Statistics cause a surprising amount of drama for sports fans. (It affects baseball fans the most, of course, but all sports fans get hit to one degree or another.) Pay too much attention to statistics and you either turn into some sort of heartless computing robot or you start a website devoted to nothing but mocking bad sportswriting. Pay too little attention to statistics and you find yourself advocating that your favorite team start the untested third-string quarterback because you “like his moxie” or “because he looks like a player” or something equally vague.
And even if you find that happy middle ground, there’s the question of choosing the RIGHT statistics – is your quarterback racking up yards because he’s just that awesome, or because he’s constantly playing from behind and has to throw the ball 68 times a game? Stuff like that.
Which brings us to the current 3-1 Redskins squad. There are two major ways to look at their statistics: one very good, the other … well, the other isn’t bad, but it’s a bit sobering.
Let’s look at the good one first. Murph at Homer McFanboy takes a look at the stats and finds them enormously exciting. Here’s a sampling.
In 2006, Campbell completed 63 of 122 passes for 713 yards with 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. His completion percentage was 51.6 and his QB rating was 68.8.
In 2007, Campbell completed 67 of 113 passes for 869 yards with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. His completion percentage was 59.3 and his QB rating was 84.3.
In 2008, Campbell completed 81 of 124 passes for 878 yards with 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. His completion percentage was 65.3 and his QB rating was 102.2.
If you were to graph most of the statistics as Murph lays them out, with years running along the X axis and the statistic in question heading up the Y axis, the resulting line in almost all cases (Campbell’s QB rating, Portis’s rushing yards, Moss’s receiving stats) shoots up the page at a vertical that looks too steep to climb.
On the other end of the spectrum is DW’s analysis over at Riggo’s Rag. He compares the numbers after this year’s 3-1 start with the numbers after last year’s 3-1 start, and what he comes up with is both surprising and (as previously noted) somewhat sobering.
Last year’s offense at this time was averaging 21.75 pts per game and 340 yardsper game.
This year’s offense is averaging 21.5 pts per game and 342 yards per game.
Last year’s defense at this time was giving up 13 pts/g and 268 yrds/g.
This year’s defense is giving up 20.2 pts/g and 315 yrds/g.
DW does point out areas where having the same stats actually implies an improvement over last year, most convincingly the strength of schedule and the fact that this years stats-to-date includes the slow start against the Giants, and both those are certainly relevant. But there’s still a pretty stark difference there.
The obvious change between the two approaches is that Murph is looking at individual statistics while DW is looking at group statistics; I suppose the question is which one of these blocks of data provides a more accurate picture of where the team stands right now. Are the skill position statistical leaders performing better while the team as a whole remains the same?
I don’t think that’s it, necessarily. The team’s performance feels crisper and more assured than it did at this time last year, although once you start using words like “feels” (and “crisp” or “assured,” for that matter), you’ve left the realm of statistics and moved into … something less technical.
Spence at DC Pro Sports Report finds a more mathematical way of putting it, noting what kind of teams the defense gave up yardage against and where in the game it was. I tend to agree with that assessment, and with Murph’s wildly optimistic analysis of the individual statistics, but it doesn’t hurt to keep DW’s point in mind.
In the end, it’s all decided on the field and that’s why they play the games and blah blah blah, of course, but without people doing analyses like these, what would we as fans have to bicker about?
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Chilly, drizzly practice left my notes a smeared blur, but that’s not too different from my usual handwriting, so I should be okay.
- As usual on Wednesdays, much of practice was devoted to installing game-specific stuff, but the main thing I was looking for was the team’s attitude. Since the Dallas game, everything I’ve read has been SO positive, it seemed impossible that it wouldn’t affect the team. If it did, though, I couldn’t see it. The first thing I saw during practice was an offensive line drill that seemed, if anything, MORE high energy, and that carried over to the very last drills of the day. Not to say that continued success wouldn’t go to their heads, but it certainly doesn’t look like it’s done so yet.
- I noted at the last practice of last week that the secondary was looking strong, and if anything their confidence has only grown. Carlos Rogers holds on to another tough interception, which was impressive not so much because of his coverage (as the receiver slipped) but because the ball was in his face unexpectedly and at high speed and he caught it without hesitation. Fred Smoot keeps showing good positioning and anticipation, breaking up a couple of passes, and even impressed with his route-running, juking Rogers during DB-on-DB drills.
- Not to neglect the safeties, either. Chris Horton was filling well against the run, and Kareem Moore looks like he’s got good closing speed (although I did see him get caught out of position on the receiver at least once). LaRon Landry was beaten by a great Todd Collins pass to the corner to the end zone and consulted with Fred Smoot afterward. Smoot gave a little bit of advice on positioning relative to the receiver, but ended by shrugging. “He just put that ball perfect,” he said. “Nothin’ you can do about a perfect ball.”
- James Thrash reached out to snag a slightly overthrown Jason Campbell pass, leading to general cheers and a high five and “Good catch, baby!” from Santana Moss.
- Stephon Heyer, Shawn Springs, and Jason Taylor were all held out of practice with their existing injuries, and Andre Carter was excused for personal reasons. As far as Taylor, Zorn said that he was jogging a little but that he doesn’t really expect him to play this week despite Taylor’s optimism. Malcolm Kelly participated in the entire practice, which left Zorn pretty enthused.
- Zorn also spent time after practice trying to keep things medium (with another hat tip to Dan Steinberg for explicating this “medium” thing): “We haven’t accomplished ANY of our goals yet,” he said. “We just won our last game…. We should feel like we’re the crowning glory, because it’s not like that at all.” So far, it seems like his attitude is taking hold.
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If you got to this post by Googling “Redskins Cheerleaders,” you’re probably pretty disappointed right now. George Allen is a Hall of Fame coach, and Jim Zorn has looked impressive through the first quarter of his first season, but … realistically, that’s probably not what you were looking for. Sorry about that. But one of things Zorn has gotten some notoriety for is, in fact, leading a cheer, the old-school “Hip hip hooray!”
As I mentioned yesterday, he attributes the cheer to Chuck Knox, not to George Allen, but was surprised and pleased to find the George Allen connection. Now, someone on YouTube has spliced together Allen’s three cheers with Zorn’s three cheers, and the two really do look similar. It’s a little eerie, if Zorn actually isn’t echoing Allen. (Via The Zone Blitz.)
And just to salve the disappointment of anyone who was looking for the other kind of cheerleaders, a couple of pictures from the Cardinals pregame are after the jump.
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ESPN’s Chris Berman has been doing his nickname schtick for more years than I can remember. I haven’t found it particularly entertaining for the last two decades, but even I’ll admit that the names sometimes reflect a certain level of pun-based creativity. His call of Chris Horton’s interception, though, went for the most obvious joke available, something completely incomprehensible about “hearing a who”. I’m not sure why “hearing a who” is synonymous with “making a game-changing interception,” but that’s the surreal “charm” of Chris Berman’s highlight calls.
Anyhow, I figured that Horton has been hearing about hearing a who pretty much all his life – my last name caused me to spend an entire summer hearing about Yertle the Turtle, and Horton is much closer to Horton than turtle is to Terl. So when a schoolteacher on the west coast sent a copy of Horton Hears a Who for Horton to sign, I asked him about it.
The answer was somewhat distressing. Horton is a talented player and a heckuva nice guy with what seems to be realistic view of football and the world – see, for example, today’s USA Today profile of him, in which he answers the inevitable question about the first thing he bought thusly: “A guy in my position, I can’t be going out and spending money. I didn’t buy anything. I’m saving my money and letting it grow.” – but we need to get him to brush up on his children’s books.
“I haven’t read it yet,” he said. “I’m gonna read it, and I wanted to see the movie, but I haven’t read it yet.”
Well, have you signed a lot of copies of it? “That’s actually the first one.” So you somehow have gone through your life with the name Horton and no one mentioned the Dr. Seuss book? (Given my Yertle experience, this seems deeply unfair, but I don’t see any point in complaining to Horton.)
“When they came out with the movie,” he said, “a lot of my teammates were like, ‘Hey, are you starring in that?’ and I was like, ‘Nah, but I’m gonna see it.’ That’s about it.”
I suggested that he angle for a starring role in the inevitable sequel, Horton Hears a Who Two: Electric Boogaloo, and he laughed but brushed that aside as well. “I’m just kicking off my professional football career,” he said, nipping his movie career in the bud.
He does promise to read the book, though, which is nice of him. Maybe I’m reaching, but it seems like there might be some kind of resonance there – a seventh-round draft pick making an unanticipated impact in his rookie season sharing his name with a book whose moral is all about the (literal) little guy making a huge difference. But that still doesn’t make “hearing a who” a synonym for intercepting the ball. Back to the drawing board, Berman.
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