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Turnovers Overrated to Coaches Who Understand Football

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  • Turnovers Overrated to Coaches Who Understand Football

    Oates of the LA Times

    THE ST. LOUIS RAMS had lost the first half in Seattle, 24-7, as quarterback Marc Bulger threw two interceptions and was sacked twice. And at halftime, in bars and during gabfests all over the land, the old-timers who don't like the Rams' pass-minded coach, Mike Martz, were pounding the table and sarcastically shouting: "Keep passing, Mike. Keep passing! Keep passing!"

    That was last Sunday, and it drew a big laugh from everyone. Martz, though, didn't hear it, and anyhow he doesn't often take advice. In the last five minutes of the game, he simply kept passing to catch the Seahawks — who in the fourth quarter had stepped out to a 27-10 lead — and in overtime he kept passing to win, 33-27.

    Here's the point: An interception or a sack is nothing but a nuisance to a passing team — along with dropped passes and other bothersome problems like offside penalties in noisy visiting stadiums where unsporting homers try to upset the visitors' offense. Turnovers are, in fact, inevitable for teams that throw numerous passes. Inevitable but not disruptive. To a passing team, a turnover merely annoys, it doesn't destroy. A passing team simply absorbs the shock of a turnover and keeps passing to overcome the turnover.

    As I've said for years, turnovers are overrated. Of all the adverse things that happen to good football teams, turnovers are the most overrated. Turnovers are a relic of the days when Martz's old critics were not yet sedentary, when, instead, they were active young men playing field-position football and trying their mightiest to make no mistakes. That was admirable, then, perhaps, although to focus heavily on the avoidance of mistakes is to miss a lot of touchdowns and a lot of fun.

    Then and now, turnovers have been disastrous to teams playing field-position football — which was Chuck Noll's football in the days when Terry Bradshaw was his quarterback and the Steelers were winning Super Bowls with probably the best talent ever banded together.

    In today's game, field position is itself greatly overrated. Every NFL week, passers move their teams up and down the field at will, as, most recently, Tennessee moved Monday night. You're stuck on your own 10-yard line? No problem. Just throw the ball.

    Note to Martz Critics: He Did Try to Run

    THE RAMS made two unacceptable mistakes at Seattle. First, coach Martz demonstrated that at times, between games, he does listen to his critics, both the sarcastic ones and the sincere, all of whom tell him repeatedly that he should start running the ball. Second, perhaps trying to heed his critics in the first half at Seattle, he ran it with running backs Marshall Faulk and rookie Steven Jackson — two of the NFL's best — at all the wrong times.

    The case example of the wrong time to run in a pro game is first down. Defensive teams all concentrate on running plays on first down. Even if they suspect that a pass might be coming, they realize they must be ready for a running play too. They know that offensive coaches all fret that a first-down incomplete will bring up second and long, football's thorniest offensive down. As an example of the right time to run, think of any time when the defense is anticipating pass — say on second and 8, maybe, or third and 10.

    Despite the likelihood that Martz knew better than to send Faulk running on first down four times at Seattle, he did just that. All four runs failed, two in the first quarter, when, consequently, Martz's offense predictably went three and out. Indeed, up to the time when Seattle led in the second quarter, 10-0, the Rams had had the ball for only six offensive plays. Because they had unrealistically hoped to run it, they were doomed, then, unless Martz remembered to get his pass offense into the game, which, just in time, he did.

    Martz, who has three of the NFL's great receivers, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk, along with an exceptional passer, Marc Bulger, is the NFL's brightest pass-play designer. Yet the skill to design good plays doesn't equate with the ability to call good plays. Play-design and play-calling are obviously unrelated talents. For example, it doesn't necessarily follow that a gifted play-designer understands that first down is by far football's most useful offensive down. It's the only time when the play-caller can count on calling every play in his arsenal — every long pass, every short cleverly designed pass, every sneaky run — from any yard line on the field — against defensive players who, fearing a creative running play, are reluctant to blitz on first down.

    Sure, sometimes, a Faulk can break out for seven yards or even l5 on a first-down running play. But even then it's a wasted play. On first down, what's a good 15-yard run when, in a short 60-minute game, you can use valuable time to get off, say, a good 40-yard pass?

    Are you trying to keep your defensive players off the field? Why? They need the experience. They've proved that.

  • #2
    Re: Turnovers Overrated to Coaches Who Understand Football

    This guy is apparently not the brightest bulb on the porch. Let's look at the turnover stats for the season to date:

    Takeaways Giveaways Net
    Team G Tot Int Fum Tot Int Fum Diff
    New York (N) 5 15 8 7 4 1 3 11
    Seattle 4 13 8 5 3 2 1 10
    Detroit 4 12 4 8 3 2 1 9
    New York (A) 4 11 6 5 4 2 2 7
    Tennessee 5 10 6 4 4 2 2 6
    Arizona 5 14 4 10 8 3 5 6
    Indianapolis 5 10 6 4 6 3 3 4
    Pittsburgh 5 12 6 6 8 4 4 4
    San Diego 5 8 4 4 5 2 3 3
    New England 4 9 5 4 7 4 3 2
    Cleveland 5 10 6 4 8 4 4 2
    Kansas City 4 6 5 1 4 3 1 2
    Philadelphia 4 5 1 4 3 1 2 2
    Atlanta 5 11 4 7 9 3 6 2
    Baltimore 5 9 6 3 8 5 3 1
    Minnesota 4 4 0 4 4 1 3 0
    New Orleans 5 8 2 6 8 2 6 0
    Buffalo 4 5 3 2 6 3 3 -1
    Jacksonville 5 5 2 3 6 4 2 -1
    Chicago 4 7 4 3 8 3 5 -1
    Cincinnati 4 8 2 6 10 7 3 -2
    Tampa Bay 5 6 3 3 8 4 4 -2
    Houston 5 7 5 2 9 4 5 -2
    Carolina 4 4 3 1 7 5 2 -3
    Denver 5 3 1 2 7 4 3 -4
    Dallas 4 4 3 1 8 4 4 -4
    Washington 5 7 4 3 12 5 7 -5
    St. Louis 5 2 1 1 9 5 4 -7
    Oakland 5 5 3 2 14 9 5 -9
    Green Bay 5 5 3 2 14 8 6 -9
    San Francisco 5 3 2 1 13 5 8 -10
    Miami 5 5 4 1 16 10 6 -11

    The overall record for the teams with a plus turnover ratio is 51-27.
    Of the 17 teams with a positive turnover ratio, only 5 have a losing record.

    The overall record for teams with a negative turnover ratio is 23-48.
    Of the 15 teams with a negative turnover ratio, only 3 have a winning record.

    While the statistics show that there are definately exceptions to the rule, to make a blanket statement that turnovers are over-rated shows fundamental lack of understanding of the game.

    In and of themselves, individual turnovers can be overcome and are typically not a catastrophy, especially for teams with a strong defense or a strong offense, but a team that shows an overall tendency to turn the ball over will meet with limited success.

    This dude should find something other than sports to write about.
    Clannie Nominee for ClanRam's Thickest Poster


    • #3
      Re: Turnovers Overrated to Coaches Who Understand Football

      Yeah, turn-overs are huge...this guy is smoking something.

      But there is some validity in the running concepts. I agree in this game Martz did not call a very good game in the first half. And by not calling a good game, I mean that he didn't do much to keep the defense on their heels. If you run on first and second down, then pass on 3rd, you're playing into their hands the majority of the time. To be a great offense, you really need to design your game plan to get first downs by 2nd down, so that 3rd down is more of an additional down to make up for a missed play. Running on first down typically leads you to an eventual 3rd down play, which now means the whole drive is in jeopordy.... Teams who don't have the weapons are forced to live by the run, and try to get into 3rd and short and convert.

      I noticed Seattle's first play of the game was Hassleback rolling out of the pocket and throwing for 6 can practice your first play 20 times if you want on Thursday, so you start off with some good momentum...why run on your opening play?


      • #4
        Re: Turnovers Overrated to Coaches Who Understand Football

        Originally posted by sbramfan
        Yeah, turn-overs are huge...this guy is smoking something.
        Helll, even thru all of the smoke over here, we know of professional gamblers who can point out regression analyses correlating TOs to losses.


        • #5
          Re: Turnovers Overrated to Coaches Who Understand Football

          In one aspect turnovers are overrated. Take the Rams offense for example; our offense is going to turn the ball over. If a team throws the ball as much as the Rams its bound to happen. But if one puts too much stock in turnovers, then they might change their offense and take away their teams chance to win. Turnovers are important, but I look at turnovers in two categories: stupid mistakes, and turnover battle. A stupid mistake can be a QB throwing the ball into triple coverage or a RB not covering up the ball. These are the type of turnovers that need to be eliminated. To me the most important category is the turnover battle. If your team wins the turnover battle they stand a good chance to win no matter how many turnovers they had. Last year the Rams had a lot of turnovers but they won the turnover battle, therefore they were a top team. Yes, turnovers are important; but they can also be overrated.


          • #6
            Re: Turnovers Overrated to Coaches Who Understand Football

            Turnovers can kill a game and season and since Martz is a smart guy, I'm sure he's concerned about it.


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              But it was the defense that kept the Rams in the game against Seattle, allowing the offense to hit some big plays and win in overtime. It was the defense, after being gashed for 306 yards at halftime, that allowed only 85 yards in the second half and just 44 after running back Shaun Alexander ran for 41 yards on Seattle's first play of the third quarter. Of those 44 yards, 14 were on a scramble by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

              "None of this is possible without the terrific effort by our defense in the second half," coach Mike Martz said. "We throw an interception on the sideline, give them great field position, and we hold them to a field goal. That wins the game for us ... that clearly wins the game for us."

              Martz was referring to a Marc Bulger interception as the fourth quarter began. The Seahawks started on the Rams' 40-yard line but later were stopped at the 16, and a field goal gave them a 27-10 lead. From that point on, Seattle ran eight plays and gained 11 yards. The Rams never forced a takeaway, but they made plays when that had to.

              "The three-and-outs (were important)," Martz said. "That third and one at the end of the game and they don't get it. The intensity really picked up in the second half. The fight that's in this group is incredible."

              "This team never gave up," defensive end Leonard Little said. "Coach Martz has talked about resolve all year and we showed that today. We knew if we made plays on defense and get the offense the ball that we could score points and get back into the game. That's just what we did."

              What has also been talked about is limiting big plays. It sounds insane to say the Rams defense actually didn't play that badly in the first half, but it's not far from the truth.

              Of the Seahawks' 306 yards on 44 plays in the first half, 165 yards came on just six plays. Do the math, and you see that Seattle gained just 141 yards on 38 plays in the rest of the half, or 3.7 yards per play.

              Taking it further, running back Shaun Alexander had 98 yards on 14 attempts at halftime, 65 coming on three attempts. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had passed for 188 yards on 15 completions, with 100 yards gained on three of those passes.

              For the game, Alexander rushed for 150 yards on 23 carries, and 95 were on three rushes. He averaged less than three yards a pop on his other 20 runs.

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            • MauiRam
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              Sometimes a catalyzing event occurs, one so extreme that it disrupts the natural order, compelling a species to change. Those are the anomalies, the aberrations, the hurricanes and tornados, extreme mutations, phenomena that upend the system. In those instances the evolution is rapid, sudden and without warning. In biology, they call it the punctuated equilibrium theory. In football, we called it the Greatest Show on Turf.

              Dick Vermeil got his first NFL coaching job in 1969, hired by Marv Levy to be a special teams coach with the Los Angeles Rams. Roman Gabriel, the Rams quarterback that season, threw for 2,549 yards and completed 54.4% of his passes—good enough to be named NFL MVP. Thirty seasons later Vermeil returned to the Rams, this time to be the head coach of a very different team, in a new city, with a very different MVP under center.

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              But the 1999 Rams transcended. For decades the NFL had been slowly inching towards putting a greater emphasis on the passing game, with incremental changes coming every year. But then along came the Rams. And they blew the whole damn thing up.

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              The Rams were the tornado, the anomaly that compelled a sudden and rapid evolution of football. They were the catalyzing event that disrupted the equipoise of the NFL, a punctuated equilibrium of pigskin.

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            • DJRamFan
              [*****] Martz instrumental in demise of Rams
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              chart attached

              In the Super Bowl following the 2001 season, the New England Patriots played a nickel defense virtually the entire game, daring St. Louis to run.

              The Rams didn't take the bait. Of course, you might remember, New England, a two-touchdown underdog, won the game -- the second-biggest upset in Super Bowl history.

              St. Louis coach Mike Martz did not get his reputation as an offensive wizard by ordering his quarterbacks to hand off. Three seasons later, Martz has not changed. The Rams still live -- and, frequently these days, die -- by the pass.

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              Yeah, it's time to take another look at Mad Mike.

              As a head coach, Martz makes an easy target because he is outgoing, outspoken and different. But for all his offensive flair, Martz still doesn't get it. The Rams thought they were starting a dynasty when they won the Super Bowl under Dick Vermeil following the 1999 season, but they haven't come close to fulfilling their promise.

              A month ago, this game looked like a certain loss for San Francisco. Now, despite how wretchedly the ***** played at Seattle, it's up for grabs.

              The Rams have had the same problems for five seasons under Martz. They lack attention to detail, play sloppily, allow their quarterback to take too many hits (which is what happened to Kurt Warner) and use questionable strategy and play-calling that ignore the running game.

              Since Martz became their head coach, the Rams have been more than 37 percent above the league average in losing turnovers and 17 percent above the league average in giving up quarterback sacks. Except for last season, they also have been penalized at a rate well above the league average.

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            • RamDez
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              Of all the days on a pro football calendar, Mondays are usually the best
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            • RamDez
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              “There are some things that I would like to mention that are really outstanding from that game: Tyoka (Jackson) came in and had three hits on the quarterback, two pressures, two tackles, and two assists, really on third downs, which is terrific. Pisa (Tinoisamoa) had nine tackles and five assists, 14 tackles all totaled, and half a sack. Jerametrius (Butler) had the interception and he broke up two passes. Leonard Little had four tackles and three assists, for a total of seven. He had three hits on the quarterback, he had a pressure, he had one sack, and, of course, he recovered a fumble, so he had a terrific game. Rich Coady is our defensive player of the week with four tackles and six assists, that’s 10 tackles, two passes broken up, a forced fumble, and a quarterback hit, just a terrific evening for Rich. On offense, Marshall (Faulk) and Isaac (Bruce) are our offensive players of the week. Marshall, obviously, with the big night: 23 carries, 121 yards, a total of 146 yards, and Isaac, for the fourth week in a row, starts the season with another 100-yard game. (Isaac) was not just catching the ball, but he was vital in the running game, in terms of blocking down the field, which he always is. He is a complete player, very unselfish player. I thought Marc (Bulger) played really well. The offensive line played very well. They came out fast and furious in all three phases, and that’s what we asked them to do, attack, be physical, not worry about mistakes, play fast. I thought we played disciplined football. We did not turn the ball over. We got two turnovers. We had a very limited amount of penalties, which is something that we have been trying to stress. We are getting better, we really are. That first half was played at a high level, and that’s what we are asking them to do. We’ve got a lot of room to go yet. We can get a lot better, and we need to go in that direction. We came out of that game, physically, in good shape. But I’m very pleased with the effort of this football team. I’m ready to put this one to bed, because we have a big one up in Seattle.”

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