Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Seahawks' Press Crew is Inflating Tackles

PERSPECTIVE
By Nick Webster


How do we know?

There are a few different ways. First of all let me define what we’re talking about here, some teams coaching staffs collect tackle statistics, and their relative definitions of a tackle can vary widely.  What do you do when a player runs out-of-bounds, is anyone credited with a tackle, the closest defender, a defender if they ran them OOB? What about the second guy in, the third, etc.  Well, in recent years the NFL has done an excellent job of better standardizing unofficial statistics like tackles, passes defensed or forced fumbles by giving prescriptive guidance to the folks who compile play-by-plays.  For the purposes of this discussion, tackles are those that are compiled by the league from play-by-plays . . . the type you’ll find on NFL.com, Pro Football Reference, or any of the typical web-sights, though not necessarily what might be in next years team media guides.

So how do we know the Seahawks are inflating, and how do they compare to other teams?  First, let’s look at the number of total tackles (solo tackles plus assisted tackles) they’ve credited as a portion of all the tackle opportunities. Tackle opportunities are completed passes minus passing TD’s allowed plus rushing plays minus rushing TD’s allowed, these are the plays where a defender could have made a tackle. There is typically more than one tackle credited per opportunity over the course of the season as – we can all observe – there are certain plays where, clearly, more than one player is in on the tackle.  Year-to-date (through 16 of 17 weeks) across the league for every tackle opportunity 1.22 total tackles (solo tackles plus assisted tackles) have been credited.  But the Seahawks lead the league crediting 1.33 tackles per tackle opportunity, they’re followed up by the Bills and Giants at 1.32 and 1.31, respectively. The Chiefs, Colts and Jags, respectively, have credited 1.1, 1.11 and 1.12 tackle per opportunity. 

Team
Solo
Ass
TT
%Solo
StDev
Toppy
Solo%Toppy
Ass%Toppy
TT%Toppy
Ari
619
168
787
78.7%
1.3
692
89%
24%
114%
Atl
592
265
857
69.1%
-0.4
698
85%
38%
123%
Bal
555
251
806
68.9%
-0.4
662
84%
38%
122%
Buf
619
291
910
68.0%
-0.5
687
90%
42%
132%
Car
557
292
849
65.6%
-1.0
703
79%
42%
121%
Chi
646
189
835
77.4%
1.0
698
93%
27%
120%
Cin
575
292
867
66.3%
-0.8
704
82%
41%
123%
Cle
552
288
840
65.7%
-0.9
743
74%
39%
113%
Dal
595
271
866
68.7%
-0.4
677
88%
40%
128%
Den
636
238
874
72.8%
0.3
725
88%
33%
121%
Det
599
198
797
75.2%
0.7
693
86%
29%
115%
GB
613
190
803
76.3%
0.9
659
93%
29%
122%
Hou
537
257
794
67.6%
-0.6
640
84%
40%
124%
Ind
574
199
773
74.3%
0.5
694
83%
29%
111%
Jax
638
155
793
80.5%
1.6
711
90%
22%
112%
KC
620
159
779
79.6%
1.4
708
88%
22%
110%
LA
623
206
829
75.2%
0.7
716
87%
29%
116%
Mia
593
336
929
63.8%
-1.3
740
80%
45%
126%
Min
554
268
822
67.4%
-0.6
656
84%
41%
125%
NE
483
294
777
62.2%
-1.5
664
73%
44%
117%
NO
597
231
828
72.1%
0.2
684
87%
34%
121%
NYG
661
263
924
71.5%
0.1
705
94%
37%
131%
NYJ
535
274
809
66.1%
-0.9
692
77%
40%
117%
Oak
601
159
760
79.1%
1.3
650
92%
24%
117%
Phi
548
232
780
70.3%
-0.2
653
84%
36%
119%
Pit
594
248
842
70.5%
-0.1
656
91%
38%
128%
SD
615
197
812
75.7%
0.8
684
90%
29%
119%
Sea
507
417
924
54.9%
-2.8
695
73%
60%
133%
SF
675
241
916
73.7%
0.4
769
88%
31%
119%
TB
644
165
809
79.6%
1.4
687
94%
24%
118%
Ten
598
183
781
76.6%
0.9
663
90%
28%
118%
Was
643
262
905
71.0%
0.0
713
90%
37%
127%
League
18,998
7,679
26,677
71.2%
0.0
22,121
86%
35%
121%

These may seem like small differences, but the upshot is that Bobby Wagner, the leagues’ total tackle leader with 155, if we adjust all teams to 1.22 tackles per tackle opportunity** falls to second behind little known Christian Kirksey who trails in the raw numbers by 25 with just 130 total tackles.



ALL
RK
Name
Asst
1
Bobby Wagner
75
80
155
2
Sean Lee
93
52
145
3
Zach Brown
93
45
138
4
Kwon Alexander
102
33
135
5
Alec Ogletree
95
37
132
T5
Christian Kirksey
83
49
132
7
Zach Orr
89
41
130
8
Benardrick McKinney
78
50
128
9
Paul Posluszny
94
33
127
10
Tahir Whitehead
93
32
125

But, of course, the obvious argument is that some teams naturally do more gang tackling than others, this should be naturally observable in the types of disparities represented in the numbers cited above.  But there is a way to understand this better as well, as these stats are compiled by the press box crew for the home team, we can observe tackle statistics for the same team in home games versus road games, for a team who truly gang tackles more often, you’d expect the ratios of solo tackles to assisted tackles to be fairly consistent. What do we observe then for teams like the Seahawks?

Home Games
Away Games
 Solo
Asst
% Solo
Solo
Asst
% Solo
214
286
43%
299
138
68%

Notice a difference?  League wide solo tackles are 71% of all tackles and the road figure of 68% is certainly witin spitting distance of that, however, the home figure is simply implausible. In fact the ratio of tackles to tackle opportunities, if the Seahawks played every game at home would be over 1.4.  Here are some key ‘Hawks’ stats at home versus on the road:


Home
Road
Name
 S
A
%S
  S
A
%S
Bobby Wagner
27
57
32%
49
23
68%
KJ Wright
25
40
38%
38
14
73%
Earl Thomas
10
14
42%
14
8
64%
Richard Sherman
16
10
62%
20
10
67%
DeShawn Shead
27
18
60%
28
6
82%
Kam Chancellor
20
22
48%
21
11
66%

Consider the fact that certain position will naturally gang tackle more than others – CB’s are unlikely to be gang tackling, LB’s and DT’s are very likely to . . . but the trends here are indisputable, there’s home cooking going on in the Seattle press box. So, the Seahawks get credited with more assists than other teams, more total tackles than other teams as a function of that, and it’s all at home that makes the difference. Is this home cooking, or just a press box with a more liberal view of tackles?  How do opponent defenders fare in tackle to opportunity ratio and tackle to assist ration when playing in Seattle?

Solo
Asst
Ratio
Comp
CompTD
Rush
Rush TD
T Oppy
Ratio
247
296
45%
189
15
218
11
381
143%

Well, interestingly, is appears that the press box crew is equally an outlier and not just in the favor of Seahawks. In fact, the more you play in Seattle, it seems, the more assists and total tackles you’ll make.

Does any of this really matter, maybe, maybe not. Tackles are about the least sexy statistic you can find, on just about every play someone makes a tackle. However, a couple seasons ago it was on the shoulders of one huge tackle game that Luke Kuechly separated himself from the pack to win Defensive Player of the Year, keeping J.J. Watt from winning four straight. A quick Google search for LukeKuechly from his rookie season through the start of last year (he got some hits as the anthers went on their Super Bowl run), reveals that the week following his 24 tackle game – one in which he had 9 solo tackles and 15 assists - shows that he had the most hits immediately following that 24 TT game.

So I’d argue that, tackles matter, we have crews compiling them in a materially different manner, and that matters. This needs to be resolved, but before Tony Dungy casts one more vote for Bobby Wagner as MVP, it needs to be understood!

** Adjustment is calculated as players’ tackles divided by teams’ tackles per opportunity multiplied by league average tackles per opportunity.  For Wagner 155 / 1.33 * 1.22 = 142


3 comments:

  1. So do you have something against Wagner specifically, or the Seahawks as a whole? Sean Lee can be one good game from catching him and there's no "home cooking" there? Or anyone else that has lead the league in the last few years for that matter..And I'm pretty sure Dungy is qualified to vote for whoever he wants to for any award he sees fit. And I'd say he's more than qualified to do so.

    ReplyDelete