ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS


Metrics and NFL quarterbacks and Afghanistan by mattsteinglass
December 2, 2009, 2:28 am
Filed under: Afghanistan, Sports

Matthew Yglesias posts on Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ humility regarding Brett Favre’s great season and his own limited quarterback-season prognostication abilities:

I think the lesson here is that people just tend to overrate the extent to which variation in the success of an NFL passing game is driven by variation in the skill of the quarterback. I think you can especially see this with Favre, who appears to be putting together the best season of his career at age 40. Common sense says that he can’t be actually reaching the peak of his abilities as an athlete at this age. Fans who (like me) watch the games but don’t have experience playing football have a very hard time distinguishing slightly below average offensive line play from exceptional offensive line play, but obviously that makes a huge difference.

What we’d want to look at here are some metrics that give us a good proxy for offensive line play. We could look at how often Favre is getting sacked. But that’s not such a perfect indicator, because a good quarterback is going to be able to do one of two things: either get the ball away before he gets sacked, or turn a sack into a rushing attempt. A better indicator would be the sum of four indicators that a QB isn’t getting protection: sacks, interceptions (which show he’s being hurried), rushes, and fumbles. If you look at sacks alone, you’ll see Favre appears to be getting pretty good protection, but not exceptional: 22 sacks in his 11 games so far this year, vs. 30 in 16 games last year for the Jets, 15 in 2007 for the Packers, 18 in 2006, 29 in 2005, etc.

favre_career

But if you add up sacks, ints, rushing attempts, and fumbles, you get…

2009: 32

2008: 75

2007: 68

2006: 70

2005: 81

2004: 39

2003: 63

2002: 77

2001: 91

2000: 85

This metric would suggest Favre is getting better protection this year than he’s had since 2004.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had metrics like this to measure how well we’re doing in Afghanistan? Unfortunately, we don’t. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that I’ve cherry-picked the above metrics to produce something that appears to explain Favre’s great season this year. If we did have some kind of metrics for Afghanistan, pundits, generals and political leaders would no doubt do exactly the same to produce results that make it look like we’re winning. Or losing. Oh well.


1 Comment so far
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A good post, although as you point out, at least three of your four metrics have a lot to do with the QB himself. Another good metric might be how often the quarterback runs more elaborate plays that require him to hold the ball longer. That, at least, gives you the play-caller’s perspective on how good the offensive line is. Which, following you to Afghanistan, makes me think that metrics based on the behavior of afghani’s ought to be included.

Based on what I heard of the President’s speech, though, I think you get three pundit points for correctly predicting that the strategy is to stay a little longer, do a little more and declare victory a few years hence.

Comment by citifieddoug




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