2011 Chiefs DVOA Analysis Post Mortem Vol. 4: Inside The Chiephins Offense

As I’m sure most readers have by now concluded, the 2011 Chiefs offense struggled some. One interesting stat to look at in this area are 2011 Drive Stats as computed by Football Outsiders. Considering Brian Daboll has been named as the Chiefs new OC, I thought it might also be interesting to take a quick peek at how the Miami Dolphins offense fared last season under Daboll’s watch.

I feel it helps to compare apples to apples and start by setting forth the fact that the core identity of both the Chiefs and Dolphins is that of running teams wherein the Chiefs ranked 2nd in total carries and the Dolphins ranked 5th. So with that clearly established, let’s begin with what each team possessed up front.

As you may or may not know, the Dolphins’ starting OL, unlike the Chiefs, consists entirely of guys who were selected in the first round of their respective drafts. In light of that, one might reasonably expect them to be pretty good at controlling the LOS. Well, yes and no. In a couple of ways, the 2011 versions of each team’s OL units were somewhat similar in that each team possessed superior left tackles in Jake Long for the Phins and Branden Albert for the Chiefs (the Chiefs only 1st round OL btw) but both teams were also pretty soft in the right tackle spots through the likes of Barry Richardson and Marc Colombo. That’s pretty much where the similarities end.

The Dolphins were far and away better between the guards than were the Chiefs. For example (and regardless of what people might feel towards him as a “dirty” player), Incognito seems to have played pretty damn solidly for the Phins in the left guard slot. Similarly, C Pouncey also appears to be doing everything that was expected of him. In terms of interior line play, Vernon Carey’s production in the run game can’t really be faulted either. By contrast, the running game production of the Chiefs interior OL left much to be desired. Need I point out yet once more that going with two undersized interior linemen, UFA LG Ryan Lilja & 38 year old UFA C Casey Weigmann, alongside the 2nd year, 3rd rounder RG Jon Asamoah perhaps comes with its limitations?

The next two tables I think illustrate pretty cleanly what I’m basing all this on.

I see two things basically. The Dolphins were a better running team than the Chiefs in most categories and the Dolphins clearly excelled at running the ball between the guards. So, when it came to playcalling for the rushing game, just how smart was Brian Daboll at playing to his strengths and avoiding his weaknesses? Check out the next table.

What stands out the most to me here is that the Dolphins ran the ball between the guards 63% percent of the time as compared to a league average 50%. I think that’s pretty smart. Number one, because he understood they were good at doing that and number two, the shortest distance between point A and point B is always a straight line (spare me the nerd speak on how Relativistic Physics sometimes suggests otherwise).

What about avoiding weaknesses? Again, we see that for runs to the right side, Daboll controlled the damage by dialing way back on those. The only questionable strategy one can find here is the scaling back on runs to the left side where the Phins experienced an above average success rate. Then again, there’s the shortest distance argument coupled with the fact that all those extra carries between the guards have to come from somewhere. Compared to how Haley managed his gap preferences, Daboll seems like a genius. Point being, know thyself.

So I hear you saying out loud, well weren’t the Dolphins were more successful at running the ball simply because they were blessed with the talents of Reggie Bush while the Chiefs had to somehow make do with Jackie Battle? Sorry boys, but that dog just won’t hunt. Battle ranked 17th in DVOA and 24th in DYAR compared to Bush’s respective 30 and 29 rankings. BOOYAH!

At QB, 5th year veteran backup Matt Moore (originally signed as a UFA by the Cowboys) finished out as 26th in DVOA and 23rd in DYAR while Cassel’s rankings were 39 and 40 respectively. Moore’s completion percentage on the season was 60.5% and his passer rating was 87.1. However, for running teams like the Chiefs and Dolphins, I just don’t see Daboll as having all that signficant of an advantage with Moore. I think one can also make a fair argument that Daboll played a significant role in the success and development that Moore experienced this past season. By the same token, what positive thing can be said about Haley’s role in the development of Matt Cassel during the 2011 season?

I’m going to finish this out by finally getting to the statistical subject I hinted at in my introduction, namely Drive Stats. Note that SOS stands for for Strength of Schedule, DSR is Drive Success Ratio meaning “percentage of down series that result in a first down or touchdown,” non-adjusted for opponent, while discarding “take-a-knee drives at the end of a half”, and LOS/Dr is “the average starting field position (line of scrimmage) per drive.” So let’s take a look, shall we?

The first thing I always look at it on this is the LOS/Dr because I feel that’s a pretty fair gauge of how good of a job your special teams receiving unit is doing. It also provides some insight into how much field an offense typically has to work with; in this proverbial “game of inches,” that’s something that can matter. Here we see that the Chiefs ranked 31st in that category while the Dolphins, with the #7 rank, placed them among the elite teams in this categories. This says two things – major changes probably were indeed warranted for the Chiefs’ special teams unit and Daboll typically enjoyed a shorter field with which to work, an edge if you will.

The next thing I like to look at is SOS wherein we see that the Dolphins endured a tougher road than the Chiefs. Now the homer/skeptic might say “well wins and losses are all that really matter” noting rightly that the Dolphins went 6-10 while the Chiefs bested that with a 7-9 record. I suppose the best response to that is that a winless Dolphins team came into Arrowhead and routed a decent KC defense 31-3 with Reggie Bush averaging over 7 yards a carry. I suspect that game not only surprised Romeo Crennel some but very likely also caught his attention in terms of Daboll’s playcalling acumen.

So what’s the big take away?

Facing a tougher schedule, armed with generally inferior talent at skill positions (other than perhaps QB?), but also enjoying better interior OL play and special teams help, running a very similar style of offense, Brian Daboll outperformed Todd Haley’s Chiefs with more yards/dr, more TDs, more points, fewer punts, and a higher DSR. In light of all that, I have to feel that Daboll has a pretty good shot at success here, especially considering he will be operating within what is currently a much weaker division than what he went up against in the AFC East. That, along with a presumptive position upgrade from whomever hikes the ball for the Chiefs in 2012.

You have my Double Take.

I’d love to hear your take Addicts!

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