Let's Look at the Big Picture


Can we really determine which one of these guys is better based off stats and win totals?

Hey BtB, it's been a while and I think we should have a talk. Pull up a chair; sit down; have a drink. Where have I been you might ask? I've been enduring the torture of lacking a computer for about 3 weeks. Mobile commenting is depressing, mobile fanpost writing is impossible. Basically I've been off the grid for a while now. Now believe me, it's nothing personal.Now as it's been a while I have several ideas up my sleeve that I want to write stories on; so here's to the first in a long series of Off-Season posts describing just what is on my mind.

This first post was inspired by an debate I got into with a fellow BtB member and a Giants fan a few weeks back when discussing offenses, quarterbacks and, of course, whether Eli Manning or Tony Romo was better. Over the course of my football career my opinions on the relative strength of the Quarterback position have vacillated. Although part of me wants to say that the QB is the most important position on the football field and all (offensive) success is caused by him, there is another equally great part which denies this fact whenever my favorite QB chokes or we lose a ball game. Then, it is a team loss for which the whole team is responsible.

No more, I say. No longer will I or any Romo supporter by shackled by the contradictions placed upon us by our conflicting view points. Did that seem a little over-dramatic? It probably was, but it is really just my happiness with a system that gives credit to the QB play while also giving a little love to the ten other players on the field. Follow me on a journey of the aggregate of football.

ag·gre·gate- Noun: A whole formed by combining several (typically disparate elements

For an explanation of what I'm getting at envision a play. Romo throws a pass to Dez Bryant for 6 yards. This is what the summary of a play is going to say on a stat sheet.

Let's look at the play a little closer: Romo is lined up behind center with a Fullback offset to his right and Demarco Murray lined up at RB. In front of him Jason Witten is lined up to the Right of the O-Line, Miles Austin is lined up at the X WR spot, Dez Bryant is lined up at the Z WR spot and (for the sake of argument) Laurent Robinson is lined up in the slot.

Romo snaps the ball, but the handoff isn't perfect he bobbles the ball with the center and takes a half a second to regain control of the ball. Tyron Smith perfectly seals the pass rusher, Doug Free contains his man for 2 seconds but then lets him through. Jason Witten runs a curl route luring in one of the LBers to guard him. On the left Miles Austin runs a slant route through the middle drawing the other LBer as well as his own CB. Dez Bryant (The 1st read for this play) makes an in route and runs across the middle. Now that both Linebackers are drawn in coverage Romo throws a pass that leads Bryant in front of the CB. He extends his arms and makes a catch for six yards. As soon as Romo has thrown the ball he takes a shot from the Weak side pass rusher.

These are all things that have happened in that very same play that can be summarized as simply as Romo to Bryant for 6. Are we really supposed to ignore these variables when determining the outcome of a play? Imagine the same play as above but instead of being drawn into coverage by Miles Austin the Weak-Side Linebacker stays in zone and when Romo leads Dez to the left, he jumps the route and intercepts the ball. I'm sure in this play we'd hear the monotonous "Not again, Romo" chants coming from Cowboys fandom as if it were that simple.

Football is a game of 11 players on one side facing off 11 "equally" (and I use that term loosely) talented players on the other side of the field. Aggregate Statistics is my attempt to account for this fact and give credit to both sides, although I'm well aware that this isn't perfect. Too often a play devolves into: Romo made a horrible pass; Eli made a horrible pass; great route by Dez etc.

I don't buy it. We might as well just play 2-2 football if we are going to accept this fact. Am I really supposed to buy that we line-up 11 people on the field just so that we have options in case the first three designated targets are well covered? Football Offensive coordinators design plays just for these purposes and if they don't, sign me up for a job I'll show the NFL a thing or two.

So how should we reconcile these two different views on offense? My solution is simple and yet has great ramifications on how we should view the game of Football. QB stats are still important. YPA, Completion Percentage and TD:Int ratio as well as win totals are important things to look at. The flaw occurs when we extrapolate from this the merit of our individual QBs. Tony had a good game, Eli had a bad game, Vick had a horrendous game. Our focus should be on the ability of the offense to produce yardage and touchdowns not of individual players. The greatest regular season QB of all time has only won one championship due to a lack of a surrounding cast. (At least in Peyton's case we have a sample season to determine just how much of a drop off there is from Manning to an average QB).

Unfortunately we are now led to the downside of the theory and it would be misleading to suggest there isn't one. My theory having focused upon the importance of judging a team's performance has now opened up the question of how we should judge individual performances. Let's say that one or multiple cogs in the offense or defense are not working. How do we know which ones if we are going to judge a team as a whole. I do not have a compelling answer to this question but I do have two potential answers.

First:: The eye test and analysis of game tape are especially important. When you watch a play ask yourself what was this players role in this play? Did he execute it? Did the player win his 1-1 matchup? If the answer is yes then you know the player is playing well. For the QB ask yourself did he make proper reads? Did he get the ball where it needed to go? Did he improvise correctly when the play didn't work as planned?

Second: Have good coaches. This may seem like a cop out but ultimately our opinion on whether a player is good or not has no bearing on what the coaches do. I wanted a Center in the draft; the team felt differently. Guess whose opinion won out in the end. Analysis on our end should tell us how a team is doing it's not particularly concerned with how a certain player is doing.

Finally: Have fun and be a fan. Analysis is essentially a retrospective thing to do to determine how we can improve so we can win more. There would be no point to it if we didn't have any fun watching the game. We're allowed to have favorites; we're allowed to hate certain players. We're allowed to be emotional it comes with the territory. Just when you take your retrospective try not to blame certain players just by their stat total. Football is a team game.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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