Random Thoughts: Establishing the run, Bengals expectations, if Reds should buy or sell, CFB attendance, etc.

NFL training camps are underway with colleges following suit this week. Are you ready for some football? Let’s clean out the notebook. 

  • I hate to be too pessimistic before the NFL season even starts, but the Bengals are making it hard to avoid. Has a team ever changed coaches and had a less exciting offseason? Moe Egger puts it all in perspective by identifying Zac Taylor as the only big change for a team that has had three straight losing seasons. Taylor might be a miracle worker, but it's more likely he is a bad coach. I feel confident writing that for two reasons: Way more NFL coaches are bad than miracle workers, and there is nothing in his past to suggest he is anything special. Taylor's resume not only is thin but unimpressive. Basically this is a guy who made his way up through the ranks working for a family member and his best "accomplishment" is getting almost as much production out of Ryan Tannehill (first round pick) as Andy Dalton (second round pick). As a bonus, Taylor put together an underwhelming coaching staff, but at least they are backed up by a front office that has never been regarded as a plus and a personnel department that had a great run in the draft in the first part of the decade but has gone ice cold the last four or five years. Otherwise things look great!
  • So I guess it comes down to this: If the Bengals are healthy and get a few breaks, they could stumble to six or seven wins. That would be where they've been the past three years without much health or luck. Of course few teams are healthy throughout an NFL season, and they were already down three important starters less than two days into training camp, soooooo…
  • OK, one more Bengals-Taylor thought then we'll try to put that aside and just worry about what actually happens between the lines: Is Zac Taylor basically a less-accomplished Bryan Price? Both were first time coaches/managers given a roster we already knew had issues that exacerbated flaws in the coaching styles of their successful predecessors who never quite could get over the hump, even with better teams. But Price was actually a great pitching coach who helped mold one of the best staffs in baseball (for a franchise that for whatever reason has really never been known for its pitching at any point, even the great years) while Taylor has not really done anything of note.

  • The success of the Reds throwback uniforms really makes one wonder what happened to uniform design in the last 25-30 years. Almost all of these looks from the past have been appealing, which means we had more than a century of strong design so the struggle has been a relatively small time period. I already thought about this every time a team wears a throwback from the late '80s or '90s that was relatively unremarkable at the time but looks much better than what the team has been wearing since. The Broncos, Patriots and Dolphins come to mind. The Bengals also fit into this category while almost everyone who has a good new uniform (like the Bills and Jets) copied at least part of it from what they were wearing in the '50s or '60s. Of course that's also how the Reds got to their current look — it's more or less an amalgamation of some of their former uniforms — which is fine but might not make the top 15 in all-time uniforms.
  • O'Hare is a nice airport, but it could use more ice cream options. (McDonald's doesn't count.)
  • Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald went viral last week with an anti-young person rant in regards to declining attendance at sporting events. He made a generally valid point about our generation over-using our phones but probably missed the forest for the trees. The action at a sporting event should not be rivaled by what one can find on their phone, but it often is because teams at multiple levels seem to be intent on doing everything they can to make going to games worse.
  • I still think cost is the No. 1 factor in declining attendance, but the pace of play in college football has waned as the games have gotten longer because of more passes and stoppages for replay. That's a pretty bad triple-threat, isn't it? TV timeouts mean more artificial stoppages, and at least at Ohio State they manage to make every stoppage less tolerable than it was a decade ago by wasting time with lame promotions and actual commercials that actively dissuade cheering and suck the life out of the stadium. Admittedly I have not sat in the stands for a game in a long time, but I have been at nearly every home game since the stadium was re-dedicated in 2001, and the atmosphere has gotten progressively worse, especially over the past 2-3 years as the game management people have tried more and more to make it better. Of course they should have realized that would happen since it is exactly how things went at the Schott, where the first seasons after the surprising 1999 Final Four run were actually pretty banging but eventually devolved into faux-pro basketball dreck filling every moment the ball is not in play.
  • Call me old-fashioned, but I do long for the days college football watch-lists were useful and interesting.
  • Seems like this is the third or fourth year in a row I've read the next iPhone won't be worth getting but oh man wait until the one after that! Remember when Apple was a company known for innovation and cutting-edge design? Congrats to Tim Cook on turning Steve Jobs' company into Early 2000s Microsoft.
  • I don't think the Reds will be major sellers at the trade deadline this week, mostly because they don't have much to sell. Getting what they can get for Tanner Roark certainly makes sense because he is a pending free agent and they have multiple guys with upside to put in his slot in the rotation, but the other pending free agents don't necessarily have a lot of value (other than one — see below).
  • I would move Raisel Iglesias now as long as I was able to get something close to what he might have gone for last offseason. Otherwise I'd hang onto him and hope he can turn it around. Relief pitchers are fickle, and he is on a friendly contract, but building a reliable bullpen is also probably easier than any other part of a team.
  • Trading Yasiel Puig and playing Phillip Ervin every day for two months presents a tough crossroads for me as a fan/analyst who wants to be fair. I want the Reds to win AND be popular. It's easy to be the latter when you do the former, but doing the former is hard. It's been great seeing Puig energize the fan base, but logic says if he is not coming back they should get what they can. However, what if having him in lineup for two more months boosts attendance and fan morale? Is that worth more? Of course it depends what they could get for him, but Ervin's emergence lately provides another incentive as seeing what another right-handed hitter with a first-round pedigree can do is appealing.
  • Lastly we have an outstanding and comprehensive look at establishing the run's value or lack thereof in the NFL. The conclusion is amusing because the writer hedges hard against reality spelled out by multiple people who actually work in the NFL to avoid compromising too much his overriding desire to conclude running the ball is for Neanderthal losers who don't appreciate the magic of spreadsheets. If everyone had a top 10 quarterback, the analytics would fit reality better, but by definition this is impossible. Less than a third of teams have a top 10 QB, obviously, and some of those guys in the middle are even propped up by the running game reducing their need to be great. The numbers tell us the best thing to be is a great passing team, but that's also the hardest thing to be so you can't just bank everything on being one unless you have Drew Brees or Tom Brady. And if you doubt that, consider that their teams still don't.

“Random Thoughts” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions and have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to marcus.hartman@coxin.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook.

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