Clearly, the only drama left in the season will be the fate of the coaching staff and front office when Black Monday comes. As many of you have figured out, I believe in numbers. We can give into simple narratives and when you look at a 4-13 record and then a 1-12-1 record it is easy to say this team is worse than it was a year ago. What we know though is that the standings don’t tell the whole story.
For one, the team was only 3-11 at this point in the season last year. They won a key game against the Los Angeles Chargers that effectively cost them a playoff berth last season. They played the Titans tough at the end of the season as well. So, like this season, they were playing their best football at the end of the season. The question is whether they have shown significant signs of improvement given the other numbers we use.
As a general rule, I begin with a question. It has often been said that everyone uses statistics like a lamp post. Some use it for illumination. Others use it as something to lean on. I aim for the former. So, I simply ask a question and come up with as much data as possible to answer the question. Others start with an answer and try to find as much data to prove that answer. As I write this, I don’t know how it will turn out. We will see when we get to the bottom, Since the season has three games left, we will look at everything on a per game basis.
Points Per Game: 2021: 16.5, 2022: 16.8
Total Yards Per Game: 2021: 278.1, 2022: 278.4
Passing Yards: 2021: 194.4, 2022: 188.2
Rushing Yards: 2021: 83.6. 2022: 90.2
Yards Per Play: 2021: 4.7. 2022: 4.7
Net Yards Per Pass: 2021: 5.6, 2022: 5.3
Yards Per rush: 2021: 3.4, 2022: 3.9
Sacked: 2021: 2.6, 2022: 2.4
First Downs: 2021: 15.6, 2022: 16.5
Turnovers: 2021: 1.3, 2022: 1.6
TD/INT: 2021: 21/15, 2022: 14/14
What do these numbers mean? I suppose that depends on which ones you want to pay attention to. The team does score a little more than last year’s team. They run the ball better on a per carry basis and have more rushing yards per game. The offensive line blocks better when you consider they don’t get sacked as often in addition to the improvement in the running game. Yet, this is where the improvement stops.
They turn the ball over more than last year’s squad. They really didn’t gain any more yards total or on a per play basis. The key here is that the quarterbacks collectively have regressed. They have fewer net yards per attempt and they turn the ball over more often. if we extrapolate the touchdown to interception ratio to the full season then they will end up with 20 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. It’s hard to say they are any better offensively in any measurable fashion and you could claim they are worse when quarterback play and turnovers are taken into account.
Points Per Game: 2021: 26.6, 2022: 24.6
Total Yards Per Game: 2021: 384.4, 2022: 388.9
Passing Yards: 2021: 242.2, 2022: 221.4
Rushing Yards: 2021: 142.2. 2022: 167.5
Yards Per Play: 2021: 5.9. 2022: 5.8
Net Yards Per Pass: 2021: 7.1, 2022: 6.7
Sacks: 2021: 1.9, 2022: 2.4
First Downs: 2021: 22.5, 2022: 22.2
Turnovers: 2021: 1.5, 2022: 1.4
TD/INT: 2021: 27/17, 2022: 13/10
Okay, it looks like the passing defense is considerably better than it was a year ago. They are on pace to surrender only 17 touchdown passes in comparison with last season’s 27. Of course, one could credibly claim that other teams don’t need to pass because the run defense is worse. Teams last year gained 4.6 yards per carry. That has increased to 4.9 and the nearly 170 yards per game is on pace to be the worst rushing defense in my lifetime.
If the Houston Texans reach 172 yards surrendered per game they will have the worst run defense since 1972. With Derrick Henry staring them in the face this weekend they could eclipse that mark by next week. So, you have a team with a better pass rush and better pass defense but they really aren’t much better defensively overall.
The Final Verdict
While the record is worse, the average margin of defeat last season was just over ten points per game. That has gone down to 7.8 points per game. Lovie has done a better job of keeping it close. I suppose there is something to be said for that, but the spread on overall yardage and yardage on the ground has increased. In other words, they are getting beat worse in most categories except what is on the final scoreboard.
Here’s the thing: even staying the same has to be seen as worse. After all, you should have more talent than you had a year ago. Presumably, you are taking the talent you have and making the most of it. After all, he didn’t have any coaches shoved down his throat like David Culley had. These are all his guys. He hired all of them. They should be a better football team. They shouldn’t be a playoff team or even necessarily average, but they should be better. They are not better and when you look at what this coaching staff has done with the quarterbacks it is impossible to make any argument for them getting a chance to coach up Bryce Young.