Los Angeles Chargers 2019: More Wins Than Children?

Los Angeles Chargers 2019: More Wins Than Children?
Los Angeles Chargers 2019: More Wins Than Children?

Los Angeles Chargers 2018 Stats Review

Record: 12-4

Pythagorean Wins: 10.6

ATS: 9-7; average line -4.8

Over/Under: 8-8; average total 47.8

Close Games Record: 6-1

Turnover Differential: 0.1

Adjusted Games Lost (injuries): 100.0 (25th)

Offense: 4th in EPA per play (+0.146);  6.37 yards per play

Defense:  8th in EPA per play (-0.015);  5.49 yards per play

Masters of Close Games

Finally, the Los Angeles Chargers had the luck they deserved – after so many years stacked with injuries, and collapses from their special teams. They still ranked in the bottom-eight of injury luck, but they went a terrific 6-1 in close games.  They ranked top-10 on both sides of the ball, and Philip Rivers was awesome – he played a decent mile above his career path. However,  their season ended how some folks predicted it would end: Anthony Lynn and DC Gus Bradley got outcoached by a mile against a great coaching staff at Foxboro.

Since 2009, 38 teams had a close game differential of -5 or worse, or +5 or higher. These 38 teams saw an average absolute change of 4.34 wins the next season.  Only two sides were able to win the same amount of games again; not a single team overcame the regression. The Chargers have a very talented roster, so they will likely land on the positive side of the distribution. But we should expect them to lose more games in 2019.

Against the Cardinals, the Bolts were down 10 (lol) and won. At Kansas City, they were down 14 and won. At Pittsburgh? Down 16 and won. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel randomly decided to go for two after the late touchdown that made the score 19-20, Tennessee failed. Going for it a couple of drives earlier at 12-17 would have been the better option mathematically. They had a two-point win against CJ Beathard.

On top of that, the Bolts were expected to play the second-easiest schedule. They ended up playing the fifth-easiest schedule in terms of wins and losses. Expect some regression going forward.

The Return of Hunter Henry

The biggest problem for the Chargers remains the coaching staff. I have no faith in Anthony Lynn and DC Gus Bradley played zone coverage exclusively against Tom Brady, until the game was over. The Bolts lost deep-threat Tyrell Williams, but they get TE Hunter Henry back. Over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, 232 receivers saw 50 or more targets. Hunter Henry ranked second in receiving expected points added per target. Rob Gronkowski ranked first. Even regressing from that performance level, Henry will be an incredible addition to this offense. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry look like a top-10 receiving trio on paper, maybe even better.

Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Depth Chart Projection
Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Depth Chart Projection

Melvin Gordon could hold out the season, but that shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Austin Ekeler is the more talented receiver, and Ekeler and Justin Jackson can replace a fair share of Gordon’s rush production. The biggest concern, in my opinion, is the offensive line that didn’t get addressed at all. Chargers GM Tom Telesco got a lot of praise for the picks of Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderley, but he didn’t upgrade a lousy offensive line, whether in free agency or the draft.

Right tackle Sam Tevi and left guard Dan Feeney were among the worst at their respective positions last year and allowed a combined 125 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Right guard Michael Schofield wasn’t much better either. Center Mike Pouncey played worse as advertised. Left tackle Russell Okung, the unit’s best player, has dealt with a severe medical condition and it’s uncertain whether he will or want to continue his career. The Bolts should give 2017 second-round pick Forrest Lamp a shot at left or right guard this year; it can’t get worse. Philip Rivers is a good quarterback, and his receiving weapons are deadly. But this offensive line is going to cause trouble, especially when the coaching staff doesn’t try to optimize play-calling tendencies.

The Defense is Loaded

There shouldn’t be a debate about the defense, which is top-10 material on paper. With Tillery and Adderley, the Bolts filled needs, but it’s not easy to predict rookie impact. Because of a lack of alternatives, I expect both guys to see significant playtime. The Draft Network sees Tillery as a pass rush specialist which is extremely intriguing when considering the lack of interior rush last year. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are one of the best edge-rushing duos in the league. Last year’s rookie Uchenna Nwosu played a little over 300 snaps as a rotational pass rusher and did a stable job. Add some contribution by Tillery and blitzes by All-Pro Derwin James, and you have a terrific pass rush together.

Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Depth Chart Projection
Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Depth Chart Projection

Mike linebacker Denzel Perryman’s season was over after nine games. He returns and gets help by 36-year old Thomas Davis (Pro Bowl 2015-2017) who brings a lot of experience and game intelligence to this unit. Last year’s fourth-round-pick, linebacker Kyzir White, who instantly became a starter, went to IR after week three. Anthony Lynn raved about his “speed and explosiveness” during the off-season. It could be the best linebacking group the Los Angeles Chargers have had in a while.

The cornerback group consisting of Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, and Desmond King is outstanding. Derwin James was the steal of the 2018 draft, getting All-Pro honors in his first season. He can do everything – playing in coverage, stopping the run and blitzing. Adrian Philip will likely get the start at free safety, but Nasir Adderley could see significant playing time depending on his development.

Last year, this defense gave up 30 points to the Steelers, 28 to the Rams, 31 and 28 to the Chiefs, and 41 to New England. Offenses dictate matchups, but if the Chargers defense wants elite status, they need to take a step forward against good attacks.

2019 Schedule

After playing an extremely relaxed program last season, it will get slightly harder this time. According to the current Pinnacle season win totals, the implied strength of schedule for the Los Angeles Chargers is 0.4915 which would rank 25th. As measured by 2018 EPA per offensive play, their defense is projected to face the 15th-hardest schedule (+0.0394).

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Their 3-1 record against the NFC West could get replaced by 2-2 against the NFC North along with two early eastern time matchups at Chicago and Detroit. Will the Raiders be able to sneak out a win with an improved receiving corps? One of their home games gets replaced by a neutral field matchup against the Chiefs in Mexico City, and the Bolts will play two cold-weather games in December at Arrowhead and Mile High. All in all, other teams play significantly more brutal programs.

Los Angeles Chargers 2019: More Wins Than Children?

The positives: the Los Angeles Chargers have a good quarterback, a good receiving corps and a good pass defense. On the negative side: Philip Rivers could regress a little bit, they could feature one of the worst offensive lines, their coaching staff doesn’t seem to put them over the top, and they must expect negative regression in close games. But the overall talent level is too good to expect a massive regression of four or more wins and the strength of their schedule will likely be in the bottom half.

I expect the Chargers to win around ten games, which would be one more than Philip Rivers has children. And I expect them to battle with the Chiefs for the division title once again which should be a close race. It’s hard to win 12+ games back-to-back in this league, and I doubt the Bolts will be able to achieve that. But they should be able to provide Philip Rivers with another playoff ticket.

The season wins total opened at 9.8 (adjusted for juice) and betting markets cautiously attacked the over to push the number to 9.9. I think the current line is spot on, but the Over is priced heavily. The Chargers need to win 10 or more games 60 percent of the time to cash that ticket.

Cleveland Browns 2019: Cautious Optimism

Cleveland Browns 2019: Cautious Optimism
Cleveland Browns 2019: Cautious Optimism

Context Matters

What happened in 2017 was HILARIOUS. The Cleveland Browns won zero games but should have won at least three. Last year’s Hard Knocks season indicated that the clown’s show with former head coach Hue Jackson would continue. After some close games, general manager John Dorsey let Hue go with a record of 2-6-1. Gregg Williams took over from Hue, Freddie Kitchens took over offensive play-calling duties from Todd Haley. The latter showed some unfortunate play-calling tendencies. Cleveland went 5-3 over the past seven games along with excellent offensive output.

The 5-3 run to end the season created an intensive hype, with Cleveland dropping from 50-1 odds to as low as 14-1 to win the Super Bowl. But let me explain why we should cautiously look at their 2018 performance. First of all, the Browns were expected to win a lot more games than they did in 2017.  With Hue, they went 2-3 in close games and followed with a 3-1 record during the Gregg Williams tenure.

From week eight onwards, the Browns went 0-5 against playoff teams. They lost by an average of 9.8 points per game – no matter who the coach was. They were fortunate to play the Bengals twice after Cincy was derailed by injuries (and after they signed Hue), same goes for the Falcons. Against Carolina and Denver, the Browns were behind on the scoreboard, going into the fourth quarter. Context matters.

Mr. Pythagorean is in the House

The Browns went 7-8-1 and had a Pythagorean win expectation of 7.1 – right on the money. However, during their final 5-3 stretch, their Pythagorean expectation was only 4.2 victories. They overperformed in wins, as indicated by their close game record. They underperformed under Hue but overperformed under Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens. Hypothetically speaking: if Cleveland won one or two close games more under Hue, they would have been overperformers on the full season. In contrast, the Baltimore Ravens had a Pythagorean win expectation of 5.5 in one fewer game with Lamar Jackson starting.

On the season, the Cleveland Browns went 5-4 in close games and had a turnover margin of +0.4. Their defense collected 31 takeaways – it will be a tough quest to reproduce that number. Over the stretch with Freddie Kitchens, Baker Mayfield ranked 5th in EPA per dropback (0.22) among 37 quarterbacks with 100 or more passes. To put that into context: 0.22 EPA per dropback would rank in the upper nine percent among all quarterbacks with at least 200 passes in a season since 2009. For comparison, Carson Wentz had 0.20 EPA per dropback during the 2017 season.

I’m not saying that Baker Mayfield won’t be a very good quarterback in the future. Probably he will be. But 0.22 EPA per dropback doesn’t provide tons of upside for the Browns offense. And is even hard to sustain for the best signal-callers in the game. Since 2009, Tom Brady had five seasons above 0.20 EPA per dropback, but also five below that mark. For Baker Mayfield to sustain that level of play, and the Cleveland Browns capitalizing from it, some other things need to go right, too.

A Match Made in Heaven?

As the great Jake Burns has beautifully explained, the marriage of Freddie Kitchens and offensive coordinator Todd Monken seems to be like a match made in heaven. Kitchens will mesh his Air Coryell philosophy with Monken’s Air Raid scheme to support Baker Mayfield’s aggressive approach to the game. Both of them have displayed smart situational play-calling last season with a pass-first approach. Also, James Campen will coach the offensive line. He spent the previous 14 years coaching the five guys in front of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Since 2014, the Packers’ offensive line graded as a top-7 unit in pass-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus. From a coaching perspective, this trio is a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, Campen gets to coach the likely Achilles’ heel of the Browns.

Cleveland Browns Offensive Depth Chart Projection
Cleveland Browns Offensive Depth Chart Projection

The Cleveland Browns traded away right guard Kevin Zeitler to the Giants for edge-rusher Olivier Vernon. Even though Vernon is going to boost the pass rush, it was a trade I couldn’t grasp. Zeitler is one of the best guards in the game. Zeitler’s absence leaves the Browns offensive line with two quality players on paper, left guard Joel Bitonio and center JC Tretter. Left tackle Greg Robinson and right tackle Chris Hubbard form one of the worse tandems in the league. Last year, they ranked 53th and 56th out of 85 qualifying tackles in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric, respectively. In pass-blocking grade, which is more predictive, they ranked 56th and 39th. Second-year player Austin Corbett, who expects to start in place of Zeitler, has 14 career snaps under his belt. That setup is likely going to be a problem on long-developing plays and might not support Mayfield’s aggressiveness every time.

Incredible Group of Receivers

As questionable as the offensive line looks to be, the receiving corps is full of potential. Odell Beckham is an absolute stud and has been one of the best wide receivers since 2014. He consistently made Eli Manning look better than he is. Everyone who has watched Giants games instead of listening to Mike Francesa will confirm this. Beckham’s former LSU-teammate Jarvis Landry is ideally suited in a WR2-role, whereas Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway showed in 2018 that they are underrated third and fourth options.

This team preview will hopefully provide you with a lot of information. But it doesn’t replace your weekly handicapping/pricing process. It’s your job to price all 32 NFL teams and situations accurately weekly. 

Tight end David Njoku has steadily improved and is looking for a breakout season in his third year. Todd Monken had a lot of success teaming up Jameis Winston and OJ Howard at Tampa Bay. Running backs Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson complement the passing game. Johnson has been one of the best receivers at the position throughout his career. I don’t know whether Kareem Hunt will be an option this year.

The Cleveland Browns have put together an incredible offensive coaching staff. They also have a promising young quarterback in place who is going to throw to the likes of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. The biggest – and only – weakness remains the offensive line which has a couple of weak spots. Furthermore, it will be a lot to ask to vastly improve from the efficiency this offense put together over the last eight games in 2018. It can be a terrific offense next season, but I am not expecting the 2011 Packers.

Zone or Man?

The Browns are returning a defense that ranked 7th in pass DVOA last season – they had the fifth-most interceptions at 17. While they improved on paper, I’ve got some concerns about new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. He runs one of the most zone-heaviest defenses in the league. Last season at Arizona, he prioritized his philosophy over the strength of his best cornerback: Patrick Peterson. The latter excelled at man-press coverage throughout his career, but Wilks forced him to play more off-coverage.

With Denzel Ward, the Browns have a cornerback who has been light years better in man-coverage than in zone throughout his career, as Ryan McCrystal explains with the use of charting data. As McCrystal found out, the Browns created a lot more pressure when they were in man, because opposing quarterbacks needed to hold the ball longer. Will Wilks adjust his scheme completely? Here’s an interesting quote from McCrystal:

There’s a good reason coaches typically stick with what they know best. They have a set of plays they have confidence calling in various situations, and Wilks obviously has that comfort level with his current scheme. Dramatically increasing his use of man coverage would force him outside his comfort zone, and likely lead to some poor decisions in the early stages of adjusting his scheme.

Either way, the Browns defense is likely to go through some growing pains as the team adjusts to Wilks’ scheme or as Wilks adjusts his scheme to the Browns’ personnel.

With Greedy Williams, John Dorsey drafted a cornerback in the second round who is well-suited to play man-press coverage exclusively. Williams expects to play on the outside, opposite of Denzel Ward. Steve Wilks will work with two starting cornerbacks who are best-suited for a scheme he doesn’t run. It’s hard to predict cornerback success in the first season. But not playing the role you are comfortable with, makes the situation more complicated. We shouldn’t expect elite play out of that secondary in 2019.

Nasty Front Seven

The front seven is as dangerous as it gets. But they will be reliant on the secondary to cover well for the first three seconds of the play. Slot cornerback TJ Carrie has been underwhelming throughout his five-year career. Free safety Damarious Randall survived the switch from cornerback in a manner that makes all Browns fans optimistic for the future. It’s highly questionable whether strong safety Morgan Burnett is an upgrade from departed Jabrill Peppers.

Cleveland Browns Defensive Depth Chart Projection
Cleveland Browns Defensive Depth Chart Projection

Edge rusher Myles Garrett could have a monster season. Olivier Vernon has been riddled with injuries over the past two seasons, but he has put up very high pass-rushing grades. On the interior, the Cleveland Browns feature young explosion Larry Ogunjobi as well as the underrated Sheldon Richardson. The latter has quietly put together good seasons at Seattle and Minnesota recently. Mike linebacker Joe Schobert graded out as one of the best coverage-players at his position last year whereas Christian Kirksey couldn’t keep pace with him. Rookies Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson will battle for rotational snaps.

This defense is incredibly talented among its front seven, but performances will rise and fall with the secondary play. If Steve Wilks doesn’t adjust his scheme to his cornerbacks” strengths, it could be a long season for Myles Garrett and co.

2019 Schedule

The Cleveland Browns have a significant advantage. According to current win totals at the sharpest bookmaker in the world, Pinnacle, the Browns are projected to play the fourth-easiest schedule in the league. The same goes for their defense, which is expected to play the sixth-easiest schedule in terms of opposing pass EPA from 2018. Due to their third-place division finish, they will face the Titans and Broncos instead of, say, the Colts and Chiefs. A schedule against the weakest division in football over recent years, the AFC East, helps, too.

Pinnacle Win Totals vs. Implied SOS
Pinnacle Win Totals vs. Implied SOS

However, the Browns will play a tight schedule within their division. The Steelers and Ravens are playoff contenders, and I am probably higher on the Bengals than most folks out there. They can play an early home game against the Seahawks, but they play disadvantageous body-clock matchups against the Rams and Niners in night games.

Cleveland Browns 2019: Cautious Optimism

While the Browns are set up very well, the overwhelming hype is too much. At Pinnacle, the Browns are the fifth-best favorite to win the Super Bowl, and they are the favorites to win the division. I don’t think they are the best team in their division – yet. And from my point of view, there are three factors why I am only cautious optimistic:

  1. It’s a young team with a rookie head coach, and the offensive line can hold the Browns back.
  2. DC Steve Wilks and his scheme is a big question mark for the secondary that needs to play well.
  3. The Browns don’t play in a scrub division. The AFC North will most likely be highly competitive.

I can see the Browns going to the playoffs this year. But I don’t believe it’s as sure of a thing as many folks out there claim it to be. It will be a rocky road, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw at least three AFC North teams fighting for the playoffs in December.

The Browns look to play their harder part of the schedule over the first half of 2019. Five of eight games are on the road, and two home games are against the Rams and Seahawks. Right now, I wouldn’t put my money on any Browns future. The prices are inflated. It’s probably a much better idea to wait and grab a future at some point during the first nine weeks.

Become a member for the 2019 season and get all team previews, win totals, weekly analysis, and picks until the Super Bowl. Since I started this service in 2017, we beat the closing line 70.6% of the time for an average closing line value of 4.0%. The record is 136-104 (56.7%) for +27.46 units at 10.5% ROI. Find all the picks with closing line reports on the records page.

Expected Scoring versus Actual Scoring in 2017

The NFL is a league with a small sample size. During the regular season, teams only play 16 games. A crucial fumble and a tipped interception can make the difference between finishing 8-8 or 10-6 and playing significant Football in January. Some teams have terrible luck on one side of the ball which can be a recurring theme throughout the whole season. Just take a look at Matt Ryan in 2017 – he had a stunning amount of six tipped interceptions. Take away the one against Miami and they win their division. The Falcons ranked 3rd in net yards per pass, but only 12th in passer rating. Questionable play-calling by Steve Sarkisian – especially in the red zone – led to a much worse scoring efficiency than their yardage efficiency let’s assume. Some teams can also be highly efficient on a per-play basis, but struggle to finish drives.

We have already found out that the run game has almost no impact on scoring. If a team is interested in scoring a lot of points, it better be good at passing. Pass efficiency metrics like net yards per pass (NYPPA) or pass DVOA by Football Outsiders explain 64% to 75% of the variance in offensive scoring since 2011. By that, we can create linear functions and calculate the expected value (y) depending on the input (x). For instance: when a team averages 6.5 net yards per pass, it is expected to score 22.1 offensive points per game – based on the data going back to 2011. I created linear functions for four different pass efficiency metrics: NYPPA, pass DVOA, Adjusted Net Yards per Play (ANY/p) and Passer Rating. I calculated how many offensive points per game each team should have scored based on those four metrics. By averaging those four PPG numbers, you get the final Expected Points. Then I compared it to Actual Points per game to calculate the differentials for each team. Same goes for the defense and for scoring differentials.

Some might be wondering why I take metrics like passer rating or ANY/p, which include touchdowns and interceptions to indicate scoring efficiency already. Well, we are coming back to the small sample size and certain plays deciding games. It’s a difference whether you score a touchdown to win a game or in garbage time when you are up by 21 points. It’s a difference whether you throw a tipped interception early in the game when you can still recover, or on your final drive. To me it’s always interesting to look at both, yards-based and scoring-based efficiency metrics. An offense can march downfield with three long passes but run it into the end zone from the one-yard line. Yards per play look good, passer rating suffers from not getting a passing touchdown. To cut a long story short, here are Expected Points versus Actual Points for NFL offenses in 2017:

Expected Scoring vs Actual Scoring NFL Offenses 2017

It reads like this: Based on pass efficiency metrics, the Falcons were expected to score 24.1 offensive points per game but actually scored only 20.8. The difference of -3.3 PPG ranked 29th or 4th-worst. Regression, tipped interceptions and Steve Sarkisian. The Chargers were the most unfortunate offense. They should have scored 5.1 PPG more than they actually did: terrible red zone play and the worst kicking game in the league. They hit just 20 of 30 field goals, worst percentage among all 32 teams. The Ravens were the most fortunate offense, scoring 3.6 PPG more than they should have. Their defense created 34 turnovers against an easy schedule and a lot of backup quarterbacks which led to short scoring drives.

Now let’s take a look at the defenses:

Expected Scoring vs Actual Scoring NFL Defenses 2017

The Patriots were an enigma. Their defense was one of the worse on a per-play basis, but they were highly efficient in terms of yards per point. Remember the long Bills drive that resulted in a tipped interception by Tyrod Taylor at the goal line? The Redskins defense was also highly interesting. Based on pass efficiency, they were the 10th-best scoring defense but they conceded the 9th-most points. I haven’t digged into that but I remember them giving up tons of big plays through the air that outweighed the consistent good plays.

With expected points per game for both the offense and defense, we can now calculate the expected scoring differential and compare it to the actual differential:

Expected Scoring Differential vs Actual Scoring Differential NFL 2017

It turns out, the Patriots were the most fortunate team last year whereas the Redskins were at the bottom. They should have had a scoring differential of +3.0 but they actually had -1.4, a difference of -4.4 on the year. The Super Bowl champions Philadelphia Eagles finished fourth.

Looking at expected versus actual points is very interesting. It can give you a clue about which team under- or overperformed over the sample size of 16 games. No matter how efficient the Redskins are in 2018, they will probably not underperform by 2.8 points per game on defense again. They might give up 22.1 defensive points per game again, but their efficiency will probably point towards 22.1 PPG or more. That’s how regression works.

 

Football Guy Dave Gettleman is Blinded by the Run Game

In December 2017, the New York Giants decided to make significant changes after becoming a dumpster fire. They hired Dave Gettleman to be their new general manager.

Among Football fan bases there is a general perception that the people who run Football teams, run them because they are competent or qualified to do so. “They must have a plan” or “Trust the process” are sentences you hear very often when managers or coaches make questionable decisions. There are always people who are bad or good at their jobs. Just because they have a particular job, it doesn’t mean they are good at it. The NFL is the biggest and most famous sports league in the world. Just because of that it doesn’t say that every employee is qualified enough to have a job. If every employee in the NFL would be qualified for his job and would be doing a good job, we would have had an extremely high parity with most teams fluctuating around 8-8.

We notice the same phenomenon in all the companies in our world. There are always people who get hired or promoted for the wrong reasons. People often get hired or promoted because of good connections or because “they have been there before.” In the NFL or any other industry, there are always teams or companies who hire the right people who make more smart decisions than bad ones. And there are always teams or companies who hire the wrong people who make more bad decisions than smart ones. But it should always be about hiring the “right” people and getting rid of the “wrong” ones. Many companies wouldn’t go broke if they made smart decisions consistently. Many companies are “just there.” They would be able to reach their full potential if they made smarter decisions consistently.

Gettleman’s emphasis on running the Football

John Mara, co-owner of the Giants, decided to hire ex-Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman to be the new Giants GM. Gettleman has been the Giants’ Pro personnel director from 1999 – 2011 and has been the Senior pro personnel analyst before eventually becoming the Panthers GM in 2013. So he has connections and has been there before. When it comes to building rosters, Gettleman has a personal philosophy. Here is a quote from an article that summed up his first presser with the Giants:

“Gettleman said he’s “old-fashioned”. He acknowledged that offenses and defenses have evolved, but he believes every team must run the ball, stop the run and rush the passer to win. He said Tom Coughlin once told him “big men allow you to compete.” “We’re going to get back to that”, Gettleman said.

While I agree that pass rush is important, it’s a pretty interesting quote, because we have a lot of proof that running has minimal impact on scoring, passing and things like play-action. You win a lot of games and score a lot of points by being good at passing. Gettleman doesn’t realize that or ignores it and isn’t able to adjust to today’s NFL. His 2007 Giants were running the ball quite efficiently, but it didn’t help them win a Super Bowl when Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs ran for 3.8 YPC in the big game. They beat the mighty Patriots because they were able to hold one of the best passing offenses ever to 14 points and generated a much better pass efficiency on offense. His 2011 Giants ranked 32nd in yards per run and still won the Super Bowl because they peaked in pass efficiency throughout the playoffs.

When Gettleman joined the Panthers, he followed his philosophy strictly. He has put a high emphasis on the run game and stopping the run, basically ignoring that he had a pretty good QB. The perception of Cam Newton has generally been shallow over the past couple of years. He wouldn’t be a good passer, and he would have bad accuracy. While he has misplayed during his shoulder injury, the general perception couldn’t be more wrong. Newton is quite an accurate passer with a great arm who can fit passes into tight windows even with pressure in his face.

Completion percentage isn’t everything. Newton has often been a victim of his offensive “weapons” and the offensive scheme of Mike Shula. Since 2013, the Panthers’ offensive line has never been good in pass protection, and the WR corps has been questionable at best. Gettleman also never prioritized spending money at the cornerback position. He likes to pick them in the later rounds of the draft. He let Josh Norman go after his All-Pro season and threw three darts after cornerbacks in the draft.

The Panthers peaked in pass efficiency

With Gettleman as the general manager, the Panthers had their very best season in 2015 when they made the Super Bowl, and everything came together. But it didn’t have much to do with running the ball. The pass offense peaked, and the defense created tons of turnovers. They also had a straightforward fourth-place schedule that year. Here are their total pass efficiency rankings from 2015:

Passer Rating differential: +25.5 (#2)

Pass DVOA differential: +0.42 (#4)

ANY/p differential: +2.7 (#2)

NYPPA differential: +1.3 (#3)

That season, the Panthers dominated their competition through the air, gained huge leads and ran the clock down in the second half while converting a lot of short downs. RB Jonathan Stewart (242 carries) had 4.1 yards per rush which ranked 26th in the league. His success rate (#33) and DVOA (#33) ranked even worse. Cam Newton was responsible for much of the rush efficiency. Ironically, the worst matchup the Panthers had against the Broncos in the Super Bowl was right tackle Mike Remmers’ pass-blocking against Von Miller. Passing matters and it mattered when the franchises Dave Gettleman was on made the Super Bowl. It’s not that the Panthers didn’t have success during the Gettleman era, but at the end, they have been “just there” and never reached their full potential.

The Giants draft was peak Gettleman

Back to 2018. In his first draft with the Giants, Dave Gettleman peaked. It was like a parody draft of someone who ignorantly believes in the running game. Like people who believe in the flat earth theory. Well, that’s who Gettleman is. With the second overall pick, the Giants had the rare chance to draft Eli Manning’s successor and the next franchise quarterback. They could also have traded down the pick to acquire more darts to fill a roster with holes. But Dave Gettleman took a running back because that’s what he wants to do. He wants to run the ball.

We have learned that the running game is mostly irrelevant. We have learned that the running-back position doesn’t have a lot of value. It’s proven. It’s analytics. Here is what Dave Gettleman said about that after drafting Barkley:

Jonathan Stewart the forgotten man?

Jonathan Stewart had his best season in 2011 when he averaged 5.4 yards per rush. Since then, he ranks 37th out of 43 qualifying running backs with at least 500 carries over that span. And remember the success rate in the great 2015 season. Gettleman not only ignores analytics, but he also doesn’t even look at the most straightforward numbers. He has also used gestures to mock analytics guys. Three months after Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson admitted that the Eagles put a heavy emphasis on analytics, Gettleman mocked those guys.

In the second round, Gettleman picked OG Will Hernandez, a big mauler out of UTEP. In the third round, he took OLB Lorenzo Carter, a pass rusher and BJ Hill, a big run-stopping defensive lineman. In RJ McIntosh he drafted another run-stopper. Run the ball, defend the run and get to the passer – nobody can say he doesn’t follow his philosophy. In free agency, he traded for Alec Ogletree who struggles in coverage but can rush the passer on blitzes. He also let two starting cornerbacks – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ross Cockrell – go without replacing them. According to Football Outsiders, Cockrell was by far the most efficient cornerback last year and filled in nicely for Janoris Jenkins. But Gettleman doesn’t believe in numbers.

Quo Vadis, New York Giants?

The Giants are paying Barkley the fourth-highest average salary per year on that position. Head coach Pat Shurmur was a great play-caller in 2017, but I wonder how much influence Gettleman and Shula have on the offense. Gettleman wants to run the ball. To justify the pick, we could expect Barkley to get force-fed on the ground a la Adrian Peterson. But to defend the pick, Barkley better sees 10+ targets per game and helps to improve the pass efficiency. But that’s not what Gettleman’s particular goal was by picking him. The Giants might not pull in the top-3 again over the next two years. If Eli Manning continues to decline, it might still be enough to win five or more games. If they want to move on from Eli, who will be the next franchise quarterback? At least they have their franchise running back locked in for at least four years.