The Tape Lies

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Illustration by Sam Woolley/GMG
Illustration by Sam Woolley/GMG

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Email Drew here. Buy his book here. 

The Cleveland Browns are currently winless. This, of course, is hardly a surprising development to you or me or anyone else familiar with NFL football. The Browns were reborn in a winless void, and they will die that way. They are now on their 28th starting QB since returning to Cleveland in 1999, and even with poor DeShone Kizer there to get dragged in and out of the lineup, there’s little indication that the team’s sprawling parade of hapless quarterbacking nobodies will end anytime soon. The Browns are a fucking joke.

But at least ONE bold fellow out there has had the studiousness and gumption to dispute that fact. I’m talking about Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated, who made this hilarious proclamation about Cleveland during the preseason:

1. I watched every Browns game on film last season and not once did I feel that this team was a joke. It was simply a rebuilding club that lacked talent in too many areas. Under Hue Jackson, the Browns had an identity and their game plans had cohesion and purpose. They played hard and made opponents earn their wins. Unfortunately, those opponents happened to earn a lot of wins. But this team was better than 1-15 suggests. It was certainly respectable.

Keep in mind that the 2016 Browns were outscored by more than 11 points a game. I wouldn’t say that’s making your opponents earn their victories, but of course Benoit WATCHED THE TAPE. The precious tape. The sacrosanct tape. In football circles, saying you watched the tape is a way of magically anointing yourself as a football authority. You, the idiot couch potato at home, only watched the game once. Ah, but Andy Benoit watched it TWICE. And on that second viewing, the game opened up for him. Complex play scribblings appeared magically before his eyes, Beautiful Mind-style. He saw EVERYTHING. The Browns were not “bad.” They had purpose.

You might remember Benoit from the time he came out of his tape cave and announced to the world that Matt Cassel, among other stiffs, was a better backup QB than the currently unemployed Colin Kaepernick. I promise this won’t become yet another Kaepernick rant, but I just want to note that Cassel was sacked six times on Sunday, averaged a pathetic 4.4 yards-per-completion, and ended up losing to a Miami team that had no-showed over the two previous games. The Titans are utterly helpless without Marcus Mariota, and Cassel is the reason why. Matt Cassel can’t play worth a lick.

But again, Benoit watched the tape.

So here’s the thing about watching game tape: it’s only as useful as the asshole watching it. If you’ve ever suffered through a replay challenge, you know certain plays are open to interpretation. I’m all for doing your homework, but what if the guy bragging about doing his tape interpretation is a complete pud? There are 22 dudes on the field on every play. Where are your eyes when you’re watching that tape? Do you lock in on one player? Do you know the exact offensive and defensive calls? Do you know what exact adjustments were made? Do you personally favor one blocking technique over another? Are you more forgiving of a certain player on film because you had coffee with him once? Are you the type to get hung up on a single bad play and judge a player for it? What if you’re not looking at what you think you’re looking at?

Unless you’re dealing with a thoughtful football writer like Chris Brown, you’re not gonna get many answers to those questions. You will only get, “I watched the tape, therefore X.” Saying you watched the tape is a cheap way of declaring that your observations are unassailable and without prejudice, which is impossible because we’re all human. Without some measure of self-awareness, I have no way of knowing whether you, The Football Knower, are getting anything out of that tape, or if you just watched it to say you watched it. The hottest rookie in football right now is Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Wanna know why Watson lasted until the 12th pick of the draft this spring? Here’s why:

The scoop: “There is so much talk about Deshaun Watson being a franchise quarterback, but that just tells me that nobody has seen the tape on him. His accuracy is just OK and he’s not a great decision-maker. Get him out of that offense and he could get lost for a while.” — AFC executive

That’s right. This idiot watched the tape and came away with the conclusion that a man who competed 67 percent of his passes in college had “accuracy” problems. Maybe he shouldn’t have put so much stock into his own analytical capabilities. Maybe he was just looking to nitpick the guy. Maybe he should have listened to Watson’s college coach, who—despite being a zany asshole and someone whose job it is to sell his players to the world—insisted that his QB had innate qualities that tape could not properly do justice. Or maybe this exec could have, you know, looked at a goddamn stat sheet.

Bill Belichick is an absolute god when it comes to breaking down tape, as evidenced recently by this brilliant in-game adjustment that got passed around the other week. But even Belichick has said publicly that he’s choosy about which film he watches to game plan and which he ignores. Belichick is in most respects not a functional human man, but he is a man I trust to properly curate and analyze film. I do not trust some random asshole in quite the same way. As Tony Romo pointed out the other week, Belichick deliberately calls play to FUCK with your game tape, to screw with your charts and make you think the Patriots run a five-man blitz more often than they actually do. Or consider the fact that Romo is the rare color guy who can break down plays in real time and explain them in a clear and compelling manner. Even ex-players have a hard time telling you what’s on the tape. And I’m supposed to trust Andy Benoit with this kinda shit? Yeah no, I don’t think so.

Football, more than any other sport, has always been infected with a virulent strain of know-it-all-ism. “You clearly know nothing about football” is still the most vicious insult one fan can hurl at another. Tape is a great resource for trying to figure out what the hell is going on out there, for designing game plans, and for isolating and highlighting the brilliance of someone like, say, Jason Peters. Look at him fuck two guys up on one play:

Nice. But anyone who tells you they watched the tape and expects that to be bestowed some kind of fancy credential for it is a person you should absolutely go out of your way to avoid. In fact, I would tell you that any man who watches every second of Cleveland Browns game knows LESS than the average fan, because a smart person would never subject themselves to that much terrible football. Just a few Browns games are enough to let you and me know that they don’t have their shit together.

Take it from me, someone who sat in tape meetings in college and high school and learned pretty much nothing. I remember we used to watch college film of LSU running back Kevin Faulk operating in a zone blocking scheme (similar, in theory, to the offense were supposed to run). Did I pick up important tips and tendencies from that film? Of course I did not, because I was a meathead. All I got out of the film was “Hey! That Faulk guy is gonna be a rushing superstar in the pros!” And I wasn’t even right about that! Faulk was an unremarkable runner in the NFL, but flourished catching passes out of the backfield. The guy who knew how to use him properly? That would be Bill Belichick. You can trust that guy with your game tape. You should not trust me, or some jackass who thinks the Browns are some secret paragon of cohesion.

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

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 Five Throwgasms 

Eagles at Panthers: I’m not the one putting his job on the line by kneeling for the anthem, nor is it fair for some schlub at home like me to tell players what to do, but man… What I would fucking give for every player to kneel this week. Or fuck it, just no-show the whole game. Stay home and mow a giant middle finger into your lawn. The world needs DEFIANCE, I tell you! And I will absolutely support that defiance, while sitting comfortably at home and eating Frito Twists. SUCK MY FAT ONE, GOODELL.

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Four Throwgasms

Packers at Vikings: It is now fall and I have discovered that fall is the optimum season for picking up dogshit. The way it works is that my dog will shit onto a bunch of leaves, and so all I have do it is pick up the poop AND the leaves to make a clean getaway. This is very useful if my dog has eaten too much cheese and laid down a coil of soft serve near the curb. Trying to get that shit out of grass only makes it worse. I end up grabbing clumps of poop-smeared sod. It’s awful. Shitting on leaves makes the whole process much easier.

Also, every time I clean up the dog’s shit, I evaluate it like I’m in a forensics lab. Nice and solid. Good color. This dog was clearly fed recently and not at the scene of that triple homicide.

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Three Throwgasms

Steelers at Chiefs: I am so, so ready for Big Ben’s downfall. This guy got a zillion redemption profiles after supposedly retiring from professional lechery and winning a second Super Bowl. Meanwhile, he’s just as big of a turd as he was when he started! Fuck him. I want that puke stain to retire immediately so that I can enjoy the ensuing raft of anonymous quotes from ex-teammates trashing him. The Steelers sucking is only an added benefit.

Lions at Saints: Sam Rosen of FOX asked his partner what an “RPO” was last week, making him the last football fan on earth to hear that term for the first time.

Patriots at Jets: Please note that the little bit of film study from Belichick linked in the opener shows him explaining how Josh McDaniels adjusted Chris Hogan’s route after overhearing two Texans defenders talk about how to cover it. That’s right: he was eavesdropping. SMH THE PATS FOUND A WAY TO SPY AND CHEAT YET AGAIN.

Rams at Jaguars: Calais Campbell leaves the Cardinals and they suck. He joins the Jags are they are shockingly decent. Coincidence? I think not. If I were running any team, I would stockpile my front seven with men built like trees. [hand out] FRONT OFFICE JOB NOW PLEEEEEZ

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Two Throwgasms

Bucs at Cardinals: I am warmed by the fact that Jameis makes the exact same fuckups in his third year that he did his rookie year. The Bucs won’t shut up about supposed his maturity and leadership, and yet they’ve spent apparently no time at all teaching Jameis to stop trying to hit the moon with a fucking pass. It’s a nice bit of ongoing karma.

Chargers at Raiders: The new monthlong cancer effort by the NFL makes it look like they support tests of the Emergency Broadcast System.

Bears at Ravens

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One Throwgasm

Giants at Broncos: God, this game is gonna be a bloodbath. I am now fully aboard the “Trade Eli to the Jags” bandwagon. Send him there for a 4th rounder and Bortles, and then get serious about tanking. There’s even a Lemon bar in Manhattan for Bortles. For him, it’d be like he never got traded at all. I used to go that bar when I was a 23-year-old douchebag. It’s PERFECT for him.

Colts at Titans: This is second Colts primetime game in three weeks and that alone means the NFL should be disbanded and sold for parts. I would rather spend the night in a hospital than watch this.

By the way, last week’s MNF game featured roughly 7,982 penalty flags. It is well past time for the Ginger Hammer to gather his referees in an undisclosed location, deny them pizza, and tell them the league has issued a secret edict granting them just EIGHT called penalties per game. If they go over that, they are fucking fired. I don’t care if this results in a 6-0 grabfest. I cannot take one more flag. You hear me, Goodell? The reason I’m paying so much attention to these anthem demonstrations is because it’s the only interesting thing to happen during a goddamn game.

Niners at Skins: As always, the Skins lead the league in terrible local sponsorship ads:

This one has Gheorge Muresan! Let’s freeze that for a moment:

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They let him double-fist calzones. That’s a solid effort.

Dolphins at Falcons: The real shock is that there isn’t a new Cocaine Coach video leaked every month. These coaches work 22 hours a day and sleep on top of filing cabinets. I don’t think you can credit such efforts to mere workaholism. They also have seven free minutes a week to squeeze in all the partying and fucking they can. That poor Dolphins bastard was snorting lines BEFORE his meeting because that was the only time he could do it. That is not a sustainable lifestyle.

Browns at Texans

Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Too Far Gone” by Annihilator! Reader Jim says this band is “Canada’s answer to Metallica,” which is either promising or incredibly damning. Here we go:

The song has this heavy ass groove that carries through the whole song and doesn’t stop. It’s like being strapped to the front of Jack Burton’s big rig from “Big Trouble in Little China” going 1,000 mph and the brakes have been cut. Also, the album’s cover art looks like something Hieronymus Bosch would paint while listening to heavy metal. SIIIIIIIIICK.

It’s true. I love me some good metal cover art. There should be a metal cover art museum. I would never leave.

Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week

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The Federalist has long been a repository for deliberately awful takes designed for you to hate-read, ala Bleacher Report circa 2009. But will that stop me from enjoying this completely unhinged post from one Aaron Gleason? Alas, I am too weak to resist:

Why Real Football Fans Don’t Play Fantasy

OH YEAH. Give it to me.

I hate fantasy football. I have never played it, and I never will.

But why is that?

Because it’s evil.

How evil? We talkin’ ISIS evil, or “mayo on an Italian sub” evil?

Watch the hilariously vile TV show “The League” if you don’t believe me.

“Watch a fictional, deliberately absurd comedy to prove my real and serious point.”

Fantasy football is everything that is wrong with the world.

Those fires in California? Started by fantasy football. True story.

As a philosopher…

WHOA WHOA WHOA HEY BACDAFUCUP. You can’t just throw that down without a proper explanation. “As someone who watched the tape of Socrates…”

…I understand that the case I am about to lay out is not the most logical, and I’m okay with that because playing a sport that requires you to wear protective armor that actually makes the game more injurious is not very logical. In other words, one can’t revert to logic to defend the illogical. You’ve got to go deeper. Like Nietzsche, you need to go beyond good and evil to a primordial pure place where the recliners are made of pig skin and the “Autumn Wind” never ceases, where every day is Sunday and the crockpot magically produces Rotel dip.

I am now high. I am absolutely feeling hallucinogenic effects from the above paragraph. Everything is kinda warm and fuzzy and weird. I’m elated, but also kinda scared?

Every time someone asks me if I want to join his or her league, I say no.

#BRAVE. “Sir, I stand before you today to DECLINE your invitation to Mickey’s Funtime League. It is evil. It is why there is war.”

Philosophical Conclusion No. 1: FF takes something beautiful and makes it about math, which is something horrible!


Math cannot quantify people and passion. Tony Romo is the fourth best passer in NFL history with a rating of 97.1. But that amazing number was the last thing I was thinking about the day he relinquished the quarterback position to Dak Prescott last year. I’m not ashamed to say that listening to his carefully chosen words brought tears to my eyes, because he was being so unselfish. Then at the end of the speech I began to sob uncontrollably, because I realized he wasn’t just stepping aside so Dak could take over. He was saying goodbye to me.

This man is insane. I really hope he’s actually just a Yahoo-style writing bot that The Federalist programmed to dish out phony takes. Phony takes now represent 80% of the web economy, after all. I can’t sleep at night knowing this is an actual person. I’m just gonna pretend someone at The Federalist read an Aaron Gleeman blog post and said, “Let’s make a guy like that, but stupid.”

Painful goodbyes are the most bittersweet thing in the world. A painful goodbye means that a good thing has ended. That means, no matter how briefly, you had a good thing. The more bitter a goodbye, the sweeter what came before.

“My wife left me.”

Loyalty is the lost virtue of America.

Dude, have you met Trump voters? Trump could shit in their salad and they’d still vote for him. Very loyal, stupid people.

The truth is, I don’t actually like football that much.


If we’re gonna be mathematical, I hate 97 percent of the NFL. I LOVE the Dallas Cowboys. Loyalty makes life better. It helps you understand who you are. It gives you an identity. Is it dangerous? Absolutely.

Could I conceivably fall SO in love with the Cowboys that I join them on a 20-state killing spree? I DARE NOT BE TEMPTED.

Philosophical Conclusion No.3: fantasy football makes you feel guilty and ashamed. Don’t lie. We all know it’s the truth.

Only when I lose, kiddo.

Look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re a man.

(checks balls) Still there!

Then tell yourself you’re a man who plays fantasy football. Doesn’t sound right or feel good, does it?

Dude, I’ve seen your avatar.

Well, I wouldn’t actually know, now, would I? But I see it in your faces and I can imagine the pain. And if you don’t feel ashamed, you should.

Go Cowboys!

I know we already all hate the Cowboys. But this really adds a whole new profile to that hatred. Who knew? Aaron Gleason should be thrown into a loony bin.

Rex Ryan’s Lock Of The Week: Cardinals +2.5

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“Men, if you ask me, I will only stand for a flag that has a SNAKE on it! The day we got rid of that snake was the day we turned to oatmeal! Our flag should have snakes, and knives, and those ninja star things that my grandkids keep stealing! WE ARE A NATION OF KNIFE-SNAKES AND WE WERE BORN TO KILL!!!!!

[hissing sound]

“Oh shit, that’s my butt. It sure knows its timing!”

Ryan 2017 record: 5-0

Fantasy Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death

Jay Ajayi. I know that Jay Cutler is the main reason Ajayi has had an awful season, but goddamn. ZERO touchdowns. 3.4 yards per carry. I expect this sort of thing from, say, a Shonn Greene-type. But you, Jay? I’m disappointed. I’m afraid we’re going to have remove at least one JAY from your full name. You are now Jay Ai.

Also, reader Jared is mad online at Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown:

Fuck Bell’s holdout. Fuck the steel industry for not turning that city into East Youngstown. Fuck all three of the rivers. Fuck Primanti’s and their stupid “Durr we put French fries on sandwiches” bullshit. Fuck Willie Stargell, small-headed Barry Bonds and Sid Bream. Fuck Sidney Crosby and all of his concussions. What a shitty fucking city. And I deserve all of the fantasy football fucking I got this weekend for trusting any of those three bastards. God damn.

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2017 chopping block:

Chuck Pagano*****

Hue Jackson

Marvin Lewis

Adam Gase

Anthony Lynn

Sean Payton

John Fox*

Ben McAdoo

Todd Bowles

Mike Mularkey

Jack Del Rio

(*-potential midseason firing)

I know that the Giants have already done the Giants thing and publicly said that they’re not gonna fire Ben McAdoo, and that they promise to be the same consistently dull team they’ve always been. But sometimes you have to recognize a disaster for what it is, and this Giants season is the kind of flaming shitwreck where it is perfectly acceptable to act rashly and fire everyone in the aftermath. McAdoo is a dolt. Shit man, Coughlin has already made Jacksonville respectable and they don’t even have a QB. The Giants can’t keep Yung Ray Handley around much longer.

I swear the Giants had the most oddly optimistic fans this preseason, too. A lot of letters we got for their preview were like, “We should be pretty good this year!” I cut those parts for obvious reasons. It’s not like their line or backs were any better, either. They were the same dumb team as they were last year. I was genuinely thrown.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Chris sends in this story I call WET COLD AMERICAN POOPER:

It was early winter 2007, and only a few months after becoming a new homeowner, I came home to find my furnace dead on the first below-zero evening of the season in my Wisconsin town. While I knew I needed to deal with this issue, Thursday night football was a newish thing and the Packers were playing that night. That’s a certifiable Wisconsin cultural event. So doing what any idiot 29-year-old single guy who’d just bought a house would do, I shrugged off my slowly freezing home and headed off to a viewing party at a friend’s place. I lived alone, so I was only punishing myself by ignoring the situation at home.

After an entertaining Packers-Cowboys game where young backup QB Aaron Rodgers saw his first ever meaningful playing time after a Favre injury (sadly, the Pack lost), I got home to find my thermostat at 54 degrees. I prayed that my pipes wouldn’t freeze before morning, and went to bed under a mountain of blankets that I figured would sustain me for the next few hours.

Around 1am, I awoke not feeling cold, but rather mysteriously warm. Not warm from the eight blankets on top of me retaining my body heat, but from a strange type of feverish warmth radiating outward. My stomach was also growling wildly, and when I decided to release some gas to relieve the pressure, I quickly found myself in my laundry room cleaning brown goo off of my boxer shorts and myself.

This was only the start, though. My body was feeling increasingly awful. Between the stomach cramps and constant gas pressure, I was in misery. More notably, I no longer trusted my body. After the first sharting incident, I was done gambling. Any hint of gas expulsion from my churning digestive system meant a trip to the bathroom. It was a chore, but my other option was to risk crapping my pants multiple times in one night, and there was no way I was letting that happen. I still had some pride.

It took only about 20 feet of walking to get from my bed to my bathroom. It doesn’t sound like much, but that 40 foot round trip feels truly daunting when you’re in shart avoidance mode and losing strength (and fluids) with every trip. With my overactive stomach, I made somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-15 trips to the bathroom over the course of the next three hours to release gas and/or watery shit, with a cleansing projectile vomit thrown in halfway through for good measure. I have no idea how I had any liquid left in me, but it just wouldn’t stop.

By 4am, I was in agony and had nothing left to give. On my final trip to the bathroom, I got halfway down the hall from my room and was too weak to go any further. I would have called an ambulance at that point if I’d had a phone with me. But with no phone, I instead shit myself for the second time that night and passed out on the cold floor. It was arguably my lowest moment as a human being.

I eventually awoke at 7:30am. I was furiously shivering, but was at that point unsure if my uncontrollable shaking was due to my mystery illness or the fact that the thermostat under which I had passed out now indicated that my home’s temperature had dropped further to a chilly 51 degrees. Eventually I gathered the strength to get up and clean the cold, dried shart remnants off of myself before heading to urgent care. Oh, and that phone I had wanted a few hours earlier to call for help? I saw it instantly when I got up. I’d been laying on top of it the whole time.

When I got to urgent care and met the doctor, she politely introduced herself, noted that she’d heard I was feeling sick, and asked “So, did you watch the Packers game last night?” I responded that I had seen the game and enjoyed it. She continued on with more small talk, next asking “Did you get together with friends to watch the game?” I noted that I had, and waited for her to get through the pleasantries and start asking specifics about my illness.

We never got deeper into symptoms, though. Her next question was “Did you have anything to eat during the game?” When I confirmed that I had eaten at my friend’s place during the game she smiled and responded “Yep, looks like you have food poisoning. You’re our first case today–we usually get 5-6 of these the day after a Packers game.” I spent the rest of the day under five blankets eating saltines and recovering while the furnace repair guy restored heat to my home.

So there you have it, Drew–solid anecdotal proof that Packers fans are monsters who don’t adhere to food safety rules.


Gametime Snack Of The Week

Hard boiled eggs! I got into an argument with our own Barry Petchesky over this tweet:

He says anyone who brings hard boiled eggs onto a plane is a complete asshole, but I say it’s actually fine. Martha is humblebragging her stupid livestock here, but hey man, prices at the Hudson News are outrageous. If you wanna shell some eggs and take them on the plane for some valuable protein, I won’t bitch. Don’t go bringing a full picnic onto your little tray though. Then I’ll cut you.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

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NEON! Oh sweet baby Jesus, here’s a Russian beer(?) that is clearly designed to kill you. From Danny:

This beer hails from Russia’s beer giant, Baltika. The catchy title does not prepare you for the fact that Neon Beer tastes like warm piss at any temperature. It cost an astounding 45 rubles (or ~75 cents) so you can’t deny what you’re getting into.

Indeed. God, look at that bottle. No mountains. No made up family crests. It looks like a Zima knockoff sold in the middle of a Strange Days remake. I’m terrified. I MUST KNOW ITS SECRETS.

Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!

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“People always put pennies on the railroad rails to flatten them but they don’t think about doing it with other things. I can tenderize a chicken breast on those rails, okay? Thinnest, best chicken breast you ever had. You lay it down, sprinkle it with some gravel dust, wait for the 1:23pm CSX auto rack train to roll by, and BOOM. Got yourself a perfect cutlet for grilling on top of a trash fire. You won’t find THAT on the menu at DiHoofio’s or whatever.”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans

The original Blade Runner, which has been running on cable ever since the new one came out. They keep airing the one with the voiceover though, and while I usually don’t go in for Director’s Cuts and extended editions and all that shit, you should listen to EVERYONE when they tell you that the narration in the Blade Runner theatrical cut is god awful. That version should be purged from history forever.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Dozens of people are gunned down each day in Springfield, but until now none of them was important.”

Enjoy the games, everyone.