I did not make this headline up
I did this in 2010 with some useful results and ideas. Let’s see if I can do it again. If you find yourself seeking more information on some of the concepts I’m taking for granted please refer to some of my previous entries (White Rainbow , QB Metamorphosis) or ask a question in the comments.
Here are some basic commonplaces:
- A passer rating of 140 is the standard for a skilled and mature college quarterback on a good team in terms of passing results. These things aren’t usually coincident.
- Quarterbacks get better with age and experience and usually max out their potential by year 3 as starter.
- A football offense is a complicated system of which QB skill is only one component. A QB’s performance as a passer will be influenced by the quality (talent and experience) of the players around him as well as the quality of the system (scheme, coaches) he plays in.
- I perform these assessments with an assumption of individual improvement (i.e. skill can only go up). If a guy’s passer rating drops, then there must be a special cause: support or system issues, injury, etc.
Bare in mind that the ratings projected below are just, like, my opinion, man. The stuff discussed above permute and combine into a mind boggling array of possible outcomes all of which depend on known-knowns, known-unknowns, and unknown-unknowns…I’m just out here tryna function.
The projected ratings proposed below are not just a function of the player’s ability and experience (skillz) but also factors around him (support /scheme). Players are listed in expected ascending order within their sub-heading; that's a challenging thing to do but that’s part of the point. I *love* hashing this stuff out so if you’re inclined to refute or challenge something, please do so.
Philip Nelson, SO, Minnesota
|2012 Rating: 104.4||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||88.2||100.4||128.9||81.9|
Nelson’s first season with significant PT rated out worse than Marquis Gray in his first season. Nelson was just a true freshman so he can be expected to improve coming into this year but he has a pretty big hole to dig out of. He should be able to put up a 125 or so in passer rating but that hinges on how well Coach Kill’s system has taken root in Minneapolis.
It wouldn’t be a shock if he jumped up to the low 130 range but that would be a neat trick. For reference, Tate Forcier played at about that level in 2009. Plenty good but still some rough edges. In fact Michigan 2009 is probably a pretty good proxy for what the top end looks like for Minnesota’s 2013 offense. The Gophers return 10 of 11 on offense so the system and support should be there. Reports on the internet of spring practice state the Nelson and his main competitor, Mitch Liedner, look good. Minny has a solid shot at hitting stride this year.
This game will give Michigan’s D a good look at an offensive system that makes heavy use of a QB’s running and will serve as an early status check in preparation for Northwestern, Nebraska, and Ohio State. 125-135.
Nathan Scheelhasse, RS-SR, Illinois
|2012 Rating: 105.9||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||137.4||96.3||78.6||125.1|
I don’t get it. Well, I think I might but its just a theory at this point. Nate was solid as a RSFR (2010) and again as a RSSO (2011) posting passer ratings in the 130s both years. Then, wa-wa, c'est terrible.
Here’s the theory: transition sucks way hard. Unto himself Nate did fine. Completion percentage and INT Rate are where they should be (-ish) for a guy like Nate 2012. The system / support stuff was in the toilet last year. A regime change can do that to you. What’s more is that Beckman had co-OCs last year neither of which had even been offensive coordinators before…so, yeah.
Enter 2013. Enter a third offensive coordinator in three years, four if you count the co-offensive coordinators from last year as 2. So, still in transition but maybe less so with some HC stability. At least this time the OC (Bill Cubit) has some experience calling plays. I expect Nate to return to his 130 form.
Andrew Maxwell, RS-SR, Michigan State
|2012 Rating: 107.1||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||101.9||102.3||96.4||171.3|
Eh boy. I think Maxwell is way better than his stats from last season but I need to freestyle a little to make the case, so…lets skip all that. Pshhh, yeah right. DJ, gimme a beat.
Man, that's a whole lot of gabbage (rhymes with cabbage, means junk) up there, huh? As for skill categories, that INT rate is real good and though the completion percentage is fiercely competitive in its atrociousness. Even though Maxwell needs to develop some touch, I think verdict can be rendered upon a hilarious case of the dropsies. Lindy’s preview states that MSU’s receivers dropped about 66 passes last year and I believe it. Sprankle in some demigod malevolence along the O-line (injuries) and I think you can come up with a legitimate case that MSU had a support problem last year. Everyone point and laugh at Sparty: your crazy dope defense was ruined by your crappy offense. Ha-ha.
Phew, good times. So that's over, now what? Give Maxwell half of those drops and his passer rating jumps to about 120 (mayyybe 125). So that helps but the remaining problem is that they still have to replace Leveon Bell, Courtney Sims and some experience on the O-line. Also, Don Treadwell might have been a better OC than Dan Roushar, just a hunch.
Bottom Line, I think MSU’s offense improves to the basic level: meaning Maxwell (or alternate) posts a 130-ish passer rating (125-134). For MSU’s QB to hit the MROUND (Actual Rating, 10) == 140 level there’d have to be some developmental/fortune miracles so count me in as betting against that.
Kain Colter, SR, Northwestern
|2012 Rating: 129.3||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||169.1||102.5||130.4||146.3|
I know Trevor Siemian gets the majority of the snaps at QB but this is another coaching decision I don’t understand. Kain has better passer accuracy than Trevor and has wheels. I look at the stat lines and I don't understand why Kain ever comes out from under center. I suppose that defenses might be cheating on NW’s heavy run tendency when Colter is under center so his throws are easier but, man, that’s nice accuracy there. Even if it might slide a little when facing more honest defense, his skill is apparent.
Kain is a true senior and already shows excellent accuracy and interception avoidance. If anything it may be difficult to repeat those feats. The only thing out of whack is the YPA but that’s a system number and its something that OC Mick McCall basically dictates. I don't think NW suddenly gets any monsters at wide out either.
I view Kain’s rating as stable and unfortunately can’t see him doing more than a 130 unless he gets the full nod as starting QB and McCall lets him throw downfield more often. I think he’s better than that but the numbers don't lie.
Cameron Coffman, JR, Indiana
|2012 Rating: 123.9||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||138.0||119.2||107.1||145.7|
Heads up, if you want wins then bring the ruckus ‘cause Indiana’s offense aint nothin’ to [mess] with /wutang clan.
Coffman is a JUCO transfer who stepped in after Tre Roberson broke his leg last year and put a strong claim on this job. Also of note is Nate Sudfeld who put up some strong numbers in occasional relief of Coffman last year. It’s possible either one will be the guy this coming season but I’m going to assume Coffman’s experience gives him the nod.
Last year he put up some good Skill numbers but his system/support numbers (YPA, TD%) were not so much. I figure Coffman himself is pretty much where he’s going to be so I suspect that improvement in his performance will come completely from improvements in support/system. Support-wise, Indy also has 10 of 11 back. Word. System-wise, Wilson has had 2 years to install and refine fundamentals so his offense should be up on plane at this point. That system produced some high power Big 12 offenses at Oklahoma headlined by Sam Bradford, Jason White, and Landry Jones. Indiana is not Oklahoma but still, heads up. As for a rating projection, man its Indiana: 130 – 140.
Joel Stave, RS-SO, Wisconsin
|2012 Rating: 148.3||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||129.8||168.6||125.9||152.4|
Stave is supposedly in a battle with Curt Phillips for the reigns of the offense but I don’t understand that. Well, I guess I do: coaches. That and I guess there’s more to football than numbers. But man, by the numbers it’s no contest. Phillips put up a decent 128 last year but he wouldn’t even be in the picture if Stave hadn’t broken his collar bone against MSU. Prior to his injury, Stave was killing the Spartans: 9-of-11, 127 yards, 1 TD. You might remember the MSU’s defense was the best in the B1G last year. KILLin’ ‘em. Stave looks like he has all the skill needed to be a problem and he’s just getting started.
Bielema bounced to Arkansas in the offseason so the Badgers are in transition but Gary Anderson did some nice things at Utah State. The Aggies were garbage before he got there and he brought them their first Conference Championship since John L. Smith (yep, that guy) did it in 1996 and 1997. Prior to that Anderson was DC on the 2008 Utah team that beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The OC he hired (Andy Ludwig) is the guy who took over for Al Borges at San Diego State. SDSU had a meh year offensively in 2011, but they were good last year. I don't think Anderson necessarily wants to run the Pistol offense as he’s a defensive guy and hired a Pro style OC. Stave fits that bill, like whoa.
Support: Check. Wisconsin loses Montee Ball but here’s saying that James White & Co have what it takes to become the next typical Wisconsin RB, pretty dang good. In terms of targets, Abbredaris is also pretty dang good.
Transitions are tough but if Anderson and Ludwig get traction, Wisconsin’s offense could look pretty good pretty quick. I’ll wager that it takes a year for things to hum and look for Stave to slide a little to the 140 range, which, uh, that’s good. Having said that, 150+ is not out of the question. I drop him to third on this list only because of the issues that might come along with regime change.
Taylor Martinez, RS-SR, Nebraska
|2012 Rating: 141.6||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||143.5||140.1||142.6||124.8|
There’s not a whole lot to say here, Taylor is a known commodity. This will be his fourth year as starter and at this point he has leveled off at the season veteran level for a passer. Nebraska has a lot of talent returning from last year’s offense and the coaching staff remains intact. If I’m a stickler, I ding him for throwing a couple interceptions too many but I don’t think his performance there is problematic for the Huskers to be honest.
There’s always a chance that he pulls a Ricky Stanzi and makes a dramatic step forward in his last season but Taylor is ahead of where Stanzi was and, regardless of that, history is not on his side there. So Pelini will have to just settle for a repeat of last year’s performance from Martinez which I’m sure is just fine by him. 140
Braxton Miller, JR, Ohio State
|2012 Rating: 140.5||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||127.3||144.5||137.8||158.4|
God Damn Ohio State. That’s all I care to say about them. Word to your mothers. Ice, Ice, baby, too cold….
Okay, fine. Braxton’s PR components are interesting. The numbers that rely on support (YPA, TD%) are right where they should be for the rating he posted, but the numbers that rely on skill (CMP%, INT%) are kind of schizophrenic. The INT Rate is great; just what you hope for. On top of that he posted a similar excellent INT rate his freshmen year so you cant really chalk that up as unlikely. However, his completion percentage is lagging a bit even though he improved from his terrible freshman year of 54.1%. So, weak completion percentage, nice INT rate. I think that weirdness is reconciled by considering his athleticism: he probably errors on the side of running whenever he sees a throw that is iffy. That’s a good call in my book.
Coming into 2013 this guy is primed to be a rich man’s disappointment. Either that or he goes bonkers. He can’t realistically be expected to improve in the INT department but he should be expected to get a touch accurate. Just so you know, you wont notice the difference (1 more completion per game).
The YPA and TD% are where the magic will happen for OSU. They have been where they should be. And now they have program stability and a proven system. If those numbers improve, then Braxton will keep folks up at night. I suspect they will. 145 - 160
Rob Henry, RS-SR, Purdue
Rob isn’t really a newcomer but the last saw significant PT in 2010 as a RS-FR. That year he was pretty bad posting a 112 passer rating. He blew out his ACL the following year and played some last year but only took 38 attempts. I’m resetting the clock. Plus, there’s regime change in West Lafayette and the Boilermakers only have 5 starters returning on offense. Rob will do well to post a 125.
Sokol is a JUCO transfer and redshirted last season. So he’s had time to learn the system and has some experience under fire though at a lower level of competition. Iowa installed a new offense last year and had to replace Marvin McNutt at WR and had to fill some big holes on the line so some of their struggles last year might be attributed to those issues. I think Sokol can do 125.
Christian Hackenberg, FR, Penn State
Dude is a stud recruit with offers from Alabama and Florida. Scout and Rivals gave him 5 stars, but he was a high 4 to ESPN. Whatever, man; s-t-u-d. PSU has 8 starters returning on offense including stud receiver Allan Robinson. The Sandusky Sanctions will start taking their toll on depth soon but not yet. I’m thinking freshman Chad Henne and Braylon Edwards here. I think he can hit 130.
Other QBs of Interest
Cody Kater, JR, Central Michigan
Central Michigan’s offense has some holes to fill starting with OT Eric Fisher and QB Ryan Radcliff. Radcliff was a seasoned QB with good support around him and posted a 138 passer rating last year. Cody will be a first time starter assuming he wins the job and has support issues around him, 120 – 125.
Terry Bowden installed a spread offense that was improved from the prior year. So they have some positive momentum and are more familiar with the offensive system. Pohl played a lot in the last game of the season vs a good Toledo team and did well in that game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do reasonably well this coming year but Akron has been a bad football team. 120 – 130.
Chandler Whitmer, RS-SR, Connecticut
|2012 Rating: 119.0||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||124.5||132.0||90.6||94.3|
Whitmer was originally a 2010 Illinois commit but transferred in search of playing time due to Nate Scheelhasse’s emergence in 2010. That’s kinda crappy I guess, but I wonder if I wouldn’t do the same thing if I were him in that situation. In hindsight he might have been able to see the field at the same time (2012) given the ouster of Zook and the Illinois’s offense struggles last year. Still, I think it would have been hard to displace Sheelhasse without straight up beating him in practice and I doubt that would be the case. He won the job outright at UConn last year and is now the incumbent in his final year of eligibility.
Unfortunately for him, the Huskies were a bad offensive outfit last year. There’s just not a whole to to say about it. This year they have a new OC, which might be a good thing, and a lot of starters returning including the whole O-line. I’m banking that an improved offensive system and a more experienced unit will lead to a better passer rating for Whitmer, but can’t see him breaking 125 - 130.
Tommy Rees, SR , Notre Dame
|2011 Rating: 133.4||Cmp %||YPA||TD %||INT %|
|Single Factor Rating||158.9||124.4||123.4||119.3|
Tommy Is an interesting cat. See, his passer rating isn’t great but its not bad. It’s the same as Chad Henne’s usual rating (Henne posted 130-ish three times and the low 140’s once in 2006). Also Everett Golson’s 2012 performance was 130 as well. In fact, Tommy’s completion percentage is significantly higher that what Henne and Golson ever did. So am I saying that Reese == Henne/Golson? Uh, no.
Passer Rating is a shifty beast, man. All 130’s aren’t created equal and it only becomes clearer when you sift through a lot of them and break them down. The key to understanding the difference between Rees, Golson, and Henne is the playmaker categories (YPA and TD%) and even then the difference is pretty subtle. Take the Names away and I really couldn’t tell you who’s who.
|Year||Name||Team||QBRat||PaPct||PaY/A||TD %||INT %|
I think Rees has checkdown-itis (High Cmp%, low YPA, low TD rate) along with bonehead syndrome (high INT rate, the empty hand pass in UTL1). Henne and Golson avoided INTs reasonably better than Rees. Henne’s TD rate were really good; and Golson brings a running threat along with his passing. They MAKE PLAYS! Tommy plays it safe.
While I’m looking at Henne I notice that his YPA’s are consistently low despite respectable Cmp% and really good TD and INT rates. I think this is a system issue: Debord.
The case of Tommy Reese illustrates the fact that football is not a math test. The box score doesn’t capture everything. These differences are subtle and virtually unperceivable but they are measurable and , I think, explainable. Those explanations are situation dependent so it can come off as BS, and maybe to a certain extent it is, but until I hear a viable alternate explanation I’m sticking to my versions.
Looking forward, maybe Tommy finally says [eff] it and let’s it rip a bit in his last go around. To me that looks like Tommy Reese 2011 with fewer Interceptions. That means 135 –140, probably though Ricky Stanzi 2012 serves as notice that big jumps are possible in similar circumstances. Otherwise, he is what he is: 130.
The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one - no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts. [Points to sword]. This you can trust.
-Conan’s Father, Conan the Barbarian
I loves me some prognosticationatin. Sure, Its imperfect and makes you look like a daggum moran when you’re wrong which is the majority of the time. Even when you’re right, folks will just ask you to do it again, and then again before they even consider listening to you next time. Heads: you’re wrong; Tails: you’re lucky. And its nowhere near a fair coin. Bloody infidels. You’re left with the choice of making peace with being considered either a fool or a crackpot. Its almost all downside. The prudent thing to do is just wait for things to play out and slap hands when things go well.
Maybe so, left brain, maybe so… But [screw] that. This is the internet for Pete’s sake. If you cant be wrong here, then what is it good for??? And everyone thinks we’re a crackpot already. Oh noes, another jerk I’ve never met thinks I’m an idiot. Woe is us. I pray my fragile psyche will some day recover from the indignation that is internet shame.
Aren’t we here to have fun? Isn’t it more fun to invest internet cache in a prophecy and see if you’re right. Its a simple social contract pick a side and to victors go the spoils of watching the losers eat crow. Even those who aren’t as in-your-face about it all…they know. They know they were right and the others were wrong. There is nothing sweeter than being able to say “I told you so” even when you choose not to say it. Its about that which is best in life: to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their bloggers. Indeed.
Last week my man Ron Utah had the onions to put out a diary that set the stage for Devin Gardner to the best QB in history next season. Damn near guaranteed it. Relax Ronnie; I keed, I keed. Devin put up a 160 passer rating against solid competition over a 5 game stretch. I think its safe to assume he could up good or better performances against Air Force, UMass, Purdue, and Illinois. Five games of data isn’t exactly nothing but it’s not a whole lot either.
This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Prior to the 2010 season I spent a lot of time studying Quarterback statistics and progression in an effort to get some insight into what would be reasonable and maybe not so reasonable to expect to see that coming season. Over the course of those writings I made a bunch of prognostications on various QBs relevant to Michigan that year. I’ll suppress the desire to assess each statement player by player in this space but I’m pretty proud of those pretty specific predictions. I was wrong about Ricky Stanzi, but I claim everyone else as a prediction of reasonable to uncanny accuracy or uncallable. I’m claiming a 10 right, 1 wrong, and 5 no calls. Word. /appeal for authority
White Rainbow Reprised
Anyway, I’ll get back to Devin in a minute but I need to lay some groundwork down first. Gots to hit ‘em with a…
Chart. Actually, four charts. These are the components of Passer Rating. The data is compiled from 951 QB seasons from 2003 to 2012. The point is to show the relationship between each factor and the overall rating. The interception rate chart is interesting because the slope hooks up when you start dropping below 100. That makes sense because sometimes when you suck, you really really suck and your foes all go hyuk ‘cause they hate you…or something like that. Just remember to switch lines down there.
The the high quality fits present here are no surprise: passer rating is a linear mathematical equation. But, these fits are useful because we can use them to evaluate how “legitimate” a given player’s performance was. For example, Denard Robinson’s 2010 Passer Rating was 149. Typical components for that rating are shown in the second line of the table below, his actual values are shown in the first line. Denard’s Completion percentage was inline with his final rating but everything else was either slightly out of whack (TD%) or WAAAY out of whack (YPA, INT%).
|Denard Robinson 2010||Cmp %||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||146.09||160.00||141.72||105.37|
A reasonable cynic would say: so what; it counts. Indeed and we should make no apologies. But understanding these gaps helps us understand if there are any areas of improvement or if a guy is overly dependant on big plays and such. This was exactly the case with Denard in 2010. Remember all those “Oh, wide open” seam throws he made to Roundtree that year? Those big plays were generated by the offensive scheme and the threat he posed as a runner, not by the threat he posed as a passer. So, when the scheme went away, so did his performance. When an opponent was able to neuter his running threat, the offense sputtered. Capice?
What’s Your Rainbow Got To Do With Me?
Finally we get to Devin. Devin posted an overall passer rating of 161.7 in the 5 games he played QB in last year. His stats illustrate the “White Rainbow” Effect of the Passer Rating formula beautifully. None of the components were typical of that passer rating, the great cancels out the terrible and we end up with a number that doesn’t quite mean anything in and of itself.
|Devin Gardner 2012||Cmp %||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||132.84||176.28||176.97||98.33|
Devin’s completion percentage was fine, but nothing special really. His INT rate was flat out terrible, better than Denard’s but that's not saying a whole lot. This isn't a surprise given the fact the Devin had never seen significant PT at QB and then spent spring, summer, and damn near two thirds of the season practicing at WR. Those numbers are inline with reasonable expectations given his circumstances. Actually, he probably out performed reasonable expectations given those circumstances and the inferable information that comes along with a position switch.
On the other hand the TD rate and YPA numbers are both ridiculous. In fact, they’re so ridiculous that given the context of the other two components, they reek of unrepeatability. AhOOOOga! Dive! Dive! Dive! [Everything starts shaking.] WHAT THE [HECK] IS HAPPENING!?!?
Relax, that’s just the mean reversion alarm. I’m reprising a chart I’ve previously discussed in this space which shows the mean reversion effect in a forecast able format. This chart suggests that we should look for Devin to register a legit 145 in passer rating next year. Uh, that’s a damn fine rating, folks. Here’s a stat line about your QB that you just might like:
|Devin Gardner, 2013||360||225||2900||23||10|
Sure, that’s not the 3600 yds and 33 TDs Ronnie promised but its not 15 INTs either. That level of performance is typical of a seasoned veteran QB and given Devin’s performance last season it’s totally reasonable to expect him to perform at this level. If he were to underperform that expectation the world would not end but I’d be disappointed. If he over performs then gravy. This is the reasonable and prudent outlook for Devin Gardner’s performance for this coming season.
Reasonable. Prudent. Pfft, those words suck. They aren’t sexy at all. They aren’t fun. They’re words Brady Hoke would use to describe Notre Dame. A seasoned veteran QB will do in a pinch but I want to plan on hearing the lamentations of all of those that oppose us. No, to lay those plans we need a monster. We need an expectation that we’ll have a performer at QB that will dominate. We need what Ron Utah has promised us. Surely there must be a way to construct a plausible expectation for domination given the data available. Indeed, but we need some abstract thinking. Shamalong to the right side of knowledge.
What if those numbers for YPA and TD rate weren’t an accident and are actually evidence of elite playmaking ability. Numbers like those are characteristic of system, support, or flat out skillz; usually a combination of the three.
System: We’ve seen what system can do for a player. We need look no further than Denard Robinson. In RichRod’s system Denard rated out at about 150, in a more typical system he rated out 20 points lower. In Devin’s case, he’ll be playing in a familiar system with more time to learn and refine his understanding. Borges will be able to game plan around a playing style he’s more experienced with and I see no threat to Devin’s performance being affected because of system factors next year.
Support: A quarterback can benefit from the players around him. I submit freshman Chad Henne. Having Braylon Edwards to throw to and Mike Hart around certainly helped his numbers. That O-line wasn’t too shabby either. So the question is: did Devin’s numbers get a boost from the players around him that will suddenly not be there anymore? The receiving corps returns mostly intact and as much as I enjoyed Roy Roundtree as a player, I don't think he was a transcendent talent that cant be replaced by Chesson and/or Darboh. Who is to say that they wont be better?
As to support from the running game, again I don't think there was anything there that made opposing defenses think twice. Michigan was aiight running the ball last season. Fitz’s production seemed to pick up when Devin stepped in for Denard but then he got injured so its tough to say if that's a trend or not. Here again, support from the running game should at the very least stay where it was and maybe it picks up a bit.
Finally, the offensive line. Michigan loses some solid players but retains its best player. Also, some high powered recruits from Hoke first few recruiting classes may finally be ready to contribute even if its just to add depth. It’s possible that the o-line could be touch weaker with the addition of new blood but I have no idea how to gauge that. I’m not going to worry about it.
In terms of support, Devin should have everything he needs and maybe even have an overall better receiving corps and stronger running game.
Skillz: Everyone around these parts know Devin Gardner was a high high level recruit. Once he got to campus and we saw him in Spring Games it was like, well, not that great and when he got moved to wide receiver last year I, for one, kind of convinced myself that maybe he was just another talented athlete with poorly developed QB skills. But, the numbers he put up when given extended playing time, while rusty, against not to be scoffed at defenses…jeepers. Maybe Scout was onto something when they gave him that 5th Star.
Its not crazy to think that Devin Gardner is that good. He might just be a monster. The only thing that prevents anyone from saying that confidently is sample size. So, as is my way, I try to look into the future by looking into the past. What does Devin Gardner the Monster look like?
|Devin Gardner, 2013||360||235||3200||27||8|
Yeah, baby. Lather up. Dennis Dixon. Troy Smith. Vince Young. What’s up with all those guys wearing #10 anyway? What’s up with all those guys murdering my team? Whatevs, Devin Gardner the monster looks like Michigan’s Revenge.
See, the only thing that makes this a difficult thing to believe is that posting a 160 passer rating is a difficult thing to do. But, its possible and what fundamental reason is there to say that Devin lacks the wherewithal to post that type of performance in the coming season? Depending on which set of assumptions hold, Devin will be either a really good QB or a devastating one.
If Al Borges says Devin plays like RGIII, I believe him.
[Ed: In case you were wondering what that business about dolla bills was...]
At Wednesday’s press conference, Brandon made reference to Michigan’s mediocre compensation package. I knew that Michigan didn’t pay top dollar for coaches, but when I heard Brandon refer to it as “middle of the road” and “unacceptable”, dude/etts… how can that be? It’s Michigan; we have scratch if nothing else. So, I embarked on a mission with the following objectives: 1) Define middle of the road and 2) recalibrate the coaching salary budget. I have learned, at the very least, a meaningful chunk of the explanation to a few issues we have observed.
For this study, I used USA Today’s Database of coach’s salaries for 2010.
What is Middle of the Road?
To answer this question a more sophisticated look is needed than my reflexive answer: the average or 50th percentile of the population. In Michigan’s case, the population could mean at least three things.
All FBS schools, pop.: 120. Pretty straight forward as to who’s included here. Middle of the road would be top-60 money. No way, Michigan has more money than Indiana, let alone Louisiana Monroe. This population is out.
All BCS AQ schools, pop.: 66. Again straight forward and more reasonable. Middle of the road is top-33 money. A useful benchmark.
“The FBS Hegemony”, pop.: 15 (or so). I have some ‘splaining to do here. Before 1980 college football was pretty different from what we see today: scholarship limits have changed, the passing game has been allowed to evolve, and the Florida schools have emerged. Not to mention the basic amateurism and substitution rules changes that occurred prior to 1970. In college football, anything before 1980 is simply a by-gone era.
As such, I define the “hegemony” as those schools who could plausibly win a mythical national championship in the modern era. To determine these I’ve looked at the schools who have actually won one since 1980, only 19 schools qualify. Of those, only 12 have won an MNC since 1990 and still could: Alabama, Florida, Florida St., LSU, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio St., Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, USC. Since Notre Dame gets special BCS consideration, they’re in. Then there’s another rotating crop of schools that could plausibly vie for an MNC today (Penn St, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Auburn, and Oregon) but haven’t done so in the last 25 years. Fifteen feels like a good number to work with, though I think a reasonable argument could be made for 20. I’m going with 15. So, middle of the road for “the hegemony” would be top-8 money.
Assessing Michigan’s Compensation Package
For simplicity’s sake, I focused my attention on University-based pay for Head Coaches and their staff (total). Of the 112 programs available in the database, the $2.5M Michigan paid Rich Rodriguez in 2010 is better than middle of the road for BCS schools (top-12 in FBS), but basically middle of the road (9th out of 15) for MNC-plausible schools included in the database.
When it comes to assistant coaches, things are different; unfortunately for everyone involved. In 2010, Michigan peeled of $1.8M in compensation for former Coach Rodriguez’s staff ranks in the 73rd percentile for the 112 programs listed (top-31 money) but dead last amongst the big dogs. Who among us is willing to pay more money for better defensive assistants? No one, I’m sure… /s.
I sooo don’t want to rehash but it’s clear that Rich Rodriguez had a specific vision for what he wanted his defense to be capable of and there he knew just the guy to do it (not shown at right). The word on Hoover street is that Jeff Casteel just liked West FUCKING Virginia too much to come to Ann Arbor. OK. Homeboy earned just over $372k last year. Allow me to visualize a phone call between Rich and Jeff circa Thanksgiving 2008:
RR: Hey! Jeff, buddy, pal, friend-o-mine; how goes it?
JC: Aiight, I guess. I kinda miss my homies and it sucks being Brian Kelly’s bitch, but the squad is doing ok down here and I’m super glad that I didn’t uproot my family to move to Michigan and deal with THAT cluster-[bleep], you know?
RR: Totally... *sigh* [collects himself] So, how would you like to bring your sweet-ass defensive coordinating ability and concepts to ace deuce next year? Our helmets got wings… ah? AH? Have I ever told you that you raise me up so I can stand on mountains? That, with you around, I can walk I stormy seas? That I am strong when I am on your shoulders? That you raise me up to more than I can be?
JC: Yo… get a grip, G. What have those hippies done to you, yo?
I dunno, bro; I kinda like it here and like I said, it looks like you have a cluster-[bleep] on your hands--
JC: Hey, Stewart! Eat a [hot dog]! See you tomorrow, Rich, buddy, pal, friend-o-mine.
Or something like that. By “like that” I mean verbatim.
Gerg was our second highest paid assistant last year at $270k, but really he only made $5k less than Magee. Guess what the top two assistants in the hegemony averaged in 2010 excluding Muschamp…about $425k. We had the lowest paid offensive and defensive coordinators by at least $25k and we were $100k away from middle of the pack.
Nope, that won’t do for a team trying not to suck. Bill Martin made many mistakes, but being cheap is the only one I find
impossible very difficult to forgive.
It goes on. You get the picture but, in case you don’t here’s a chart; gotta have a chart:
That thar is bullshit.
How Much Would You Pay to Not Suck?
$6.5 Million per year, exactly. No less than $5.7M
Jim Harbaugh commanded a salary at that Nick Saban / Mack Brown level ($5M per year). Pretty steep but I’d shell it out this very second… Anyway, Meyer, Stoops, Miles, Tressel are at the $4M range. To be the program everyone
used to thinks of when they hear MICHIGAN--you know, part of the hegemony. Right?—we need a head coach worth at least $3M (Mark Richt) and probably more like $4M (Jim Tressel - $3.5M)If you’re going to beat Tressel don’t you have to, you know, beat Tressel?
As for assistants, the golden ratio fits very nicely: 62% of budget on head coach, 38% of budget on the rest of the staff. That equates to a total budget of $6.5M.
But Wait, There’s More…
I think Michigan should be will to pay top dollar for the ultimate prizes (Bowl Wins, B1G Championships, National Championships). We need escalators for each accomplishments for everyone on the staff. Something like this:
Staff - Bowl Win: +5% Salary
Staff - B1G Championship: +10% Salary
Staff – National Championship: +35% Salary
All cumulative. So, winning a National Championship would increase each staff member’s pay by 50%. At a budget of $5.7M, a national championship would result in an outlay (salaries and bonuses) equal to Alabama’s base 2010 salary budget ($8.4M).
Boom, let’s get to work.
Assistant type folk I’d like to see M land/go after once we have a horse:
- Chuck Heater – Formerly DB / co-DC at Florida; played at Michigan with Dave Brandon.
- Teryl Austin – Formerly DC at Florida; DB coach for two Super Bowl Teams (Seattle 2003, Arizona 2006); defensive backs coach in prime Carr years (1999 - 2002).
- Scot Loeffler – Coached and/or recruited Tom Brady, Drew Henson, John Navarre, Chad Henne, Ryan Mallet at Michigan.
- Phil Bennett - Impressive 2009 national ratings in sacks (3.62 sacks/game), rushing defense (17th, 106.31 yards/games), scoring defense (19th, 19.77 points/game) and total defense (23rd, 319.31 yards/game). In 2010 Pitt ranked 9th in total defense (304 ypg).
- Bill McGovern - 2010 Eagles ranked #1 nationally in rushing defense (80 ypg), 13th in total defense (310 ypg), 19th in scoring defense (19.5 ppg)in the ACC in rushing defense, allowing just 103.2 rushing yards per game.
Everyone but McGovern is currently available AFAIK. It’s guys like this that make me most nervous about not having an HC locked down right now. I’d feel much better about Brady Hoke if I knew who he would have in tow with him if he were to be hired.
Still, I prefer to find someone who commands a $3-4 M salary.
I have a confession to make. It’s early afternoon on First Game Day’s Eve and I’m completely hammered. No worries though, both of the people on my floor who haven’t cut out early have no clue. No one does. All they see is the normal me, the guy that strives to be level-headed, logical, and mostly stoic except for when dramatic effect warrants a reaction…or when I’m really mad. So, yeah I guess I’m not stoic at all, whatever, forget that part. They see the kind of guy who writes longer-and-more-rigorous-than-any-report-he’s-ever-been-paid-to-write diaries explaining why, if you just look at the data, things just won’t be that bad and maybe even OK. What they can’t see is that the suppressed side of me, the Mr. Hyde Id that balances the Dr. Jekyll super-ego, is stammeringly, staggeringly, rockstaringly HAMMERED drunk on maize and blue kool-aid.
Since around the middle of the second quarter of Wisconsin v. Michigan 2008, my MGoPsyche has been in all out Sportscenter Y2K Emergency mode. You know yours has been, too. The lights go out, the back-up generator kicks in, a roid-raging
Mr. Hyde Mark Macguire is bashing a hapless keyboard with a baseball bat as if it were a detractor who is wrong on the internet, and a crazed Dr. Jekyll Charlie Stein with a maize and blue tie cutting of circulation to his brain screaming “follow me, follow me to freedom!” yeah, that commercial precisely illustrates the mgoboard any time any news event has happened since 2008, probably sooner than that.
Well now, on this First Game Day’s Eve 2010, my inner Hyde will no longer be contained and he’s saying, “you’re dumb, Jekyll, Michigan’s winning 10 this year.”
Who’s coming with me?
That’s crazy, right? We have two quarterbacks therefore we don’t have one, we don’t have a running back, our linebackers run around the second level as if they were herding cats, and our secondary sucks. Look at the data, Hyde. When your team has a defensive outlook that bad and plays in a BCS conference, 6 or 7 games,8 if we’re lucky…that’s all we can expect. But, what about Missouri 2008, Tennessee 2007, UCLA 2005, and Wisconsin 2005? Here are some table points on each of those teams:
|QB||5||3rd Year Starter (Chase F. Daniel, Sr). Followed up gaudy numbers as a 1st year starter in 2006 with gaudier numbers as a second year starter in 2007.|
|RB||2||New starter on a pass-heavy spread offense|
|WR||4 or 5||Returned leading receiver Jeremy Maclin (80 catches, 1055 yards, 13 TDs) and solid TE (Chase Coffman).|
|OL||3||Return 3 starters from previous season including both tackles. New starter at center.|
|DL||3||Return 3 starters but lost anchor at NT (Lorenzo Williams).|
|LB||2||Returned 3 starters from a unit that was frequently exploited in underneath coverage.|
|DB||a shaky 2||Return 3 starters (CB, FS, SS) from a unit that gave up a ton of yards through the air in 2007. Think Michigan or Michigan State circa 2009.|
|QB||5||4th Year Starter (Eric Ainge, Sr). The former rivals.com 4-star recruit posted a spectacular year in 2006 with a passer rating of 151 with a 67% completion rate on 350 attempts (!) for almost 3000 yards with 19 TDs against 9 INTs.|
|RB||3||Returned a platoon of three meaningful contributors including the explosive LaMarcus Coker, Montario Hardesty and Arian Foster. The group rushed for 1300 yards in 2006 with Coker accounting for 696 yards on 108 carries.|
|WR||2||Lost top 3 receivers from 2006 including Braylon-esque Robert Meachum (71 catches, 1300 yards, 11 TDs).|
|OL||3||Return 3 starters from previous season.|
|DL||2||Must replace both tackles from a unit the ending 2006 ranked 72 against the run.|
|LB||3 maybe 4||Returned 2 starters including Jerod Mayo.|
|DB||2||Replace both cornerbacks and the free safety. Had 5-star true freshman Eric F. Berry.|
|QB||3||3rd Year Starter (Drew Olson, Sr). Solid year in 2004 with a passer rating of 132.|
|RB||5||Returned Leading Rusher (Maurice Jones-Drew: 1007 rushing yards on 160 attempts and 146 all-purpose ypg in 8 games in injury shortened 2004 season). On pre-season Maxwell Award watch list.|
|WR||3 or 4||Returned Receiving TD leader and pre-season All-American Tight End Marcedes Lewis. Solid, veteran corps of wide receivers.|
|OL||4||Return 4 starters from 24th ranked offense in 2004.|
|DL||3||Return solid veteran group including sack and TFL leader (DT Kevin Brown).|
|LB||4 or 5||Returned 3 starters including pre-season All-American ILB Spencer Havner (Greg Jones level LB).|
|DB||2||Returned SS and 2nd leading tackler Jarrad Page. New Starters at FS and CB. Lost 2004 first-team All-Pac-10 CB (Matt Clark).|
|QB||2||2nd Year Starter (John Stocco, RS-Jr). Stocco was god awful in 2004, posting a passer rating of 109.|
|RB||3||New Starter (Brian Calhoun, Booker Stanley).|
|WR||3||Veteran Corps (Brandon Williams, Jonathan Orr, Owen Daniels).|
|OL||2 or 3||Returned Center (Donovan Raiola) and Left Tackle (Joe Thomas). Three new starters at other 3 positions on the OL.|
|DL||2||All new line returning 3 total starts from 2004.|
|LB||3||Veteran group with 29 starts returning from 2004.|
|DB||2||1 returning starter from 2004.|
The common thread running between each one of those teas is the fact that they all had terrible secondaries, and it showed on the field. Despite that, despite getting unmercifully torched defensively, they all won 10 games in their respective seasons. In Wisconsin’s case, they got outgained in EVERY GAME and usually by way over 100 yards. Those are thourough ass kikcings, y’all. Yet, there they are with a 5-3 Big Ten record en route to 10 wins.
Teams outperform their statistics every year, tell me that Michigan can not. Go ‘head.
Can I get a hell yeah?
Here’s the thing that makes life so interesting. The theory of evolution claims: only the strong will survive. Maybe so, maybe so. But the theory of competition says: just because they’re the strong doesn’t mean they can’t get their asses kicked. Thats right.
See, what every long-shot, come-from-beyond-underdog will tell ya is this: the other guy may in fact be the favorite, and the odds may be stacked against you; fair enough. But, what the odds don’t know is this isn’t a math test. This is a completely different kind of test. One where passion has a funny way of trumping logic.
So, before you step up to the starting line, before the whistle blows, and the clock starts just remember, out here, the results don’t always add up. No matter what the stats may say and the experts may think and commentators may have predicted, when the race is on, all bets are off.
Don’t be surprised if someone decides to flip the script and take a pass on yelling ‘uncle’. And then suddenly, as the old saying goes: we’ve got ourselves a game.
Follow Me. Follow Me to Freedom!
All of us—rivals, apologists, detractors, optimists, pessimists, and “realists” (pick a side, pansy—we all come to mgoblog because we have something in common: we’re obsessed with Michigan. We’ve spent nine months analyzing and rationalizing and consoling and infighting amongst ourselves as we descend upon the internet like thunderhead of locusts devouring every shred of any and every bit of information for insight into Michigan Football.
When the season ends, logos and pathos will have to cope with the exact same record. Your particular tact is merely a pre-coping mechanism. Well, Logos sucks. Logos tells you to consider the consequences before you have the time of your life. Logos tells you that the party wont be worth the hang-over. Logos tells you to make peace with never walking again. Fuck logos. Gimme pathos. Heaps and heaps of pathos. It’s time to let Mr. Hyde out the box. It’s time to descend upon all these assholes mounted up on our maize-and-blue, rainbow-maned
pegasuses pegasi flying unicorns, with blood shot eyes in a Zima induced psychosis. It’s time to lose our voices even if it means that we have to rip out our larynxes and throw them on the field*.
Blessed be the tie that binds us. Blessed be the Michigan Wolverines.
*a bit much? nah.
I had originally planned on unveiling a hype video that I’ve been working on for the last week and a half or so here but the swarm of MGoLocusts has already sniffed it out. Well done, MGoBlog. Aywho, at the risk of being accused of spamming the board, here it is in case you didn’t see it.
[Author EDIT: despammed]
I guarantee you that no one on our team is cowering in the corner, begging, hoping, pleading for 7 wins.
Back in April, I wrote a diary called Blue Moon in my Eye in which I developed a regression model that could be used to develop a projected win total assuming that reasonable estimates had been used as inputs. At the time I thought that the team would be capable of winning at least seven, probably eight, and maybe even nine out of thirteen games this season. Since then, things have, uh, how do you say … changed. With the loss of Woolfolk, how do those numbers change?
The New Blue Moon
Before I get to that, there’s a good reason to update the model. In April, I mentioned that turnover margin is meaningful factor in regard to outcomes, but I lacked enough data to break it out specifically and therefore decided to leave it as a lumped parameter; turnovers were doomed to fade into the ether that is Intercept. No more, the NCAA has finally included turnover data in its database and now there is enough data to mix into the model. The new model has an improved R-squared value (0.752 as improved from 0.675) using just three end-of-year factors: offensive yards per game, defensive yards per game, and total turnover margin. Last time I didn’t include the model because it was mine, my own, my … preciousss. That was incredibly lame and nerdy (both with holding the coefficients and referencing LOTR) but we’re talking stats here so no one should be surprised. Another reason for divulging the goods is, now that there are four dimensions, a chart would be useless. Behold, the Blue Moon Model coefficients:
- I left the P-Values in there for those who know what that is. For the rest of you, it suffices to say what I said last time: that ish be money, yo.
- The second column (Normalized Coefficients) is there to demonstrate the relative importance of each factor; in short, defense is a skosh more influential than offense and turnover margin is a little over half as important as both.
- The use of the model (first column) is simple, start with the intercept then multiply the other the coefficients with their interrogation values and add everything together. Use it to gamble at your own peril. Until such a time as you can accurately predict end of year stats for these categories, the model is only good for using as a platform to base sophisticated guesses off of.
Probable influential factors that are embedded in the 25% of the variation not explained by the model (1 – R_squared) are:
- Return Teams effectiveness. Good return teams will establish good field position thus reducing OffYds/G.
- Coverage Teams effectiveness. Bad units will allow the other team to establish good field position thereby reducing DefYds/G.
- Field Goal Kicking effectiveness. If you get into field goal position and miss, you’ll have a lot of yards but nothing to show for them.
- Penalties. Penalty yardage will increase/decrease your production depending on if they’re called on you or them but doesn’t necessarily change how effective each team is at controlling field position.
- In round terms, factor influence on winning percentage breaks down to 30% Offense, 30% Defense, 15% Turnover Margin, and 25% Other Things.
Shine Down on the Big Ten (and it’s self-absorbed neighbor)
Below is 2009 Big Ten Data and Blue Moon Model expectation (BMM Expect).
|Team||OffYds/G||DefYds/G||TrnOvrMgn_Tot||2009 Wins||BMM Expect.||Delta Wins|
I am not a man. I began as one, but now I am becoming more than a man, as you will witness.
– Francis Dolarhyde, Red Dragon
After the Iowa game last year, my nervous system instantaneously rushed to the precipice of meltdown every time Denard Robinson stepped onto the field. Mixing equal parts of anxiety and exhilaration yields a volatile cocktail. There were times when I couldn’t stand up because I was so nervous; only once or twice but, regardless of frequency, that ain’t right. Trembling calves, bated breath, dilated pupils, thumping heart. Then, a money Chewbacca impression; happy or sad, the reaction was the same. I can’t have been the only one.
There was good reason for such a strong pavlovian response. It seemed as though the outcome of a play with Robinson under center was the random result of the flip of a coin—tails: utter disaster, heads: spectacular success, on edge: just another play. Denard threw interceptions at a nauseating 13% rate on 31 passes. However, he also scored touchdowns 7% of the time on 100 total touches. Forcier only produced TDs a little over 3% of the time. Think about that for a second, Forcier had 399 touches last year and scored 13 TDs…Denard, theoretically, could’ve had 28. Those numbers are ridiculous to quote because Denard touched the ball so infrequently last year, but it isn’t fair to quote his turnovers without also quoting his TDs.
Anyway, eight months later we are faced with another batch of the cocktail, this time with a twist. A full offseason and a spring practice session have apparently yielded a thrilling prospect, Denard can throw. Maybe we can actually stomach the elixir and keep it down. That prospect sparks at least two questions. The first, how much could he have realistically improved? I mean, there’s improvement, and then there’s being good; the latter is not guaranteed. The second question is, who do you play, Tate or Denard? In this diary I hope to rigorously estimate an answer to the first question and hopelessly flail at the second.