Saturday, January 05, 2013

Did anybody actually watch Oregon?

News flash: Chip Kelly is probably going to the NFL. In that regard, this post is only tangentially related to college football; it's somewhat necessary, though, to dispute some of the ignorance that exists in comment sections everywhere and apparently in Jerome Bettis, who's allegedly an expert based on being able to truck similarly large humans for many years.

This quote comes directly from Bettis via The Tim Brando Show:
"I'll tell you this: He's not going to be able institute that type of offense 100 percent," Bettis said. "It will have to be similar to the Washington Redskins. They do it sparingly; they do some things in that area. They don't do a whole lot because the problem you have is, as the Redskins found out, when your quarterback gets hurt, now the backup quarterback, if he's not familiar, you've got to change the offense.

"I don't think you're going to see that wholesale commitment to that type of offense, because if you do, that means you've got to institute your starting quarterback that way, your backup quarterback and your third-string quarterback, and that's going to be very difficult to be that one-dimensional in the NFL.

"It's such a dangerous proposition with your quarterback running the football. I don't think you can do that 100 percent of the time."
I would write this off as one guy not really knowing anything if not for (a) the alleged expert-ness and (b) the replication of this quote (but in badly misspelled form) all over the interwebs. Clearly, people haven't actually watched Oregon and therefore are just assuming that Oregon's offense = RichRod's offense = Urban Meyer's offense = every zone-read offense. Not so much.

Wanna know how many carries Oregon's starting quarterbacks have had over the last three* years? A total of 255. That's 85 a season. That's 6.4 a game. Breaking it down into percentages, Oregon's starting-ish running backs have had 1,302 carries (32.6 a game) in that time, so Oregon's quarterbacks have been getting about 16 percent of the carries. And keep in mind that those aren't sacks-excluded numbers; in reality, the carries-per-game number should be closer to 5.4 than 6.4 based on Oregon's average of about a sack allowed per game the past few years.

Wanna know how many carries RGIII had this year for the Redskins? A total of 120. That's 7.5 a game and about 24.7 percent of the team's total attempts. Wanna know how many carries Colin Kaepernick had this year for the 49ers in the five games after he took over as starter? A total of 32. That's 6.4 a game and about 21.3 percent of the team's total attempts. Wanna know how many carries Russell Wilson had for the Seahawks this year? A total of 94. That's 5.9 a game (that would be about 6.1 if not for the 58-0 obliteration of the Cardinals in which Wilson accumulated almost no stats) and about 19.2 percent of the team's total attempts. And those are sacks-excluded numbers since the NFL logically includes sack yardage in passing-yardage totals. So even "wholesale commitment to that offense" -- which there will be wherever Chip Kelly ends up since that's the point of hiring Chip Kelly -- won't result in the level of quarterback-run reliance the Redskins and 49ers had during the regular season. Woo expert analysis!

It's probably worth mentioning that the Redskins, 49ers and Seahawks were first, third and fourth in the NFL in rushing this year and finished a collective 32-15. Also, the aforementioned quarterbacks missed a collective one game. Granted, one season isn't a massive sample size, but there are three NFL teams that are doing pretty dang well right now running their quarterbacks as much as or more than Oregon has under Kelly the last few years.

And that's to say nothing of the little-noticed truth that Oregon's running game is largely built on a variation of inside zone/outside zone/power** stuff; the zone read is a component that allows for a fundamental blocking advantage (hence the usefulness of the zone read in general) at the risk of allowing this ...

... but is still secondary to Oregon's explicit spread-to-run-inside philosophy, as evidenced by the running backs getting 84 percent of the carries the last three years. In other words, the threat of the quarterback having the ball with nobody around isn't the same as the quarterback actually having the ball "100 percent of the time."

Quotes? Quotes:
"I look for a quarterback who can run and not a running back who can throw. I want a quarterback who can beat you with his arm," Kelly explained at a coaches clinic in the spring of 2011, emphatically adding, "We are not a Tim Tebow type of quarterback team. I am not going to run my quarterback 20 times on power runs."
BOOM KELLY'D. BTW, read the rest of that article now; it comes from Smart Football and therefore is filled with yummy goodness about strategory and whatnot.

*I used three years because those years were the ones in which Kelly-recruited quarterbacks were starting; Dennis Dixon and Jeremiah Masoli were guys he basically inherited when he took over as O-coordinator and therefore weren't necessarily indicative of the kind of quarterback (and accompanying offense) he prefers. For reference, those guys were both pretty consistently around nine carries a game, or only slightly more than RGIII has been getting.

**At its heart, Kelly's running game isn't strategically that much different from the 15 or so zone-blocking-based ones in the NFL; he just prefers (a) unloading the box as much as possible, (b) using a lot of shotgun zone-read action to the extent that pretty much everything (from four verts to the bubble screen to inside zone to outside zone to straight-up option) looks the same at the snap and (c) going balls out from a tempo standpoint (usually).


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