Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NFL teams should stop running the football

Today's Grantland Channel video spotlights Pulaski Academy's Kevin Kelley, the high school football coach who never punts and almost always onside kicks. While Kelley's approach, which he calls both a strategy and a philosophy, has yet to catch on in college or the pros, Kelley has became the poster boy for savvy, statistically driven football innovations.

So who is the next Kevin Kelley? Well, he's probably bound to destroy your fantasy football draft strategy, because the next Kelley is going to stop running the ball. The numbers tell us that Kelley is correct not to punt, and the numbers also tell us the next football revolution should be NFL teams abandoning the ground game.

Let me explain: Winning football games requires moving the ball on offense. Even factoring in negative plays on sacks, NFL teams have averaged 6.10 yards per pass attempt over the past 10 seasons. In contrast, they've netted 4.17 yards per rush attempt. Teams can't afford to give up almost two yards per attempt based on play selection.

Still not convinced? Consider this: Over those 10 years, there has been almost no correlation between rush yards per attempt and winning. The correlation coefficient is 0.12, meaning yards per rush attempt accounts for 1.4 percent of the variance in winning. Conversely, yards per pass attempt accounts for 41 percent.
--Ed Feng, Grantland, on suboptimal mixed strategies