Vince Lombardi

QuantCoach.com

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WELCOME to QuantCoach.com, the only site on the world-wide web that provides meaningful professional football coaching statistics. QuantCoach.com'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, QuantCoach.com's coaching statistics separate the contribution of plays to pro football success from the contribution of players.

THE ARCHIVES (2014-Part 2)

QC's Week 4 Thoughts

San Francisco handed Philadelphia its first loss, 26-21, in one of the strangest games in NFL history. All of the Eagles points came on returns (punt, blocked punt, and interception). Every year for no explicable reason, one team becomes the cursed team of the year and repeatedly self-destructs under an avalanche of turnovers and special teams breakdowns (see, e.g., 2010 Chargers and 2013 Texans, just to name a couple). Down 21-10, it looked like San Francisco was morphing into that team. But Jim Harbaugh's team steadied itself for at least a game and in doing so raised numerous questions about Philadelphia, who became just the second team in NFL history to lose a game holding 3 return TDs. The Eagles now have a -4 turnover differential and are averaging just 87 yards rushing per game. In comparison, Philadelphia averaged 76 yards rusing per game in 2013 on first down alone. The Eagles offensive line has been beat up, but so was San Francisco's line and the 49ers gouged the Philadelphia D for 218 rushing yards. Starting tackle Lane Johnson returns for the Eagles this week from suspension and that will help, but it is unlikely that he alone will solve all the problems on offense, which included making 1 yard or less on 31 of 56 offensive plays and not crossing the 50 yard line on offense until well into the second half.

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Defense had a bye in the NFC South as only Tampa Bay's 27-24 upset of Pittsburgh saved the division from a winless weekend. Three quarterbacks facing AFC South teams were infinitely productive (Minnsota's Teddy Bridgewater v. Atlanta, Dallas' Tony Romo v. New Orleans and Baltimore's Joe Flacco v. Carolina) and the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger averaged better than 8 yards per pass attempt and tossed 3 TD passes. Everyone in the NFC South needs to man up or the division winner could be 8-8.

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Dallas is a surprising 3-1 after smashing the Saints, 38-17, who are a surprising 1-3 including a dismal 0-3 on the road. Stud running back DeMarco Murray and a muscular offensive line chalk full of first round draft picks is getting most of the attention. With Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan designing the offense, most folks including 'Ol QC figured that even with all that talent, the Cowboys would not be able to help themselves from putting the ball in the air. But through the first quarter of the season, Dallas led the NFL in yards rushing on first down and ranked third in percentage of rushing plays (50.8%). By holding the ball, the Cowboys have been able to hide a defense that has yielded over 8 yards per pass attempt and has absolutely no pass rush whatsoever. It looks like a good formula right now. But it's highly unlikely to work all year. Dallas cannot hide that defense forever.

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The NFC North will be decided by turnovers. In Green Bay's 38-17 win over Chicago, neither team punted but Jay Cutler turned the ball over twice while the Packers Aaron Rogers played turnover free. Detroit benefitted from the generosity of the most generous team in the NFL, Rex Ryan's NY Jets, but its unlikely to put it mildly that Detroit QB Matt Stafford will take care of the ball for the rest of the season. Even Minnesota, who desperately needed a feel good story and enjoyed a "pinch me is this really happening" debut of rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater is likely to hang in the race provided Bridgewater's ankle is merely twisted and will not put him on the sideline.

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The QuantCoach puts virtually no emphasis on yards per rushing attempt and San Diego's success this year, which included a 33-14 rout of Jacksonville on Sunday, shows why. The Chargers have run the ball a healthy 29.25 times a game in 2014, but have averaged a microscopic 2.38 yards per carry. Still, but for a botched shot gun snap in Arizona, San Diego probably would be undefeated. Running the football is important in the NFL. But it is football chemistry's inert ingredient; passing is the active ingredient.

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Better coached and designed teams continued to dominate the NFL as such teams went 11-1 in Week 4 prior to MNF and appeared headed toward 12-1 as Kansas City was dominating the design competition with New England and leading 17-0 when this was published Monday night. If the Chiefs continue their dominance and win, better coached/designed teams will move to 51-10, a cool .836 winning percentage, for the year.

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QC's Week 3 Thoughts

It may not seem like it because NFL officials are not calling a penalty on every pass attempt as they did in the pre-season and Denver's P-rex Manning did not start the season with 7 touchdown passes like he did in 2013, but the NFL's emphasis on curbing illegal contact and defensive holding appears to be having a major impact on the game. QC's coaching statistics, including its foundational play design statistic, are largely driven by efficient passing. Through 3 weeks of play, better designed teams are 39-7, an .813 winning percentage. Through 3 weeks last year, better designed teams were just 34-14, a .708 winning percentage. This might just be a random fluctuation as better designed teams win about 75% of all games very consistently and QC still expects that to hold by the end of the year. But QC definitely would expect that if officials discourage defensive backs from re-routing, clutching, and grabbing receivers, execution should improve and better designed teams should win more games. Further, Cold Hard Football Facts has reported that the NFL's cumulative passer rating stands at 90.6, which is on pace to be the highest in NFL history. It will be interesting to see if NFL passers can maintain that figure.

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One of the oldest cliches in football is a team must be solid in the kicking game. In the four games that better designed teams lost during Week 3, the losers were awful in the kicking game. In Washington, the Redskins yieled a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and missed a field goal. In Carolina, the Panthers jumped off-side on a Pittsburgh field goal attempt which led to a Steelers' TD and fumbled a punt in their own end zone that produced another Pittsburgh touchdown. In New York, the Jets muffed a punt that set up a Chicago touchdown. And in Cleveland kicker Billy Cundiff boinked a field goal off an upright and had another field goal blocked. On Monday, Browns first year coach Mike Pettine blamed himself f the loss. Wrong. Cleveland QB Brian Hoyer was infintely productive and turnover-free as the Browns won the turnover battle, 1-0. An NFL team wins more than 90% of its games under these conditions. In addition, Prediction Machine calculated if Cundiff had made the first field goal attempt, Cleveland's probability of winnning would have increased from 58% to 80% and, when the second field goal attempt was blocked, its probability dipped from 88% to 69%. QC's 8th Commadment is clear: Special teams involve virtually no play design. You didn't lose the game, coach. Your special teams did. Got to be solid in the kicking game. But you already knew that.

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Welcome back AFC South, we missed you. The NFL's most maligned division was barely recognizable the first two weeks of the season as Houston roared to a 2-0 start, Tennessee smacked a 2013 playoff team on the road, Indianapolis stumbled to an 0-2 start and Jacksonville looked frisky (well, for a half). But in Week 3 the Colts drilled the Jaguars while the Titans made the Bengals look like Greek gods and the Texans returned to their self-destructive 2013 ways. It was all very "AFC Southy."

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QC's Week 2 Thoughts

It's early but the Coach of the 1/8 Year is Carolina's Ron Rivera. After the Panthers suffered losses at wide receiver and on the offensive line in the off-season, most so-called experts pegged Rivera's team as one of the two most likely to "regress," which is a fancy word for not win as many games as the year before. But beat Tampa on the road without QB and leader Cam Newton in Week 1 and came home to roll Detroit, 24-7. In each games, Carolina was as at least 5.5% better designed than its opponent and +3 turnovers. There's not going to be any regression if the Panthers can maintain half those numbers over the course of the season.

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There may be some hope for Chicago's defense and DC Mel Tucker after all. A week after getting steamrolled at home, the Bears fell trailed San Francisco 20-7 in the fourth quarter. Everyone knew the script here: The 49ers would run the ball against Chicago's weak run defense and salt away the victory. Except it did not happen. In stead, the Bears bowed up sufficiently to force San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick to throw and DB Kyle Fuller intercepted him twice to spark a 28-20 comeback victory. In Week 1, the Bills generated 46.67% of their first downs from rushing. But the 49ers, who are well-known for their affinity for smash-mouth football, could only muster 26.32% of their first downs on the ground. It might just be an isolated peak in what will be a season long valley. But any hope for improvement is more hope than Chicago fans had after the opener.

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There is not much hope in Oakland, where after the Raiders absorbed a -4 turnover, 30-14, pounding from Houston, the only question is will head coach Dennis Allen last long enough to go into the inevitable late season death spiral. QC has never been an Allen fan and blasted Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie when he fired Hue Jackson and hired Dennis Allen (scroll down). While Allen's days are numbered, QB Andy Dalton and the rest of the Cincinnati offense that Jackson is now coordinating has looked fantastic the first two weeks everywhere but the red zone. Although the Bengals will be without star WR A.J. Green for awhile, its likely that success will continue. If it does, it's past time for the NFL to give Hue Jackson another chance to be a head coach.

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San Diego's 30-21 upset of defending Super Bowl champion Seattle is better viewed as more evidence that the Chargers are rock solid than as evidence the Seahawks have slipped. While Mike McCoy's team was .8% better designed than Pete Carroll's troops--a small advantage, but not a small achievement--Seattle was still 1.10 points more productive than San Diego. The Chargers prevailed primarily because the only giveaway came from the Seahawks and it was a killer, a Percy Harvin fumble on kickoff return that led to one of Phil Rivers' 3 TD passes to TE Antonio Gates. About 2 or 3 times a year, a better designed team is less productive than its opponent, usually because the more productive team has a couple explosive plays in the ground game as Seattle got from Harvin and Robert Turbin. It happens. This does not diminish San Diego's performance in any way. But it was simply something that occasionally happens in the NFL and you shouldn't read any long-term significance into the outcome of the game under these circumstances.

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QC's Week 1 Thoughts

For the first time ever, all 16 better designed NFL teams won. Previously, in Week 9 of the 2012 season, better designed teams finished 14-0, but the Rams, 49ers, Patriots and Jets all had a bye. The result for the sports books could not have been more different though. While perfect on the field, better designed teams were a dead-even 8-8 against the point spread and the books enjoyed one of their most profitable weeks in history. In contrast, Week 9 of 2012, better designed teams covered 12 of 14 games and the sports books were slaughtered and suffered their worst NFL week ever.

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One of those better designed teams that won and covered was the Tennessee Titans who drilled Kansas City, 26-10. QC had been watching the Titans quietly and thinking they were probably better than the low expectations most expressed for them, maybe quite a bit better. Tennessee QB Jake Locker was outstanding, and he got a lot of help from new head coach Ken Whisenhunt. The Titans passed on 54.5% of their first down plays, the highest percentage of any team in Week 1. Almost all teams run more on first down than they pass, so by calling passes on first down Whisenhunt provided Locker with more "easy" passing opportunities. San Diego ranked near the top of the NFL in this statistic last year when Whisenhunt was Mike McCoy's offensive coordinator and, perhaps not coincidentally, Chargers QB Phil River's was the NFL's Comback Player of the Year. Without Whisenhunt, San Diego only passed on 25% of its first down plays (29th) against Arizona's stout run defense and lost, 18-17. It will be interesting to see how Locker develops under Whisenhunt and if Rivers back slides if he continues to be denied the "easy" passing opportunities.

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The first Sunday of 2014 NFL games was barely minutes old when the New York Times pretentious "Fourth Down Bot" started pissing QC off. On Cincinnati's first drive of the season, Mike Nugent nailed a field goal to put the Bengals in front of Baltimore. "Fourth Down Bot" tsk-tsked "I would have gone for it." Nugent would go on to add 4 more field goals in Cincinnati's 23-16 win. Similarly, Tennessee's Ryan Succup and Miami's Caleb Sturis each kicked 4 field goals in a win. Obviously, Marvin Lewis, Ken Whisenhunt, and Joe Philbin had a finger on the pulse of the game and made the correct decision a total of 13 times without so much as a hearty congratulations from the "Fourth Down Bot." The Bengals, Titans and Dolphins won because their coaches were smart enough to not piss the game away by chasing points when they had the better designed, more efficient team. Even QC's blender knows this.

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