## Median Rushing Yards

What's the difference between these two situations?

1. On 1st and 10 from the opponent's 30, a RB gets a handoff and breaks free for a 30 yd TD.

2. On 1st and 10 from his own 30, a RB gets a handoff and breaks free for a 70 yd TD.

In both plays, the RB read the blocks and made the moves necessary to break into the open field. In both plays the RB's speed and agility beat the safeties. But the difference of 50 yds is basically statistical trash because in situation #1, the RB likely could have kept running for another 50 yds.

In rating running ability, I've previously suggested the use of median statistics rather than average statistics. When we want to know how good a team's running game is, or how good a RB is, we want to know the central tendency of the team or player. The statistical mean is only one way of looking at central tendency. Median can often be more useful. Averages are often distorted by a very few outlier inputs.

Consider this fictitious example examining the central tendency of college dropouts who live in Redmond, WA. Let's say there are 5,000 college dropouts in Redmond, Washington, and each make \$30,000/yr except this one guy named Gates. He makes \$20 billion/yr. The average salary of a college dropout in Redmond is over \$4 million/yr. So if I'm a student in Redmond I should skip class tomorrow, right? \$4 million/yr might be the average, but it's not the central tendency and it's virtually useless information.

Which player would you rather have on your team? A RB who gets at least 4 yds on every carry, or a RB who gets 29 1-yd runs and one 91-yd run? Both players average 4 yds/carry. The first player's median rush is 4 yds and the second player's is 1 yd. It's an extreme example, but it illustrates my point. Consistency has its value.

Here are a list of the top runners of 2006 sorted in order of their percentage of runs >4 yds. It's interesting to compare to their average yds/rush, their total yards, and other stats. (Ties are broken by % of carries > 3 yds.)

 RB TEAM 4YD PCT ATT YDS AVG TD FUM LST TD/ATT% Norwood ATL 57 99 633 6.4 2 0 0 2.0 Addai IND 54 226 1081 4.8 7 2 2 3.1 Westbrook PHI 50 240 1217 5.1 7 1 1 2.9 Washington NYJ 50 151 650 4.3 4 1 1 2.6 Betts WAS 48 245 1154 4.7 4 4 2 1.6 Barber NYG 47 327 1662 5.1 5 3 1 1.5 Barber DAL 47 135 654 4.8 14 0 0 10.4 Tomlinson SD 46 348 1815 5.2 28 2 1 8.0 Gore SF 46 312 1695 5.4 8 5 5 2.6 Jones CHI 46 296 1210 4.1 6 1 1 2.0 McAllister NO 46 244 1057 4.3 10 2 1 4.1 Vick ATL 46 123 1039 8.4 2 4 2 1.6 Jones-Drew JAX 46 166 941 5.7 13 1 1 7.8 Dillon NE 46 199 812 4.1 13 2 2 6.5 Jackson STL 45 346 1528 4.4 13 2 1 3.8 Dayne HOU 45 151 612 4.1 5 1 0 3.3 Brown MIA 44 241 1008 4.2 5 4 2 2.1 McGahee BUF 44 259 990 3.8 6 4 2 2.3 Fargas OAK 44 178 659 3.7 1 1 0 0.6 Benson CHI 44 157 647 4.1 6 0 0 3.8 Henry TEN 43 270 1211 4.5 7 3 1 2.6 Williams TAM 43 225 798 3.5 1 2 2 0.4 James ARI 42 337 1159 3.4 6 3 3 1.8 Foster CAR 42 227 897 4.0 3 3 2 1.3 Maroney NE 42 175 745 4.3 6 1 1 3.4 Rhodes IND 42 187 641 3.4 5 2 2 2.7 Taylor MIN 41 303 1216 4.0 6 4 3 2.0 Taylor JAX 41 231 1146 5.0 5 2 1 2.2 Bell T. DEN 41 233 1025 4.4 2 3 3 0.9 Bell M. DEN 41 157 677 4.3 8 1 0 5.1 Johnson KAN 40 416 1789 4.3 17 2 2 4.1 Johnson CIN 40 341 1309 3.8 12 6 2 3.5 Lewis BAL 40 314 1132 3.6 9 4 2 2.9 Jones DAL 40 267 1084 4.1 4 1 1 1.5 Droughns CLE 40 220 758 3.4 4 5 4 1.8 Parker PIT 39 337 1494 4.4 13 6 4 3.9 Dunn ATL 39 286 1140 4.0 4 1 0 1.4 Alexander SEA 39 252 896 3.6 7 5 3 2.8 Morris SEA 39 161 604 3.8 0 1 1 0.0 Green GB 37 266 1059 4.0 5 2 2 1.9 Jones DET 36 181 689 3.8 6 4 4 3.3

I'm not suggesting average rushing is worthless, just that it is only part of the story.