I read a great article today on Sports Illustrated today, and it wasn't the Swimsuit Edition. This piece was written by Kerry J. Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts (CHFF) and was focused on our very own San Francisco 49ers.
The title of the piece is "49ers' turnaround thanks to league's best coaching job". I thought at first that it would be a subjective piece; one-man's opinion of how good Jim Harbaugh was at coaching the team based on the same factors the media has been pointing out thus-far: shortened off-season-challenged team beats quality opponents and has top defense, despite much maligned oft-labeled-bust QB, etc, etc.
Once I started reading it I realized that it was actually about quantifying what smart football really is, in terms of statistics. The points made about yards versus points on both sides of the ball are really interesting and things that the national media (and fans) should really consider when evaluating teams based on the numbers.
Join me after the jump for a few examples.
The two key terms the article uses most are "Scoreability" and "Bendability", both of which the 49ers rank first in the NFL.
Scoreability is defined as: offensive efficiency, measured in Yards Per Point Scored (how many yards needed to score a point). The lower the number, the better.
No team has scored more efficiently than the 49ers. San Francisco has produced a meager 1,815 yards of offense. But it has still managed to hang 167 points on the scoreboard. That's an incredible 10.87 Yards Per Point Scored. In other words, the 49ers are good for about one point with each first down.
(Incidentally, the 49ers are on pace to break the record for Scoreability set by New England in 2007, the year the Patriots went 16-0)
Scoreability takes into account ALL points, including special teams, defensive returns (INT's, fumble recoveries), etc.
Well-coached teams score points as many ways as possible. Scoreabilty rewards teams for proficiency in all phases of the game.
The same efficiency applies to the defense as well, making the opposition go as many yards in a game as possible before scoring. Think about it, if you force punts, FG's, or turnovers all game long, the other team is putting up yards, wasting clock, etc. but getting little-to-no points. Red-zone defense is a good example of this. That's why the stat is called "Bendability".
In the context of touchdowns, San Francisco's opponents need 145.3 yards of offense to put 7 points on the board. They have the best "bend-but-don't-break" defense in football. Opponents may generate a lot of yards, but they do very little with all that effort.
Check out the entire article, a great read and good way to look at teams in the NFL on both sides of the ball. It really doesn't matter if you put up 600 yards of offense in a game...if you're only scoring 14 points. Similarly it doesn't matter if you're giving up 500 yards on defense if you're only allowing 10 points.
The 49ers are second in the NFL in total points allowed, despite ranking seventh in yards allowed. Pay no mind to people to speak of the AFC North having the league's "Top Four Defenses". Points is what wins/loses the game.
The same is true with the offense. If you're getting good field position thanks to your special teams and defense, smart football takes advantage of those opportunities and scores without needing a lot of yards.