A Lesson in Regression

July 27, 2012 | Thyrl Nelson

With football season just around the corner and Joe Flacco in the process of negotiating a new deal there’ll surely be plenty of opinions offered as to why the Ravens should or shouldn’t pay him, whether or not he’s capable of leading the team to the next level, and how much he’s being helped or hurt by the “under fire” guidance of Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron. It’s also an absolute certainty that a lot of those indictments and opinions will be wrong.

Football is fun for lots of reasons. Fans tend to find it more exciting than other sports and as a result they follow it more feverishly. Fans’ passion however doesn’t necessarily make their opinions any more educated. In fact, part of the real beauty of football (as I see it at least) is that fans remain in the dark about most of what’s going on; ignorant to exactly what happened on the field in comparison to what was supposed to happen, and left mostly with results and numbers to justify their opinions.


I say ignorance with all due respect…but ignorance it is nonetheless. I, for example, attend every Ravens home game and view the action from the upper deck, I DVR every game, usually watching them 3 to 5 times over during the week. I don’t claim to have a coach’s eye or an inherent understanding of which player had what responsibility on any given play. Even if I did, games on TV follow the ball and therefore often fail to show you, the viewer some of the most important elements of what’s happening on the field. Therefore despite all of the effort I put in to understand the action, I’m still quite ignorant. That part will change some as the league prepares to offer fans access to coaches (“All-22”) film if they’re willing to pay for it, but we’ll still be mostly ignorant.


Access to the “all 22” film still won’t provide fans much insight on play calls or responsibilities, but it should give us the basis at least to make better guesses about those matters.


The season isn’t even here yet, and I’m already sick of hearing about Flacco’s regression last season in terms of completion percentage with no account given to the offensive line struggles and no credit given for dumping off would be sacks and saving yards for the team. If Flacco held onto the ball longer (like Jay Cutler for example) and took more sacks we’d likely be crucifying the offensive line and their lack of protection. By bailing them out however and dumping balls out of bounds Flacco instead draws criticism and talk of regression. I’ve also heard more than enough unfavorable comparisons between Flacco and the NFL’s elite QBs despite the Ravens inability to exploit the middle of the field with the 6’5” or better power forward type receivers or tight ends that coincidentally all of the league’s elite passers seem to have.


The one that gets me going the most though is the assessment of Flacco’s yardage regression with no attention paid at all to the defenses that he played against and how they performed against the rest of the league by comparison.