Statistical Gibberish Getting Out Of Hand

February 10th, 2013

In what Joe is convinced is one of the great baloney-peddling businesses of the 21st century, continues to have its brand of mysterious statistical gibberish infect the lives of everyday football fans.

Per, the business claims it takes 250 hours to do its massive weekly breakdown of every player in every NFL game. However, the site claims it only has three analysts grading players. Do the math. That’s a few supremely overworked dudes right there.

Hell, NFL team staffers don’t even break down that much film. But wait, admits it doesn’t use coaches film, only TV copies of games. (Hmm, the site touts its pass coverage statistical data and rankings without a full view of what’s going on.)

That brings Joe to Tampa Tribune Bucs beat writer Woody Cummings’ reference of PFF in a notebook yesterday. PFF loves Mason Foster in pass coverage, though Cummings points out that former player turned analyst Tim Ryan strongly disagrees.

PFF has come up with another of its signature statistics, this one detailing the effectiveness of second-level defenders in pass coverage. According to their figures, Foster was better than any linebacker in the league in coverage in 2012.

PFF has Foster in on 328 passing downs but allowing only seven first downs or touchdowns for a 2.13-percent efficiency rating that was best among all linebackers. Foster’s partner in coverage, rookie LB Lavonte David, didn’t fare so well.

According to PFF, David surrendered 26 first downs and four touchdowns in pass coverage, which was fourth-most among linebackers behind Washington’s London Fletcher (38), Cincinnati’s Rey Maualuga (37) and Washington’s Perry Riley (32).

Again, exactly why should Joe believe this data is relevant and accurate?

Yes, Joe has presented PFF data here previously in posts. It’s interesting at times, but please never confuse Joe with someone who believes the information is anything close to gospel.

Months ago, college football-ignorantpopcorn-munchingcoffee-slurpingfried-chicken-eatingoatmeal-lovingcircle-jerkingbeer-chugging Peter King, of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports, said during a podcast that about seven NFL teams pay for PFF data. It was unclear whether the teams are purchasing unique analysis from PFF, or are just acting like the fantasy football and gambling nuts that gobble up $27 PFF subscriptions — aka the opinions of three guys with questionable/unknown qualifications.

As an Internet entrepreneur, Joe admires the accomplishments of PFF. But as a football fan, PFF makes Joe wants to bang his head against a wall.

29 Responses to “Statistical Gibberish Getting Out Of Hand”

  1. Justin P's Dwindling Radio "career" Says:

    Very Interesting b/c Sports Illustrated just did a story on the Bucs….and they used PFF’s stats to say Mark Barron is the worst safety in the NFL when it comes to pass coverage (i retweeted the article @MikeInTampa2)

  2. MadMax Says:

    I hate to admit, but Im ok with it. Let everyone else read it, take it in as gospel, and then let us fly under the radar. Element of surprise can be your best weapon in certain situations.

  3. 4everBucsFan Says:

    Yeah, besides boxscore stats, I don’t think I’d put too much stock into the video breakdown stats. For one thing, it is suggestive and reeks with opinion of the person breaking down the footage. Meaning, two guys can break down the same video footage without collaboration and come up with entirely different opinions. Not to mention what Joe said about how much film is processed during the course of the season has to be more than a staff of three can actually process efficiently. So there has to be quite an amount of error assimilated into the final product, considering the time constraint, and limited personnel involved.

  4. Jonny 3.3 Says:

    Joe: Do you believe in Jesus and everything written in the Bible? What ever is written on that site by those 3 guys is at least a bit more reliable information than that. Because they really watch every snap and see how players are positioned put their opinion on paper.

  5. Joe Says:

    Jimminy Christmas! What does the bible have to do with Not a good analogy.

  6. Paul Says:

    The data is accurate as far as number of passing downs and percentage played. What the writers are guessing at is assignments.

    Mark Barron gets a bad rap that he is awful at pass defense and he can’t physically match up with athletic TE’s and such. That is not his problem. The problem is that he creeps up in the box virtually every time, taking himself out of the play if it is a pass. This doesn’t show his ability to cover, it just shows that either he is having a bad time reading the play or else coach is forcing him to overload the box, neither showcase his coverage skill.

    David is this way too. I don’t see him get burned very often when he’s actually covering, but who is to say that he is actually blowing assignments, only coach knows that.

    Also, Mason Foster is a boss, although I have seen him fail to get deep on just a few occasions. One was on play action if I remember correctly, and I’m pretty sure Tim Ryan was the announcer on that game and was harping on it pretty bad because it was for a TD.

    Announcers are so grossly disconnected from the Bucs, they are seeing players for the first time that they never heard of before their broadcast.

    I just read a bleacherreport mock draft that said we were taking a MLB 1st round to replace Foster and that the Bucs were going to wash their hands of him after a bad season. What!?! lol.

  7. Macabee Says:

    There are lies, damned lies, and statistics! – Mark Twain

  8. Justin P's Dwindling Radio "career" Says:

    @Paul…..could not agree more

  9. 4everBucsFan Says:

    Hey Joe, any scheduled press conferences from the Rockstar or Coach Schiano, on their self evaluations to this point? They should be ready to divulge some information on what direction they plan to pursue. Coach Schiano said after the season, after I’ve done my own internal evaluation, in a couple of weeks I’ll give you an update on that evaluation. Do you think he meant after the Super Bowl, or after we finished our season?

    I’m already jonesing for anything Buc, knowing we are just heading into the slowest part of the season. Lot’s of vacations are scheduled.

  10. BigMacAttack Says:

    Mark Barron was a rookie for crying out loud. Safety is a tough position in the NFL, especially when you see Brees and Ice twice a year. Give Barron a couple seasons like anyone else to make a thorough evaluation.

    The Key Point IMO to this whole PFF deal is “Coaches Film” vs TV TIVO Garbage. AYFKM?? TV picks up a fraction of what you see at the game, much less coaches getting film from every angle of every play.

    How do you make a proper assessment with only 50% of the information?

    It must be me. I just have no clue. WTF???

  11. BigMacAttack Says:

    TV will definitely show which NFL player has the best A$$. Cameramen really like to zoom in on this feature quite frequently.

  12. Joe Says:


    Because they really watch every snap and see how players are positioned put their opinion on paper.

    Not that simple. Try analyzing every player for a full play just based on televised games. You cannot. TV just does not show the entire 22 players in formation. (All-22 tape does; hence the name).

    When Joe first launched this site, he had a former Gators offensive lineman break down the Bucs offensive line each game. Halfway through the season he stopped because he said you couldn’t be accurate about blocking just based on the TV broadcast angles.

  13. Have A Nice Day Says:

    ProfootballFocus uses “all 22” from Game Rewind. They have posted that multiple times.

    Their grading is only a mystery to those who choose not to do the reading to learn how it works.

    They also work with 8 NFL teams and dozens of agents. I’m pretty sure no NFL teams nor agents would give them the time of day if it wasn’t a legitimate program.

    Is PFF perfect? No, but it adds intelligence to raw stats and is a better gauge of player impact than any other site out there.

  14. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    I always thought Mason Foster did pretty well in coverage, though I have seen him either fail to get deep, or lacvk safety help.

  15. Have A Nice Day Says:

    As far as the data being relevant, that is up to the individual to decide. But as far as being accurate, you don’t need the all-22 to determine who is covering who or what defense is being played roughly 90-99% of the time. I imagine you get really really good at deciphering it as well when you do it for every player, every play.

    Except it doesn’t say that in their FAQ. –Joe

  16. Joe Says:

    @HaveANiceDay – 90-99 percent of the time? Really? Joe would also make the argument that spending 12-16 hours a day “deciphering” film, (your word) would at the very least offset the accuracy related to familiarity.

    As for the all-22, that’s not on their FAQ.

    As for the NFL teams, again, it’s unclear what the relationship is. It’s great credibility, but without knowing what the team does with that data, it’s not relevant.

  17. Have A Nice Day Says:

    It doesn’t say what? If it gets easier to decipher defenses when you do it all day everyday? I’d imagine most people aren’t frequently asking that question.

  18. Have A Nice Day Says:

    Ah. Well, yes, they use All-22. They have written about it in multiple articles.

    I know I can tell what defenses are being played from a simple replay on TV. I imagine it is far easier when that is your job.

    Your argument for increased mistakes due to over work is noted, and I believe may have some credence, but in no way to the point of a total offset.

    Even if they make a grading mistake one out of every 100 plays per player(which I highly doubt is that high or no teams would work with them in any capacity), that itself, in theory, will balance itself out since it is on a plus/minus scale. some mistakes will be positive, some will be negative. I generally look at the grades of each position and depending on the disparity from high to low, and the average grade, will give a flexibility of 2-5 points plus or minus. This removes any doubt. If you can take away 5 points from a player and he still grades relatively high, I’m positive that guy played well.

    Plus they have a whole “signature stats” section that allows the players to weight the raw stats to the grades to give them an even better idea of how a player is performing.

  19. Joe Says:


    Even with an All-22, for a three-man staff to put together all of those weekly stats is per player is, frankly, mind-boggling.

    When Joe launched this site, the first year “this Joe” documented each and every snap Gaines Adams played each week. Just analyzing one player for each play, it would take Joe virtually two hours to document each snap. Rewind, play, rewind, play, rewind, play. Again, this is for one player.

    For three guys to document each and every NFL player for 16 games a week (usually), as Joe stated above, “do the math.” Unless they have interns (possible), there simply isn’t enough time in a week.

    Do they offer insight? Sure do. And there’s enough NFL scribes that Joe respects that swear by this outfit that Joe doesn’t dismiss them totally.

  20. 4everBucsFan Says:

    This is a statement PFF claims on accuracy,

    “We aren’t perfect, and there is a small element of human error in the process, but we have had our data verified by two NFL teams at over 99 percent accurate. Over the past few seasons we can count on one hand the plays where it has been physically impossible to identify a player from the TV footage. ”

    That right there, tells me they utilize TV footage to form their statistical opinions.

    I think claiming they are 99% accurate is misleading as well, since their is no measured way to accurately challenge their opinions.

  21. buccanay Says:

    So you use PFF if they bolster your argument, or your opinion on a particular player, team or scenario and you criticize them when their information doesn’t back up your agenda. How convenient!

    On Barron being one of the worst pass defenders…I strongly believe the Bucs coaches are doing a disservice to Barron and the defense by having Barron playing more FS and Barber more like a SS. IMO, coaches are trying to cover-up Barber’s declining coverage skills by using him more in the box. Barron is a true SS, and should be in the box when those plays are called. We’ve all seen the hit Barron put on Steve Smith after Barber “oles” him. We need a real FS so Barron can be the “enforcer” type of SS he was drafted to be. IMO, Barber still has a role to play on this team, but not as a startin FS, but as a “slot CB” or nickel CB. He has neither the range of a FS nor the ferocity of a SS. I believe the coaches know this, as well, and wont make a hard push to bring him back as a “FS”, but will offer him a position as a “nickel CB”.

  22. Joe Says:

    buccanay :

    So you use PFF if they bolster your argument, or your opinion on a particular player, team or scenario and you criticize them when their information doesn’t back up your agenda.

    In a word, “NO.”

    The only agenda Joe has is for the Bucs to win. Oh, and for Rachel Watson to visit his lair, preferably wearing something kinky.

  23. chris Says:

    Honestly, to answer the issues on Mark Barron: I didn’t like the scheme and the way we used him. We played too aggressive at times, in my opinion. In the NFL today, with the rise of passing offense, and so many good QBs, you need to have your front 4 get at the QB with the occassional dial up blitz. I think Barron was in bad positioning several times due to play calling.

    As for this statistical crap: Foster was decent in coverage. Not great. Stats are bogus. People need to watch the games.

  24. Capt. Tim Says:

    Relax. David is a rookie. Pass coverage is the hardest thing to learn. He’ll be greatly improved this year. I hope the same is true for Barron! He was horrible – even for a rookie!

  25. Keith Says:

    I subscribe to PFF but I definitely don’t think these guys are great with their accuracy. Just match up their data with what guys get paid in free agency and how their teams value them and it doesn’t jibe all the time at all.

    Just because PFF says they were verified as 99 percent accurate doesn’t mean anything at all until the other side (NFL GMs) really explain on the record what PFF brings to the table.

    Think about it. The Bucs have an entire department devoted to scouting the NFL. Why would they rely on some no-name guys of PFF for anything other than interesting bathroom reading and/or to see if they can pick out any trends from the compilation.

  26. BamBamBuc Says:

    Just putting this out there… I believe PFF is a 3 man staff, however I do believe they use volunteer help to break down film. I don’t subscribe to their premium statistics, I do read their articles sometimes. They have been pretty accurate in most things I’ve read (e.g. Michael Bennett was their “Secret Superstar last off-season and he did play well enough to earn a nice new contract with some team). All statistics are subject to human interpretation and error, especially without knowledge of what play the coach called (whcih guy blew an assignment? What was the plan the coach had for that play?) I’ve seen many situations where a DB “thought he had help over the top”. Well, was that the DB blowing his assignment by “thinking” he had help when he really didn’t? Or the Safety fault for being out of position or “not over the top”? We don’t know which of the two blew the assignment, we didn’t draw up the play. Is it possible the MLB changed things before the snap because he saw something and the DB didn’t hear the change? Then it’s really more the MLB fault as much as the CB or S. You see? It’s all subjective. As for “All 22” footage, the individuals I’ve talked to that “volunteered” in film breakdown have used “All 22”, but any statistical site (PFF, Football Outsiders, etc) has only had access to that film a year or two. Before that, all film was TV footage. There are many sites that have “forgotten” to update their FAQ when they began using new tech until someone has brought it to their attention. I really don’t understand the big fuss… We all know stats are subjective at best.

  27. Kevin Says:

    I subscribe to PFF premium. The breakdowns for any given week start trickling out late Sunday night and are typically done by early Tuesday morning. The NFL typically releases All-22 film on Tuesday. Thus, their stats and breakdowns are out BEFORE the all-22 footage is released by the NFL.
    I like looking at an outside source to see how they grade the Bucs each week. It’s fun. It’s not gospel (as noted by Joe above!).

  28. Jonny 3.3 Says:

    Joe, I can see where you are coming from and how you have doubts about PFF’s stats, but the access to the coaches film using NFL Game Pass is as easy as <$50.00. Heck, I know a way to even do it for free, which of course I wont reveal in your site to avoid getting suspended.

    Now the way they may have analyzed Foster is if QBs targeted the man Foster was covering or not. May be there was no need to target for short yardage when our CBs were letting their receivers run wild, but it also may be because Foster was doing a decent enough job to prevent QBs from throwing the ball towards his side. Either way, its an interesting analysis.

  29. BrianDorry55 Says:

    I wouldnt have guessed that Foster was at the top…but I definitely would have guessed that he was better than Lavonte in that regard. People love to hate on Foster for some reason…he played damn good ball this year.