Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thursday Links

- from phil - notes that we were recently having a discussion on scrapplelog that was similar to this article about the development of "running" quarterbacks posted on boston sports media watch from bill barnwell of football outsiders

- from bumble - dan morgan is out for the season... again. sayeth dave "This guy continues what is a long line of over-rated, over-hyped Miami players in the NFL, but he may be the worst. He has never been that good and he is hurt every year. Shows why a 1st round LB is probably not smart money spent…unless you have a freakish Urlacher or Ray Lewis guy."

- interesting article by Benjamin Alamar of Menlo College titled "the passing premium puzzle" (link found on football outsiders.com), where he tries to analyze the reason behind why teams continue to run as much as they do even though the expected outcome of passing is much greater. (requires free registration to view) excerpts below:
Football, at least in the National Football League (NFL), has a similar puzzle: the passing premium puzzle. Specifically, the passing premium puzzle is while the passing game has significantly better returns than the running game, teams choose to run as frequently as they choose to pass.

The empirical evidence will demonstrate first that, while the passing game has become more efficient over time, teams have not changed their mix of passing and running to meet this change and second that there is a passing premium for the vast majority of teams and that they do nothing to capitalize on this premium. This does not suggest that teams should not run at all, but rather that they should simply run less.

The passing game has become more efficient and less risky over time, yet these positive changes in the passing game have not been matched by an equal increase in the use of the passing game. While passing has become more frequent, the increase in passing frequency has not kept pace with the improvements to the passing game.

The payoff for any football play is yardage. The most straightforward way of expressing the payoff of any type of football play is in yards per attempt. A straight yards per attempt calculation does not however, properly account for either interceptions or touchdowns. ..... In the adjusted yards per attempt calculation, each interception is counted as -45 yards and each touchdown is counted as 10 yards. With these adjustments, the yards per pass attempt has increased from 4.66 in 1960 to 5.8 in 2005, a 24% increase. During the same time frame, yards per rush attempt were essentially flat.

In 2005, there were 4,738 plays on first and ten in which the offense was between 60 and 80 yards from the end zone. Of these plays 2,380 (or 50.2%) were running plays. As a gain of four yards or more is generally considered a successful first down play (Carroll, et al. 1988, Schatz 2004, Schatz, et al. 2005), the distribution of the yards gained on each running play in this sample shows that 1,383 or 58.11% of all running plays on first and ten would not be considered successful. The median of the plays that were not successful was 1 yard. This indicates that running on first and ten, is, nearly 60% of the time, not successful.

The cumulative distribution of passing plays on first and ten in 2005 is very different from the rushing distribution. Again, using four yards as the marker of success, only 46.52% of all pass plays were not successful on first down in 2005. The median of the passing plays that were not successful was 0 yards.

There is a situation in which teams pass more frequently than they run, and that is on third and long (defined as third down with seven or more yards to go for the first down). On third and long, teams passed the ball 88% of the time in 2005. Defenses were not surprised by the pass in these situations, as all teams exhibited this tendency, so defenses were designed to stop the pass before the run. Some coaches claim that surprise in the passing game is effective which would imply that passing should be less effective when the defense is expecting it.

These results indicate that the element of surprise helps the running game by increasing the mean result of the play, while predictability in the passing game does not tend to lower the mean result of passing plays. While the situations are clearly different, there is further evidence to suggest that teams do not pass enough. Not only would passing increase the total output of the offense, it may increase the efficiency of the running game as well.

Conclusion

There are two possible conclusions that could be drawn from the calculations above. First. the calculations do not properly present the costs and benefits of running and passing. This is possible as the data is either aggregated (historical) or on a play-by-play basis (2005 data). It could be that there is some benefit to “establishing the run” that these calculations do not recognize, even if, while “establishing the run,” teams do not gain as many yards as efficiently as they could. A more thorough drive-by-drive analysis could potentially uncover this effect if in fact it does exist.

A second possible conclusion is that, for all of their planning and late nights NFL coaches do not act in a fully rational manner. This is not an original conclusion as Romer (Romer 2002) first showed and Surowiecki (Surowiecki 2004) has attempted to explain, NFL coaches opt to kick field goals or punt instead of attempting to get a first down much more frequently than the actual payoffs to these choices would indicate is rational. The data on the passing premium indicate a clear advantage (that has grown over time) to the passing game with little change in the frequency in which teams use the pass. The existence of the passing premium indicates that teams should pass more frequently and coaches, as a group, are not acting rationally when they run as much as they pass.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. I think more Eagle's fans should read it.

- Joe

12:53 PM EDT  
Anonymous Phil said...

TO's delusional now: "My way of venting is going out there on Sunday, trying to win ballgames. Now it's added frustration, especially when I know we have a good team. And the team we lost to, they know they should have lost. We made too many mistakes to win. We are stopping ourselves."

3:26 PM EDT  

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