Running the Football is My Big White Whale

You can go ahead and put running the football in the group of things I have an unhealthy relationship with.  Other members of this group include:

  • Any movie where Maggie Gyllenhaal is described as hot.
  • Barack Obama’s ridiculous claim that he crossed over Chris Paul (or at least that he did it when Chris Paul was trying)
  • Any restaurant menu that includes superfluous adjectives like “farm raised”.  Nothing I love more than forgetting what I’m reading about because I had to wade through 8 adjectives that I don’t give a shit about.
  • The NCAA cartel that fixes prices on athlete compensation instead of letting the free market work
  • People who race around you in traffic only to stop at the same red light as you.  They’re probably on the way to the lab to finish up that cancer cure I’m sure.
  • A movie about a 100 year old vampire hooking up with a 17 year old girl.  Nice message.
  • Magician-comedians


At a certain point you know you’ve gone crazy when the mere mention of something increases your blood pressure and makes an aneurism more likely.  Running the football is in the group for me now.

imageOne of the things that you have to look at when you’re talking about running the ball is whether a team is doing it to end the game, or whether they are doing it to get a lead.

I thought I would look at play calling when the score is tied to see if it tells us anything about team success.  It does.  Teams who call more run plays when the score is tied are on average worse than teams who call pass plays when the score is tied.

The table I’ve pasted on the right shows each team’s percent of plays called that were runs (while tied) along with their point differential for 2011.  It’s sorted by point differential and then it shows the percent of run plays called when the score is tied.

There is actually a statistically significant relationship if you want to run a regression to check.  The more run plays you call when tied, the worse your team is likely to be.

I should clarify here because it’s not the kind of thing you’re going to use to predict point differentials.  Instead it’s just another examination of the relationship between running and winning.

The reality is that teams who call pass plays when they are tied are going to have better passing offenses.  They can afford to pass the ball.  But every team has a choice between whether it wants to be a passing team or a running team.  Some teams just choose to be running teams.

Pot Odds: Doing the Math on the Mike Wallace Tender (Part2)

About a month ago I posted on the Mike Wallace tender and how I thought the math was in favor of not giving up a draft pick in order to sign Wallace.  You can read the full post here.

At the heart of that argument was a probability problem related to the odds that a late 1st round pick could outperform Wallace over the course of his contract.  I said an NFL team was getting 5:1 odds to just stay in their draft spot and not give it up for Wallace.

This isn’t scientific at all, but here are all of the late 1st round picks from the last decade.  You can make up your own mind as to whether 5:1 odds are good enough to pass on Wallace.

Year Pick Player Tm College/Univ
2011 26 Jonathan Baldwin KAN Pittsburgh
2010 22 Demaryius Thomas DEN Georgia Tech
2010 24 Dez Bryant DAL Oklahoma St.
2009 22 Percy Harvin MIN Florida
2009 29 Hakeem Nicks NYG North Carolina
2009 30 Kenny Britt TEN Rutgers
2007 23 Dwayne Bowe KAN LSU
2007 27 Robert Meachem NOR Tennessee
2007 30 Craig Davis SDG LSU
2007 32 Anthony Gonzalez IND Ohio St.
2006 25 Santonio Holmes PIT Ohio St.
2005 21 Matt Jones JAX Arkansas
2005 22 Mark Clayton BAL Oklahoma
2005 27 Roddy White ATL Ala-Birmingham
2004 29 Michael Jenkins ATL Ohio St.
2004 31 Rashaun Woods SFO Oklahoma St.
2002 20 Javon Walker GNB Florida St.

The NFL Draft Twitter Discovery List Part 2 (The Heavy Hitters)

As I mentioned yesterday, I love discovering new content.  But it’s not that easy.  Twitter is a good example of how difficult content discovery can be.  There are millions of twitter accounts.  How do you know which accounts are good to follow?  I use sort of a “maven” rule.  I like to follow accounts that are being followed by mavens in any domain. 

When I want to figure out who to follow related to the NFL draft I find about 10 draft twitter accounts and then I figure out who those accounts are following.  That’s step one.  There’s one more needed step.  Some accounts just have a lot of followers.  For instance, @barackobama might be followed by a lot of draft experts, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a relevant draft account.  So in order to negate the affect of an account having a lot of followers (like Bill Simmons for instance), I measure how many mavens among the draft community follow that account, but then I control for total followers. 

When I do that, I get the following list of names.  It’s a “Who’s Who” in the draft community.  I’m offering this list because there might be a few names on there that you’re not following, but you should be.  I think it’s helpful to see those names next to the widely known names.  It’s sort of a “proof of relevance”.  Again, these are the accounts that the draft mavens are following at a higher rate than can be explained by total followers.

Apologies for such a long list, but there are a lot of draft relevant accounts out there.

Name Followers Tweets Link Description
Evan Silva 16604 31879 evansilva Senior NFL Editor for Rotoworld, writer for NBC Sports &
Greg Cosell 32535 1219 gregcosell Executive producer of NFL Matchup, Senior Producer NFL Films for 33 years, Co-author of The Games That Changed The Game
Sigmund Bloom 9468 51901 SigmundBloom NFL Draft lead writer for Bleacher Report, Audible co-host, projector, writer for, Stay-at-Home Dad, Pontificater
Chad Reuter 4445 10616 ChadReuter NFL Network – Senior Researcher – College Football/Draft
SC_DougFarrar 14149 28668 SC_DougFarrar Football dork for Yahoo Sports; Editor of Shutdown Corner. Team player w/rebellious tendencies. Yes, I am pissed off for greatness.
Adam Caplan 30775 41535 caplannfl NFL Reporter/Analyst/Radio Host–Host: XM (87)/Sir. (210); WCHE 1520 AM (2-3 pm on Sat.); Host: Film Room (; Contact:
Josh Norris 3100 12531 JoshNorris Rotoworld NFL Draft Contributor. One NFL Team’s Scouting Department Intern during ’10 Training Camp & ’11 NFL Draft. Elon Graduate.
Cecil Lammey 5780 9024 cecillammey NFL Insider for 102.3 ESPN Denver and senior writer for
Dan Shonka 6095 5651 Ourlads_Shonka Former NFL Scout with Eagles,Redskins,Chiefs,Now GM and National Scout for Ourlads’NFL Scouting Services LLC, wife of 33 yrs Peggy,kids:Sarah & Teddy.
Wes Bunting 15335 10460 WesBunting Blogger @FootballPost
Matt Williamson 19483 6821 WilliamsonNFL NFL Scout for and Scouts, Inc. Also host of Football Today Podcast.
Ryan Lownes 2101 11069 ryanlownes NFL Draft analyst, enthusiast, and writer for Undergraduate student at Ohio University from the Philadelphia area. Let’s talk some football.
Aaron Aloysius 2380 12809 AaronAloysius Draft prospect video guy ( who writes for & Avatar by the great @RumfordJohnny
Dane Brugler 2473 1910 dpbrugler NFL Draft Analyst for, a partner of
Tony  Pauline 4720 1124 TonyPauline NFL Draft Analyst for & owner,, devout/diehard Led Zeppelin fan for a looonnnnnnngg time…
Russell S. Baxter 5242 9242 BaxFootballGuru Veteran NFL writer/researcher. @thenflmagazine,,,,,
Senior Bowl 6263 2991 seniorbowl The official twitter page of the Senior Bowl.
Howard Balzer 7034 4030 HBalzer721  
Rob Rang 7823 2867 RobRang Senior NFL Draft Analyst for, The Sports XChange and Interview requests can be sent to
Lance Zierlein 12698 31568 LanceZierlein I’m a sports talk host in Houston, a football blogger for the Houston Chronicle, co-own  I have an awesome wife and 5 kids.
Matt Miller 20257 21529 nfldraftscout Senior NFL Draft Lead Writer at Bleacher Report–Founder of New Era Scouting
Joe Goodberry 1213 29040 JoeGoodberry Contributor for | NFL Draft Analyst/Draftnik/Evaluator | Father & Fiancé | Tweets are 91.362% Bengals, Football & Draft related
Fran Duffy 1404 3762 fduffyEagles Associate Producer with; former Video Coordinator with Temple. NFL Draft enthusiast. Tweets based on my opinion ONLY – not the Eagles’
Marc Lillibridge 2395 4024 NFL_Bridge Proud to represent NFL Players. Only agent to play and scout in the NFL.  Played LB for Dolphins and Saints, then scouted for Packers and Chiefs.
Andrew Garda 2800 40560 Andrew_Garda Footballguys Staff writer, NFC North lead writer for Lucky dad and husband, huge nerd.
Kevin Weidl 3750 1464 Kevin_Weidl College football and NFL draft analyst with ESPN
Shane P. Hallam 3774 30971 ShanePHallam Fantasy Football/NFL Draft Expert.  Draft Analyst  Member of the Football Writer’s Association of America
Matt Waldman 4431 8176 MattWaldman Magazine journalist. Football writer. Rookie Scouting Portfolio author: The most comprehensive film study of rookie skill position players available.
Dave Razzano 5242 3377 DaveRazzano NFL scout for more than 22 yrs,49ers, Rams, Cardinals. Have wrked with 5 Super Bwl teams. NFL Analyst on 95.7 TheGame in S.F.
Russell Lande 5246 1777 RUSSLANDE NFL DRAFT EXPERT for GM Jr. Scouting ( & The Sporting News (
Scott Wright 6934 3333 DraftCountdown Scott Wright is the founder of Draft
John McClain 33711 5716 McClain_on_NFL Has covered the NFL for the Houston Chronicle for 33 years. Can be heard on Sports Radio 610 in Houston and 104.5 The Zone in Nashville.
gregg rosenthal 35762 7433 greggrosenthal
Matthew Elder 1278 22494 Matthewcelder Director of Scouting for, Selection Committee Member for 2012 BSN Collegiate Showcase
Josh Buchanan 2056 14729 JoshBDraft owner, former all-star game scout/SID, Pro Hopefuls writer for, Phil Steele writer, and FWAA/PFWA member.
Matt Bitonti 2080 1066 DraftDaddy NFL Draft news and knowledge.
Alen Dumonjic 2266 11220 Dumonjic_Alen Just another young guy with a computer blogging  X’s and O’s for and A Gooner at heart. Fauvist fanatic. Opinions are own.
Chris Kouffman 2327 20303 ckparrot NFL Draft Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report, Writer at as well as Draft Winds series on Dave Hyde’s blog at South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Eric Galko 2869 11252 OptimumScouting Director of Scouting for Optimum Scouting,;
Michael Schottey 3566 36303 Schottey NFL Associate Editor at Bleacher Report, Member of the Pro Football Writers of America. 3846 4182 DraftScout is the leading source for information and analysis on the NFL Draft year round. We’re now on Twitter and Facebook as well!
Chris Wesseling 9032 21228 ChrisWesseling Senior NFL football editor at, writer for, creator of Sons of the Tundra Dynasty Rankings blog, part-time roisterer.
NFL Draft Insider 14763 6199 NFLDraftInsider Jared Tokarz, NFL enthusiast, & NFL Draft expert. Follow for Breaking News Football tweets and One of a kind  interviews.

The NFL Draft Twitter Discovery List Part 1

One of the things I’m pretty interested in is content discovery (music, books, etc).  I just think that discovering new content is awesome.  But it’s always a fine line to walk.  For instance, if I like New Kids on the Block, a natural content recommendation is Backstreet Boys.  But that’s also a very obvious content recommendation.  It’s likely if I know all of NKOTB’s songs, I probably also know all of BSB’s songs.  What I want in the way of content discovery then are the non-obvious, but still relevant suggestions.  I want O-Town.

With that said, I’m starting out a series on NFL draft twitter accounts with the non-obvious accounts.  I don’t take a crap without opening up Microsoft Excel, and this list was no different.  To create this list I basically created a seed list of draft experts in Excel, then used the Twitter API to figure out who those draft experts were following.  Then I can do all sorts of things with the list like see who is being followed by a lot of draft experts, but doesn’t have a lot of total followers (that’s what I did below).

All of the accounts below have 1000 or fewer followers, but they are all followed by a number of NFL draft experts.  These accounts are also putting out a lot of content.

This is the relevant, but not obvious list of NFL draft twitter accounts.

Name Followers Tweets Link Description
Eugene Stasak Jr 233 3114 EugeneStasakJr 09 Penn State Graduate,
DraftTek Big Board Contributor, Cardinals/Ravens Analyst
Jeff Roemer 274 6758 JeffRoemer Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report-worked for the Toronto Blue Jays-Princeton grad & football player-movie buff & avid beach volleyball player
Eric C. Stoner 387 9856 ECStoner Writer and video guy for (@draftbreakdown) focusing mainly on QB evaluation.
Jmpasq 412 5972 Jmpasq  Prospect  Videos 
Paul Guillemette 496 5693 PigskinPaul Fan of all things football, trying to join the ranks of sports journalists. Student of the game and DRAFTNIK.
Alex Brown 550 12109 ABXXV25 Head Central Scout for Optimum Scouting, SMWW grad, UTA student, i am, in every sense of the word, a sports freak
Anthony D Macari, RA 761 2820 NFLWarRoom Draftnik / Architect / Bills Fan/ Writer / admarc / Syracuse University Class of ’89
Matthew Elder 807 4008 BillsDraft Scouting Director of
Jordan Grove 821 16998 LaSportsDude Contributor to & Contact me at
Brendan Leister 832 58889 BrendanLeister College student with goals of working in the sports industry. #NFLDraft writer/founding member of #NFL #Browns #IAmSecond
Brent Sobleski 864 3615 brentsobleski Continually searching for truth, rumors, and football enlightenment. Brent Sobleski is an ESPN Rumor Central blogger…but you can call me SOBO.
Jason Madson 912 20407 Jason_Madson Draft Analyst for and MIZZOU, Chicago Bulls and everything KC. College Football and beer. HOF Left Tackle.
RosterWatch 933 3812 RosterWatch Official Twitter of RosterWatch on ESPN Radio Austin. Get all of our rankings, updates, columns and content at
Steve Palazzolo 989 2375 Draft_Hub Draft Hub is your centralized location for all NFL Draft news. Give us a follow and keep up with all the action.

The Post Where I Continue My Rant Against Selecting Running Backs in the First Round

Just a short post here to note that draft position doesn’t have any explanatory power over running back yards per carry.  If you look at the graph below, it’s scattershot.  There is no trend.  Yards per carry do not go up as you get closer to the number one overall pick. (Data includes running backs with a minimum 150 carries in their first two years in the league). 

There are some potential explanations for this.  Either teams aren’t good at scouting running backs, or most of their efficiency comes from scheme.  It probably doesn’t matter which explanation you favor, teams should not be selecting running backs with first round picks.



Running Back is a Young Man’s Job (The Remix)

Awhile back I wrote that running back was a young man’s job.  However, I wasn’t super excited about my methodology at the time.  Basically I compared each running back’s yards/carry at each age to their career average.  It was an ok way of looking at the issue, but there was a problem.

As running backs get older, their career yards/carry goes down.  Running backs who stay in the league into their 30s might have had a much higher career YPC if they had retired at 26 for instance.  For that reason, the dropoff later in a running back’s career wouldn’t be as noticeable.  They would have already been in decline for a few years.

I thought of a better way to do it today.  I compared each running back’s yards/carry at every age to their peak.  That’s the right way to do it I think.  If you do that, you get the graph below.

One thing to note is that the number is never 100% of the career peak because this is an average at each age for all running backs.  Since none of them exceeded 100% of their career peak, the number is always going to be less than 100%.

The peak really looks lite it’s about 24 years old, and then it’s downhill from there in terms of yards per carry.


Comparing Reuben Randle, Javon Walker, and Michael Jenkins


I don’t have a lot to offer here other than the stats based comparisons.  The only thing I would note is that while I think a lot of people might say “Reuben Randle is better than Michael Jenkins!!!”, Jenkins was picked at the end of the first round coming out of college, so he was regarded as a decent prospect at the time.

Javon Walker had a very good early career and was really just derailed by the ACL injury.

One other note.  This is based on reports of Reuben’s 40 coming out of his pro day.

Player Rueben Randle Javon Walker Michael Jenkins
40 Time 4.43 4.38 4.4
Weight 210 210 217
Ht 75 75 77
SOS 7.45 7.11 6.83
School Louisiana State Florida State Ohio State
Drafted By   GNB ATL
Overall Pick   20 29
Share of College Team TDs 0.31 0.27 0.35
TD/G 0.57 0.64 0.54
Share of College Team Yds 0.39 0.33 0.31
Y/G 65.50 85.82 64.15
Y/R 17.30 20.98 15.16

Comparing Chris Polk, Ladell Betts, and Tashard Choice

From here on out I’ll be throwing up some more player comparisons.  The comparisons are 100% stat/measurables based and 0% scouting based, so feel free to take that into consideration when reading.  One other thing to note is that running backs are going to be heavily reliant on scheme.  We’ll look at them again after the draft.  Also keep in mind that similarity is not equal to destiny.

Today’s comparisons are for Washington running back Chris Polk.

Player Chris Polk Ladell Betts Tashard Choice
Wt 215.0 220.0 215.0
40 Time 4.57 4.62 4.48
Year 2011 2001 2007
School Washington Iowa Georgia Tech
Strength of Schedule 4.0 3.9 2.1
Att/G 22.5 20.8 21.8
Y/G 114.5 105.0 114.9
YPC 5.1 5.0 5.3
TD/G 0.9 1.0 0.8
Rec/G 2.4 1.2 1.2
Rec Y/G 25.5 12.3 8.9
YPR 10.7 10.3 7.6

Why Trent Richardson Shouldn’t Be Drafted Where He No Doubt Will Be Drafted


I’m firmly on record as arguing against selecting Trent Richardson where he is likely to be selected in this year’s draft.  Not because I don’t think he’ll be a stud.  He probably will be (and I would take him in a heartbeat in fantasy football).  My argument is related to the value of running backs and really the value of the running game.

Here are the components to the argument against running backs in the first round:

  1. The best case scenario isn’t that good.  Barry Sanders played for the Lions from 1989-98.  The Lions record over that time was 78-82.  Adrian Peterson has played for the Vikings since 2007.  The Vikings record over that time is 39-41.  LaDanian Tomlinson played for the Chargers between 2001 and 2009.  They actually had a winning record during that stretch (unlike Sanders’ Lions and Peterson’s Vikings).  However, their worst record (4-12) over that span came in the year that they averaged the best rushing yards/carry (the Chargers averaged 5.15 YPC in 2003).  Their worst rushing yards/carry came in a year that they were 13-3 as a team (when they averaged 3.33 YPC).
  2. The running game is antiquated.  Getting a running back now is like if you would have bought a horse and buggy after the Model T started rolling off the line.  If passing yields more yards than running, you should really only run in order to keep the defense guessing.
  3. Running doesn’t cause winning.  Look at the top five quarterbacks in terms of yards/attempt.  Then look at the top five running backs in yards/attempt.  Compare the records of the two groups.  This is a very simple analysis to do, but it will make sense to most people.
  4. Draft picks are choices among scarce resources.  If you take a running back, you’re opting not to take a piece that will help you either pass, or defend against the pass.
  5. Taking a running back in the first round locks that player in at a higher salary than you would have to spend on a mid or late round running back.  Teams should spend as little as possible on running backs because, again, running doesn’t cause winning.  Every dollar you save on the running game is another dollar that can go to the passing game.
  6. Not having a good running back doesn’t mean you can’t have a good running game.  Running backs are just one piece of at least six positions required to run the football.  Any time running backs fail we blame it on the offensive line.  But offensive line picks also are part of the passing game, so if it’s a choice between a running back and a lineman, you should always take the lineman.
  7. Teams should draft linemen instead of running backs early and then they should just look for the fastest big running back they can find late.

This all begs the question: When can you select a running back?  To me the answer to that question is about the same as “When can you get 22 inch rims for your car?”  When you have no other problems.


On the Accuracy of Expert Intuition vs. Simple Computer Formulas


Daniel Kahneman is probably one of the most influential thinkers of our time.  His work has made it into the thinking of people like Nassim Taleb and it causes all sorts of problems for economists because it contradicts the notion of human beings as rational actors.  If you’re interested, Michael Lewis recently profiled Kahneman when his book Thinking, Fast and Slow was published.

I’m interested in Kahneman’s work insofar as he has covered the issue of experts vs. analytics.  A number of studies have been undertaken to answer the question of whether experts can be more accurate than simple algorithms.  This research has implications for the ways that NFL teams conduct their business. 

NFL coaches and player personnel staff are experts of the same sort that Kahneman is interested in and you would have to think they are subject to the same limitations.

From Thinking, Fast and Slow:

Meehl reviewed the results of 20 studies that had analyzed whether clinical predictions based on the subjective impressions of trained professionals were more accurate than statistical predictions made by combining a few scores or ratings according to a rule. In a typical study, trained counselors predicted the grades of freshmen at the end of the school year. The counselors interviewed each student for forty-five minutes. They also had access to high school grades, several aptitude tests, and a four-page personal statement. The statistical algorithm used only a fraction of this information: high school grades and one aptitude test. Nevertheless, the formula was more accurate than 11 of the 14 counselors. Meehl reported generally similar results across a variety of other forecast outcomes, including violations of parole, success in pilot training, and criminal recidivism.

Not surprisingly, Meehl’s book provoked shock and disbelief among clinical psychologists, and the controversy it started has engendered a stream of research that is still flowing today, more than fifty years after its publication. The number of studies reporting comparisons of clinical and statistical predictions has increased to roughly two hundred, but the score in the contest between algorithms and humans has not changed. About 60% of the studies have shown significantly better accuracy for the algorithms. The other comparisons scored a draw in accuracy, but a tie is tantamount to a win for the statistical rules, which are normally much less expensive to use than expert judgment. No exception has been convincingly documented.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011-10-25). Thinking, Fast and Slow (pp. 222-223). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.


Do College Basketball Coaches Go Through an Age Related Decline?


One of the things I’ve written about in the past is that NFL football coaches seem to experience an age related decline after about 51 years old.  The decline makes sense given what we know about the way the brain ages.

In anticipation of the NCAA tournament I thought I would look at a group of successful college coaches and see if they experience age related declines.

To do this we can’t just look at every college coach and their win-loss record at every age.  That would compare good coaches who stay on to coach in their 70s with bad coaches who get fired in their 40s.  I also don’t want to use a coach’s record because that would overlook seasons where a coach had a good team, but played a tough schedule.  Instead I’ll use Sports Reference’s Simple Rating System, which is essentially a point rating where you could calculate an expected point spread between any two teams by just subtracting their Simple Rating from each other.  To show why this is important, consider that the 90-91 Duke team that won the National Championship was a very good team, with a very good SRS, but they had 7 losses on the year.

If we do that, look at each coach’s career SRS average, and then compare it to each age that they coached, we do see that they tend to decline with age.  The decline is not as steep as it is for football coaches.  A college coach might coach his best basketball in his 40s, but that doesn’t preclude him from winning in his late 50s and early 60s.  There is, I think, an easy explanation for this.  College coaches get to benefit from monopoly effects in ways that pro football coaches don’t.  Having a good team leads to financial benefits for the program, which leads to the coach extending his lead over other coaches.  Having a good program means more TV time, which is going to aid in recruiting.  These monopoly effects are going to let the coach be successful for longer, but it still doesn’t mean that they don’t coach their best basketball earlier in their careers.  I can think of one other reason that basketball coaches could stay relevant for longer and that is that the coach intervention in a game is less than in football.  Football coaches are intervening in their games every single play (play calls, substitutions).  If they are declining in effectiveness, it is going to show up right away.  But basketball coaches do most of their coaching outside of the game.  Once the game starts they have a few timeouts and halftime to intervene seriously.

Below is the graph that shows the decline of their relative Simple Rating System.


To understand this graph, consider that most coaches will start out at a smaller school, where they might have a good team, but will not be coaching a powerhouse program.  So in their 30′s (not shown on the graph) their relative SRS will be lowest.  They will then move to a school that will have better resources and their relative SRS will peak in their 40′s.  That’s when they coach their best basketball.

But even while things might decline later in their 50′s, they still have the monopoly benefits of the program they’ve built, and the NCAA tournament is still a volatile endeavor, so there is nothing that would preclude an older coach from having a national champion team at age 60 or older.

To illustrate the same point with examples, consider that Rick Pitino averaged an SRS of 24 (they would have been favored by 24 points over an average team) when he was in his 40s, and he also won his only National Championship then.  In his 50s he has had good teams, but not nearly as good as when he was in his 40s.

Coach K won his first title at age 43, then won another the following year, and then won another when he was 53.  He has won another title since then, but his teams have not been as dominant as they once were.  During a five year stretch that began in 1997, Duke never lost more than 5 games.  But in the last six years they have lost 11, 6, 7, 5, 5, 6.  The difference in Coach K’s Simple Rating System between those two periods is about 10 points.  In the late 90s they would have been favored by 30 over the average team.  In the last six years that number is closer to 20.  It’s not that Coach K is a bad coach in his 60s, that’s not the case.  It’s that if you compare his results to what he accomplished in his 40s and early 50s, they aren’t as good.

The falloff for college basketball coaches isn’t as severe as it is for NFL coaches, but it does appear to exist.

NCAA Tourney Free Roll–You Too Could Be the Proud Owner of $50

OK, I created a group on called “Lincoln Hawk Investing”.  If you go fill out a bracket and join that group, you might just be the proud owner of $50 (winner take all).

Here’s the link to the ESPN group:

One more rule – you have to send me an email with your entry name.  I have to know who to send the money to.  My email is

That’s all.  Good luck.

The Effects of the Running Game on the Passing Game, and Vice Versa

The first thing worth mentioning here is that causation and correlation aren’t the same thing, and in any relationship, we have to understand the direction of the relationship.  For the topic at hand, when a good running game and a good passing game co-exist, is there a causal relationship between the two, and if there is a causal relationship, which direction is it in?  Does good running cause good passing?  Or does good passing cause good running?

Below is a quick exercise I did where I took the last 10 years of team seasons and did a simple r-squared for seven variables.  I displayed the r-squared in percentage terms because saying that one variable explains about X% of the variation in another variable is a common way to discuss r-squared values.

The impetus for this analysis (it’s not really analysis) was that I heard a prominent draft expert say that the Buccaneers could draft Trent Richardson and give Josh Freeman some help.  This seemed like a shitty idea to me.  The only way anybody is ever going to think that Josh Freeman is a good quarterback is if Josh Freeman turns into a good quarterback.  But I’m all about testing theories, so I came up with these r-squared values.


Rushing efficiency doesn’t explain really any part of the passing game.  Team rushing yards don’t explain very much of passing efficiency or passing yards (both less than 5%). 

Probably the biggest correlation is between pass efficiency and rushing touchdowns.  But which direction is that relationship likely to be?  Do rushing touchdowns cause passing efficiency?  Or is it more likely to be the other way around?  It seems to me that it’s more likely the other way around.  Good passing teams move the ball into the red zone and then sometimes run it in.

There’s also some relationship between rushing yards and interceptions, although the correlation is actually negative.  Again, which way is that relationship likely to go?  I suppose the more teams run, the less likely they are to throw interceptions, but it also seems like it works the other way too.  Once teams throw a pick, they’re behind the 8 ball and they have to throw to dig themselves out of a hole.

If TRich can actually help a quarterback out, then that benefit should be able to be demonstrated somehow.  I just haven’t seen anything like that.  It seems like the more direct solution to helping Josh Freeman would be to get him some receivers.  Good passing teams have good receivers.  The Buccs’s receiving corps is a patchwork group.  The best WR is former 4th round pick Mike Williams.  Kellen Winslow will be 29 next year.  Most good passing teams (not all) have at least one first round wide receiver and some have two.

Comparing Justin Blackmon and Braylon Edwards

Using the 40 times that have been floating around for Justin Blackmon’s pro day, I’ve run a similarity projection for him based on 4.48.  When you do that, the most similar pro receiver is Braylon Edwards.  They are close to similar height, weight and speed, although Braylon is a little ahead on all three measures.

They also both dominated in college.  But their college stats are interestingly similar in terms of yards/reception.  They were both down in that 12-13 yards/reception range.

I don’t think Blackmon belongs in the “can’t miss” group of wide receivers.  Those receivers are rare and I don’t think there is one in this year’s class.  If Blackmon were about 15 pounds heavier and the same speed, I would put him in that group of can’t miss guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson.  I think Blackmon probably fits in with a group that is down one tier and are good bets to become #1 WRs, but aren’t sure things.  That group I think consists of guys like Braylon, Hakeem Nicks, Roddy White, Robert Meachem, and maybe Jeremy Maclin.

It might be helpful to think of “can’t miss” WR prospects in terms of a three legged stool.  The three legs are: weight, speed, and college dominance.  For weight you want over 220 pounds.  For speed you want a sub 4.50 40 times (and lower is better) and for college dominance you want over 1 touchdown per game.  A lot of guys get to two out of the three legs of the stool.  Very few get all three legs.  The guys who get to two legs can still be good, they’re just not guaranteed to be good.

Player Justin Blackmon Braylon Edwards
DY 2012 2005
40 Time 4.48 4.45
Weight 207 210
Ht 73 75
SOS 8.85 5.39
School Oklahoma State Michigan
Drafted By   CLE
Overall Pick   3
% of Team TDs 49% 60%
Td/g 1.38 1.25
% of Team Yards 32% 48%
Y/G 117.1 110.8
Y/R 12.6 13.7

Lamar Miller, Jerious Norwood, and Joseph Addai

Running back comparisons are about the least fun thing to do.  They’re not any fun because very few pro running backs have spotless resumes.  Most are good for a year or two and then sort of fizzle out.  After you watch a college running back torch college defenses for a year, you don’t want to go compare that guy to a pro running back who is somewhere between mediocre and good.

But that’s what happens when you compare Lamar Miller to pro running backs who were similar coming out of college.  Jerious Norwood and Joseph Addai played against similar or tougher competition.  They are similar size, and they ran the 40 in similar time.  Their college rushing stats are also really close to Miller’s.  Before you go “No way, Lamar Miller is much more dynamic”, just remember that Addai was taken in the first round and Miller probably won’t be.  So be careful if you’re going to say that Miller is a better prospect than Addai.  Being similar to Addai might not be a bad thing, but it does illustrate the tenuous position that running backs occupy in the NFL.

As I’ve said with these similarity comparisons, if it helps you try to calibrate your expectations, great.  If they don’t help you, feel free to disregard them.

Player Lamar Miller Jerious Norwood Joseph Addai
Wt 212 210 214
40 Time 4.4 4.4 4.4
Year 2011 2005 2005
School Miami (FL) Mississippi State Louisiana State
Overall Draft Pick   79 30
SOS 1.84 2.14 3.19
ATT/G 18.9 18.4 19.7
YDS/G 106.0 112.7 97.6
YPC 5.6 6.1 5.0
TD/G 0.8 0.6 0.9
Rec/G 1.4 1.7 2.2
Rec YDS/G 7.1 6.4 20.0
YPR 5.0 3.8 9.0