Posted by | Madison | in He Said She Said

At Alikat’s on Sunday watching the day’s games on her brand spanking new flat screen HDTV, one of her guests and I got into a somewhat rambunctuous argument about the importance of dropped passes and punting.

It all began innocently as he tried to convince me that my Giants had a chance against the Cowboys because Terry Glenn, the true heart and soul of their offense was out, and since Terrell Owens is not a great receiver because he drops passes (he led the league in drops last year with 17), the Giants were a shoe-in.

I presented the possibility that dropped passes aren’t all that important, which apparently was an idea he could not tolerate. He also couldn’t tolerate the possibility that in most circumstances, punting is stupid.

The argument got so heated that Alikat had to separate us.

I normally wouldn’t perseverate on friendly football disagreements but this interaction was emblematic of the rigid thinking that a lot of men whom we know possess and that new ideas (especially those that come from the fairer sex) are threatening and thus must be shouted down.

So it got me thinking of a new feature on this blog called “He said/She said,” which will challenge accepted, conventional wisdom about football, usually propogated by men taht we disagree and find fault with.

This week, like Monday Night Football, you get a double header.

DROPPED PASSES

He says, “Dropped passes are unacceptable! T.O. sucks!”

She says, “Yeah, well, they’re bad but who unless they count, who cares? T.O. doesn’t suck.”

The only way you can properly assess the importance of a dropped pass is whether or not it would have caused a positive change in the game for the offensive team.

T.O.’s 17 dropped passes in 16 games doesn’t tell us a whole hell of a lot because it’s a stat without context. They could have been dropped on a dinky screen or a 5-yarder with a linebacker breathing down his neck ready to kill him.

Were they dropped on 3rd down or in the end zone? Those are unacceptable drops because they would have given the offense another set of downs or added six points to the scoreboard.

Thanks to Football Outsiders’ Game Charting Project, where an army of volunteers chart every single snap in the NFL (which by the way, is the only way to get any sort of understanding in the wildly chaotic football system), we’re able to turn to the stats which give us a more complete picture of T.O.’s 17 drops:

T.O. had 4 drops on 3rd or 4th down. This put him in 4th place on the list behind folks like Alge Crumpler, Randy Moss (who both had 5), Troy Williamson (natch, with 7) and the leader, Torry Holt with 8 (of his 10 total drops).

Among wide receivers, T.O. was also 1st in TDs, 4th in YAC, and 3rd in receiving first downs.

Sure, dropped passes are bad but they are not the be all/end all stat when judging the quality of a wide receiver. If that were true, then based on last year’s stats, Arnaz Battle, who dropped zero passes, would be the best wide receiver in the NFL.

punt_block_perfect_small1.jpgPUNTING

She says, “Punting is stupid.”

He says, “That’s just crazy. You’re an idiot.”

It breaks down like this: since offensive plays in the NFL average about 4 yards, if you go for it on 4th down and you have 4 or less yards to go, you’ll make it - on average.

And since 1/3 of offensive possessions result in a score, if you don’t make it, you have a mathematical advantage in stopping the opposing team from scoring.

This has been studied by minds far smarter than mine so I’m going to let famed football nerd Gregg Easterbrook do the heavy lifting.  He laid out the statistical probabilites in his column last year (where he also wrote that Don Schula said, regarding an untried innovation that would revolutionize the game, “Someday there will be a coach who doesn’t punt”) and this off season had his theories tested by the folks at Accuscore.

Bottom line: avoiding punts added an average of one point to a team’s per-game scoring, without adding any points to its opponents’ average scoring. Teams avoiding punting became 5 percent more likely to win — statistically significant owing to the thousands of tries. Doesn’t sound like much? One more point scored per game represents the difference between the Bengals and the Patriots of the 2006 season. Last season, one additional victory would have put the Packers, Panthers or Rams into the playoffs. A 5 percent improvement in victory likelihood translates into one additional victory per 20 games, or just shy of one extra win per NFL season.

Based on Accuscore’s simulations, Easterbrook was able to delineate the context with which we should banish punting. It should be printed on every coach’s laminated playcalling card from this day forward:

  • Inside your own 20, punt.
  • From your 21 to 35, go for it on fourth-and-2 or less.
  • From your 36 to midfield, go for it on fourth-and-3 or less.
  • From the opposition 49 to opposition 30, go for it on fourth-and-4 or less.
  • From the opposition 29 to opposition 3, go for it on fourth-and-3 or less.
  • From the opposition 2 or 1, go for it.
  • Exception: inside the opponent’s 25, attempt a field goal if it’s the fourth quarter and a field goal causes a tie or gives you the lead.

What’s your stance on dropped passes and punting? Is the guy right or the girl right?

Send to a Friend:





Send to a friend:
AddThis Social Bookmark 

Button

Comments


Add Your Comment

Required.
Required, but not displayed.
Optional.


Feeds

RSS Add to Technorati Favorites

Send to a Friend:





Send to a friend: