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What Brian Mitchell’s Stats Imply About The Rule Change

Posted by Matt Terl on March 22, 2011 – 3:32 pm

The news that the NFL has moved the kickoff spot from the 30 to the 35 almost immediately raised some concerns about the productivity — and value — of speedy return man Brandon Banks. Banks himself voiced some concerns to the Free Lance-Star’s Rich Campbell, although he also spoke boldly about running the ball out of the end zone. For now, all that is speculation.

Which isn’t to say there’s no data to look at. Because the NFL’s move today essentially reverses the 1994 change (kickoffs went from the 35 to the 30), it seems reasonable to assume that stats will be affected in roughly the opposite way that they were from pre- to post-1994.

Which is, unfortunately, not optimal for Banks.

Brian Mitchell was one of my all-time favorite Redskins players. He was the first player I ever sent a card to for autographing — his 1990 Pro Set Prospect card — which he sent back to me signed, somewhat inexplicably, in ballpoint pen. He was an exciting, gamebreaking return man who finished his career with 23,330 all-purpose yards (or 13.25 all-purpose MILES) and the most combined special teams touchdowns in NFL history. (Devin Hester has since taken the top spot in touchdowns.) And, most important for this exercise, his career nicely overlapped with the rule change: he came into the league and played four seasons with the kickoff at the 35, then played in ten more after the move.

And here are the stats:

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NFL Changes Rules For Kickoffs, Redskins Respond

Posted by Matt Terl on March 22, 2011 – 2:54 pm

Several rule changes have come out of the NFL Annual Meeting, including at least one that merited a response from a few Redskins players.

The decision to mandate review of every scoring play during games wasn’t the big one, although it’s a terrific move. (No, this does not mean an under-the-hood onfield review after each touchdown. Booth officials will monitor the plays and notify the officials if a more detailed review is needed, in much the same way replay works during the last two minutes of a half.)

Also not receiving much notice was the so-called Boise Rule, mandating that the field has to be green in color (unlike Boise State’s notorious blue turf). I’m a little disappointed in this one — I think it would be visually amazing to have a burgundy field in D.C., a purple field in Baltimore, a black field in Oakland, and so on — but I can certainly see the reasoning behind it.

No, the one that generated the most reaction was the change to the kickoff rules. Kickoffs will now take place from the 35 rather than the 30 (although touchbacks will still come out to the 20 as in the past, not the 25 as was suggested). The thinking here is entirely around protecting vulnerable players on return plays, and it’s a move that affects kicker, return men, and kick cover guys. And all of those people had some reaction to the news.

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Brian Orakpo And The Paradox Of The Madden Cover Vote

Posted by Matt Terl on March 22, 2011 – 9:44 am

So I have this friend who’s a die-hard Redskins fan — probably a lot like you, if you’re the sort of person who reads this blog regularly — but for the last decade or so he’s been faced with a tricky problem. See, he travels a lot, sometimes for extended periods of time, and sometimes EVEN DURING FOOTBALL SEASON. (I know, it sounds awful to me as well.)

In fact, there have been two years recently where he’s been out of the country for nearly the entire season: 2005 and 2007. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that those are the only two times in the last decade that the Redskins made the playoffs — and they were seasons that he didn’t get to follow in nearly the level of detail that he’d like.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causality, of course, but I believe that it’s entirely his fault that the team hasn’t seen the postseason more often — and, by extension, I believe that if he REALLY loved the Redskins as much as he says he does, he’d exile himself FOREVER so the team could become a perennial contender. He disagrees (although he made something of a compromise by moving to the west coast, almost internationally distant from the day-to-day workings of the team) and that’s his right, but now he lives with the guilt of knowing that every single non-playoff season MIGHT be his fault.

Now, thanks to the kind folks at EA Sports and ESPN, the rest of us can face a similar (albeit smaller-scale) version of the same soul-crushing dilemma. Read more »

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