Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law triumphs as Falcons fall

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 09, 2012



By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts Chubby Hood Ornament


The Giants pounded the testosterone out of the Falcons Sunday, with a dominant 24-2 victory that left no doubt about who were the men and who were the boys in this NFC battle.
 
Atlanta’s only points were a safety generated by the defense. That’s right, folks: here in a season when passing records get shattered like Bourbon Street revelers before the LSU-Alabama game, Matt Ryan and his galaxy of so-called star receivers were shut out, blanked, zip-o-fied.
 
The entire punch-less offensive (in both senses of the word) effort was an indictment of the team’s disastrous decision to mortgage its future to move up the board to grab Julio Jones in the first round of the 2011 draft. General manager Thomas Dimitroff should be a man and walk the pigskin plank for orchestrating this foul-sounding yet predictable disaster.
 
So the game was not just a win for the Giants. It was also a win for the only force in football since the 1972 Dolphins to go undefeated and untied: the Cold, Hard Football Facts Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law.
 
If you’re new to the Mighty CHFF, this Man Law tells us that wide receivers are nothing more than Shiny Hood Ornaments decorating the engine of NFL teams. They look all nice and flashy and they cause fans to “ooh” and “ahh.”

But they don’t make the engine run any better. And the fact, proven through all of NFL history, is that their impact is WILDLY overvalued by fans, by analysts and, most damningly, by teams, coaches and executives, like Dimitroff, who should know better ... but don't.
 
The Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law proved so powerful in the 2010 season that we elevated it from the Shiny Hood Ornament Theory to its present condition. It is no longer an idea or a concept. It is irrefutable and exists all around us, like gravity of the gridiron. (See the complete five-point description of the Man Law at the bottom of this piece.)

The 2011 Falcons are the latest proof of its existence.
 
Atlanta torched badly chasing a Shiny Hood Ornament
The Falcons, you might remember, were not armed with the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law back in the 2011 draft. So they not only drafted wide receiver Jones in the first round, which is almost always a mistake. No, the Falcons did the unthinkable in the eyes of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law to make it happen: they mortgaged their future, trading five draft picks, to move up the draft board and grab Jones with the No. 6 overall pick.

In other words, they made other parts of the team worse in the belief that a Shiny Hood Ornament would make the Atlanta vehicle run better.
 
We knew it was a bad move the moment it happened, especially for a team that went 13-3 the year before but failed to win a single playoff game because of problems that were exposed so badly by the Packers. In fact, we issued Atlanta a D- in our Sports Illustrated draft grades. So we're not playing Monday Morning Quarterback here. We were against the decision the second it happened.
 
The mistake on draft day proved to be a mistake all year, as Atlanta took a step back by every meaningful measure.
Falcons 2010 vs. 2011
2010   2011
13-3 Record 10-6
No. 1 Playoff seed No. 5
414 Points scored 402
288 Points allowed 350
 
 
So here’s what the Falcons got for their five draft picks: they won fewer games, scored fewer points, surrendered more points and tumbled from the No. 1 seed to the No. 5 seed – all because they believed placing a bright Shiny Hood Ornament on the offense would make the team run faster. Oh, and just for good measure, they have no No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft to help fix the obvious problems, like an offensive line that can’t get a push when needed and a defense that tumbled badly.

Other than that, it was a great decision to mortgage the future to pick up a Shiny Hood Ornament.
 
The disaster unfolds Sunday in front of Football Nation
The stupidity of the decision came crashing down on the Falcons for all of Football Nation to see on Sunday: the Atlanta passing game was a disaster, the Falcons were shutout, the offensive line was overmatched and its receivers were no-shows. Here’s what we said Sunday in our Falcons-Giants grades on SI.com:
 
“Atlanta's star-studded pass-catching corps of Jones, Roddy White and future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez were non-factors, unable to get separation. They combined for 16 ineffective catches for 160 yards. Decent numbers, but zero game-changing plays for such a high-profile trio.”

And that statement, in a nutshell, is a very good explanation of why receivers are Shiny Hood Ornaments. They can’t make game-changing plays if the QB can’t get them the ball. A lot of things have to be working right for Shiny Hood Ornaments to first, get the ball and, second, do something meaningful with it.

Even the best Shiny Hood Ornaments touch the ball only four or five times a game – a fact that seems lost on analysts and executives who habitually over-value their impact. (By the way, Gonzalez is another example of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law in action. He's the all-time leader in everything by a tight end. What's he got for it? He's got 16 catches, 157 yards, 2 TDs and zero wins in five career playoff games, including a quiet 4 catches for 44 yards on Sunday.)
 
So here's what the Falcons got Sunday for those five draft picks in the biggest game of the year:

ONE - They got an offense that scored 0 points against a team that surrendered 400 points during the regular season, the most by any playoff team.

TWO - They got 7 ineffective catches for 64 yards – just 9.1 YPC from a guy who’s supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime game changer.

THREE - They got zero movement from their offensive line in one key short-yardage situation after another – a nail-spitting animal at right guard would have been a lot more valuable to the Falcons in the biggest game of the year than an over-valued Shiny Hood Ornament.
 
There was also a certain irony to the fact the Falcons and their Shiny Hood Ornament were overwhelmed by the Giants.
 
New York’s leading receiver this year was Victor Cruz, who set a franchise record with 1,536 receivign yards, including a signature record-tying 99-yard touchdown reception in a must-win game over the Jets on Christmas Eve.
 
The record-setting Cruz was an undrafted free agent out of UMass. Yes, he’s a Shiny Hood Ornament, too. He still only touches the ball 4 or 5 times per game. But the Giants found him with their morning coffee one day in 2010. They didn’t make their team worse in the effort to land him. He's productive because he's paired with a great quarterback.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan simply can't get it done. He's consistently had trouble getting the ball down field throughout his career, and has now played poorly in three straight playoff games. It doesn't matter how many so-called "weapons" you put around. The Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law tells us that quarterbacks make wide receivers, not the other way around. And right now we have four years of evidence saying that Ryan is not good enough to make his receivers better.

In either case, executives and coaches who are unaware of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law are like physicists are unaware of Newton's Laws of Motion. They have no business being in the field and need to find another line of work.

***
 
Here’s a five-point summary of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law:
 
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 and they look all bright and sexy. But they don't necessarily make the engine run 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.
 
FOUR – Quarterbacks make wide receivers; wide receivers do not make quarterbacks. You can have a receiving corps of Rice, Don Hutson, Randy Moss, Homer Jones and the Catawba Claw ... they won't make many game-changing plays if the quarterback can't get them the ball.
  
FIVE – Drafting wide receivers in the first round is almost always a bad decision; mortgaging your future with five draft picks to make it happen should get any personnel manager or GM fired immediately.
 

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