The Dude Abides: The Stats That Don’t Lie, Introduction

I never keep a scorecard or the batting averages. I hate statistics. What I got to know, I keep in my head. 

                                                                                                                                                                        ----Dizzy Dean

There are some stats that are meaningful, and there are some that ain't (the blood alcohol content of a Raider fan, for instance).

I'd like to bring you each week the stats that matter.  These are the stats that don't lie. These aren't your QB ratings or your road/dome winning percentages.  No way.

These are the stats that didn't take a wrong turn at Albuquerque.  They are simple, yet profound.

These are the stats that you can bring home to momma.  They've got good genes and can cook.

These are the stats that jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.  They'll burn you if you're not careful.

These are the stats that make grown men cry and women swoon (okay, I am getting carried away here).

In short, these are the stats that are the difference between winnings and losing.

Before giving you these statistics, it's helpful to simply ask yourself a simple football question.  And I don't mean whether Peyton Hillis is a Cyborg.  Scientists have already determined this to the be the case.  No, what I am talking is the most basic of football questions.

How do you win a football game? 

Quite simply you score more points than your opponent.  Pretty elementary, really.  You don't need to be Walter Camp to figure that one out. (if you don't know who Walter Camp is, go to the Black Hole, Don't Pass Go, Don't Collect $200).

That's it.  No more.  No less.  When time expires, whether you've got 1 or 10 more points than your opponent, you win.  So the next logical question becomes, how do I score more points than my opponent?

At this point, we can still stay away from conversations around the X's and O's.  It's still more basic than this.

In all three phases of football, your team can score (offense, defense,  and special teams).  Thus, it' s not just a matter of saying that your team piles up a bunch of yards.  This is why yards per game is a largely overrated statistic.  What's more important in my mind (and what correlates to winning football games) is:

  • Maximizing the opportunities that your teams has to score
  • Minimizing the opportunities that your opponent has to score
  • Starting as close to your opponent's goal line (the score) as possible for each opportunity (yes, John Clayton, for every yard in starting field position, there is an increased chance of scoring, which has nothing to do with your QB's arm strength).
  • Winning the battle of 3rd downs (this accomplishes both bullet points 1 and 2)

One can dive into each one of these bullet points, but it doesn't require us to go too far down for a thorough understanding. But for the benefit of Jamie Dukes, let's follow the logic.  The goal of football is to score more points than your opponent. The way you score more points than your opponent is by generating more opportunities for your offense to score while minimizing the chances and time your opponent has to score.  If your defense and special teams can do both at the same time (score and take away an opportunity for the offense to score), you are in heaven.  The closer you start to your opponent's goal line the easier scoring gets.  And stopping your opponent on 3rd down eliminates  (generally) the opponent's ability to get another 4 opportunities for a first down or score.

In short, we've just introduced the four most important statistical concepts in football:

1) Turnovers (this has the potential to generate points, stops your opponents opportunities to score, and gives your offense more opportunities to score)

2) Time of Possession (this minimizes the number of chances your opponent has to score)

3) Field Position (the closer you start to a score, the easier the score)

4) 3rd Down Efficiency (both increaing your opportunities and decreasing your opponent's opportunities to score)

In an earlier post here,  I looked at all 265 games from the 2008 season.  The correlation between winning and the the statistics above is quite staggering.  While I did not look at 3rd down efficiency (I've been convinced by John Bena of the importance of this stat), I did look at turnovers, time of possession, and field position.  The teams that from week to week commit the least amount of turnovers, control the time of possession, and have the best field position win...A LOT.  And if you win the battle in each one of these categories, your chances of winning are over 90%.

And that 1 game out of 10 in which the team didn't win was probably a Raider game and included a bonehead personal foul penalty.

I look forward to bringing you these stats (in a package with a nice little bow), as meaningless as they might be, beginning now with Week 1.  Enjoy.

Originally posted at MHR

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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