Smart Links and Notes 5/24/2010

Apologies to all for not posting much recently — the usual confluence of other commitments intervened, as did several commitments to write for Maple Street Press publications. Those are (mostly) done, and I have a variety of ideas for the site, and I hope to write those up and get them on the site. But for now, linkage:

Two very important posts on fourth downs. First, the Mathlete’s breakdown (available at mgoblog) of fourth down decision making is worth it for the graphs alone (see below). Also Brian at Advanced NFL Stats reposts his powerpoints about when to go for it on fourth down.

Fourth down decisionmaking chart

NFL players channel MC Hammer. I may have previously linked to this, but I recently stumbled on it again. It remains shocking:

The 78 percent number (i.e., 78% of NFL players go bankrupt within two years of retirement) is buoyed by the fact that the average NFL career lasts just three years. So, figure a player gets drafted in 2009, signs for the minimum and lasts three years in the league: He will have earned about $1.2 million in salary. Factor in taxes, cost of living and the misguided belief that there will be more years and bigger paydays down the road, and it becomes a lot easier to see how so many players struggle with money after their careers end.

Runningback by committee? TheDoc notes the apparent end of Southern Cal’s “runningback by committee” system. He quotes Lane Kiffin saying:

“We would rather not be in a big committee thing,” Kiffin said. “As a running back, you get better throughout the game because you get used to what’s going on, how is the defense playing, are we able to get the backside cuts, how are the D-tackles playing the different blocks.

“You have to get a rhythm, and so I would rather find one or two guys. So that’s our job, to figure out this fall who are those guys going to be.”

I don’t really agree; I’ve always been fine with the runningback by committee (though, admittedly, I was never a runningback forced to play in such a committee). I think different backs have different talents; wear and tear on backs adds up; I don’t believe there’s much evidence proving that runningbacks actually “improve as the game goes on” (though I’d love to see contrary evidence); and you don’t hear much complaining about a “committee approach” to rotations at other positions, especially defensive line. Moreover, I think freshness is underrated, but, in the end, at long as the backs are close in talent I don’t think it makes much of a difference (except to the players, as in a single-starter system one will reap all the benefits while the others will be relegated to back-up status). Finally, as evidenced by this post from the Mathlete, not having a returning starter at runningback doesn’t seem to hurt your chances of success at all, thus one can fairly say that, holding talent equal, the difference between using one back or another is small (though that comparison is a bit of apples to oranges).

The Wolfpistols. Holly previews the Nevada Wolfpack over at Dr Saturday.

High school athletes and concussions. From the NY Times.

- Do you know who the all-time leaders in receiving yards per game are? From the Pro-Football reference blog.

Charles Goodell: Senator, opponent of Vietnam, father to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The worst run defenses in NFL history, by the numbers.

Why do colleges have football teams? This debate rages, but I’m still waiting for hard evidence of the good (or bad) reasons for it. One view: “The evidence is mixed, but some papers find a connection between athletic achievement and student quality, or athletic achievement and alumni donations. I suspect the donor connection is the key, but we also must ask what exactly colleges and universities seek to maximize.” I suppose, having already graduated, I shouldn’t really care anymore because, even if it is bad business or scholastics (not saying that is so), I enjoy football (obviously) and get to be a free rider on whomever is paying for the team, like fans, students (many universities now require students to automatically buy in to a ticket program), donors, etc.

On those awful advertisements for colleges played unnecessarily though out football broadcasts: “If you like our football team, you’ll love our chem labs full of Asian students.”

- Is watching football worthwhile? You know, metaphysically speaking: “Dissatisfied with the academy’s somewhat elitist dismissal of sport as just another capitalist banality, Gumbrecht wants to argue that there is more to the roar of the crowd than mere tribalism. To Gumbrecht, the current mass appeal of sports represents more than the manipulation of the masses by advertising corporates. There is something almost transcendental about sport; some aesthetic quality that unites us with the Greeks, the Romans, even with the gods themselves as we admire the movement of a body, or revel in the million to one victory.” Plus, you know, you get to watch people get hit.

How QB-like does Michigan’s Denard Robinson look to you? I, like many, think that for Michigan’s offense to score like Rodriguez wants it to against in-conference foes it will have to be Denard Robinson that becomes a real quarterback. So, behold, every snap of his from Michigan’s spring game. Is he there yet? I’m not sure, though I did like the pass off the bootleg action from the under-center I at around the .40 second mark — turned his shoulders nicely on that one. (H/t mgoblog.)

Football and religion: Is the hand of God evident in a well designed screen pass?

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike

    Lane Kiffin is a funny, funny man.

    Most likely, that means that he doesn’t have three or four running backs he likes.

  • Dallas

    That article on ads reminds me of the ad from my first year at Auburn (2008). The “I just had a family reunion” ad. It was so stupid and all the students hated it and just wanted to go back to the one from the year before, the one with all of the famous alumni reciting the Auburn creed; this year they went with students doing it instead — kind of a compromise between the “alumni networking” and “you’ll love our labs full of Asian students” ads…

    Also, that fourth down graph is going to become my new desktop background. It’s beautiful.

  • endersgame

    Can’t wait to check outt he fourth down stuff.

    For the football/religion article… Football attracts and targets the crowd. Religion attracts and targets the individual.

    Or at least it should.

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  • Matt

    Interesting graph from the Walmart Wolvie about fourth down, but it shouldn’t be symmetrical. Why do the bar lines on your own 1-9 only extend to the same number as the yardline you’re on?

    You can’t have a 1st and 10 on your opponent’s 1 yardline but you can have a first and 10 from your own 1. In fact, it would be impossible to have a 1st and 1 from your own 1.

  • TheStone

    The committee approach is particularly effective when it involves a change of pace in your options off the bench. Say you’re an inside zone team and your starter is a big, patient, grind-it-out type. Bringing a burner off the bench that hits that cutback a tad faster can lead to some big plays.

  • http://football-defense.com Joe

    Good point on the defensive linemen with the running back by committee. You would think a defensive tackle would benefit a lot more from getting to know the tendencies of OL across from him than a Running Back who’s just looking for somewhere to squirt through. But not many people would suggest they don’t want to get that 300lb nose off the field occasionally.

  • Titus Icing

    Sweet , I check outmore posts from you guys and continue these great work that really gets me motivated.