Now that I’m allowed to write about basketball again after my stint as a consultant for the Atlanta Hawks, I wanted to follow up on this Grantland piece by Jordan Conn about the decline of basketball in New York City, the once-great hoops mecca. Conn had a few statistical notes on the downturn — for example, on a per-capita basis, New York ranked 27th among states in 2013 at producing Division I college basketball players — but I wanted to map the change in NBA talent generated by the city.We can do that using the wins above replacement (WAR) metric developed by FiveThirtyEight’s editor in chief, Nate Silver, in his analysis of Carmelo Anthony’s New York Knicks contract. To measure the contributions of New Yorkers over the years, I plotted the change in the share of total, leaguewide WAR produced by players who were born in New York or went to high school there (according to Basketball-Reference.com’s high school data, which admittedly only lists the final high school a player attended).Now, we could consider everyone from the New York metro area eligible. But here were Conn’s thoughts about what constituted New York:It’s tricky to determine precisely who counts as a New Yorker, but for the purposes of this story, here are some rules: Long Island doesn’t count. Neither does Westchester, and definitely not Newark or any other part of New Jersey. New Yorkers come from the five boroughs — nowhere else.Using those standards, here is the proportion of WAR generated by New Yorkers back to the NBA-ABA merger in 1977:Looking at only NBA output, Conn is correct in his assessment of New York’s decreased basketball prominence.Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, nearly 6 percent of total NBA WAR were created by New York high school products, a long-term average that grows beyond 7 percent — hitting as much as 12 percent in some individual seasons — if you consider Michael Jordan, born in Brooklyn but raised in North Carolina, to be a “New Yorker.” But by the 2000s, New York’s NBA production started to tick downward.Some of that might be due to accounting; as Conn hints at, the rise of so-called basketball factory prep programs has regularly led players from smaller local high schools to transfer to huge national powerhouses designed to give them more scouting exposure, and a chance to improve grades or test scores. (Anthony, for example, is widely regarded as a Baltimore native but transferred to Virginia’s mighty Oak Hill Academy for his senior year, thus being listed in databases as a Virginia product.) But there’s also no doubting the impact on New York’s decline when hyped prospects like Omar Cook, Sebastian Telfair, Julius Hodge and Lenny Cooke failed to make a dent in the pros.Now, only 1.8 percent of leaguewide WAR were created by players who went to high school in the city, courtesy mostly of former Indiana Pacer Lance Stephenson (now with the Charlotte Hornets) and the Hornets’ Kemba Walker. (In 2011 and 2012, before Stephenson and Walker matured into good players, Metta World Peace was basically the only player carrying the NYC schoolboy banner in the NBA.) Anthony, Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert — and before them, Lamar Odom — help if we lump in players born in New York who graduated high school elsewhere, but the trend is clear: New York isn’t cranking out NBA talent the way it used to.
Torre’s segment begins at 42:00. Embed Code It’s worth mentioning, for the uninitiated, that NBER working papers have not yet been peer reviewed.3Full disclosure: In college, my introductory economics professor was Martin Feldstein, president emeritus of, yes, the National Bureau of Economic Research (and a man who, in his capacity as former chief economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan, inspired the creation of another, very different course). As the preamble to FiveThirtyEight’s In the Papers series perpetually explains, the papers’ “conclusions are preliminary (and occasionally flat-out wrong).” But as crude as the methodology of this particular study may be, it does seem to be a useful analysis of a defined subset of NFL draftees. Had the paper existed back when I reported that 2009 SI article on how and why athletes lose their money, I would’ve added it — caveats included — to the depressingly brief roll call of academic research in this field.And that’s why one of the paper’s other prominent findings, as announced in a note from the authors, was so jarring to read. “The result of our comprehensive research on bankruptcy risk among NFL players,” they wrote, “is quite different from a widely-cited Sports Illustrated article, which reported that 78 percent of former NFL players are bankrupt or under ‘financial stress’ within two years of retirement (Torre, 2009). After 2 years of retirement, only about 1.9 percent of players in our sample have filed for bankruptcy.”One blog used that first sentence as the basis of a headline. In terms of economist trash talk, this was basically the authors flexing.But their summary of the 78 percent statistic was incomplete. Here is what my SI story said: “Reports from a host of sources (athletes, players’ associations, agents and financial advisers) indicate that: By the time they have been retired for two years, 78 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.”I called up the California Institute of Technology’s Kyle Carlson, one of the authors of the working paper, and mentioned this discrepancy. I pointed out that excluding the details about joblessness and divorce helped mask the difficulty of measuring a personal, complex issue. Financial health cannot be comprehensively captured by whether a person filed for bankruptcy or not. That their results are “quite different” from, well, an entirely different study should be surprising to approximately zero people.Bankruptcy, by definition, is an elective legal proceeding wherein a person publicly admits an inability to pay outstanding debts. It is also a sufficient but absolutely not necessary condition for defining financial stress; for various reasons, bankruptcy and financial stress can even be mutually exclusive. In my reporting, I have met athlete after athlete who knew to avoid the headline-generating shame of a bankruptcy filing. Even if their finances remained a shambles. Even if they were, by any reasonable standard, broke.Consider former NBA guard Allen Iverson, or ex-NFL receiver Raghib “Rocket” Ismail — whose case, by no coincidence, leads off that SI story — both of whom never filed for bankruptcy despite squandering their pro fortunes.“Bankruptcy is only one measure of a person’s status,” Carlson admitted to me. “It’s what we could get data on. There are many other ways in which a person could be in financial trouble. You might think of our number as maybe a lower bound for the number of guys who are actually in trouble.”And yet what Carlson called a “narrow” academic paper was promising a definitive analysis of a larger, albeit related, problem. Due to the academic marketplace — “Publish or perish” is an idiom for a reason — working papers tend to be hungry and ambitious. The goal is to make it into a journal and contribute knowledge to the world. But it can be tough to find the kind of dramatic angle that makes for an eye-catching study.Measuring financial health just through bankruptcy would be the equivalent of, say, assessing the mental health of a population by just tracking suicide rates, ignoring any other indicators of psychological stress. Pain isn’t exclusively about disaster.You often hear data people say that sample size matters. It’s not just size, though; it’s also the quality of the sample itself. Yes, the authors tell us about 2,016 players who were drafted by NFL teams between 1996 and 2003. But thanks to the relative inaccessibility of data on undrafted players, they also left out every player who didn’t begin his career by shaking hands with an NFL executive on a televised stage. In 2013, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, 638 undrafted players were on active rosters for at least one game — a staggering 31.4 percent of the entire NFL. And that does not even include the drafted or undrafted players who never make it to an active roster, toiling instead on the practice squad or injured reserve.My 78 percent number from 2009 is limited in its own ways, admittedly. I did not conduct the study myself, and, as I told Carlson, I wish I had access to all its component parts. But the statistic was vetted by multiple NFL and NFL Players Association sources who asked not to be quoted or only be quoted anonymously. Several of them shared with me that the stat had been presented at confidential meetings they attended. It was the last, best estimate anyone in this industry had seen; in the six years since SI published the article, neither the PR-obsessed NFL nor the Players Association has disputed the number’s validity in public.What the NFL did instead was eventually market its own study, published months after my SI article in 2009, with findings that were more pessimistic than the NBER working paper’s but more optimistic than the ones in my article. The league supplied University of Michigan researchers with an even more rarified sample of players: pension-eligible retirees, meaning those who had played a minimum of three years. The average career length among those interviewed was 7.3 seasons, far longer than the NFL average.4The NFL says the average length of a player’s career is six years, but that only counts players who make it onto a club’s opening-day roster in their rookie year. Several non-league sources estimate that the average for all players is closer to three or four years. “We had no way to include players with shorter careers,” one of the Michigan authors, David Weir, wrote to me in 2012, “and I would certainly agree that they would be an interesting group to know more about.” That same year, I received an email from an NFL PR person with the following results for me to chew on: “45% (age 50+) and 48% (age 30-49) of retired players said that they have at some point ‘experienced significant losses in business or financial investments.’”None of this was a direct comparison to the number cited in my article, not even close. But said PR person nevertheless included his own note, colored in bright red font: “a far cry from 78 percent.”The NFL has already convinced thousands of men to devote themselves to the pursuit of a lifestyle that is unsustainable at best and fictional at worst. Some of the enablers of this dream include, but are not limited to: the league’s financial literacy programs, which have historically failed to instill basic principles; the NFL Players Association’s certification program for financial advisers, which supposedly vetted a number of moneymen who reportedly allowed players to lose more than $300 million in recent years; and the players themselves, who are pressured to exaggerate the opulence of their existence.Even academics are susceptible. “I don’t think there’s really a problem with either of our numbers,” Carlson told me. “They’re really measuring different things.”That last sentence isn’t a great headline, no. But it’s 100 percent true. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Listen: Pablo Torre Discusses His Piece On Our Sports Podcast Seven years ago, I started reporting a piece for Sports Illustrated on the financial health of NFL players — a whole lot of them went broke soon after leaving the league. Ever since then, I’ve been seeking reliable statistics to help define the scope of a complicated problem. Just how many athletes emerge financially imperiled once their pro salaries dry up?And so my brain’s wonkiest pleasure centers lit up recently when an economist friend emailed me a PDF that bills itself as a new, “comprehensive” study of that very issue. What I wasn’t expecting was for the study — in the course of selling itself to the public — to train its sights on me.Presenting the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Working Paper No. 21085, “Bankruptcy Rates Among NFL Players with Short-Lived Income Spikes.” The researchers who put it together used Pro-Football-Reference.com to compile a list of 2,016 players who were drafted by NFL teams between 1996 and 2003. They then gave that list to a third-party service,1Since the working paper itself did not explain how the researchers managed to unearth addresses for 2,016 men whose homes and employers were scattered across the country, I asked one of the authors, Kyle Carlson of the California Institute of Technology, how they managed it. He is the one who provided me with this information. asking it to search for recorded addresses that matched those names, and had another service scan for bankruptcy filings that fit both the names and the addresses.The study’s big finding: Of the 471 draftees2This total was also provided to me by Carlson. who had been retired for at least 12 years, 74, or 15.7 percent, had filed for bankruptcy by year 12. By Pablo S. Torre
Conferences are weird. And not just because some of their names don’t make any sense. (The Big Ten has 14 members?! The Big 12 has 10?!) Although most college football conferences hold championship games, others are prohibited from holding them (and get screwed because of it). They feature rapacious money grubbing and encourage teams to destroy rivalry games. No wonder independent Notre Dame disdains conference membership altogether.More importantly, for our selfish interests, conferences cloud interpretations of FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictions — which you can find here. The weird structures and dynamics of conferences sow lots of confusion. Since we launched our College Football Playoff model last week, we’ve received lots of reader questions, and many of them boil down to one of two “conference conundrums.” Elsewhere on FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver has explained some tweaks to our model that should make the numbers more sensible. But in case you’re still scratching your head, let’s run through the two big reasons conferences can befuddle:1. The Two-Team Conundrum: How can [Ohio State/Alabama/LSU/TCU] have higher odds of making the playoff than winning its conference?Because some conferences have enough good teams that they could send two squads into the playoff. Alternatively, other considerations in the selection process might outweigh a good team’s loss in a conference championship.For example: Our model gives No. 21All the rankings I’m using in this article are the committee’s. Alabama a 43 percent chance of being selected into the playoff but a 35 percent chance of winning the SEC. In a simulation that my colleague Jay Boice ran, a two-loss Alabama team that doesn’t get to play in the SEC championship game still makes the playoff 25.3 percent of the time (probably alongside a one-loss SEC champion). Similarly, No. 3 Ohio State has a 56 percent chance of making the postseason but a 44 percent chance of winning the Big Ten. If both Ohio State and Iowa remain undefeated heading into the Big Ten championship, there’s a good chance that both will make it in, regardless of the outcome.Other cases are more complicated. What if an undefeated Ohio State team fell to a one-loss Iowa team in the Big Ten championship?2Iowa can afford to take a loss, maybe even two, since the Hawkeyes are a game ahead of Wisconsin and also have the tiebreaker over the Badgers. It’s feasible to imagine almost any outcome in that case: The committee could go with Iowa, Ohio State, both teams or neither team.In the conference previews below, I explain more about how those scenarios might play out. But know that there isn’t necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between conference championships and slots in the playoff; things could get messy. It’s the job of the model to sort all of that out — though, admittedly, we don’t know much (or anything, really) about how the committee weights conference championships, as it didn’t have to deal with any upsets in those title games during its inaugural season last year.2. The Division Conundrum: For two teams in the same conference, how can one team have a better chance of winning the conference but another team a better shot at making the playoff?We received lots of these questions, and the culprit is arbitrary conference divisions. Take Florida and Alabama, for example. The SEC has two divisions: East and West. The Gators have a 38 percent chance of winning the SEC, according to our model. That’s higher than Alabama’s odds! But Florida is given only a 17 percent chance of making the playoff, to the Tide’s 43 percent. That’s because the Gators play in (and have clinched) the SEC East, and ’Bama faces a tougher task in the other division, the SEC West (where LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State play). Florida, which has one loss, has an 80 percent chance of making the playoff if it wins out. But if Florida takes a second loss (say, at South Carolina on Saturday) but still wins the SEC championship, it might not. (That’s a nightmare scenario for the SEC, in which it might be denied representation in the playoff entirely.)What-ifs of the weekOur College Football Playoff predictions have been updated with the rankings released Tuesday night, and we project Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama to make it, in agreement with the committee’s latest rankings. But we expect Baylor to have a better path than Notre Dame and to be the fourth team included.But that’s what’s current. We’re already thinking about what’s next. Take a look at our “what-if table” below, which shows how our projected playoff odds would likely change if a team wins or loses its upcoming game. Also included is how likely we think it is that a team will win all its remaining games, and its chance to make the playoff if that happens. North Carolina46<1946 Notre Dame303123874 Memphis<1<1<1121 Ohio State56623227>99 SCHOOLMAKE PLAYOFFMAKE PLAYOFF GIVEN WEEK 11 WINMAKE PLAYOFF GIVEN WEEK 11 LOSSWIN OUTMAKE PLAYOFF GIVEN WINNING OUT Iowa222551396 Florida State<11<1282 Navy<1<1<1112 Mississippi<1——21<1 Houston22<1227 LSU1216<12155 TCU1011<12149 UCLA33<1645 Stanford2834101996 Michigan St.101111087 Oklahoma173831887 Northwestern<1<1<112<1 USC12<1314 Mississippi St.36<11125 Alabama43612125>99 Oklahoma St.232671698 Utah111711473 Wisconsin<1——50<1 Florida172331880 Oregon<1<1<181 Temple<1<1<1181 CHANCE A TEAM WILL … Michigan79<11742 Baylor3145111699 Clemson67%70%37%49%>99% Let’s use Iowa as our guinea pig. We currently give the Hawkeyes a 22 percent chance of making the playoff. But if they beat Minnesota on Saturday, those odds tick up to 25 percent; if they lose, they shrink to 5 percent. Although the rest of the Hawkeyes’ regular-season schedule isn’t that challenging, if they win out, they’ll face a tough matchup in the Big Ten title game. We give them a 13 percent chance to run the table. But if they do, they’re almost certainly in the playoff (96 percent).What to watch for this weekBig 12Game of the week: Baylor vs. OklahomaCollege football statheads: This is your game! While Oklahoma is No. 12 and Baylor is No. 6 according to the latest committee rankings, they are the No.1 and No. 2 squads according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), a computer-generated measure of team strength. Oklahoma is the best team in the country according to FPI, despite losing to lowly Texas. Baylor, on the other hand, is unsurprisingly high-rated by FPI because of its high-powered offense, which easily leads the nation at 57 points per game. Despite being No. 2 in FPI, the Bears are a 58 percent favorite to beat the Sooners because the game is at home in Waco, Texas. The game has big implications: If Oklahoma wins, its odds of making the playoff will rise to 38 percent from 17 percent; if Baylor does, the Bears will rocket from 31 percent to 45 percent likely to make the playoff.ACCGame of the week: Clemson vs. SyracuseThe ACC story hasn’t changed: Undefeated No. 1 Clemson is in the playoff if they win out, but it looks bleak for all other ACC teams (and for Clemson, should they lose). After last week’s victory over Florida State — in what was likely their last truly tough game — Clemson saw its playoff odds rise to the highest of any team (67 percent). But should the Tigers stumble, the ACC’s hopes fall off a cliff. Although one-loss North Carolina has almost wrapped up the ACC Coastal division, and has a 30 percent chance of winning the conference, its chance of making the playoff is a measly 4 percent — but if UNC wins out (and beats Clemson in the ACC title game), its chances rise to nearly 50/50.Big TenGame of the week: Ohio State vs. IllinoisEven if the Buckeyes stumble, they won’t necessarily be out. Their odds are strongly affected by the conference conundrums I outlined earlier. A one-loss Ohio State team might not even get to play for the Big Ten title. This is why the undefeated Buckeyes have a 56 percent chance of making the playoff despite only a 44 percent chance of winning the Big Ten. A one-loss reigning national champion excluded for its conference championship game may still rate highly according to the committee.SECGame of the week: Alabama vs. Mississippi StateAlabama crushed my beloved LSU Tigers, ending their hopes for an undefeated season. And, as a result, the Tide are now the No. 2 team in the latest College Football Rankings. ’Bama is not totally out should they lose again — either to Mississippi State on Saturday, or in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. In that scenario, a one-loss SEC champion could get into the playoff alongside the Tide, or the Tide could win the conference with two losses and still get in. But it’s not likely: In Jay Boice’s simulations, a two-loss Alabama team excluded from the SEC title game would be expected to make the playoff 25.3 percent of the time, and a two-loss Alabama that wins the championship game would make the playoff 34.3 percent of the time.Pac-12Game of the week: Stanford vs. OregonOne-loss Stanford is the best Pac-12 bet to make the playoff, at 28 percent. The Cardinal are almost a sure thing if they win out (96 percent likely, according to the what-if table). But the threat to Stanford is that they’re the odd man out in a scenario with a one-loss SEC champion, an undefeated Clemson and an undefeated Big Ten or Big 12 champion.Beyond The Power FiveGame of the week: Memphis vs. HoustonNotre Dame is looking good. On the heels of LSU’s loss to Alabama, the Irish have moved up to the No. 4 spot in the committee’s playoff rankings. But our model gives Baylor an ever-so-slight advantage over Notre Dame to make the playoff (31 percent vs. 30 percent).But the real game to watch is Memphis vs. Houston. With Memphis’s crushing loss to Navy last week, its dream to be the mid-major that crashes the playoff party has ended. Houston, however, is still undefeated, and the two squads meet in the premier conference game of the season among non-Power Fives. To have any shot at the playoff, Houston will have to win out. But even if they do, their odds of making it are only 7 percent, by our estimation. So the Cougars need to keep praying for carnage among the elites.CORRECTION (Nov. 11, 4:40 p.m.): An earlier version of the table in this article listed incorrect numbers for Wisconsin’s and Mississippi’s chances of winning out. Those odds are 50 percent and 21 percent, respectively. The table has been updated.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes used a homophobic slur at a police officer during his arrest in late July.The police dashboard video, which was obtained by TMZ.com, shows Barnes waiting on the side of the road with his wife in the presence of a couple of Manhattan Beach (Calif.) police officers. Much of the video shows his wife asking the police officers repeatedly why they have been detained. After a lengthy argument, an officer tells Barnes that there is a warrant for his arrest.As officers pull Barnes’ hands out of his pockets, he tells one not to touch him, but they do put handcuffs on him. As they start to walk him away, Barnes says: “You’re the f—— f—– who followed me.”Barnes was arrested on suspicion of threatening a police officer. He had an outstanding traffic warrant after being stopped twice before that incident and being cited for driving without a license.Barnes issued an apology that was run on TMZ.com.“I would like to apologize for the unfortunate language I used,” he said. “I know that certain words are extremely hurtful.“I meant absolutely no disrespect to anyone. This comment, spoken in the heat of a difficult moment, does not accurately reflect my actual point of view.”Barnes’ reference during his arrest to being followed likely stemmed from his contention that the same police officer who had ticketed him before waited hours for him to leave a restaurant to arrest him the third time.“I couldn’t believe it was the same guy,” Barnes told ESPN The Magazine after his arrest.The Manhattan Beach police department denied that Barnes was specifically targeted.“If Mr. Barnes has an arrest warrant and chooses to come into the city the onus is on him,” officer Stephanie Martin, a Manhattan Beach PD spokesperson, told ESPN The Magazine. “This is a small town and we’re aware of many individuals who have warrants.”Barnes was the Lakers’ top-scoring reserve last season, averaging 7.8 points per game. He signed with the Clippers in the offseason.
Michael Jordan is universally considered the greatest basketball player of all time, and rightfully so. His game was a combination of skill, heart, effort and guts, and he elevated the Chicago Bulls to six championships. Here are five smaller men who might have equaled Jordan if they were physically his equal.
YEARTEAMWINSLOSSESWEIGHTED SRSAVG OPPONENT SRS 22017Netherlands434.100.87 Includes only teams who made the WBC final or semifinals. Teams are ranked according to the Simple Rating System (SRS) for that year’s tournament, with extra weight applied to games in later rounds; SRS is scaled such that an average team is rated 0.0. Average opponent SRS is determined by all WBC games since 2006.Source: Wikipedia Before the United States began its World Baseball Classic run a couple weeks ago, I wrote about how downright mediocre the team’s track record had been at the event. Things have changed!Going into 2017, the U.S. was 10-10 in three WBC appearances, with a below-average run differential after accounting for its strength of schedule. Since the best American players were once again sitting the event out, there wasn’t much reason to think U.S. fortunes were due for an improvement this time around. Except the U.S. is now in the WBC final, beating Japan — only the most successful team in WBC history — to get there. Suffice to say, it’s been a wild, impressive ride for the Americans.But their greatest test might come in Wednesday night’s championship game against Puerto Rico. The blond-dyed baseball machine from the Caribbean is in the midst of the most dominant WBC performance of any team since the event began in 2006.Using the same Simple Rating System (SRS) framework I employed in my earlier story to adjust for the overall quality of each country’s WBC program,1With a few tweaks: I amended the home-field advantage to better reflect past WBC results (more on that later). I also added a stabilizing factor that regresses each team’s rating to a mean of -4.5 runs per game (with a weight of about 12 games), to avoid overrating teams with few total games played. we can measure a team’s performance in each individual tournament relative to how it played against their opponents. And this season’s Puerto Rican national team is crushing it: 12017Puerto Rico704.300.14 42009Japan723.790.53 52013Dominican Republic803.430.71 32006Japan533.90-0.29 72017United States521.28-0.18 62009South Korea632.771.04 92013Japan520.82-1.34 102006Cuba530.791.69 82017Japan611.12-1.19 The best World Baseball Classic performances, by SRS In the grand scheme of things, across every WBC game ever played, the U.S. still has a slightly below-average SRS rating, far below Puerto Rico’s mark. According to SRS, Puerto Rico is the third-best team in WBC history, trailing only Japan and the Dominican Republic.But if America does have one edge on Wednesday, it’s that the game is being played on U.S. soil, at Dodger Stadium. In the WBC, host teams outscore opponents by about one more run per game than they do when playing elsewhere, which translates to about 5 to 10 extra percentage points of win probability (or nearly twice what home-field is worth in Major League Baseball). That probably isn’t enough to close the gap between the U.S. and Puerto Rico completely, but in concert with Marcus Stroman taking the hill for the Stars and Stripes, Team USA might have a fighting chance to win this thing after all.CORRECTION (March 22, 3:00 p.m.): A table in an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the records of the U.S. and Puerto Rico teams. Puerto Rico is 7-0 in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, not 7-1. The U.S. is 5-2, not 5-3. Share on Facebook
Quarterback Chase Daniel is guaranteed to make at least $7 million over the next two years playing football for the Chicago Bears. But Daniel is unlike most of the NFL signal callers who lock in that type of money: There’s a very good chance he won’t actually be playing football.Teams usually deal with the backup quarterback position in one of two ways: Invest in young talent to push the incumbent starter to a higher level of play — and potentially usurp the starter down the road — or hire a veteran with a dad bod to effectively be another coach with a clipboard, providing mentorship and game-management advice. Daniel is certainly the latter. And yet, after a season in which a backup quarterback hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and another brought his team to the NFC Championship Game, the position is unquestionably important.It also might be the best gig in the NFL. The backup QB is the player who sees the least amount of time on the field — and has an infinitesimal chance of injury — while still cashing a hefty paycheck. In nine seasons as a professional, Daniel has started two games and attempted 78 passes. To put that in perspective, Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger attempted 66 passes in a single game last season.But what the 31-year-old Daniel lacks in experience, he makes up for in income. Perhaps no player in the history of the sport has monetized the position of backup quarterback to the degree the Missouri graduate has. This offseason, Chicago signed Daniel to back up its franchise quarterback of the future, Mitch Trubisky. If Daniel plays a significant amount this year, something has gone very wrong for the Bears. But the team still rewarded him with a two-year, $10 million deal with $7 million guaranteed. Only 18 quarterbacks currently have a higher percentage of guaranteed money, and that list is largely made up of marquee players, like Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins, and novice quarterbacks who were taken early in the NFL draft — players whose contracts are locked in by the rookie wage scale.1Daniel trails just 35 quarterbacks in terms of total guaranteed money.Daniel has generated $24.3 million over his career. That equates to $311,594 per pass thrown or $261,337 per yard ran. Daniel is No. 72 on the all-time earnings list among quarterbacks. Should he receive all $10 million of his deal, his career earnings would stretch to $34.3 million; only 51 quarterbacks have ever netted that much over a career.2Clearly, resources have changed. The 2018 NFL salary cap reached $177.2 million, a 412 percent increase from the $34.6 million it was set at in 1994, the year the cap was introduced. Contracts signed even five years ago hardly compare with the ones signed this offseason. There’s a reason that Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly earned less total money than Joey Harrington.Consider that, among the top 100 quarterbacks all time in career earnings, the average gunslinger started 93 games, threw for 21,817 yards and amassed 134 touchdowns through the air. Daniel’s figures scarcely compare. In his first four seasons carrying a clipboard in New Orleans, Daniel attempted just nine passes. Then came two productive seasons in Kansas City in 2013 and 2014 in which he started a game each. But over the past three seasons, Daniel has heaved precisely three passes. By comparison, Johnny Hekker has attempted three times as many passes over that stretch. Johnny Hekker, by the way, is a punter.All this isn’t to say that Daniel can’t sling the ball around. When he was a Heisman Trophy finalist at the University of Missouri, Daniel threw for at least 400 yards four separate times. But since he made it to the NFL, he has as many interceptions as he does touchdowns.3One of each.We can use Approximate Value4Pro-Football-Reference.com’s method of approximating a player’s value in any given season. to evaluate a player’s on-field impact more comprehensively. Offensive standouts like Aaron Rodgers, Todd Gurley II and Antonio Brown might produce a single-season AV of 15. League-average offensive players might produce a single-season AV of around 5. Daniel has produced a career AV of 2. The last time Daniel brought measurable on-field value to his team was 2014, when he played for the Chiefs. In fact, the only quarterback since the 1970 merger who accumulated less approximate value over the first eight years in which he accumulated any statistics was Doug Pederson, now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.5Daniel played for Pederson in 2016. In the same time frame, only 24 players across all positions accumulated less approximate value than Daniel over their first eight years in the league.To get a better understanding of suitable player compensation, we can divide a player’s career earnings by his AV to roughly distill how much the player was paid to perform. Daniel has earned $12,152,158.50 per AV point. No other active player ranked in the top 250 in career earnings has netted more than $3.4 million per AV point, with the average player on the list earning less than $900,000 per AV point.A sizeable portion of this has to do with opportunity. Daniel has barely seen the field in the past three seasons, appearing in only four total games. It’s no wonder he hasn’t been getting the reps, though. Upon entering the league, Daniel served as a backup to Drew Brees from 2009 to 2012, Alex Smith from 2013 to 2015, Carson Wentz in 2016 and Brees again last season. Playing second fiddle (or, in some cases, third) to an all-time great, an above-average talent and a recent MVP candidate is nothing to sneer at. And given that understanding, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Daniel has thrown fewer passes over his first eight NFL seasons than any quarterback in league history.The average NFL career is short — about 3.3 years. That’s what happens when you play a sport where each play feels like a car crash. Quarterbacks fare longer, with an average career span of 4.4 years. Daniel has more than doubled that. It can’t hurt that he’s only been sacked seven times in his career; no quarterback has been dropped less over his first full eight seasons. For comparison, at this point in his career, Steve Young had already been tackled behind the line of scrimmage 146 times. As Daniel told The Athletic, “I don’t have any mileage on my body.”Despite hardly playing, Daniel is a success story in many respects. Only 21 undrafted quarterbacks since the 1970 merger saw in-game action in at least nine seasons. Daniel will likely be the 22nd. And while his career has been a far cry from the Warren Moons and Tony Romos of the world, he at least has a Super Bowl ring.Right now, even Daniel’s own teammates don’t always recognize him (for real). One injury could change that and thrust Daniel into a role of utmost importance. This would be the opportunity that has eluded him his entire career — even if his bank account suggests otherwise.
OSU then-sophomore outfielder Ronnie Dawson signs autographs before a game on April 12 at Bill Davis Stadium. Credit: Lantern File PhotoThe Ohio State baseball team hasn’t won its conference or made the NCAA tournament since 2009. That six-year postseason drought, however, could be put to an end this season, as the Buckeyes are returning 20 letter winners, including 10 seniors and six starters, in a lineup that projects to be among the best hitting teams in the Big Ten.OSU’s quest for the postseason is set to commence this season with four games at the Dodgertown Classic in Vero Beach, Florida.Sixth-year coach Greg Beals said he is excited about his team’s potential, making it clear that he expects the Scarlet and Gray to compete for the conference championship. “I think you approach every season with a championship mindset, and if you ask any guy in that locker room and anyone on that coaching staff, that’s our mission: to play for a Big Ten championship,” he said. “The expectation is to play up to our ability and be as consistent as we can on a daily basis. I believe with the talent on this club, the experience on this ballclub, if we’re able to play at a high level consistently, then the winning and losing will take care of itself.”Counting on the outfieldBeals said the Buckeyes have the experience needed to bring the Big Ten championship back to Columbus. A key reason, the coach said, will be the strength of OSU’s outfield.The unit will be anchored by a pair of juniors: center fielder Troy Montgomery and left fielder Ronnie Dawson.“They are experienced, high-quality players with big, big futures ahead of them,” Beals said. “I’m looking for them to have big seasons.” Montgomery will be the Buckeyes’ leadoff hitter after batting .317, with a team-high 54 runs scored in 55 games last season. Beals said Montgomery has blistering speed, as evidenced by his 35 stolen bases last season which led the Big Ten and tied a program record.Dawson, a career .307 hitter, should provide the power for the Buckeyes. He will bat third in the lineup after clubbing seven home runs and 15 doubles last season. Beals said Dawson had an outstanding offseason, which included earning all-star honors in the Cape Cod Baseball League over the summer.The Grove City, Ohio, native said he believes the team is fully prepared to start the season on a good note to build momentum early on.“We’re one unit this year, and last year we had a bitter taste in our mouths,” Dawson said. “As a team I think we’re ready. We’re excited to get out there to show people what we’re capable of. It’s going to be a big year for the Bucks.”Leadership across the boardBeals said the team’s captains, senior second baseman Nick Sergakis and junior catcher Jalen Washington, will provide the team with the leadership needed to propel the Buckeyes through the 57-game slate. Washington said the team is hungry, while Sergakis said the team will be looking for revenge on some of the teams that took it to OSU at the end of last season.“We have a high expectation, of course,” Sergakis said. “As far as last year goes, it didn’t end up the way we wanted and we want to try and correct it. We’re looking for payback this year.”Sergakis leads an experienced infield defense that in total has started 388 games for the Scarlet and Gray. Washington is in his first year as the everyday catcher and his development, along with the pitching staff’s, is going to be an important factor for OSU’s overall success.Starting out strongHeading into this season, the pitching staff will be looking to fill the void from some key departures, as it lost Travis Lakins, Ryan Riga and Trace Dempsey to graduation or the MLB draft. But fortunately for OSU, the team is returning two key pieces to the rotation in junior left-handed pitcher Tanner Tully and redshirt sophomore righty Adam Niemeyer. Tully said he is fired up and ready to take the mound as OSU’s opening-day starter.“We all worked hard this summer going our separate ways, and we’re coming back as a unit,” Tully said. “We pushed each other harder than we have before, (we) definitely (had) a good fall, and we’re ready to go.”Last season, Tully went 4-4, compiling a 4.32 ERA while striking out 44 batters. His counterpart, Niemeyer, a right-handed pitcher from Minster, Ohio, compiled a 2.16 ERA in 12 appearances last season, with a 2-0 record over four starts for the Buckeyes. Beals said Niemeyer will be the typical Saturday night pitcher and will be looked at as a guy who OSU can count on for big innings this season.“Adam’s a great competitor,” Beals said. “He’s another guy that’s got good feel for pitching the baseball, he throws a lot of strikes. I’m excited for Adam to be a regular in the rotation, he’s certainly ready for that. I’m confident he’s going to have a really good season for us.”The third and fourth spots in the rotation are set be rounded out by senior John Havird and freshman Ryan Feltner. “Havird has been throwing the ball really well,” Beals said. “He’s not a flamethrower, he’s a lefty and he’s a command guy. He’s got great movement on his fastball, plus changeup and breaking ball. And Ryan Feltner is a very highly skilled, highly touted freshman who was in the draft out of high school. I’m looking forward to seeing his first collegiate start this weekend.”Dodgertown ClassicOSU is scheduled to open versus Toledo on Friday, before playing a doubleheader against Niagara and Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Buckeyes are slated to close the season-opening series again with Toledo on Sunday. Beals said the full weekend of baseball will give him a good look into the true makeup of his team.“Obviously, we want to get started fast, but with the high expectations that this ballclub has, we’ve got to be careful that we’re not pushing too hard too soon and that we trust ourselves and just go out and play the game,” he said.
The OSU football team and cheerleaders sing “Carmen” following the Buckeyes 62-3 win over Maryland on Nov. 12. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorThe No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes were riding high until they ran into a roadblock at Penn State. OSU lost its first game of the season after multiple games that sprung criticism of the offensive play-calling. The defeat prompted OSU coach Urban Meyer to give an alarming opinion on where the team should be at the moment.“We’re not a great team right now,” Meyer said after the Penn State game. “We gotta come back and keep swinging.”Since then, OSU has been playing its best football of the season and is in the heart of the College Football Playoff picture. But the turnaround after Penn State wasn’t the easiest thing. Several players vocalized the importance of learning from the humbling experience. However, it’s one thing to say it, and it’s another thing to actually learn from the mistakes and apply those lessons.For OSU, it is the appreciation of the little things that has made a difference.“If you don’t appreciate the little things of life, those things go away,” said redshirt junior guard Billy Price. “You just have to appreciate winning around here. Wins in the Big Ten are hard; I mean really, really hard. So you have to appreciate every little thing.”Price and the rest of the offensive line were responsible for six sacks and 11 tackles for loss against Penn State. The unit gathered itself and returned to give redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett the pocket he needed to make plays in the passing game. Barrett had arguably his two best games of the year against Nebraska and Maryland. Combined, he gained over 600 yards and has been responsible for eight touchdowns the past two weeks.On the defensive side of the football, redshirt junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis said that the Silver Bullets are also buying into the little things since the Penn State game. He said that the unit was already strong, but adversity brought them together. He added that the bond among the players is paramount in November.“I think we’re only guaranteed like 13 more days together. These seasons, they roll by and people move on,” Lewis said. “You have to value that time and that bond with your brothers because you’ll never get it back.”The timing of three top-four teams losing and OSU hitting its peak production couldn’t be better. OSU’s offense scored 60 points in back-to-back games for the first time in 20 years. Ranked No. 2 in the College Football Playoff poll, OSU looks to be in a prime spot to make its second final four in three seasons.Michigan’s loss to Iowa on Saturday makes the path to the Big Ten Championship Game a bit complicated for OSU. If OSU and Penn State both win out, the Nittany Lions will represent the Big Ten East in Indianapolis on Dec. 3 by way of a head-to-head tiebreaker. Despite that, Barrett and redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard voiced their opinions on the team’s CFP fate.They see it like this: OSU wins out, the Buckeyes are in.However, the team is focused on Michigan State. Following the Maryland game, Meyer made that apparent.“November is here and we got a big one coming one week from today,” he said.
The Ohio State women’s volleyball team fended off fellow in-state universities this weekend to win the Sports Imports Classic at St. John Arena.Bowling Green, Cleveland State and Xavier all fell victim to the Buckeyes (12-1 overall, 3-0 in the tournament), who dropped only one set the entire weekend.Xavier (7-6) had an opportunity to win the event on Saturday night with a victory over OSU, but the Buckeyes won all three sets, pushing the Musketeers into a second-place finish at 2-1.OSU played better as the match went on, winning the final set 25-6 after more competitive bouts of 27-25 and 25-18. Junior Katie Dull led the Bucks with 17.5 points, including 13 kills.Earlier Saturday, OSU faced its toughest challenge against Cleveland State. The Vikings jumped out to an early lead, sparked by a 26-24 win in the first set. However, OSU rolled out three consecutive winning sets, 25-20, 25-22 and 25-15.Senior Kristen Dozier paced Ohio State with 17 points and 15 kills.On Friday, the Buckeyes swept away Bowling Green in three quick sets, 25-19, 25-20 and 25-13.Freshmen Amanda Peterson and Emily Danks and redshirt senior Chelsea Noble all represented Ohio State on the tournament team, Peterson being honored as the event’s Most Valuable Player.Cleveland State (11-4) finished third at 1-2, and Bowling Green (7-6) failed to record a victory, finishing up 0-3.The Buckeyes head to Illinois on Friday and Northwestern on Saturday for a pair of Big Ten road games to kick off conference play.