Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Nov 2017

Monday Morning Digest: The Browns May Go 0-16. Is That a Good Thing?

I am not a traitor to the analytics cause.
I am a Defender of the Faith.
I am the Martin Luther of Moneyball.

Posted by: MikeTanier on 20 Nov 2017

28 comments, Last at 24 Nov 2017, 2:24pm by Bright Blue Shorts

Comments

1
by Lyford :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 9:33am

"The rest of us philistines would like to know how many yards a play gained and don't think we should get motion sickness from watching Le'Veon Bell run off tackle."

Yes. This...

Love having access to the behind-the-quarterback view for certain replays, but a steady diet of it is simply not palatable.

2
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 9:50am

The PHI-MIN NFC Championship Game should be an amazing angst bowl.

3
by Theo :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:03am

Who are these Moneyball vegans that are being quoted?
Even on the Browns forum that I read there are only a few people who believe the FO is doing an OK job in getting the team younger and adding draft picks. But no one is applauding going 0-16 because it means you're FAR away from being competitive.
And even these people are calling for a QB at the top of the draft.

"The rest of us philistines would like to know how many yards a play gained and don't think we should get motion sickness from watching Le'Veon Bell run off tackle."

Really. Finally I get a view of what the game actually looks like for a player.
Finally I can see the coverages. Finally I can properly see the running gaps and line play. It will take half a game to get used to it and see the amount of yards gained. I think it's a great trade off.
But yeah, keep calling for camera angles where you can't see anything downfield and have to guess what the defensive positioning is.

4
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:23am

I'd say the Moneyball vegans are the guys who walked INTO the Browns front office, into the Bills front office and maybe even the Jets and San Francisco's and told ownership that the only way to get competitive is their way.

I'd even put forward Reggie McKenzie of the Raiders. A great season last year seemed to vindicate 3-4 years of haplessness but I'm not so sure again. Getting Carr, Mack, Cooper in the draft and being in the locale to pick up SanFran's talents as the team imploded and Seattle's as rookie deals expired may have been more down to luck than good decision-making.

6
by jtr :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:44am

I give McKenzie a pass because he inherited a team that was just so old and so expensive that there was really no way to rebuild without going all the way to haplessness.

9
by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 12:27pm

There's no one Moneyballing in the Bills' front office that I know of. The agenda seems to be to erase all traces of the previous GM and coaching staff, since they're paying several veterans (Tolbert, anyone? Humber?) in places where they had younger, cheaper guys they cut/traded.

10
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 12:51pm

My mistake.

I conflated trading Watkins to get a high draft pick and CB to avoid paying a big salary at renewal, or losing him for nothing, with a Moneyball approach.

5
by jtr :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:41am

My big complaint about the Madden cam is that you can't see the outside receivers and corners, which undermines some of the advantage of seeing routes and coverages unfold. There were a couple of throws to outside receivers in the Pittsburgh game where the receiver was never on screen until the catch point. Plus, seeing whether the outside corners are playing tight or off coverage is a big key in reading the defense pre-snap. I still think the benefits of the Madden cam outweigh the drawbacks.

I bet there's a bit of a generational gap in how people perceive the camera view. A lot of younger fans have probably put in just as much time in Madden as they have watching football on TV, so they're already used to seeing the game from behind the QB. Older fans probably don't have that experience, and have been experiencing the game from the sideline camera for decades.

20
by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 6:55pm

"There were a couple of throws to outside receivers in the Pittsburgh game where the receiver was never on screen until the catch point"

Yes, and with the sideline cam, EVERY throw you can't see the receiver until the catch point.

Obviously the implementation of the Madden cam needs work; for example, I play Madden with the "wide angle cam," which is the exact same as Madden cam except wide enough to see both sideline receivers. I think this would solve most complaints

8
by Lyford :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 12:14pm

"Finally I get a view of what the game actually looks like for a player."
Been there. Seen it. The high sideline shot is a better viewing experience for following the action.

"Finally I can see the coverages. Finally I can properly see the running gaps and line play."
Really useful if you're scouting or game planning. The high sideline shot is a better viewing experience for watching the action.

"It will take half a game to get used to it and see the amount of yards gained."
Yeah, I don't think so. Often, it's just not visible from that angle, because the perspective is wrong. In my experience, it's very rarely that you'd be able to spot a ball within two yards from that angle.

11
by Theo :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 4:26pm

"Been there. Seen it. The high sideline shot is a better viewing experience for following the action."
No reason given. And I disagree.

"Really useful if you're scouting or game planning. The high sideline shot is a better viewing experience for watching the action."
Again, no argument given. Only FOR the spider cam: you can actually see what is going on on the field.

"Yeah, I don't think so. Often, it's just not visible from that angle, because the perspective is wrong. In my experience, it's very rarely that you'd be able to spot a ball within two yards from that angle."
I will trade seeing yards gained for a view on the coverages and a better view on the offensive strategies.

12
by Lyford :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 7:42pm

"No reason given"

Same reason you gave - personal preference.

But if you'd like a reason that masquerades as objective, here it is. Football is a game of territorial acquisition and defense, in which one team attempts to move the ball forward and the other attempts to prevent them from doing so. The best spot to witness that from, that makes the success or failure of any given play the most clear, is at the line of scrimmage. Which is why when I'm walking the sidelines, I'm always as close to the line of scrimmage as I can manage to be, as opposed to behind the end zone. Line splits and coverages can be fascinating, in retrospect, in understanding why plays worked or didn't - to see a play work or not, the high sideline angle is the best angle for telling the story of territorial acquisition.

14
by Theo :: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 5:37am

I think we agree, but have different preferences on what we look for - the sideline gives you a clear view on the result - but not the process. I can see the result also from the downmarkers. Or the spot of the ball. I'm far more interested in the process.

When I coached I prefered to stand behind the offense or behind the safety to see what was really happening.
From the sideline - I found it hard to see if the run was through the A or B gap - who missed assignment or if it was the guard or tackle who made the block. I could see where the safety came from, pre snap you can make a read, predict the play etc.
And with a little practice you can also see the yards gained. It's just getting used to the perspective.

24
by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:49am

where dikd you coach theat you were able to stand behind the offense or behind the safety? If this is in usa, only level where you could do that probably is little kids level like Pop warner. If you coached in Australia or Germany or somewhere where u could be behind the offense or defense (like u r behind an edn zone),w ell whart if the play was at the other end of the field and you were 70, 80 yards from the action. Do not think tjhat would work too good for you

7
by bingo762 :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:55am

"Carson Wentz-Dak Prescott III did not live up to its Roman numerals in the first half."

Mostly because it was actually Carson Wentz-Dak Prescott II. Dak didn't play in the Eagles-Cowboys second meeting last season

13
by jtr :: Mon, 11/20/2017 - 7:48pm

>30 scouts from 20 teams attend USC-UCLA on Saturday

Well, we know why the Patriots scouts weren't there. Belichick sends them all to the Rutgers game every week.

Seriously, though, I don't quite get why a scout needs to be at a game in person. This game was all about the quarterbacks, and they are literally the focal point of the entire TV broadcast. I don't see how a scout in the stands can have a better view of the quarterback than he would if he got a good seat at his local sportsbar. Any team that is interested in one or both of these QB's is going to endlessly dissect every throw of this game on tape, regardless of what the guy who was there in person says. It probably only really makes sense to send a scout to a nationally-televised game if he's scouting a corner or free safety, since they will be largely off the screen of the broadcast. Doesn't it make more sense to send the scouts to smaller programs, where they can get a better view than they can from poorly produced tape?

15
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 8:36am

“right now Stafford is the best quarterback in the NFL not named Tom Brady”

As a Lions homer, I love the fact that Stafford is finally getting credit for doing so much with so little, but I don’t think you’re giving Russell Wilson enough credit. He’s doing more with even less.

18
by ChrisS :: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 11:59am

Stafford is carrying the offense. The Lions WR's are definitely better, OL is better at pass blocking (for run blocking it is hard to say since they both are so bad), but Jimmy Graham >>> Lion's TE.

16
by rj1 :: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 10:05am

Dear NFL,

You have through your rules made performance in the NFL one-dimensional based around the quarterback. It's to the point where you have 32 franchises, but there are not 32 decent quarterbacks out there. Never have been 32 in existence, never will be, and it's been made worse by how the college game is now played and the amount of injuries that have occurred. If you don't want to have 24 of your teams' fanbases in perpetual despair that they have no hope of winning the Super Bowl in the next decade unless they hit the lottery, you need to change the rules so the game is not as one-dimensional and teams playing different strategies other than throwing everything into the QB's lap have a hope at winning. Otherwise enjoy Blake Bortles as one of your late playoff hopefuls.

17
by jtr :: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 10:58am

Do you have any particular rule changes in mind? De-emphasizing quarterback play is easier said than done. I can't think of anything that would definitively do that. One idea I've heard thrown around is to allow DB's to make more contact with receivers to make it harder to pass. But that would make throwing windows smaller, which means that a really accurate QB who can throw his guys open is even MORE valuable than he was before!

19
by rj1 :: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 12:44pm

I don't know. Off the top of my head:

-go to the college pass interference rule (it’s ridiculous a team can be rewarded with 50 yards for not actually executing anything)

-Scoring-wise, change all passes behind the line of scrimmage to being officially run plays, not passes, i.e. treat a pass behind the line-of-scrimmage no different than a handoff.

-Or you could go really out there and all behind the line-of-scrimmage passing plays are treated the same as a lateral, so if the catch is not made it’s a fumble. For all the criticism thrown checkdown passers’ way on this site, that’d be one way to kill the worst of them.

-Set an upper weight limit league-wide of 300 pounds. That’d result in all players being healthier anyway, would reduce injuries as less weight is being carried around, and also would make runningbacks more durable having less weight hit them carry after carry. Plus, that’d actually benefit the health of QBs having less weight land on them when sacked (although that’s more to benefit the RBs than the QBs).

I do think in general the NFL coaching fraternity suffer from a lack of thought when it comes to thinking outside the box. I’ve played rugby for 9 years and there’s some rugby concepts I’d love to see tried in the NFL or football to just see if they work. Army and Navy college football are more creative than anything I’ve seen from some NFL teams this year, think about that. I remember reading once the longtime head coach of the B.C. Lions now their GM Wally Buono who remarked not long after Russell Wilson became a big deal and it surprised a lot of NFL observers, that the Wilson-style QB had been a success for a long time up in Canada. When you do nothing but navel-gazing for years, it’s not surprising that you have no clue how to do anything unless you have a stud QB. Good for the 8 or so teams, the other 24 fanbases might as well quit buying tickets.

21
by Jerry :: Wed, 11/22/2017 - 5:48am

Thinking outside of the box is easy.

Finding stuff there that will work is harder.

Coming up with new ideas that will be durable is difficult.

Remember when the Wildcat was going to revolutionize the NFL? That lasted until defensive coaches were able to spend some time figuring out how to stop it, and now we don't see more than the occasional direct snap.

Amid all our moaning about how coaches get things wrong, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that most of the best football coaches find their way to the NFL. A lot of concepts are considered. In most cases there's an answer; if not, everybody adopts the concept to one degree or another.

23
by dryheat :: Wed, 11/22/2017 - 9:12am

Which of these suggestion is about de-emphasizing the need for a talented quarterback? The first three seem to be about the exact opposite, and the fourth isn't relevant to the point.

25
by MC2 :: Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:23pm

I like the idea of treating all passes thrown behind the LOS as laterals, although I think it would actually make the top QBs more valuable, as checkdowns require a lot less skill than the deeper throws do.

26
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 11/23/2017 - 10:35am

Think you have to find a way to make the running game easier and more rewarding.

Off the top of my head perhaps you rewrite the rules to be something like "You can only have seven defensive players in the box".

But even then I suspect savvy offensive coaches would find a way to exploit that in the passing game. The danger is that you make it even harder to pressure or sack QBs. And you'd probably need to invoke extra rules about pass-catching tight ends and slot receivers to ensure they can still be defended.

27
by jtr :: Fri, 11/24/2017 - 11:27am

I would really hate to see them put a rule in place like that. Right now you can align your defenders wherever you want as long as they're on the correct side of the LOS. Restricting their alignment puts you on the path to gimmicky Arena Football rules that artificially restrict the defense for no purpose except to increase scoring.
For those not aware, in the AFL you have to align a nose tackle directly over center, keep a designated linebacker within 5 yards of the LOS for the whole play, and never ever stunt your pass rush. The only point of these rules is to push scoring into basketball territory.

28
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 11/24/2017 - 2:24pm

But aren't we looking for rules that will artificially decrease the importance of passing?

The problem seems to me that if you come up with any rule that restricts the passing game you end up increasing the benefit of having super-QBs.

The one thing I would do is remove that rule that Brady-Manning campaigned for back in 2006 to be allowed to prepare the balls to their liking and (without trying to reopen old stories) make the refs inflate them. But I don't think even of those things would make a significant difference.

22
by mschuttke :: Wed, 11/22/2017 - 5:53am

I was about to lay into the argument of "Ok, if a focus on a accumulating premium draft choices due to the cap value that they add is apparently a bad way to rebuild a roster, what's a better way?" argument but it appears as though someone else has already expanded on that critique:

https://overthecap.com/correcting-mike-taniers-anti-moneyball-article/#m...