Smart Notes 1/18/2010

1 Is it possible for a defense to be “good against the run” or “good against the pass,” or is it merely good, mediocre, or bad? Chase Stuart, in two excellent posts heavy on the game theory (available here and here), shows that, at the very minimum, it’s difficult to say anything meaningful about a defense other than to comment on its general effectiveness; the two phases are too inextricably intertwined. For fans and commentators I think this is correct, though from a gameplanning perspective it remains possible to identify which defenders are most dangerous and what is most difficult to accomplish, not to mention whether the defense is tilting to the pass or run — i.e. extra defensive backs or guys in coverage, or extra run defenders.

2. Survivor bias on the gridiron. From the Freakonomics blog.

3. Tim Tebow’s loping release. During the broadcast of Florida’s bowl game, Brian Billick showed exactly what is wrong with Tebow’s release: It’s long, he brings the ball down too low (this motion generates no additional power or accuracy), and it exposes the ball both to a fumble and to a defender who might break on the ball. See it here (h/t Doc Sat):

The word I had gotten was that Scott Loeffler, Florida’s quarterback coach, had made significant progress with Tim on this but that come gametime, well, a player’s gotta play how he knows how. And Tebow had earned the right to play his way. Yet it is troubling to the lack of progress, and it will hurt him in the draft. But what if it was worse, than a lack of progress — what if Tebow actually regressed on this point? Check out this video which charts Tebow’s release over time, and you be the judge.

4. “Football Island”:


5. Focus on the Tebow. In other Tebow news, the internets are much abuzz about the possibility of Tebow appearing during the Super Bowl in an anti-abortion ad put on by Focus on the Family:

The former Florida quarterback and his mother will appear in a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl next month. The Christian group Focus on the Family says the Tebows will share a personal story centering on the theme “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.”

The group isn’t releasing details, but the commercial is likely to be an anti-abortion message chronicling Pam Tebow’s 1987 pregnancy. After getting sick during a mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child and gave birth to Tim. . . .

Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, said the commercial comes at a time when “families need to be inspired.” . . . “Now that the ad has been shot, we’re excited to tell people it’s coming because the Tebows’ story is such an important one for our culture to hear,” he said.

CBS, which will be broadcasting the Super Bowl, is apparently still deliberating on whether to run the ad. To get it on air Tim may need to appeal directly to a higher power: CBS President Les Moonves.

6. Brian Cook dishes on new Tennessee coach Derek Dooley. Read it here. I don’t have much to add, but one rather silly meme that has gone around is that Dooley got this job simply because “he paid his dues,” as if he would have been hired after two seasons at Louisiana Tech if his name had been Derek McMurphy; being Vince Dooley’s son helps. Now, this doesn’t mean he won’t be successful, or isn’t a good coach, but these big time coaching jobs are akin to winning the lottery, and who you know is always going to be important. If I’m a Tennessee fan I’m fine with it, but I would still be slightly bothered knowing the hire couldn’t totally be chalked up to being based on merit.

  • coop

    My dad doesn’t have to have been a coach for me to win the lottery.

  • Loomis

    Note that CBS decided against airing an anti-Bush advertisement from MoveOn.org during the 2004 Super Bowl because it said that it didn’t air political ads.

  • Jason A. Staples

    I’ve thought all year that Tebow had actually regressed in terms of his release; that video seems to confirm it.

  • http://hiteminthemouth.blogspot.com Hit Em in The Mouth

    I’m a Tennessee fan, and I’m really annoyed with the Derek Dooley hire. Though I’m sure (or at least, I hope) he has more class than Tebow, the two men’s resumes are shockingly similar:

    Coasted on the coattails of famous fathers.

    Reputation more as a recruiter than a coach.

    Resume is mostly built off name and recruiting for a major coach/program.

    One year of NFL experience as a position coach.

    Run rather generic pro-style offenses.

    Got their first head coaching break because that employer was desperate.

    Brief but unimpressive head coaching record that’s supposed to be overlooked because of the situation.

    Suddenly abandoned a college program that believed in them in the face of doubters for a “better job.”

    Impressed everyone with their early press conferences, saying exactly the things fans and reporters wanted to hear.

    That the Tennessee AD, Mike Hamilton, says he hired Dooley because Dooley impressed him by unexpectedly producing a thorough program manual in the interview is laughable because it means Hamilton is either a liar or a fool.

    Dooley looks like a nice, articulate guy who can recruit, but can he coach? TE’s Coach is often a place where teams will seek to “hide” a recruiter who isn’t such a great football coach, and it’s troubling to me that Dooley was never a coordinator at any level.

    Furthermore, can Dooley even recruit on his own? Name one bad recruiting class that either Nick Saban or LSU has had since he left as recruiting coordinator.

    However, many UT fans are lapping up the Dooley hire because they like his accent, his early press conferences, and they find it comforting to know that he’s got some connections to the SEC and southern football tradition. None of the connections in the world will save his butt if he can’t coach, though.

  • http://hiteminthemouth.blogspot.com Hit Em in The Mouth

    The Cook article has missed one point, though. The directive from AD Mike Hamilton to Cutcliffe that he must retain the assistants was a smokescreen. In fact, within 3 days of Dooley’s hire, 3 of the 6 assistant coaches that Cutcliffe was told he needed to keep are gone.

    Two of them are OL coach James Cregg and QB Coach (and Lane Kiffin brother-in-law) Steve Reaves, both of whom did a great job last year. No one is saying if 2 of them were fired or resigned for other jobs, but since they’re currently unemployed it’s reasonable to assume they were fired.

    One of them, Kippy Brown, left for a job with the Seahawks because he was reportedly upset that Mike Hamilton didn’t interview him for the head coach position until after Dooley was already announced to be on a plane to Knoxville for press conference scheduled to announce his hiring.

    The only holdovers left from Kiffin’s staff are OC Jim Chaney, LB coach Lance Thompson, and DB coach Willie Mack Garza. Chaney has been interviewing for NFL jobs.

  • http://www.adioslounge.com LD

    Regarding “survivor bias” in college football, how can you NOT think of the common (and media-driven) perception of Tebow??? His yelling and gesticulating were thought to demonstrate his heroic will to win, as if the QB on the losing team was like, “Meh. He obviously wants it more. Let’s just take a knee.” Tebow didn’t win games because of his will, he won because he and his teammates were more talented than 99% of the teams they played. I have no doubt his will is impressive, but if given a choice between talent and will, I’m pretty sure talent (and preparation) are a little more important.

  • Casec11

    The TE coach is not a place to “hide” a coach… the TE coach is involved in the run blocking and O-line scheme’s as well as the recievers routes and concepts. They have to be smart and process then teach a lot of information. Many times it is where future Offensive coordinators are made.

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  • http://brophyfootball.blogspot.com Brophy

    Just to be devil’s advocate, but if Tebow and the Colt ‘iamsecond’ McCoy were shilling Mohammed or Krishna, would people be shitting their pants about how athletes need to keep their personal beliefs to themselves?

  • Loomis

    Brophy,

    Different people would.

  • stan

    I’ve actually had to do this with a defense. Took over in mid-season a defense that was horrible against the run because we were bad at DT and not very good at DE. D ranked 15th of 16 teams at that point. We could cover in the secondary and our LBs were decent in man coverage. I packed the box and run-blitzed like crazy (“if it’s a pass, keep on going”. For that last half of the season, we gave up almost no rushing yardage and while we gave up some plays against the pass, it was tough for teams to move the ball consistently. Ended the season 2d of 16 in defense (with stats including the first 5 games).

    Looking at the numbers for the last half, one would think we were better against the run than the pass. We were, but only because we had to cover for our weakness against the run.

    Rule to follow — if someone has to play above their level for you to win, ask it of your best players. Coaches who play base defense when they are at a talent disadvantage are asking it of their worst players.

  • Perry

    Brophy,

    I’m pretty sure that a significant number of those who don’t mind about Tebow and McCoy’s expressiveness about their religion would be singing a different tune if they were shilling Islam or Krishna, but that’s just the way the world works. 90% of the viewing audience is Christian (or at least would like to keep up the appearance of being so), so its largely a non-issue.

  • http://brophyfootball.blogspot.com brophy

    yeah – I was just highlighting the obvious (hypocrisy)

  • Tom

    actually I have it on very good authority that Scott Loeffler was told in no uncertain terms to leave Tebow’s throwing motion alone, for fear of having him start thinking too much and doing more harm than good and hurt the team’s chances of winning games. Loeffler was in all actuality brought in for Johnny Brantley, not Tim Tebow.

    Regardless of Tim’s motion, he still finished as the most efficient passer in NCAA history, and Meyer felt he was “good enough” for the college game and made the decision that Tim would stick with what got him there in order to give UF the best chance of repeating.

  • dr

    If some athletes out there were talking up Judaism, Islam, or some other religion in commercials, I probably would be annoyed. All commercials annoy me (except for the funny Geico ones).

    The on-field and interview gestures really do not bother me as my faith is strong enough to withstand somebody thanking Allah, Jesus, or Buddha for a victory. These gestures merely just tell me more about the athlete as a person, which is the point of the interviews in the first place. What were you expecting? How many times has an athlete or coach talked about any meaningful strategy in an interview anyhow? What were you expecting?

    I don’t see Tebow’s anti-abortion ad as religious at all, and I am quite surprised that people might find it controversial. If pro-abortion people do not realize that an abortion kills a baby, who will grow up and one day have opportunities…then they need to have their heads removed from their asses.

  • Andy

    dr, you’re making the same fundamental error that everybody on both sides of the abortion debate makes. You’re taking it as obvious and indisputable that you’re right about the core issue: whether or not an embryo/fetus has personhood.

    If “person” means “entity in possession of a supernatural soul” AND you believe the soul is imbued at the moment of conception then abortion (early- or late-term) is morally equivalent to murder. If the soul is imbued at the moment of birth, or if “person” means “autonomous entity” then abortion (early- or late-term) is morally equivalent to contraception. If “person” means “entity capable of conscious thought” then early-term abortion is morally equivalent to contraception and late-term abortion is a gray area, less moral than contraception but more moral than murder.

    The fundamental issue can’t be discussed without using words like “personhood” and “soul,” so you can’t pretend it’s not about religion. Even in Tebow’s situation, his religion is the sole and direct reason he sees a difference between the questions “What if I had been aborted?” and “What if my father had had to work late the night I was conceived?” You’re entitled to your opinion on abortion, and on the Tebow ad, but the idea that it’s not a religious issue is simply and objectively false.

    That said, I won’t know how I feel about the Tebow ad until/unless I see it. I’m fine with anybody arguing for their beliefs so long as they make a coherent argument and show some respect for the people who disagree. I’m also fine with CBS choosing not to show the ad, so long as they consistently refuse all political and religious Super Bowl ads.

  • dr

    Andy,
    With all due respect, my argument is fact. An embryo, fetus, or whatever you want to call it is a “baby in waiting”. Ergo killing said organism removes the chance that said organism will be born and grow up. Abortion is 100% effective at this.

    Again, this is not an opinion about whether the baby has a soul or rights or anything else. Abortions kill what will one day be a baby.

    From what I understand, the commercial that Tebow is alleged to be in basically states that his mother was advised to terminate her pregnancy, but refused. 20 or so years later, a Heisman trophy was awarded to the fruit of her decision. Whether or not Tim knew what was going on, had rights, a soul, or what not, an abortion would have erased everything.

    Again, I am not sure where the controversy is. Stating this is not threatening anybody’s rights and it is not imposing a religious belief. It may make some people that eagerly support abortions a bit queasy. And if it does, it should. Not everything that is legal should be applauded.

  • http://www.thelionsinwinter.com Ty

    I found this same thing when doing my OC vs. DC historical analyses for Lions’ opponents. Time and again, I’d see a ‘good run team’ going up against a ‘bad run defense’ and see the opposite effect of the one expected: lower-than-average YpC, higher-than-average YpA. Defensive coordinators appeared to be stacking to stop what the opponent was good at, only to have the other dimension of the offense pop up to take advantage I called it the “Whack-a-Mole” effect. Just as theorized here, overall offensive production still fell into expected ranges.

    http://www.thelionsinwinter.com/2009/11/watchtower-lions-at-vikings-ii.html

    “Interestingly, this run/pass effectiveness reversal seems to happen a lot. Might it be because defenses load up to stop where teams are strong, and then the offense outperforms expectations the other way? Figuring out if this is a statistically quantifiable phenomenon might make for an interesting offseason project. Either way, this run/pass Whack-a-Mole effect produced the projected final results: a regrettably foreseeable, no-less-heartbreaking loss.”

    Peace
    Ty

  • Mr.Murder

    Marino wasn’t a lefty, that’s David Woodely footage?

  • Mr.Murder

    Woodstrock* my apology. Their other Qb had that number, but both appear to be right handed in google cache pics…

  • Mr.Murder

    Okay, back tot he loping motion. Billick coached DCulpp and he was notorious for doing this. So much for his coaching it out of a player, rather than pointing it out.

    Those Gator practice jerseys looked like Phins gear to me. Lighter, to prevent heat issues on practice? That is a extremely important to me, it may well be an improved way of managing heat issues in practice.

    One reason Tebow can use the extra time is that his ability to play in space and strand unblocked defender buys him the extra step. He’s usually facing one less pass defender because no matter the front, he commands the attention of others in run force assignments.

    IMO Tebow lacks the square stance for reading coverage, this gives DB the hint where you read or will go. You have to keep the shoulders square or people will jump routes the direction you aim. The delivery issue is in the wind up, the actual release looks pretty decent and powerful, if you can get to the point the football is its highest you see pretty good mechanics. Get from that point and work back, keep the ball cradled with elbow bend so you cut the wind up in half. Now you’re moving forward with the ball in position.