Weekly Roundup

In his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column from a week ago, Gregg Easterbrook tells us about his favorite high school state champions, the Pulaski Academy of Arkansas. They never punt on 4th downs, and they almost always win. To his credit, Easterbrook has been out in front of the go-for-it movement. (I'm not a regular reader of Easterbrook, and now I remember why. His columns are the length of short novels, frequently meandering into bad politics and pop-culture commentary.) Thanks to all the readers who alerted me to the Pulaski article at Rivals.

FO has a good article on the hidden value of pass interference penalties. Devin Hester is used to illustrate how the value of speedy deep-threat WRs is obscured by the fact that they aren't credited with the penalty yards they draw.

Dave Berri from Wages of Wins posted his weekly QB and RB rankings based on econometric models like my own. Note who the top QB is--Pennington. Dave may have an updated ranking by the time you read this. He also adds his thoughts on an ongoing discussion between amateur/internet sabermetricians and academic researchers.

Last week I wrote that the Redskins collapse this year may have been due to too few interceptions. In other words, their very low interception rate may have become an end in itself, rather than a by-product of a good passing attack.

I wrote, "You can guarantee zero interceptions by playing in an extremely conservative way, tossing short passes, taking sacks, or throwing the ball away anytime a defender is in the same zip code as the receiver. You can minimize interceptions, but you'll lose every game doing it. At some point in risk-reward continuum, there is an optimum level of risk in passing strategy."

The PFR blog appears to have picked up on the theory a few days later and added some evidence that supports it. We appear to be of like mind on the topic, as the PFR post says, "If you never throw an interception, you’re taking too many sacks, throwing too many balls out of bounds, and getting too many four yard gains on 3rd-and-9. So if zero is not the optimal turnover rate, then what is?"

I have a couple small constructive suggestions. The post finds that teams that have high rates of turnovers per non-scoring drive score more points than teams with low turnover rates. First, I'd suggest looking at interceptions per non-scoring drive instead of all turnovers. Interceptions more than fumbles are functions of an offense's risk-reward balance. I'm not sure if it really matters, though. The effect is the same no matter what kind of turnover it is. But it's worth looking at.

Second, and more importantly, I'd look at point differential rather than points scored. In other words, do teams with more turnovers per non-scoring drive outscore opponents? It may be that they score more points themselves, but they may be allowing even more points due to handing favorable field position over to their opponents.

Smart Football, the best Xs and Os site on the web, dissects Paul Johnson's 'Flexbone' offense at Georgia Tech. I'm a big Paul Johnson fan because he brought Navy's program a lot of success over the past several years. I'm not a big Xs and Os guy, meaning I'm not an expert. But I'd like to learn more. Can anyone suggest a good book that digs deep into NFL-style offensive or defensive systems?

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5 Responses to “Weekly Roundup”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I could be wrong but I think you mean the Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas.

  2. Brian Burke says:


  3. Anonymous says:

    "...First, I'd suggest looking at interceptions per non-scoring drive instead of all turnovers..."
    Shouldn't fumbles by the QB be considered ? I don't have the data at hand, but I believe most fumbles by QB's come on scrambles or sacks, which are passing plays, for the purposes of risk/reward analysis.

  4. Unknown says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  5. Unknown says:

    Xs and Os books


    those guys (Coverdale and Robinson) have written a whole series of books which are all execellent

    basically a general overview of passing concepts used at the pro level

    I believe the Smart Football blog lists those books on some sort of recommended reading list

    lot of overlap between that blog and those books

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