Monday, June 29, 2015

Chip Kelly, Meet Chan Gailey.

http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2015/06/sturm-the-chip-kelly-comparison-blog.html/

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly reaches for his whistle during NFL football minicamp, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly reaches for his whistle during NFL football minicamp, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
You know, there is nothing on the web that is more under-represented than Chip Kelly conversations.  Let's fix that.  I kid.  If I see one more think-piece on Kelly, I might begin a protest.  Nevertheless, he continues to control the NFL news cycle and as we wrap up June, I thought I might take a morning to answer an email that I received last week on this very topic.  Here it is:
Dear Bob-
I have been meaning to write you about this for some time because, while I do enjoy your work for the most part, I do find your feelings about Chip Kelly to be ridiculous.

All the guy has done is reinvigorate the football world at both the college and pro level in the last decade (from out of nowhere) and in doing so has seen the game from a different perspective and has made many teams change how they approach every last detail of how the NFL does business.

Then, he has won 10 games in his first 2 years and has turned around an organization that Andy Reid ran into the ground. And yet, you, with all of your coaching wins, sits here and takes shots at Chip Kelly every chance you get as over-rated and a short-timer in the NFL.

You realize he will be running the NFC East (and threatening for Super Bowls) for the next decade, right? I would love for you to offer real reasons why you are so strongly in the Anti-Kelly camp.

Otherwise, keep up the good work,
Tim

In fairness to Tim, I receive this email (or one sort of like it) about twice a week during the season.  And, in fairness to Chip Kelly, I feel as I do about the future of the Eagles for a number of reasons (which I will attempt to detail this morning).  But, my overall view on the current state of the Eagles franchise is admittedly more of an overall view of the media and how we cover the NFL in this current form.  It seems like most of the media, especially those that present themselves as coming from a deeper intellectual view of the sport than the old guard, like to prop Kelly and everything he does as basically this decade's version of Billy Beane and the Oakland A's after Michael Lewis' game-changing book Moneyball was released.
Back then, a Billy Beane essay was penned weekly, generally comparing how smart he is to how dumb your general manager is in their views of baseball.  Yes, he was taking a different route than "the establishment", and while that is very thought-provoking, it doesn't change what his ultimate objectives were and more importantly, it doesn't change the idea that everyone is trying to figure out a way to solve the unsolvable riddles that sports present.  Innovators are everywhere in professional sports and they are mostly all brilliant minds trying to spend every waking hour looking for that edge.   He is just the one we have propped up in our prose and the one who is willing to participate with the media so that they might write something that champions this cause.  By the way, there is nothing wrong with that - but let's not act like it isn't self-serving to get the media to eat out of your hand.
Beane is great at what he does and so is Kelly.  It has never been my view to say otherwise.  But, I think that they are presented as the opposite of what sits in the similar offices at other organizations and that the public generally fully buys this premise.  We have found the one "innovator" who is on this lonely fight against conventional thinking!  In reality, for reasons that are both true and myth, they are propped up in conversations to a point that in some public circles these feature stories filled with innovating anecdotes are actually placed on par with those who have dominated the sport for over a decade.  And that is generally absurd.
My view has been that Chip Kelly is that he is a bright mind and a coach you would like to have.  And that makes him comparable to several other coaches who are also trying to climb that mountain of success in the NFL for the first time in their lives.  Guys like Bruce Arians in Arizona, Mike Zimmer in Minnesota, Miami's Joe Philbin, and Houston's Bill O'Brien.  Maybe even Gus Bradley in Jacksonville and Mike McCoy in San Diego.  These are all first time head coaches at the NFL level who are all trying to get to the big room.
Instead, Kelly has been separated from this herd, and is not compared to his peer group, but instead, you find him presented as a "Top 5" NFL coach in a group with Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and Sean Payton - and ahead of guys like Andy Reid, Jason Garrett, Tom Coughlin, Mike McCarthy and Mike Tomlin.  You may see that aside from Garrett, all of those guys have coached Super Bowls, and 3 of them have won Super Bowls, and one of them has won multiple Super Bowls.  Now, I don't really care that he is spit out when you ask a media guy for the Top 5 coaches in the NFL, but you have to admit it is a little much for a guy who is basically (for now) at roughly the same level as Mike McCoy and Bruce Arians.  I am sure they think so.
What is the difference?  Well, I am guessing it is that he does do things differently (haven't you heard?) from sleep monitors to smoothies to tempo to trying to make QB a lesser-leveraged spot in the sport.  Some of these things are successful ventures, some are placebos to promote achievements, but all of it makes for cool features in magazines and blog-space.  Also, and far more attractive to any of us who work covering sports because at one point we all wanted to work IN sports, is the idea that unlike the guys listed above who have all been in the NFL in some capacity for a long, long time, Kelly had never been in the NFL before 2013.  He comes from college football and is certainly not a descendant of Jimmy Johnson or Chuck Noll or Bill Walsh.  He is his own animal who broke into the old boy's network and that is pretty attractive to media guys.
He doesn't need star players to win and he might not need a QB.  He certainly doesn't need a general manager and or your tired football cliches.  Oh, and he is trying to fix Tim Tebow's arm and Sam Bradford's knees.  Ah, yes, the legend of Chip Kelly!
But, there will come a time (sooner than later) when all of the cool anecdotes, color commentator praises, and feature stories in Grantland will no longer be enough.  He will need to separate himself from the competitors in this tough business to show that all that glitters is not just a shiny rock.  And that comes from accomplishment.  Now, when debating a Chip-enthusiast, be prepared for them to already assure you that he has done great things in Philadelphia.  I don't know if you have heard, but he won 10 games in his first two seasons which, they will promise you, is amazing and unheard of.
The following is a list graphic showing a few different coaches in their first 2 years in the NFL - with their names removed for fun:
COACHRECORDPLAYOFF RECvs Playoff Teams
Coach A21-110-15-8
Coach B18-141-17-5
Coach C20-120-14-7
Coach D18-140-25-4
So, the categories are for overall record in 2 seasons, playoff record for those 2 years, and then the overall record in those 2 years versus playoff teams in the regular season.
Not all things are created equal, but this is the actual production for each of these guys and perhaps shows you that there are several guys with rather similar credentials of success through the first 24 months.  You will be interested to know that when it comes to injuries and strength of schedule, there are comparable situations for sure.
Ok, let's reveal who these 4 coaches are...
COACHRECORDPLAYOFF RECvs Playoff Teams
Arians, Arizona,  '13-'1421-110-15-8
McCoy, San Diego, '13-1418-141-17-5
Kelly, Philly,  '13-1420-120-14-7
Gailey, Dallas,  '98-9918-140-25-4
If the point is that something awesome is being built in a different way in Philadelphia, then that is a fun conversation that has an answer similar to the question of whether you have a favorite flavor of ice cream.  You may like strawberry more than vanilla, and that is cool and nothing I can say will change your mind.
But, if the discussion is based on accomplishments and cold, hard facts, well, then we can see that Bruce Arians in Arizona has a real argument for lack of press (it is not sexy to write a feature on an old coach who has been in the NFL forever) and has done so with massive QB injury chaos where Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley started 10 games for him last year in a very difficult division.
If the accomplishment you seek is a playoff win, then look at Mike McCoy, who is still a very young NFL head coach who receives little attention in San Diego.  If you want the only guy on that list who made the playoffs in each of his first 2 years at the helm, then perhaps I can interest you in Chan Gailey, who the Cowboys then fired immediately.
Are you honestly trying to compare Chan Gailey to Chip Kelly???  It really is pretty amazing what having the media do your public relations can do for a guy, right?
In some respects, Chip Kelly is kind of like these other guys, but with a cool grasp of sleep monitors and free agency.
Does that mean I am anti-Kelly?  Not at all.  I would just like us to continue to put the cart behind the horse and wait to see how this all plays out.  Personally, I think his grabbing of the personnel wheel in Philadelphia will be his ultimate undoing, as almost no coach in the modern game can run his own personnel, call his own plays, and be the head coach.  It is a trio of responsibilities that no one man can accomplish.
By the way,  I think Andy Reid was a fantastic coach in Philadelphia, and with 10 playoff wins there, he doesn't need me to defend him.  He has those.  Is Kelly the best coach that the NFL has hired out of the college ranks since Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson?  Maybe.  And that makes for great copy.  But, you could argue that while NFL-lifers Mike Zimmer and Bruce Arians are hard to write 2,500-word think-pieces on, they may be just as good at coaching football as Kelly.  Which, of course, is the actual goal for those men.
One of them might be coaching in the Pac-12 or commentating on television by the year 2018.  It will be interesting to find out which one of these coaches are the latest fad and who will be running the league like Pete Carroll in 3 more seasons.
As Blackie Sherrod would say, "Clip and Save" this blog entry.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2014 Pass Protection Register - Playoffs

http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2015/06/bob-sturms-2014-cowboys-sack-registry-part-5-playoffs.html/

Detroit Lions middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) sacks Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) during the first half of a playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium  in Arlington, on Sunday, January 4, 2015. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
Detroit Lions middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) sacks Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) during the first half of a playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, on Sunday, January 4, 2015. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
We have spent the full month of June examining the merits of the Cowboys offensive line and pass protection performance from 2014.  Back in our first part, we talked about how the Cowboys line appears to be as good as anyone in football, but how much of that is looking at their muscular running game, while not completely seeing the performance of the pass protection?
Here is a passage from part 1:
They allowed 30 regular season sacks. 20 teams allowed more sacks, and a few teams – Jacksonville (71) and Washington (58) allowed way, way more. But, 30 teams attempted more passes than the Cowboys. Only Seattle threw fewer passes. Therefore, we look at sack rate. What percentage of passes are sacks? 5.9% in Dallas. The league average was right there at 6.3%, where the Cowboys finished 16th. 11 teams had a sack percentage of lower than 5%, so you could easily argue that the Cowboys would need to drop 5-10 sacks off their tally to be considered a top team in pass protection.

That isn’t to say they are lousy. But, it is to say they are average in pass-pro.

They are 21st in most sacks allowed. They are 31st in most pass attempts. They are 16th in sack percentage. They allow a sack once every 16.9 pass attempts. Peyton Manning, that magician in Denver, gets sacked once every 36.7 pass attempts and Joe Flacco is once every 30 attempts.
But, that was from the regular season.  How about the playoffs?
In the playoffs, the Cowboys were sacked once every 6 pass plays.  They allowed 10 sacks in only 60 passes.  That 16.7% sack rate is far, far beyond the 5.9% of the regular season.  From one sack every 17 passes in the regular season to one sack every 6 passes?  What gives?
Yes, the competition is better and yes, your QB is generally holding the ball more.  But, league wide, we see that Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck's sack rates actually all went down in the playoffs.  Whereas Romo's nearly tripled.
This is where it gets tricky.  Because if you just look at these 10 sacks, you will get a picture of Romo holding the ball excessively and making poor decisions in the pocket.  But, if you watch the full games against Detroit and Green Bay, you will see that he made plenty of "winning plays" because of these same ideals and strategies.
The Cowboys put a ton on their QB in the playoffs - they ran the ball ok, but not great - in those two post-season dates.  So, they turned to Tony Romo to take them to the promised land, and he almost did.  But, in doing so, he tried to keep some plays alive that clearly in a normal game in Week 6, he would not be asking as much of his OL and of himself.  And let's also not forget it produced magical moments like this one:
To make an omelette, sometimes we have to break a few eggs.  Anyway, let's look at those staggering 10 sacks from 2 games in January:
First a disclaimer:  The analysis below is not meant to be exhaustive for each play.  There is context that could require massive write-ups on each sack, but in the interest of time, let’s do this short and sweet.  I will try to identify the bust on each sack, but sometimes, it will be a guess as we do not know specific assignments.  We are trying to get this right, but invariably, some of you will see the same play and reach a different conclusion.  Cool? 
Sack #1 (Playoffs)
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P1DET1/0:462/6/37452 - Tapp72 - Frederick/78- Parnell
This particular sack demonstrates how complicated this idea of assigning blame can be.  First, we must study the play and go back to that wildcard round against the Lions to recall that the Detroit plan was to counter the Cowboys 2nd down love for playing with 5 targets and an empty backfield in a personnel grouping of S02 (0 RB, 2 TE, 3 WR).  That means a 5-man protection and this way Dallas had been spreading out its opponent, getting defenses to declare coverages, and then Romo would pick things apart.  Well, the Lions were not playing that.  The Lions decided to attack this hard.  Especially testing the right side of the line with Parnell and Martin both making their playoff debuts.  First, they cheat 94-Ziggy Ansah wide as if he is covering 89-Escobar - which he is certainly not.  Then both inside LBs bluff the double A-Gap blitz on each shoulder of Frederick to line up as if 6 men are coming and will rush against 5.  So, Escobar is the hot route, but as you can see, Romo is looking there and seeing the LBs drop off into zones on a zone blitz.  Now, Jermey Parnell misses the snap count here and it looks like most of the line is not ready when Frederick snaps the ball.  Remember he did this on Thanksgiving as well - snaps the ball on the wrong count - and the entire line looked surprised.  But, Parnell (furthest away) looks the most confused and stands there as his man flies by.  Tyron blocks down to double Suh, but Ansah is untouched on the other side.  Hypothetically, that would be Romo's man, but seriously?  Romo is supposed to make Ansah miss?  This play is a disaster, so we could split it several ways.  Let's give half to Frederick, half to Parnell.  And I admit this scoring is shaky.
Sack #2
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P2DET2/14:542/10/47632 - IhedigboCoaches
Lions again decide to attack 2nd down, with the Cowboys trying to sell some play-action. Detroit lines up an overload fire zone blitz, again attacking the right side of the Cowboys line to get at the rookie RG and the backup RT.  Again, watch the Cowboys double team Suh with 72/70 and when Martin vacates his spot, 2 Lions run right through that gap.  Then watch the RB/FB sort through all of the players crashing through.  Detroit is basically sending 6 guys which is really aggressive for this point of a game and this down and distance.  Because of that, Dallas looks completely shocked that this is happening.  Again, if you want specific blame here, it is going to be tough.  It was a great ambush where the Lions coaches stuck it to the Cowboys coaches with a wrinkle.  They risked the house and sent everyone and the Cowboys had to quickly learn that they are attacking 2nd Downs hard.
Sack #3
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P3DET2/6:122/6/46659 - Whitehead65-Leary / 77 - Smith
This play above is where frustration was really high.  We saw back in October that the way teams were defending the Cowboys play-action was by ignoring it.  Nobody was buying the play-fake which is interesting, given how well the Cowboys ran the ball all year.  This is roughly the last time in the game the Cowboys would use 2 TEs.  Because everytime they did it, the Lions sent LBs at Romo.  Here, you can see the 1st LB move Leary out of the way (too easily), so that the trail LB has a free sprinting run at Romo in the blink of an eye.  This all happens in 1.8 seconds, nobody "busted" their block badly, and again, you would say this is the Lions' coaches telling the Cowboys' staff that we are going to do this all day.  The Cowboys responded later by switching to 11 personnel and allowing Romo to burn them, but it took more than a half to get there.  I am scoring this one against Leary and Smith, as Leary cannot allow a LB to move him out of his gap that easily and Smith in general would have to pick up the inside blitzer and leave the edge guy for Romo (although that guy doesn't even look like he planned on rushing).  If Tyron blocks down and Leary stands his ground, this has more than 1.8 seconds for sure.
Sack #4
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P4DET3/13:533/1/10494 - Ansah9 - Romo
Detroit had a really good defense last season.  Here is another case of it.  It is 3rd and 1.  The Cowboys don't see that as a running down, but the Lions are just rushing 4 and playing man-under where Witten and Dez are not going to get free in time.  Meanwhile, the 70/72 double team against Suh is not working for long and Parnell has his hands full on Ansah again.  Romo has the ball for 4.5 seconds and is trying to make a play, but you cannot ask much more of the line and would likely put this on your QB/passing game for not using the protection more efficiently and the coaching staff for the play-call.  I can't ask Parnell on an island to block his guy much longer and Suh is double-teamed every play for a reason.  He is unblock-able.  In this case, Romo takes the sack, but we are about to see that he is willing to take those in the playoffs.
Sack #5
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P5DET4/14:002/10/18590 - Suh9 - Romo/70 - Martin
This is an amazing game vs Detroit.  Romo turned full gun-slinger to try to pull off a playoff win and he eventually did it.  But, in doing so, he had to throw caution to the wind on several occasions.  Here is a crazy 6.5 seconds in the pocket.  Given that the airhorn at training camp blows at 3.2, we know that 6.5 is suicide.  The protection is pretty great, save for Martin trying to deal with Suh again.  Even that goes ok for 3 seconds, but eventually Suh throws him aside and takes the play over as Romo tries to keep things alive.  Tony has to get rid of the ball, and we might need to give Martin some help.  Watch Parnell here.  Pretty impressive from him.
Sack #6
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P6DET4/13:123/16/24490 - Suh9 - Romo
It is 3rd and 16.  You are in field goal range but down 20-14.  Romo wants a touchdown so he is not interested in a dump-off to Beasley for 8 yards.  But, in turning that down for a bigger play, he spends another 6 seconds asking Ron Leary to occupy Suh because the Lions are lining up here and basically isolating Suh versus Leary.  6 seconds is "you are on your own" territory in the NFL, and Romo is willing to roll the dice here to make a play.  It doesn't work out and they take their 6th sack of the day.  The idea that they won a game where they conceded 6 sacks is something that happens about once a decade.
Sack #7
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P7GB1/13:383/6/27556 - Peppers65 - Leary
Ok, now you can see the trends.  The Packers want to occupy Frederick with a guy on his nose and line up a pass rusher on the outside shoulder of Leary to get him isolated (also take Tyron wide).  Now, Green Bay has what they want, Julius Peppers versus Leary in space.  Romo tries to step up, but Peppers gets the ball and the sack.  Pretty cut and dried.
Sack #8
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P8GB3/0:091/10/48553 - Perry65 - Leary, 77 - Smith
This looks a bit like P3 against Detroit, with a play-action to the right side of the line, the defense doesn't buy it, and then Romo gets collapsed upon in a moment.  Tyron is beat on the edge by the disappointing Nick Perry and look at Leary getting fork-lifted back by the strong Mike Daniels.  It looks like Leary is hoping for more help from Frederick, but Daniels is on him too fast.  DeMarco looks awfully free and clear, but there isn't much time.
Sack #9
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P9GB4/15:002/18/40453 - Perry/76 - Daniels65 - Leary/9 - Romo
This one is another case where we see that a 4-man rush in the playoffs gave the Cowboys a lot of issues.  Partially because that left 7 in coverage to keep Romo from having tasty options, but partially because it was time to expose some guys who don't pass protect well.  And when we talk about that, we see that again, Ron Leary is just not on the highest of levels.  In the playoffs, teams attacked him and found success.  Now, Mike Daniels is a real nice player, but Green Bay is loving that match-up.  If Romo holds the ball for any time, Daniels is going to overwhelm his guy.  Which he does.  4.4 seconds and 2nd down, so we need Romo to ask less of his guys, but again, it is the 4th Quarter of a playoff game so he isn't worried about much right here but figuring out a way to get a win.
Sack #10
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P10GB4/6:262/7/37495 - Jones/96 - Neal9 - Romo/72 - Frederick
Just 2 plays before that famous 4th and 2, here is Romo trying to keep a play alive for 7.2 seconds.  Interesting to see on all of these 2nd half sacks, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are either in coverage or not really involved.  This is 76-Daniels again collapsing the pocket (this time against Frederick who has to drop anchor better) and Datone Jones working around Parnell.  Romo is trying to win the biggest game of his career here, so he isn't throwing this ball away.  Eventually, you can see that he is doomed, and Lance Dunbar looks disappointed he didn't get a throw coming across the field.   Again, Romo is holding the ball too long, but again, he doesn't mind.
=====
So, now, of those 10, here they are all together.  You can see that Romo is down on many as he was definitely ramping up his aggressiveness in the playoffs (by design), Leary is on 4 of those (prompting me to wave the La'el Collins banner), and the rest of the sacks are spread evenly, it seems.
You can also see a lot of normal 4-5 man pressures which caused the OL some issues when you asked them to hold up an extra second.  This is a very good group, but you do see how they have room to improve in pass protection.
SackOppQ/TimeD/D/YdRushSackFault
#P1DET1/0:462/6/37452 - Tapp72 - Frederick/78- Parnell
#P2DET2/14:542/10/47632 - IhedigboCoaches
#P3DET2/6:122/6/46659 - Whitehead65-Leary / 77 - Smith
#P4DET3/13:533/1/10494 - Ansah9 - Romo
#P5DET4/14:002/10/18590 - Suh9 - Romo/70 - Martin
#P6DET4/13:123/16/24490 - Suh9 - Romo
#P7GB1/13:383/6/27556 - Peppers65 - Leary
#P8GB3/0:091/10/48553 - Perry65 - Leary, 77 - Smith
#P9GB4/15:002/18/40453 - Perry/76 - Daniels65 - Leary/9 - Romo
#P10GB4/6:262/7/37495 - Jones/96 - Neal9 - Romo/72 - Frederick
Catch up on the whole project below:
I hope you enjoyed this June project and also hope it gives us an idea of each individual's contribution to a very important component of winning football.  As they say, on to the next one.