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Speedyg

Morey-ball

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For those who also follow the NBA, you might be aware of the analytic-heavy analysis that Daryl Morey (GM of the Houston Rockets) deployed. It's the concept of how long two-point jump shots are ineffective and that teams are better off taking three point shots or layups..less in between. 

This philosophy has taken the NBA by storm as the pace of the game has skyrocketed (case in point one of the fastest pace offenses in the 2000s now would rank in the bottom 3). The Rockets and the Nets combined for 100 three point attempts last night as they scored 145-142 (OT). The Rockets themselves hoisted 70 threes.

Now, while we see Mahomes and the Chiefs do some crazy stuff, I think we can all agree that those aren't replicatable unless you have Mahomes (and his unique weapons).

The question is: is there some kind of analytical innovation that some can find in the NFL that can have a similar effect?

Or are there too many moving parts in the NFL? And also, are the coaching trees from traditional coaches limiting any possibility for some crazy analytic-based gung-ho approach that has taken the NBA by storm?

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3 minutes ago, Speedyg said:

The question is: is there some kind of analytical innovation that some can find in the NFL that can have a similar effect?

I think we'd see something similar (not necessarily the SAME) if teams collectively went for it on 4th and short (< 3 yards) vs punting it. 

I'd like to see the analytics on extending a drive vs flipping the field on a punt.

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I'd like to see an offense where like 15-25% of their offense was trick plays. You'd waste a lot of downs and possibly turn it over quite a bit, but you would literally always see 2-high safeties and neutered aggression from the defense. It could be fun to watch, but I wouldn't ever be the first OC to do that lol

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4 minutes ago, BleedTheClock said:

I'd like to see an offense where like 15-25% of their offense was trick plays. You'd waste a lot of downs and possibly turn it over quite a bit, but you would literally always see 2-high safeties and neutered aggression from the defense. It could be fun to watch, but I wouldn't ever be the first OC to do that lol

Yeah I was trying to think of what's similar to three point shots? Madden (the video game)-ball playing 4 wides and going for the home run every single play? Defenses are basically going to be forced to play some kind of 4 deep (or man), which you would think opens up the middle for smallish backs vs LBs?

Problem is, you can get your QB killed by holding the ball long (but NFL protecting QBs more and more).

The amateur analytics thing to me is, the more plays you run, the more prone your team is for mistakes (holding, false starts, etc) that potentially cause negative yards and make it more difficult to get a 1st down.

I think there was a college team (not high level division) whose coach always went for it on 4th down? I recall them bringing up analytics as to why he does it, but it never amounted to any thing.

Similar thought. The three point game are making NBA big men practice and learn how to shoot threes (to fit the new style).

Can you have quarterbacks learn to punt and essentially get rid of the punter position?

If you get the look you want, throw the ball. If you don't, punt it.

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3 minutes ago, Speedyg said:

Yeah I was trying to think of what's similar to three point shots? Madden (the video game)-ball playing 4 wides and going for the home run every single play? Defenses are basically going to be forced to play some kind of 4 deep (or man), which you would think opens up the middle for smallish backs vs LBs?

Problem is, you can get your QB killed by holding the ball long (but NFL protecting QBs more and more).

Yeah if you're too predictable, defenses are just going to send 1 more guy than you can block and play cover 0 in behind it.

I coach defense in HS (I know, a far cry from the NFL) and every time I see an offense go empty, I send 6 guys, man up the 5 eligibles, and say F-you, you've got 1 second to throw the football while we press you at the line. You can do the same thing with a vertical-based passing attack with 1 RB by simply sending the OLB to the RB side. If the RB goes out for a pass, the end man just peels off and picks him up. It's very effective, as teams want to spread you out and find the soft spot in zones. I like to stomp on conventional wisdom and send the house.

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5 hours ago, Speedyg said:

The question is: is there some kind of analytical innovation that some can find in the NFL that can have a similar effect?

Two high powered offenses with defenses who give up yards. See the Chiefs/Rams game.

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Here's an example:

https://www.theringer.com/nfl/2018/12/19/18148153/nfl-analytics-revolution

Quote

He became interested in how teams win games when he was in college and became convinced of two things, both of which would foreshadow the modern NFL. The first is that an offensive emphasis on passing correlated to wins. The second is more complicated than it sounds. Sharp found that third-down efficiency, long the obsession of announcers and old-school coaches, was not the key to an effective offense. He found that it was better for teams to scrap third downs entirely and move the chains by gaining the necessary yardage on first and second down.

“Announcers love to say, ‘This team is 10-of-13 on third down,’ and there’s never any comparison to early-down success,” Sharp said. In his view, teams should run the ball on first down much less than they do. This revelation came to him in the late 2000s, as he watched quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady at their peaks.

“I don’t think their strategy was to avoid third down, but I think there was just more aggressiveness. It’s about calling efficient plays,” Sharp said. “You always hear TV announcers, it drives me crazy, they’ll say on second-and-short, ‘Good time to take a shot down the field,’ and there’s a lot of risk in that. The interception rate is higher than it is on a regular play, the success rate converting it is low. Run a play that gets you the first down and take a shot on the next first-and-10 if you want.”

There is some evidence that teams are coming around to Sharp’s ideas about early-down aggressiveness. The leaguewide yards per attempt average on first down is 7.4, up from 7.1 in 2017. On second down, it’s 7, up from 6.5 last year. On third down, yards per attempt has actually dipped slightly, from 6.2 in 2017 to 6.0 now. This season, the Rams and Chiefs lead the NFL in first downs, yet are 26th and 31st, respectively, in third-down attempts. Sharp pointed to the Chargers as a team that did not pass enough on first down and did not call efficient plays on early downs last year. This season, Philip Rivers’s yards per attempt average on first down has climbed from 8.1 to 9.7; the 11-3 Chargers are enjoying their best season in years.

 

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6 hours ago, ET80 said:

I think we'd see something similar (not necessarily the SAME) if teams collectively went for it on 4th and short (< 3 yards) vs punting it. 

I'd like to see the analytics on extending a drive vs flipping the field on a punt.

Some teams are already doing this often.

Eagles, Saints, Patriots, Chiefs, etc.

There were 15 attempts to convert 4th down last week in the 4 games.

Edited by SkippyX

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IMO the closest thing there is right now to what you're referencing, is Canadian football.

Mike Lombardi might be a clown like 80% of the time, but he is right about one thing: teams need to try and not be in ANY third down situations at all. 

No more "lets try and get to 3rd and short". Treat it like 3 down football, using 1st and 2nd down to get the 1st. 

Stop with these completely wasteful, down wasting 2 yard runs on 2nd down. Like what the hell is the point? 

If you're going to run it, use spread concepts with some jet motions etc. At least TRY to get the 1st down on 2nd and 10 when you run it, instead of trying to get to just 3rd and short. 

Its mind-numbingly frustrating. 

There are some coaches who have began to understand this though. McVay, Payton, Reid, Pederson, Reich...maybe one or two others.

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12 hours ago, Xenos said:

That's interesting and one I have not read/heard. The go-deep on 2nd and short is certainly rooted in conventional football wisdom. Interesting that analytics seem to indicate higher turnover rate going deep on that down/distance.

Although that seems to indicate more big play attempts on 1st down while using chain moving plays on 2nd down?

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Couple off the top of my head that we're seeing more of now:

  1. Teams going for it more on 4th and short instead of punting
  2. More play action, and getting rid of the notion that you have to run the ball first to make the play action effective
  3. Less running, more throwing
  4. Less emphasis on receivers winning 1v1 matchups, and more emphasis on using bunches and motion to free them up by scheme
  5. Defenses being more concerned about creating turnovers than making stops

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This is where it gets interesting to me as a HS Football Coach. I've seen countless people say it, but no one really attempt some of this, other than high school teams. Unfortunately, as of yet, no one is willing to try these new things for fear of them blowing up in their face(s) and then them getting fired and losing their job/not getting another head gig (See the Art Howe and Billy Beane debate in Moneyball) I'm not saying it should be an "all the time" thing, but here are some things I'd love to see:

1. As @ET80 said, 4th and less than 3 would be an interesting study, especially once you get to at least your own 40 yard line. This is something we do at our program and have seen some great results.

2. Kick onside kicks at least 25% of the time, but do so from a "surprise" and standard formation. Each time, the opponent must line up with their hands team, so 75% of the time you're dominating field position on returns and the 25% of the time you still have the chance of a possession swing. Basically, even if you lose the onside, the other team gets the ball around midfield, which is the same as going for it on 4th down in that range above on my first point, and getting stopped.

3. Go for 2 every single time. If you're able to convert at least 50%,  then you're more than breaking even since kickers are only about 95% on PAT attempts. I know that statistically NFL teams are slightly below this threshold, but I'd argue that's because so many teams are "out of their element" when going for 2. If they ALWAYS did it, I think that the success rate would be higher.

So, without changing anything from a formation/X's and O's standpoint, those are three that I truly believe will eventually be explored by someone, even if it's an awful expansion type team. Or some team that started like 1-7 and was already eliminated from the playoffs.

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51 minutes ago, MWil23 said:

This is where it gets interesting to me as a HS Football Coach. I've seen countless people say it, but no one really attempt some of this, other than high school teams. Unfortunately, as of yet, no one is willing to try these new things for fear of them blowing up in their face(s) and then them getting fired and losing their job/not getting another head gig (See the Art Howe and Billy Beane debate in Moneyball) I'm not saying it should be an "all the time" thing, but here are some things I'd love to see:

1. As @ET80 said, 4th and less than 3 would be an interesting study, especially once you get to at least your own 40 yard line. This is something we do at our program and have seen some great results.

2. Kick onside kicks at least 25% of the time, but do so from a "surprise" and standard formation. Each time, the opponent must line up with their hands team, so 75% of the time you're dominating field position on returns and the 25% of the time you still have the chance of a possession swing. Basically, even if you lose the onside, the other team gets the ball around midfield, which is the same as going for it on 4th down in that range above on my first point, and getting stopped.

3. Go for 2 every single time. If you're able to convert at least 50%,  then you're more than breaking even since kickers are only about 95% on PAT attempts. I know that statistically NFL teams are slightly below this threshold, but I'd argue that's because so many teams are "out of their element" when going for 2. If they ALWAYS did it, I think that the success rate would be higher.

So, without changing anything from a formation/X's and O's standpoint, those are three that I truly believe will eventually be explored by someone, even if it's an awful expansion type team. Or some team that started like 1-7 and was already eliminated from the playoffs.

Mentioned in one of the articles, but someone already looked at the data and created a chart. Here it is.It appears going for it on 4th and 3 on your own 40 is supported by the data. One thing to keep in mind though.

"In one respect, it is possible that we may be underestimating the impact of a proper fourth down strategy. The recommendations of the two-dimensional 4th Down Bot in Figure 8 are somewhat naive, and do not account for time remaining and point differential. Thus, the Bot’s model alone is likely imperfect for each NFL decision, and identifying the best decision based on variables besides yards to go and field position would likely increase the benefit of aggressive fourth down behavior."

2.jpg

 

Edited by Here'sJim

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19 minutes ago, Here'sJim said:

Mentioned in one of the articles, but someone already looked at the data and created a chart. Here it is.It appears going for it on 4th and 3 on your own 40 is supported by the data. One thing to keep in mind though.

"In one respect, it is possible that we may be underestimating the impact of a proper fourth down strategy. The recommendations of the two-dimensional 4th Down Bot in Figure 8 are somewhat naive, and do not account for time remaining and point differential. Thus, the Bot’s model alone is likely imperfect for each NFL decision, and identifying the best decision based on variables besides yards to go and field position would likely increase the benefit of aggressive fourth down behavior."

2.jpg

 

Definitely valid, but I'd also say that if more NFL coaches and teams started evaluating "4 down territory" and identifying play calls accordingly, they'd be much more successful. Your whole yardage needed/play-calling philosophy would change. Look at how many teams convert 4th down in "crunch time" as a result of this strategy.

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I saw a quote from Todd Monken which essentially said something along the lines of "I'm not looking for plays that create third and manageable, I'm looking for plays that create chunk yards" and I think that is the future of the NFL. This would obviously involve passing the ball A LOT, and I think that's where the league is headed and I think that is the most efficient way to run an offense.

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