Social media and the age of Twitter are new to me. Last season, while working as the Omaha Nighthawks’ Director of Player Personnel, PR encouraged me to open a Twitter account. Initially it was just a novelty.
“Wow this latte at Starbucks is a good one”.
“First and goal on the two, hope we score”.
It was difficult to expound on the day to day drudgery that can be all of us, and my account soon ran dry for a meager number of followers.
Blinded by the light
As a Player Personnel Chief, I’ve always prided myself in staying one step ahead of technology and though I’m no card carrying member of the “Geek Squad”, I’ve usually kept up with the latest and greatest gadgets and nuances. But Twitter was moving at lightning speed and I knew I needed help. I turned to a group that specializes in catching up the Baby Boomers with present day communications and my Twitter account was soon back up and running.
The past few weeks I’ve found a connection with my former team’s fan base. They’re a passionate group, looking at the world through “orange & blue” colored glasses. This town has never known a drought like they’re currently going through, so to say that this past Monday Night Football’s loss to the Oakland Raides was continuation of a current state of “aggravation“ would be an understatement.
The “twitter ethos” was running crazy. I chose to dive in with both feet.
@BroncoTalk @BroncosForums Feel the frustration out there. Unload. What do you think the problems are?
Bronco fans were more than happy to express their opinions and offer up questions for their former GM.
- @Ted_Sundquist @BroncoTalk @BroncosForum Elway and Fox caught in 80’s. Conservative, wont take risks, McCoy no skills to build around Tebow!
- @Ted_Sundquist @BroncoTalk @BroncosForums We cant stop the run nor can we run it ourselves. We have been begging for a DT for 6-7 years now
- @Ted_Sundquist Missed field goal, fumble, dropped passes and on and on…
Just a taste of what rolled in all night. I sympathetically gave my “expert” opinion on what I had seen; inconsistencies up front, new coaching staff, injuries to the interior defensive line, struggles in the red zone. I tried to offer straight up insight and give some “glimmers of hope” to the beleaguered “orange masses”. Most of my thoughts centered on Player Personnel.
Putting analytics to the problem
Having a few days to think about it, I turn to my friend Brian Burke’s article “The Advantage of Sacks” from Advanced NFL Stats. Burke explains the effect on the probability of gaining a first down after a play results in a sack and lost yardage, as well as the effect on the expected number of points by down from any distance on the field.
If we average the expected points of all situations in which there wasn’t a sack, and compare it with the average expected points following plays that did result in a sack, we get a difference of 2.0 points. In effect, a sack swings the balance of the game by an average of 2 points in favor of the defense, either by forcing a punt or a longer FG try, or even just putting a team in a predictable passing situation. That’s a big swing for a single play. A turnover is generally worth 4 points, so a sack could be thought of as half as good as a fumble or interception.
With some basic math I took Denver’s 3 turnovers (swing of minus 12 points), matched them with Oakland’s single “cough up” that gave back 4 points. Took that loss of 8 points and factored in the net of 4 sacks that Oakland handed the Bronco offense, an additional 8 point deficit. According to Burke’s analysis, Denver was giving a 16 point swing on average. The game finished much closer (23-20 Oakland) but 7 of Denver’s points were accounted for off a 90 yard punt return & a final 2:00 minute drive versus a “prevent defense”.
I then put the predictive measure against 6 random games and the results were similar (only MIN vs SD not following the premise on the final score).
|Green Bay||42||0||3 (+6)||+6||New Orleans||34||1 (-4)||2 (+4)||0|
|Buffalo||41||1 (-4)||2 (+4)||0||Kansas City||7||3 (-12)||1 (+2)||-10|
|Jacksonville||16||1 (-4)||2 (+4)||0||Tennessee||14||1 (-4)||2 (+4)||0|
|Detroit||27||1 (-4)||2 (+4)||0||Tampa Bay||20||2 (-8)||0||-8|
|Minnesota||17||1 (-4)||2 (+4)||0||San Diego||24||2 (-8)||2 (+4)||-4|
|Arizona||28||1 (-4)||4 (+8)||+4||Carolina||21||1 (-4)||2 (+4)||0|
So Bronco fans take note. Your next opponent (Cincinnati Bengals) surrendered 4 sacks and netted a minus 8 points to Cleveland. Like San Diego in Week 1, they too found a way to win despite Burke’s formula. But if you want to turn around your fortunes in Week 2, find your rush & hold on to the ball. At least that’s what the math says.