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Dave Gettleman's Archaic Attitude is Extremely Concerning + Thoughts on Running Games


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This one is from the guys over at The Draft Network. Since coming on the scene, they've been the best draft site in my opinion, rivaling how The Athletic came out for sports journalists. 

Anyway, Dave Gettleman has been one of the biggest topics since the offseason kicked off for over half of the NFL a couple weeks ago. First, his press conference on accepting analytics. Then his hiring of Joe Judge. But I think his response to running the ball has kicked up more dust than any of those in the analytics community. 

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On the final day of 2019, Dave Gettleman, general manager of the New York Giants, told the football world he was leaving his skeptical and downright refusal to conform stance on analytics-based scouting and team building in 2019 as we approached the new year.

"We've hired four computer folks, software," Gettleman said. "We're doing a lot of things behind the scenes. We have been ramping up the analytic and technology piece."

That sounds a lot different from when Gettleman aggressively told the media, “I think a lot of that stuff is nonsense. 

“I think it is someone who had decided to get into the analytics of it and went through whatever" after drafting Saquon Barkley (a running back) with the second-overall pick in the 2018 draft. Gettleman has always been an old school guy, so him taking this long to come around to the benefits of analytics should come as no surprise. In fact, you can't say the Giants didn't know what they were hiring.

“In terms of team building, I’m old fashioned," Gettleman said at his introductory press conference in 2018. "I’m going to say this right now. Style of offense has changed, obviously — there’s that college influence, so obviously the style of defense has changed to a certain degree. But at the end of the day, it’s the same three things you’ve had to do in ’35 that you got to do now in 2018. You got to run the ball. You got to stop the run. You got to pressure the passer."

I'm sorry. Did he say that football is won the same way in today's age that it was in 1935? We're comparing variations of T formations to going 5-wide in today's spread? I suppose there are deceptive elements of the game that can still be pointed to, and there are fundamentals of physicality that have to exist. But the manner in which Gettleman said that didn't sound very fundamental. It sounded abrasive. That's why Gettleman's words on Dec. 31 were, in fact, surprising.

"I know this may sound crazy, but I met recently with a big analytics guy," Gettleman added. "I'm going to learn from my mistakes."

Many wondered how this new approach would affect who the Giants would consider for their new head coach. Was New York no longer a potential landing spot for a guy like Jason Garrett, or someone else with an old school, experienced football point of view?

Matt Rhule was a very popular name swirling around rumor circles when it came to who might be the next head coach in New York. But the Giants eventually settled in on Joe Judge, the special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach from the New England Patriots. As people began to gather information on who Judge even was, many found the reason why he ended up being the coach of choice for Gettleman and the rest of the decision makers in New York is because of the kind of leader Judge is and how much that came through during the interview process.

Even from Judge's introductory press conference Thursday, you could tell that was true. I loved his quote about what he learned from Bill Belichick on how you handle players.

"What I learned from coach Belichick was real simple: Be flexible with your personnel,” Judge said. “Don't try to shove round pegs in square holes; figure out what you have. Play to their strength. ... Tell me what they can do."

Judge seems open-minded, progressive. As I listened, I thought to myself, okay, maybe this is the coach who can really change Gettleman.

But then Judge said something that made me nervous.

“What I’m about is an old school, physical mentality," he added. "We’ll punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we’ll play every play like its a history in the life of its own.”

Oh no. Don’t open that door. Don't open it back up. You know what happens if you open that door up.

Too late.

Sigh, we’ll get the same old Gettleman. The man isn't even a "quarterback wins are a real stat guy," he's a "running back wins is a real stat" guy.

The second I saw that graphic during the playoff game I knew someone was going to take it out of context and run with it. I didn't know it was going to be an NFL GM — although I'm not totally shocked, given who it was.

Teams in the playoffs have a tendency to have high regular-season rush totals. The reason for that isn't just because they might be a run-based team or show that the best running teams are also the best teams overall. It's because the best teams (the teams that win the most games) are often in control of those games and therefore are running the ball more to control the clock. But that doesn't mean those teams ran the ball to get control of the game. Most of the time that's not the case. Most of the time they are passing to get the lead and extend the lead before trying to slow the game down with the ground attack. The reality is that today's game is a "pass to set up the run" league. But Gettleman's inability to let go of the old "run to set up the pass" age of football is holding him and the Giants back from not just what they could be, but the rest of the NFL which has been less stubborn to adapt.

Rushing yards per game is a terrible way to judge offensive efficiency, and so is just passing yards per game. Numbers without context can be very misleading, as that graphic was, which Gettleman so blindly just believed because it told him what he wanted to see. The point of analytics is to bring context to those numbers.

One way we can do this is through the metric of DVOA. DVOA is a measurement tool created by Football Outsiders. In their own words: "DVOA measures a team's efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent." When it comes to the DVOA numbers, the top-10 rushing DVOA teams were 87-72-1, while the top-10 passing DVOA teams were 102-58.

Gettleman wants to have a physical, disciplined, strong-will football team. I don't think anyone, for analytics or against, would disagree with those philosophies being a good thing for a championship-caliber team. But those things don't exist solely when you run the ball. The best teams can take those fundamentals into their adaptation into the modern game -- the passing game.

It's a new era in New York. Let's hope that also means leaving old way behind.

But it sure didn't sound like it on Thursday.

There are still fans, even here, that are adamant than teams who run the ball win games, playoff games, and ultimately Super Bowls. Gettleman is still in that camp, living and dying on the running game wins game trope. It doesn't matter how many times this has been disproven. People think analytics are designed to destroy the basic tropes of football, but like the article said, it's to provide context. Counting stats ignore context. Prime example:

For some, that means "See! Running the ball wins games. Run the ball and you will win". When a very simple counter argument can be made:

"Then why doesn't Mike Zimmer open the game with a simple script of 30 straight runs and win the game?"

See what happens when you strip context from stats. Teams that are able to run the ball 30 times are usually controlling the game/clock. The means they most likely have the lead, or if it's a close game, have the better defense. It's like rating a pass rusher solely on stats or a corner on interceptions or a receiver on catches. Fans that don't like analytics resist it because it's changing the game they know, but just watching it could tell you that. The reason the game is changing is because teams are looking for the most efficient ways to move the ball. When QBs, even the worst ones, average 6 YPA (Trubisky) and the best RBs only average 5 YPC (Derrick Henry/Chubb), we're talking a 20% increase in yardage per attempt for the worst QB vs the best RB (solely in terms of average, not skill). Therefore, insisting on running more than passing is insisting on moving the ball in a more inefficient manner because "that's football". 

You see, even from the video, the run goes for about 6 yards, while the PA pass goes for an easy 10 yards and the shot play should have gone for several more, but was dropped. The run game is used to set up the big passing plays in the most efficient manner possible. Kyle gives the clearest breakdown, compared to Gettleman:

Context. You can't just run run pass. Like he said, you can get 5 YPC (which is the league best) all you want, but is that going to lead to points? Let's ask Derrick Henry from his heralded playoff performance:

Another example. The Titans beat the Patriots, on the road, and everybody wants to point to Derrick Henry because he had 182 yards and 1 TD. He carried the team. Yet, it still doesn't outpace the impact of the passing game. 

Tannehill had 21 passing plays, with 38% of them going for first downs, while Derrick Henry had 35 rushes and 31% went for first downs. Yes, he was higher in positive EPA plays, but is 3% on 50% more plays really impressive? That's the problem with the running game. Also, they put up 14 points. If the ball bounces the wrong way just once, they potentially lose with a FG. If either of Tannehill's fumbles were recovered by NE and they kicked a FG, the Titans lose. With all of that running. Using this game is not the best indicator of "Running the football wins games". 

Winning football on offense is about efficiency. It's not about just passing, it's about moving the ball as efficiently as possible to score. But Vel! The Ravens are the best running team in the league. They are. By a wide margin actually. Yet:

Image

Their rushing attack is essentially the equivalent of the Bucs passing attack. The Titans rushing attack is equivalent to the Jags passing offense. The inefficiency of running the ball strips so much value in how many points you're expected to score on a give play. 

I know. Long thread. Most of it will be ignored and fall on deaf ears. But there is a reason the league is passing oriented and leans heavily on top tier QBs. Even a mediocre QB (Tannehill) can change the trajectory of your team more than any one RB. Look at Ryan Fitzpatrick as well. Do I think the Falcons need to improve their running game? Yes. It helps close out games (*cough* SB *cough*). But basing the foundation of an offense around running the ball first, most, and always is playing losing football in today's NFL. 

 

DO NOT QUOTE THE ORIGINAL POST!!!

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Just now, Ovie_Lover said:

**** that's hot. 

Maybe now just maybe this will shut up all the "run the ball to win" ****. 

Run the ball to close out the game sure but this isnt madden. You cant just run down people's throats.

Oh I know some are going to scoff. But it's real. It also lends to why secondary players are becoming more valuable than pass rushers. Coverage is king in this era of the NFL. Belichick has been on this train before others. The LOB was what made Seattle great. The Ravens let Zadarius Smith walk while adding ET and trading for Marcus Peters. But that also flies in the face of "build the trenches first". 

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I can’t speak to what others mean when they say run the ball but to me the importance of running the ball is to establish a physical presence which has a tangible psychological effect on a game and brings a sense of balance to your team that opens everything else up.

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Good post, and good points. However - and I don't think you're saying this is the case, but some might read into it - the importance of the trenches directly impacts efficiency, particularly when running the ball. And I think one statistic that would be interesting to calculate is average efficiency of plays weighted by TOP. 

The more that you can exhaust an opponent with efficient plays, the better your team will do, particularly in the 4th quarter and overtime when everyone is tired. It's why we lost SB 51. It's why the Chip Kelly Eagles burned out. The offense wasn't necessarily bad, but there was no way for his defense to keep up when it failed. It snowballed. Momentum is just so important in the NFL, and teams with a good run game don't have to wander into momentum - they enforce it.

I might try putting together a formula for this, just for kicks. Fun discussion

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Nice write up @vel, very interesting.  Like everything in football, there is a lot of nuance and it is not as black and white as some fans seem to think.  There is very much middle ground and it all works together or it works against each other.

The NFL is moving to a passing league for sure, and I don't want to be behind the times, however...I still want a solid rushing attack.  I don't need to run it 30 times a game, but I need the threat of it and the ability to burn clock using it along with picking up short yardage first downs.  Fact is, no team is going to win a chip sucking at rushing.  Or sucking at passing.  Or sucking at defense or special teams.  It all has to work together to a degree.

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3 hours ago, Ovie_Lover said:

**** that's hot. 

Maybe now just maybe this will shut up all the "run the ball to win" ****. 

Run the ball to close out the game sure but this isnt madden. You cant just run down people's throats.

Sure would have been nice for Shanahan to run the ball to seal the victory in the 4th quarter of the superbowl though. What variables played in to him calling pass plays with an injury riddled offensive line that held up enough to help Matt get us to field goal range few times? 

Side note: I will welcome Shanahan with open arms without hesitation. Best coordinator Matt has ever had. 

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3 minutes ago, ShadyRef said:

Sure would have been nice for Shanahan to run the ball to seal the victory in the 4th quarter of the superbowl though. What variables played in to him calling pass plays with an injury riddled offensive line that held up enough to help Matt get us to field goal range few times? 

Side note: I will welcome Shanahan with open arms without hesitation. Best coordinator Matt has ever had. 

Honestly think he was just feeling himself. He had blown up the Pat's #1 defense in the first half and wanted a final "you held me in the 2nd half but couldn't when it mattered" moment. A final **** you.

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Game planning teams dictates alot of what you do but even so you must have balance.Team defenses are just too good at taking certain aspects and strengths a way.

Run first to me is about imposing your will.

You don’t see it often but play callers not scared to run on 3rd and long or who still dial up run when they are behind them too me are run first teams.

Thats why I never understood our play calling in all essence we got a lot bigger upfront and yet we were still pass to open up the run.A big physical brute of a rookie RT pass protect thanks :doh:

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4 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

Game planning teams dictates alot of what you do but even so you must have balance.Team defenses are just too good at taking certain aspects and strengths a way.

Run first to me is about imposing your will.

You don’t see it often but play callers not scared to run on 3rd and long or who still dial up run when they are behind them too me are run first teams.

Thats why I never understood our play calling in all essence we got a lot bigger upfront and yet we were still pass to open up the run.A big physical brute of a rookie RT pass protect thanks :doh:

One RT doesnt make a run game if the RG and LG are getting blown into the backfield.

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32 minutes ago, Ovie_Lover said:

One RT doesnt make a run game if the RG and LG are getting blown into the backfield.

True but if your an outside zone team would that matter your not blocking man your blocking space.I guess that’s a discussion for the OC that’ll be had during the off season.

Who and what we are schematically in the run game.

All I know is going into the season we had good blocking WRers and a RT that likes putting his hands on people yet we sit him back and let him get exposed in pass pro.

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Shanahan said it best.  It's about balance.   If the Vikings are 40-0 when they run 30+ times then why don't they just do that every game? If Tannehill adds twice as many expected points per play than Henry, why don't the Titans just pass on every play?  It doesn't work either of these ways. 

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9 hours ago, vel said:

This one is from the guys over at The Draft Network. Since coming on the scene, they've been the best draft site in my opinion, rivaling how The Athletic came out for sports journalists. 

Anyway, Dave Gettleman has been one of the biggest topics since the offseason kicked off for over half of the NFL a couple weeks ago. First, his press conference on accepting analytics. Then his hiring of Joe Judge. But I think his response to running the ball has kicked up more dust than any of those in the analytics community. 

There are still fans, even here, that are adamant than teams who run the ball win games, playoff games, and ultimately Super Bowls. Gettleman is still in that camp, living and dying on the running game wins game trope. It doesn't matter how many times this has been disproven. People think analytics are designed to destroy the basic tropes of football, but like the article said, it's to provide context. Counting stats ignore context. Prime example:

For some, that means "See! Running the ball wins games. Run the ball and you will win". When a very simple counter argument can be made:

"Then why doesn't Mike Zimmer open the game with a simple script of 30 straight runs and win the game?"

See what happens when you strip context from stats. Teams that are able to run the ball 30 times are usually controlling the game/clock. The means they most likely have the lead, or if it's a close game, have the better defense. It's like rating a pass rusher solely on stats or a corner on interceptions or a receiver on catches. Fans that don't like analytics resist it because it's changing the game they know, but just watching it could tell you that. The reason the game is changing is because teams are looking for the most efficient ways to move the ball. When QBs, even the worst ones, average 6 YPA (Trubisky) and the best RBs only average 5 YPC (Derrick Henry/Chubb), we're talking a 20% increase in yardage per attempt for the worst QB vs the best RB (solely in terms of average, not skill). Therefore, insisting on running more than passing is insisting on moving the ball in a more inefficient manner because "that's football". 

You see, even from the video, the run goes for about 6 yards, while the PA pass goes for an easy 10 yards and the shot play should have gone for several more, but was dropped. The run game is used to set up the big passing plays in the most efficient manner possible. Kyle gives the clearest breakdown, compared to Gettleman:

Context. You can't just run run pass. Like he said, you can get 5 YPC (which is the league best) all you want, but is that going to lead to points? Let's ask Derrick Henry from his heralded playoff performance: DONT TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

Another example. The Titans beat the Patriots, on the road, and everybody wants to point to Derrick Henry because he had 182 yards and 1 TD. He carried the team. Yet, it still doesn't outpace the impact of the passing game. 

Tannehill had 21 passing plays, with 38% of them going for first downs, while Derrick Henry had 35 rushes and 31% went for first downs. Yes, he was higher in positive EPA plays, but is 3% on 50% more plays really impressive? That's the problem with the running game. Also, they put up 14 points. If the ball bounces the wrong way just once, they potentially lose with a FG. If either of Tannehill's fumbles were recovered by NE and they kicked a FG, the Titans lose. With all of that running. Using this game is not the best indicator of "Running the football wins games". 

Winning football on offense is about efficiency. It's not about just passing, it's about moving the ball as efficiently as possible to score. But Vel! The Ravens are the best running team in the league. They are. By a wide margin actually. Yet:

Image

Their rushing attack is essentially the equivalent of the Bucs passing attack. The Titans rushing attack is equivalent to the Jags passing offense. The inefficiency of running the ball strips so much value in how many points you're expected to score on a give play. 

I know. Long thread. Most of it will be ignored and fall on deaf ears. But there is a reason the league is passing oriented and leans heavily on top tier QBs. Even a mediocre QB (Tannehill) can change the trajectory of your team more than any one RB. Look at Ryan Fitzpatrick as well. Do I think the Falcons need to improve their running game? Yes. It helps close out games (*cough* SB *cough*). But basing the foundation of an offense around running the ball first, most, and always is playing losing football in today's NFL. 

 

DO NOT QUOTE THE ORIGINAL POST!!!

I put the part of the article that nails it in red font.

Edited by shc
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13 hours ago, Ovie_Lover said:

**** that's hot. 

Maybe now just maybe this will shut up all the "run the ball to win" ****. 

Run the ball to close out the game sure but this isnt madden. You cant just run down people's throats.

You have to be able to run the ball to control clock when you have a lead. And, you have have a run mindset when you have a lead or you risk not having that lead for long. 
 

There’s a difference between saying “Running the ball wins games” and “You have to be able to run the ball to win games”. It’s like a chef with an arsenal of kitchen utensils, if you need an immersion blender and you don’t have one it makes completing the dish more difficult. In other words it’s nice to know that you have a running game in your back pocket when you need it

 Either way, I personally have never attached rushing stats directly to either one of these theories.  

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For someone to see the stat that “whenever the Vikings run the ball 30 times, they are 40-0“, then say why don’t they just open up with 30 running plays, is almost as ridiculous as saying the Falcons are 1-0 whenever Senat was activated for a game so we should activate him every game. 
 

But the Sanu factor is real. He is a cancer no matter where he goes. :D

Edited by Skott Lee
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Vel, very nice job!

For years, I have complained about our OL's.  I have complained that we can not gain 2 yards on the ground when we need it most.  In response, I have gotten a deluge of stats showing our total rushing numbers.  And for years, I have argued that the total numbers are nice, but simply do not reflect the situational need to run the ball.  

I think our FO has finally taken steps to shore up the OL.  Yes, the additions of Brown and Carpenter have backfired on us, but at least there is a recognition of the need to improve the OL, especially its interior.  

Going forward, we will need to rely on Julio, Calvin and Ryan to have a potent air attack, but hopefully, soon, we will have a complimentary ground game to take control of games.  

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