Dirk Koetter & “Toxic Differential”

January 23rd, 2017



NFL players have been knocking heads for almost a century and the letters TD have always stood for touchdown.

Not anymore.

There’s a new TD on the pro football landscape, one that tells an intriguing story if you’re willing to listen.

Dirk Koetter sounds like a true believer.

A few years back, Brian Billick talked up a statistic he dubbed “toxic differential,” designed to gauge the relative strength of NFL teams.

Simply put, you take the differential of big plays (runs of more than 10 yards and completions of more than 25 yards), add turnover ratio to the mix and voila, you’re ready to rumble.

No stat is foolproof, except for wins and losses, but Billick’s baby has serious ramifications for the 2016 Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay registered 35 runs of more than 10 yards and 25 completions of more than 25 yards last season. That total of 60 pales in comparison to the 76 big plays Tampa Bay posted in 2015, when Koetter was devoting all of his attention to the Buc offense.

Only the Rams (53) and Vikings (51) generated fewer of these big plays and the Bucs allowed 88 of ’em, giving them a big-play differential of minus-28.

That’s not a typo.


Horrific Company

That’s the worst mark in the league, with the hapless Rams No. 31 at minus-20.

When you add in Tampa Bay’s plus-2 turnover ratio, the Bucs were minus-26 on Billick’s toxic differential scale, ahead of only the Jets, the Browns and the Rams.

Is that a group you want to be associated with?

No wonder Koetter puts so much stock in the importance of big plays.

“We’re not a dink-and-dunk team, so we’re not going to be a 70 percent completion team,’’ Koetter says. “We need to be in the low 60s and keep focusing on making our explosives plays. We preach explosives way more than we preach completions.”

Tampa Bay’s pedestrian ground game was the primary culprit, leading to a 30 percent drop in big runs — from 50 in 2015 to 35 this season.

Stats can be twisted, but this season’s toxic differential totals paint a vibrant picture. The Cowboys were first at plus-40, followed by the Patriots (+38) and Falcons (+29). The Steelers came in fifth (+23), followed by the Packers at plus-20.

Yes, four of the top six “TD” clubs played this past weekend.

Super Bowl Formula

From 2015-2012, the four teams that led the league in toxic differential (Panthers-Seahawks-Seahawks-49ers) all advanced to the Super Bowl.

That’s one heck of a coincidence.

Picking up huge chunks of yardage at a time changes field position in an instant and demoralizes defenses. The Bucs had to grind out too many possessions this season, undermined by penalties and poor production on first down.

On defense, Mike Smith made a strong commitment to addressing that absurd 70 percent completion rate Buc opponents registered in 2015. That number shrunk to 63 percent this year, but there was a price to pay.

A year after yielding only 20 long passes, Tampa Bay allowed 34.

The bottom line is the Bucs can’t hope to be a league power unless they do a far better job generating big plays and limiting those of the opposition.

“Explosive plays within a drive significantly change your opportunity to score,” says Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “So it’s really important to try and create those plays.”

That’s the mantra Koetter and Jason Licht will take into an offseason geared to flip that chilling toxic differential.

25 Responses to “Dirk Koetter & “Toxic Differential””

  1. SB Says:

    All that and we still went 9 and 7 against a tough schedule. This tells me that we are on the verge of something special as this team begins to gel more. Exciting times to be a Bucs fan

  2. SB Says:

    Nice article Ira.

  3. tmaxcon Says:

    Imagine what they would have done with a reliable even mediocre running back. Martin really stuck it up his teammates asses with his selfish bad choices.

  4. Buc4Lyfe79 Says:

    Ahh..the flip side to being the #1 3rd down defense…34 long completions most likely between 1st and 2nd down..pretty sure with Mike Smith staying put, those stats will only get better.

  5. Defense Rules Says:

    Like that toxic differential equation Ira. The ‘bottom line’ is clear as you say: ‘the Bucs can’t hope to be a league power unless they do a far better job generating big plays and limiting those of the opposition.’

    We can certainly generate more than 60 big plays in 16 games on offense this year I’d think IF we improve the run game, stretch the field with a true speed #2 WR and pass-protect better for Jameis so plays can develop deeper down field.

    Bigger concern is giving up 88 big plays on defense. That’s really bad: 34 deep passes if I read right, and presumably 54 long runs of 10 yds or more. Actually more concerned about the horrendous number of long runs given up … very uncharacteristic of Bucs’ defenses. From the games I saw, too many of those runs came between the tackles, and that’s where our MLB needs to be plugging the holes. I know Kwon’s a great addition, but I’d much rather see him outside and get a true MLB (as in ‘a beast’) who can be on the field for anticipated running plays at least. Someone like Brian Urlacher (6’4″ & 258 lbs) or Ray Lewis (6’1″ & 245 lbs) would do just fine.

  6. DB55 Says:

    Mike smith has always had a soft run def. one of the reasons he got fired from ATL. For once I’d like our FO to hire coach based on competence and not friendships.

  7. ndog Says:

    Or Defense we could have a DT that is not the highest paid player on the team either make a freaking play or at least not jump out of his gap and let the OL get to the second level to block our linebackers!

  8. Herbie Says:

    To me the biggest area of improvement needs to be Winston’s ability to complete the long ball. How many explosive plays were lost last year due to Winston overthrowing his target?

  9. mike Says:

    Good read ira. Yeah, if we don’t have that string of 5 or 6 games where we had like a plus 4 in turnovers each game, we might have been 7-9. We still have a long way to go.

  10. Architek Says:

    Ira you sir are a beast!!!

  11. tdtb2015 Says:

    The 2nd half of the season we were a different team. Now that the defense is clicking I don’t expect us to start the same way we did in 2016.

    Still love’ya Ira. You make JBF Great!

  12. LakeLandBuc Says:

    Atlanta has done an amazing job of drafting players and signing players through free agency. That’s why they are in the playoffs, it will take a 12-4 record or better to win the NFC South. If we have any hopes of winning our division, we better be a lot better than 9-7.

  13. LakeLandBuc Says:

    I know that Atlanta won the division this season with a 11-5 record. And they are in the Super Bowl. But I believe it will take a 12-4 record or better in the future. Our Divisional rivals are young and they will only get better. We need to get better to maintain pace with them.

  14. Lord Cornelius Says:

    I’m pretty sure most those big plays we gave up on defense were in the first 8 weeks of the year; and namely a few of their really bad performances like the Falcons/Raiders games.

    Early in the year in the first ½ of the season I was arguing with 813Bucboi because he was saying he saw no improvements at all to the defense; and I pointed out that we were taking more risks on defense and doing better at most everything except for big plays or blown assignments. We were much better at 3rd down, penalties, and completion % given up early in the season (as I remember citing these stats in arguments); but we just were still giving up too many big play scores – especially if you think of like the Rams game where we outplayed them but gave up a couple easy scores and had the big fumble for a TD on offense. That was a nightmare.

    After their bye week and the focus on communication; the big plays off of blown assignments came way down.

  15. Kevin Says:

    There are no home run fa recievers this year. Koetter is going to have to.find someone in the draft.

    The oline and d line however have some hope. Havent looked at the rb list yet

  16. Ed Says:

    Ira: good article, you are right on about the lack of big plays in our offense.

    As great as Mike Evans is now and by no means am I detracting from his great season, he was outstanding. BUT, he catches so many balls in the middle of the field and has to go down right away, he doesn’t even try and turn around because he’s going to get creamed. No YAC’s from Mike.

    Watched New England destroy Pittsburgh yesterday, how many times does Julian Edelman catch a 6 yard pass and turn upfield for a 12 yard gain.

    Who the heck is that other “no name” Patriot receiver that had 2 TD’s and caught like 10 balls and thats with no running game. I know why.

    Because Tom Brady gets rid of it quick and it gets there fast, his receivers spin out right after the catch and take off.

    Julio Jones, another guy that gets those YACs. No surprise Atlanta and New England will play. What a chess match for Bill B figuring out how to make Matt Ryan look like they made Big Ben look.

    Atlanta is an underdog? I like them over New England.

  17. gotbbucs Says:

    Better safeties and faster wide recievers.

    If Malik Hooker is sitting there around pick 10, go get him. He’s a difference maker.

  18. SB Says:

    Calais Campbell in FA would negate the need to go DL in the 1st. Deshaun Jackson would negate the need to go WR in the 1st.
    THESE two Moves NEEEEEEEEEEEED to be made in order to maximize our Draft potential.
    Note: I would be satisfied with Pryor if not Jackson. Either one would give us more movement freedom come draft time.

  19. ME13 Says:

    Pryor !!! JPP N Fairley Eric Berry!! Boom Boom as the cannons fire as AP runs one in from the 40 Behind Jermey Zuttah &Marpet !! An who every our new RT is!!! Did I said that JPP sacked Tom Brady an then pressured him in a bad throw that Eric Berry pick an ran back to the 40!!! Go Bucs

  20. SB Says:

    KC ain’t letting Berry go anywhere ME13.

  21. Buccfan37 Says:

    Another Patriot SB win, say it ain’t so damn.

  22. tickrdr Says:

    Posted earlier today.

    Just another one of those things I learned while looking up some other things.

    Chris Hogan, WR, NE Patriots matched the performance of the great Julio Jones yesterday with 9 catches for 180 yards and two TDs, against the Steelers.
    Played for four years at Penn State, but wasn’t drafted, because he played LACROSSE there. Had one year of eligibility left and then played for Monmouth University for one year and had 12 catches and 3 TDs in college. But when he has a certain 6th round draft pick throwing to him, he somehow looks OK.


  23. LifeOfABucFan Says:

    Herbie’s post..correct..

    I was talking today my younger son who loves the Bucs like I do..and the one thing he said was “Until Jameis gets his accuracy issues solved, it won’t matter if he has 5 weapons on the field at any given time”..

    Jameis needs to get the long ball issues corrected this off season and then get the missing pieces..and we’re in like Flynn!

  24. TheDeuce Says:

    And there is another 100 useless group of stats that say the Bucs will be bad and 100 more that say we will be great…this article is reaching for something…I know the Bucs season is over but cmon guys…

  25. Rod Munch Says:

    Lack of talent on offense was a huge part of it. Look at the first game of the year when the Bucs had ASJ, VJ and Martin – Winston throws for 4 TDs and easily could have put up more points if Dirk doesn’t go super conservative after half-time. I get why with ASJ they had to move on, the guy was/is an idiot, but man – he was a talented idiot when he played. VJ is obviously a very talented guy as well, and when healthy, he was still effective. Then you lose Martin in game 2…

    Also Dirk just wasn’t a good playcaller, his play calling in 2015 was quite good, it was the best Bucs offense we’ve ever had – ever. This year, I’m not sure if it was from being on the field or just other responsibilities, the offensive playcalling was super predictable and super conservative. Then start taking away all of Winston’s weapons minus Evans on a team that had no depth and it was just not going to be a successful year.

    Everyone loves Brate… yes yes, I get it, the white guy TE with a single syllable name that makes it easy to chant, but the guy was an UDFA for a reason. He has very good hands and I think he’s an OK starter, but he’s not beating one-on-one coverage. He’s good at finding openings in zones, which is the same thing Humphries, another UDFA, but can’t beat man-to-man coverage the vast majority of time. Again Brate I have no issue with, but he should be, at best, the 3rd receiving option and against teams that play tight man-to-man defenses with good LBs, he should be even further down that list.

    As for turnovers how many hail marries and last min desperation INTs did he have? I seem to remember a number of them and they inflated the turnover stats. Outside of the Arizona game I didn’t think Winston had a bad game all year, even the Denver game I didn’t think he was bad in – they just had everyone covered and zero running game.

    Fix the running game, get Dirk an OC that actually calls HIS offense and get some WR depth and everything should be fine. Also don’t hire an OC to not run Dirk’s offense, the only reason the guy was hired was because of his offense, if he’s not even going to run it then why would he be the head coach?