Series Introduction: 2012 Redzone Performance

Summer for NFL analysts is a conflicting time. 

While the lack of NFL news and activity is frustrating, the extra time allows for us to put the time and effort into digging deeper into numbers and film. Some of my favorite pieces have come during the offseason, such as the Colts' draft review and last year's examination of clutch quarterbacks.

I'll be doing a lot of different film and stat reviews throughout the offseason, and I welcome you to send me suggestions, either in the comments or on Twitter

I'll be comparing quarterbacks in several different areas throughout the summer, including updating the third down numbers I looked at during the season

But first, I'm going to look at something I could find little comparative statistical work on in my brief Google search: red zone performance. I won't limit this work to quarterbacks though, instead will take a look at both teams and individual performances at different positions. 

So to start things off, I put together a quick chart of team performance in the red zone, sorted by touchdown percentage (Percent of trips to the red zone that ended in a touchdown). 

Note: The "Scoring %" column takes into account missed field goals, counting them as scoring plays ("Total Scoring plays inc. FGAs). I figure if the offense gets the team in position for a field goal, but the attempt is blocked or missed, that's a fault of the special teams unit, not the offense, which is what we're trying to measure. 

A few notes from the chart: 

  • The Colts' below-average performance in the redzone (18th overall) was exactly the reason why the team was able to pick up a ton of yards (4th in yards per drive), but were below average in points per drive (18th, ironically). The Colts were able to move the ball pretty well throughout the season, but the offense stalled quite often in the redzone. As I stated yesterday, I'd expect steep improvements with the new offensive scheme.
  • Of the teams with first or second year quarterbacks, six finished ahead of Indianapolis (Redskins, Panthers, Seahawks, Bengals, Dolphins, and Minnesota), while just four had worse rates (Browns, 49ers, Jaguars, Titans). 
  • The 49ers' rate was surprisingly low, considering their success and Colin Kaepernick's hype. But it turns out that San Francisco was noticeably better in the red zone with Alex Smith as the starter (69%) than with Kaepernick (50%). But, once the playoffs started, the 49ers seemed to figure it out, scoring touchdowns in the red zone 64% of the time. It would be their undoing in the Super Bowl though, as they were forced to settle for field goals on three out of their five trips. 
  • The Giants were also surprisingly low, considering the fact that they were 7th in DVOA this season. Somebody who follows the Giants more closely than me will have to tell you why. 
  • The red zone chart is fairly consistent with offensive efficiency and DVOA as a whole, however, with 8 of the top ten teams in TD % also landing in the top ten of DVOA, and all ten staying in the top 15. Efficient teams score touchdowns in the redzone. It's a pretty simple concept, I suppose. 
  • Also, great quarterbacks score touchdowns in the red zone. We'll get more in-depth in this next week, but look at the teams that lead the pack: Rodgers, Brady, Brees. The field shortens and windows get smaller in the red zone, and quarterbacks have to be smart with the ball. 

Well, that concludes the short introduction to the series. I'm looking forward to seeing some individual players' numbers next week. 

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.