Miami Dolphins


I’ve been lucky recently. Bill Arnsparger’s book tends to cost closer to $100 than a penny, but an inexpensive copy appeared and I grabbed it (even the Kindle version is around fifty dollars). Compared to Homer Smith’s book, this is less a compendium of diagrams, concepts and ideas and more of a handbook on how to organize and play football defense. It is at times synoptic, at times terse, something of a densely annotated outline. Bill is fond of capital letters, acronyms, and motivational slogans. He also needs to learn to spell “Wilkinson”.

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As a defensive handbook, it’s full of fronts, pass defenses, pithy comments, and a fair amount of defensive gold. He talks about which pass defenses should be paired together. He’s good at finding ones whose reads would be the same to a QB but whose collective actions would be quite different (Cover 2 with his Two man coverage, for example).

As befits a handbook, nothing is beyond the ken of the curious mind. It’s in the depth of the material where it can be daunting. It feels like those sophomore survey courses where the instructor tries to teach everything. Clearly, a lot of time and effort have been poured into the collection of material in the book to make it a cohesive and workable system.

His approach to the history of defenses is pretty original. He starts with the wide tackle six, and between what Jones and Wilkinson have said about the wide tackle six, what Jones and Wilkinson have said about four and five spoke contain, what Homer Smith said about the evolution of the 8 man line, and this delightful Rod Rusk quote from Doctor Z’s tome:

We had trouble with Atlanta’s one back. I was very tempted, but I didn’t have the guts, to line us up in an old fashioned wide-tackle, six-man line, an old 6-2 defense. It keeps going around and around in my head. You can do it with nickel people. The defensive ends are strong safeties, then you’ve got four linemen inside them, then the two inside linebackers are, well, inside linebackers. I still might do it. You might see a lot of people going back to old ideas next year.

Is this the time when the modern 4-2-5 was conceptualized? I’m really intrigued by this train of thought.

Later he points out that the wide tackle six, if you put one of the linebackers at the nose on the line, becomes a kind of seven-diamond.

Seven-diamond, as it stems from the wide tackle six. Pull the right tackle and replace him with a linebacker, and you get something incredibly similar to the later 46 defense.

Seven-diamond, as it stems from the wide tackle six. Pull the right tackle and replace him with a linebacker, and you get something incredibly similar to the later 46 defense.

And then talks about how similar this seven-diamond is to the 46 defense.

It's interesting that Bill spends most of his time re: the flex defense discussing the play of the offside (flexed) end.

It’s interesting that Bill spends most of his time re: the flex defense discussing the play of the offside (flexed) end.

Later, he talks about the Tom Landry flex defense, and rather than focusing on the tackle up on the line, he discusses a flex strong and the pursuit play of the weakside defensive end. He never outright says it, but considering that he later discusses the development of his 53 and over/under 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, it’s hard to lose the impression that the weak side end, often handling the weak side A gap in pursuit, was a factor in his later 3-4 setups. Did he see it as a step towards a 3-4? Was the weak side flexed end a poor man’s “3-4 linebacker”?

With the notes I’ve shown so far, I’m really only scraping the surface of this book. I get the feeling a good coach could, in many ways, start and end with this book, and not suffer very much. If you’re a fan, the book is expensive enough that you should wait for an inexpensive copy. A defensive coach might actually find reason to buy this one as an ebook, and keep it around.

There were, of course, two substantial trades of Ricky Williams. The first netted the Washington Redskins the whole of the Saints 1999 draft, plus the Saint’s first and third round picks of 2000. Three years later, Ricky was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a pair of first rounders, plus change. The first was obviously not paid off. How did the Miami Dolphins fare in their trade, using our new risk metrics?

Risk Ratio no longer makes sense as a term when you’re talking about someone already drafted. The important term becomes the net risk term, 52 AV. That’s 1 more AV than the typical #1 draft choice, and that’s the amount of AV Ricky had to generate in order for this trade to break even. And note, these calculations are derived from weighted career AV, not raw AV. So any raw AV we apply to these numbers is a rough approximation (A typical career summing to, say, 95 AV, might end up around 76 or so WCAV).

That said, Ricky Williams had a great first season with the Dolphins, generating 19 AV in that season alone. His total ended up somewhere around 57 AV. I’d suggest the second trade approximately broke even.

End notes: I’ve seen a lot of discussion around  this set of data, discussing the quality of draft picks on a per pick basis, posted in of all places, a Cav’s board. If this board isn’t the original source of these graphs, please let me know. An excellent resource for high quality NFL draft trade information is here. And finally, a reader named Frank Dupont writes:

I wrote a book about decision making in the NFL.  It’s sort of a pop science book because it seeks to make what happens in the NFL understandable via some work that people like David Romer, Richard Thaler, and Daniel Kahneman have done.  But because all pop science books make their point through narrative, I spend a lot of time looking at why football coaches are so old, but other game players like chess players and poker players are so young (Tom Coughlin is 65 and yet the #1 ranked chess player in the world is 21, the world’s best poker players are 25-ish).

The link for the book is here, if this topic sounds interesting to you. I’ll only note in passing  that while physics prodigies are common, biologists seem to hit their stride in their 60s.  Some areas of knowledge do not easily lend themselves to the teen aged super genius.

About as soon as Dallas lost their last game of the season, a veritable consensus formed in fan circles about what Dallas should do: almost any fan mocker worth his salt had Dallas picking up Carl Nicks in free agency  and drafting  David DeCastro in the 14th. That this quinella might be hard to pull off didn’t faze the crowd, and arguing with any of these guys an amazing waste of time. I felt as  if I was looking at the daily barrage of “Patrick Peterson falls to the Boys” exuberance all over again.

As @FO_MTanier has noted on Twitter,  this interest in DeCastro spills over into the media as well.

It’s taken perhaps a month, but those fans that claim “insider” connections, and are respected in general for, perhaps, actually having those connections are saying now that the Boys are more looking for a center in free agency and will let the guards they have develop.  Costa is regarded as the weak link, not the collection of  talent at guard. Further, Steven Jones has said  that the defense needs work, and media/fan draft interest is beginning to shift to others, people such as Melvin Ingram, Luke Kuechly and Dontari Poe.

Is this man a future Redskin? Image from Ceasarscott of Wikimedia.

The recent combine workout, including a 4.38 40 times of Robert Griffin III has changed the fan status of RG3 in  the eyes of Redskins fans to something approaching blowtorch heat. It hasn’t been mellowed by Saint Louis openly shopping the second pick. The first pick is pretty much assumed to be Oliver Luck, but a fella with a cannon arm, clear intelligence and Vick-like speed leads people more and more to think that Mr. Griffin will be, at worst, a poor man’s Vick. And if he’s more judicious with his throws than Michael, learns the game more intimately, well then all the better. There is now the smell of potential top 10 QB around RG3.

Four teams are thought to be interested in Robert Griffin: Cleveland, Washington, Miami, and Seattle. How much of that  is real, how much of that  is assumed,  I can’t tell presently. Talk radio has Cleveland in the driver’s seat for a trade, as it has 2 number 1 picks, and the #4 pick as well. The Skins, by contrast, have only the #6 pick.

A #2 pick is worth 2600 points on the JJ chart. Cleveland’s #4 is worth 1800, and their #22 pick is worth 780, about even in value. That said, Peter King is making comparisons to the trade for Ryan Leaf, which netted 2 firsts, a second, and Eric Metcalf. Already, in Redskins fan circles, people are saying they wouldn’t pay 3 #1s for RG3, but if the Leaf trade sets the benchmark, I’d suggest that the equivalent of three #1 choices is the going rate for a potential top 10 QB.

The Redskin’s first round choice is worth 1600 points. How do they make up 1000 points without at least giving up another #1? Beyond  that, what sweetener could they give that would make their trade better than Cleveland’s two #1s?

Useful links:

NFP’s take on Dallas team needs.

NFP’s take on Redskin team needs.

NFP’s  take on Eagles team needs.

NFP’s take on Giants’ team needs.

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