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View Full Version : How Coaches Think or The Mind of BA



NorthCoast
12-27-2010, 10:57 AM
There is an interesting article on offensive strategy I came across. It is much too long to post but here are a few clips that give insight into how coaches may think about gameplanning the run vs pass. For those that hate stats and what they mean, move along, there is nothing to see here:

"Yards per pass attempt or per run attempt worked out to be very good estimators of how good a team was, especially if ‘good’ is defined as being likely to win forthcoming games. Efficiency stats had the added benefit of being relatively simple, widely available, and easy to calculate............ In a regression model, it’s best if the predictor variables are independent of each other. In other words, the less each predictor variable correlates with the others, the more valid and reliable the resulting model will be. Passing and running efficiencies in the NFL correlate weakly."

"However ...... it defies the logic of game theory. In football speak, it would mean there is little evidence that “the run sets up the pass” and vice-versa. In zero-sum two-strategy games, outcomes are optimized at an equilibrium (called the “minimax”) where the benefit of one strategy equals the benefit of the other strategy."

"....Raw efficiency stats also point to the futility of the running game. Offensive running efficiency correlates with team wins at 0.15, a meager relationship compared to the 0.66 correlation of passing efficiency. This stark difference suggested that teams are investing far too much attention and resources into running the ball..."

"With new tools and new stats however, it's now clear that the relative futility of the running game is overstated by looking at efficiency stats alone."

"....SR (Success Rate) is a very simple concept in principle and has been around for decades. Each play is graded as either a success or not based on its outcome. For example, if a play gains 3 yards on 3rd and 2, that would be a success. But those same 3 yards would be a failure if the situation were 3rd and 4. In the seminal book from the 1980s Hidden Game of Football, the authors devised a simple rule of thumb based on their intuitive sense of football success. A success would be: On 1st down--a gain of 4 or more yards; on 2nd down--a gain that at least halved the distance to go; and on 3rd down--a conversion for a new set of downs. ..."

"Based on SR, running correlates with team wins at 0.40, much higher than the 0.15 correlation based on efficiency."

"SR reveals an even more interesting revelation. I think it finally answers the question of what coaches are optimizing. Based on SR, passing and running correlate at 0.41, a much stronger relationship than the 0.09 correlation based on efficiency. Coaches are optimizing Success Rate, although they’re probably thinking of a simpler version of SR, much more similar to the rule of thumb than to my EPA-based definition...."

"Coaches appear to be overly focused on play-level success (represented by SR) and not focused enough on drive-level (represented by EPA) and game-level success (represented by WPA). They’ll spend late nights in the film room dissecting every possible match-up for the slightest advantage on a single play, but they’ll ignore the numbers that suggest they pass more or go for it on 4th down. They’re looking down at the sport from a 10-foot ladder when they should also be looking at it from the 10,000-foot level....."

And then a poster gave this insight in response to the article:

The extreme model for high success rate/low risk is a team that runs for 3.5 yards each and every play. It is an unstoppable scoring machine, and will crush a passing team that averages 10 yards per play but with 40% incompletions.

The real life prototype of that of course was Lombardi's Packers. Take the 1966, 14-2 SB I champions. By efficiency, yards/play-wise, they were a terrible rushing team, 3.5 per carry, tied for 13-14th in a 15-team league. But as bad as their running game was they were near top of the league in running attempts and dead last in pass attempts.

Which indicates, efficiency-wise, their coach was from bizarre to stupid, because their passing game dominated the league. Starr had an AYA of 9.6, a full 1.6 over the next guy, and a TD-Int ratio of 14-3, which would be tremendous today and was *fantastic* in that era when the ratio for the rest of the league was 27-32. To keep running & running with such a poor running game, while passing less than anyone else with the league's dominating passing attack ... how *dim* was that coach??

Of course, anybody who said back then that Lombardi's Packers had an awful running game would have been guffawed out of the room. They had a crushing running game. Success rate was what it was all about. I haven't seen play-by-play for 1966, but Lombardi's bios discuss these numbers and detail how the "Lombardi sweep" was explicitly designed to get 3-4 yards each and every time, and forget the longer gains. With few longer gains, its average/run was very low. It's first down conversion rate was very high. And the risk incurred by the whole O via turnovers and big losses (such as sacks) was league-bottom. So they were never going to happen in a bunch.

"Success rate" was the name of Lombardi's game, embodied in a a simpler era.

http://www.advancednflstats.com/2010/10/how-coaches-think-run-success-rate.html

Reading this, it dawned on me that the NE Patriots may be a modern era example of the Lombardi Packers. They have used the passing game to an extreme level of success and no one has found a formula to stop it. BTW, I happened to look up Defensive Pass Yds/attempt and was surprised to find the Steelers ranked #2 at 5.9 yds per attempt.

NorthCoast
12-27-2010, 12:37 PM
.....

"Coaches appear to be overly focused on play-level success (represented by SR) and not focused enough on drive-level (represented by EPA) and game-level success (represented by WPA). They’ll spend late nights in the film room dissecting every possible match-up for the slightest advantage on a single play, but they’ll ignore the numbers that suggest they pass more or go for it on 4th down. They’re looking down at the sport from a 10-foot ladder when they should also be looking at it from the 10,000-foot level....."

......

I am going to respond to my own post here. It occurs to me that the Steelers have the exact opposite problem. We have an OC that has been dictated to 'run more' but he is also an OC that has little feel for play-level or drive-level success. I don't want to bash BA, he is probably doing his best with what he has...