Thursday, October 30, 2008

Outside Perspective: The Saints season in numbers

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2008 at 2:21 PM

click to enlarge Drew eveading

Photo by Jonathan Bachman

-

We've made many claims in this space (not the least of which being Drew Brees is a god amongst men) but we decided to look at a true outsider's perspective. And what better place to look than FootballOutsiders.com?

-

For the uninitiated, the folks at Football Outsiders are the same that write Pro Football Prospectus. It's the essential and definitive guide to all things NFL (these people have calculated their statistics for Chrissakes). But aside from coming up with their own statistical categories after dozens and dozens of hours of looking at game footage and analyzing statistics, they've revolutionized how we look at the NFL today.

-

Seeing as how Saints fans would like some context on this helter skelter season, I conduceted a Q&A with Bill Barnwell, managing editor of Football Outsiders, to give a sober, calculated look at the Saints thus far. This is what transpired:

-

Q: First off, briefly just speak about Football Outsiders and the work you are doing there, mentioning DVOA and other types of statistical data you guys have uncovered.

-

A: Football Outsiders analyzes football through two different methods. First, we use statistical tools we've created, refined, and/or applied to football. The core metric we use is called DVOA, which measures performance against the league average on a play-by-play basis after adjusting for down, distance, game situation, and the quality of the opponent. The result is a simple, easy-to-understand percentage that details how much better or worse the player or team was versus the league-average performance on the same play.

-

Our other analytical method involves a flotilla of volunteers we call the Game Charting Project. Us and said army break down the tape from every game, analyzing everything from the number of blitzers, to who was in coverage, to why a pass fell incomplete. All this data is stuff you won't find in the NFL play-by-play, or indeed, anywhere else in the marketplace.

-

Using these methodologies, we've been able to answer questions on everything from whether "establishing the run" exists to what factors a quarterback needs in college to be successful in the NFL.

-

Q: The Saints are 4-4 at the midway point of the season and in last place in their division. By your standards at Football Outsiders, how do the Saints rank compared to the rest of the league right now?

-

A: We have them right around the middle of the league. Currently, their DVOA is tied for 13th in the league with Buffalo. We have them behind Tampa Bay (6th) and Carolina (10th), but ahead of Atlanta (16th).

 

That's primarily due to an offense whose DVOA ranks third in the league; defensively, we have them at 24th. Remember, these figures are adjusted for opponent and situation, so racking up points at the end of games in meaningless situations matters much less than a key drive in a tied game.

-

Q: Historically, how do teams that have performed in a similar way as the Saints have this season usually gone on to finish their seasons?

-

A: We have a statistic called "Estimated Wins" that looks at consistent performance along with a team's DVOA in several key situations, like in the red zone and in the second half of close games. We then adjust that figure for a league-average schedule and with an average amount of luck on things like fumbles, and then adjust so that everyone has an equal amount of games played. After all that, we see the Saints as having 4.7 estimated wins. That's tied for 11th in the league, and would obviously put them on a pace for 9.4 wins.

-

Another way of looking at this is by taking the Saints' win total and just looking at history. The Saints are 4-4 through eight games. Since 1990, teams with such a record win an average of 7.9 games -- just about average. They make the playoffs 34.7% of the time.

-

Q: There's a lot of talk about Drew Brees as an MVP candidate, in your view, how does Drew Brees compare to other quarterbacks who have won the MVP award?

-

A: I think he's a step down from the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady seasons of this decade, but it's not an unreasonable proposition. Currently, Brees is at or near the top in every metric we use. His DVOA is second in the league to Philip Rivers. His DYAR, our counting stat (think RBI's versus batting average), is best in the league.

-

Honestly, he wouldn't be my choice for MVP. He's somewhere below Albert Haynesworth and Clinton Portis. That being said, if you insist on picking a quarterback for the MVP (and many voters do), Brees would be that guy.

-

Q: So in your opinion, is Drew Brees currently the best quarterback in the NFL?

-

A: At the moment, I'd say he is.

-

Q: Despite Drew Brees' numbers, the Saints could very well miss the playoffs. Is there a precedent for a quarterback that puts up such gaudy statistical numbers and doesn't play in the post-season? Are there any MVP quarterbacks that didn't play in the post-season?

-

A: The last MVP quarterback to not make the playoffs was Johnny Unitas in 1967, whose Colts were 11-1-2 and undefeated going into the season's final week, only to lose to the Rams 34-0. That cost them the undefeated season, the division, and since there was no tiebreaker, the playoffs. At this stage of the game, we (being the fans and the media) have so stringently intertwined team success with great individual performance that it would take a season like Tom Brady's 2007 for a guy on a non-playoff team to win the MVP.

-

Q: Finally, the New Orleans Saints have cut four kickers to date, is there any historical evidence to suggest a team can turn its fortunes around by replacing a place kicker or a punter? Also, is there any direct correlation between the number of kickers a team cuts and the number of losses that team has?

-

A: Not really on either. What we have discovered, though, is something interesting about kickers -- they're interchangeable, pretty much, when it comes to accuracy. There's absolutely no correlation, year-to-year, between a kicker's accuracy no matter how you measure it. Our metrics adjust for distance of field goals and the location in which they take place (eg dome or outdoor, sea level or Denver), but even with those advanced statistics, field goal percentage simply isn't a consistent metric. Kickoff distance very much is, which is why we encourage teams to go for kickers with big legs.

-

So there you have it, folks. Cold, hard numbers on where the Saints are this season. Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL but, historically speaking, the Saints are due for finishing around .500 (but they still have around a 33% chance of making the playoffs). Take it as you may.

-

Oh, and kickers have little to no part in deciding a team's success.

-

Glad we straightened all that out.

Tags: ,

Pin It

Speaking of Sports, Saints

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Submit an event Jump to date

Latest in Blog of New Orleans

Top Topics in Blog of New Orleans

Food & Drink (74)


Music & Nightlife (63)


A&E (46)


Film/DVD (39)


News & Politics (30)


More by Alejandro de los Rios

Recent Comments

© 2014 Gambit
Powered by Foundation