A Man Among.... Well, Men.
Welcome to my second post of ITAR. Although it may seem that this series is devoted to Jason Garret, and although I certainly am a fan of continued faith in Mr. Garrett, this will not be an article series devoted specifically to our dear Red Headed Leader.
Well, debunking seems to be the new "in" thing around BTB. Sort of like making fun of the Cowboys to every other NFL Team's fans. Or more like no fashion sense in the 80s. Still when I saw 5Blings excellent post on myth debunking, OCC's excellent thievery, and then debunkings of OCC's debunkings, I decided it was only right for me to throw my hat into the ring.
There seems to be some resentment out there towards Garrett and the way his coaching staff handled this year. Specifically, Garrett seems to be being compared to Jim Harbaugh. Didn't Harbaugh get more out of his talent than Garrett. Shouldn't we expect more out of Garrett than what we got this season. After the jump I'll express my thoughts on this. Obviously there are various levels of intensity to this argument. There is one vein that sees Garrett as a failure because Harbaugh did more with worse/"comparable" talent. There is another group who thinks that although the 49ers might have been in a better position, e.g. division, schedule, players, Harbaugh probably could have done more with this Cowboys unit than Garrett.
I'm here to debunk the first and doubt the second.
Here is a quote from Randy Galloway on the subject:
But, quite frankly, I thought ... you put Jason Garrett in charge of this team and I thought we would see a Harbaugh-type impact like we just saw with the San Francisco 49ers. That that didn't happen is a disappointment. That 8-8 happened is a disappointment. But what's really disappointing is, we didn't really see anything different than what we've been seeing around here for the last four or five years. The same stupid mistakes, the same collapse in December, the same, Oh they were close here, but somebody screws up.
It's funny how all the media seems to draw their stories from the same narrative. Let's see: Garrett doesn't impress in first season? Check. Team is dumb? Check. Team can't execute in close situations and that's why they're bad? Check.
Still there seems to be an obsession with San Francisco's amazing turnaround. Most likely this is due to the hype Harbaugh received while at Stanford and the media circus of his hiring over the Summer. First, remember Harbuagh had a pool of jobs he was choosing from. How good would the Cleveland Browns have looked with Harbaugh as the coach? Probably not so hot.
Still what was Harbaugh's big change? Did he change the culture and make San Francisco a better team? Well to explain exactly what is happening in SF we're going to have to put up some charts. The first one I'm going to use is a graph which shows the correlation between the difference in Offensive Net Yards/Average and Defensive Net Yards/Average (I'm all in on NY/A btw):
The graph is complex but here is the basic idea behind it: Teams with a significant difference between O NY/A and D NY/A are much more likely to have a better win percentage than those which don't. The correlation is quite high and can be considered pretty good predictor of future success, although it isn't 100% effective.
Anyways based upon this one would think that San Fransisco took a big leap. They were 6-10 last year, now they're 13-3 and that's all on San Fransisco. Well, in the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friends." You see the statistics don't match up with that conclusion.
The basic idea behind a regression line is that it serves as a future indicator of success. Based on all of the data used for this experiment we can be assured it's fairly accurate.
The difference in Net Yards/Average in 2010 for the 49ers ended up being -0.1. In 2011, the big difference? It was 0.
The projected wins from 2010 was 7.7. The projected wins from 2011? 8.0.
So what does it all mean. Why would a team with 8 projected wins have 13 this year? Well there are a couple of reasons for this. The first, is that the 49ers are not as good a team as we think they are. It's probable that there are a number of things this year that artificially inflated this team's win total. One such thing was Smith's absolutely incredible Int rate. Smith's career average is 3.0%. This means that every 100 throws Smith should throw 3 interceptions. On the other hand Smith's interception rate this year was 1.1 %. Slightly more statistics then we'll get to the conclusion:
If Smith had thrown his standard career Int rate this year the projected wins would be around 8. However his 1.1% interception rate brings the team's standard projected wins to around 11 much closer to the record they had this year.
Ok, you might be asking. Maybe Harbaugh changed Smith's entire mindset. Maybe he'll never be an all-pro QB but he'll be serviceable now. Statistics don't help with that assertion: A 5.9 NY/A offense is horrible, it's worse than league average.The only thing that's changed for Smith is his Int Rate. There's no way he can keep up with that level.
Every single year a QB has a sterling rating one year, they fall back to earth the next year. Look no further than Tom Brady's .8% rating last year which is now a 2%. Look at Romo's 1.6% 2009 which turned into a 3.2% 2010. Look at Peyton's 1.6% 2006 which became a 2.7% 2007. The only difference between Smith and these QBs is that these ones are actually good. Smith has artificially propped up the 49ers who should not have a record as good as it is.
Harbaugh has done little if nothing to change this team for the long haul. He has not significantly altered its offense or its defense. Whatever it has going for it, was there before he got there, and he has ridden a wave of unheralded success because of the stellar play of a man who will always be remembered as the guy taken 1st in the Aaron Rodgers Draft. Their only major pickup was Aldon Smith, albeit a very good player but still a rookie and not the best one taken in the draft.
Any changes that Harbaugh is going to make to this team have not happened yet. I'm not going to deny he can be a great Head Coach; look what he did for Stanford. All I am saying is maybe we should wait a little bit longer to jump on the Harbaugh bandwagon, at least for the guy in California
So, maybe we should give Jason Garrett a break, because he's had the same statistical difference on his team in one year that Harbaugh had. The game of what-ifs is fun and all, but there's very little evidence to support its conclusions.