I have no idea what this means

This [headline is stupid][1], even for NOLA.com:

New Orleans Saints even their record to .500 in first three days of free agency

Ignoring the nonsense of the “sign one for a win, lose one for a loss” implied by this headline*, I’m not sure how signing Keenan Lewis and Justin Drescher while losing Chase Daniel, Jermon Bushrod, and Jonathan Casillas equates to a 0.500 record. Hopefully this isn’t a “Top Post”.

*_I guess you get a win for every free agent you sign and a loss for every one of yours someone else signs? Sweet: if the Saints cut Drew Brees and use the savings to sign 5 players, they could win free agency!?!1??!!!!

_

[1]: http://www.nola.com/saints/index.ssf/2013/03/new_orleans_saints_even_their.html

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The birth of the NFL's greatest QB rivalry

Mike Tanier is growing into his role as a columnist for Sports on Earth. I really enjoyed [this piece][1] despite it’s lack of Saints content:

The greatest quarterback rivalry in history started out as a punting contest between Lee Johnson and Hunter Smith.

[1]: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/39445110

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Well that’s…something

Per Football Outsiders, the Saints [have about a 2% chance of making the playoffs this year][1]. Which, for those of you scoring at home, is way lower than the Falcons’ chance of going 15–1. Sigh.

The good news: the Saints chances of getting the #1 overall pick are 10% and climbing quickly!

[1]: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/playoffodds

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Don't Blame Hartley, or, why it was likely that he'd miss one of the two field goals he had to make in order for the Saints to win*

*assuming, of course, that the defense would have prevented the Packers from scoring

A few quick thoughts on Hartley and kickers*:

*Which I’ve updated about 100 times, far too many times to do the cute Internet strikethrough thingy, sorry. I shouldn’t write in a pique of post-loss fury and beer, but that’s life.

1) Remember, it’s really tough to evaluate how good kickers are. The sample size is just too small to make meaningful judgments. Garret Hartley has attempted 57 field goals in his 31-game career. It takes a baseball player about 15 games to have 57 plate appearances. No one would say that we should judge a baseball player based on 15 games, but it’s common to think that we can judge a kicker on a similar sample. We can’t.

2) Though we don’t really know if Hartley’s a good kicker or a bad kicker, many fans have impressions of how reliable he is. Notably, these impressions may differ in 2012 from what they were in 2009, when he kicked the Saints into the Super Bowl.

3) The difficult thing is this: it will take Hartley years to have attempted enough kicks to get a decent sense for his skill. Morten Andersen kicked 389 field goals for the Saints—the equivalent of about 100 baseball games’ worth of at bats— in 13 years. 13 years! As Jerry Glanville explained, NFL coaches don’t have that kind of time. Football teams don’t have the luxury of riding out slumps and unlucky streaks over a 162-game season, which is why a kicker’s life is lonesome.

4) Kickers may be getting better and better, but it’s still a tough job. It gets tougher from 40+ yards, and even tougher with the game on the line. What many people think of as a “gimme” isn’t exactly that. Let’s look at the numbers:

In 2010 and 2011, NFL kickers attempted 584 field goals between 40 and 49 yards. They made 430 of them, or just under 74%. But, thanks to the holding penalty, Hartley didn’t have to make one high-pressure field goal, he had to make two. If he’d missed either of them, the Packers would get the ball. The average odds of making two consecutive field goals between 40 and 49 yards are lower: 0.74^2, or about 55%.

But that overstates Hartley’s odds because his attempts weren’t 40 yards, they were 43 and 48 yards. Field goals get harder to make with each additional yard of distance. Unfortunately, the data at [Pro Football Reference][6] isn’t fine-grained enough to make these distinctions, so we can have to make some assumptions until I have time to dig around and find better data.

First, the 43-yard field goal. It’s reasonable to assume that the field goal data are weighted toward easier-to-make field goals, that is, that there were more 40-yarders attempted than 41-yarders, more 41-yarders than 42-yarders, etc. Since the average accuracy from 40–49 yards was about 74%, it’s also reasonable to assume that the accuracy from 40 yards was considerably higher than average. However, what about the accuracy from 43 yards? If I’m right that the data are weighted toward easier-to-make field goals, then my guess is that the accuracy from 43 yards is pretty close to the overall average, or 74%. So let’s stick with a 74% chance of making the 43-yard field goal.

What about the 48-yard field goal? 48 is a lot closer to 50 yards than 40 yards, so it might be useful to look at how the NFL did on 50-yarders for comparison’s sake.

In 2010 and 2011, NFL kickers attempted 248 field goals from 50+ yards, making 149 (60.1%) of them. This figure includes all field goals over 50 yards, and I’d be willing to bet that the accuracy drops off quickly with each yard over 50. So let’s assume that the chance of making the 48-yard field goal was a bit less than the 74% overall chance for 40–49 yard field goals and a fair amount greater than the 60.1% chance of making a 50+ yarder. Call it a 70%.

If you buy my assumptions, the chance of making both of the field goals was about 0.74*0.70 = 51.8%. If you just look at the straight averages, the chance of making both was about 55%. Either way, that’s about a coin flip before you account for the pressure of the situation, the outdoor venue, the screwy timing and focus issues that happen when you have your kick interrupted several times, etc.

5) Again, Hartley had to make both field goals for the Saints to get the 3 points, because the Packers could have declined the holding penalty if he’d missed the first attempt. So the coin flip/ 50-50 chance is the most relevant analysis. However, it’s interesting to look at the probabilities of all the possible outcomes:

  • There was about an 8% chance that he’d miss both field goals (0.26*0.3)
  • There was a ~22% chance that he’d make the first and miss the second (0.74*.3)
  • There was a ~18% chance that he’d miss the first and make the second (0.26*0.7
  • Finally, as mentioned above, about a 52% chance that he’d make them both

Those percentages assume that the outdoor/pressure/screwed up timing conditions didn’t make the kicks harder, which I believe is a false assumption. Either way, what actually happened (make the first and miss the second) was the second-most likely outcome of the two kicks.

6) It comes down to this: you can blame Hartley all you want for missing the kick, but given the success rate of NFL kickers on similar field goals over the last couple of years and the difficulty of the situation, it would have been more surprising if he’d made both of them. Unfortunately for the Saints, that’s what he had to do.

[6]: http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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Texans get the benefit of the doubt

The Texans [couldn’t have followed league concussion protocol][1] on that vicious Matt Schaub hit last week:

It seemed odd, to say the least, that Texans quarterback Matt Schaub missed only one play after losing a piece of his ear on a hit from Broncos linebacker Joe Mays that knocked Schaub’s helmet off, Rock-Em-Sock-Em-Robots style.

The team defended the decision to let Schaub return, claiming that it followed the league’s concussion protocol.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that the league doesn’t necessarily agree, given that the full testing process takes roughly eight to 10 minutes.

No action will be taken against the Texans, but Mort says the league will be watching.

Inexcusable if the league is as concerned about player safety as they claim to be. Why are Saints players suspended for multiple games and why did the team lose multiple draft picks when the Texans get no penalty for obviously lying about following the concussion procedure?

Safety theatre.

[1]: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/09/30/texans-handling-of-schaub-attracts-nfl-attention/

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Analysis of Charles' back-breaking 91-yard run

If you can stomach it, Ben Muth (a former all Pac-10 offensive lineman) has a [great breakdown of Jamaal Charles’ game changer][1]:

This next shot is borderline pornographic for offensive line coaches. You’ll notice that all three down linemen for the defense have been reached. Albert (LT), Allen (LG), and Asomoah (RG) all have their helmets on their defender’s shoulder pad. This is exactly how you draw it up.

[1]: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/word-muth/2012/word-muth-kc-uses-force

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Akiem Hicks: Potentially non-sucky?

From Pro Football Focus’ review of last week’s game:

One of the bright spots was the play of rookie DT Akiem Hicks, who put in his second strong performance in a row, logging 42 snaps. The third-round pick out of Canada, predicted to be a project, has contributed quicker than expected and looks to be developing into one of the better players on the New Orleans defensive line.

Andrew Juge at The Saints Nation [agrees][2]:

The rookie got extended playing time and was very disruptive up the middle. This kid needs to start here pretty soon. He had 8, yes, 8 tackles! He’s been one of the very few bright in this horrendous start to the 2012 campaign. At least the Saints seem to have hit on the high draft pick investment in a promising young defensive player for once. Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but he was physical, disruptive and active. That’s a lot more than you can say for the team’s veterans.

The Saints haven’t had a good group at defensive tackle in about a decade. Hicks might be the start of a change. Or, he might just look good compared to the rest of the d-line dreck.

[2]: http://thesaintsnation.com/2012-articles/september/saints-nation-saints-defensive-and-special-teams-player-grades-vs-chiefs.html

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NFL Crunch Course

They talked about this 1985 NFL Films video on this week’s [Hang Up and Listen][1]. It’s fascinating to watch from a 2012 perspective. Essentially every one of these hits is, and should be, illegal now, and I find myself getting a bit sick over some of them. But I also feel a twinge of excitement…

[1]: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/hang_up_and_listen/2012/09/steve_sabol_nfl_films_hang_up_and_listen_on_pro_football_s_great_mythmaker_miguel_cabrera_s_triple_crown_chances_and_a_bizarre_cricket_scandal_.html

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Mayhem

Joe Posnanski [on last night’s fiasco][1]:

These things, I believe, and others have made the replacement referees a real danger to the NFL’s balance. The NFL was on the edge in so many ways … the replacement referees pushed them over. For most of America, the game was ALMOST too dangerous before; the replacements make it more dangerous. The game was ALMOST too slow and plodding before; the replacement refs make it slower. The game was ALMOST too convoluted before; the replacement refs make it more convoluted. The NFL owners and executives were ALMOST too greedy and self-serving and dismissive of the fans before; the replacement refs make it all the more true.

This offseason is the one in which Roger Goodell lost the thread, fumbled the ball, nuked the fridge, or however you’d like to phrase it. There were signs of trouble before: Goodell’s inconsistent but overly harsh punishment, his imperious attitude and creeping hypocrisy. But now the NFL is under assault from many directions (replacement refs, head trauma, lawsuits, etc.) and Goodell will struggle to regain control. Authoritarian rule works well until it doesn’t, and we’ve now reached the point where it doesn’t. The sands of discord are slipping through the fingers of the iron fist like regular sand slipping through fingers in a regular fist, if you will. The NFL’s problems are too complex and multifactorial to be solved by dictum, but Goodell hasn’t shown the ability to lead any other way.

The end game is that Goodell changes his style (Tom Coughlin did and won two Super Bowls), gets replaced, or the fissures that he’s created will continue to grow. The NFL’s popularity has covered for mismanagement before, but there’s no reason to think that it will do so indefinitely. At some point, enough is enough.

[1]: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/38968764/

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Mike Tanier on Brees vs. Unitas

Mike Tanier has a [nice piece on Drew Brees, Dan Marino, and Johnny Unitas][1]:

We should, of course, cherish the memories of Unitas and other legends. But we cannot do so at the expense of the present. Drew Brees is an all-time great at his prime. We must appreciate him while we have him. Every time we lapse into nostalgia, it’s a backhanded insult to a legacy that is still growing.

[1]: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/38943540/

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