Last year I published a study of the run success of Julius Jones and also Marion Barber, in which for comparison I added, among other good runners, Michael Turner.

Michael Turner. Wikimedia image, CC license, courtesy of the Georgia National Guard.

And now, as it turns out, a common conversation piece in Atlanta talk radio is the notion that Michael Turner is washed up, past his prime and should be replaced. At the time this topic emerged, I didn’t have a data set capable of taking a closer look at the issue. But with Brian Burke releasing his 2011 regular season data set, now I do.

So just how well did he do in 2011?

dwm042@dwm042-desktop:~/perl/nfl$ ./ M.Turner ATL 2008
run success rate = 39.9
run 40 succ rate = 48.3
run 3d succ rate = 68.8 ( 11 per 16 plays )
run 4d succ rate = 60.0 ( 3 per 5 plays )
short runs rate = 49.1
dwm042@dwm042-desktop:~/perl/nfl$ ./ M.Turner ATL 2009
run success rate = 39.2
run 40 succ rate = 53.4
run 3d succ rate = 66.7 ( 2 per 3 plays )
run 4d succ rate = 0.0 ( 0 per 0 plays )
short runs rate = 46.6
dwm042@dwm042-desktop:~/perl/nfl$ ./ M.Turner ATL 2010
run success rate = 36.1
run 40 succ rate = 46.7
run 3d succ rate = 66.7 ( 10 per 15 plays )
run 4d succ rate = 100.0 ( 3 per 3 plays )
short runs rate = 47.3
dwm042@dwm042-desktop:~/perl/nfl$ ./ M.Turner ATL 2011
run success rate = 37.8
run 40 succ rate = 46.6
run 3d succ rate = 75.0 ( 9 per 12 plays )
run 4d succ rate = 66.7 ( 2 per 3 plays )
short runs rate = 52.0

His run success rate is either better in 2011 than 2010 (my definition) or about the same as 2010 (the Chase Stuart definition). His third down success rate is high. His short runs rate (percentage runs 2 yards or less) is high, but the Falcons also lost a good guard in 2011. The Falcons could use an upgrade at left tackle, and more toughness at guard.

Now to note, when Marion Barber’s short runs rate hit 53%, Dallas let him go. I’m not going to suggest there isn’t cause for concern. But it’s going to take a better tape hound than me to lock down cause and effect here.

The Falcons are a team geared to play close to the vest football and turn their ball control tendencies into wins late in games. If they lack the core runner to set them up for the late winning drive, they seem, as a team, to lose focus. They weren’t ready in 2011 to turn into a pure passing offense. If they decide to part ways with Michael, their plan B had better be well thought out. To this analyst, it’s not clear that Michael was “finished” in 2011.