Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
07 Oct 2005
Time for another look at the Football Outsiders mailbag; we'll be trying to run these every week during the 2005 season. We're still running a bit behind on e-mail from August and September so there are some older questions in here, but there also some recent ones.
Don't forget that we have a new contact form which you can use to e-mail any of the writers. This mailbag is not just for DVOA questions, but for any question you might have about any FO article. While we will answer questions posed in discussion threads, we are much more likely to answer a question asked through the contact form. When those discussions get filled up with comments, they get hard to follow.
Be aware that we reference plenty of our innovative FO stats here, not to mention their unfamiliar terminology, so if you are a recent addition to the readership you might want to read this first.
Bob Mangino: How the heck does Indy's D (illusory quality or otherwise) go from # 6 to #12 after holding Tennessee to 10 points, a FG through 55 minutes and a garbage-time TD? (I am certain the game clock does not factor into it, but maybe it should.) Was it that, despite holding the leading rusher--a QB--to 40 yards, he got those on 4 rushes, totally killing their yardage per rush stat? Lack of TOs? Was it that the teams behind them had such superior games last week?
Aaron Schatz: A statistically-based formula is going to oscillate wildly early in the season because the sample is small. But with DVOA, you also have the issue of the opponent adjustments, which not only swing back and forth each week in the early going, but get stronger each week. The reason why we don't use full adjustments early on should make sense: three or four games isn't a big enough sample to definitely say "the Bengals really have the top defense in the league this year, and their opponents should get adjusted for that," or "The Rams running game has fallen apart, and their opponents should get adjusted for that," and so on.
So the main reason why the Colts dropped six places was not their game against Tennessee but the fact that their first three opponents (Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Cleveland) are three of the worst offenses in the league, and as each week goes by we can have more confidence that those teams didn't suddenly figure out how to score during the past off-season.
In addition, DVOA says the Titans game was Indy's worst defensive performance of the year so far. The Colts did give up lots of yards, but not so many points for two reasons: Bironas missed a field goal, and Tennessee's offense never really started out in good field position because of poor performance by the defense (the Titans never started a drive past their own 40-yard line). Those McNair runs of which you speak included three first downs, two of which were important third down conversions.
Geoff: A Loser League question: With penalty points for RBs, do receptions count as carries to get you over the eight carry threshold?
Pat Laverty: Pass receptions do not count toward the eight carry threshold for RBs. They need eight true running plays.
ferretboy: What happens if a player refuses to sign his qualifying offer? Is that the same thing as a holdout? What if he refuses to sign the contract but shows up and wants to get dressed for practice?
Tim Gerheim: If a player refuses to sign the tender, it's not exactly the same as holding out. When a player under contract holds out, the club can fine him and otherwise discipline him. (It's sort of the same concept as the right the Browns have to reclaim some of Kellen Winslow's bonus money for breach of contract.) A player who hasn't signed his tender is sort of like any free agent who hasn't signed a contract. In fact he is a free agent, he's just either a restricted free agent (like Brian Westbrook was this year) or an exclusive rights free agent (like Antonio Gates -- he had a 2-year rookie contract which expired, and the Chargers were only required to tender him a 1-year minimum salary contract), and either way he can't go and sign with another team.
So it's basically a poor man's holdout, because the player has no bargaining power. If he continues refusing to sign the tender (and the team doesn't rescind it), then after the 10th week of the regular season he is forbidden from playing in the NFL that season. Then the next year he would still be a restricted free agent, and if the team offered him another tender, the whole thing would start over. So the player gains nothing by "holding out" into the regular season, but he loses game checks.
If he wanted to showed up to practice, I don't think the team could let him. I couldn't find anything on it looking quickly in the CBA, but if players not under contract were allowed to practice, 1) teams might "force" their unsigned RFA's to practice, and 2) teams would be able to get around roster maximums, especially in the preseason. Plus, realistically, no player would ever want to practice without being under contract. If he got hurt, the team would definitely not sign him, and they wouldn't owe him anything like they do if he's under contract (either an injury settlement or to be put on IR and get paid his salary for the season).
Eisman: You are fuckiing moron. The biggest homer on earth could make better rankings than this garbage. You lost all credibility when you put the 1-3 Bills ahead of a 3-0 team. And the stelers #1? THe seahawks #11? Whatever gay mathmatical system your using does not work.
Aaron Schatz: That was the Oddly Misspelled Hate Mail of the Week. I asked our new statistical consultant Carson Kressley, and he's never seen that word spelled with two "I"s before either.
NF: A hypothetical, but how many DPAR points would Marcus Pollard be worth if the TD had been good?
Aaron Schatz: This is a question about the Quick Reads column at FOXSports.com on Monday. Pollard had -2.9 DPAR this week. Had he caught that touchdown, he would have been worth -0.9 DPAR. Yes, still below replacement. I was surprised too. But the baseline for 2nd-and-1 from the 12-yard line is actually pretty high, and fumbling away the ball is a big penalty. (That fumble penalty works out over the course of the season, but it may be too influential when it comes to figuring out the five worst single-game DPAR ratings of the week for Quick Reads. I'm going to have to watch for that over the next couple weeks.)
Ralph Heinrich: I've been wondering for a while why quarterback arm strength is not being measured (at least not officially)? I think it should be because:
(1) It CAN be measured (they measure pitchers' fastballs and tennis players' serves; in addition to velocity, they could also measure how far a quarterback can throw it).
(2) It is a lot more important for quarterbacks than any of the things that ARE being officially measured (we know exactly how long it would take Alex Smith to haul HIMSELF 40 yards downfield (something he will hardly ever need to do), but we have no idea how long it will take him to throw the BALL 40 yards downfield).
(3) Everyone cares about it and talks about it all the time, even though nobody has any hard data on it (e.g. ESPN Insider this summer had a team-by-team camp preview starting with the quarterback position, and they were commenting on arm strength or lack thereof all the time).
(4) Nothing seems to cause as much confusion and disagreement in discussions as quarterback arm strength (examples: when Jeff Hostetler went to the Raiders, some pundit wrote that he had the strongest arm in the league (i.e. stronger than Elway, Marino, Esiason, Simms, Testaverde, George, Favre, etc.); when David Woodley had died, a former Dolphins receiver claimed that he had had "the strongest arm I've ever seen"; conversely, there were recently two articles on ESPN, one listing arm strength as one of the fortes of Rex Grossman, and the other listing it as one of his weaknesses. It also seems to be quite common for a quarterback's arm strength to "deteriorate" from "howitzer" or "canon" in scouting reports when he enters the draft to "average" or "only adequate" when he has been in the league a few years).
So why is quarterback arm strength not measured at the combine or at pro days?
Will Carroll: Because arm strength in and of itself isn't valuable.
Sure, all else being equal, we'd all take the guy who can throw the ball harder or farther, but a velocity reading or max flight measurement wouldn't tell us anything about the ability of a QB to have touch, timing, or a "catchable ball." Having been at the combine (can't wait for next year!) I can say that I've never seen so many thing measured, so if anyone had any sense that this type of measurement was valuable, it would be taken.
Mike Tanier: There's no reason that a radar gun couldn't be hooked up to measure arm strength. There's also no reason that quarterbacks simply couldn't line up at the goal line and throw the ball as far as they can to measure their ability to throw for distance.
The reason there are no empirical tests is because there is no agreement as to what scouts and coaches actually want to see in this sort of test.
Measuring velocity seems simple enough: have the QB aim at a target and fire. But how far away should the target be? 20 yards? 30 yards? Should the QB have to throw over a clear wall to represent the outstretched arms of the defensive line? Should he be ordered to throw from a five step drop? And of course, if a QB throws at 60 mph and misses the bullseye by eight inches, is it better than throwing at 55 mph and hitting it dead center?
As for "length of throw" arm strength, prospects throw dozens and dozens of deep balls in front of scouts. They perform these drills the way scouts want to see them: with a live receiver running and catching the ball in a certain spot on the field or over a certain shoulder. A QB who cannot throw the ball accurately 40 yards wouldn't last long under these conditions. The difference between being able to heave it 70 yards or 72 yards under Hail Mary conditions wouldn't mean much to most coaches.
It does seem that in the world of 10-yard dashes and three-cone drills, someone would put a radar gun up to the quarterback's throws. But the only way to evaluate QB play in drills is to simulate game conditions as closely as possible. If a QB can hit a receiver 20 yards away on a crossing route with two defenders converging, no one cares how fast the ball got there.
Finally, we all know that WRs who run a 4.4 forty don't automatically succeed, nor do linemen who bench 700 pounds or whatever. The last thing we need in football is another number that sounds scientific but doesn't have a lot of bearing on the quality of the player.
Imari: How does home field advantage play into DVOA for teams (if at all)? That is, if two teams have similar DVOAs and they were playing each other, would it be right to add in some arbitrary premium to the home team if trying to project a winner ... or is that somehow already incorporated into DVOA formula?
Aaron Schatz: This is on my "more study" list and I was hoping to get to it in the off-season and just didn't have time. I believe based on initial study that the home field advantage is about 17% -- home team on average will have about 8.5% better DVOA than its full-season total while road team puts up 8.5% worse DVOA compared to its full-season total, after you've corrected for the strength of the opposition. But that doesn't include the fact that certain types of teams have different home field advantages -- for example, cold-weather teams have a stronger home field advantage against warm-weather and dome teams in the last two months of the season. The St. Louis Rams, to give another example, have an absurd split between home and road performance (since 2002, they are 21-4 in regular season home games, but 8-19 on the road) which is why, DVOA be damned, they should be favored over Seattle this weekend.
51 comments, Last at 07 Dec 2007, 6:21pm by Karl Berthold