Pete Carroll ain't joking around
My man Joe Namath invented the "joker" TE. Seriously.


At Football Outsiders, their piece on "The Rise Of the Tight End" is informative and entertaining.  You might say it's In Fo Taining!  Dr. D's coefficient of confidence, as it pertains to your reading pleas-uh, is 0.94.  Have a look.

For anybody wanting to drink it through a straw, we'll run their article through the juicer for you.  Okay, the main light bulbs are ... hold it.  Can you have "light bulbs" as it pertains to a sport so much less intellectual than baseball?  Well, license plates have light bulbs.  Okay.  Take out your #2 pencil and a clean piece of paper.  Tight ends are on the rise in the NFL because:

  1. All the best people wear them (NE Gronkowski and Hernandez, NO Graham, GB Finley, DET Pettigrew, etc)
  2. Talented fullbacks are currently less plentiful than talented TE's
  3. Symmetrical offensive formations (like, two TE's) make LB's guess more
  4. For some reason, nobody weighing 250 lbs. has Terrell Owens' bling or ego
  5. If you cover six TE's with CB's, they run.  If you cover six TE's with LB's, they pass.
  6. We want the best athlete available, to leave it all out on the field, and other shtick like that
  7. When fast TE's split out into the slot, presto, you have a sneaky flag football formation (see top photo)
  8. Tattoo ink is really cheap this fall
  9. None of the above
  10. All of the above

The Seahawks, according to Outsiders, were one of 11 teams already featuring two TE's as a base package -- and that was before they swapped out Kellen Winslow for a "joker" tight end.  I don't know what a joker is, if it's not referring to saberdweebs who fancy that Eric Wedge is a nitwit, but I like the sound of it.  

Even the Brainiac v8.5's at Field Gulls seemed a bit puzzled by Carroll's intentions here, but Dr. D is love love lovin' it.  His Strat-O-Matic Joe Namath filled the skies with 1st-and-ten bombs to the NFL's first "joker," Rich Caster.  Unstoppable, I tell you, unstoppable.


Zach Miller's been an All-Pro; Anthony McCoy has looked like a real find; Evan Moore is a purported "Joker" specialist in the NFL

.Evan Moore is 6'7"; McCoy and Miller are 6'5".  If Russell Wilson can't see over the line to find shrubs, can he see over it to find trees?  I'm liking the synergy here.  After Wilson does that nimble little two-step into space, the skyscraper-tall "glorified receivers" will, um, make life easier for him.

Also, I didn't like the Seahawks' wide receivers.  Not the corps overall, not relative to the other groups on the squad.  Okay, you don't like your linemen but you do like your linebackers?  Do a 3-4 defense.  You don't like your WR's?  Why fight city hall?  Use a Patriots "joker" scheme.  Marshawn Lynch doesn't want fullbacks in front of him anyway.  They could interfere with his opportunities to shove safeties into the cheaps.


Dr D



A. If you line up with a fullback like Daryl Johnston, essentially his purpose is to take on any linebackr and remove them from the play, either in blitzing situations for the defense or most running plays for the offense.
B. When you "flex" you TE, you've done that automatically. Somebody moves from the midle of the field toward the perimeter to cover (man-to-man) or "cover" (zone) the now-wide TE. You don't need a Moose to remove them, they remove themselves.
C. A Brady or a Manning or a Rodgers or a Namath will exploit the snot out of this situation. Backers too wide? Audible to a run, lineman all reach block and the RB cuts back against the flow. Slow backer on Hernandez? Light that guy up! Blitz coming? Boom Quick read, quick release guys (Namath!) light that situation up!
Simple simon stuff today. But not routine, historically.
What kind of numbers would a Unitas or a Starr put up in this kind of offense? Yikes!
Doc, Rich Caster was one of those way-ahead-of-the-curve TE's. He was something. He was the first TE I can remember who could really run past you, right down the middle of the field. He was a 20 yd/catch guy, when that was usually reserved for the Bob Hayes types.
And here's two other names for you, Doc: TE's from that 70's generation that were flex or joker type pass catchers. These are guys ahead of the TE curve, well before the original Kellen Winslow: Bob Tucker with the Giants and Dave Casper with the Raiders. They weren't the bomb threats that Caster was, but they were weapons in their own right. They were in the Gronkowski mold (or he in theirs).
Digging up the way back machine:

Nathan H.'s picture

The confusion stems from the fact that they cut Kellen Winslow Jr., a demonstrobly effective joker TE (although expensive), for a less effective (and cheaper) Moore. Hawks have cap room, why not use it for a better player?

Brent's picture

Caster would have been a wideout these days. He was 6'5" but weighed 225-230. That's Randy Moss size. If you really want the first tight end that caught a lot of passes, you have to go back to Mike Ditka. He had over a thousand yards receiving in 1961. Twelve game season. Ditka was 6'3" and 225-230; he'd be a wideout these days too. Even Joker tight ends are 250 pounds, and the "regular" ones are 260-270. That's the size of a guard or tackle in 1961. Players are all bigger, faster, stronger. Plus the rules are so different now. If you watch film of the NFL from the sixties watch how the DB's tackle. They'd be throwing a flag every play with todays' rules.


I thought Winslow was a 2-way tight end in their mind, though, and the quotes we saw out of their camp were along the lines of "Miller and Winslow lead the blocking while also being an option for the quarterbacks."
Wonder to what extent his wobbly knee played into the switch to Evans?


Ya, Dave Casper was definitely another one of the early prototypes.  I was a Miami fan when he rolled that fumble up to the end zone...


in that era :- )
Didn't know that Ditka racked up 1000 yards.  In 12 games.  Wow.  I'll bet he could block, too.
Ya, we all know sports evolve, but the NFL may be the easiest of all team sports to perceive that.  Personally I love the specialization.  I think it's more of a chess match, with such micro-targeted weapons all over the field.
My perception was that Bill Walsh was one of the pioneers for pass-rushing specialist DE's who played only on passing downs ... the Raiders seemed unique when they played Matt Millen as a "thumper" MLB on running downs...
Those coaches who were willing to go cutting-edge on down specialist players had a real advantage.  I wonder what the analogy would be today?  Who would be a "specialist" player that only a few teams are using? ... Pittsburgh was using a 2-QB system on some downs a few years ago...

Brent's picture

I'd forgotten that Millen came out on passing downs. I wonder if all those collisions Millen had are why he was so brain-damaged as a GM? Remember "The Stork", Ted Hendricks? He sure wasn't a typically-sized linebacker in his day.
Everyone knew the Packers were going to pull the guard and run the sweep. Didn't matter, they ran it anyway, and right down your throat. Lombardi's premise was that he didn't attack your weakness, he attacked your strength, and once he'd beaten your strength you were done for. Now offenses have so much more variation. The reason you can have a timing-based offense like the West Coast is because the receivers can get off the line and not be manhandled all the way down the field.


i read that even during pre-season he hasn't been able to practice much, so they were looking at a game day only guy. Tough to put much $$$ on the line for a player like that. It's not like he's going to get healthier as the season progresses. Someone will pick him up but nobody is going to pay full price.

Nathan H.'s picture

Knee and age must have been variables no. 2 & 3 in the Prime Computation. Must matter in this specific case more than I had realized. Remember, when they traded for him they knew about the balky knee and consequent limited practice. Also note; he hasn't missed a start in years despite it. The question is; if they knew what they were getting and got the goods as advertised, what changed between then and now? Answer: Evan Moore. Only conclusion I have here is that they're super psyched to get Moore. Psychrd enough to sow confusion and possible grumbling from the locker room.
RE: TE type, visit Hawkblogger's TE breakdown. Definately info-taining. In short, Kellen and Miller play different positions with different expectations.


But would add an asterisk to their 2-category grouping ... Zach Miller caught 60 balls a year for 750 yards a year, the three years before coming to Seattle.  The fact that he did a great job blocking, and the way that Carroll used him last year with Tarvaris Jackson behind center, doesn't make Zach Miller an incidental receiver or a classic blocking tight end.
John Carlson, who is statistically a terrible blocker, got $5M per year as a "Joker" TE receiver ... and Carlson has never had a Miller-level season receivingwise.  Can't discount Miller's receiving because he blocks well.

Nathan H.'s picture

You can if your name is "2011 Seahawks"
But, seriously, good point.

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