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Answer Man, Series 9, Volume 2 (Part III)

Posted Mar 26, 2013

Wrapping up a three-part edition that took just a bit longer to deliver than promised, the Buc fans' inside man tackles kickoff return trends, strange defensive rating splits and more


Hey, folks!  I'm back with the final segment of the gimmicky three-part column I granted myself on March 1, the day my new logo was unveiled.  At the time, I promised all three parts within a "fortnight," and some of the more mathematically-inclined of you out there might be pointing out that 26 days is a bit longer than a fortnight.  Like, roughly twice as long.

 

But what you need to understand about me is that I don't use a term like "fortnight" for, you know, accuracy.  I use it because "fortnight" is a cool word.  I mean, if the Revolutionary War was about one thing, it was about gaining the freedom to use obviously British words like "fortnight" any way we choose.  Maybe.  It's been a while since my last history class.

 

Besides, that whole opening week of free agency threw me off a little bit.  I stayed out of the way of the real news that week and pitched in other ways around the office, like fueling up the jet to go get Dashon Goldson.  I told the bosses a jet wasn't really necessary, that I could personally fly out to Cali to get him just to speed things up, but they declined for some reason.

 

Anyway, enough of my excuses.  Let's get to the reason you're here: To have your questions answered.  And if you like what you see below and think you've got a question that would lead to an interesting discussion, go here to submit it.

 

**

 

1. Jay of Wesley Chapel, Florida asks:

Answer Man This is only the second time I have had a reason to write in because every time I have a question somebody else writes in and you answer it. This must mean all of the questions are relevant to all of your readers out in Answer Man land. First of all I want to say I really enjoy your short columns that you put out more often. Personally a couple years ago I was thinking it would be great to read your column more often and not be so long at each sitting. Of course I think you should write your column all through the year instead of taking off during football season to help the cheerleaders with their pom-poms or whatever you do. I would be happy to take that job from you and hopefully the Answer Wife doesn't read your column and learn your secrets. Now my question. Who will the Bucs draft and who will they trade away? Just kidding, I know you tell people not to ask that question every other column and I couldn't resist. Enough of the rambling, we all know that is somebody else's job. Here is my comment and questions. Last year the new rule was put in place moving the ball forward for the kick-off that makes it harder for kick-offs to be run back for touchdowns. I personally enjoyed the runbacks but I do understand it is for the safety of the players. Now my 2 part question. One how many times have new rules been reversed? Fans really do love to see those long touchdowns. Second how many touchdowns were made across the league on kickoffs this year and how many yards were run back after the ball was caught. Since this is too easy for your super powers how does the touchdowns and yards run back on kickoffs compare to say the last 10 years across the league? Thanks and you can probably tell I really enjoy your humor and the whole Answer Man column. Jay

 

Answer Man: It's probably a good thing you don't write in too often, Jay, because I just about hit my target word count just reprinting your question.  I suppose I could have edited it down, but I liked the jokes (especially the one about asking me who we're going to draft) and I liked the compliments even more.  And then, just when I thought you were never going to get to the point, you throw in a question that sounds like fun.  I think I smell a chart or two!

 

To begin, I don't think I'm going to try to answer "how many times" a rule has been reversed.  That would literally involve me slogging through decades of year-by-year rule changes, and I don't think that work is worth whatever the specific answer would be.  You'd also have to split hairs about rules being "reversed" as opposed to "tweaked several times."  For instance, one very important NFL rule is the regular-season roster limit, and that has been changed many, many times.  Mostly it's gone up through the years, but occasionally it's gone down.  In two decades from 1957-78, it changed nine times, from 35 to 36 to 38, then back down to 36, then back up to 37 followed by 40 followed by a big jump to 47, then back down to 43 and up again to 45.  I spent longer trying to figure out how to punctuate that sentence (and eventually giving up) than some of those roster limits lasted.

 

What I think you're asking me is whether it's common, or at least relatively common, for rules to be reversed.  And I'd say that while it's not exactly a frequent occurrence, it happens enough to show that the league is willing to rethink any rules that are not necessarily working as attended.  In fact, it just happened twice last week.  Two of the six rule changes the league made this year are essentially reversals of previous rules – the tuck rule and the retroactively-nicknamed "Jim Schwartz" rule, which had too harsh of a penalty for coaches who threw a challenge flag when they were not allowed to do so.

 

And actually, the subject of your question is a rule reversal in itself.  Until 1994, NFL teams kicked off from the 35-yard line, but a collection of rule changes were passed that spring that were designed to bring more offense to the game.  One of them was moving the kickoff line back to the 30, which was supposed to result in fewer touchbacks, more returns and better starting field positions for offenses.

 

As you mentioned, that line has been moved back to the 35, though that rule reversal occurred in 2011, not 2012 as you suggest.  While the move back to the 30 was made with more offense in mind, the switch back is one of several recent rule changes aimed at player safety.  League studies showed that an inordinately high number of injuries occurred on kickoff returns, so it's obvious how more touchbacks would lead to fewer injuries.  You seem in favor of reversing this rule once again to produce more long-return opportunities, but I don't think the emphasis on player safety is going anywhere, nor should it.

 

But we don't have to debate whether the rule is good or bad in order to answer the rest of your question, which is basically asking me to research and display the difference in kick-return results before and after the latest rule was implemented.  I'm going to do you a little better than that, however, and go back all the way to 1990, since that would also cover when the line was initially moved from the 35 to 30 in 1994.  Ready?

 

Some explanations for the column headers below.  I could have just thrown up the league's kickoff total return and return yard totals each year, but to put it in context I've listed those numbers as returns per team per game and yards per team per game.  I think it's an easier way to see how many fewer opportunities the average team is getting with the kickoff line at the 35.  The third column is just your basic kickoff return average, which is something you asked for.

 

The fourth column is a little different than the others in that it's not an average but the total number of kickoff return touchdowns in the entire league in each season.  That one loses a little bit of context along the way, because the addition of new teams in 1995, 1999 and 2002 necessarily upped the number of total games each time.  It's a fairly small difference, however, so I think those numbers can stand the way they are for our purposes.  You'll also note that I've shaded the years in which the kickoff return line was the 35, to make it easier to see where the breaks are.  So, without further ado…

 

NFL KICKOFF RETURN RESULTS, 1990-2012

 

Season

Ret/Tm/Gm

Yds/Tm/Gm

Yds/Ret

TDs

1990

3.6

69.7

19.1

6

1991

3.3

62.7

18.9

8

1992

3.1

60.4

19.4

6

1993

3.1

60.0

19.5

4

1994

4.1

87.3

21.2

16

1995

4.3

91.2

21.4

9

1996

4.0

87.8

22.0

9

1997

3.9

86.6

22.0

14

1998

3.9

86.1

22.3

18

1999

4.1

87.1

21.2

13

2000

4.1

90.2

21.9

15

2001

4.0

87.1

21.6

10

2002

4.3

93.8

21.8

17

2003

4.2

91.0

21.6

13

2004

4.2

91.3

21.7

17

2005

4.2

93.0

22.3

12

2006

4.0

89.7

22.5

9

2007

4.1

91.7

22.6

25

2008

4.1

94.2

22.8

13

2009

3.9

88.6

22.6

18

2010

4.0

88.7

22.3

23

2011

2.7

63.8

23.8

9

2012

2.7

64.2

23.6

13

 

The most telling stat trend on this whole chart is the exact one you would expect to see and the exact thing the league was trying to do in both 1994 and 2011.  Having the kickoff line at the 35 instead of the 30 most certainly does reduce the overall number of kickoff returns around the league, and that's even more telling in recent years than it was back in the early 1990s.  Answer Man chalks that difference up to kickers, like players at most positions, getting better at their jobs.  Field goal percentage rates have risen steadily through the years, and it's likely that we're getting stronger-legged kickers overall these days, too.

 

The very year the league moved the line back to the 30, in 1994, each team gained an average of one more kickoff return per game.  In 2011, when it was moved back up to the 35, each team lost nearly one-and-a-half kickoff returns per game.  The number of touchdowns scored experienced a dramatic shift both times as well, ballooning from four in 1993 to 16 in 1994, and dropping from 23 in 2010 to nine in 2011.

 

That third column of averages is interesting, though.  Kickoff return results were really down in the 1990s, so it's understandable that the league wanted a change.  After the line was moved back, the league-wide average jumped by nearly two yards per game, and over the next two decades it continued on a very gradual climb.  It did not, however, take a step back when the kickoff line was moved back up to the 35 two years ago.  In fact, it went up by about a yard and a half in 2011 and stayed in roughly the same place in 2012.

 

That struck the Answer Man as strange at first.  It seemed to the Answer Man that moving the kickoff line up to the 35 would compress the remaining field and get the coverage men on top of the blockers and return man more quickly, leading to a lot of returns that were snuffed out before they could really get going.

 

(Question: Do people who tend to talk about themselves in third-person (which is annoying, right?) also think in third-person?  Like does Seinfeld's infamous Jimmy think to himself, "Jimmy needs to go to the store for milk on the way home…oh, and ice and paper towels.  You know, Jimmy should probably just make a list?")

 

But as I thought about it a little more, it started to make sense.  Moving the line from the 30 to 35 really hasn't changed the dynamic of the actual return when the return man decides to run with it.  Sure, there are fewer returns, and a lot of kickoffs that sail deep into the end zone or all the way out of the back. But return teams are still lining up the same distance away from the kickoff line as they used to.  A return man who used to stand on the five-yard line might now stand on the goal line, and all his blockers have adjusted accordingly.  When he does return a kickoff, he might be starting three yards deep into his end zone and only getting out to the 22, but that's still a 25-yard return, just like one from the five to the 30 would have been under the old rules.  Remember that the yards a return man covers to get out of his end zone are counted in the stats.

 

Of course, that only really explains why the average would fail to drop from 2010 to 2011, not why it would go up.  The Answer Man has a theory.  That's all it really is, a theory, but hear me out.  Since the number of kickoff returns a team has to face has gone down dramatically in the last two years, teams are devoting fewer resources to the issue of stopping returns, in terms of both acquiring players specifically for that job and in using practice time on that task.  When a team is choosing which 45 of its 53 players to keep active on game day, it might be less inclined to keep up a sixth linebacker who is particularly good at kickoff coverage and more inclined to keep up, say, an extra defensive lineman.

 

(By the way, just in case there are some very thorough fans out there checking the math in the above table, what might look like inaccuracies in the third column of averages are actually not.  Yes, the league-wide kickoff return average should equal the average yards per game divided by the average returns per game…and they do, when the numbers are not rounded off to one digit after the decimal point.  In 2012, for instance, 64.2 divided by 2.7 comes out to 23.8, not 23.6, but the math works if you don't truncate the averages to one decimal point.  Take my word for it, that one guy out there who is still reading this paragraph.)

 

As for the drop in kickoff return touchdowns, well, it's real, but is it really that drastic?  Since the 35-yard-line rule came back, the NFL has averaged 11 kickoff return touchdowns per season, in an admittedly tiny sample size.  In the 17-year span during which the line was at the 30, the league averaged 14.7 kickoff return touchdowns per season.  Okay, yes, that's a significant difference, and I can't completely dismiss it.  But the 13 KOR TDs scored in the NFL last year are an indication that today's talented return men can still thrive under the new rules, making the most of their more limited opportunities.

 

Whew!  That's a lot to take in.  I'm looking forward to your next question seven years from now, Jay.

 

**

 

2. Ken Tinsley of Ft. Myers, Florida asks:

The Bucs had the #1-ranked run defense in the NFL last year which is great, and the #32-ranked pass defense which is not so great.  I'm trusting Schiano and his coaches to figure out the pass defense and get our team back to the good overall defense we're used to as Buc fans……but what I want to know is how unusual that is.  Has any other team been first in one kind of defense and last in the other before?  If not what was the biggest split before that?  Thanks – a true Bucs fan.

 

Answer Man: Big splits like that are actually not uncommon, on offense or defense.  A lot of times, it's a matter of teams simply taking advantage of a weakness on one side and thus not needing to attack the other side.  For instance, if you're a coach and you're facing a defense that just can't stop the run, you're probably going to keep on running the ball as long as it works, since it's a lower-risk approach.  If you end up with 220 rushing yards and just 180 passing yards, that's a great day and probably a win, but it also looks good, statistically, for the opposing pass defense.

 

By all accounts, however, that was not the case with the Bucs' defense in 2012.  Tampa Bay didn't have such great run-stopping numbers simply because other teams only chose to throw against their struggling pass defense.  Plenty of other metrics – including, quite simply, yards per carry – indicate that the Bucs were legitimately an outstanding run defense in 2012.

 

But that wasn't your question, so I'll stop speechifying and get you the numbers.

 

Actually, you might be surprised to hear – I know I was – that not only are the Bucs not the first 1-32 team, they aren't even the first of the last decade.  Just five seasons earlier, in 2007, the Minnesota Vikings finished first in the NFL in rush defense and last in pass defense.  That team had the awesome defensive tackle duo of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, both of whom went to the Pro Bowl (K. Williams was also named All-Pro), as well as a Pro Bowl strong safety in Darren Sharper.  This was obviously an ongoing issue in Minnesota, as the Vikings also finished first in rush defense in 2006 while tying for last in pass defense.

 

Because that answer came up so quickly, it threatened to cut my coveted research time short, so I went ahead and kept looking beyond 2007 to see how common such splits were.  Here are all the cases since the 2000 seasons of teams that finished in the top five on one side of the defensive rankings and the bottom five on the other:

 

Season

Team

Run D Rank

Pass D Rank

2012

Tampa Bay

1

32

2012

Washington

5

30

2011

Chicago

5

28

2011

Cleveland

30

2

2010

Oakland

29

2

2009

Buffalo

30

2

2008

Chicago

5

30

2007

Kansas City

28

5

2007

Miami

32

4

2007

Minnesota

1

32

2006

Indianapolis

32

2

2006

Minnesota

1

31t

2005

N.Y. Jets

29

2

2005

Cleveland

30

4

2005

San Diego

1

28

2005

Denver

2

29

2004

San Diego

3

31

2004

Miami

31

2

2004

Cleveland

32

5

2003

Tennessee

1

30

2001

Chicago

2

28

2001

Tennessee

5

31

2000

Dallas

31

3

 

By the way, that 2005 was a crazy year, huh?  Four different teams finished with huge defensive ranking splits, two each way.  Maybe that's why the Buccaneers, who didn't finish in the top five in either category (sixth in rushing, seventh in passing), were able to take the top spot when both were combined.

 

**

 

3. Edison of Brandon, Florida asks:

Hello Answer Man. I am a strong believer in the draft, and was wondering if you could use your powers to help me to figure out the number of players drafted by the Bucs who actually contributed to the team during any successful season (including their stats). Let's say that a trip to the post season is successful. Thanks for taking my question (hopefully) and I look forward to the next round of impossible questions answered.

 

Answer Man: Nothing is impossible for the Answer Man!  (Says the guy who gets to pick and choose which questions in his in-box to include in his column.)

 

I think it's clear that the Buccaneers are also strong believers in the draft, despite the fairly significant splashes they have made in free agency the last two years.  Most teams believe that the only way to build a long-term, successful core of players is to draft well, and that is probably even more true in the days of the reduced rookie salary scale.

 

Unfortunately for me, there are many ways to define what makes a successful draft class.  Fortunately, for me, you've sort of provided a framework for me to work within.  If I'm reading you right, you'd like me to survey all the Buccaneer teams that have made the playoffs and determine how many of the players on each of those teams were actually drafted by Tampa Bay.  I can do that.


I should point out that the results are going to be a little bit misleading.  Don't forget that teams sometimes get players around draft time, or a few months later, without actually spending draft picks on them.  For instance, Karl Williams came to the Bucs in 1996 and was on Tampa Bay playoff teams in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, but he wasn't drafted.  He was signed after the last round as an undrafted rookie free agent.  LB Cecil Johnson, signed as an undrafted free agent in 1977, is another of many great examples.  And how do you categorize somebody like Richard Wood, the great linebacker of the Bucs' early days?  Tampa Bay did use a draft pick on him, trading a 1977 7th-rounder to the Jets in 1976, but Wood had played a single season in New York already.  An even weirder case: The Bucs drafted punter Tommy Barnhardt in 1986 but he didn't make the team, instead going on to play for New Orleans, Chicago, Washington and Carolina before signing in Tampa Bay in 1996 and helping the team make the playoffs in 1997.

 

It can go the other way, too.  Remember Rick Razzano, Nate Lawrie or Anthony (not Antonio) Bryant?  All three of those guys were draft picks and all played at least one game for the 2005 playoff time, but none made any significant contributions that year or established themselves long-term in Tampa.

 

Still, the customer gets what the customer wants, so your answers are in the chart below.  For each year, I've listed the number of players who appeared in at least one game during the regular season, the number of those players who were drafted by the Buccaneers, and the percentage of total players who were Tampa Bay draft picks.

 

BUCCANEER DRAFT PICKS ON PLAYOFF ROSTERS

 

Season

No. of Players

Players Drafted

Pct.

1979

46

20

43.5%

1981

49

22

44.9%

1982

51

26

51.0%

1997

58

28

48.3%

1999

57

32

56.1%

2000

53

29

54.7%

2001

54

29

53.7%

2002

60

25

41.7%

2005

51

27

52.9%

2007

63

24

38.1%

 

I've noted before that the Bucs' playoff teams from around the turn of the millennium were built heavily on draft picks, and then the 2002 team that got over the top under Jon Gruden's first season added an influx of free agents on top of that draft pick core.  You can see that reflected in how the percentages went down.  You can also see in the way the percentage is down for that 2007 team, followed by no other playoff experiences, that some drafts had largely missed and it was time to bring in a new infusion of talent.

 

Again, that chart doesn't really tell us what percentage of the team's overall performance was contributed by Buccaneer draftees.  Here's a look at each of those 10 teams and some of the key performers on each team who were drafted by Tampa Bay, as well as some of the key performers who were not:

 

1979

Drafted: RB Ricky Bell, RB Jerry Eckwood, T Charley Hannah, WR Gordon Jones, LB David Lewis, G Greg Roberts, LB Dewey Selmon, DE Lee Roy Selmon, QB Doug Williams, C Steve Wilson

Note Drafted: S Cedric Brown, DE Wally Chambers, S Mark Cotney, TE Jimmie Giles, WR Isaac Hagins, LB Cecil Johnson, WR Morris Owens, T Dave Reavis, CB Mike Washington, LB Richard Wood

 

1981

Drafted: Bell, Eckwood, Hannah, Lewis, Roberts, L.R. Selmon, LB Scot Brantley, Williams, Wilson, WR Gerald Carter, LB Hugh Green, LB Andy Hawkins, WR Kevin House, WR Gordon Jones, DT David Logan, T Gene Sanders, G Ray Snell, RB James Wilder

Not Drafted: Brown, Giles, Johnson, Reavis, Washington, Wood, WR Theo Bell, S Neal Colzie, DT Bill Kollar, TE Jim Obradovich, CB Norris Thomas, OL George Yarno.

 

1982

Drafted: Brantley, Carter, Green, Hannah, Hawkins, House, Logan, Roberts, Sanders, Selmon, Snell, Wilder, Williams, Wilson, TE Jerry Bell, DL John Cannon, LB Jeff Davis, G Sean Farrell

Not Drafted: T. Bell, Brown, Colzie, Cotney, Giles, Johnson, Jones, Obradovich, Reavis, Thomas, Washington, Wood, Yarno, RB Melvin Carver, RB James Owens

 

1997

Drafted: CB Donnie Abraham, DL Chidi Ahanotu, FB Mike Alstott, WR Reidel Anthony, CB Ronde Barber, LB Derrick Brooks, WR Horace Copeland, QB Trent Dilfer, RB Warrick Dunn, T Paul Gruber, S Melvin Johnson, S John Lynch, C Tony Mayberry, T Jason Odom, C Jim Pyne, DT Warren Sapp, DE Regan Upshaw

Not Drafted: DT Brad Culpepper, G Jorge Diaz, RB Jerry Ellison, S Kenny Gant, LB Jeff Gooch, TE Jackie Harris, S Charles Mincy, TE Dave Moore, LB Hardy Nickerson, CB Anthony Parker, LB Rufus Porter, LB Shelton Quarles, DE Steve White, WR Karl Williams, CB Floyd Young

 

1999

Drafted: Abraham, Ahanotu, Alstott, Anthony, Barber, Brooks, Dilfer, Dunn, Gruber, Lynch, Mayberry, Sapp, K Martin Gramatica, WR Jacquez Green, DT Marcus Jones, CB Brian Kelly, QB Shaun King, DT Anthony McFarland, G Frank Middleton, T Jerry Wunsch

Not Drafted: Culpepper, Diaz, Gooch, Moore, Nickerson, Quarles, White, Williams, C Kevin Dogins, WR Bert Emanuel, S Damien Robinson

 

2000

Drafted: Abraham, Ahanotu, Alstott, Anthony, Barber, Brooks, Dunn, Gramatica, Green, Jones, Kelly, King, Lynch, McFarland, Middleton, Sapp, Wunsch, LB Jamie Duncan, T Pete Pierson, LB Alshermond Singleton

Not Drafted: Gooch, Moore, Quarles, Robinson, White, Williams, C Jeff Christy, T George Hegamin, DL Tyoka Jackson, WR Keyshawn Johnson, G Randall McDaniel

 

2001

Drafted: Abraham, Alstott, Anthony, Barber, Brooks, Duncan, Dunn, Gramatica, Green, Jones, Kelly, Lynch, McFarland, Sapp, Singleton, Wunsch, DT James Cannida, G Cosey Coleman, FB Jameel Cook, S Dexter Jackson, S Dwight Smith, T Kenyatta Walker, G Todd Washington, LB Nate Webster

Not Drafted: Christy, Gooch, K. Johnson, McDaniel, Moore, Quarles, White, Williams, DT Chuck Darby, QB Brad Johnson, DE Simeon Rice, RB Aaron Stecker, TE Todd Yoder

 

2002

Drafted: Alstott, Barber, Brooks, Coleman, Cook, Gramatica, Jackson, Kelly, Lynch, McFarland, Sapp, Singleton, Smith, Walker, Washington, Webster, S Jermaine Phillips, DT Ellis Wyms

Not Drafted: Christy, Darby, B. Johnson, K. Johnson, Quarles, Rice, Stecker, Williams, Yoder, TE Ken Dilger, TE Rickey Dudley, T Cornell Green, CB Corey Ivy, G Kerry Jenkins, WR Joe Jurevicius, WR Keenan McCardell, T Roman Oben, RB Michael Pittman, DE Greg Spires

 

2005

Drafted: Alstott, Barber, Brooks, Cook, Jackson, Kelly, McFarland, Phillips, Walker, Wyms, S Will Allen, G Dan Buenning, WR Michael Clayton, WR Mark Jones, C Sean Mahan, LB Barrett Ruud, QB Chris Simms, TE Alex Smith, DE Dewayne White, RB Carnell Williams

Not Drafted: Moore, Pittman, Quarles, Rice, Spires, TE Anthony Becht, CB Juran Bolden, T Anthony Davis, WR Joey Galloway, RB Earnest Graham, QB Brian Griese, WR Ike Hilliard, DT Chris Hovan, LB Ryan Nece, WR Edell Shepherd, C John Wade

 

2007

Drafted: Allen, Barber, Brooks, Clayton, Kelly, Phillips, Ruud, Smith, Williams, DE Gaines Adams, LB Quincy Black, S Tanard Jackson, G Davin Joseph, G Arron Sears, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood

Not Drafted: Galloway, Graham, Hilliard, Hovan, Nece, Pittman, Spires, Wade, FB B.J. Askew, TE Anthony Becht, CB Philip Buchanon, DE Kevin Carter, QB Jeff Garcia, DT Jovan Haye, LB Cato June, T Donald Penn, TE Jerramy Stevens, DE Greg White

 

**

 

4. Damon of Costa Mesa, California asks:

Hey, Answer Man, I just have a quick follow up to a question you had answered about incentives. I was just wondering who decides the difference between LTBE and NLTBE incentives? Is it agreed upon in the contract, or does somebody in the league office have to clarify? Thanks.

 

Answer Man: Damon is following up on a question I answered in the middle segment of this three-parter about the manner in which contracts laden with incentives are counted against the cap.  The original question was sent in by a charming fan named "Damon of Costa Mesa, California."  So, yeah, follow-ups are a good way to get your questions into the column on a repeated basis.

 

I must apologize, because I thought I had explained the answer to this question in my previous answer, but I guess I wasn't clear.  My editors sometimes gently remind me that my frequent divergences into unimportant tangents have a tendency to bury the real answer, but I'm too old to change my style now.  As one of my fellow superheroes has said, with great power comes great…uh…verbosity?

 

Anyway, to recap LTBEs are "likely to be reached incentives" and NLTBEs, as I'm sure you can ascertain, are "not likely to be reached incentives."  The distinction isn't left up to a team, player, agent or NFL employee.  Rather, it is based on past performances.  If a quarterback threw 20 touchdown passes in 2012, the theory goes, he can reasonably be expected to throw 20 touchdown passes in 2013.  So an incentive that will pay that quarterback for 20 TDs in 2013 is an LTBE.  An incentive that would pay him for 50 TD passes in 2013, when he's never had more than 25, would be an NLTBE.

 

That's really all there is to it.

 

**

 

Okay, that's it for Part III, and thus for this whole start-and-stop three-part gimmick.  As Jay suggest above, maybe shorter but more frequent columns would be the way to go.  We'll see.  In the meantime, I won't have anything to work with, period, if I don't get some new questions in the inbox soon.  Once again, click here to send me a question.

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