We’ll start by quoting the Twitter thread between Chris Brown and Trent Dilfer, over the phrase “arm talent” (Some light editing, to improve clarity):
Smart Football @smartfootball 26 Jan — Can we drop the phrase “arm talent”? What happened to “strong arm”?
Trent Dilfer @TDESPN — @smartfootball “Arm talent”, a phrase I started using encompasses the ability to change speeds, trajectory & off balance. Strong=meaningless
Smart Football @smartfootball 26 Jan — @TDESPN Not just you. Just not my favorite phrase; not very descriptive. Understand need for all those things but not sure “arm talent”
Smart Football @smartfootball 26 Jan — @TDESPN Does it. “Talented passer” more descriptive (and grammatical) than “arm talent.” Also to be fair you define the term usually, but
Smart Football @smartfootball 26 Jan — @TDESPN most scout and wannabees throw it around without any backing or understanding. Fine for you to say it’s your term for all of that
Trent Dilfer @TDESPN 26 Jan — @smartfootball understandable, football phrases can be very polarizing if the picture they paint doesn’t make sense. fun conversation
Smart Football @smartfootball 27 Jan — @TDESPN I agree – thanks for engaging. Wasn’t targeted at you and this is partially me as football guy and also as overly pedantic lawyer
Smart Football @smartfootball 27 Jan — @TDESPN as you know, I think you do great work. Look forward to future discussions
I’ll note the phrase “exceptional control” seems to cover what Trent is trying to get at with the phrase “arm talent” as well. And this gets us back to an issue often seen in both coaching and fan circles. Ideas aren’t always born in the minds of the best writers. Some very ordinary folks come up with original, profound, or perhaps just useful concepts and they end up expressing them a little awkwardly. I can’t help but wonder how much more penetration the modern analysis of play by play data would have if we didn’t have to deal with awkward, and sometimes confusing language. If Brian Burke had used the Bill James phrase “Win Shares” instead of Win Probability Added and perhaps “Net Points” instead of Expected Points Added, how much faster would his analysis been assimilated?
In my discussions of expected points curves, I can get gnarled up in the phrase, “the value of a touchdown”, because that has two distinct meanings, depending on your point of view. If you’re thinking about adjusted yards per attempts formulas, that term refers to what I’ve called a “barrier potential” in other contexts. It’s considered the value of the touchdown because of some unfortunate language and usage in The Hidden Game of Football.
The other notion called the “value of a touchdown” is the average score of a touchdown (7 points in general, by logic well discussed here) minus the yardage value of the average kickoff return. For years this was around 6.3 to 6.4 points, because the average return was to about the 27 yard line. This term has to be larger now, with the recent adjustments to the kick off line. This value has meaning in expected points curves, and the Romer/Burke model explicitly uses this notion of the value of a touchdown.
Hopelessly generic terms
The one driving me nuts these days is 5-technique, applied in sloppy fashion to a defensive end of any kind. The term gets used whether or not the defensive end is actually using a 5 technique (on the outside shoulder of the OT), a 4 technique (directly opposing the OT) or a 3 technique (outside shoulder of the OG ). Especially in drafting circles, people start talking about 5 techniques as a draftable position, as opposed to a place you line up and a way you play. More accurate, in drafting circles, would be to talk about ends capable of one or two gap technique, instead of this “5” nonsense.
The “5” nonsense is getting bad enough that confusion is being sold as fact. Despite Jene Bramel’s excellent work on the topic of where defensive linemen line up
and with the comment:
In a majority of systems, even numbers denote an alignment that is head-up or helmet-to-helmet on an opposing offensive lineman while odd numbers denote an offset alignment, i.e. over the inside or outside shoulder of an opposing lineman.
Pro Football Focus just had to go and mess it up.
People *pay* to be told these kinds of explanations?
John T Reed has plenty to say about the term Eagle Defense in his Football Dictionary, finally concluding that:
After looking it up in several books, I have a sense that the Eagle defense generally has something to do with shifting the defensive tackle or end outside the weak tackle or tight end and putting a linebacker over or on the weak tackle or tight end. Until the football coaching world gets more precise and consistent, the word “eagle” should be dropped.