There is a fundamental logic to an element of defense on the 2009 Jets that didn't get exploited to the hilt, but could have. The 2010 Jets seem to have addressed this. We could have been a much more dangerous team last year. Who knows how much it would have affected the bottom line, but anyway, you have to know how to ice the cake you bake.
The underlying point of seeing things like the way I am going to show them has to do basically with inter-phase efficiency: capturing optimum value from its opportunities, and seeing how different phases of the game bleed into one another, are interconnected, how opportunities are fostered by this interconnectedness, and why it is so important to get a player at a particular position that can turn the flywheel by hitting homeruns when they get their limited opportunities at the plate.
The most important concept underlying this is the idea that there is no such thing as a closed system. All systems are open systems that overlap and contribute to, bleed into others. All phases of the game bleed into one another in a way that is hard, if not impossible, to capture wholly. The attempt to explain the game of football statistically can perplexing for this reason. Stats isolate a game of myriad interconnected phases and elements. No other game is even remotely like football not only in its complexity, but in the simultaneity of moving parts that contribute to "a simple given play", and the coordination necessary on a variety of levels to even play the game. Unlike baseball, which is itself complex, but not nearly so, where just for example, a pitch, like a football play, is "strategically called", but with much less variety than a football playbook.
Anyway, every half of every game is initiated by the kicking phase of the game, which tees it off to the kick return phase, and this becomes the offense/defense phase. Every score leads into a kick-off situation (not including PAT/FG), connected to a KR situation, until the clocks run down. Likewise, teams on offense can elect to punt rather than just risk turning the ball over on downs.
When we talk about great defense, we are talking about the potential resulting function that affects opportunities in the return game, creating punt returns and limiting kick returns.
Just to show how much of a game changer kickoff returns can be, remember back to Ted Ginn's 2 TDS, or Brad Smith's TD. Momentum swingers.
We can rank the value of KO returns for TDs, and even though they may be rare, we know how TD returns encapsulate the importance of the return game. A return doesn't have to go for a TD to be significant.
+7 = A KO returned for a TD when it leads off a game or half, not as result of TD/FG
Even = A KO returned for TD, after opponent TD
+4 = A KO return for TD, after opponent FG
Fine, this means if your defense is bad, and you give up a lot of scores, your team should emphasize the KO return game. But if your defense is really good scoring-wise, you aren't going to get a lot of opportunities here. Like the Jets. On the other hand, a team with a great defense, in the order of what the Jets had last year, an explosive punt return game should be a super high priority to obtain.
It's very simple. As you defense gets better, the fewer 1st downs an opponent attains. The fewer 1st downs, the more punts forced. Additionally, the fewer 1st downs, and the more punts, and the better the defense gets overall and especially in limiting big scoring plays, the fewer scores you give up. The fewer scores you give up the fewer kick returns you get.
Better defense creates an increasingly polarized and inversely proportional relationship between kick returns and punt returns. As the defense gets better and attains a critical mass - as the elite defenses do and as we did last year - the punt returns increase dramatically while kick return opportunities in turn decrease dramatically.
Let's look. So, Rex builds this incredible defense. The isolated stats are astounding. Best we've ever seen. Let's see some D stats and the corresponding return stats. (Italicized are Defensive Stats and BOLDED are the correlating Return game stats.)
Scoring Defense: 14.8: 1st in league
KICK RETURNS: 44:1st (lowest) in league
Total 1st Downs: 237: 1st; 2nd: MIN, 271
3rd Down Made: 69: 1st (T3)
3rd Down Prcnt: 31.5%: 1st
PUNTS FORCED: 98: 1st; 2nd: SF, 95
PUNT RETURNS: 50: 1st; 2nd: SF, 49
FAIR CATCHES: 26: 1st; (SF: 13)
PUNTS FIELDED: 76 (my statistic: to avoid confusion this will be Punts Caught (PC))
PUNTS UNFIELDED: 22 (my statistic)
PUNTS FORCED (PF) = 98
KICK OFF RETURNS
We let up the fewest scores and thus received the lowest frequency of KO's in the league.
Likewise, we experienced the fewest new 1st downs, gave up the fewest amount of 3rd down conversions, had the best 3rd down stop rate, let up the fewest yards, and therefore we received the greatest amount of punts in the league. Some specific and astounding figures concerning these relationships, along with some notes and conclusions:
PF/KR ratio: 2.23 = ~ 225% more than KR; more than double!
PC/KR ratio: 1.73 = punts fair caught and returned almost double kick returns
PR/KR ratio: 1.14 = 114% of KR: The JETS were the only team with a positive margin between PR to KR.
FC% of all Fielded Punts: 34.2% = 26 of 76 punts were Fair Caught
% of Punts Non-Advanced: 49% = 26 Fair Caught + 22 Unfielded = 48 of 98.
Factoring in fair catches, bc fair catches reduce PRs, even though they mitigate risk of actually catching a punt to then return it, which is likely the most dangerous play in football (with unlikely, or at least uncertain payoff: average 8.4 yds/return league-wide, but stretched by few long gains and many short), and where the risk of losing a ball on turnover between the whistles (as opposed to a turnover on downs, or a punt, which is a turnover by choice) is not just a turnover but a potential momentum swinging turnover-negating turnover.
FC's reduce risk when a significant victory has already been won - a punt - but the return of the punt by an explosive player can add tremendous payoff to an already dominant unit. Having a PR that can break open returns is the icing on the cake the defense bakes.
When you factor in either the average per game punt return opportunity, or the total aggregate returns over a season, you are talking about creating back-breaking potential of astronomical proportions to an opposing team.
Think: An opposing offense just can't move the chains on a given Sunday. (We gave up only 237 1sts total last year and forced a total of 98 punts.) Fine. But add to that a punt returner that -all day- is going to be up to bat swinging for the fences?
No you've got icing to spread on the cake. Here are our Punts-Forced Figures for all 16 weeks of 2009. Think of these as opportunities to hit a homerun. With a better defense than everyone else, we force more of these opportunities:
98 Punts Forced is
50 Punts Returned (457 yds/9/1 avg) plus
26 Fair Catches, equals
76 Punts Fielded (Punts Caught), leaving
22 Punts Unfielded.
To briefly compare to other random teams, here are a few showing
Kick Returns - Punts Forced - Punts Returned - Fair Catches
Punt Returns, not merely Punts Forced is the key statistic. I would surmise that the Jets positive PR-KR ratio has to do with the defense being so good that we win field position, and therefore avoid touchbacks, etc. But the stats don't bear that out. I don't know the explanation.
However, the idea of getting a guy other than the solid Jim Leonard or Cotchery to field punts is a good one. I never understood why this was not emphasized at the expense of KR, especially last year.
A guy like Joe McKnight or Kyle Wilson is almost perfect to exploit this statistical seam that will develop again if we play at a similar level.
It is the difference between small margin of victory/loss and clear victory. It is also a major equalizer, as in the case of a team like New Orleans, Baltimore or Indianapolis.
Our guys did an adequate job last year, but with the frequency of punt return opportunities we're getting, there is a major need to maximize return.
I was actually hoping for a Trindon Holliday, but perhaps Kyle Wilson, or Joe McKnight can step in here. This is a big deal and the FO bringing these two in to compete deserves major props:
Edited by gnamnito blackbird, 25 April 2010 - 01:46 AM.