Kangaroo Court: The real story of 'Kitties' in NFL


Kangaroo Court: The real story of 'Kitties' in NFL

A long held sacred tradition in NFL locker rooms was formed to hold guys accountable for their actions, not for any pay for performance as some would suggest concerning Bounty Gate. Better yet, some have reported the IRS should get involved for supplemental income earned, which almost seems comical from my perspective. But when figures such as 50,000 dollars are being reported as potential Kitty sizes in the New Orleans Saints pay for performance scandal, I can see where it could potentially raise some eyebrows. The IRS may want to open branches at every golf course and office space in America that has a final four pool also.

The truth of the matter is, when a player was late for a meeting, he has to pay the kitty. When a player falls asleep in a meeting, pay the pot. When you dont know your assignment at practice, pay up! Now you get the idea. Ive been on some teams where Kangaroo Court fines continued throughout the year where position groups or entire offenses, or defenses go out for dinner paid through self imposed fines by players. Its no different than an office Christmas Party. For tax purposes, that would be listed as a business tax deduction on your return. The fines were not crazy. Five bucks for breaking wind in a meeting where you made your teammates suffer because you were too lazy and disrespectful to get up and leave the room. Some veterans may want to clean up the foul language for the week. You got fined a dollar every time you cussed. That particular fine was not a favorite, but paid the kitty well.

Kangaroo Court was formed to build team accountability and camaraderie. It was not in any way shape or form an incentive program to pay players to purposefully injure another player. Some teams would utilize their self imposed fines during the week by position. For example, the defensive backs would decide the fines accumulated during the week (kitty) would go to the defensive back who made a key interception, or forced fumble. Defensive lineman may decide their kitty goes to the player who registered two sacks. The wide receivers' kitty may go to whoever got the first touchdown or key block springing the running back for a big run. You get the idea. These were by no means astronomical figures as again the 50,000 figure reported in the New Orleans scandal. The figures were more in the 50 to 100 range as most players like former Bear and Washington Redskin player Adam Archuleta has publicly stated. Imagine this concept, some pots are split. What if two receivers make a big block or two defensive backs force fumbles? Its exactly why they are split, which equals less money per player. Ironically, the player cares less about the money and more about making big plays to help his team win.

It was money already taxed and earned by players and players only. Most times players throw kitties awarded back into the pot letting it grow. No player ever wanted to be awarded a kitty after a loss. As a matter of fact, the Court would have never even offered up the kitty after a loss. It was an unspoken rule. So, this is where you get kitties rolling over as has been reported. The importance was always on making big plays to help your team win, not on what you earned from any Court payout! Because again, Kangaroo Court was primarily used for the team dinner traditionally staged separate as an offensive unit or defensive unit. Now that I think about it, 50,000 sounds about right to pay for a quality team dinner. 53 guys, eight practice squad, guys on injured reserve, trainers, equipment room guys, weight room staff. Yep, that sounds about right! Someone should inform the player agents or their CPAs because, thats a business expense on money earned by players and already taxed! Hope they are respectful and leave a good tip, or the court may have to fine them for that!

Why what 'Run DMC' does catching passes in training camp will be a big clue for how good the Bears' offense will be

Why what 'Run DMC' does catching passes in training camp will be a big clue for how good the Bears' offense will be

How much better Mitch Trubisky will be is the defining question for the 2019 Bears. But we won’t begin to know the answer to that question until September — it’s not something that’ll be easily discernible during training camp practices in Bourbonnais or a handful of snaps in preseason games. Those can sometimes produce false positives and false negatives.

The Bears believe in Trubiskiy, of course, and you’ll likely hear Matt Nagy and players laud their quarterback’s growth over the coming weeks. But belief is one thing; tangible production is another. And we won’t truly get to see that growth until the night of Sept. 5 at Soldier Field. 

But there are a few things to look for in Bourbonnais that could clue us in that a big-time leap is coming for No. 10. We’ll begin this mini-series leading up to the start of training camp next week with this: Better success from running backs catching passes on first down. 

It’s a narrowly specific angle, but one that carries plenty of weight. Consider this excerpt from Warren Sharp’s 2019 Football Preview:

“First down has long been perceived as a running down. In 2017, the league-wide average run-pass split on first down was 47-53. It was 50-50 last season, but that was still well below the 59-41 league-wide split on all downs. Yet passing to running backs on first down is significantly more effective.

“In 2018, there were 6,248 running back rushing attempts on first down. They averaged 4.5 yards per carry, minus-0.01 Expected Points Added per attempt, and a positive play rate of 41.3%. When teams threw to running backs on first down, they averaged 6.02 yards per target, 7.8 yards per receptions. 0.08 EPA per attempt — slightly more efficient than the average of all passes regardless of down at 0.05 EPA — and a positive play rate of 52.3%.”

The larger point here (especially if your eyes glazed over some of those numbers — which, we promise, make sense) is this: Scheming more throws to running backs on first down is an area in which almost every team in the NFL can improve. It's worth noting the Kansas City Chiefs' most effective play on first-and-long in 2018, per Sharp, was a pass to Kareem Hunt. 

And the good news is the Bears re-worked their running back room in a way that could optimize their success throwing the ball to David Montgomery, Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen on first down. 

The 2018 Bears simply didn’t have the personnel to do that regularly or successfully.

Jordan Howard was only targeted nine times on first-and-10, catching five passes for 42 yards. All nine of those targets were short throws, either to the left (two), middle (one) or right (six), and Trubisky had a passer rating of 83 on those attempts. Meanwhile, Howard carried the ball 128 times on first-and-10, averaging 3.7 yards per carry and only generating nine first downs (the NFL average for rushing attempts on first-and-10 in 2018 was 4.7 yards per carry). 

Cohen was, roughly, the inverse of Howard’s numbers: He caught 30 of 37 targets for 241 yards (6.5 yards per target) and generated seven first downs through the air, but averaged just 3.2 yards on his 46 rushing attempts with four first downs. Neither player was particularly balanced in these scenarios: Howard was mildly ineffective running the ball and not a threat catching it; Cohen was largely ineffective running the ball but was a threat catching it. 

And for the crowd who still believes Nagy wasn’t willing to establish the run: The combined rushing attempts on first-and-10 of Howard, Cohen, Benny Cunningham and Taquan Mizzell totaled 182; the combined pass attempts by Trubisky and Chase Daniel in that down-and-distance was 176, per Pro Football Reference’s play index. 

The Bears, in 2018, averaged 5.5 yards per play on first-and-10, tied for 24th in the NFL. Yet only three teams — the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts — averaged fewer yards-to-go on third down than the Bears’ mark of 6.9. That’s a sign of Nagy’s playcalling prowess and the talent on this offense, and it’s not a stretch to argue an improvement of first-and-10 success will have a significant impact on the overall success of the Bears’ offense. 

So back to the initial point about passes to running backs in these situations: The Bears believe both Montgomery and Davis have some untapped potential as pass-catching running backs. Montgomery caught 71 passes in college at Iowa State, while Davis was targeted the most by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 on first down (17 of 42 targets). Cohen, of course, is already an accomplished pass-catcher. 

The “Run DMC” backfield needs to have more success carrying the ball on first-and-10 than last year’s group did, of course. But if you’re in Bourbonnais or watching a preseason game, keep an eye out for how effective the Bears are at passing to their running backs — especially if those passes travel beyond the line of scrimmage (another inefficiency noted by Warren Sharp's 2019 Football Preview). 

If you start seeing Montgomery making defenders miss after catching a pass, or Davis looking fluid with the ball in his hands, or Cohen breaking off some explosive gains — those will be significant reasons to believe in Trubisky and the Bears' offense in 2019. 

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Under Center Podcast: State of the Bears: Defense


Under Center Podcast: State of the Bears: Defense

JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and Paul Aspan are back with their training camp preview of the Bears' defense, looking at if it's fair to expect this group to take a step back without Vic Fangio (2:00) or if it's possible to repeat as the league's No. 1 defense (10:00). Plus, the guys look at which players the Bears need to improve to remain one of the NFL's best defenses (15:15), debate if Leonard Floyd can be better (20:00) and look at the future of the defense as a salary cap crunch looms after 2019 (25:00). 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: