Chad Henne2008-181,95975.555.3-20.3 Cam Newton2011-183,89186.466.1-20.3 RatingsRatings In the original conception of passer rating, an average rating was about 67. In 2018, only one qualified passer (Arizona Cardinals rookie Josh Rosen) fell below that threshold, and even then just barely (his rating was 66.7). But what if the standards for what makes a good or bad performance had evolved as leaguewide numbers changed? Pro-Football-Reference.com does a great job of adjusting for era with its Advanced Passing indices, which are centered on an average of 100 with 15 points representing 1 standard deviation in either direction. But I wanted to rescale the building blocks of passer rating itself to see how today’s passing numbers would translate to a rating if the NFL had simply allowed its rating system to change with the times.To do that, I looked at the distribution of stats in each category that goes into passer rating — completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage and interception rate — from the sample originally used to craft the formula back in the early 1970s (qualified passers from 1960 to 1970). Specifically, I figured out the spread of values (relative to the league) that, in a given category, led to the minimum number of points (0), the average number of points (1) and the maximum (2.375). Under the hood, passer rating is built around these ranges; it hands out points on that 0-to-2.375 scale in each category, then sums up the four values, divides by 6 and multiplies by 100. (Hence, 67 is supposed to be average — a 1.0 in four categories, divided by 6, times 100.)For any era, we can rescale what performance “should” lead to a given value in each category to keep the relative leaguewide distribution the same as it was when passer rating was first conceived.2Just like with PFR’s advanced passing stats, I calculated these distributions using qualified passers in rolling three-season periods to avoid a strange spread in one season causing overly volatile results. (To qualify, a passer needed at least 14 attempts per team game.) So while, say, Alex Smith’s 62.5 percent completion rate in 2018 was worth 1.0 point, so was Don Meredith’s 49.5 percent mark from 1962. Do this for every category in every season, and you have a stabilized version of passer rating that no longer spirals uncontrollably upward with each innovation in the passing game.Some ultra-high ratings change less than you might expect under this new method. Rodgers’s single-season record of 122.5 from 2011 tumbles all the way down to … 121.1. (He was very good that year.) But other seemingly immortal ratings, such as Kirk Cousins’s 99.7 mark this season, get knocked down quite a bit — in Cousins’s case, he falls to a much more reasonable 81.5 rating. (Anyone who watched a Vikings game this year would surely argue that this is more appropriate.) Similarly, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 100.4 mark this season — yes, that is real, look it up — gets heavily penalized in the interception category (his 4.9 percent INT rate was more than double the league average), taking him down to an adjusted rating of 77.4.Moving further down the list, Joe Flacco’s decent-sounding 84.2 classic rating properly falls to a mediocre 62.8 after our adjustment, while the 30.7 rating of WOAT candidate Nathan Peterman becomes an 11.6 — perilously close to the minimum possible rating of 0.0. (If Peterman had thrown enough passes to qualify, that 11.6 rating would have “surpassed” Ryan Leaf’s 19.1 from 1998 as the lowest-rated season since 1950.)All told, the new ratings are once again grounded in a world where an average quarterback scores about 70 — not exactly 67 because the rolling distribution includes multiple seasons for comparison3Causing 2018 performances to score slightly higher on average, since this year was a better passing season than 2017. — and as a result, the numbers make far more intuitive sense at a glance than the ludicrously inflated official ratings of 2018: According to the NFL’s official passer rating system, the most efficient quarterback in NFL history is Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, with a lifetime mark of 103.1.1Pro football’s passer rating has a possible range from 0 to 158.3. That makes sense: Rodgers is generally regarded as one of the greatest QBs to ever play the game. But if you scroll further down the list, the results become much harder to explain. In the world of passer rating, Kirk Cousins is better than Joe Montana; Derek Carr and Matt Schaub top Dan Marino; and, after one season, Broadway Sam Darnold is running circles around Broadway Joe Namath.Passer rating is often criticized as Byzantine (have you seen that formula?), incomplete (it does not include data on rushing plays or sacks) and arbitrary (again, have you looked at the formula?). Yet its biggest shortcoming might be the way it is unmoored from changes in the game itself. Passing has never been more efficient than it was this season, in which the league’s average QB posted a rating of 92.9. That is remarkably high considering that a quarterback who posted a rating of 92.9 would have led all qualified passers in 15 separate seasons from 1950 through 1986. Clearly, the scale needs recalibrating. 28J. FlaccoBAL84.262.8 PlayerTeamOldNew 12S. Jurgensen197482.782.927N. Lomax198882.778.1 26J. WinstonTB90.264.9 14R. FitzpatrickTB100.477.4 * Minimum 14 pass attempts per team gameSource: Pro-Football-Reference.com 10K. CousinsMIN99.781.5 Ratings According to the NFL’s official system, there have been 93 qualified quarterback seasons since 1950 with a passer rating of at least 100.0, and nine of those happened in 2018 alone. After our adjustment, though, there have been only 46 such seasons since 1950,4Four QB seasons cracked the 100.0 mark under the new system but didn’t under the classic passer rating. and only one of those happened this year — the 103.3 mark Drew Brees put up with the Saints. It’s still a golden age for passing, as nearly half of those 46 seasons have happened since 2000, but we’ve also filtered out 51 “false 100s” — seasons that cracked 100.0 on the old scale but not the new one — of which 47 have happened since 2000.The result of our passer rating adjustment is a much more reasonable career leaderboard that features qualified quarterbacks from a variety of different eras: Deflating the ratingClassic and adjusted passer ratings for qualified* 2018 NFL quarterbacks 8D. Brees201897.785.423J. Unitas197378.378.9 Ryan Fitzpatrick2005-184,28581.160.2-20.9 5P. RiversLAC105.587.3 12D. PrescottDAL96.979.0 Case Keenum2013-181,84484.561.8-22.6 * Minimum 1,500 career pass attemptsSource: Pro-Football-Reference.com 9A. RodgersGB97.683.0 PlayerTeamOldNew 8J. GoffLAR101.183.3 30B. BortlesJAX79.854.5 7C. WentzPHI102.285.1 32J. AllenBUF67.937.1 2P. MahomesKC113.898.5 22R. TannehillMIA92.768.8 23M. StaffordDET89.968.6 PlayerYears PlayedAttemptsOldNewDiff. 6D. WatsonHOU103.185.3 13T. BradyNE97.778.8 A new all-time passer rating hierarchyCareer classic and adjusted passer ratings for qualified* NFL and AFL quarterbacks, 1950-2018 13L. Dawson197582.982.728F. Ryan197078.078.0 29C. KeenumDEN81.256.2 Jameis Winston2015-181,92287.864.0-23.8 4M. RyanATL108.193.4 6R. Staubach197983.486.721J. Garcia200887.579.6 33J. RosenARI66.735.9 Ratings 4T. Brady201897.687.219C. Pennington201090.179.9 * Minimum 1,500 career pass attemptsSource: Pro-Football-Reference.com 25A. DaltonCIN89.666.1 PlayerLast YearOldNewPlayerLast YearOldNew 1S. Young199996.794.216F. Tarkenton197880.480.7 18E. ManningNYG92.472.3 31S. DarnoldNYJ77.649.7 21M. MariotaTEN92.370.6 5P. Manning201596.587.120M. Ryan201894.979.8 Ratings The biggest beneficiaries of our changes are 1950s-era passers like Otto Graham, who originally rated in the 70s (discarding his eye-popping pre-1950 numbers, which were compiled in the upstart All-America Football Conference) but leaps up into the mid-80s after judging him in comparison with his peers. San Francisco 49ers legend Steve Young also gets a boost relative to other great QBs from history, reclaiming the No. 1 slot that he’d held in real life before Rodgers and friends came along.At the other end of the spectrum, nobody loses more points of career rating than Blake Bortles, who somehow has an 80.6 mark under the classic system but falls to 55.2 with our adjustments. Here are the biggest losers between the old and new QB ratings: 7R. Wilson2018100.485.422B. R’lisberger201894.379.0 9T. Romo201697.185.024D. Fouts198780.278.4 10O. Graham195578.284.725R. Gannon200484.778.4 Marcus Mariota2015-181,60589.467.5-21.9 2A. Rodgers2018103.192.517B. Starr197180.580.7 3R. WilsonSEA110.996.5 14D. Marino199986.481.429B. Jones198278.578.0 15K. Anderson198681.981.230J. Kelly199684.478.0 Blake Bortles2014-182,63280.655.2-25.4 15B. R’lisbergerPIT96.575.7 Who’s been overrated in traditional passer ratings?For qualified* NFL and AFL passers since 1950, the biggest shortfalls between adjusted and classic passer rating 1D. BreesNO115.7103.3 11A. LuckIND98.779.1 3J. Montana199492.390.018P. Rivers201895.680.5 17M. TrubiskyCHI95.473.2 Ryan Tannehill2012-182,91187.067.2-19.8 11K. Warner200993.783.726B. Griese198077.178.3 24N. MullensSF90.866.3 Mark Sanchez2009-182,32073.352.5-20.8 16D. CarrOAK93.974.0 27A. SmithWSH85.764.5 20B. MayfieldCLE93.771.7 Derek Carr2014-182,80088.868.4-20.4 19C. NewtonCAR94.271.7 A change like this wouldn’t fix the rest of passer rating’s deficiencies, and it wouldn’t include all the fancy bells and whistles you’ll find in a metric like ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating. But passer rating itself has always been a surprisingly decent metric within any self-contained era; the team with the higher passer rating (by any margin) in a game wins about 80 percent of the time. It’s the comparisons across eras that have become distorted as the game has changed over time. But a simple fix tethering modern stats to the standards contained in passer rating’s formula would go a long way toward restoring sanity to the metric you still see in every NFL box score and broadcast. The Blake Bortleses of the world might not like seeing their shiny 80-something ratings get dumped into the 50s, but it’s a change whose time has come.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
Tampa Bay2572811441664 Jacksonville20315525630 NEW COACHNEW QBEITHER Dallas Cowboys2014 Record: 12-4 | 2015 Proj. W: 9.3 | Playoff Odds: 62.2%Off. Rank: 4th | Def. Rank: 17th | S.T. Rank: 23rdCowboys owner/general manager/Senior Senator from Naboo Jerry Jones has a meddler’s reputation for a reason: In a given season over the past quarter-century, Dallas was either breaking in a new quarterback or a new coach 48 percent of the time. But for the last four years, that hasn’t been the case, as coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo have brought an uncharacteristic amount of leadership stability to the franchise.Continuity of that sort matters in the NFL. Among teams since 19906When the NFL playoffs expanded to 12 teams. that had both the same head coach and leading passer as the previous season, about half went to the playoffs. Meanwhile, teams that were breaking in a new coach or a new QB in a given season made the playoffs only 30 percent of the time, and teams that changed both only reached the postseason 22 percent of the time. CATEGORYMADE PLAYOFFS For every 16 games over that span, the Giants also averaged about 8.5 wins, which is pretty typical of a franchise that spends most of its time being neither great nor bad. Coach Tom Coughlin is perpetually described as being on the hot seat, but that might be the opposite of true. Given New York’s resistance to change and Coughlin’s own pattern of solid seasons punctuated by the occasional Super Bowl run, his seat could very well be flame-retardant asbestos, as coarse and ancient as Coughlin himself.There’s reason to think the Giants will seesaw back toward the realm of decentness in 2015. No team was more severely crippled by injuries in 2014, according to adjusted games lost (AGL), a metric derived by Football Outsiders to account for which teams statistically suffered the most from benched and injured players. Jason Pierre-Paul’s missing finger aside,9And if you ignore the team’s ongoing health catastrophe among safeties. heavily injured teams tend to be healthier in subsequent seasons, because there’s very little relationship between a team’s AGL from one year to the next.In other words, look for another solid season from an uneventful franchise that works like clockwork. Maybe there are better situations than being a stagnant-by-design team in a division where two teams are on the rise and the fourth can’t fall any further. Then again, if this team is truly like clockwork, it’s destined to win the Super Bowl every four years — and this is that year. TEAMSEASONSCOUNTPERCENTCOUNTPERCENTCOUNTPERCENT Indianapolis257285201040 Denver25416624832 Green Bay25416312624 Carolina20315840945 Miami2572811441248 San Francisco255208321144 Buffalo2562411441352 New QB, Same Coach30.8 NY Giants25416728728 San Diego257289361248 New QB, New Coach22.1 Chicago2541615601768 While some of that is a mix of correlation and causation — good teams, if given the choice, tend not to abandon their coach/QB combinations — more continuity is associated with greater success even after controlling for a team’s existing talent level. A logistic regression on all NFL teams since 1990 shows that an average team7In terms of its Simple Rating System (SRS) score the previous season. loses 6 percentage points of playoff odds when it changes head coaches (but keeps the same QB), 11 percentage points when it switches the QB (but keeps the same coach) and 17 percentage points when both are swapped out.This suggests that constant leadership shake-ups take their toll on a team, with instability at quarterback exacting almost twice the cost (in terms of playoff probability) as a head coach shake-up. And say what you will about Jones as a meddler, but lately he’s erred on the side of ditching coaches, not QBs. While Dallas has gone through three head coaches over the past decade, Romo has been a constant under center throughout (aside from the year he missed 10 games due to injury).So by resisting the media pressure to churn through new faces at coach and (especially) quarterback, the stability of a fifth straight Garrett-Romo season puts Dallas in a comparatively strong position. New England25520624832 Same QB, Same Coach49.5 Pittsburgh2528728936 Seattle2552010401248 New Orleans255209361144 L.A./St. Louis259366241560 Washington2583212481560 Minnesota2552014561872 Dallas256248321248 FiveThirtyEight is previewing the 2015 NFL season ahead of the first game of the year. Check out our coverage of every division » Baltimore19211842842 Cleveland2283613591673 Houston13215%215%323% Philadelphia2541613521352 Houston/Tennessee2541613521456 Phoenix/Arizona2572816641872 Kansas2562411441248 Cincinnati2541610401352 L.A./Oakland25114413521664 In preparation for the 2015 NFL season, FiveThirtyEight is running a series of eight division previews, each highlighting the numbers that may influence a team’s performance (including projections and rankings based on ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index). Up today: the NFC East. It may not always be the best — or even the most competitive — division in football, but it’s always the NFL’s most visceral, featuring four teams that aren’t so much rivals as mortal enemies. Beneath the violence, though, the East is also about contrasting levels of continuity, and perhaps never more so than in the wake of the Eagles’ startling offseason makeover. Atlanta256249361040 Detroit2562414561872 Philadelphia Eagles2014 Record: 10-6 | 2015 Projected Wins: 9.4 | Playoff Odds: 63.6%Offensive Rank: 7th | Defensive Rank: 16th | Special Teams Rank: 3rdCoach Chip Kelly is running the Eagles like the Ship of Theseus. If a team is the sum of its parts, and a ton of those parts change, is it still the same team?During the spring, Kelly jettisoned his starting quarterback, Nick Foles, for a promising QB with balsa-wood knees, Sam Bradford.1Fans want the pope to bless the knees when he is in town; in fairness, that may be a rational reaction when the alternative is Mark Sanchez. He sent Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for an injured linebacker. He ditched a whole slew of veteran standbys.2To name just a few: LB Trent Cole, CB Cary Williams, G Todd Herremans, TE James Casey and WR Jeremy Maclin. He guaranteed $21 million to running back DeMarco Murray within days of signing RB Ryan Mathews for $5 million guaranteed. He went on to spend a guaranteed $95.1 million more in free agency. Also, Tim Tebow now plays for this team.In other words, the overarching theme of the Eagles’ offseason was chaos — far more so than would be expected of a team coming off a 10-6 campaign.To measure the continuity (or discontinuity) of a team’s roster, we tracked the percentage of its players’ Approximate Value3Pro-Football-Reference.com’s way of measuring a player’s overall contribution to his team. (AV) from one season that returned to the team the next year. Since 1970, the average NFL team has kept about 78 percent of its AV from the previous year, with the other 22 percent departing in the league’s cycle of life — players retire, get traded, leave in free agency, etc.Teams as good as Philly was last season tend to retain more talent than average. Since the Eagles went 10-6 a year ago, we’d have expected them to bring back 82 percent of their AV, which would rank 11th-highest in football this season. But all that chaos means that Philadelphia’s projected continuity percentage4Based on its 2015 roster as of Aug. 21. for 2015 is merely 68 percent, good for fourth-lowest in the league.Only the San Francisco 49ers had a larger negative disparity between their expected and actual continuity rates, and the Niners might have just suffered through the worst offseason in NFL history. By contrast, the Eagles’ moves were largely by choice: Kelly turned this roster upside down as part of his grand plan to bring a Super Bowl to Philadelphia.If he succeeds, though, he’ll be bucking four and a half decades of NFL history. Even after controlling for their Simple Rating System (SRS) scores the previous season, teams that had as much roster turnover5As measured by continuity percentage relative to the league average. as the Eagles tended to win about a half-game fewer than would be expected if they’d posted an average rate of continuity.As we said in March, Kelly might be some sort of lunatic savant. But it remains to be seen if his Ship of Theseus is seaworthy enough to get the Eagles back to the playoffs. New York Giants2014 Record: 6-10 | 2015 Proj. W: 7.7 | Playoff Odds: 27.7%Off. Rank: 11th | Def. Rank: 26th | S.T. Rank: 27thNew York’s obnoxious devotion to its own history is also realized in its player management strategy: The team typically treasures continuity to the point of boredom.8At least in terms of actual football moves — if there’s a Giants roster shake-up in the offseason, it probably requires a visit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But consistency at the expense of dynamism has generally paid off for the Giants — two Super Bowls during the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning years ain’t shabby.Over the past 25 seasons, the Giants were breaking in a new coach or a new quarterback just 28 percent of the time. Only Green Bay and Houston (a franchise that’s only been around for 13 seasons) have had a lower coach/QB turnover rate. Washington2014 Record: 4-12 | 2015 Proj. W: 5.7 | Playoff Odds: 5.7%Off. Rank: 27th | Def. Rank: 22nd | S.T. Rank: 12thWashington is, as always, a disaster. The team’s Elo rating hit its all-time10Or at least, since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. nadir in mid-November of last season, and Washington promptly built on that to set new record lows each of the next four weeks. It had the worst passing defense in the league last year by multiple metrics. Former starting quarterback Robert Griffin III is, when healthy, one of the worst in the league. Coach Jay Gruden will sit him in Week 1 in favor of backup Kirk Cousins … who also is one of the worst in the league.Did we say “disaster”? This is a cordoned-off federal Superfund site. And it all starts with toxic mismanagement.In a given year since 1990, there was a 1-in-3 chance that Washington was breaking in a new coach, and no quarterback has been the team’s top passer for more than three consecutive seasons since Mark Rypien in 1993. The team’s longest-running coach-QB collaboration was Rypien and Joe Gibbs, which lasted four years.In the 16 seasons since Daniel Snyder, noted bastion of team-owning excellence, bought the franchise in 1999, Washington has churned through eight head coaches and nine passing leaders. Under Snyder’s watch, there’s been a 69 percent chance that at least one of those two key personnel positions was changed in a given season. Other teams — Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota — have been slightly more chaotic over the same span, but all it would take for Washington to grab the lead would be Cousins losing his starting job at QB or Gruden getting fired. (Neither of these things is particularly unlikely.)Washington’s most significant offseason move was hiring a GM, Scot McCloughan, who spent last season living on a farm. But, for once, that’s not the punch line — McCloughan is an acclaimed talent evaluator. And Washington also boasted a slightly above-average level of roster stability this offseason, with 79 percent of the team’s 2014 AV projecting to return to the team in 2015. In a strange twist, the franchise known for its volatility has the highest continuity rate of any team in the NFC East.11The Giants also checked in at 79 percent, a few decimal points behind Washington. The ongoing preseason RGIII drama suggests that Washington’s days of dysfunction are far from over, but there are at least some signals for hope that the team won’t be defined by tumult and misrule forever. NY Jets2583213521768 New Coach, Same QB30.4%
Things That Caught My EyeSeattle to earn more frequent flyer milesThe Seattle Seahawks, by virtue of playing in a city that is very far away from other cities that host NFL teams, spend a lot of time on planes. Once every four years, they get a reprieve and get to play in Oakland, a place only 801 miles away. This year the NFL scheduled that advantage away, as Seattle will play Oakland 4,789 miles away in one of the London games. [ESPN]Detroit isn’t as bad off as it seemsEvery year, people talk about a strength of team’s schedule, and every year they tend to use the one thing that isn’t super predictive of future results, namely total wins and losses. Football is fluky, and a team’s win percentage is often no indicator of how a team will do in a subsequent year. What is helpful is looking at Pythagorean wins, which looks at how a team with a given points scored and allowed would be expected to perform as. Ranking strength of schedule by that, a team like Detroit — which has the second hardest schedule according to wins — can breathe easier, as they’d be more in the middle of the pack, with the 15th hardest schedule. [FiveThirtyEight]Pine tar seems like a bigger problem?Gerrit Cole’s spin rate on a fastball jumped from 2,163 rpm last year to 2,332 rpm this season, a jump that Trevor Bauer of the Indians suggested may have been due to the use of pine tar. Several years ago a particularly brazen use of pine tar — which can aid in grip and control of the ball and is super illegal — got Michael Pineda ejected from a game. How widespread this practice is is unclear, but pitchers and managers reportedly seem to tolerate it because many people regardless of club are using it. [ESPN]Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?Shady way of doing businessWe are several weeks into baseball, which means that finally top-tier talent that was forced to marinate in the minors for an arbitrary two weeks in order to defer free agency for another year is being brought up to the big leagues. The CBA gives teams control over a player for 4 or 5 minor league seasons, then six full major league seasons. Operative word being full; if you force a rookie to spend a few weeks in the minors and then bring him up, teams can defer free agency for an additional year. [The Ringer]Don’t call it a tankThe Miami Marlins, which FiveThirtyEight forecasts will have an estimated 60 wins at the end of this season (the lowest in the league), are in part owned by Derek Jeter, who oversaw a roster wipe. Confronted about this by HBO’s Bryant Gumbel, Jeter vehemently denied that the tank was on and that he truly expects the team to contend this year. [Miami Herald]Browns attempt to defy historySince 1950, the Browns have drafted 49 quarterbacks. Of those, eight were in the first round. Only one of those eight was a successful pick, Bernie Kosar, who led the Browns to three AFC championship games. In their whole history, they’ve had 55 different starting quarterbacks, of whom only 11 started in a playoff game, and only 2 since 1993. Let’s see what they do with their No. 1 pick. [ESPN]Big Number(s)21 pitchesCongratulations to San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt and condolences to viewers of a baseball game he played in! Belt has the record for most pitches in a single at bat, with 21 pitches. The at bat lasted 12 minutes and 45 seconds. [ESPN]Leaks from Slack: neil:That has to be one of the least likely no-hitters ever(at least based on the opponent)chris.herring:I’m just seeing the highlights of the no-hitter! Thats so shady! The error they called def shouldve been a hit! Predictions NBA See more NBA predictions Oh, and don’t forgetA successful no no nearly killed this man We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe All newsletters
Among the stranger storylines this NBA offseason is the near-constant Thibs Watch, which lights up like a Bat Signal whenever a former player of the Timberwolves coach becomes available on the free-agent market.The legend grew a bit more Monday when Luol Deng, who played for Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, reached an agreement to rejoin his old coach in Minnesota, pushing the total number of former-Bull Thibs disciples to four before training camp even starts.We’ll come back to the questions about whether this is actually a good thing, but it’s worth noting that Thibodeau and the Wolves are flirting with NBA history.With four of Thibodeau’s former players on the roster,1The Timberwolves also had four former Thibodeau pupils last year, when they featured Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and Aaron Brooks. the club again sits in a second-place tie for the largest collection of former pupils that a coach has ever accumulated.2Larry Brown and the 2009-10 Charlotte Bobcats also had four. The record for ex-players being reunited with a coach is five, set by Kevin Loughery and the Washington Bullets in 1986-87, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Thibodeau could tie this mark if center Joakim Noah — reportedly on his way out of New York, perhaps through the stretch provision — eventually ends up joining the Timberwolves, too.Of course, the key difference here is that Thibodeau, unlike Loughery, also serves as Minnesota’s team president and has final say over personnel matters. None of the four TimberBulls were on the roster before Thibodeau joined the organization3Charles Jones, Dan Roundfield and Ennis Whatley had all been on the Bullets before Loughery was installed as the head coach there. in 2016. Butler was acquired via trade, while Gibson, Rose and Deng were all picked up in free agency.And to an extent, what Thibodeau is doing makes sense. Minnesota transitioned somewhat quickly from being an upstart with a pair of young, talented players to having very real expectations after the trade for Butler. Having familiar veterans around can potentially flatten a young team’s steep learning curve. In trying to change the team’s culture — especially the way Thibodeau goes about establishing his — it’s helpful to have people in place who set the tone at a previous stop. Thibodeau’s standards on defense and in practice sessions are well-known, yet not everyone is prepared to give the effort that he requires on a daily basis. Deng understands that better than most.“I came in here, and I thought no one was here,” Deng told ESPN’s Nick Friedell years ago about a practice in Chicago. “And I tried to get some shots up, and then he came down [from his office]. He put me through one of the toughest workouts I’ve ever done. That’s when I knew [that playing for him] was going to be no joke.”Deng’s comment touches on an inherent problem with the sort of continuity Thibs is keeping: The coach appears to be drawn to players he knows he can push to the limit physically.4This isn’t to blame Thibodeau for the injuries many of his key players have suffered. There isn’t any evidence to draw a direct correlation between his coaching style and the injuries of those players.This stood out to me a year ago when I was in Minneapolis for T-Wolves media day. Thibodeau was asked whether he planned to dole out minutes more conservatively, and he reeled off these numbers: Minnesota was going into the 2017-18 season with five of the NBA’s 17 players who had appeared in all 82 games the year before. His response may have been read as suggesting that he doesn’t need to dial back certain players’ minutes because they’ve shown before that they can handle the workload. (Point guard Jeff Teague, one of those who had played all 82 the year before — and then missed time with an injury this past season — was on record saying he felt the Wolves’ bench needed to play more and that Minnesota starters got tired.)Beyond that, there’s also the question of whether some of Thibodeau’s former players really fit together on the court anymore. Almost no one would turn down an opportunity to have Butler or Gibson on their team, obviously. But Rose, despite being a bright spot during the playoffs, was a controversial signing, and he took playing time from Tyus Jones, who is one of the more efficient players in the entire league. The dynamic is obviously different than it was in Chicago; this is clearly Butler’s team. But Rose and Butler never truly jelled in Chicago, and ball movement wasn’t particularly crisp in the limited moments they shared this past season. (Minnesota reversed the ball less than once per 48 minutes when that pair played together — down from almost 13 reversals per 48 minutes when Butler played without Rose, according to Second Spectrum.)5In fairness, the Timberwolves did produce a whopping 20 net rating in that limited 32-minute sample that Butler and Rose played together, according to NBA Advanced Stats, perhaps providing some hope for next season.There’s reason to believe in the Deng signing — regardless of his history with the coach — as he fills a positional need and has suffered limited wear and tear on his body the past two seasons, since the Lakers hardly used him. Deng may not be a particularly solid scorer anymore, but the Timberwolves — top four on offense but bottom 10 on defense — can likely do without his offense if he has anything left to give on D. It would seem harder to advocate for a Noah signing, should he and the Knicks part ways in the coming weeks. While the former defensive player of the year could potentially mentor Karl Anthony-Towns, who still has much to learn as a rim protector, there isn’t as natural a spot in the rotation for him, given that Towns, Gibson and Gorgui Dieng can all play center.In any case, if Noah becomes a free agent in the coming weeks, don’t be surprised if Thibs’s Bat Signal lights up the sky. At this point, it would be more surprising if it didn’t.
OSU senior forward Marc Loving (2) fistbumps with a fan during the Buckeyes’ game against Northwestern on Jan. 22. The Buckeyes lost 74-72. Credit: Nick McWilliams | Sports EditorIt’s been a rough season for the Ohio State men’s basketball team, and it could get a lot rougher after the team’s next game.The Buckeyes were embarrassed by then 11-10 Iowa in their last game, dropping a winnable game 85-72 in a contest that could have pointed the program in the right direction. OSU picked up a big win against Minnesota at home, but lost all momentum against the Hawkeyes.Simply put, the loss to Iowa was a low point for OSU. Even though the worst loss in terms of score came at the hands of Wisconsin, the Buckeyes looked totally outmatched by an Iowa team missing its leading scorer, Peter Jok. Now, with a 3-6 conference record and just nine games left to salvage anything from a season littered with missed opportunities, the Buckeyes must find a way to beat the Big Ten’s best team — Maryland. And given how OSU has played thus far, there is little to convince Buckeye fans of a possible win on Tuesday. Following the team’s loss to Northwestern, junior center Trevor Thompson expressed his views as to why the team was losing, and losing in such ugly fashion. “We have to play for Ohio State,” he said. “We have to play for the university and for each other. What happens is we start to play for ourselves and were not thinking about the team. We have to be selfless. That has to be consistent.”The Terrapins are 19-2 this season and have won six straight conference games. Highlighted by a tough defense and the dynamic scoring ability of junior guard Melo Trimble, Maryland is one of the toughest matchups OSU will have this season. After Iowa, OSU coach Thad Matta was straight to the point about what went wrong.“We’ve got to try harder,” Matta said. “We did some things defensively tonight that I’ve never, ever seen us do. And give Iowa credit, my god did they play well. We just couldn’t get the stops that we needed.”Against Maryland, OSU will have to get stops. The Terrapins are a team that might not light up the scoreboard with points, but will limit an opposing offense to an average of 65.8 points per game. By contrast, the Buckeyes average 73.4 points per game, but have suffered from a lack of output from upperclassmen like senior forward Marc Loving and redshirt junior guard Kam Williams. Although each have averaged 11.4 and 10.3 points per game, respectively, both have been wildly inconsistent.Both players have the lowest plus-minus mark of the OSU starters, as Loving has posted a 3.7 on average, while Williams averages a meager 2.9. Thompson has been one of the lone bright spots for the Buckeyes, averaging 10.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season in his starting role. However, against Iowa, he failed to score in 13 minutes, and fouled out in the second half. Although a rebound for Thompson is likely against Maryland, OSU will need stronger output from Williams and Loving for the rest of the season if anything is to come for the Buckeyes. After the loss to Northwestern, Williams stood up in the locker room, and addressed the team. “We need everybody, going into a basketball game, to have the same, positive, common goal to win the game,” he said. “Not stats, not how many rebounds I can get or how many points I can get. The ultimate thing we are trying to achieve is to win basketball games. That’s why it’s a team game.”Williams might be standing up,expressing his views vocally and trying to rally the troops, but OSU has little hope if play does not improve. Maryland rolls into Columbus on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Schottenstein Center.Prediction: Maryland 83, Ohio State 69.
Trailing by four shots heading into the Memorial’s final round, round one co-leader Justin Rose shot a near-flawless 66 on Sunday to claim his first career PGA tour victory at 18-under par.“For me, it’s a great way to win,” Rose said. “And to win here at the Memorial, at Jack’s tournament, I couldn’t think of a better place to win my first tournament. It’s a great day.”Chasing three-round leader Rickie Fowler, Rose said he was able to stay focused on his game and let the rest take care of itself.“I knew that I was in the hunt all week, but I wasn’t playing golf like I was in the hunt all week,” he said. “I was just in the moment and I thought that paid off for me today.”Playing nearly mistake-free golf with just one bogey in the first three days, the youngster Fowler was unable to close it out with three bogeys and a double bogey in his final round.Knotted at 16-under par heading into the par-3 12th hole, Fowler made double bogey to drop two shots back and never held the lead again.“I was just trying to aim at the back bunker and cut it off a little bit there,” said Fowler. “The ball started going where I wasn’t trying to. So I just made a bad swing and paid for it.”Although Fowler’s final round 73 resulted in a second place finish at 15-under, he was still pleased with his overall performance this week.“It was an awesome week,” he said. “Obviously not the round that I wanted today, didn’t hit as many greens as I would like to, but we had a lot of fun.”Rounding out the top five were Bo Van Pelt and Ricky Barnes in a tie for third at 12-under and Ryan Moore, Phil Mickelson and Tim Petrovic tied for fifth at 11-under par.World No. 1 Tiger Woods finished out his week with an even par 72, leaving him in a tie for 19th at 6-under for the tournament.The PGA tour will head south next week for the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., before heading to the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links in two weeks for the 2010 edition of the U.S. Open.
Senior defender Justin DaSilva skates the ice Nov. 20 during a game against Michigan State at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 2-1.Credit: Kelly Roderick / For The LanternMichigan bullied the Ohio State men’s hockey team in Yost Ice Arena, putting the Buckeyes (5-9-1, 1-2-0-0) in a pinch ahead of their nearly month-long break.OSU’s, 8-3, loss to the Wolverines (8-6-1, 2-1-0) last Friday was the team’s latest setback in its search for an identity. The Buckeyes have gone 4-6-0 in their last 10 games, taking a four-goal and five-goal loss in that stretch.Team confidence, according to OSU sophomore forward Nick Schilkey, is scrambled.“(We’re) all over the place,” Schilkey said. “We can be great, and there are times where we just roll over it seems.”The Buckeyes’ losses have not been from repeating the same problems, Buckeye coach Steve Rohlik said Friday.The trouble was penalties on Friday, as OSU was stung by 19 penalty minutes against Michigan, nearly seven minutes more than the team averages per game. During the Buckeyes’ 5-1 loss to Western Michigan last weekend, the trouble was effort, Rohlik said.These reasons gave relief to what could be considered OSU’s most discussed difficulty of the early season: playing from behind. The Buckeyes have allowed the game’s first goal in nine of their 15 games.That latest trend may be on the decline, as OSU scored first on Friday for the third-consecutive game, but the early advantage only magnified the defeat.After taking a 1-0 lead on Friday, the Buckeyes took multiple penalties to allow four power-play goals in the second period, including two during a five-minute man advantage after OSU senior forward Nick Oddo was ejected for head butting.“Anytime you play a period and they get on a roll like that, you can’t shoot yourselves in the foot,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “Taking a dumb penalty like that is not going to help you and special teams certainly did the damage.”The Buckeyes’ play became more disconnected as their deficit grew. After OSU senior forward Matt Johnson opened the scoring, the Wolverines tied the game, took a 2-1 lead with 12 seconds left in the first period, then scored six more goals.Buckeye goals from Schilkey and junior forward Anthony Greco registered only in the box score. Momentum was completely lost after OSU’s penalty kill collapsed and the team trailed 7-2 after two periods.“We just didn’t get the job done and that’s on us,” Rohlik said. “As a coach you have to put these kids in a position to succeed and we just didn’t do it.”Defensively, OSU’s goaltending inconsistencies persisted. Sophomore goalies Matt Tomkins, Christian Frey and Logan Davis each saw action.“We have to become consistent and that’s been one of our major issues,” Rohlik said. “Good teams find ways to be consistent and I’m talking from the goaltending on out.”The loss followed OSU’s 6-2 loss to Western Michigan and 5-1 win against Notre Dame last weekend. The Buckeyes’ played worse in their four-goal loss to the Broncos than they did on Friday night, Schilkey said.After the game, a tight-lipped team walked with tucked heads as they exited Yost Ice Arena.Body language was telling. Empty silences filled responses to postgame questions. The team that had won two of its last three games had been humiliated.“It might be a good thing to let this sink in,” Schilkey said. “When you go out and get embarrassed like that it’s going to sting and we have a little time to think about that.”The break will also be used for learning as Rohlik indicated the Buckeyes’ resiliency is a good trait, but the team needs to understand how to string together wins like its strung together losses.“We have to keep that in the back of our minds and start fresh,” senior captain Tanner Fritz said. “We’ve got two weeks to practice and it’s all about getting better now and working even harder. Obviously we’re not doing (the) right things right now.”As Shilkey emerged from the locker room on Friday, he set down his equipment bag and proceeded to respond to the question his team needs to answer: What now?“We’ve got a month here to figure out what team we’re going to be,” Schilkey said.In less than a month, the Buckeyes will know. Loose Pucks-The Buckeyes went 0-for-6 on the power play and 1-for-5 on the penalty kill-The last time the Buckeyes allowed eight goals was on Nov. 20, 2009 against Ferris State-OSU will next on Jan. 2 against Mercyhurst University in downtown Erie, Pa.
Members of the women’s tennis team huddle before their match against Virginia on March 8. Credit: Magee Sprague | Lantern reporterThe No. 2 Ohio State women’s tennis team notched the doubles point and four singles points to take down the Virginia Cavaliers 5-2 at the Varsity Tennis Center on Wednesday. The Buckeyes improved to 14-1 overall and the Cavaliers fell to 5-4. “We know Virginia is a good team,” OSU coach Melissa Schaub said. “They’ve always been a top program, so I think when you have a team like that coming into your building, you know you have to be ready.”To start things off, Buckeye senior pair Miho Kowase and Ferny Angeles Paz dominated with a quick 6-0 win over Virginia’s freshman team Hunter Bleser and Camille Favero. The No. 31 doubles team of seniors Gabriella De Santis and Sandy Niehaus was upset by Virginia’s No. 43 pair of junior Cassie Mercer and freshman Chloe Gullickson 6-2 on court one. It came down to a battle on court two between OSU’s No. 63 pairing of sophomore Francesca Di Lorenzo and junior Anna Sanford and the Cavaliers’ freshman Rosie Johanson and sophomore Meghan Kelley for the doubles point. Di Lorenzo’s final serve was returned long by the Cavaliers which secured the set 6-3 and put the home team up, 1-0. In singles play, OSU took 4-of-6 sets, thanks to Di Lorenzo, Kowase, Niehaus and Angeles Perez, each winning in two straight sets.No. 1-ranked Di Lorenzo, the Big Ten Athlete of the Week, put the first singles point on the board by dominating Virginia’s No. 75 Mercer 6-1, 6-3.Next, Niehaus took down junior Cavalier Teodora Radosavljevic 6-4, 6-3 in spite of being down 1-4 in the first set. Angeles Paz came back from a 1-3 deficit in the first set to top Favero 6-3, 6-3 on court six.With that, the Buckeyes went up 4-0 and sealed victory.“We always come ready to go and we play hard,” Angeles Paz said. “We performed really well as a team, I think that’s key. We know that every single match is going to be different and every single team is good.”For Virginia, this marked the end of a three-match win streak before heading to its second Big-10 school in one week — Michigan on Friday. Next up, OSU will travel to Orlando, Florida, to take on the No. 1 Florida Gators on March 14. “I think every match is important for us,” Schaub said. “Every match is big, we need to be ready to go.”
OSU sophomore Seth Kinker (37) fires a pitch during a game against Morehead State at Bill Davis Stadium on April 12. OSU won 1-0.Credit: Lantern File PhotoSeth Kinker has been one of the more reliable arms out of the Ohio State bullpen during the 2018 season. Coming into the Buckeyes’ second NCAA Tournament in the past three seasons with a 1.49 ERA and a .213 batting average against, the senior right-hander threw 4.2 shutout innings in the Big Ten Tournament, allowing two hits while striking out seven. However, Kinker’s outing in the opening game of the Greenville regional was much different with the right-hander’s blown save resulting in No. 3 Ohio State falling to No. 2 South Carolina 8-3. Coming in to protect a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning, the second-team All American allowed five runs on seven hits, including a three-run home run to South Carolina center fielder Danny Blair. After allowing four earned runs in Ohio State’s Big Ten tournament-opening loss to Purdue, left-handed starter Connor Curlis shut down the Gamecock offense. Curlis began the game with three no-hit innings, allowing only just one base runner on a walk in the third inning. South Carolina outfielder Carlos Cortes hit a single to begin the fourth inning, but Curlis escaped without any damage done. In six innings of work, the left-hander allowed four hits and two walks, stranding all six runners on base, including five after the fourth inning. Freshman Dillon Dingler put the Buckeyes on the board first in the second inning with a solo home run. Ohio State had many opportunities offensively moving forward, stranding the bases loaded in both the fourth and fifth innings. Dingler was not done though. In the seventh inning, after sophomore third baseman Connor Pohl hit a two-out single, advancing to second on a passed ball, the center fielder hit an RBI double, extending Ohio State’s two-run lead.Coming into the game with a .246 batting average, Dingler finished the day with two hits in five at-bats, driving in two of Ohio State’s three runs. Moving to the elimination bracket in the Greenville regional, No. 3 Ohio State will face the loser of No. 1 East Carolina and No. 4 UNC Wilmington at noon Saturday.
Ohio State then-junior shortstop Lilli Piper rounds third base with the intent to score against Wright State on Sep. 24. Credit: Gretchen Rudolph | For The LanternKelly Kovach Schoenly has experience in leading Ohio State to victory. Over the past six seasons as the softball head coach, she has accumulated 199 wins, including 13 wins against Top 25 opponents. However, in her tenure with the Buckeyes, she has not had a better season than the one she had last year. Ohio State had a record of 36-16, the program’s highest win total since 2010. The Buckeyes also won 14 of 22 Big Ten games this past season, but winning only two of four games in their NCAA regional.“We represented Ohio State very well. We competed with the very top teams all the way to the end,” Schoenly said. Now, the Buckeyes are preparing to try and not only match, but exceed last season’s successes. “We worked very hard,” sophomore catcher Claire Nicholson said. “I think it’s ended too early for us. I think we have a lot more coming this year.”Ohio State will have six seniors returning for the 2019 season: pitcher Morgan Ray, pitcher Katya Duvall, catcher Emily Clark, shortstop Lilli Piper, outfielder Bri Betschel and outfielder/first baseman Megan Choinacky.Piper was the major contributor for the team a season ago, leading the team with a .404 batting average, which was 48th-best in the country, 20 home runs, tied for eighth-most in the NCAA, and 58 RBI. The expectations for Piper remained the same heading into 2019, as she was named to the preseason USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year watch list prior to the start of her senior season.With Schoenly saying that the senior class has contributed to where the team is today, Ohio State will still look a bit different than it did last season.The Buckeyes added four freshmen — outfielder Meg Otte, infielder Ashley Prange, outfielder Kaitlyn Coffman and pitcher Jessica Ross — and a transfer in sophomore Lauren Rice, who spent her freshman season at Missouri. Ohio State also added a new assistant coach in the offseason in Jordan Clark, the former volunteer assistant coach at Arkansas. “She has brought in a lot of new ideas,” Nicholson said. “We got to teach her a new culture too. It’s really great to have Jordan with us.”Schoenly said she is excited to develop a new identity this season and is excited to start again. But even with the change, Nicholson said the culture of the team will remain the same. “We have a culture that is just unbelievable,” Nicholson said. “There is definitely a way of life we like to stick to and we have a lot of things very important to us. So we get excited to share that.”Ohio State will begin its season Friday in Orlando, Florida, when the Buckeyes take on George Mason, Ole Miss, North Florida and UCF in the Friends of Jaclyn Tournament.