Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rams v Cardinals post-mortem

Sam Bradford completed 32 of 55 passes for 253 yards with 1 TD and 3 Ints. This gives him an NFL passer rating of 53.068. His NCAA rating would be 91.912.

33 QBs in the NFL threw enough to qualify for a passer rating on week one of the 2010 season. Sam is currently the 30th ranked QB in the league. Alex Smith (49ers), Shaun Hill (Lions) and Matt Moore (Panthers) are below him.

Sam can take some comfort that Mark Sanchez is only about 3 points higher than he is, and Joe Flacco is less than 10 points ahead of him. Brett Favre is less than 20 points ahead of Sam. As you can surmise, this was a tough weekend for QBs.

It should be noted that Vince Young is crushing everyone with a QB rating of 142.8. I knew he was good. That's why I own a copy of his jersey. Still, it's not all that impressive when you consider that he only shot 13/17 for 153 yards.

There are 5 variables required to compute an NFL or NCAA passer rating. Those five variables are:
1. Attempts
2. Completions
3. Yards
4. Touchdowns
5. Interceptions

Having written a simple little WPF Passer-rating calculator in C#, I think I understand this formula fairly well. I sat around fiddle-faddling with Sam's numbers trying to understand where things went wrong.

So the interceptions killed Sam, right? Not exactly. Subtract all three interceptions, and his rating only rises 75.795 (NCAA=102.821). Those are not particularly high ratings.

So he didn't throw enough touchdowns? Not exactly. Tossing another touchdown only tacks on 6 or so points, in the best case scenario. Tossing two more touchdowns only adds about 12 points.

The fundamental issue is Sam's yardage per attempt and yardage per completion. Sam only had 4.6 yards per attempt (253/55 = 4.6). Sam only got 7.9 yards per completion (253/32 = 7.9). His passer rating is only going to rise if these two figures heads north in a hurry.

Strictly speaking, Sam' stats on Sunday indicates that the Rams will come up short attempting to convert a simple 3rd and 8 situation, even the pass is complete. That completion will only happens 58% of the time. Those kinds of probabilities don't deliver a good passer rating.

What is missing? I'll tell you what is missing: the vertical offense. The Rams ran precious few vertical routes on Sunday. I saw lots of horizontal crossing shit; very few 999 all-goes. I would settle for a few 69 Razors. Even if you check down to Steven Jackson from 69 Razor, Jackson will have room to rumble because you stretched the field.

So what went wrong?
1. The WCO
2. Too many short routes (WCO).
3. No vertical 8 and 9 routes (WCO)
4. Too many horizontal crossing patterns inside 15 yards (WCO)
5. Pathologically conservative pass routes (WCO and Shurmur)
6. No vertical stretch (WCO).
7. Too many throws to Mark Clayton.
8. Mardy Gilyard was not in the lineup enough
9. Not enough throws to Mardy Gilyard
10. Poor pass protection

Notice that I list poor pass protection last? That's a new world order for me. I normally put that first on my lists.

As you can see, I am laying the corpse at the WCO's doorstep. Most of what went wrong with the Rams offense on Sunday has everything to do with the design and implementation details of the West Coast Offense, one of my least favorite offensive schemes in football.

Folks, this is what you get with the West Coast Offense. That dog had its day, and that day is now over. If you run the WCO, properly, this is the outcome you should expect. You get what you pay for. Once in a while, the WCO has a good Sunday, but that isn't most Sundays. As the famous New Orleans Bluesman once sang: Even the sun shines on a dog's ass some days.

In case you didn't get the take home message from the former paragraphs: I really, really, really, really, really don't like the WCO. If you do, show proof that it still works in its kosher form. I'll bet you real money you can't do that.

For further evidence of this fact, have a good look at what Kevin Kobb did in Philly before getting knocked out. Andy Reid truly experienced a retro moment there. He was trying to run a fully Kosher WCO for the first time in a long time. The battle did not go well, until Kobb was knocked out of the game, and Vick shreaded the WCO playbook.

Vick always plays sandlot ball. It is always a night at the improv with Michael Vick. Better a night at the improv-sandlot than a night with the WCO, I always say.

For some benighted people, the WCO means a highly sophisticated, organized, systematic, high-percentage, scientific approach to football. That perception is almost entirely faulty and off-point. What it is a stodgy, predictable, inflexible, easily countered offense. A well organized defense need not fear the WCO.

So what would be the correct solution for the Rams at this stage of the Season? Well it's simple really. You have to stretch the defense both horizontally and vertically. "Stretching" a defense horizontally alone doesn't stretch them at all these days.

A combined vertical and horizontal stretch is the signature and Hallmark of the Spread offense. The Spread is an offense Bradford knows well, and an offense which is mathematically sound. Mike Leach, the world's foremost authority on the Spread, is available on the market now. Ergo sum, you fire Shurmur, you hire Mike Leach. You run the vertical and horizontal stretch plays from the Spread, and you rip teams up.

Bottom line folks: I feel profoundly disconnected from the Rams.

The Rams executed a draft strategy this year I would never have pursued. None of the guys on my hit list were drafted by the Rams. All of the guys drafted by the Rams were either in my no-fly zone, or were complete unknowns. I would have changed offensive coordinators, Devaney did not. The lesson is plain: Devaney has a plan, and it doesn't look anything like my plan.

That would be fine if he also had a good plan. The problem is I don't like his plan. It involves ultra-high risk strategies such as (a) drafting wounded passers, (b) providing inadequate protection schemes, and (c) using an outdated, outmoded, systematically defeated offense (the WCO) that is certain to produce poor results.

Did I mention Pat Shurmur? I'd cut his head off. Get out the guillotine. Awe forget it...

Let me ask you straight-up: Do you think Devaney's plan is a good plan?

The whole team is headed in a direction I don't like, as I knew it would.