What Matters in Football

I wanted to include a front page link to two really good advanced articles dealing with some next level analytics. 

First, Drive-By Football (with a hat tip to FO) discusses how much various aspects of the game influence the outcome.  This particular measurement indicates offense is even more important than others have said.  

Offense = 50.68%
Defense = 33.00%
Special Teams = 16.32%

So, what does this mean? In terms of regular season wins (no playoff data was included), offense contributes the most toward winning, then defense, then special teams. Even though offense and defense are substantially more important than special teams, we cannot just neglect special teams as it still makes up over 16% of a team’s wins.

Remember, that when considering Special Teams play, much of that percentage is wrapped up in two people: the kicker and the punter.  This is part of the reason why calls for Indy to draft a return specialist are so misguided.  Over the long haul, special teams aren’t as important as other phases of the game.  In a sport with limited resources (roster spots and cap room), it’s important to direct as many resources towards the areas of the game that most impact the outcome.  Special teams are important, but not nearly as important as offense or defense.

This second article looks at ways of understanding the balance between run and pass.

Advanced statistical analysis has shown us that teams needs to pass more, particularly on first down, but our statistics have been limited by the black-and-white dichotomy we have placed on the run/pass relationship.  We (that ‘we’ includes myself) lump playaction passes and screens in together with downfield throws from five-wide formations, but these plays have very little in common outside of the quarterback throwing the football.

Running and passing can no longer be viewed as opposites.  Instead of viewing a particular play as a run or a pass, we should view it in a more pluralistic manner.  A playaction pass, for example, is “less of a pure pass” than one from five-wide, and a draw is “less of a pure run” than a straight dive play.

These kinds of discussions are the next level stuff that could alter our understanding of football in the comming years.  I wanted to include links to them on the front page, because artciles like these will shape the course of discussion around here, and it’s helpful to have everyone on the same page.  18to88 is an open community and anyone can join in, but it works best when we speak the same language.  This concept of pluralization in understanding play calls could produce interesting results in the future.

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