Tony DeMeo

How to Use Meaningful Stats to Improve Your Program

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about “meaningful stats” and what stats are important and which stats are ESPN stats or meaningless. How many times have you heard an announcer proclaim that Joe Blow just threw for a school record of 500 yards and oh by the way his team is losing! Or how many times have you heard a coach on the short end of the score say “We outgained them by a hundred yards; they couldn’t stop us” Those comments are a result of not understanding the difference between meaningful and meaningless stats. Averages mean nothing. Every game has a unique dynamic that has little to do with previous games. Only use stats for each individual game.

The Four Standard Meaningful Stats that decide wins and losses are:

  1. Score more than 25 points in every game & against the best on your schedule. This is your baseline target. In every game you should have a game plan to score a minimum of 25 points. No one scored 25 points in the last 2 BCS Championship games even though Oregon was averaging double that amount all year, but we know averages are meaningless.
  2. Hold your opponent to 16 points or less. This is my definition of playing great defense. If you can’t score 25 points due to your opponent or the weather etc then hold your opponent to less than 16.
  3. Score a non Offensive Touchdown and don’t give up any. If you score a non offensive TD it hurts your offensive stats but you win. If you give up a non offensive Touchdown, it helps your offensive stats but you lose the game!
  4. Have a +2 or more turnover margin. Ball security is essential and getting takeaways is essential to securing wins. It’s all about the ball and who possesses it.

If there are two other second tier elements that are important but fit into the four main stats. They are:

  1. It is to score touchdowns in the Red Zone and force a Field goal attempt if your opponents are in your red zone.
  2. Win the Sudden Change – stop your opponent from converting turnovers to  points, conversely convert your opponents turnovers into points

So how do you build a team philosophy around these stats? In the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis he talks about how Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s built their team around on base percentage. He tells how the A’s built their roster with guys who could get on base. Typically these were not the highly sought after sexy sluggers that earned more money than small countries. They were instead guys who were very selective in their pitch selection and thus got on base often.   We developed our Football Philosophy based on controlling the ball. We played guys who could hold on to the ball and guys who could get the ball. We also went with the quarterback who made the best decisions.

The first decision was to have an offensive system that could score 25 points against superior talent. Ken Hatfield said “you either have to be better or be different if you are going to win” – we had to be different. So we installed The Triple Gun Offense – which combined the elements of the service academies Flexbone offense and the quick game of the West Coast Offense. Both schemes were developed for “have nots”. The problem was: the Flexbone was considered high risk. The goal was to score 25 against the best on our schedule and NOT turn the ball over. So we had to make The Triple gun Offense low risk. How?

  1. Limit the number of run plays and maximize the reps to improve execution.
  2. Minimize the plays, maximize the ways. Multiple Formations & motions.
  3. Eliminate indecision by simplifying the thought process. ( Unless rules) – “better wrong than long”
  4. Make your plays have “Strategic Flexibility” – the ability to morph into another play after the snap. The Flash Screen is always part of any run play, if there are 8 between the slots. The Quick pass becomes a boot if the route is covered. Protect the quarterback by always giving him an escape if the route is covered. For example he can run quarterback draw if the dropback pass is covered.
  5. Always protect the mesh.
  6. Use “Smart Splits” and always look to get “speed in space”
  7. Always create favorable mismatches ( make tackle guys run and cover and make cover guys tackle)
  8. Practice & emphasize Red Zone offense. Your system should be conducive to the red zone and goal line. You must always score touchdowns when you get the chance. The option is a great red zone weapon & is even more effective from the gun.

These are some of the ways to have a unique offense that is both highly productive and capable of scoring 25 points against the best you’ll play.

The second Meaningful Stat is to hold opponent to 16 or less. To accomplish this you have to emphasize speed on defensive but you also use your ball control offense to limit the NUMBER of possessions in the game. Time of possession only matters to an exorcist. But how many possessions your opponent has matters a lot. Control the tempo on offense and score touchdowns on a greater number of possessions than your opponent. Play scorched earth defense, make them nickel and dime you down the field and then make them attempt a field goal if they get in the red zone. Keep the ball in front and inside. If your opponent keeps running the ball they are actually helping you shorten the game! The other thing you must do on defense is constantly look for takeaways by:

  1. Putting DBs with good hands in the secondary.
  2. Gang Tackle and strip the ball on every tackle once the tackle is secure. Touch the ball on defense on every play.
  3. Have a turnover circuit every day in practice.
  4. Be fundamentally sound, good tacklers and play fast. Speed is mandatory on defense.

The next meaningful stat is to score a Non Offensive Touchdown. This can be done either with a Punt Return or Punt Block, a kick Off Return, an Interception Return or a Fumble Returned for a touchdown. This means putting good return men in the lineup, good hands guys that can go coast to coast Then practice your special teams with great detail. The following are a few tips to give yours team a shot at a non Offensive touchdown:

  1. Spend time coaching special teams, make them important. Put good hands and speed on your return teams. If you don’t have a great returner, then develop great punt blocks.
  2. Coach the cover teams hard so you don’t give up a non offensive touchdown.
  3. Be sure you teach ball security so you don’t give up a pick six.

The last Meaningful Stat is a +2 turnover margin. We’ve already talked about taking care of the football and making good decisions on offense and on defense emphasizing getting your hands on the ball.

There is little doubt the importance of these Meaningful Stats, however everything you do in your program should be directed at coming out on top of these Meaningful Stats Remember, you get what you emphasize. Winning the meaningful stat battle may not excite Brent Musburger but you’ll win games.