Is Archer Hitting the Bull’s Eye?

There has been a good bit of discussion on our message boards concerning Defensive Coordinator Mike Archer and his performance at NC State.  After hearing about the recent rumors that Jon Tenuta, current LB coach, is heading to accept a position at Illinois, I got to digging deeper into NC State’s defensive statistics.  My question is simple: is Archer, on his own merit, hitting the bull’s Eye?


When Archer arrived at NC State, he was walking into a program that had been known better for it’s defense than offense, but had suffered from attrition due to the draft and other factors.  Understandably, you have to give a new coach some wiggle room when looking at his results.  That being said, when you look at total yardage, surprisingly enough, 2009 was actually the year that lead to the least total yardage.

The only thing that I don’t like about “total yardage” is that it doesn’t take into account changes in defensive schema/strategy or what the offense does.  Obviously if your offense stays on the field for longer, your opponents run less plays so you’ll have less total yardage.  No problem; let’s look at the same statistics “per play” over Archer’s tenure.

What is interesting is that ‘on the whole’, Archer’s passing defense really hasn’t improved on stopping our opponents’ offense any more over the past couple of years than it did in his second season.  The total yards-per-play doesn’t change much, but you can notice it improve in the last two years (i.e., opponents gain less yardage) than over the first three.  If you notice, the cause of this is the relatively dramatic decrease in rushing yards gained by our opponents (approximately a 15% decrease in yardage from 2009 to 2010).  Even with the increased rushing yards our opponents scored in 2011 from 2010, this is still showing a 5% decrease from 2009 to 2011 and a 16% decrease from 2007 when Archer arrived in Raleigh.

So what has improved under Archer?  Our secondary, per play, doesn’t appear to be much better than it was in 2008 and because of that, the overall yards per play hasn’t improved much either. 


Common sense would argue “then how do you explain the fact that the last two seasons we have gone 9-4 and 8-5?”  Simple: More pressure on the quarterback and stopping the rush at the line of scrimmage.  To prove this, we can turn to how many yards our opponent’s lost while attempting to rush.

Pressure began increasing in 2009 once Archer and his staff had a few years to work on the defense, but in 2010 NC State saw a 30% improvement in the yardage we were taking away from our opponents.  The merits of whether this increase in pressure was due to the influence of Tenuta or simply the improved health of our defense is a subject of some debate.  For every attempt our opponents made, we would take a yard away from them.  Not bad considering that from 2007-2009, NC State was giving up almost a whole yard for every rushing attempt we made.


Often times the subject of debate over any coach or staff’s performance is where they are heading.  Tom O’Brien coming off an 8-win season and his second bowl victory in a row probably has a good bit of wind in his sails right now.  But what about Archer?  Let’s look at the average change in our opponent’s offensive stats over the last 5 years.

 When you look at the average change in yards-per-pass, you see that the volatility in the change is becoming smaller.  I’m sure that 2012 won’t flat line, making this a perfect controls problem from one of my engineering classes, but it does show that in the last few years, we have seen less improvement or otherwise in our passing defense.  This supports my statement in the first section…

What is interesting is that ‘on the whole’, Archer’s passing defense really hasn’t improved on stoping out opponent’s offense any more over the past couple of years than it did in his second season.

If this is any indicator of Archer’s ability to coach-up a defensive program under Tom O’Brien’s leadership, it would appear that we could expect “more of the same” from our secondary. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Amerson.  He has been the lone improvement on the secondary.  In 2008, we totaled 18 interceptions.  That is almost twice as much as our secondary has been able to pick-off in 2007, 2009, or 2010.  This year alone, NC State picked off 27 total interceptions.  That is more than the previously mentioned three seasons combined.  Can this be lumped in with an assessment on Archer?  To an extent, of course it can.  However, when trying to determine if things appear as if they will improve or not, you have to ask yourself if you can count on your secondary always having an Amerson on the roster.


As some of our forum-dwellers have already predicted, I’m not going to suggest be caught anywhere attempting exalt the virtues of Archer.  Still, he deserves credit for one thing, if nothing else: coaching up a defense good enough to allow NC State’s offense to put points on the boards.  He found a way to win, sometimes despite the other team’s success on the field.  Is Archer hitting the bull’s Eye?  No… but he has been close enough.

Looking at the statistics, I worry that a lot of our success is found in an area of our defense that is about to lose a great, great coach.  Even if you disagree with the assessment that Archer isn’t doing a great job, I think we can all agree that losing Tenuta is going to have an affect on the team and unless we can find a sufficient replacement that can match his aggressiveness and results, it will affect the defense negatively. 

In 2010, we won by earning more yardage than our opponents and converting them into points.  In 2011, we won by denying our opponents crucial first downs (we totaled 304 first downs on the year while our opponents totaled 209), despite the fact that they were earning more yardage than we were (NC State’s yardage: 4483, Opponent’s yardage: 4614).  So when our aggressive LB coach head’s off to green pastures, be it now or later, how confident are we in Archer’s ability to maintain the rhythm Tenuta has set up front?

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29 Responses to Is Archer Hitting the Bull’s Eye?

  1. packbackr04 01/04/2012 at 10:10 AM #

    not very

  2. Codebrown 01/04/2012 at 10:16 AM #

    I honestly can’t point to one thing that stood out about Archer’s scheme this year. Having a shutdown corner, who effectively takes half of the defensive back field away can make any idiot look like a genius (See Rex Ryan). Now that Cole and Manning is gone, this defense will take a step back in stopping the run (which we weren’t really doing up until the UNC game).

  3. NCSU88 01/04/2012 at 10:26 AM #

    The soft defense on third and long is what kills me. You absolutely must get pressure up front to allow your DBs to do their jobs.
    Early in the season we were not doing that. (Injuries?) I would like to see an analysis of how many third downs our opponents converted. (short vs long yardage, early vs late season).

  4. ncsuallday 01/04/2012 at 10:27 AM #

    2012 looks like it’s going to be a rough season…all of our defensive leadership on the field is pretty much gone and now our LB coach is leaving. I’d be happy if we dropped Archer and gave Tenuta the DC job.

  5. VaWolf82 01/04/2012 at 10:32 AM #

    I would like to see an analysis of how many third downs our opponents converted. (short vs long yardage, early vs late season).

    Here are some good stats sites:

    Let us know what you find.

  6. Daily Update 01/04/2012 at 10:35 AM #

    LB will drop because we don’t have Manning, Irving and Cole as veteran college players who are about to be future NFL players.

    Our problems(like they were in the first few years and in 2009) are much more about who is playing on the defense than who is coaching the defense.

  7. Daily Update 01/04/2012 at 10:37 AM #

    Early vs. Late in the season?

    You mean when we were missing a bunch of players and then later in the year when we had most/all of our important players back?

  8. notagain 01/04/2012 at 10:49 AM #

    I posted somewhere (may have been PI) that a good friend of mine works with te football team on a daily basis. He told me a few weeks back at a Christmas party that Tenuta ran the defense. In practice if something was wrong or Archer wanted something done that didn’t make sense, he would openly yell to stop and asked Archer “WTF are you doing? This is stupid as hell and makes no sense.” in games he would sit in the booth and call all the plays down. Archer would then relay what Tenuta called down to the defense. My buddy, who is on the sidelines during the game and has access to headsets said that in many cases, Archer would take all the credit for most anything Tenuta called down so that the defense would think it was his call.

    This is not to discredit Archer bc I am sure he has plenty of knowledge in his own right, but to rather make you all aware of what has actually been going on for the past two years and to make you aware of what we will be missing…

  9. Pack1997 01/04/2012 at 10:56 AM #

    This is where I have to disagree a bit on coaching scheme. The scheme we play is fine and works. However your linebackers shouldn’t be the ones getting pressure all the time. Our DL has been atrocious from a pressure standpoint. Not just this year but under TOB entire tenure. We have no consistent playmakers in that unit. I would argue our secondary is one of the best in the ACC and has seen remarkable improvement not just Amerson. You win at the line of scrimmage. The blitz schemes have worked the past 2 years but probably won’t consistently.

    As for Archer himself, I am not a fan. But will defend him a bot because stats aren’t always telling. I am sure TOB dictates our philosophy. I don’t think Archer will be our DC after next year. Spaz will be out at BC and probably come here to coach.

  10. vtpackfan 01/04/2012 at 11:25 AM #

    The UCF LB coach was recently let go-this after being the UMd LB coach for ten years. Always was impressed by the aggressive play and tackling fundamentals of the Terp LB corps. Besides Merrimen, they were mostly modest recruits that needed coaching up. Tenuta did nada in developing the players still on roster-he just played his bag of tricks with Irving, Cole, and Manning and then sped out. Did he even try to recruit anyone while he was here?

  11. jljones 01/04/2012 at 11:31 AM #

    The real problem is TOB–although he can’t always prevent star players from turning pro he can attempt to recruit more qaulity depth. By not promoting Tenuta and firing Archer we are destined to more of the same we saw before Tenuta arrived. TOB is a status quo type who refuses to make the needed changes and we will see that next year in spades. Just like in years past—when we get a capable cosch they go on to greener pastures because we refuse to either pay or support them. Our adminstration’s goal is –appear to be competing for excellence while promoting midddle of the road tactics. Rome was not built in a day but fifty years of watching this **** is enough to comvince me that the “good ole boy system” is still in place.

  12. notagain 01/04/2012 at 11:37 AM #

    FWIW, PP just tweeted that it is not a done deal and we are still in talks with Tenuta…

  13. skitchwolf 01/04/2012 at 11:38 AM #

    I am not a football savant, but even to my untrained eye we have been night and day more effective since Tenuta arrived on the scene. We have had bad patches (mainly associated with injuries), but when we have been healthy we have been pretty darn good. Before Tenuta, we were just scary-bad (I seem to remember getting embarrassed by Duke at CF, though I’m trying to block that out.) Watching the games on TV, I had noted that Tenuta was the man in the booth and that had led me to wonder who was really calling the shots. Notagain’s comments above only confirm what I had suspected. My only hope is that Archer somehow has absorbed some of Tenuta’s knowledge and can find a way to continue the positive trend.

  14. Wulfpack 01/04/2012 at 11:44 AM #

    I think we will see a drop off defensively next year. The question is how much, and can our offense and special teams pick up the slack?

  15. newt 01/04/2012 at 11:54 AM #

    I think TOB was smart enough to hire Tenuta and would be smart enough to fire Archer if that was needed.

    Hard to tell how much our inconsistent linebacker play, and thus defensive play, has been caused by injuries. I do know that we looked like crap with and without Tenuta when we have had injuries.

    You can also look at Kentucky w/Archer – gave up a lot of yards and led the nation I believe in creating turnovers. That sounds a lot like us, but maybe it’s not so bad…

    We won every game this year in which we won the turnover battle.

    In fact, state is 7-0 in games where we won the turnover battle and 0-5 in games where we did not.

  16. Pack85EE 01/04/2012 at 12:30 PM #

    Statistically, without even seeing the figures I know we were a lot better during the 2nd half of the year. Players got healthy and players were developed. We lost a DB before the season started, we lost linebacker mid season. We developed some very young DL’s who look like they are going to be great. We now lose two LB’s and a couple DL’s. DB’s will be awsome, I think DL will still be a stregth and we will return 2 LB’s with starting experiance. I still think we will be strong on defense next year. I think TOB is a very solid coach that only a lot of money or a perfect roll of the dice could bring in better. Some of you complain about status quo. If a coach takes a program like NCSU, always up and down, and gets them to where we are in a bowl every year, that is great. That is what it will take to get to the next level. When the kids see us in a bowl every year, then they start coming. So be satisfied with mid level bowls each year, enough of that ane we make the jump. That’s what VT did.

  17. OldWuf 01/04/2012 at 12:42 PM #

    I heard the same thing about Tenuta actually running the defense and keeping Archer from f***ing things up from someone connected to the program. Tenuta leaving is not good, he should have been given Archer’s job.

  18. PackisRolling 01/04/2012 at 12:53 PM #

    So Tenuta leaving is still just a rumor?

  19. gotohe11carolina 01/04/2012 at 1:18 PM #

    our d-line will suck out loud next year and thus our d will suck out loud next year. unless tob pulls a rabbit out of his hat and lands some decent bodies for our d-line I’d expect we will have one of the worst defenses in recent memory next year. rieskamp and sweezy take our only two experienced guys and leave us with 2 300 plus dts all the rest aren’t big enough to play end at most schools. we will have bishop and Ferguson at end. after that we have half a dozen guys who aren’t big enough to play lb at most schools including one kid who isn’t big enough to play DB listed as a de. if the last 6 years have proven anything its that an NFL sized bodies across the d-line makes success at getting to the qb with your front four gets drastically better. is chuck amato looking for a job. bring him back for DC, if we are talking pipe dreams. no we’ll suck out loud on d next year, never pressure the qb, look a lot like we did the first five games of this season, tob won’t get extended and we’ll be trying to replace all our coaches the following year. maybe glennon will get hurt and get a medshirt and get one season with a new coaching staff to kick off the next guys successful stint as coach. /rant

  20. TruthBKnown Returns 01/04/2012 at 1:38 PM #

    I seem to recall Debbie saying TOB’s assistant coaches are HIS choice. Any chance she could still influence TOB to make some changes by implying that sticking with Archer could reflect badly on his own job performance?

    In other words, the choice is yours, Tom. Just be sure you make the RIGHT choice.

  21. newt 01/04/2012 at 1:42 PM #

    I have a really hard time imagining TOB putting up with arguments over the headsets between the DC and linebackers coach during games, or tolerating a highly paid, highly incompetent DC that needs to be verbally abused, etc.

    That said, we should do anything to keep Tenuta who has proven to be one of the best DCs in the game.

  22. TheCOWDOG 01/04/2012 at 2:22 PM #

    ” Archer would take all the credit for most anything Tenuta called down so that the defense would think it was his call. ” – notagain

    To put it politely, ahh bullshit. It don’t work that way.

    Newt…you followed up the rest quite nicely.

    Codebrown…you need to adjust your glasses. It may have taken half the season, but the scheme you should have seen was as foreign to State as I am to Botswana.

  23. TruthBKnown Returns 01/04/2012 at 3:41 PM #

    That said, we should do anything to keep Tenuta who has proven to be one of the best DCs in the game.

    And we did! 🙂

  24. lawful 01/04/2012 at 3:46 PM #

    I like the comment about bringing back Chuck. Defense is his specialty. Didn’t he just take a job?

  25. Pack85EE 01/04/2012 at 5:20 PM #

    I imagine it would be hard to come back as an assistant where you had once been a head coach. And Chuck seemed to have issues as a HC keeping his staff.

    GTHC I’ll admit I’m an optimist but you are so very down on the D line. I like the new guys, Norman, McGil – I do think the D will be good and we won’t suck. But hey, I didn’t turn off the Maryland game, staying true Red to the end. I guess will see next year.

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