Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Giants: One view of offensive play calling

Giants are in the upper half of the league in offensive statistics carried by their passing game which is 3rd in the league as measured by total yards gained. But the question one could ask is how efficient is the Giants offense. By that I mean - do they score as many points as they could based on the yardage that they gain. There are couple of ways to evaluate statistics around this. First, you could simply calculate efficiency as points scored per yard gained. In other words, if one team gains 350 yards in a game and scores 21 points, while the other team gains 500 yard and scores 24, you could easily see that the team with 21 points may have lost the game, but they took better advantage of their opportunities - they scored .6 points per yard gained, while the other team scored only .48 points per yard gained. The NFL on its website lists a stat called yds/point, which gets the statistic exactly backward, the reciprocal of what efficiency should be, unless you are ranking in reverse order.  Giants are 7th in the league in this stat of yds/point. If I got a sudden brain cramp and somehow misinterpreted this or made a mistake with this analysis, please comment; but I think I got it right.

There may be two other indicators of how well your offense takes advantage of its opportunities - red zone efficiency is one measure and another may be the percentage of short FGs your team has to kick, indicating that they got real close, but could not close the deal. Giants are 7th in the league in red zone efficiency, measured by TD / red zone appearance. That is not bad, but it can be a little misleading, because the Jets with a rather mundane offense are first in the league in TD conversions in the red zone. They don't get there that often, but when they do, they convert.

The other statistic that is interesting to explore which may also be indicative is one suggested by my son who asked me to research it on his intuition and see if it fits. How often do the Giants get tantalizingly close to the end zone, can't close the deal and have to kick a short FG? In order to analyze this statistic, I looked at FG statistics on and examined those kicks that were less than 30 yards as a percentage of the total kicks by the team. To me that is a much more instructive statistic than average FG length, because a few long desperation kicks at the end of the game or half can inflate averages, while these percentages remain smoothed out and are less affected by the few extra long kicks. A kick of 30 yards is taken from the 20, meaning that the team advanced the ball at least to the 12 or 13 yard line. League wide, there have been 870 FG attempts of all distances this year with 270 of them, or 31%,  less than 30 yards. There are a few teams that are above the average 31% at around 40%. But the Giants are at 50%, by far the highest percentage of short FGs in the league.

If the team can move the ball between the 20's that tells me that they have at least some offensive talent. At the goal line, the play calling has to be creative and there has to be a little deception to punch it into the end zone. Giants don't have that. Everything that the offense makes, every yard they earn, they earn on the strength of their own play. They are not helped by the coaching that rarely puts them in a position where they fool the opposition and get easy points.

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