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WELCOME to, the only site on the world-wide web that provides meaningful professional football coaching statistics.'s revolutionary coaching statistics are derived from a peer-reviewed and generally accepted theory of competition known as Growth Theory. Veteran coach Bill Parcells once said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." But Growth Theory teaches us that success "springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking." In professional football, those "recipes" are the plays that coaches design. Simply,'s coaching statistics separate the contribution of plays to pro football success from the contribution of players.

THE ARCHIVES (2010-Part 1)

2010 Season: First Quarter Thoughts

For the first time since 1970, no NFL team made it through its fourth game of the season without losing at least once. The reason is simple: Special teams.

Call it the Blanda Curse.

QC looked it up. In 1970, the NFL and AFL played their first merged season. Today, most people old enough to remember the year remember it as the year Oakland's ageless kicker and back-up quarterback, George Blanda, staged a mircacululous 5-game run that began in Week 6 and culminated in Week 10 with a field goal that beat San Diego. After one memorable finish, Raiders' broadcaster Bill King effused, "George Blanda has just been elected King of the World!" For his efforts in 1970, NFL coaches and owners and the Maxwell Club awarded Blanda the Bert Bell Award as MVP of the league.

But before Blanda went on his run, kick and punt returners, led by Chicago's Cecil Turner, turned the league upside down. In the first 4 weeks of the 1970 season (52 games), NFL returners brought back 9 kicks for touchdowns. That's a return TD in about 17 percent of all games.

At the quarter pole of the 2010 NFL season, returners have been even more dominant. In 76 games, returners have scored 12 TDs and 2 blocked punts and 1 blocked field goal have been brought back to the house. That's a special teams return TD in about 19.7 percent of all games.

As QC's 8th Commandment holds, special teams involve little coaching in the form of play design. On Sirius NFL Radio, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh, himself a former special teams coach, said members of kickoff and punt coverage teams "either can do it or they can't." In other words, as in baseball, a coach can only change players on special teams, he really cannot change the plays in a meaninful way.

As a result, despite the rantings of fans and media, head coaches correcly are reluctant to blame special teams coaches for failures. In Miami, following a 41-14 loss to New England in which the Patriots returned a kickoff and a blocked field goal for touchdowns and blocked a punt that led to a third TD, head coach Tony Sparano took the unusual step of dismissing special teams coach John Bonamego. But in doing so, Sparano acknowledged that the players were primarily at fault.

"It's a hard decision to make," Sparano said. "I know how hard this guy works. Nobody works harder than him at what he does. Special teams is a hard area because there's a lot of hands involved in that area. What I mean is the players have some responsibility in that area, too. And the players change a lot in that area. Our players also need to take responsibility."

In San Diego (2-3), the Chargers coverage teams have been shockingly abysmal. But after melting down against Oakland (2 blocked punts that accounted for 12 points) in a 35-27 loss to the Raiders, head coach Norv Turner dismissed the idea that special teams coach Steve Crosby should be dismissed as "silly." In response to the suggestion that Crosby should be sacked, Turner said, "We're going to get the right guys on the punt team that are going to do the right job. We've got an oustanding coaching staff, and I have nothing but the highest regard for what Steve Crosby does."

If any coach ever had the right to use a special teams coach as a scapegoat, it's Turner. Turner's designs, in the hands of QB Philip Rivers, have made the Chargers offense infinitely productive ($) and by far the best in the league. True, San Diego usually gives away a few turnovers, but any business that generates such great returns has to take a little risk. Turner's designs can afford the turnovers. In addition, San Diego's defense has been very good. Indeed, the Chargers "D" has yielded only 6 touchdowns all year to opposing offenses.

What San Diego cannot afford is catastrophic special teams breakdowns. All-Pro kicker Nate Kaeding has bounced back from his 2009 playoff debacle (3 missed field goals, 2 inside 40 yards, in a 17-14 loss to the New York Jets), but the Chargers coverage teams have given up 4 touchdowns (2 kickoff returns to Seattle's Leon Washington in Week 3, a punt return, and a blocked punt return) and a safety (blocked punt). Under these circumstances, Turner's refusal to even question his special teams coach qualifies him as one of the NFL's strongest, most stand-up guys.

Also, events could turn around for Turner and his team. Last year, San Diego started the year 2-3 and then ran off 11 straight wins. It could happen again. Special teams breakdowns and turnovers (the other great bugaboo of the 2010 NFL season) can disappear as mysteriously as they appeared. That is the nature of random events. Overall, better designed and coached teams are only 5 games off the expected pace of winning 75% of all games. There is still plenty of season left for events to even out.

But that might not be enough for some fans and media members. Some people simply cannot accept that sometimes events are beyond the control of a head coach and have to find someone to blame. Since no rational explanation exists for the Chargers special teams difficulties, QC offers an irrational explanation: The George Blanda Curse.

Long before Blanda went on his epic run in 1970, he had the opportunity to sign with the fledgling Chargers in the start-up AFL. But, because Sid Gillman reminded him too much of his prior coach who did not appreciate his skill, George Halas, Blanda spurned the Chargers for the Houston Oilers. Thereafter, Blanda's fire always burned a little hotter when Houston met San Diego and the Oilers defeated the Chargers in the first two AFL title games.

After Houston released Blanda because it thought he was too old (at age 39), Blanda joined Gillman's protegé, Al Davis, in Oakland and continued his rivalry with San Diego.

On Monday, September 27, the day after the Chargers special teams imploded against Seattle, Blanda passed away. As a result, Blanda was not around when the Chargers traveled to Oakland to meet the Raiders on Sunday. One special teams melt down of the magnitude San Diego suffered against Seattle and the Raiders could happen to anyone. But two such melt downs perhaps suggest Oakland received help from the "other side."

Maybe, just maybe, the explanation for the Chargers special teams failures in Oakland is simply this: Cantankerous George Blanda simply could not resist sticking it to San Diego just one more time.

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Will the San Diego Chargers recover and win the AFC West? (Use Twitter or the headset to send TRUE or FALSE and your reasons to QuantCoach. Please let QC know if we may post your tweet/message on The Chalkboard.)

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2010 Season Week 4 Thoughts

As QC learned first-hand during his Week 4 pilgrimage to Titletown, Wisconsin, everything at and about Lambeau Field is about football. Outside Lambeau, at a tailgate party on Lombardi Avenue, you will find a 10-foot replica of the Lombardi Tropy in a neighbor's front yard. Inside Lambeau, if you go to the can, you will find an intimidating portrait of former Packers' middle linebacker Ray Nitschke glaring down at a ball-carrier he just knocked on his can. At Lambeau, they really sweat the details. So, QC's Week 4 NFL thoughts focus in detail on the Packers and their bitter rival, the Chicago Bears.

Green Bay's 28-26 win over Detroit was a perfect QC game. If you look at ESPN's box score for the game, the Lions dominated every statistic you will ever hear about on Sports Center. Detroit QB Shaun Hill passed for more than 150 more yards than Green Bay signal-caller Aaron Rogers. (Lions' tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Schefler did most of the damage, combining to catch 14 of Hill's passes.) The Lions also out-rushed the Pack (123-to-92) and gained more yards per rushing attempt (5.9-to-4.4). Although Detroit made plenty of mistakes, Green Bay actually committed one more turnover (4-to-3). The Lions also held a massive time of possession advantage (37:37-to 22:23).

The only statistic where the Packers held an advantage was in QCYPA (11.706-to-6.130). However, behind Rogers' efficient passing (12-17-181-3 TDs), Green Bay's advantage in QCYPA evidenced an unlimited play design advantage. Further, as QC often reminds readers, when a team such as Green Bay has QCYPA greater than 9 yards per attempt and a team such as Detroit has QCYPA less than 6.692, the better designed team with the much greater QCYPA wins about 95 percent of the time. (On this day, QC's hometown Cincinnati Bengals demonstrated in a 23-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns that one way to end up in the 5 percent of teams that lose when holding this advantage is to commit 2 turnovers that lead to a pair of field goals, get a field goal of your own blocked, and commit a critical offensive pass interference penalty late in the game to take your team out of field goal range. In other words, you really have to want it to lose when holding this advantage.)

QC will be honest: It is a rare occasion indeed when QC truly is rooting for a particular NFL team to win on any given Sunday. This was one of those occasions. Here's to the power of unlimited play design.

With the Packers win over the Lions and the success of the pilgrimage safely assured, QC, The Coach, and The Boy retired to the 1951 Lounge at the Comfort Suites to see if New York could knock Chicago from the ranks of the unbeaten. The Giants did so, sacking Bears' QB Jay Cutler 9 times in the first half, on the way to a 17-3 victory. For the game, Chicago's offense, which had been infintely productive coming into the game, generated miniscule player productivity of 1.10, the worst mark by any team in any game in the NFL this season.

Mike Martz coordinated offenses have always been bi-polar boom or bust machines that do not have much stable middle ground. Also, Martz is renowned for stubbornly sticking with what he believes should work (and often does work) even when it clearly is not working. Chicago fans will enjoy more boom Sundays like the first 3 weeks of the season as well as few more busts. In the end, look for the NFC North race between the Bears and the Packers to be decided, just as it should be, in a frigid January 2 showdown on the frozen tundra at Lambeau.
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Is Green Bay the best place in the NFL to see a game live? (Use Twitter or the headset to send TRUE or FALSE and your reasons to QuantCoach. Please let QC know if we may post your tweet/message on The Chalkboard.)

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2010 Season Week 3 Thoughts

Week 3 of the 2010 season was Black Sunday for play designers. Every NFL coach stresses to the media that in order to be successful, his team must avoid turnovers (and penalties) and be solid in the kicking game. Week 3, better coached teams (i.e., teams with better play design) went 9-7 as turnovers and break downs in the kicking game proved costly. It was the worst Sunday for play designers since QC began keeping coaching stats in 2008. Coaches harping on turnovers and special teams is a cliché, but they do it because they have little to no power in these areas. When you hear a coach talk about turnovers and special teams, what you should be translating in your brain is the following, "If the players can just not screw up the things the coaches cannot control or even influence, then we have a good chance to win on Sunday because the coaches have designed a good plan to win. But if the players screw up, our design plan will not matter."

All over the NFL on Sunday in Week 3, design plans did not matter. Here is the parade of horribles.

In New York's 29-10 loss to Tennessee, coach Tom Coughlin's slightly better designed Giants handed over 3 turnovers (while receiving none from the Titans), missed 2 field goals, gave Tennessee a safety with a chop block in the end zone, and committed numerous personal foul penalties.

In New Orleans 27-24 overtime loss to Atlanta, coach Sean Payton's offense led by QB Drew Brees was infinitely productive ($), but the Saints committed 3 turnovers and kicker Garrett Hartley missed a 29-yard field goal in overtime that would have won the game. It was the 4th shortest missed overtime field goal in history.

Carolina missed a great chance to win a game, falling to Cincinnati, 20-7. The Bengals offense, particularly QB Carson Palmer, was barely above the JaMarcus Cable (2.00 Hy ) and committed 2 turnovers. QB Jimmy Clausen survived a wretched first-half and numerous dropped passes, but the Panthers could not overcome 3 lost fumbles and a Clausen interception.

In Denver's 27-14 loss to Indianapolis, Broncos QB Kyle Orton out-gunned the Colts' Peyton Manning for most of the day. But 2 costly Denver turnovers and 2 questionable failed 4th down calls by McDaniels who eschewed easy field goals left the Broncos behind by a touchdown in the fourth quater. Manning then went all P-rex and scavenged the Denver secondary for a game-clinching score.

In San Diego's 27-20 loss to Seattle, the Chargers bestowed 5 turnovers upon the Seahawks to off-set another one of Norv Turner's well-designed game plans. Even worse, San Diego special teams yielded kickoff return touchdowns of 101 and 99 yards to Seattle's Leon Washington.

In Oakland's 24-23 loss to Arizona, the day began badly for the Raiders when the Cardinals' LaRod Stephens-Howling returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Behind QB Bruce Gradkowski, however, Oakland refused to quit and seemed to be in good position to win as kicker Sebastian Janikowski set up for a 32-yard field goal with :04 to play. He missed it wide left. Janikowski also missed a 41-yard field goal earlier in the game.

Oddly, QC has no gut-wrenching explanation for Washington's 30-16 loss to St. Louis. Coach Mike Shannahan designed a competent game plan that was superior to Rams' counterpart Steve Spagnuolo and the Redskins' players produced better than St. Louis. Washington did suffer 2 turnovers, but so did the Rams. Redskins kicker Graham Gano was a perfect 3 for 3 (29, 24, 21) and punted adequately when Washington's regular punter could not go. While Shannahan may be criticized by others for accepting short field goals rather than going for it when inside the St. Louis 15-yard line, this is almost always a winning strategy when a team is better designed and more productive, as the Redskins were. What can you say? It was Black Sunday.
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Was Week 3 the worst week for special teams in the history of the NFL? (Use Twitter or the headset to send TRUE or FALSE and your reasons to QuantCoach. Please let QC know if we may post your tweet/message on The Chalkboard.)

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2010 Season Week 2 Thoughts

Avast me hearties! Week 2 of the 2010 NFL Football Season just happened to fall on International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Football has more in common with pirates than you might think. First, almost all pirates are guys so a certain amount of barbarism, while not condoned, should be expected. (QC is looking at you New York Jets.) Second, both football coaches and pirates speak a language that is virtually incomprehensible to the everyday landlubber. Finally, pirates are private parties, not government actors (for government pirates: see soccer), that engage in war-like acts. Of course, like pirates, sometimes coaches can get carried away, such as when the "Long John Silver" of pirate coaches, former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, fell victim to a mutiny after converting a storage shed into the brig, but mostly pirates and football are simply fun. So, to honor International Talk Like A Pirate Day, here are QC's Week 2 pirate thoughts.

Appropriately, the Buccaneers won on Talk Like A Pirate Day. Tampa Bay improved to a surprising 2-0 with a 20-7 win over Carolina in which second-year QB Josh Freeman continued to impress. On draft day two years ago, many so-called experts scratched their heads when the Bucs picked Freeman in the first round but coach Raheem Morris said they would have picked Freeman over Matt Stafford, the first pick in the entire draft, if the team had to make a choice between the two. Who is saying Arrr! now?

The corrollary to the Buccaneers winning on Talk Like A Pirate Day is that it is appropriate that the navy lose. Since Navy plays college football and is not in the NFL, the next closest thing would be for Bill Belichick, the son of long-time Navy scout Steve Belichick, to lose. Belichick and the Patriots obliged and fell to the Jets, 28-14. Unlike Belichick, New York's swashbuckling Rex Ryan just seems like a salty-tongued pirate, all full of bluster. (In NFL-speak, swashbuckling is known as "swagger.") On Sunday, his Jets' plundered New England by collecting 3 turnovers as booty and, with a rejuvenated LaDanian Tomlinson, establishing the rum... er, run.

This much we know: Pittsburgh pirates are no threat to anybody. However, me hearty, the Pittsburgh football crew has something better than a pirate cap'n in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, a latter day Prospero who is capable of creating a confusing and dangerous tempest through manipulation of heat and pressure. Against Tennessee, LeBeau conjured up a storm that bewildered Titans' QB Vince Young and resulted in 7 turnovers as the Steelers prevailed, 19-11, without a breath of offense.

In the CFL, Saskatchewan fans and media were nearly ready to make coach Ken Miller walk the plank even though their Rough Riders defeated rival Calgary, 43-37, in overtime. What caused the sound and fury was this. In the CFL, a team is awarded 1 point for a touchback if a punt or field goal goes through the end zone or is not returned from the end zone, which is 25 yards deep. (In contrast, an NFL end zone is only 10 yards deep.) On the last play of regulation, Saskatchewan had the ball at the Calgary 28-yard line and the prairie wind at its back. Rather than attempt a 35-yard field goal, Miller sent in punter Eddie Johnson and instructed him to punt the ball out of the end zone for a the game winning single.

This is a situation that an NFL punter can only dream about: The game winning punt! In order to punt the ball out of the end zone, Johnson had to punt it about 53 yards. Earlier in the game, with the wind at this back, he had delivered a 53-yard punt and a 56-yard punt. But on this play, Johnson's punt traveled only 40 yards and Calgary easily returned the punt out of the end zone to force overtime. Miller's decision created an uproar amongst those who thought the field goal was the obvious choice and the coach almost cost the team the game.

However, it seems to QC, who owns 1 Class A share of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders and hence has economic standing to second guess Miller, that the coaches' decision was reasonable. In essence, Miller faced a 7-10 split. Under the circumstances, he thought it would be easier for a player to deliver length than it would be for a player to deliver accuracy. It was a close call. But, as QC's 8th Commandment states, neither play (punt or field goal) involved any play design. It was simpy a best-guess. Although Miller's guess did not work out as he had hoped, one can be sure that if he had guessed field goal and kicker Luca Congi had missed and the ball had been returned, plenty of Monday Morning Quarterbacks would have been screaming that he was a numb-skull for not punting with the wind at his back and a strong-legged punter.
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Did Saskatchewan coach Ken Miller make the right call in punting for a single and the win against Calgary? (Use Twitter or the headset to send TRUE or FALSE and your reasons to QuantCoach. Please let QC know if we may post your tweet/message on The Chalkboard.)

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2010 Season Week 1 Thoughts

It is not too early to jump on the Houston Texans bandwagon. While most people are talking about rookie RB Arian Foster's 200-plus yards in the 34-24 win over the Colts, what impressed QC more was that Houston was lucky. Though the Texans won, Indianapolis and Peyton Manning actually were better designed and more productive. In 2009, Houston was 9-7, but winless when it was not better designed. While it is much less common than people think for a running back to carry his team to victory with a great individual effort (such as that of Foster and his offensive line), particularly a rookie running back playing in his first NFL game, every year one NFL team is snakebit. Last year it was Houston. It won't be this year. We already know that QB Matt Schaub, WR Andre Johnson, and TE Owen Daniels can sling it with the best teams in the NFL. The Texans only will get better on defense when LB Brian Cushing returns from suspension. If you are a Houston fan, go all-in.

While the Texans seem to have shaken off their dark cloud, it still won't be easy in the AFC South which looks like the best division in football. The Colts look more vulnerable than at any time in the past decade, but Manning will not go quietly. Jacksonville and QB David Garrard played well in a 24-17 win over Denver. Moreover, in Tennessee the Titans steam-rolled the Raiders as Vince Young once again put up elite QB design and productivity numbers. Since taking over as the starter in '09, no QB in the NFL has consistently achieved high efficiency more than Young. Everyone already knew Tennessee had the best RB in the NFL in Chris Johnson, a tremendous offensive line, a solid defense, and a capable coaching staff led by Jeff Fisher. If Young continues to play at such a high level of efficiency, the Titans are Super Bowl contenders.

Why does the media hate Wade Phillips and Norv Turner?

Both Dallas and San Diego lost because of classic player failures, turnovers (Tashard Choice & Ryan Matthews fumbles), penalties (Alex Barron hold), and special teams break-downs (Dexter McCluster's punt return for a TD). As QC's 8th Commandment and 9th Commandment state, these are player failures, not coach failures as such errors involve little or no play design.

Still, after Barron's holding penalty cost the Cowboys a TD and a win in Washington, so-called "professional" media members viciously lashed out at Phillips, calling him the worst coach in the NFL. Only Sports Illustrated's Peter King took a reasoned approach. King labeled RB Tashard Choice's fumble after a short pass reception on the last play of the first half that DeAngelo Hall returned for a TD an "idiotic play," but at least he did not place primary idiocy on Phillips. "Phillips took the blame," King wrote, "but [offensive coordinator] Jason Garrett should have known to call a kneel down. [QB Tony] Romo should have known to audible to a kneel down if it wasn't called from the sideline. Choice should have known to lay on the ground...."

But here is one thing that even King missed: Phillips out-coached Washington's Mike Shanahan. Dallas' defense, which Phillips coordinates, held Washington to productivity (2.03 HA ) just barely above the JaMarcus Cable, the standard for offensive ineptness in the NFL. But for two player failures by Garrett's offense, Dallas would have won. And, given that defense dominated, the only conclusion one could rationally reach is that Phillips out-coached Shannahan, an offense-oriented head coach like Turner whose design far exceeded Kansas City's, but could not over-come Matthews fumble and McCluster's punt return.

Look, Phillips and Turner may not be on the level of the "Trinity": Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, and Bill Belichick. They may not have the complete knowledge of both sides of the ball or the ability to see the entire field as the members of the Trinity could. But they are dad-gum good on their respective sides of the ball and nice fellas who are generous with their time and good to the media.

So members of the media: Why do you hate Phillips and Turner?

After Detroit fell to Chicago, 19-14, all anyone wanted to talk about was whether the Lions got jobbed when an apparent TD catch by Calvin Johnson was rendered a harmless incompletion by the letter of the NFL law. If you were a little more broad minded, you might have gotten to QB Matt Stafford's shoulder injury. But if QC was a Lions fans, what he would be focusing on would be that Detroit's pass defense was shredded yet again. Using offensive coordinator Mike Martz's play designs, the Bears incurred the cost of a couple Jay Cutler interceptions and some red zone sputtering, but still generated infinite player productivity. Head coach Jim Schwartz came to the Lions as an up-and-coming, data-driven defensive master-mind and he has added two solid pass rushers up front in Ndamukon Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch. But Detroit still does not look any better on pass defense. If that continues, it is going to be another long, long year in the Motor City. And grumbling about Schwartz will start.

Philadelphia looked spectacular in their kelly green uniforms in a 27-20 loss to Green Bay. The Eagles were so outfitted to honor the 1960 team led by tough, nasty guys like QB Norm "Dutch" Van Brocklin and LB/C Chuck Bednarik, who defeated the Packers in the 1960 NFL Championship Game, 17-13.

So Sunday's slug-fest, which was a battle of attrition with players being carried off the field on what seemed like every play, was the perfect way to honor the 1960 NFL champions, right? Wrong.

The 1960 Eagles are one of the great forgotten teams of the NFL and were one of the first teams who built their attack around the pass rather than the run. Indeed, to this day, no NFL champion has averaged fewer yards per rushing attempt than those Eagles. Philly has probably been forgotten because Van Brocklin was as crusty as they came and because their title was sandwiched by the great Johnny Unitas/Raymond Berry Colts of '58 and '59 and Lombardi's championship run. But that is a shame.

"Van Brockin was a coach in Philadelphia," Robert Gordon wrote in The 1960 Philadelphia Eagles: The Team That They Said Had Nothing But A Championship. "He worked full-time in the off-season for the Eagles' coaching staff."

"Dutch was exceptional in his knowledge of the game," said Sonny Jurgensen, who was Van Brocklin's back-up that year. "Sometimes, Dutch would call plays that didn't seem to make sense. I'd question him about some of his calls when he got to the sideline, and he always had good tactical reasons for them. Maybe it was the way the defense was reacting to a certain play, maybe he wanted to set them up for something on the next series of downs. Whatever the reason, he was always setting the opponent up. He was out a few steps ahead of them. Usually, he was right. I got an education just watching him."

"Van Brocklin was far ahead of his time in knowing how to read defenses," said former broadaster Pat Summerall. "As for passing, he could throw the ball as well as any quarterback before or since." Fellow broadcaster Bill Campbell agreed on both counts. "Van Brocklin was an awesome pure passer," Campbell said. "But I think his greatest attribute, besides leadership, was his in-depth knowledge of the game. In my 52 years of covering this game, I learned more by listening to Dutch than everyone else put together."

Van Brocklin shared his knowledge with his teammates and designed plays for Hall-of-Fame flanker Tommy McDonald, ends Pete Retzlaff and Bobby Walston, and running backs Ted Dean and Billy Barnes. The Eagles averaged over 9 yards per pass attempt and McDonald caught 13 TD passes.

"With McDonald, Walston, and Retzlaff, and with Dean and Barnes coming out of the backfield, we had a big play team, a term that really hadn't been popularized at that point," said reserve end Jerry Reichow. "But that's what we had. Running still dominated the game in '60, but our team had a pass-oriented attack, and a quarterback who could come up with big plays anywhere on the field."

Van Brocklin's signature victory was the 17-13 championship win over Green Bay and Lombardi. In the game, the Packers ran 60% more plays than the Eagles (76 to 48), gained more than 100% more rushing yards (223 to 99), completed a higher percentage of passes (60% to 45%), and accumulated more first downs (22-13). Philadelphia also fumbled the ball away twice and threw an interception while Green Bay suffered only one turnover.

Yet, the Eagles prevailed because their offense operated at 104% efficiency (10.4 YPA), while the Packers' offense operated at only 52.5% efficiency (5.25 YPA). Clearly, Philadelphia's only edge over Green Bay was the productivity of their research and design. But that edge was an unlimited design edge.

In the decade that followed the Eagles' 1960 NFL Championship, the Packers captured NFL title after NFL title and the rest of the NFL sought to copy Lombardi's design. But no NFL team sought to copy the Eagles' alpha passing design that was superior to Lombardi's run to daylight design. Not surprisingly, when the 1960s came to an end, Philadelphia was still the only team that had ever defeated Lombardi's Packers in a meaningful NFL playoff game.
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Are the Houston Texans for real? (Use Twitter or the headset to send TRUE or FALSE and your reasons to QuantCoach. Please let QC know if we may post your tweet/message on The Chalkboard.)

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As the Football Outsiders pointed out recently, it is that time of year when all NFL blogs and web-sites are duty bound to make predictions for the upcoming NFL season even though everyone knows that the overwhelming odds are that these predicitions will be wrong.

FO's David Gardner put it this way:

"Let's say we think the Baltimore Ravens have the best chance of any team in the AFC to make it to the Super Bowl -- 20 percent, perhaps. For the sake of argument, we'll also say that Indianapolis, New England, and Pittsburgh each have a 10 percent chance to make the Super Bowl, ten other teams have a five percent chance, and Cleveland and Buffalo are there to make sure everybody has a full schedule. OK, so we pick Baltimore to win the AFC. Even based solely on this opinion, there is four in five chance the pick will be incorrect. So preseason predictions are all going to be mostly wrong. It is unavoidable. "

However, as ESPN's Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend." QC has 3 rock-solid, air-tight, 100% guaranteed, this-will-happen predictions for readers on this the day before the 2010 NFL season gets serious.

Prediction No. 1
Teams that are better coached as defined by QC's play design statistic (HA ) will have more productive players as defined by QC's player productivity statistic (ðHY) in more than 95% of all games.

Prediction No. 2
Teams that are better coached as defined by QC's play design statistic will win between 75%-to-80% of all games.

Prediction No. 3
Teams that are better coached as defined by QC's play design statistic that lose will: (a) commit more turnovers than the opponent or (b) suffer breakdowns on special teams such as missed field goals or punt returns for TDs in at least 75% of all games they lose despite being better coached.

These predictions are money. QC invites you to follow along this season or come back at the end of the year and verify the accuracy of these predictions. They will be accurate.

Unfortunately, QC cannot tell you if and when a team, say FO's beloved Baltimore Ravens, will be better designed than its opponent or commit more turnovers than its opponent or yield a punt return for a TD.

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Better coached teams will win between 75 and 80 percent of all NFL games this year? (Use Twitter or the headset to send TRUE or FALSE and your reasons to QuantCoach. Please let QC know if we may post your tweet/message on The Chalkboard.)

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Here at, QC continuously emphasizes the importance of research and development in football, particularly the importance of R&D in play design.

But in order to test play designs, NFL researchers--coaches--need to take the designs out of the laboratory and apply the designs on the field. The NFL's pre-season is one place where researchers do this.

Recently, the NFL proposed expanding the regular season to 18 games. Currently, the NFL's 4-game R&D pre-season is probably the perfect length from the researcher's perspective as it constitutes 20% of all non-playoff games in a season (20 games). However, a by-product of the expanded regular season would be that the NFL pre-season research period would be cut in half from 4 games to 2 games. Simply, as most every business does in a down economy, the NFL is trying to cut costs (here R&D costs) and simultaneosly increase revenue by re-defining research as finished product.

From the fan's perspective this makes perfect sense. Customers do not want to pay the same price for R&D games (pre-season game) that they pay for finished product games (regular season). But the reality is that customers must pay the fixed costs of R&D for every other product that is put on the market. Why should NFL customers expect that they are entitled to a finished product without paying for the R&D? It makes no sense.

Perhaps the NFL can provide the same quality finished product regular seasons games to its customers at half the R&D expense (10% of all games, rather than 20%). But that remains to be seen. If the NFL can do so, then the expanded season is a good idea. But if the NFL let the researchers and developers--the coaches--decide the issue, QC's guess is that the NFL's pre-season R&D period would remain as it is.
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Extending the NFL's 16-game season to 18 games and thereby reducing R&D will adversely affect the quality of play in NFL regular season games? (Use Twitter or the headset to send TRUE or FALSE and your reasons to QuantCoach. Please let QC know if we may post your tweet/message on The Chalkboard.)

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In grading a players' performance in a game, Green Bay's legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, awarded a "2" for a superior block or tackle, a "1" for a satisfactory performance, and a "0" for an unsatisfactory performance.

Sports Illustrated writer Tim Layden's book, Blood, Sweat and Chalk: The Ultimate Football Playbook: How the Great Coaches Built Today's Game, which details football's greatest play designs and designers, is a "2."

QC should know. In 2008, he uncovered and told many of the same stories in a scholarly paper, Quantifying NFL Coaching: A Proof of New Growth Theory, that are the foundation of the QuantCoach coaching statistics. Indeed, Layden's book is so similar to the paper, that QC, who relied upon two of Layden's Sports Illustrated articles as sources, thought perhaps Layden had read the paper. But the aknowledgments do not indicate he did.

This is of no great matter particularly when Layden tells the story of play design on the offensive side of the ball. From Lombardi's sweep and the triple option of Bill Yeoman's veer and Texas' wishbone to Walsh's rhythm passing West Coast Offense, Layden nails offense. Other than not giving the great Army coach Earle "Red" Blaik--who mentored Lombardi, Yeoman and Sid Gillman (Walsh's foundation)--enough credit, Layden is insightful. In discussing Walsh's signature play, the shallow cross, Layden notes "the tight end runs a 10-yard cross, stretching the linebackers horizontally, while the 'X' receiver runs across the formation from the opposite side, capitalizing on the chaos created by the tight end." Here Layden uses the term "chaos" in the Biblical sense to mean the void or open area that Walsh's design created. It's a reverse "Creation Story." This seems appropriate as like all great football coaches, Walsh loved a well-executed reverse like the one involving Freddie Solomon that he sprung on Dallas in the 1981 NFC Championship Game.

Layden observes that "a play's value is not only in the play itself, but in the counter it sets up." He wryly notes that "innovation is often accidental, and it certainly is in football." Layden's recounting of how Yeoman discovered the triple option and current Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez discoverd the zone read makes it sound like the exact same historical accident occurred on two different practice fields that were separated by 1200 miles and 30 years. (Yeoman comes across as perhaps the most underrated football innovator in history. His name keeps popping up.)

Moreover, consistent with the principles of Growth Theory, Layden notes that non-rival knowledge that is available to all coaches is at the heart of the game. "Coaches find each other. They hang together and eat together--and they speak a language that nobody else really understands. It is their way of finding normalcy. But it's also a way of staying in the endless loop of innovation. Friends do not hide discoveries from each other."

Layden is correct only to a point here. In Layden's book, "'the offense gets the chalk last,'" to borrow a phrase from run-and-shoot innovator Mouse Davis. "'That's coachspeak,'" Davis told Layden. "'The expression derives from the practice of coaches scheming offenses and defenses together on a chalkboard, passing the chalk back and forth in response to the other's moves. He who moves last has the advantage.'"

History teaches that this indeed is the story of play design in the NFL. In response to Vince Lombardi's power sweep, Dallas' Tom Landry designed the "Doomsday" flex defense. In response to Walsh's passing game, New England's Bill Belichick designed mysterious defenses that to this day defy easy description. However, Landry and the flex are not even mentioned in Layden's book and Belichick is only along as a sort of curator of history. Layden makes no attempt to analyze the most abstract defensive mind in the game's history. (Although, to be fair, Layden does include an excellent narrative on Dick LeBeau's zone blitz concepts.)

QC speculates that perhaps the reason Layden overlooked Landry and did not presume to attempt to analyze the inscrutable Belichick is the common human tendency to think of things that are very much alike as being exactly alike when in fact those things have subtle differences. For example, one can think of a Lombardi or Walsh offense as a ship that is trying to cross a sea to get from Port A to Port B. If so, a Landry or Belichick defense likewise must be a ship that goes out to sea and attempts to sack or intercept the offensive ship, right?

Not necessarily. Another way to conceptualize the defense is as the sea itself. On the surface, the sea may appear to be something that it is not below the surface. This deception may result in conditions that keep the ship from ever reaching Port B and, even after succeeding, defy description or tendencies that could be charted in a way that would enable the offensive captain and navigator to know what to expect the next time they go to sea. QC believes that it is this subtle conceptual difference that distinguishes great offensive coaches like Lombardi and Walsh from great defensive coaches like Landry and Belichick.

Nevertheless, it is perfectly clear that Layden gets it right throughout this book. In the end, Layden quotes Duke University coach David Cutcliffe to succinctly summarize the role of play design in football. "'Here's what a system does: It tries to put players in a position to succeed. That's what it is.'"

For that answer alone, Layden gets a "2."

Is Tim Layden's "Blood, Sweat, & Chalk" the best book about football play designers ever written? (Use Twitter or the headset to send TRUE or FALSE and your reasons to QuantCoach. Please let QC know if we may post your tweet/message on The Chalkboard.)

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