Shotgun Yesterday, Shotgun Today, Shotgun Tomorrow, Shotgun Forever

Submitted by Brian on July 1st, 2011 at 1:12 PM

denard-shotgun

via flickr user larrysphatpage

Almost nothing drives me more insane than someone who proclaims certain numbers to be bad because these other numbers are better without suggesting a mechanism that would make this true. Via Slate, Murray Chass provides the canonical example:

The stats freaks who never saw a decimal point they didn't worship were ecstatic last year when Zack Greinke won the American League Cy Young award while winning only 16 games. Felix Hernandez, who won 19 and whose 2.49 earned run average was second to Greinke's 2.16, would have been my choice, but the stats guys "proved" that Greinke was the correct choice because of his statistical standing in formulaic concoctions in which we mere mortals do not imbibe.
—Murray Chass, murraychass.com, May 9, 2010.

This makes me clench and unclench my fists helplessly. It seems impossible that you could be this venerated New York Times baseball writer without picking up on the fact that AL pitchers have no control over how many runs their team scores. The fists clench and unclench because attempting to model an argument with Murray Chass about this quickly leads into a cul-de-sac where Chass says something condescending about something he doesn't understand and repeats it ad nauseum as if he believes "no blood for oil" or "drill, baby, drill" is a coherent, self-contained, impregnable point of view.

Presenting Jonah Lehrer, who actually manages to write for Wired despite being able to compose the following:

Consider the case of J.J. Barea. During the regular season, the backup point guard had perfectly ordinary statistics, averaging 9.5 ppg and shooting 44 percent from the field. His plus/minus rating was slightly negative. There was no reason to expect big things from such a little player in the playoffs.

And yet, by Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Barea was in the starting lineup. (This promotion came despite the fact that he began the Finals with a 5-for-23 shooting slump and a minus-14 rating.) What Dallas coach Rick Carlisle wisely realized is that Barea possessed something that couldn't be captured in a scorecard, that his speed and energy were virtues even when he missed his layups (and he missed a lot of layups), and that when he made those driving floaters their value exceeded the point score. Because nothing messes with your head like seeing a guy that short score in the lane. Although Barea's statistics still look pretty ordinary — his scoring average fell in the Finals despite the fact that he started — the Mavs have declared that re-signing him is a priority. Because it doesn't matter what the numbers say. Barea won games.

A man who writes for Wired ascribes JJ Barea's value to "nothing messes with your head like seeing a guy that short score in the lane." Fists clenching and unclenching due to impossibility of refuting argument that stupid. Plenty of other people have tried to do so. Some guy at Deadspin who pointed out that the Mavs are amongst the most stat-obsessed teams in the league. A Baseball Prospectus guy tore apart Lehrer's introductory car analogy, in which car buyers who focus on a couple of barely relevant but easily understandable numbers instead of the important, hard-to-quantity data are Bill James, not Joe Morgan.

It doesn't matter, though. These articles always have a tautologically number-negating logic. The argument goes:

  1. I don't understand statistics*.
  2. People who understand statistics don't understand intangibles.
  3. ???
  4. Therefore my understanding is superior.

Now let's talk about Denard Robinson and last year's offense.

*[This lack of understanding can be many things but is always at least this: statistics are a suggestive tool, not math gospel. To be fair, some people use statistics like they are a golden hammer. These people are very annoying and should be yelled at. Just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. ]

Y WE NO SCORE GOALPOINTS

y-u-no-easydenard-fumble

This came up a lot in the aftermath of the Spring Game, when the quarterbacks strove to make themselves indistinguishable from walk-ons and quite a lot of people put finger under collar and went "uggggghhh." This was met with a round of backlash largely consisting of people pointing at select—sometimes hilariously select—statistics from last year's team in an effort to prove the offense wasn't really that good.

The favorite was a focus on the first halves against good opponents, when Michigan did not score points. This did not escape notice even around here:

The Ohio State game has the power to make whatever happens in it seem like Michigan's season in microcosm, and so the overriding theme of the 2010 season is looking up at the scoreboard at halftime to see Michigan on pace for about 500 yards and about twenty points. Michigan had 238 yards and seven points this time around and instead of a competitive game we got the usual.

Michigan was frustratingly spectacular at getting to the half with almost 300 yards and something like ten points on the board. But using points to evaluate the output of an offense is like using wins to evaluate a pitcher. Events outside the entity you are trying to evaluate have so much impact on that number, it is only a fuzzy explanation of the story.

I have engaged in message board fights and observed many more about whether the Wisconsin game was a failure on the offense's part. At the half the score was 28-0 Wisconsin and the game was as good as over, whereupon Michigan came out of the locker room and scored three straight touchdowns against the UW defense. This would have made the game interesting if Michigan could have forced the Badgers to pass, ever.

My fists do the clenching bit whenever anyone tries to claim the Wisconsin game was evidence Michigan should move away from the spread. The Michigan offense's entire first half:

  1. Michigan drives from their own one yard line to the Wisconsin their 35 before punting.
  2. Michigan drives from their 28 to the Wisconsin 13; Seth Broekhuizen misses a 30-yard field goal.
  3. Three and out from the 36.
  4. Three and out from the 40.

(There was also a meaningless two play drive at the end of the half.) That's not a great four drives. It is a great seven drives if you consider the next three. Meanwhile, the final touchdown against UW is often dismissed as "garbage time" but Badger tacklers on that drive include JJ Watt, Patrick Butrym, and Aaron Henry—all starters—and Michigan hit Roundtree three times for more than 20 yards on a three-minute march. That was not Wisconsin's goal. Even if you still dismiss Michigan's last couple drives as garbage you have to acknowledge that the defense's inability to make them meaningful robbed the offense of opportunities to impress for real.

But you're sitting there and your fists are clenching and unclenching and everything is black and doom and blacky black doom, so maybe it's hard to tell.

Transistors don't give a damn

CLOUDcrying-buckeye

This is the disconnect. While what seems like a fairly large subset of the fanbase saw wholesale collapse in the Wisconsin game, computers saw two units failing immensely and an offense that put up 442 yards on a defense that gave up 321 on average, scored 31-ish points (computers will credit the offense with acquiring the field position for the field goal and deduct the miss from the special teams; if they deduct from the garbage TD they will use a lower denominator when trying to figure out expected points) on a defense that gave up 21. Statistically, Michigan's offense was at least a standard deviation above the mean against the Badgers.

While the Wisconsin game is the biggest outlier between the offense's actual and perceived performance, it's instructive. It is often lumped in with the crap from last year along with Iowa (tenuous case indeed there), MSU, OSU, and the bowl game. There is no reasonable case it should be. This is why statistics are useful, because meat-emotions often overwhelm our capacity for reason.

These are the questions I think we should be asking in our most robotic voices:

What aspects of last year's performance project most strongly to next year's?

There are three reasons for the gap between points and yards: field position, field goal kicking, and turnovers. The latter two combined to see Michigan's redzone scoring rate rank 109th nationally. The first two are almost entirely out of the offense's control. The latter was a huge problem all three years under Rodriguez. However, turnovers notoriously do not correlate year to year, are heavily dependent on quarterback, experience and saw Rich Rodriguez consistently in the black at West Virginia.

Michigan's turnover issues aren't fate, should improve naturally, and are not related to the spread. Most of Michigan's other issues at turning yards into points are not really the offense's.

That leaves an inherent flaw in the spread offense as a potential culprit that has the potential to repeat next year. Point in favor: Michigan was even worse in the redzone in 2009, finishing with just 49% of available points. Point against: Auburn and Oregon finished in the top ten last year. Further point against from a Football Outsiders study of the NFL:

We took … 20 overachievers and measured their performances the season after said overachievement; while their DVOA [ed: something value over average, a fancy stat they have designed to smooth out noise.]  in the red zone that initial season exceeded their total offensive DVOA by an average of 33.3 percent, in the following season, their DVOA in the red zone exceeded their total DVOA by an average of 1.3 percent. In other words, the teams' performances in the red zone mirrored how they did outside it, implying the overachieving was a fluke.

We also can measure this by using correlation coefficients, a way of measuring the relationship between two variables that results in a number ranging from minus-1 (at which the two variables have an exact inverse relationship) to plus-1 (at which the variables have a perfectly positive relationship). The correlation between a team's performance in the red zone and its overall offensive performance, year to year, is 0.08 -- essentially nil. Teams simply do not exceed their performance in the first 80 yards once they get to the final 20 on a regular basis.

The evidence suggests Michigan's red zone struggles should revert to the mean; the things that made the offense less than the sum of its yards last year are all small sample size outliers.

What's left that does correlate, or at least correlates better? Everything else. On a play by play basis Michigan's offense does well in standard and advanced metrics, and returns ten starters. If they should be better but weren't (because of things that should revert) and can expect similar performance next year (because of all the returning starters), then what should happen is that the expected and actual meet somewhere south of #2 nationally but well within the schwing range.

Is it better to play to Al Borges's strengths or the offense's strengths?

In 2008 this was easy since the offense had no strengths. In 2011 it's a difficult question. Michigan's transition demands that Borges or Denard (and, importantly, the OL) leaves his comfort zone. This is necessarily going to be suboptimal for someone.

The spring game suggests it will be vastly suboptimal for Denard if Borges gets his way, and it seems a lot easier to change playcalls than turn Denard into Jon Navarre. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. The last few years I've documented the ever-evolving Michigan run offense. Rich Rodriguez kept ahead of the curve by constantly adding new wrinkles to the ground game. He was able to do this because of his vast experience with the spread 'n' shred. Al Borges is a smart guy with a lot of experience but his history suggests his inventiveness may be more oriented towards the passing game. If a good chunk of offensive effectiveness is staying ahead of the game, Borges might be able to do that better from a pro-style offense.

But the following is true even in the NFL:

Shotgun formations are generally more efficient than formations with the quarterback under center.

Over the past three seasons, offenses have averaged 5.9 yards per play from Shotgun, but just 5.1 yards per play with the quarterback under center. This wide split exists even if you analyze the data to try to weed out biases like teams using Shotgun more often on third-and-long, or against prevent defenses in the fourth quarter. Shotgun offense is more efficient if you only look at the first half, on every down, and even if you only look at running back carries rather than passes and scrambles.

With an offense outright designed for the shotgun featuring a quarterback whose main asset is his legs, the cutting-edge effect would have to be absurdly important to make the offense more effective from under center.

Does I-form pro-style help you win in ways undefined by conventional statistics?

This is Brady Hoke's theory when he denigrates the zone-heavy spread offense as an impediment to having a good defense. A quick glance at the top defenses in both conventional and fancy measures suggests this is unlikely. TCU, Boise State, and West Virginia  were the top three teams in yardage defense. WVU, Missouri, Oklahoma, Auburn, Oregon, and Mississippi State are all in the top ten in defensive FEI. There appears to be little if any problem with having a top defense opposite your spread 'n' shred offense as long as you account for the increased pace of the spread.

Is it worth sacrificing effectiveness down the road for immediate results?

Unknowable, but there's no better way to quickly put the question marks on Brady Hoke's resume to rest than by having a breakout first season.

Extensive Conclusion Section

denard-shotgundenard-shotgundenard-shotgun

MOAR SHOTGUN PLZ

Comments

orobs

July 1st, 2011 at 1:27 PM ^

I think its a pretty big reach to say theres any "evidence" to suggest that the offense will revert to the mean.  College Football  red zone offenses are not random occurences within a normal population.  Oregon and Auburn weren't so good in the red zone because they got randomly lucky.  Michigan wasn't terrible because we weren't randomly unlucky.

The offense was terrible in the red zone because:

1) Nobody could make a FG longer than 25 yards (this isn't something that will revert until someone can kick the ball)

2) Our offense simply didn't work as well in the red zone (I don't know why---playcalling, B1G defenses, nerves, but it isn't something that happened because of random chance)

There is no guaranteed regression to the mean in nonrandom circumnstances, like football.  Michigan was terrible in the red zone because being terrible in the red zone WAS the mean for michigan in 2010.

JeepinBen

July 1st, 2011 at 1:35 PM ^

Most offenses don't work as well in the red zone. The field gets "compressed", I don't know that it effects 1 style more than another, but the spread is based on "athletes in space". There's a reason Rich went to the Beefy I at Illinois (why did I think of this example!! THE PAIN). That's not to say MANBALL works any better, You still have a smaller field to work with. 

In general, the area that defenders have to worry about gets smaller, there's more defenders in smaller spaces, and it's harder to move the ball.

In 1st and 10 from our 20 yard line, the D has to worry about: Zone Read? 10 yard passes? 20+ yard passes? 50 yard bomb? Anything Deep?

In 1st and 10 from their 20 it's: Zone Read? 10 yard passes? Endzone? and nothing else.

jmblue

July 1st, 2011 at 3:15 PM ^

This is true in general, but our offense was particularly bad in the red zone last year, relative to how it did in the 80 yards beforehand.  We had a very weird dichotomy between our yardage and point totals.  Our yardage total was almost there with Oregon, but they scored almost 20 more points per game, and that can't be explained just by our crappy placekicking.  Our scoring average (32.8 ppg) was not all that remarkable, and even that figure was inflated by us scoring 22 points in the three OT sessions against Illinois. 

We had two specific problems last season in the redzone:

1.  Denard's decision-making/accuracy.  You have to make good, quick reads in the endzone and get the ball there on time and accurately.  He couldn't always do this (though to be fair, this can be said of many young QBs).

2.  The OL struggled to control the line of scrimmage in short-yardage situations.  This has been a problem for a few years now.  Time and again on third and short, the ballcarrier met a defender in the backfield.  When we converted, it was usually due to the ballcarrier (usually Denard) making a good individual move, as opposed to the OL clearing him a path.  Our OL was agile and good at blocking downfield, but in the redzone, those things don't matter as much.  In the grunt work of sustaining a block for a few seconds at the LOS, they need to get better.

AAB

July 1st, 2011 at 1:36 PM ^

is that Michigan's performance in the red zone was a purely random event (outside of the kicking game), especially because the offense was so generally awesome. To argue otherwise, I do think you have to argue that there's something specific about the spread option that makes it an ineffective red zone offense, but Auburn and Oregon present a huge problem for that theory.

You say that the offense not working in the red zone "isn't something that happened because of random chance." How do you know that? Why isn't random chance a perfectly valid theory when the offense moved the ball so well between the 20s?

somewittyname

July 1st, 2011 at 2:12 PM ^

that the lack of our offensive efficiency with respect to ypg was solely due to turnovers and fg kicking. Nobody is doubting that they were both major contributors to this discrepancy, but just because "intangibles" are harder to measure statistically, doesn't mean they don't exist. I think Brian wants to write off everything not easily measureable, but this is not a very scientific way to approach the problem. Just because we don't understand the phenomena, doesn't mean they don't exist.

gbdub

July 1st, 2011 at 3:33 PM ^

You missed one - it's not just field goal kicking and turnovers, Brian also noted field position. I think field position was a huge player. We were almost always starting off from a kickoff and would have 70-80 yards to go. That's a lot of room to screw up and kill a drive. Hell, you could get three or four first downs and still have to punt, or, with no kicker, go for a 4th and long and give the other team the ball on the 35.

To Brian's list of issues I'd add "no true threat at RB". In particular, I think this was a real contributor to red zone performance and first half performance against good teams. In the red zone, a strong back is key to getting consistent yards on a compressed field. It also may have prevented some of Denard's bad picks. Against a good team, better RB play would have provided a better complement to Denard - as it was, any team that could mitigate Denard's running had us beat, and that was easier because they had no RB to fear.

somewittyname

July 1st, 2011 at 3:43 PM ^

in terms of overall offensive efficiency vs. ypg. While I didn't specify, I was thinking more in terms of red zone efficiency. So, in regards to red zone efficiency, I think starting field position is pretty irrelevant. I do agree with dcwolverine's assessment about the running game though. I couldn't come up with a specific example, so I had to resort to speaking abstractly.

Blue in Seattle

July 2nd, 2011 at 5:17 PM ^

I'll assume that the statistical analysis Brian mentions about teams correlation of performance in and out of the red zone being nil is correct.  And I agree completely that horrible field position created by the fact that the defense didn't exist allowed a high yardage but low points per drive result to exist.  But there is still the anomaly that is Denard.  One aspect of this anomaly is that Denard far outgained the rest of the running backs.  Is this lack of talent, execution, or just the opposing defense deciding to let Denard run the ball? (by making very sure that the running back gets no where)

The lack of a FG kicker does remove redzone points.  But also I think of the MSU interceptions in the end zone.  And while the above mentioned red zone correlation suggests that we experienced "bad luck/statistical anomaly", I will suggest that the inexperience of Denard and his passing choices, combined with a compressed field being easier to stop the run, no matter who is running, is the explanation.  Can I prove it statistically?  No.  But I won't agree that Rich Rodriguez was going to figure it out.

Overall for me, I just wish that Brian would complete his UFR's for OSU and the bowl game, and then I could apply some analysis to the play calling.  Because from my repeated viewings of the game, my unstatistical viewpoint is that Rich Rodriguez did not have a lot of wrinkles in his running plays.  He called a lot of QB ISO because it was the only thing that worked, and of course setup the QB Oh-noes for the passing game.

I really don't think Al Borges is trying to do anything different to Denard than what Rich Rodriguez would have wanted to accomplish, which is to make him a better passer.

The only thing that would have made Denard a better runner is either the blocking, or finding a running back who could match him and become a threat that had to be covered.

But this is the same discussion that surfaced at the firing.  Rich Rodriguez was not fired because he had a bad offense.  He was fired for not winning games, and he didn't win games because in 3 years he had created the defense that was the complete opposite of his offense.  He demonstrated he could not retain or hire a DC who was competent.  And I think by the end of the 2012 signing period it will be clear that the product he was putting on the field was creating an impossible recruiting situation for Michigan.  And that would have continued the program down the path of destruction.

I'm pretty confident that we will not see the QB Read Run option next season.  But I wasn't sure we were seeing it at the end of last season either.  It wasn't working.

But will Gorgeous Al Borges be running a lot of shotgun?  I think so.

dcwolverine1993

July 1st, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

was generally awesome, but lousy at running the ball in short yardage situations.  And in the red zone, being able to run  the ball in short yardage and tighter packages is essential.  I don't think that's random, but actually a huge deficiency in our offense that showed up all year long.

jmblue

July 1st, 2011 at 3:22 PM ^

Why isn't random chance a perfectly valid theory when the offense moved the ball so well between the 20s?

Because we're not talking about one game. We ran into the same problems in the redzone all season. Even in the ND game, when Denard ran for a million yards, we were stopped in the redzone repeatedly in the second half before we finally converted that 3rd and long in the final minute. MSU, Iowa, PSU, OSU, Miss State . . . same deal. Moving the ball between the 20's and punching it in from there are two very different things.

BrickTop

July 1st, 2011 at 2:43 PM ^

that other teams are working diligently to ensure that the offense regresses to the mean and if we still had the exact same offensive minds as last year I'd have to think that with a season worth of film and more gameplanning that our offense would almost certainly regress. Enter new offensive minds and the fact that last years film becomes much less valuable and much less relevant due to the new planners of the offense and the likilyhood of opponents forcing you towards the mean is diminished.

Muttley

July 1st, 2011 at 6:20 PM ^

but I think part of the problem was Denard's increased tendency to  miss open receivers in the red zone.

Which (pure conjecture) should be easier to overcome in the non-red zone.

Fortunately, DRob showed an order-of-magnitude improvement/learning from his freshman to sophomore year.  Let's hope we see him take another huge chunk of the gap between himself and, say, a Tom Brady mastery of the non-running aspects of the QB position this year.

MGoShoe

July 1st, 2011 at 1:30 PM ^

...WINS PLZ. By any means necessary.

As I read this, I kept coming back to the utter debacle that was Michigan's place kicking in 2010. More (moar?) than anything else, improved FG kicking seems to be the key to the success of this team. Empty long drives are killers.

Six Zero

July 1st, 2011 at 1:49 PM ^

There were some people in the Keep Rich camp who kept basing entire arguments on the offense's total yardage.  600 a game, 4th in the nation, Best single game tally, best month of offensive yardage, etc etc etc.

And in the end, we just didn't score enough.  At least not in the games when we needed to.

I was as impressed as anyone with the overall numerical output that last year's offense achieved.  AND I've never seen anything like the year Denard had last year, even though he was always a half-play away from a nightmarish injury.  But (and please call me crazy if you'd like) shouldn't we judge an offense's success on the points it puts on the board, rather than its total yardage?

If anything, I think last year is a glaring example of why we must...

SC Wolverine

July 1st, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

Perhaps, but the real reason we didn't win last year was not the offense but the defense.  This is also the reason why RR is talking on CBS this year -- because there was no hope for a credible defense under his watch.  Even if Borges' offense is a disappointment from the potential shown last year, if  Hoke/Mattison can shore up the defense we will have a good team that wins games -- even big games.

jmblue

July 1st, 2011 at 3:26 PM ^

I'd argue that while the defense was certainly more responsible than any other unit for our record, the offense was far from blameless.  In our losses, it had a tendency to not perform well in the first three quarters, if not the entire game.  In all six losses, we trailed by 21 or more points.  We didn't just fall behind because of the defense.  The offense wasn't keeping pace. 

SC Wolverine

July 1st, 2011 at 4:13 PM ^

I'm not saying we would have gone undefeated.  Nor am I denying that there was a troubling disparity between yards and points for the offense/kicking game.  But, as the second half of the Wisconsin game made painfully evident, our offense just was not going to keep up with the imminent collapse of the defense at any moment.  If our offense had scored more points in the first half against Wisconsin, making it a closer game in the 3rd quarter, their offense would have just marched down the field a little faster to get the additional points needed.

jmblue

July 1st, 2011 at 5:31 PM ^

Wisconsin shut us out in the first half.  In no possible way can it be said that the offense performed in the first half.  At best, they played half a good game.  Even if the defense absolutely sucked (and it did), we needed the offense to show up for four quarters, not two.  And this was the case time and again.  In six different games we fell behind by 21+ points last year.  We lost all six. 

BigBlue02

July 1st, 2011 at 3:27 PM ^

I am fine judging the offense on points scored. We averaged over 30 and scored enough points to win the Wisconsin, Penn state, and Iowa games. In the end, we did score enough to win 10 games. So let's judge the offensive success....how was it when we take out how bad the defense was? Do you think 30 points per game is bad for an offense? Or do you think scoring 30 points per game against the 8th best defense in the nation isn't good?

jmblue

July 1st, 2011 at 4:20 PM ^

We didn't score enough in those games when it mattered.  We fell behind 28-7 to Iowa, 38-17 to PSU and 28-0 to Wisconsin.  It's very, very difficult to come back from those kinds of deficits.  In fact, we've only come back from 21 points down to win once in our 132-year history (2003 Minnesota). 

Yeah, we scored some late TDs in those games to make the final scores respectable (well, maybe not against UW), but desperation TDs are not necessarily the best measure of an offense's overall effectiveness.  When you're in a situation where you absolutely have to score, you're going to call high-risk, high-reward plays, and use all four downs.  It's harder to stop an offense that does that, so it shouldn't be that surprising that we recorded some late scores in those games.  But if we truly were a top 5 offense, we shouldn't have found ourselves in complete desperation (21+ points down) six times last year.  Again, you don't fall behind that much unless both your offense and defense are faltering.

 

 

BigBlue02

July 1st, 2011 at 5:57 PM ^

You are using the "21 points down" comment way too often when in reality, we wouldn't be that far down if not for the defense. Because guess what...every team with a top 10 offense didn't score on every possession of every 1st half, so if they had our defense, they probably would have been down 3 scores at the half. That doesn't mean they don't have a top 10 offense, that means they have s shitty defense. Just think if, instead of Wisconsin up 21-0, or defense was able to stop them once and hold them to a field goal once. A 10-0 deficit is much easier on an offense who scores 28.

gbdub

July 1st, 2011 at 5:02 PM ^

The problem with just looking at points is that it tells you nothing about WHY you didn't score enough to win. Did we fail to score points because we had terrible players and a lousy scheme on offense? Or did we fail to score points because we always got the ball on the 20, down by two scores, with no hope of a field goal, and an inexperienced QB prone to making poor decisions?

Getting that answer right is critical to determining how to become a better team this year. Yards but no points = pretty good offense, needs work on turnovers / decision making, needs help from D and special teams to avoid bad situations. No points and no yards = generally bad offense, start from scratch.

Captain

July 1st, 2011 at 5:49 PM ^

shouldn't we judge an offense's success on the points it puts on the board, rather than its total yardage?

Just because that's the metric officials use to determine the outcome of the games doesn't mean we need to. I prefer to judge an offense's success on the color coordination of its uniforms.

Under my metric, we've done well.

JamieH

July 2nd, 2011 at 10:07 AM ^

Games, unfortunately, are determined by point scored and points allowed.  They don't give you bonus points for yardage.   Yardage is simply a metric to try and show you WHY the points are being scored like they are.

Sure, our lack of D certainly cost us some easy scoring opportunities.  As did our utter lack of FG kicking.  But the reality is, our offense struggled to score points in every tough Big Ten game and the Bowl game.  STRUGGLED.  That isn't the sign of a dominating offense.

Personally I don't think it was a red zone issue.  I think it was a turnover issue.  Rodriguez' offenses at Michigan were turnover-happy to the extreme.  Especially with fumbles.  You can argue till the cows come home that this isn't Rodriguez fault, but he kept giving the ball to kids who kept proving they couldn't hang onto it.  At some point, the coach has to take responsibility for the fact that for 3 consecutive years, Michigan was just terrible on offense in regards to turnovers. 

EGD

July 2nd, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

I agree that there are some turnovers which can be attributed to poor coaching.  For instance, if a quarterback has not been adequately prepared to run a particular pass play, but the OC calls it anyway and the QB makes a bad read that results in an INT, you probably have to give the coaching staff at least some, probably most, and arguably all of the blame.  Or if the coaching staff puts a fumble-prone back in the game, leaving a non-fumble-prone back on the sideline, that could argubaly be attributed to the coaching staff.  Certainly plenty of other examples abound.  But the impression I drew of UMs key turnovers last year was, basically, that they happened because of execution errors, not because of bad playcalls, inadequately coached offensive players, or deficient personnel choices.  

Also, I am not sure what it means for a coach to "take responsibility" for turnovers.  If the coach draws up a play and teaches the players how to execute it, and then in the game calls the play and it works for a 25-yard gain--at the end of which somebody fumbles and commits a turnover, is that bad coaching?  What is the coach supposed to say, "Whoops.  I guess I forgot to tell the running back not to fumble the ball.  My bad."  

yoopergoblue

July 1st, 2011 at 9:15 PM ^

THANK YOU!  This needed to be said.  It was so frustrating last year to see our offense drive to the opponents 30 four or five times and put up 400 yards but end up with 14 points.  It is equally frustrating when ardent Rich Rod supporters point to the yardage stats and the offensive ranking when it obviously couldn't produce when it really needed to.

JeepinBen

July 1st, 2011 at 1:40 PM ^

I missed him! 

Also, I agree that shotgun is/can be/for-us-would-be a very good thing.

Everybody's favorite Pro Quarterback plays a ton out of the Shotgun (edit 53.6% in '09 http://espn.go.com/blog/afceast/post/_/id/4713/an-afc-east-look-down-the-shotgun-barrel best # i found):

Denard did run an offense from under center in high school, I hope that our playbook is essentially "Everything" and we run what works out of it

Mitch Cumstein

July 1st, 2011 at 4:43 PM ^

Science vs Politics.  I think this is more of a political post than a scientific one.  A scientific post would examine all angles of an issue and use different resources and expertise available to come to an objective conclusion.  This post sets up a straw-man to argue against, and uses select statistics and examples to prove a preconceived opinion. That is politics at its finest. 

ForestCityBlue

July 1st, 2011 at 5:13 PM ^

Brian is just mad that the offence is no longer going to be one of the "cool" offenses.  This article of his is a him still pouting that RR got fired.  Its all about winning.  The one stat that really matters.  He can try all he wants to raise the ghosts of RR, but the rest of us have moved on, are excited about the Hoke, Borges and Mattison era.  Who gives a crap if we have a statistically awesome offense if we win all the damb time.  Frankly, give me a statue in the pocket and let him throw darts, like Tom Brady does...zing. 

Michigan4Life

July 1st, 2011 at 1:40 PM ^

but what Denard has done as a first year starting QB or even as an experienced QB has been great.  He was the first to throw 2,500 and run for 1,500 yards which is something that the Heisman Trophy Winner, Cam Newton, have done.  To be honest, if Michigan were an above average team, Denard would win the Heisman.  Denard is a clear outliner with regards to 1st year starting QB and a real plesant surprise.

 

As great as Denard has been at QB, he won't come close to last year production simply because it's the 1st year in a completely new system and Borges has a history of not working well with mobile dual-threat QBs.  If Denard can throw for 2,000 yards and run for 800 yards, it's a success in my book considering the style of Borges offense.

MI Expat NY

July 1st, 2011 at 2:19 PM ^

Except he wasn't with regards to what we're talking about here, decision making.  His insane yardage performance was a result of his talent.  His much poorer performance in the red zone, arguably, was a result of poor decisions (think of the MSU game).  A more experienced qb should make better decisions, and that should lead to more points, as long as the change in systems doesn't neuter our offensive talent.  And before anyone yells at me, I think Borges is a smart guy (in fact, I think he's the better of our two coordinators), and I think we'll be running more spread concepts than anyone expects, and the "pro-style" portion of the offense will be well tailored to fit our talent.

Michigan4Life

July 1st, 2011 at 7:28 PM ^

couldn't put up an insane amount of yards(passing or running) that Denard produced in 1st year of starting.  It's not always a function of talent but more of a function of combination of talent and executions.  All 1st year starting QBs always have bad decision makings because they lack the experience to execute successfully.  The fact the offense were ranked in the top 10(both in regular statistics and advanced metrics) speak volume of how well the offense has done this season.

BrickTop

July 1st, 2011 at 2:46 PM ^

see offensive production in terms of total yards decrease just by the merit of an improved defense seeing to it that your offense has less field with which to work (better field position = less distance to the end-zone= less required yards) and the fact that if your offense is slowed down, there will be less time in which to gain yards.

jmblue

July 1st, 2011 at 3:36 PM ^

Denard is a clear outliner with regards to 1st year starting QB and a real plesant surprise.

You're focusing way too much on yardage. Yards don't win games. Denard made some great plays, but he also threw 13 interceptions and lost five fumbles. Heisman-winning QBs don't commit that many turnovers. As the season went on, and opposing teams gained film on him, his effectiveness decreased. The Denard we saw the final month of the season - against Purdue, Wisconsin, OSU and Miss State - did not look like a Heisman candidate.

Michigan4Life

July 1st, 2011 at 7:25 PM ^

that he was hurt and that affect his productivity.  Throw in the defense playing like they're swiss cheese, it put more pressure on the offense to score quickly and often.  Most of his INTs were to him forcing throws because he needs to hit a HR to get a TD in order to keep pace with the offense seemingly scoring at will.  I'm willing to bet that Denard's effectiveness would continue if he was 1. healthy and 2. defense can make stops on a consistent basis.

 

Yards is a much better predictor of how good of a team really are, not points.  Over the long run, you would take teams that gains a ton of yards because eventually, they're going to find ways to score a ton of TDs as opposed to teams who doesn't gain a lot of yardages but get a lot of points.  In the long run, it will regress to the mean in which teams with tons of yards will ultimately win out assuming that all things are constant.

DustomaticGXC

July 2nd, 2011 at 11:22 AM ^

You're right.  But yards are a precursor to points.  Touchdowns come the same way yards do:  by moving the football forward.  There are variables to consider, but all in all, a team that can move the ball with regularity will usually score more points than a team who has trouble moving the ball.