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Old 08-28-2006   #1
Jwwillis
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Default Wall Street Journal 10 NFL Myths

Interesting article in the WSJ....

Pro Football's Cherished Myths

Ten sweeping statements for which there is no statistical defense
By ALLEN BARRA
August 26, 2006; Page P14

Compared to baseball, pro football analysis is still in the Stone Age. From the opening kickoff in the NFL's first game, Miami against Pittsburgh, on Thursday, Sept. 7, to the two-minute warning of the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, you'll hear announcers making sweeping proclamations for which there is no statistical basis. What's the truth about pro football's top 10 cherished myths?

1. "Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships."

As with most football clichés, there's no evidence for this one. The Indianapolis Colts led the league in points (430) and lost in the playoffs; but the Chicago Bears allowed the fewest (202), and they lost, too. The previous season, the Colts also led in scoring but then got lost in the playoffs; so did the Pittsburgh Steelers, who gave up the fewest points. NFL champions have almost always been great on both sides of the ball. As football historian T.J. Troupe puts it, the adage should be "Great defense beats great offense -- and vice versa."

2. "You need a strong running game."

That's the one ex-coaches-turned-TV-color-men love the most. Do the numbers support it? Last year, the Atlanta Falcons led the NFL with 2,546 yards on the ground, 323 more than the Super Bowl champion Steelers. The Falcons finished 8-8.

History says if you can play defense and pass well, you can win with average running. In other words, if the Arizona Cardinals don't improve their passing and overall defense, the acquisition of Edgerrin James won't get them any closer to the playoffs.

3. "A turnover is a turnover."

But not all turnovers are created equal: Interceptions are usually much more important than fumbles. As Bud Goode, the father of football analysis, maintains, bad teams don't really fumble any more often than good teams, and, on the whole, the odds of recovering any fumble are about 50-50. (Teams that excel in either fewest fumbles lost or most fumbles recovered in one season generally revert to the norm the next.) Interceptions are always indicators of strength and weakness (good teams make them on defense and don't have them on offense). Plus, as Mr. Goode notes, "Interceptions have a far greater chance than fumbles of being returned for touchdowns."

4. "Great teams are built around the kicking game."

Last year, the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders tied for the NFL's best punting average, 45.7 yards a shot. Those two combined for nine wins and 23 losses.

The Cardinals led the NFL in both field goals (40) and attempts (43) but finished 5-11. In most NFL games, punting and kicking make a difference only if the teams are otherwise evenly matched. As Aaron Schatz, lead author of Pro Football Prospectus 2006, explains, "The strongest teams aren't the ones with clutch kickers, but the ones who don't need them."

5. "The draft creates parity."

The NFL's draft of the top college players is touted as creating parity in the league, since the worst teams get to pick first. It does nothing of the sort. Pro football analyst Steve Silverman sees it this way: "[New England's] Bill Belichick has been selecting pearls in the draft even though the Patriots finish at or near the top every season, because he's smart enough to know his team's needs. Good teams are realistic and win because they make smart picks; bad teams stay bad because they don't recognize what they need and who can fill that need." A two-time Super Bowl MVP, quarterback Tom Brady was the 199th overall pick in 2000; wideout David Givens, who is now with the Tennessee Titans and has had a touchdown reception in seven straight playoff games, went 253rd in 2002.

6. "You have to control the ball."

A sacred belief of coaches is that controlling the ball, as reflected in time of possession, is a key to victory. But there's no strong correlation between ball control and winning. Yes, the 13-3 Denver Broncos led the league last season with 32:37, but 6-10 Dallas Cowboys were a close No. 2 at 32:58. The champion Steelers were ninth in TOP, 31:16, while the No. 10 Titans (31:13) were a dismal 4-12.

7. "Dome teams have the advantage."

Because some indoor teams, such as the Colts, have high-powered offenses, the myth has developed that domers have a "fast track" to the playoffs. Some domers do profit from playing under a roof. But as Kerry Byrne of the cutting-edge analytical Web site Cold Hard Football Facts notes: "In the history of the NFL, dome teams are 15-45 on the road in postseason play. And the best dome teams don't even do all that well at home in the playoffs -- like the Colts, who were heavily favored at home against the Steelers in the AFC divisional playoff last year and got stuffed."

8. "The pass sets up the run."

You hear this one a lot. It's true that a team with a good passer will get a lot of rushing yards, but only because the passer will get more first downs, which in turn creates more rushing opportunities. Having a good quarterback doesn't mean you'll run the ball better, just more often. Last season the Steelers led the league in yards per pass, 8.2, and were just an average running team at 4.0.

9. "Pass completion percentage is a key stat."

No, not a key stat. In fact, not particularly important at all. No one, of course, wants to throw an incomplete pass. The point isn't how many passes you complete, but how far downfield the passes go. Put it this way: Would you rather complete three of three passes for nine yards or one of three passes for 10? Of the top five passers in the NFC last year in pass-completion percentage, only one, Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, played for a winning team (the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl). The other four played for teams that finished a combined 24-40.

10. "This is the age of the running quarterback."

We've been hearing this for the past few seasons, particularly when the Falcons, with their great running quarterback, Michael Vick, are on TV. But there is no proof that having a great runner at the quarterback spot guarantees a winning team. In 2005, the Falcons lead the league in both rushing yardage and yards per run and still finished just 8-8. They won't get any better until Mr. Vick improves his TD-passes-to-interceptions ratio (15-13 last year).

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/...DUyMzgyWj.html
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Old 08-28-2006   #2
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I love the post. I just wish I could argue some of the points brought up.
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Old 08-28-2006   #3
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Quote:
9. "Pass completion percentage is a key stat."

No, not a key stat. In fact, not particularly important at all. No one, of course, wants to throw an incomplete pass. The point isn't how many passes you complete, but how far downfield the passes go. Put it this way: Would you rather complete three of three passes for nine yards or one of three passes for 10? Of the top five passers in the NFC last year in pass-completion percentage, only one, Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, played for a winning team (the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl). The other four played for teams that finished a combined 24-40.
1. The QB that averages at least 10 yards per completion during the game.
2. The QB that completes at least 50% of his passes during the game.
3. The QB that has fewer turnovers during the game.

Which ever QB comes out on top in those 3 categories, his team will win. There will be exceptions but I'd say 90% of the time that theory works.
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Old 08-28-2006   #4
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IMO the QB rating should be based on YPA and INT% with a small adjustment for a category that called "Completions that result in a 1st down or TD". Currently TD's count too high for a QB rating (it really can fluxuate a lot based on the HC's philosophy of rushing or passing for TD's in the red zone). Completion percentage is so overrated and is actually counted twice in the formula, both directly and indirectly (part of YPA, yards per attempt, which are based on YPC, yards per completion, times completion percentage).
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Old 08-29-2006   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheOgre
IMO the QB rating should be based on YPA and INT% with a small adjustment for a category that called "Completions that result in a 1st down or TD". Currently TD's count too high for a QB rating (it really can fluxuate a lot based on the HC's philosophy of rushing or passing for TD's in the red zone). Completion percentage is so overrated and is actually counted twice in the formula, both directly and indirectly (part of YPA, yards per attempt, which are based on YPC, yards per completion, times completion percentage).
Agreed. That's why I like the college formula better.

I can't understand any formula that tops out at 158.3. You can gave a really good day and post a 158.3. But you can have a better day than that but still not post anything higher.
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Old 09-02-2006   #6
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The only stat that really counts is Wins vs Losses
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Old 09-02-2006   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jwwillis
The only stat that really counts is Wins vs Losses
Word. scoreboard!

Interesting article, though. I'm sure some of the points could be disputed, though, especially if a team has two or more of those characteristics. They might be cliche' sayings, but they usually start with kernels of truth from old school football days (think Vince Lombardi).
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Old 09-02-2006   #8
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Good to know the Wall Street Journal can't even figure out the complexity of football statistics. Really inspires confidence.

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Old 09-04-2006   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huge
I can't understand any formula that tops out at 158.3. You can gave a really good day and post a 158.3. But you can have a better day than that but still not post anything higher.
I never understood why they put that artificial ceiling on the formula either.
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Old 09-04-2006   #10
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Quote:
8. "The pass sets up the run."

You hear this one a lot. It's true that a team with a good passer will get a lot of rushing yards, but only because the passer will get more first downs, which in turn creates more rushing opportunities. Having a good quarterback doesn't mean you'll run the ball better, just more often. Last season the Steelers led the league in yards per pass, 8.2, and were just an average running team at 4.0.
Perhaps then the WSJ can explain why the Oilers were in the top 10 in yards per carry during the Pardee run and shoot years (top 5 the last three), but not in the years preceding or after.

Also, what would Pittsburgh's YPC been if they hadn't been sucessful throwing the ball? Impossible to quantify.
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Old 09-05-2006   #11
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I found myths 2,6, and 8 to be contradictory. I believe it is true that the pass does not set up the run. Very few teams in history have been able to throw the ball at a rate that will move them consistently and methodically down the field like a running game (which may be changing now with all the "no-touchie" rules WRs get). So that is why a strong running game is necessary, and if you have that strong running game, you will control the ball and the clock, the two simply go together.

I didn't agree with #1 either; true that most SuperBowl teams have been balanced, but somebody show me the champion that was all O and little D; I can give you a few that won on defense and running game...
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Old 09-06-2006   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jwwillis
Interesting article in the WSJ....

Pro Football's Cherished Myths

Ten sweeping statements for which there is no statistical defense
By ALLEN BARRA
August 26, 2006; Page P14

Compared to baseball, pro football analysis is still in the Stone Age. From the opening kickoff in the NFL's first game, Miami against Pittsburgh, on Thursday, Sept. 7, to the two-minute warning of the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, you'll hear announcers making sweeping proclamations for which there is no statistical basis. What's the truth about pro football's top 10 cherished myths?

1. "Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships."

As with most football clichés, there's no evidence for this one. The Indianapolis Colts led the league in points (430) and lost in the playoffs; but the Chicago Bears allowed the fewest (202), and they lost, too. The previous season, the Colts also led in scoring but then got lost in the playoffs; so did the Pittsburgh Steelers, who gave up the fewest points. NFL champions have almost always been great on both sides of the ball. As football historian T.J. Troupe puts it, the adage should be "Great defense beats great offense -- and vice versa."

2. "You need a strong running game."

That's the one ex-coaches-turned-TV-color-men love the most. Do the numbers support it? Last year, the Atlanta Falcons led the NFL with 2,546 yards on the ground, 323 more than the Super Bowl champion Steelers. The Falcons finished 8-8.

History says if you can play defense and pass well, you can win with average running. In other words, if the Arizona Cardinals don't improve their passing and overall defense, the acquisition of Edgerrin James won't get them any closer to the playoffs.

3. "A turnover is a turnover."

But not all turnovers are created equal: Interceptions are usually much more important than fumbles. As Bud Goode, the father of football analysis, maintains, bad teams don't really fumble any more often than good teams, and, on the whole, the odds of recovering any fumble are about 50-50. (Teams that excel in either fewest fumbles lost or most fumbles recovered in one season generally revert to the norm the next.) Interceptions are always indicators of strength and weakness (good teams make them on defense and don't have them on offense). Plus, as Mr. Goode notes, "Interceptions have a far greater chance than fumbles of being returned for touchdowns."

4. "Great teams are built around the kicking game."

Last year, the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders tied for the NFL's best punting average, 45.7 yards a shot. Those two combined for nine wins and 23 losses.

The Cardinals led the NFL in both field goals (40) and attempts (43) but finished 5-11. In most NFL games, punting and kicking make a difference only if the teams are otherwise evenly matched. As Aaron Schatz, lead author of Pro Football Prospectus 2006, explains, "The strongest teams aren't the ones with clutch kickers, but the ones who don't need them."

5. "The draft creates parity."

The NFL's draft of the top college players is touted as creating parity in the league, since the worst teams get to pick first. It does nothing of the sort. Pro football analyst Steve Silverman sees it this way: "[New England's] Bill Belichick has been selecting pearls in the draft even though the Patriots finish at or near the top every season, because he's smart enough to know his team's needs. Good teams are realistic and win because they make smart picks; bad teams stay bad because they don't recognize what they need and who can fill that need." A two-time Super Bowl MVP, quarterback Tom Brady was the 199th overall pick in 2000; wideout David Givens, who is now with the Tennessee Titans and has had a touchdown reception in seven straight playoff games, went 253rd in 2002.

6. "You have to control the ball."

A sacred belief of coaches is that controlling the ball, as reflected in time of possession, is a key to victory. But there's no strong correlation between ball control and winning. Yes, the 13-3 Denver Broncos led the league last season with 32:37, but 6-10 Dallas Cowboys were a close No. 2 at 32:58. The champion Steelers were ninth in TOP, 31:16, while the No. 10 Titans (31:13) were a dismal 4-12.

7. "Dome teams have the advantage."

Because some indoor teams, such as the Colts, have high-powered offenses, the myth has developed that domers have a "fast track" to the playoffs. Some domers do profit from playing under a roof. But as Kerry Byrne of the cutting-edge analytical Web site Cold Hard Football Facts notes: "In the history of the NFL, dome teams are 15-45 on the road in postseason play. And the best dome teams don't even do all that well at home in the playoffs -- like the Colts, who were heavily favored at home against the Steelers in the AFC divisional playoff last year and got stuffed."

8. "The pass sets up the run."

You hear this one a lot. It's true that a team with a good passer will get a lot of rushing yards, but only because the passer will get more first downs, which in turn creates more rushing opportunities. Having a good quarterback doesn't mean you'll run the ball better, just more often. Last season the Steelers led the league in yards per pass, 8.2, and were just an average running team at 4.0.

9. "Pass completion percentage is a key stat."

No, not a key stat. In fact, not particularly important at all. No one, of course, wants to throw an incomplete pass. The point isn't how many passes you complete, but how far downfield the passes go. Put it this way: Would you rather complete three of three passes for nine yards or one of three passes for 10? Of the top five passers in the NFC last year in pass-completion percentage, only one, Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, played for a winning team (the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl). The other four played for teams that finished a combined 24-40.

10. "This is the age of the running quarterback."

We've been hearing this for the past few seasons, particularly when the Falcons, with their great running quarterback, Michael Vick, are on TV. But there is no proof that having a great runner at the quarterback spot guarantees a winning team. In 2005, the Falcons lead the league in both rushing yardage and yards per run and still finished just 8-8. They won't get any better until Mr. Vick improves his TD-passes-to-interceptions ratio (15-13 last year).

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/...DUyMzgyWj.html


Myth #11, above the other 10 myths


Stats don't mean everything. Play on a football team and you look at stats, then you look at the people who actually have a huge impact.

Is there a stat of times a player has carried a team on his back and led them to victory?
Is there a stat of heart that a player, despite cramps and being sick to his stomach, he plays 110%?
Is there a stat of the d linemen who plugs up the whole so that the linebacker can make a big hit?
Is there a stat of how o linemen take a shot from a d linemen so his quarterback can make a 50 yard touchdown pass?


My point is a lot of that stuff is nonsense, and Im all about watching football and judging from that, all this stat crap has come from nerds trying to put a number or percentage on how good a player actually is.
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