Ten Sweeping Statements

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dave at dl004d The Blog. sent me this article from Wall Street Journal Article by Allen Barra. These are the kind of articles I'd love to write (alas only if I was smarter, and took the time to do research). #2 is especially damning for Buzzsaw fans out there (sorry Will......you'll always have the Pink Taco though). Let's get into these......

P.S.- I dare you to find photo more funny than this one to the left....seriously....try it.

Ten sweeping statements for which there is no statistical defense
August 26, 2006; Page P14

Compared to baseball, pro football analysis is still in the Stone Age. From the opening kickoff in the NFL's first game, Miami against Pittsburgh, on Thursday, Sept. 7, to the two-minute warning of the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, you'll hear announcers making sweeping proclamations for which there is no statistical basis. What's the truth about pro football's top 10 cherished myths?

1. "Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships."

As with most football clichés, there's no evidence for this one. The Indianapolis Colts led the league in points (430) and lost in the playoffs; but the Chicago Bears allowed the fewest (202), and they lost, too. The previous season, the Colts also led in scoring but then got lost in the playoffs; so did the Pittsburgh Steelers, who gave up the fewest points. NFL champions have almost always been great on both sides of the ball. As football historian T.J. Troupe puts it, the adage should be "Great defense beats great offense -- and vice versa."

I think we can safely say that a great defense or great offense can get you to the playoffs, but it can't get you over the top (see: Redskins, Seahawks, Colts, Bucs, etc.)

2. "You need a strong running game."

That's the one ex-coaches-turned-TV-color-men love the most. Do the numbers support it? Last year, the Atlanta Falcons led the NFL with 2,546 yards on the ground, 323 more than the Super Bowl champion Steelers. The Falcons finished 8-8.

History says if you can play defense and pass well, you can win with average running. In other words, if the Arizona Cardinals don't improve their passing and overall defense, the acquisition of Edgerrin James won't get them any closer to the playoffs.

Interesting......I guess that also means that the Colts should be just as good as they were last year (I am so sick of these Manning v. Manning ads).

3. "A turnover is a turnover."

But not all turnovers are created equal: Interceptions are usually much more important than fumbles. As Bud Goode, the father of football analysis, maintains, bad teams don't really fumble any more often than good teams, and, on the whole, the odds of recovering any fumble are about 50-50. (Teams that excel in either fewest fumbles lost or most fumbles recovered in one season generally revert to the norm the next.) Interceptions are always indicators of strength and weakness (good teams make them on defense and don't have them on offense). Plus, as Mr. Goode notes, "Interceptions have a far greater chance than fumbles of being returned for touchdowns."

See: Cincinnati Bengals- 28 Fumbles Recovered, 31 Ints.

4. "Great teams are built around the kicking game."

Last year, the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders tied for the NFL's best punting average, 45.7 yards a shot. Those two combined for nine wins and 23 losses.

The Cardinals led the NFL in both field goals (40) and attempts (43) but finished 5-11. In most NFL games, punting and kicking make a difference only if the teams are otherwise evenly matched. As Aaron Schatz, lead author of Pro Football Prospectus 2006, explains, "The strongest teams aren't the ones with clutch kickers, but the ones who don't need them."

Wow this guy hates the Buzzsaw. This makes sense though.

5. "The draft creates parity."

The NFL's draft of the top college players is touted as creating parity in the league, since the worst teams get to pick first. It does nothing of the sort. Pro football analyst Steve Silverman sees it this way: "[New England's] Bill Belichick has been selecting pearls in the draft even though the Patriots finish at or near the top every season, because he's smart enough to know his team's needs. Good teams are realistic and win because they make smart picks; bad teams stay bad because they don't recognize what they need and who can fill that need." A two-time Super Bowl MVP, quarterback Tom Brady was the 199th overall pick in 2000; wideout David Givens, who is now with the Tennessee Titans and has had a touchdown reception in seven straight playoff games, went 253rd in 2002.

See: New York Jets

6. "You have to control the ball."

A sacred belief of coaches is that controlling the ball, as reflected in time of possession, is a key to victory. But there's no strong correlation between ball control and winning. Yes, the 13-3 Denver Broncos led the league last season with 32:37, but 6-10 Dallas Cowboys were a close No. 2 at 32:58. The champion Steelers were ninth in TOP, 31:16, while the No. 10 Titans (31:13) were a dismal 4-12.

7. "Dome teams have the advantage."

Because some indoor teams, such as the Colts, have high-powered offenses, the myth has developed that domers have a "fast track" to the playoffs. Some domers do profit from playing under a roof. But as Kerry Byrne of the cutting-edge analytical Web site Cold Hard Football Facts notes: "In the history of the NFL, dome teams are 15-45 on the road in postseason play. And the best dome teams don't even do all that well at home in the playoffs -- like the Colts, who were heavily favored at home against the Steelers in the AFC divisional playoff last year and got stuffed."

Ouch....apparently he doesn't like the Colts either (that's okay...neither do I)

8. "The pass sets up the run."

You hear this one a lot. It's true that a team with a good passer will get a lot of rushing yards, but only because the passer will get more first downs, which in turn creates more rushing opportunities. Having a good quarterback doesn't mean you'll run the ball better, just more often. Last season the Steelers led the league in yards per pass, 8.2, and were just an average running team at 4.0.

9. "Pass completion percentage is a key stat."

No, not a key stat. In fact, not particularly important at all. No one, of course, wants to throw an incomplete pass. The point isn't how many passes you complete, but how far downfield the passes go. Put it this way: Would you rather complete three of three passes for nine yards or one of three passes for 10? Of the top five passers in the NFC last year in pass-completion percentage, only one, Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, played for a winning team (the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl). The other four played for teams that finished a combined 24-40.

Only mistake I found in this article. The top five who were actually starters in the regular season were Palmer (67.8%), P. Manning (67.3%), Bulger (66.9%, 8 games), Hasselbeckk (65.5%), and Brees (64.6%).......I'm pretty sure everyone but Bulger played on a winning team

10. "This is the age of the running quarterback."

We've been hearing this for the past few seasons, particularly when the Falcons, with their great running quarterback, Michael Vick, are on TV. But there is no proof that having a great runner at the quarterback spot guarantees a winning team. In 2005, the Falcons lead the league in both rushing yardage and yards per run and still finished just 8-8. They won't get any better until Mr. Vick improves his TD-passes-to-interceptions ratio (15-13 last year).

I don't really think you hear people say this. I thought it was that the "Running (Black QB) Never wins the Big Game". (Which ultimately I think is true...not because they are black, but because the Coach/Owner thinks they can carry an entire team by themselves. See: McNair, McNabb)

Overall that was a pretty good piece, and you are guaranteed to hear those phrases ad nauseum this year. Keep your ears peeled and use these stats to impress your friends.

Posted by Awful Announcing- at 6:54 PM


Good article, though I think a couple of these are sort of self fulling prophecy type deals.

For example: You don't have to control the ball; but it helps. If you're the Colts and your offense far exceeds your defense, then you'd better have better time of possession than your opponents. High time of possession also usually indicates offensive success, since if you have a high TOP, then you're likely moving the ball.

Second one is completion percentage. Look at the best QBs in the NFL, they all have completion percentages over 60 percent, usually higher. The best QBs can throw the ball accurately downfield and avoid turnovers. That's the biggest knock I have on Eli Manning. His completion percentage is awful. When you become so woefully inadequate on long passes (since most QBs can throw a five yard pass accurately), you're going to throw INTs.

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Aug 29, 2006, 8:21:00 PM  

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Peter Chen said...
Aug 29, 2006, 10:46:00 PM  

RE: #9 - He said top 5 quartbacks in the NFC, not the NFL.

smilerz said...
Aug 29, 2006, 10:55:00 PM  

"I think we can safely say that a great defense or great offense can get you to the playoffs, but it can't get you over the top (see: Redskins, Seahawks, Colts, Bucs, etc.)"

Yeah, cause it didnt help the 2000 Ravens or the 2002 Bucs much.

Leopold Stotch said...
Aug 30, 2006, 1:12:00 AM  

Hmmm Leopold (if that's your real name) I remember those "defensive teams" you're referring to....their teams scored 48 (TB) and 34 (Bmore)....while the defensive accounted for some of that it wasn't nearly as much as it seemed.

Thanks for reading though....and that 2002 Bucs team gave up 21 points to the Raiders...yep the Raiders.

AwfulAnnouncing said...
Aug 30, 2006, 1:24:00 AM  

The 2000 Ravens may have scored 34 points in the Super Bowl.. but for the most part their offense was very mediocre.

And a mediocre offense in that Super Bowl would have been enough, considering the Giants scored only 7 points (which came on a kick return).

Also the Raiders scored most of their points in SB XXXVII when they were way behind (including a touchdown on a blocked punt), and the Bucs scored 2 defensive touchdowns of their own in that game.

Aug 30, 2006, 1:59:00 AM  

Point(s) taken, but theres's only three teams in the last 20 years....'85 Bears. I tend to agree with the article.

AwfulAnnouncing said...
Aug 30, 2006, 11:01:00 AM  

My only problem with this article is that using one season's worth of results to draw sweeping conclusions about the way the league works is pretty dumb. Some of those cliches are, in fact, flat wrong (passing offense is a better indicator of success than rushing offense, interceptions are more important than fumble recoveries). But other "cliches" actually have a lot of truth to them. Football Outsiders considers punting/kicking the most underrated part of a team's success, and completion percentage is actually an important stat, but not just by itself. You also need to look at net yards per attempt, because as the example points out, a QB can make up for a somewhat lower completion percentage with a larger average gain when he does complete a pass. Of course, the more times you throw the ball and your receiver doesn't catch it, the more likely you are to turn the ball over (on average).

Zachary Geballe said...
Aug 30, 2006, 1:05:00 PM  

The reality is, there is no sure way to win the superbowl, or else every team would use that sure way. Teams that do win the superbowl tend to focus on their strengths, whatever they may be, and get a little lucky. If you have good defensive players, maybe you should become a defensive team. If you have a calm and collected quarterback, for God's sake, use him. But don't try and pigeon-hole yourself with something that doesn't fit your personel because "that's how you win a super-bowl." So, be prepared for a lot of teams blitzing this year who are incapable of blitzing effectively because, hell, the Steelers did it, and they won the super bowl.

Tom said...
Aug 30, 2006, 2:41:00 PM  

I hate completion percentage as a stat...not to mention QB rating. They should factor in rushing yards from the QB. Not to mention win percentage. Old, white announcers can tell me over and over again that Donovan wasn't a good QB because he didn't throw for 60% pre-T.O., but they won a shitload of games--even if they never got to the championship. And the championship is kind of luck, any way. I don't think anyone felt that the Steelers were the best team in the league last year. Any team can have a soft schedule then get hot at the right time and win a title...as long as they don't have Peyton Manning running the offense and trying to pass with two hands around his neck. I'd love to see my team (Falcons) win it all, but I'd be happy if they just put a conistent winner on the field that made me think they could win it all...

Spulture said...
Aug 30, 2006, 9:31:00 PM  

C-Bell, you're right in saying any team with a weak schedule can win the Super Bowl. The truth is you could stick the Houston Texans in the game and they might win it. In one game anything is possible. Yes even for Peyton Manning.

I people tend to get shortsighted with their analysis of running QBs. McNabb isn't accurate, but he also (outside of the T.O. year) has had nothing to work with on offense. Todd Pinkston won't win you championships. The Eagles are passing heavy team that has one weapon; their QB.

On the other hand Vick has been horrible. Part of that is coaching, Mora's put him in a system which doesn't work for a guy like him. West Coast offenses are for weaker armed accuracy first QBs. Vick would thrive in a down the field passing attack because it would allow him to use his arm, and spread the field so he could use his legs.

On the other hand, one gets the sense Vick doesn't necessarily care with adapting his game. That's a problem because there's no guarentee Vick's style will win in the NFL where all the guys are great athletes. John Abraham ran him down on a dead sprint last year. Don't think that ever happened to Vick in college.

Ben Valentine said...
Aug 31, 2006, 1:07:00 AM  

"Hmmm Leopold (if that's your real name) I remember those "defensive teams" you're referring to....their teams scored 48 (TB) and 34 (Bmore)....while the defensive accounted for some of that it wasn't nearly as much as it seemed.

Thanks for reading though....and that 2002 Bucs team gave up 21 points to the Raiders...yep the Raiders."

As was posted earlier, one TD was on a blocked punt, and Porter's was out of bounds. Without the Buc defense playing lights out, they dont outshoot the Raiders. I know, I was there.

I enjoy the hell out of this page, though.


Ball-chin Boy

Leopold Stotch said...
Aug 31, 2006, 12:40:00 PM  

Fair enough. I didn't write the thing so I don't know why I'm defending it anyways. Good comments everyone.

AwfulAnnouncing said...
Aug 31, 2006, 12:45:00 PM  

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