Visualizing The Hennechart

Visualizing The Hennechart

Submitted by Swayze Howell Sheen on October 20th, 2009 at 2:04 PM

Editors note: bumped from the diaries for research, interesting-ness, and cool graphs. Republished to get the images the right size. Original here for those who'd like to see the comments on it.

Some days ago, I made a first attempt at visualizing some of Brian's famous Hennecharts. After some feedback (thanks all) and some links to old data (thanks Misopogon), I now try again. Here are "Hennegraphs" for Tate so far this year, Threet from '08, and Henne from '07.

Tate so far this year:
[Note: the hashed areas are passes I separated out as screens, which is new this year.]

Threet '08:
and Henne '07:


And finally, Henne in the near-championship year '06:


Some explanations: I took Brian's suggestion to center at 0, pushing "good" events to the left, and "bad" events to the right. Slight adjustment: I moved "Marginal" all the way to the left (it is neither good or bad, but made slightly more sense on the left instead of centered in the middle, as we will see in below).

Recall also that bars that are not fully colored in represent screen passes (which Brian has started accounting for lately).

Also on the Hennegraph: Brian's metric of effectiveness, the Downfield Success Rating (DSR). The Tate '09 graph shows how this is calculated: DSR is the number of (Dead On + Catchable) throws divided by everything else except for Marginal and Pressure. Thus, it is the left blue part (ignoring marginal all the way on the left) divided by the blue part + right red/orange/yellow (ignoring pressure all the way on the right).

I also present the DSR percentage on the right of each bar, as well as the total number of attempts, and graphically depict the DSR number on the left in a dotted red line.

Putting all of this together made me realize the simple genius of what Brian is doing here. Instead of judging a QB by a simple number such as "percentage of passes completed" or some odd QB rating, he is simply analyzing each throw and qualitatively judging them in isolation of whether they were caught or not. Thus, DSR is an excellent replacement for "Completion Percentage" if you are just interested in measuring how well a QB is throwing the ball.

Hope you enjoy. As always, comments are welcome, and thanks to Brian (and Misopogon!) for the grading and the data; any errors, of course, in the Hennegraphs above are mine.

[Notes from me: You can see just on the charts how far the passing game has come from the "good" half of last year, and how far from a healthy Chad Henne—ie, 2006—it still is. And how awful it was for Michigan to suffer Henne's loss in '07.]

Who Sent Pryor The Email?

Who Sent Pryor The Email?

Submitted by Brian on May 7th, 2009 at 2:10 PM

note: all email addresses below are intended to be fake, but I didn't test them or anything. suggest you don't use them.

Extremely sane and not at all prone to crying on the bench after tragic loss Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor told extremely impartial and totally tough-as-nails interviewer Kirk Herbstreit something obviously true yesterday:

Pryor: "I really want to be like a great quarterback. People tell me I can't throw and this and that, and I'm not that good and I'm overrated and all that."

Herbstreit: "Who?"

Pryor: "A bunch of people. Michigan players e-mail me and stuff."

Herbstreit: "Come on, are you serious?"

Pryor: "Yeah man."

Video if you want it. This is obviously true. But who is the culprit? MGoBlog's three primary suspects:

Zoltan Mesko

Motive: Michigan's lone player in the business school is marketing a TOTALLY LEGITIMATE scheme which isn't even a scheme at all, really, but just a sure 100% foolproof ways to make the moneys.

Example email

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected][email protected]

Subject: "[email protected]@k! 1mpr0ve yr threwing motion no foolsies"

Dear Friend,

I am Mr. Boltan Tesko, Accounts Manager, of Abbey National PLC Bromley Rd Branch. I have an important business proposition for you.

On December 12th, 2008, a contractor with the National Fotoball Legue, United States, Bill Parcells, made a limited time (Fixed) offer for twelve calendar months, valued at US$ 17,350,000.00 (Seventeen Million Three Hundred Hundred and fifty Thousand Dollars only) in contracts for any quarteback to throw

Upon maturity,I sent a routine notification to his forwarding address but got no reply. After a month, we sent a reminder and finally we discovered from his contract employers, that there is no throw. TO throw we teach you throw for sum of US$ 3,500,000.00 which is leave you profit of US$14,000,000.00.

There is no risk at all as all the paperwork for this transaction will be done by the attorney and with my position as the Manager with my bank will guarantees the successful execution of this transaction.

Awaiting your urgent reply.

Thanks and regards.

Boltan Tesko

Odds: 50/1


Steven Threet

Motive: Exploring a transfer.

Example Email

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: So I hear you can't throw.

Body: Here's the deal: as soon as I completed my paperwork to transfer to Arizona State, Dennis Erickson drove into a volcano.


They've replaced him with Tom Osborne and moved me to fullback. I hear you can't throw and have emotional problems. Is this true? If so, do you want to be roommates?

PS: Please don't say yes and then throw Tressel into the sun.

Odds: 10/1.


David Cone

david-cone Motive: Is from alien planet and must drop mad science on fools every 30 minutes or he loses his super powers.

Example Email

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: prepare to get dropped

yo yo yo yo, check it:

pryor you ain't nothing

you at a place where there's no one to compete
i shake steve brown like he was concrete
bauserman, boeckman, guiton who dat
you get hurt they put in the wildcat

me? stuck behind sheridan, yeah, you lucky
otherwise mich gets rid of the monkey

white like mcguffie but with mad skillz
one more concussion i give him frog pills
my head's fine, clear like cristal
five yard ropes when i get the ball


Odds: 1/1.

Unverified Voracity Is Personally Writing This

Unverified Voracity Is Personally Writing This

Submitted by Brian on May 6th, 2009 at 11:56 AM

Yeah, it's him. At least some of the coach twitter feeds are written by low-level marketing flacks, but Charlie Weis' is legit:

I, personally, am working on Nevada, our first opponent, this week; Michigan, our second opponent, next week; and Michigan State, our third opponent, the week prior to Memorial Day. Go Irish!

(FTR: That's two tweets conjoined.) Charlie Weis, personally, is on the case. Unlike all those other times people use the word "I".

Coach Cobra Kai. Hopefully Michigan will get to the point where this isn't a hypothetical situation:


That's part of the locker room door; as Michigan Football Saturdays points out it's not too far from that to "sweep the leg." Maybe we can be Bill Simmons' favorite college football team now.

Also, I'm pretty sure I know exactly which default photoshop gradient was used to do the effect there.

Kickin' up dirt. JoePa broached the topic of Big Ten expansion—he's in favor of it and name-dropped Pitt, Syracuse, and Rutgers as possibilities—sending everyone into the usual tizzy. Jim Delany said "eh, not so much" and life continues on. There's not much more to add than the usual, but I would like to address this:

Adding a twelfth team to the conference implies, in the minds of most, a move to a two-division structure not unlike that of Big 12, ACC, and SEC, all of which hold moneymoneymoneygrab championship games before declaring a champion. So what would the divisions look like?

That's We Will Always Have Tempe, which is frequent OSU gadfly poguemahone's new joint. WWAHT then goes through a bunch of scenarios that all point to the same thing: there's no division that makes geographical sense and hardly one that makes competitive sense.

Q: why do we have to have divisions? As we've seen in the Big 12 of late, sometimes you get the second-best team in the conference sitting at home crocheting asterisks to put everywhere as a far worse team shows up to get blown out.

If you add another team you can then add another conference game without running up against the horrible realities of math, and then you can just play everyone except two other teams and have a championship game between the top two. It would basically be like what we've got now except with a championship game on the end of everything. Sometimes this would be pointless, but I think it's better than the alternative of having the Michigan-OSU division and then a Penn State-someone else division unless that someone else is Notre Dame, which is not happening.

Score. The Daily scores an exclusive interview with Threet with a bunch of interesting stuff and one major typo: a "Feagin" where a "Mr. Plow" should go. For the record: Justin Feagin has not left the team or transferred. The rumor persists because the Free Press quoted from it on their blog*, linking to a Yahoo reproduction of the interview that hasn't been corrected like the original has.

Items of media interest:

  • The Free Press "blog" is, ironically, the exact sort of blog media people always complain about: it adds exactly zero to the content it lifts and doesn't even have the decency to blockquote the material so it's obvious the content is not Free Press content.
  • The Daily killed the Threet transfer story, absolutely wasting every other media organization out there, and the interview is the cherry on top.
  • …and they're pissing away a good chunk of the linkjuice and hits by allowing the syndication of it to UWire and therefore Yahoo.

To the interview itself: Threet directly addresses the "inconsistent like always" comment, downplaying it, and says point blank that he didn't think he'd keep the starting job with "the way they run the offense" but that it's hard to say for sure. Here's the kicker:

S: What does Michigan need to do to make sure last year doesn’t happen again?

T: They need to make sure that everyone is putting the work in to getting better at executing their job. There were a lot of times last year where maybe one guy didn’t do his job at 100 percent, and that’s the difference between a touchdown and a three-yard loss. Working together like that is especially important offensively. Defensively, you can get bailed out sometimes, but offensively it really does take all 11 guys.

The whole thing is well worth reading.

Zoom! More to file under "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium":

Dauntia Dotson, Adrian Witty, Cassius McDowell and Denard Robinson sent the crowd home contented by running a school-record 40.82 -- the second-fastest time in the country this year, to win the Region 3-4A title.

''I think we can go 40.50, maybe even faster,'' Witty said. ``Who knows? It's our work ethic. We don't want to lose. This means a lot because we broke our own state record twice this year.''

You'll note that Witty is also on this blazing fast relay—good news for his prospects at M—as is Deerfield Beach junior running back Cassius McDowell, who says Michigan leads.

Unverified Voracity Wants To Kiss You, Sam

Unverified Voracity Wants To Kiss You, Sam

Submitted by Brian on February 26th, 2009 at 2:47 PM

Do or die. So, good news about the game tonight: MGoBlog will not be hosting a liveblog. Therefore, Michigan has a chance. Bad news: gimpy Purdue star Robbie Hummel is a go.

I've laid it out before and I believe the equation still holds: Michigan needs two of its final three games and then one win in the Big Ten Tournament to feel pretty good about getting in. Gacking it up against Iowa has cut their margin of error down greatly, and I'm expecting the NIT. But if homoerotic hobbits on a trek into Mordor teach us anything, it's that short pasty white guys with curly hair can do anything. So rock on.

Fuller previews can be found at UMHoops and Hammer and Rails; Purdue is favored by 2.5. Hopefully no one gets ejected for an inadvertent elbow this time.

What with the Threet. While on John Bacon's show on WTKA I mentioned what I had heard about Threet's decision to transfer. MVictors recaps:

One of Cook’s insiders revealed that Rodriguez met with Steve Threet and basically told him he’s decided frosh Tate Forcier is getting all the snaps this spring. Thus Threet bolted. If this was posted on mgoblog I missed it (and maybe the info wasn’t solid enough to post).

Some clarification: I've heard this from a few different people, all of them on the Threet side of things. I didn't post anything on it because it didn't seem quite strong enough, but when I was LIVE it just sort of came out and there it is. The details are still fuzzy but Threet clearly felt he was not going to have a full opportunity to win the job and, not wanting to be David Cone, decided to go elsewhere.

It's a risk on Rodriguez's part to be sure; the upside is that Forcier gets all the snaps and will be as ready as he possibly can be when Western Michigan rolls into town. Which may not be particularly ready, but he's all we've got.

Risk and expectation and so forth and so on. Braves and Birds notes a Smart Football post on the appropriate amount of risk to take in a football game. This has long been a topic of interest here, too, as it was my longstanding opinion that Lloyd Carr's answer to that ("almost none unless we're playing Ohio State") was way too conservative. However, conservative strategy has its place. Smart Football:

Is it always "optimal" to set your strategy to maximize points scored?

In the NFL -- which is what Brian [not me, this Brian –ed] focuses on -- this is likely true and the assumption holds. NFL teams are almost all competitive with each other, and even the worst teams can beat the best in a given game. So any reduction in expected points is likely to hurt a team's chances of winning because they need to maximize that out to get wins.

But is that true in college? Or in high school? Think about when Florida plays the Citadel. The Gators have a massive talent advantage compared with the Bulldogs. As a result, what is the only way they can lose? You guessed it: by blowing it. They can really only lose if they go out and throw lots of interceptions, gamble on defense and give up unnecessary big plays, or just stink it up.

My theory as to why Michigan got so stagnant under Carr was an extension of the Florida-vs-Citadel mindset. Bo Schembechler pretty much believed everyone was the Citadel—or, more likely, never gave a whole lot of thought about the appropriate level of risk in a football game past the Woody Hayes maxim that "only three things can happen when you throw the football and two of them are bad." This worked out fine for him because everyone in the Big Ten other than Ohio State pretty much was the Citadel: it would take some seriously freak occurrences for Michigan to lose to them.

Carr's mindset was formed in this era, but he coached in an era of greatly increased parity. This was bad. When you give away expectation against the Citadel, you just win by less. When you give it away against a competitive but slightly inferior team you are going to find yourself in a lot of late-game dogfights and some of those are going to slip away. Carr started moving away from this philosophy, but it was a halting process, and I could write about this sort of thing forever. It's a digression.

Not a digression: no, it's not always optimal to maximize your points scored. It's pretty easy to set up a situation where it's not (you have the ball on the opponent's five yard line with thirty seconds left and you're down two, etc etc). While a lot of these things are specific situations they illuminate a larger issue: most of the measures, even the advanced measures we have at Football Outsiders and places like that, don't take variance into account.

Smart Football's got a theory that teams should strive for run-pass equilibrium in a different fashion than you hear about it on TV. Instead of running half the time or getting half of your yards on the ground, you should seek to have your passing plays and running plays gain the same number of yards. Just about no one does this except real weirdo offenses like Texas Tech. One possibility is coaches are just doing it wrong. The other possibility is that there's an institutional wisdom there.

What would that wisdom be? Well, gaining big hunks of yards a portion of the time and getting zero a lot is a different way of doing things than gaining small hunks of yards a lot and not getting zero very often. Is second and seven better than second and two half the time and second and ten the other half? That's an unanswered question.


[okay, /extremedorkmode, returning to standarddorkmode]

The Death of Dual Threet, And The Fallout

The Death of Dual Threet, And The Fallout

Submitted by Brian on February 18th, 2009 at 4:01 PM

(caption) Michigan quarterback Steven Threet (10) outruns Wisconsin linebacker Jonathan Casillas for a 58-yard gain that set up the game winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Casillas caught Threet at the end of the run. *** Michigan rallies back from a 19-0 deficit to stun the ninth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers 27-25, giving new head coach Rich Rodriguez a victory in his first Big Ten game. *** The Michigan Wolverines (1-2) host the 9th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers in U-M head coach Rich Rodriguez' first Big Ten game. Photos taken on Saturday, September 27, 2008.  ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )


Last year I attempted to coin a clever nickname for the Feagin-Threet quarterback pairing: "Dual Threet." Dual is now a slot receiver and Threet is moseying on out of town, possibly to North Dakota State if you believe random guys on a message board. (Do not believe random guys on a message board. Believe specific guys on a message board.) So it goes for Michigan in the past couple years.

I've been a stalwart supporter of Rich Rodriguez since his arrival. I didn't think Ryan Mallett's departure was his fault, nor did he have much of an opportunity to land a dual-threat guy in the month or so he had to finish off Michigan's 2008 recruiting class. The one guy it seemed he did have a chance with, BJ Daniels, ended up at South Florida amidst a flurry of payoff rumors that even The Wolverine—normally a place that shies away from incendiary allegations like that—lent credence to. The hand he was dealt was an exceptionally poor one. I can find no better way to sum it up than this: how many walk-on quarterbacks can you remember at power (or even decent) programs, and how did they do?

I've got exactly two:

  • Notre Dame's Matt Lovecchio, AKA A Major Reason Ty Willingham Was Fired.
  • UCLA's McLeod Bethel-Thompson, AKA The Only Reason Notre Dame Beat A BCS Opponent In 2007.

There's almost no precedent for a quarterback situation like the one Michigan faced in 2008, and almost no way to claw yourself out of a hole that vast at the most important position on the field. Once that hand was dealt, Rodriguez was dead meat.

So the reasonable criticism of Rodriguez are mostly confined to his role in setting up his hand: "running off" Mallett, the Boren defection, the fruitless chase of Pryor, and so on and so forth. I didn't find any of these arguments compelling, since I knew Mallett had a foot and a half out the door even when Carr was running the team and that the Borens had major daddy issues and the options outside of Pryor were about nil. The decision to hire Shafer was a poor one, and that seemed like it should be held against Rodriguez. Other than that, it was Angry Michigan Whatever Hating God all the way.

You can tell there's a but coming, so: but. But the Threet transfer bothers me. Even with the recruitment of Forcier and Robinson, Threet is the most experienced quarterback on the roster by two years and has some decent starting experience. He will find no better situation wherever he transfers unless it's to some podunk I-AA school. The transfer makes little sense for him personally or professionally unless there's something behind the scenes we don't know about.

Meanwhile, Michigan now finds itself down to two true freshmen before they have to drag out another walkon, be it Nick Sheridan or Nader Furrha or whoever. Even if Threet was mostly poor a year ago, he was obviously far superior to the alternative, and at worst he would be the backup next year. With Denard Robinson something of a project, every one of Michigan's egg is now in Tate Forcier's basket. Threet leaving the program is an obvious negative.

So it doesn't make sense on anyone's part. Why did it happen? I go back to a quote from Calvin Magee in the aftermath of the Michigan State game. Dan Feldman's Daily article on the transfer highlights it:

By staying and giving Michigan another feasible option besides Sheridan, Threet opened himself to public criticism from the Wolverines’ coaches. Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee described Threet’s three-interception performance against Michigan State on Oct. 25 as “inconsistent, like it always is.”

Man, that's pretty rough. Behind-the-scenes reports from insiders always said Threet had major confidence issues and didn't respond well to this staff's high pressure style. Maybe they tried to adapt. That evidently didn't last, so Threet decided he'd be better off elsewhere.

It's obvious neither side had much faith in the other. That's not unexpected given the rickety nature of the pairing, but I can't help but think that Bo or Lloyd would have found a way to finesse it better. I don't know. Maybe I've been talking to John U. Bacon too much.

(caption) Michigan QBs Steven Threet (10) and Nick Sheridan (far right) walk off the field after the loss. *** Notre Dame takes advantage of six U-M turnovers to beat the Wolverines 35-17 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  Photos taken on Saturday, September 13, 2008.  ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )



  • Pretty sure Matt Hayes has no idea that Nick Sheridan is a walk-on. Asked "what does the Threet transfer mean for M" he responded "It means Nick Sheridan, who shared time with Threet last fall, is next out the door." This is unlikely unless Sheridan wants to go to UM-Dearborn or something.
  • Maize 'n' Brew blows up a pretty dumb Blade article on the transfer. HT to them for the NDSU link, too.
  • The Ann Arbor News thinks there's "no heir apparent," which, could not be more wrong since there is one obvious guy who is obviously the starter now.
  • But, hey, Forcier seems slightly more confident than Threet (link ibid): "In this offense, there's always somebody open. You should never throw an incompletion.'' Forcier's cockiness should serve him well.
  • Chengelis says you shouldn't anoint either freshman your lord and savior yet.
  • DocSat has a take as well.

Steven Threet to Transfer

Steven Threet to Transfer

Submitted by Brian on February 16th, 2009 at 3:18 AM

Hi. I'm back, and tired, and it's 3:30 AM but I've already slept seven hours today so, like, hi.

The Daily has confirmed the rampant internet rumor that Steven Threet was planning on a transfer:

"I have decided to transfer from the University of Michigan," Threet wrote in the statement. "I have requested and received my release. I do not yet know where I will continue my collegiate career, and have no further comment until that decision is made."

This is obviously not good for anything except my prediction that Tate Forcier would be the opening-day starter. For all Threet's faults he looked competent at times last year and could have been passable as a sophomore; Michigan is basically down to the two freshmen and then it's time to close your eyes, pick a walk-on, and pray.

So, yeah. Hooray for good news immediately upon returning.

Picture Pages: Illinois Hates Reading

Picture Pages: Illinois Hates Reading

Submitted by Brian on October 8th, 2008 at 10:39 AM

Hey, guess what? Michigan's run game against Illinois sucked donkey. This was partly Michigan's offensive line getting beat, but it was also partly Illinois outscheming Rodriguez.

To wit: first and ten on Michigan's second touchdown drive on the Illinois 25. Michigan comes out in a standard 3-WR set; Illinois has their base formation on the field with a linebacker over Odoms.


Michigan is running the same play Brandon Minor took to the house against Wisconsin; I've been terming it the "zone read dive" in the UFRs. Michigan will hand it off to McGuffie, using the zone-read induced delay on the unblocked defensive end to get out on the linebackers and shoot McGuffie into the secondary.

Problem: the defensive end couldn't give a crap about Threet. Here at the handoff he's already given up containment.


This is quickly followed by McGuffie getting swallowed whole. So Threet should keep it? Not so much, as Martez Wilson has hopped outside and Vontae Davis is crashing down, too. If Threet keeps it he's going to get tackled for loss, too:


(Also, note Molk's whiff on Miller, the only real execution issue on this play.)

And for the kicker, go up to that first frame above: that linebacker is right on the LOS, close enough to jump the bubble screen route if Michigan sets up to throw. They've got all the angles covered.

Except, of course, they don't. Michigan could combat this a number of different ways:

  • Shoot Threet up into the hole originally designated for McGuffie. On this play it wouldn't work, but only because of the Molk whiff. If Molk gets a block that's into the secondary.
  • Just run some play action. For Davis to get that close to the LOS he had to jump off Mathews as soon as he saw the zone read action; Mathews is now wide open.
  • Throw a long handoff to Savoy. Look at the cushion, man.

They did none of these things. I've got another one of these coming in a little bit.