood Ornament, Chad Ochocinco. Fans suffered twice: the tandem teamed up to star in a very bad talk show
and failed to deliver in any way, shape or form on the field, as well.
The team was a 10-6 playoff contender in 2009; it fell to 4-12 in 2010.
And one game this year perfectly summed up the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law more than any words could do. Cincy played one game this year without either Owens or Ochocinco in the lineup: the 3-11 Bengals lit up the 8-6 Chargers and quarterback Carson Palmer produced what might have been the greatest statistical game of his career.
The quarterback completed 16 of 21 passes for 269 yards, 12.8 YPA, 4 TD, 0 INT and a 157.2 rating. It was the most highly rated game of Palmer's career and the highest average per attempt of his career.
He spread the ball around well: three players caught four or more passes for 50 or more yards, three different receivers caught touchdowns and one receiver, Jerome Simpson, had a career day when given the opportunity (6 catches, 124 yards, 2 TD).
Meanwhile, despite all the evidence to tell us that Owens is a waste of space on a football field, he's still doing his act here in the off-season: he's come out and blamed the coaching staff
for the team's ills in 2010. Hey, the Cold, Hard Football Facts are not fans of Marv Lewis or Cincy management. But in the case of Owens, he's always pointing fingers elsewhere, even as one disaster after another follows him.
One person intimately familiar with the Bengals organization told us that Terrell Owens verbally bullied Carson Palmer and that the quarterback was happy to see him out of the lineup. Palmer's performance without Owens certainly comfirmed this story.
Owens is one of the most prolific receivers in the history of the game. Yet he's never won anything. And he's left a trail of broken franchises and quarterbacks in his wake. Hell, Owens is the poster child of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law.
5. Baltimore is burned badly by stud free-agent Shiny Hood Ornaments – The Ravens are a curious statistical phenomenon. They always have a good defense, yet never have a good offense.
So, with promising young quarterback Joe Flacco giving the team hope on offense, the organization thought they'd give him help. Oh, so fragile the little minds of NFL managements. So cute and cuddly and predictable.
Baltimore went out and acquired not one but two stud free-agent wideouts: T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Anquan Boldin. And what did they get for the effort?
Oh, that's right. They got kicked in the nuts by both of them in the divisional playoffs against Pittsburgh. The Baltimore offense fell apart in the second half as the team blew an early 21-7 lead. Boldin and Houshmandzadeh combined for 4 catches for 36 yards all day – against a Pittsburgh defense that was torched a couple weeks later by the immortal Jordy Nelson.
And both receivers failed miserably in key moments of the game.
Boldin, their $28 million man, caught one pass for -2 yards. Even worse, Boldin let what might have been a game-winning, 6-yard touchdown pass bounce off his chest with four minutes left and with the Ravens trailing 24-21. Baltimore was forced to settle for a game-tying field goal instead.
Houshmandzadeh was only slightly better, with three receptions for 38 yards. In Baltimore's final offensive play of the 2010 season, he let a fourth-down pass bounce off his chest with 1 minute to play.
The Ravens lost their last chance to extend the season – with big assists from their prized off-season acquisitions: a pair of the Shiniest Hood Ornaments in football.