Football Calculus 2

from Hunter Leath

The Analysis of a Bad Call, Some Players You’ve Never Heard of or Thought were Any Good, and the Best Weekend in Modern Memory

You ever read a really long book or see an unnaturally long movie that is tough to make an opinion on? You really want to know how it ends, but there really isn’t any motivation but you’ve made it this far. You see the ending, and you hate on it, but the more you think about it as time passes, you eventually realize it was one of the best you’ve ever seen. Once the shock factor wears off and days or weeks pass, you understand that it is not the ending that you should’ve enjoyed or disliked, it was the journey. It was the masterful twists, the turns, and the intrigue that truly separated this story or this movie from the rest. That, if you have ever done that, describes this weekend in football. As much as I would love to go deep into my analysis of the Fighting Catholic’s return to prominence and how my Bulldawgs, I can’t do that, not yet, Bulldogs, need a little more respect, this weekend was dominated by stories in professional football. Let’s just go by scores. The total points differential this weekend was 151 points. That is an average of 9.4375 per game. Think about it. The average game was decided by less than 10 points this weekend. When is the last time this happened? I don’t know. Do you know? Probably not. Only three teams, lost by three possessions or more, which is what I classify as a blowout. There were three overtime games among the first slate of 1 pm games, three games decided with the clock at zero, and two or three more decided by points scored or defensive stops in the last minute of the game. Football was beautiful this weekend, even if my team made me hyperventilate for a solid 45 minutes after the game had ended. (No joke. The Titans game took so much out of me that I couldn’t breathe and could barely stand up for almost an hour after the game. Maybe that’s because cut my feed three minutes into overtime and I had to watch the game on gamecast and it wouldn’t load and I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t feel like I was in control and just thinking about it now is making me feel light headed and use the word and a lot and also I was cursing a lot and also people got mad at me because I used a pillow like a baseball bat and almost broke through my bed frame with a pillow and my fist and I yelled so loud at Chris Johnson that people three floors down heard me. Deep breath. That was not the best experience for my body, but when it comes to endorphins, it was like being on a roller coaster blindfolded while someone is holding a gun to your face and your mother’s face.) So let’s get into it. There were some noteworthy things that you want to be discussed, weren’t there.

Just How Bad are the Replacement Referees? I can tell you there was something despicable on television that I sat all the way through Monday night. It was offensive to anyone who watched it, especially those who have long been fans of the proud institution. At times it became laughable, but mostly I was just sad that I got roped into watching this horrible display of newbies flailing around on screen while a few established professionals tried to get their jobs done. I am of course talking about CBS Comedy Monday. I mean, did anyone watch Partners last night? That was horrendous. I could make a list of the five best and worst jokes from all four of the Monday comedies from the acronym last night, but sadly I can’t say too much on the Monday night football game, because I was preoccupied laughing at one show because of its comedy, one because of its lackluster jokes, one because of how much I hated it, and one because fat people are funny. Then I watched an hour of The Godfather and studies for a French test until 11:30 in a friend’s room because my room was displaying a horror movie snugglefest for couples. (Did anyone else instinctively read snugglefest like it was a monster truck rally commercial? SNUGGLEFEST!) Then I got on my computer and saw there was no time left in the MNF game, but it had not been declared final. What ensued was a two hour discussion in my room about the call and all other things MNF that left all who tried to interpret it incredulous. I’ll go ahead and say it: there is no sense in discussing the last play of the Monday Night Football game. Not only has it been grounded to the ground by the punditry already, it has no answer. What I can discuss are the effects of the referees on the degree of football and try to do some genuine analysis for it. This season there have been 5570 defensive penalty yards, an average of 174.0625 per team or 1856.667 per week, and 5670 offensive penalty yards, an average of 177.1875 per team or 1890 per week. 11,240 total penalty yards through three weeks, is that an above average number. Let’s see. Last year than was on offensive average of 1734.5 penalty yards a week and 1734.5 defensive penalty yards on average. Let’s disregard for a second that last season there was the exact same number of offensive and defensive penalty yards to see that numbers are up on average on both sides of the ball. You don’t need to be a genius to say you’ve noticed that on numerous occasions this season and the numbers didn’t tell you anything you didn’t know. But, you do need to be a genius to answer this question: why are penalty numbers up if there are so many missed calls? I secretly expected them to be down, because the replacement referees are apparently horrible at spotting interference, holding and helmet to helmet hits, let alone correctly calling a roughing of the passer, punter, kicker, or return man. If they botch so many obvious calls how are penalty numbers up? There are two basic explanations, one that makes me sound good and one that makes me sound bad. It would sound bad if I said that the sample size is too small to make any inferences based on seasonal averages and regression towards the mean should even everything out, so I won’t say that. But I will say that it is obvious that the referees are easily swayed by crowds and by external pressures. We are all familiar with the term “make-up call”, which pretty much states that if a referee or an umpire in any sport believes they have missed a call that is negligible by the standards of the sport, they can call one on the next play or on a play of comparable importance to swing the pendulum of penaltic momentum (just made up a word) back to even. These refs believe in that too hard. Just let one go. If you miss PI on one play on a second down, for example the Ravens vs. Patriots game on Sunday Night, that doesn’t mean you have to make one up on third down. If you are going to try a make up call, don’t do one on a play that psychologically shifts the game in favor of the team you are helping with the penalty. Make it, to reuse a word, a negligible penalty. Make it one that won’t ruin the game for a team (See Ravens vs. Eagles week 2, the worst offensive PI call and offensive PI no calls I have ever seen by the way.) The Titans vs. Lions game, easily the best of the weekend from a pure enjoy-ability standpoint, was rife with bad calls, including a roughing the passer on an interception that would’ve ended the game that was far from an actual roughing the passer and a review of a barely reviewable play that was easily a catch in overtime, but you don’t see any controversy there. That brings up a good point that I have noticed: people only care about bad calls when premier teams such as the Ravens, Patriots, Packers, Eagles, and Giants are adversely affected. If teams like the Titans, or the Chiefs, or the Dolphins, or even the Seattle Seahawks who were called for four more penalties for about the same amount of yards as the Packers last night, no one talks about it. Why would the NFL want to rehire the referees in the first place now? It would be like banning the use of the words Tebow and Favre in NFL studios. The NFL is getting more press because of this than they did from bountygate, spygate, brettfavretakingapictureofhisschlonggate, and peytonmanningdecidingtoplayforthebroncosandmakingtimtebowbetradedtothejetsgate combined. But I digress. Can we put this to bed? Can we stop complaining about the refs only when we find it convenient? The calls have been bad. But do you remember this? Or this? Or this? Or this? This isn’t really appropriate, it’s just funny.

Some Players That You’ve Never Thought About: The Emergence of People You’d Never Expect

Now I can talk about what I really wanted to talk about, the statistical surprises of the early season. Who has been marvelously underappreciated, and who has been drastically overrated? The first thing to do is easily do what I call the tale of ten. Here are the statlines for ten quarterbacks; we will call them QBs A-J. You’ll figure out who some of them are, others may perplex you. Then I want you to do a little activity and rank them based off of who you would want through who you wouldn’t. At the end of the column after I do this with some other things, I will tell you picked and why you thought this way. Because I can read minds and I’m a freaking magician. Here are your statlines. (R Y/TD means Rushing yards/Rushing TDs)

QB Completions Attempts Percentage TDs INTs Passing Yards R Y/TD QBA 53 83 63.9 2 5 798 81/2 QBB 67 104 64.4 4 2 781 67/0 QBC 40 79 50.6 4 0 468 22/0 QBD 68 97 70.1 4 0 713 41/1 QBE 65 95 68.4 6 3 867 31/0 QBF 65 122 53.3 5 4 846 80/0 QBG 60 89 67.4 4 1 747 209/3 QBH 54 102 52.9 1 4 615 16/1 QBI 65 115 56.5 3 6 677 31/0 QBJ 43 75 57.3 4 1 434 66/0

Okay. More on those lines later. Here comes my favorite line of the season so far that is not Titans related and you may never have thought about as a player that exists. Here is his season line. Week Receptions Yards Touchdowns Week 1 0 0 0 Week 2 1 15 0 Week 3 4 113 1

I am enamored with this line. I can’t quite explain why. I just love this line. The player in question is T.Y. Hilton. The reason I appreciate this so much is that Week 1, T.Y. was barely considered a slot receiver. Then Austin Collie didn’t come back from injury, so he got boosted up. Another injury, he’s number two, Reggie Wayne being covered, he is now arguably the number one receiver on the Indianapolis Colts. Here is why this line intrigues me. T.Y. Hilton did this against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a poor coverage team that had also played the Houston Texans and the Minnesota Vikings earlier this year. Their best receivers, Andre Johnson and Percy Harvin respectively, went 3,21,0 and 6,84,0. Does this prove anything, no. Does this have any purpose but to show off the fact that I told everyone during this year’s draft that I thought T.Y. Hilton would be a good steal, no. Just saying, rookies can have a big impact. And in a few weeks when everybody wants to pick him up in fantasy leagues across the world, you’ll have me to look back at and be proud. And if in a few weeks, he doesn’t play well, who cares? He is T.Y. Hilton. Who even knows who that is?

Now for your results from the game we played earlier. Let me guess. You probably picked QBD, QBE, or QBG. And let me guess again. You probably figured out who QBG was just based off of his line. That was easy. You might have also figured out QBI. But, I can tell you these are the new wave of quarterbacks that I listed here. I tell you that all of these quarterbacks are either one year pro or rookies. Eight of these QBs were first round picks, one was a second rounder and one a third rounder. QBA is Cam Newton. QBB is Jake Locker. QBC is Blaine Gabbert. QBD is Christian Ponder. QBE is Andy Dalton. QBF is Andrew Luck. QBG is, quite obviously, Robert Griffin III, QBH is Ryan Tannehill. QBI is, also obviously, Brandon Weeden, and finally QBJ is Russell Wilson. Are you surprised? Would you have taken the same order if I gave you names? Would you have willingly put Cam Newton below Blaine Gabbert? Would you take Russell Wilson over Andrew Luck? Would you take Christian Ponder over any other youthfully exuberant QB in the game? Here is the lesson from this week’s column: numbers are good indicators of performance, but more so than any other sport, football is judgment based. Even Cam Newton’s numbers last year would not have been picked early in this simulation, as he threw just about as many interceptions as touchdowns and had a subpar completion percentage. So how would I order them? I know that I am biased and have no way of being unbiased because I made the activity, but right now, based off of numbers, projections, notoriety, and pure unadulterated opinion, here is how I rank them.

I go with Andy Dalton first. The kid has not only proven he can put up numbers, he has won enough ball games to put his team into the playoffs in one of the most competitive divisions in football last year. He has always been a great leader back to his days in college and both tangibly and intangibly has what you want in a young quarterback. Second, I take Andy Luck. The kid has too high of a ceiling to not expect him to shape up. Plus he has the second worst supporting cast of any QB on this list, but will get to him later. Next, I take Cameron Cecil Newton. The kid has a laser and is bigger than any fullback plus gets more significant carries. Whereas I don’t expect him to turn it around this year, I think the Panthers are in trouble, but I would definitely take him over any of the next few guys. Next, surprisingly, I take Christian Ponder based purely off of his numbers. He tore up the Niners on Sunday, and while he also has played the Jags and the Colts, he has consistently dominated the defenses he has played. If he keeps this up, he might elevate to tops of this list by years end. Next, my boy Jake Locker appears above the next slot player RGIII simply because of the poise he showed in the close game this week. It would be foolish to pick Locker over Griffin based off of skill set, but the fact of the matter is the kid is putting up great accuracy numbers this season and lead his team down the field in overtime and in the fourth quarter to spark the first of the many comebacks. Next is Griffin because of skillset solely, then comes Wilson because of every intangible phrase I can think of and he threw the first game winning interception in football history, for which I must give him props. Next comes a tough choice, but I go Weeden than round it out with Gabbert. I go Weeden ahead of Gabbert because Brandon Weeden has the worst supporting cast as on offense of almost any QB in football, and definitely on this list and is still putting up replacement level numbers. Gabbert, while not throwing picks this season, simply does not attempt the volume of passes for me to say that I know that he has changed from last year. There you have it. Those are my youth rankings. Next week we will revisit the power rankings theories of last week and do some external analysis of that. But for now, I leave you with this.


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