Football Stat Relevance

VaWolf will love this!

Awesome statistical information for football junkies. Thanks to SMQ for the work.

First counterintuitive result: the most penalized teams were slightly better as a whole than the least penalized teams. Penalty yardage, over the course of an entire season, had no discernible effects on winning and losing. You can probably think of a situation that would specifically argue otherwise, cuz penalties are definitely bad, mmmkay?, but they’re bad more as situational mistakes than an overall, cumulative drain.

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17 Responses to Football Stat Relevance

  1. VaWolf82 12/18/2006 at 10:08 PM #

    Interesting, but no one in the ACC should be that surprised about the penalty stat. FSU generally led the ACC in wins and penalties for a long time after they joined the conference.

    I’m not sure that I’m buying the technique of looking at the “delta” between the top 20 and the bottom 20 years. Let’s see what they come up in Part 2.

    I wonder why they looked at pass efficiency defense and not passing defense?

  2. Jeremy Hyatt 12/19/2006 at 12:30 AM #

    unrelated and random — but is Julius Hodge so bad that if his team loses 3 players (make it 4 with K-Mart), that he still remains “inactive” and doesn’t get any playing time? geez, so it’s on the 3rd string team, why don’t they ship him back down to the d-league again so he can at least try to get better.

  3. NCStateDud92 12/19/2006 at 6:30 AM #

    I heard George Karl can’t stand him.

  4. legacyman 12/19/2006 at 7:05 AM #

    This article points out what some of us said about the constant griping about penalties during Chuck’s tenure. Too much attention was paid to penalties, red shoes and fancy sunglasses.

    In the past, FSU was probably the team with the most penalties but Bowden’s philosophy was that if penalties were a result of eagerness and aggressiveness then he wasn’t that concerned.

    Our penalties stood out more as we were a team that could win if the penalties were few but struggled if there were very many as the offense had trouble scoring.

    TOB is not our saviour in that respect for his teams averaged about one penalty less per game than we did…someone provided that stat some time back.

    My main problem with the penalties was the running into the kicker type that kept opposition drives alive and provided the winning points in several games. I wished for several years that we would abandon the all out rush and just put enough pressure on the kicker to alter his kicking style. It seems that Chuck did scale back the rush at least by midseason.

  5. Mr O 12/19/2006 at 8:06 AM #

    I love Julius for what he did at NC State as much as anyone, but he may never be an NBA player. He doesn’t have the quicks or top speed to play point guard and he doesn’t have the shot to play anywhere else. His skillset, size and athleticism just aren’t a great fit for the NBA. His stats seem to be pretty good in the NBDL so far this year, so you never know but he may never make it.

    It has nothing to do with George Karl.

  6. choppack1 12/19/2006 at 8:19 AM #

    There’s still a lot of talent differential in football between the best and the mediocre. All things being equal, penalties do matter. However, back in FSU’s heyday, it didn’t mean squat. Evidently, w/ the Florida Gators, they don’t mean squat either.

  7. CarnifeX 12/19/2006 at 8:33 AM #

    it probably has more to do with a bullet in the leg than with George Karl.

  8. BladenWolf 12/19/2006 at 9:46 AM #

    Seems to be two different conversations going on here… but I’ll stick with the thread and say this:
    The penalty average for a team, reagardless of their national ranking, is only relevent if the teams offense cannot overcome the potential game deciding/scoring opportunity misques.
    Think of it this way…Team A’s scoring average is 35+ points a game (as was FSU’s when it joined the league) so it doesn’t matter if Team A also had a ton of penalties.
    Now if Team B scores an average of 14-21 points a game, then the same number of penalties are much more severe than they would be for Team A, as they can directly effect the outcome of the ballgame because of the scoring delta.

  9. choppack1 12/19/2006 at 10:09 AM #

    BW – That’s an excellent point. Also, same goes for D. If your D is so stout people can’t move the ball on you, a penalty here or there doesn’t doom you. If your D has the stability of poodle, like ours did this year, it can be a tipping point which leads to a huge turning point in the game – see the GaTech game.

  10. BoKnowsNCS71 12/19/2006 at 10:09 AM #

    “it probably has more to do with a bullet in the leg than with George Karl.”

    Agree but also think a Sendek in his head hurt him.

    I never saw good NBA player development coming from Sendek coached players. A first round draft pick should be farther along with all the basic skills more developed.

    Did we have anyone from Sendek’s coaching go to the NBA and play from the start?

  11. RedTerror29 12/19/2006 at 11:24 AM #

    I think penalty yardage would be more useful if it were tracked and netted against the appropriate statistic (e.g. total defense, total offense, etc.). A team averaging 400 yards a game with 100 yards in penalties is roughly equivalent to a team averaging 350 yards a game with 50 yards in penalties. Our penalty problems were magnified by poor play.

  12. BladenWolf 12/19/2006 at 11:24 AM #

    choppack1- good point about the D and agreed.

    A dominant defense could very well offset a certain number of penalties through sheer difficulty in the opponant scoring (taking advantage of the penalties).

    Both points indicate that stats on penalties are relevant only when certain circumstances allow. Otherwise, making a broad analysis based on a specific data set is sometimes difficult to prove.

  13. BladenWolf 12/19/2006 at 11:35 AM #

    RedTerror29 –
    “A team averaging 400 yards a game with 100 yards in penalties is roughly equivalent to a team averaging 350 yards a game with 50 yards in penalties.” –> another good analogy.

    Only if both teams (the 400 yard team and the 350 yard team) had the same scoring average, could an appropriate analysis be made (all other things being equal).

    However, if the 400 yard team averages 28 points a game and the 350 yard team averages 35 points a game, then even with the offsetting penality-to-YPG sceanrio, the higher scoring team is better, right?

    Beware of “tea leaf reading” of the stats. If not put into proper context, stats can indicate practically anything you want them to… while not really supporting the argument.

  14. RedTerror29 12/19/2006 at 11:56 AM #

    I should have specified offenses, not teams in general. Scoring is also heavily affected by defense and special teams. If you have great field position all day, obviously you’re not going to need to get as many yards to score the same number of points.

    There are very few useful statistics that are readily available in football. One statistic that I believe would be useful, highly correlated with success, and highly correlated with third down efficiency – average yards gained on first down.

  15. Pack84 12/19/2006 at 12:26 PM #

    I’m just not sure I buy into this stuff about penalty yards not seeming to matter. And I’m not sure I can really articulate why.

    But to me it seems that the timing and severity of penalties IS important. While a hold here or a false start there may not really matter in the greater scheme of things, other penalites seem to be far more important.

    For example, very late in the 4th quarter Team A leads by 2 points. Team B has the ball 4th and 17 at their own 10 yard line. Team B throws an incomplete pass, but Team A is flagged for roughing the QB. Were it not for the foul, the game would practically be over at this point. But because of the foul Team B gets a 1st down and ends up kicking a game winning field goal.

    In other words, some penalties are more than just “drive changers” they’re GAME changers. Maybe I’m wrong here, but these types of penalties seemed to plague us terribly over the last few seasons.

    Also, I think penalty yardage stats are far more important for teams whose margin for error is razor thin. IOW, if your offense is averaging 47 points/game and your defense is giving up 12 PPG you can afford to lose a TD here or there due to penalty.

    But if your offense can’t score more than 24, and your defense is giving up 21 a game, a couple of penalties could kill you all other things being equal.

    Finally – somewhat off-topic – I officiate football at the high school level. I ALWAYS tell my crew to be wary of these “game changing” penalties. Let me explain. If you call, for example, an illegal formation foul in the first quarter on 2nd and 6 at midfield with the score tied 0-0 it probably isn’t going to affect the outcome of the game. But if you make that roughing the passer call late in the 4th quarter you very well might affect the outcome at that point.

    Now – you can’t be afraid to make that game-changing call. If it’s there, it’s there – throw the flag. But you better be damn sure of it. If it’s a call you would have let go in the first quarter you need to let it go in the fourth quarter as well. If you throw the flag in that situation it has to be one of those calls you’d make 99 times out of 100, NOT one of those 50/50 calls.

  16. Dr. BadgerPack 12/19/2006 at 12:46 PM #

    It seems that better teams– especially on defense– will draw more penalties due to superior athletes making superior plays. If the officials are thinking “how the heck did he do that”, he is probably more apt to throw a flag. I would really be interested in when major defensive penalties are called on better defenses (to test this hypothesis)– do the flags thrown on similar plays decrease as the game goes on because the officials are used to the level of play, or are these flags more random than that.

    Of course, great, athletic plays are random events as well, which makes this hard(er) to analyze. One reason to be careful when mixing sports and science/stats…

    Side note- to SFN; great blog… been reading for quite some time. Keep up the great work.

  17. BoKnowsNCS71 12/20/2006 at 10:06 AM #

    Some really great quotes in the N&O today from Coach O’Brian.

    One indicated that opposing teams get really imtimidated when they come to play at CF and our fans are pumped up.

    Another good one about a sign in the locker room that players will see every day — “Penalties lose games”

    Was interesting to see the contrast in tome and questions to Coach Davis also in the paper. A few questions were the same but not all.

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