Isn’t that Special?

Yesterday’s post generated some interesting discussion in the comments section.  In it, I asserted that the replacement of Meeks and Purnell was not glaringly necessary, because whatever problems the defense and special teams had were due largely to injuries.  Moreover, I went on to say that Special Teams play in general was “overrated” and “special teams just don’t matter…as long as you have a reliable FG kicker”.  I then quoted some stats.  This showed that according to the Football Outsiders methods of measuring special teams play (hereafter referred to as ST), that the 6 best teams didn’t make the playoffs, and 5 of the 10 worst did, including both Super Bowl teams. 

A beloved reader responded with a nasty insult (he called me Bob Kravitz Jr.) for not backing up my claim that ST play was over rated.  It’s an issue that I remembered reading about a long time ago, and it brought my attention to an excellent article that bears rereading.  What Makes Teams Win was written about two years ago, but is a primer for all fans who want deeper insight beyond what the talking heads give you.

In it (actually on the second page), ST play is discounted as having a strong influence on winning and losing games.  That’s not to say it doesn’t matter at all.  It does mean that in a system with limited resources, it would be unwise to devote too much time and money to the ST.  In addition, the gap between the best and the worst team in ST play really isn’t very great (as shown by DVOA) relative to the huge gaps between good and bad defense and good and bad offense.

Now, those conclusions were later revised, and the author in two separate posts changed his mind.  First, he concluded that ST play as a whole accounted for a maximum of (maybe less) 20% of ‘what makes a team win’, but most of that comes down to one thing…having a good kicker.  Kickoff coverage and field goals/XP account for more than half of the total value of special teams play.  Kick off coverage, while dependent on the other 10 players in part, is one thing that a kicker can often control by himself through touch backs.

In looking at the 2008 Colts, they scored above average in the following ST categories:
Kick off coverage
Punt Coverage

Surprised?  The Colts were actually below average in FG/XP (AV shanked some kicks like in Minnesota), and they were really bad in kickoff and punt returns.  That was a function of  TJ Rushing getting hurt before the season.

So next year, remember that special teams play is a relatively small part of the puzzle, and while a big play at the right time can swing an individual game, over the long haul, those tend to even out.  In any given game, a Hester or a Scifres can make a play and win that game, but those things are nearly impossible to predict, and even more difficult to plan against or stop. 

The Colts don’t have great special teams play and haven’t for some time. The good news is that as long as AV hits big field goals, they don’t have to.  It just doesn’t matter that much.

Links:
Oehser looks at the best of the Colts blogs.  Thanks for the kind words.

Caldwell and Diem have interesting things to say about the run game

Kuharsky looks at AG as 88′s replacement

Schein might just have failed the test.  He says the Texans are going to the playoffs.  They might; I think they are the 2nd best team in the South, but his reasoning is curious:

Indy lost three outstanding coaches.

Really?  Is he counting Meeks and Purnell?  Moore and Mudd are coming back, Adam.  Do a small modicum of research before saying stuff, dude.

There’s lots of anti-Addai stuff floating around in comment boards here and there.  Let me drop a couple of stats:  In games in which Addai and Rhodes had at least 5 carries each,  Joe averaged 3.9 YPC to Dom’s 3.6 YPC.  Addai’s two worst games (Minn and NE) dropped his YPC for the year significantly.  In one, three members of the line missed time (including Saturday and Clark), and in the other Addai was returning from injury and was visibly not ok.  In his other 10 games, his YPC was 4.0.

Thank God.   The Reds were staring at the abyss. Maybe this will keep them afloat.

Rick Reilly is a moron.  This coach was brilliant and won a game for her girls.  Get a grip.  That’s what good managers do. I guess the rules shouldn’t matter because they are girls and were excited.  That’s total crap.


 

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