Snooping around the internet I found an interesting write-up from NJ.com breaking down the Kansas City Chiefs-Philadelphia Eagles week three game. The article is written with a Philadelphia slant so do not expect to click on the link and find a whole bunch of glowing comments about the Chiefs.
There was, however, an interesting tidbit about turnovers and the Philadelphia Eagles that really caught my eye. Here’s the quote:
Watching the Eagles through the first three games, it is weird how these kind of plays — fumbles on punt returns, bad snaps later in this game, etc. — seemed to go away when Nick Foles took over. Not blaming Michael Vick or praising Foles, but it is interesting that when a quarterback who struggles with turnovers was taken out, the whole team seemed to clean up its act.
Something about the phrasing of this is very intriguing to me. The writer immediately notes that he doesn’t think Nick Foles has magical powers or anything, citing he is not praising him but noting a coincidence in the team’s behavior with him at quarterback. The writer seems to be pointing out there was a different mindset with Foles at quarterback than with Vick at quarterback.
One would have to admit that the styles of play between Vick and Foles are very different. Vick is a guy more likely to take high risks and also runs with the ball far more than Foles. Foles seems to be a little more direct about where he plans to go with the ball and does not hold onto the ball as long in an attempt to make a play out of nothing. It would make sense for Foles’ style to produce fewer turnovers but it could also means Vick can create more plays out of nothing. It is a risk-reward situation.
The risk-reward idea seems to affect the rest of the offense when it comes to mentality. “Vick is out there trying to make something out of nothing on every play so we will take on that personality as an offense.” With Foles it is more “do your job and make the play in front of you.” Philadelphia’s offense was far more sound under this mentality.
Chemistry is a difficult thing to measure in sports so it becomes something of a taboo subject for analytical sports fans, however it would be foolish to dismiss the idea of chemistry completely as we are talking about humans and not robots. There may be something to be said about the mentality and style of play of the team’s leader, the quarterback, and how it relates to turnovers.
For the most part the philosophy on turnovers is they are random, but this may not be the case. Sure, fumbles can be a 50/50 situation but someone had to knock the ball out of the carrier’s hands or the carrier had to drop the ball in some way. That’s a talent issue, not a luck issue. Tipped passes, something also considered to be associated with bad luck, are caused by aggressive defensive backs, wide receivers with poor hands, or pass rushers who are able to get to the quarterback. This would go under the “you make your own luck” argument.
Kansas City’s defense from a year ago is a great example of this idea. Bob Sutton came in and said creating turnovers is going to be a priority, and suddenly the defense started creating turnovers. Was that luck or was that an approach and aggressiveness to how the Chiefs decided to play defense?
Alex Smith comes in as quarterback and suddenly the Chiefs don’t turn the ball over as much. Smith prioritized protecting the ball and making the smart play, and suddenly the Chiefs go from turning the ball over at an 18.8% clip in 2012 to 9.1% in 2013. Is that luck or is that a conscious decision to take care of the football?
Likewise, the 2012 Chiefs defense, set in ‘bend but don’t break” mode, forced only 13 turnovers. They didn’t take many risks and were not very aggressive. The 2013 Chiefs sent crazy blitzes and left their corners on islands in an effort to create pressure on the quarterback and more turnovers. It worked as the forced 36 of them.
Sure, variables are apart of everything – Kanas City played some weak quarterbacks, Smith didn’t go down field often, etc. – but there has to be something about how the mental approach to turnovers impacts turnovers on the field and who commits them.
All of this is to say that while many believe there will be serious regression with the Chiefs when it comes to turnovers, that may not necessarily be the case when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. If Smith’s mindset is to make the smart play that protects the ball and that permeates to the rest of him teammates than it could be enough to keep the Chiefs turnover situation relatively unchanged.
That is, of course, unless all turnovers are based on luck.