It turns out that this will be a fairly lengthy post; it didn't start out that way, but when, as an avid Niners fan, you mix being an analytical (hi there, FloridaDanny) with a natural curiosity, things happen. Let me explain:
Yesterday I'm minding my own business but decide to jump onto Niner Nation to see what's happening. Fooch has an article up entitled "49ers Penalties: How Many This Week?" Damn good question ... let's give it a read. Then, jsteez puts up a post within Fooch's article:
"Any idea how this [Singletary's record] compared to the Bill Walsh teams?
The penalties seem to reflect on an overall lack of discipline and execution, which doesn't happen to good teams. I'd have to put the majority of the blame on the coaching staff."
God, another really good question. So, sez I, I think that I'll go find out. But, are we talking number of penalties or penalty yards? And how would the other (than Singletary and Walsh) former Niner coaches compare? Well, let's just look at the whole shootin' match. So here's how it looks:
Average Number of Penalties Per Game (total number of penalties called against the coach's team during his total Niner coaching career divided by the total number of games that he coached -- ranked from best to worst):
Walsh (Late*) 5.47
Walsh (Early*) 6.07
*Note -- I divided Walsh's results into two groups: "Early" includes 1979 and 1980 when he was turning the roster over seemingly every five minutes in an attempt to find some viable players -- sometimes he had a hard time having people who even knew some plays by game time. "Early" also includes Walsh's 1982 record of 3-6 accomplished in the strike-shortened season by "scab" players off the street. "Late" includes all the rest of Walsh's coaching record of 91-33-1.
So, it's not our imagination ... Singletary-coached teams do have more penalties called against them. Worse, while his total game average is 6.62, the per game average for 2010 is 7.67. It's gotten worse, not better. 6.62 is 21% more penalties than the best Niner coach, but 7.67 is 40% worse than Walsh (Late). I guess that it's fair to say that Walsh was less willing to put up with penalties than Singletary is.
I wonder what penalty yards would look like?
Average Penalty Yards Per Game (total penalty yards called against the coach's team during his total Niner coaching career divded by the total number of games he coached -- ranked from best to worst):
Walsh (Late*) 45.3
Walsh (Early*) 54.6
Again, that's more than a 22% difference, per game, from top to bottom! Re: Singletary -- more penalties, fewer yards per penalty; damn those false starts!
Well, if that's the case, I wonder if there's a significant difference in the number of lost fumbles? Let's take a look.
Average Number of Lost Fumbles Per Game (this is NOT total fumbles, this is only the total number of fumbles where the Niners losst possession of the ball while playing for a given head coach divided by the total number of games he coached -- ranked from best to worst):
Walsh (Late*) .77
Walsh (Early*) 1.02
I can't let this tidbit go by -- in 1978, the year before Bill Walsh came on the scene, the Niners had two different head coaches during the season, the infamous Pete McCulley (1-8 in 9 games) and Fred O'Connor (1-6 in 7 games) ... a 2-14 combined. Together, their teams averaged 1.69 lost fumbles per game. And we think that we have trouble now!
Obviously these records are just indicators. There are so many different variables each year (different players, different competition, different officials, different issues to be emphasized by the officials, different rules, to name just a few) that impact the results. Nonetheless, I do think that it's interesting to look at these and wonder what each coach took from his relative performance against his peers. Or does he simply pass it off as irrelevant?
Having gone this far I decided to compare head coach's records and rankings on such things as point differential (points for minus points against) per game, yards gained differential per game, first downs differential per game, punts per game, and average time of possession per game. But let's same those for my next post -- call it Part 2, coming soon.