It’s just about that time

Football Outsiders offers a refresher course in NFL statisticology:

You run when you win, not win when you run.

The first article ever written for Football Outsiders was devoted to debunking the myth of “establishing the run.” There is no correlation whatsoever between giving your running backs a lot of carries early in the game and winning the game. Just running the ball is not going to help a team score; it has to run successfully.

There are two reasons why nearly every beat writer and television analyst still repeats the tired oldschool mantra that “establishing the run” is the secret to winning football games. The first problem is confusing cause and effect. There are exceptions, usually when the opponent is strong in every area except run defense, like last year’s New Orleans Saints. However, in general, winning teams have a lot of carries because their running backs are running out the clock at the end of wins, not because they are running wild early in games.

The second problem is history. Most of the current crop of NFL analysts came of age or actually played the game during the 1970s. They believe that the run-heavy game of that decade is how football is meant to be, and today’s pass-first game is an aberration. As we addressed in an essay in Pro Football Prospectus 2007 about the history of NFL stats, it was actually the game of the 1970s that was the aberration. The seventies were far more slanted towards the run than any era since the arrival of Paul Brown, Otto Graham, and the Cleveland Browns in 1946. Optimal strategies from 1974 are not optimal strategies for today’s game.

And yes, I am very, very nervous about going into the 2010 NFL season with The Tavaris Jackson Experiment as the confirmed backup QB to a man who is on the verge of entering George Blanda territory. Come to think of it, I’d be more comfortable if it was George Blanda backing up Favre and he’s 83 years old.

VPFL UPDATE: It shouldn’t be necessary to worry about the exclusions in the VPFL draft tonight. Yahoo has added the ability to specify keepers and I have done so for everyone. Blackmouth is not keeping anyone, the Meerkats have only one keeper, and Winston is keeping two. The other seven teams are all keeping three.

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