Statistical Analysis: What do the numbers say about Denver?

The last few days have driven many fans here angry, and for good reason. Denver is 3-8, not 8-3. Denver is last in the AFC West, not first. Denver has struggled at home, and many here have invested time and money in support of the entire Denver Broncos organization.

Now that everything has seemed to unravel, fans believe someone has to be blamed for all of the losses that have piled up. I have read several comments saying Bowlen should have expected this when he hired a new head coach. Others blame Josh McDaniels, or they blame it on the entire front office.

First of all, blaming accomplishes nothing, so you can stop now. I am in the Virginia National Guard and went to a military college, and one of the things I remember being told by an officer really struck me.

"In order to separate yourself, your leaders will want you to present them with solutions rather than identify the problem."

This quote is interesting because most everyone here can identify some of what the Broncos struggle with. However, most people do not understand the extent of Denver's struggles and many times overlook some of Denver's strengths.

My goal here is to identify Denver's strengths and weakness and then offer a solution. When we all move from emotional fans to intellectual supporters, the truth become clearer.

When McDaniels was hired, he inherited a team that averaged 23.1 total points scored per game, but also surrendered 28 total points per game. He also inherited a quarterback who was talented but also lacked characteristics important to McDaniels' system.

One of the most common statements I have read is that all McDaniels had to do was fix the defense, and the offense would be fine. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

If anyone is fluent in several languages, they understand why. McDaniels did not speak the same language (offense) that was here. He ran the offense in New England and that is why Denver runs a similar offense. To expect him to coach Denver using the old system is like asking a teacher who knows French to go and teach a class using Spanish even though he does not know Spanish.

Instead, the teacher speaks in the language he is familiar with. Languages take a long time to learn. In the first year, most people who are immersed in a new language, spend time learning the vocabulary and grammar. They begin to learn how to speak each word and complete sentences. Then, after all of the technicalities in a language have been digested, they begin to use it when they go to the grocery store, talk on the phone or hang out with friends.

Even still, it takes time to fully pick up on dialects, cultural phrases and other small aspects only relevant to that culture. In the same way, Denver has been exposed to this new language and it takes more than two seasons for the entire team to start excelling in it. We have all seen the difference it has made with Kyle Orton.

Statistical Significance

I have been researching this past week the accuracy of stats and what they represent. The best way to measure each stat is to find out its correlation to winning. Since the goal is to win, what stat most closely indicates success?

With regards to Denver's offense and whether it was "good", here is what I tested. I ranked each team based on their total number of wins. After that, I measured how far each team deviated from the standings with their rankings in each stat I tested. For example, if Denver had the 16th best record, and ranked 4th in total yards, then total yards per game deviated from the standings 12 spots. I then take the total deviation of all teams and average them. Here is what I found.

*note: The lower the number, the less deviation and closer the stat is to measuring team success

 

Stat 2007 2008 2009 Avg.
Points Per Game
4 5.84 3.75 4.53
Yards Per Game
5.69 6.88 5.31 5.96

 

The chart shows that points scored in each year has been much more accurate when describing team success. In 2008, Denver was #2 in total yards, but only 16th in points scored. If we take away defensive and special teams scoring, Denver actually ranked a little higher because most of their points came on offense. However, this shows Denver's offense was far from great and lacked what was more important. Yards may seem great, and they do help tell the story, but points are proven to be much more significant.

This year, Denver is #8 in yards per game, but 17th (t) in total points with 22.7 points per game. Offensively, Denver is average 22.1 points per game, which is 12th.

The point of this is simple: stats represent lots of things, but they do not tell the whole story. In my previous article breaking down the St. Louis - Denver game, I used an example that apparently needs to be reiterated.

How accurate would it be for a person in New York to equate their cost of living to everyone in America? It is true that the northeast is expensive to live in, for many areas. I live in Virginia, and it is definitely much less expensive to live there than in many of the states in the northeast. The same can be true about stats. There is not a single stat that can fully measure the effectiveness of an offense or defense. There are too many factors that come into play and the offense is just too big.

Therefore, when someone says Denver had the #2 offense in 2008, they obviously have no clue what they are talking about. Even if Denver had the #2 scoring offense, I would ask, "How were they on third down? How many turnovers did they have? What was their yards per play average?" Since there are so many factors to measure an offense, they all must be considered.

So What?

Many of you are probably asking that question - so what? Football is very complex, and if you are going to use numbers to support your claim, then at least use them correctly. Is it true that Denver moved the ball very well in 2008? Yes. Is it true they were very good on third down? Yes.  Is it also true they had a lot of turnovers? Yes. Then use all of these stats.

Every stat has a purpose, and if used beyond its scope, then it becomes inaccurate. The only thing total yards represents is simply that - the distance an offense travels per game. Yes, it slightly correlates to offensive success, but not completely.

Therefore, only use stats to represent what they describe.

Closing Remarks

My website (www.queuestats.com) uses new stats to measure each team. What I have noticed all year is Denver's inability to defend the pass, pressure the quarterback and maintain balance on offense. However, Denver has demonstrated the ability to perform in these areas at times.

I am going to set the example for everyone else. Ranting about how much you hate McDaniels, Denver or whatever does no good. This site is here to further intelligent discussion, not immaturity and rash opinions. Therefore, I will offer my solution for Denver.

Before the game against St. Louis, I said Moreno needed to reach 20 carries. If Lance Ball can be used as well, I am all for it.

My opinion remains the same. In the present, I believe Denver must run more to take the pressure off of Orton. On defense, I believe blitzing must be incorporated to pressure the quarterback. It doesn't need to be on every play, but I believe it needs to be an integral part of Denver's defense.

For the future, I believe Denver must draft at least 2 defensive lineman, a linebacker and a safety.

There, I just offered my solution. I could have said Renaldo Hill sucks, Dawkins is too old, our linebackers are garbage....and so on. Instead, I offered a solution. So next time you want to scream and yell, save us all from hearing your contempt for the Bronco's organization and instead intelligently inform us of your proposal to fix the current team and use stats correctly. It makes you look more credible and makes us all more willing to read what you have to say.

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