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.
12 Jul 2012
by Mike Tanier
Do your memos lack pizzazz? Not coming off as enough of a vindictive autocrat in your emails? Does your business and personal correspondence fail to convey the sense that your decisions are cruel sentences handed down by a vengeful deity?
There’s a simple solution: Rogerize!
Using our patented Rogerize system of workbooks and videos, you can easily make the most innocuous communiqués sound like edicts issued by an omnipotent, bloodthirsty despot.
Don’t believe it? Look at this before-and-after example. Here’s a text message from a wife to her husband before she learned the Rogerize method: "Get milk on your way home plz. Thx."
And here’s the same memo, with the Rogerize advantage: "For the past six days, you have failed to take a meaningful part in meeting the nutritional needs of this family. Your egregious unwillingness to act on this matter has had a severe and inexcusable impact upon the integrity of breakfast. Your immediate compliance with my milk-procurement directive is required, not just for dietary reasons, but for the continued viability of our marriage. I sincerely hope you realize and accept the graveness of this situation and your complicity in what has become a stain on the reputation of our entire family."
The Rogerize method is essential for anyone who wants to succeed in the workplace, get an edge in social situations, or just likes browbeating the holy living hell out of those around them. Use it to discourage disagreement, terrify subordinates, exacerbate conflicts or simply make people wish that they had never crossed your path in the first place.
Here’s another before-and-after, this time from a troubled relationship.
Before: "I think we should give each other some space for a while. It’s not you, it’s me."
After: "I have a preponderance of evidence, both documented and from eye-witness accounts, that prove beyond all reasonable doubt that you have had repeated conversations with another woman in the last six months. Your claims that these conversations were innocent, that some of my evidence is simply hearsay from my gossipy friends, and that the woman in question is in fact your elderly aunt is actually a tacit admittance that you had such conversations, show no remorse for them, and subscribe to the philosophy that it is okay to be non-forthright about the interactions you have with people other than myself. That you even questioned the logic or sanity of my decision to dump you demonstrates that you do not take the romantic disagreement process seriously and have chosen to exclude yourself from an honest and open conversation about my irreversible decision. Also, I am keeping all the stuff you left in my apartment."
The Rogerize method can turn anyone into an inflexible authoritarian tyrant who mistakes his (or her) personal agenda for absolute truth in just a few short lessons. But that’s not all. Order now, and you will receive the Impartiality Rationalizer absolutely free!
The Impartiality Rationalizer makes a great gift for the township Building Code Inspector who also runs the township’s largest building contracting firm, or for the school administrator who is also the school’s sexual harassment officer and likes young teachers. Use the Impartiality Rationalizer to vaporize that tiny nugget of conscience that tells you that your screaming, obvious conflict of interest will prevent you from doing your job fairly.
The Impartiality Rationalizer include features like "a person of my wisdom and stature does not need a system of checks and balances"; "I ruled against my own interests back in 2006, so that proves my impartiality forever"; "the appeals process is ultimately more important than the possibility of an appeal ever being overturned"; and the best-seller: "you signed the collective bargaining agreement that allowed this to happen, Chumpenstein."
Act now, supplies are running out. With the Rogerize method and the Impartiality Rationalizer, you can sound and act like the judge, jury, and executioner for your home and office!
(Warning: Rogerize method and Impartiality Rationalizer do not impart omniscience or exempt you from any state, federal, or natural laws. Do not mix with megalomania. Overuse could really come back to bite you in the ass someday.)
Football Outsiders Almanac 2012 and KUBIAK are out. Get them.
Eagles Almanac is now available on Kindle, Nook, and probably some of those other tablet things. It contains a long chapter in which I rant about last year’s Eagles defense and offer some hope that things will be better this year.
I haven’t plugged my own book for a while: The Philly Fan’s Code. Upon writing it, the Phillies promptly went into the tank. Luckily, they don’t take away World Series rings or pennants, so the chapters about Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and others, while a tad optimistic, aren’t totally obsolete. Also, Donovan McNabb started acting like a ninny, so my long defense of his legacy sounds a little pleading now. But read for yourself.
1. The Tyler Rose
Everyone should watch at least four minutes of Earl Campbell highlights every morning before breakfast.
2. Eddie George
After sabermetrics, it became impossible to look at certain kinds of baseball players the same way. Players and player types who were superstars before sabermetrics became suspicious characters, at least to the analytical-minded fan. Base-stealers, for example: if you know your baseball stats, you know that base stealing provides a minimal-at-best contribution to run totals, because the speedster’s success rate has to hover above 65 percent to be anything but a drag on run production.
High-batting-average banjo hitters also got the statistical business, as Bill James and others patiently taught us that the .240 hitter with the .360 on-base percentage and power is more effective than the .300 hitter with the .340 on-base percentage and less power. There are millions who still don’t believe it, and I believe I have sat next to each and every one of them at the bar at some point, but the numbers are inarguable.
Eddie George and his ilk –- the 1,000 yard rusher who averages 3.7 yards per carry –- is the NFL equivalent of the empty .300 hitter. George’s career high in single-season DVOA (new version) was 5.9% as a rookie, one of only two years above 0%. He was a low-negative in his best years, which is not unusual for a power back getting 320-403 carries. In his later seasons, he was routinely cranking out negative DYAR to go with the DVOA. At 3.7 yards per carry, durably soaking up carries helps the team. At 3.0-3.4, where he hovered in his last three seasons, it handicaps the offense.
Jamal Lewis was this kind of back after about 2004. John Riggins was, after his holdout. Rodney Hampton was for his whole career. Some of the 1970s bruisers may fall into this category, though I am reluctant to single them out because the game changed so much and cloud-of-dust tactics had more merit in offensively-challenged times. None of these guys stunk or anything, and most of them earned their reps and carries by being durable, taking care of the ball, converting in short yardage, and chewing up the clock at the ends of wins. The moment any of them stopped doing any one of those things well, they were hurting their teams, but most stuck around for an extra year or three anyway.
George was a great guy, by all accounts, and kept himself in immaculate physical condition. He gave his coaches every reason to keep running him out there. From 2001 on, though, the hard work and great attitude didn’t matter. He just was not good.
I’m not expecting any kind of major rebound here. To get KUBIAK’s opinion, you will need to buy the book!
We now have DVOA data dating back to 1991. If you are my age or older, that does not seem like a long time ago, but it was 20 years ago, at a time when the Oilers used a run-‘n’-shoot offense with White as the featured back. White’s signature season occurred in 1992: 1,226 rushing yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 57 receptions. He ranked second in rushing DYAR, third in rushing DVOA, and first in Success Rate (61 percent) that season. He also ranked third in receiving DYAR, meaning that we rank him as more than 500 yards better than a replacement level rusher that season.
Emmitt Smith bested White in rushing DYAR but couldn’t touch him in receiving DYAR that season. Committee backs Derrick Fenner and Heath Sherman took the top DVOA slots, with Emmitt sixth. White had the best season of any running back in the NFL that year.
That was the year the Oilers lost to the Bills in the playoffs: Frank Reich, greatest comeback ever, and so on. More on that in a minute. Warren Moon was injured for much of the year, with Cody Carlson playing okay in relief. Large running backs like White (who was a size-speed specimen at 220 pounds) often had fine seasons in the run ‘n’ shoot because defenses of that era had no idea how to defend an every-down spread offense. White usually got 17 or 18 carries per game, netting 70-80 rushing yards against defenses that maybe had six defenders in the box.
For a team that used one back and four receivers on every play, the Oilers were stacked with great collegiate rushers in the run ‘n’ shoot era. White inherited the more-or-less featured role from Heisman Trophy-winning bruiser Mike Rozier. Notre Dame star Allen Pinkett was the change-up guy. The Oilers drafted 235-pound thumper Alonzo Highsmith third overall in 1987, the year they began tinkering with the scheme. All four were on the roster for 1989 and part of 1990: three former first-round picks (Rozier in the supplemental draft, a big deal in the USFL era) and a well-regarded third-rounder (Pinkett), all pretty young, all drafted by the Oilers, all taking turns. None of them ever became stars for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they leeched opportunities from one another.
Anyway, I pulled up a blurry old gamebook of the 1992 Reich game. The Oilers led 28-3 at halftime, then 35-3 after a Pick-Six at the start of the third quarter. White had 15 carries for 64 yards at that point. The Bills score a touchdown, recover an onside kick, scored again, and it’s 35-17. Next drive: a three-yard Moon completion, White up the middle for no gain, incomplete pass. Punt.
The Bills score a touchdown. It’s 35-24, still the third quarter. White is flagged for illegal motion on a pass play, then a Moon interception. Soon, it is 35-31.
The next drive is six Moon pass plays, including a strip sack recovered by White. The Oilers punt, the Bills punt back.
The Oilers execute 13 plays on the next drive, counting plays called back by penalties: 11 passes, two runs. White ran for one yard and five yards, the one yard on second-and-1. Moon gets sacked twice and has an interception called back because of roughing the passer. The drive ends with a bobbled field goal snap.
The Bills drive for a touchdown to take the lead. Now playing from behind, the Oilers start passing, or start passing more, or pass about the same amount, but at least now it makes sense. White runs a draw play near the goal line at the end of a 12-play drive, the Oilers kick a field goal and the game is tied. Overtime.
The Oilers get the ball at the start of overtime and throw three passes: a five-yard completion, a three-yard completion, and an interception that gives the Bills the ball deep in their own territory. Greatest comeback in history. White carries four times for 11 yards in the second half, with the Oilers playing with the lead until the 3:08 mark of the fourth quarter.
This is how offensive philosophies die, or at least get dragged back to the factory and re-engineered as something a little more flexible. The Oilers never quite got into a situation where they could eat the clock, but a 91 percent pass-run ratio when playing with a lead in the second half is a little crazy. That’s what the run-‘n’-shoot did to you.
5. Charley Tolar
The Human Bowling Ball takes the fifth spot because he was 5-foot-6 and 200 pounds in the early 1960s ... and because he was nicknamed The Human Bowling Ball. Tolar was one of the stars of the 1961 AFL champs and rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1962. In the tradition of many early AFL stars, he faded quickly as the quality of play improved and was out of the game by 1966.
Billy Cannon was Tolar’s backfield mate and the better player in 1960 and 1961. He was one of the AFL’s first big stars and the object of one of the great inter-league bidding wars. (Bud Adams reportedly met him in the end zone after the Sugar Bowl with a contract offer, though it wasn’t a lifetime contract, and Adams did not give Cannon the finger for turning it down.) Cannon left the Oilers after the 1963 season and became a deep-threat tight end for the Raiders.
Rozier was one of two Heisman Trophy winners from Camden County, New Jersey. You didn’t think you would get through this segment without that being mentioned, did you? Rob Carpenter was Campbell’s fullback. Announcers used to joke about how infrequently Carpenter got the ball, but he had 82-97 carries in Campbell’s signature years, totals a modern fullback would strangle Le'Ron McClain for. Back then, Ron Springs would get 172 carries during a season when Tony Dorsett was healthy and in his prime, because the "key breaker" principle was so ingrained into offensive thought. Carpenter could block pretty darn well.
Hoyle Granger had some rugged seasons late in the AFL era, as the Oilers slowly slipped into hopelessness.
1. Fred Taylor
Taylor was the yang to Eddie George’s yin. George’s assets were his durability and his ability to chug along at 3-4 yards per pop against teams like the Ravens. Taylor’s weakness was his inability to stay healthy, which forced the Jaguars to platoon him with James Stewart, Greg Jones, and Maurice Jones-Drew most of his career.
George’s yards-per-carry totals were bad in his best years and awful in his worst, though he deserves some slack for the battering ram duties he consistently drew. Taylor’s YPC were great -- he averaged 4.6 over his whole career -- but they were inflated somewhat by the fact that other backs were usually handling the short yardage chores. Taylor managed a negative DVOA in 2004, a year in which he gained over 1,200 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry, because his Success Rate was pretty low (45 percent) and Jones and others did so much short-yardage dirty work.
DVOA was kinder to Taylor than to George in his best years -- with the new normalized DVOA, he has above-average rushing DVOA in seven of the 10 seasons where he had at least 100 carries -- and Taylor was a very good back who overcame early injuries to have a long career. I would take him over George, but if I could have them in the same backfield, they would complement each other nicely, and my team would win a few Super Bowls.
Most of us probably agree that the rookie salary cap is a good thing, or at worst a necessary evil. Most of us also understand why teams don’t offer big extensions or re-negotiations to running backs like MJD and Matt Forte: running backs age quickly, are rather replaceable, and rarely pay dividends on "reward" contracts. We all agree that it is a wise strategy to draft running backs in the middle-to-late rounds, because good players are abundant at the position.
Do you see the bottleneck that is about to happen? Running backs must now sign multi-year contracts at a slotted salary based on their draft position, which in most cases will not be very high. When those contracts expire, they hit the market to discover that teams are reluctant to pay for the (let’s say) three 1,200-yard seasons they just had. Running backs will soon face two choices: hold out aggressively after their first good seasons, when they still have future young-and-great years to leverage, or accept their fates as the most underpaid superstars in American sports.
The simplest solution to this dilemma may be automatic performance escalators, so young running backs can ring the Wall Street bell if they crank out big seasons. There should be a special MJD clause in every contract: if you play for a cash-strapped organization with a clueless rookie quarterback that undergoes a massive ownership/regime change in midseason, and you still crank out 1,600 yards and rank seventh in DVOA, you automatically get ten million dollars. Perhaps they can pay it with leftover bank bailout money.
Pretty solid top three, isn’t it? Stewart was a plugger who had his best seasons with the post-Barry Sanders Lions. I remember him best for his five-touchdown game against the Eagles on October 12, 1997.
Means had two mammoth games in the 1996 playoffs: 175 yards and a touchdown against the Bills, then 140 yards and a touchdown in the legendary game against the Broncos. His regular season efforts for the Jaguars were nothing special, but two huge games in a memorable playoff run means a lot for such a young franchise.
5. Stacey Mack
Another big thumper. Mack led the Jaguars in rushing in 2001 when Taylor was hurt, then served as Taylor’s power guy in 2002 and was very good at it.
Mack was arrested during his playing career for soliciting an undercover cop he thought was a prostitute. How do the police decide which female officer has to play the prostitute? How does that conversation with the captain go? I see an old Dennis Farina cop, rubbing the back of his neck, trying to explain to the idealistic young female officer that she’s the most prostitute-like young lady on the force. But he means it in a good way, of course! In the movies, Angelina Jolie or somebody would be the cop, and after a quick makeover montage you would instantly believe that she’s a prostitute (albeit one that is so gorgeous she could charge $11,000 per minute). I had a cousin who was a 21 Jump Street-style narc in a high school (this was years ago, I am not blowing his cover), but that is not quite the same thing. Perhaps the officers volunteer, which could lead to an even more awkward conversation:
"Sorry, officer, but you do not look convincing enough as a prostitute."
"Err ... it’s a compliment?"
Anyway, Greg Jones probably deserves the fifth spot over Mack for his years as a goal line back and fullback, but I had to get that rant out of my mind.
116 comments, Last at 17 Jul 2012, 5:57am by Eggwasp