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Was it Really Just a Second Half Problem?
Posted By ChiefsWarpath.com On August 25, 2008 @ 10:25 pm In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Herm Edwards opened up training camp with a PowerPoint presentation that attempted to explain away last years 4-12 season in one short sentence: We didn’t finish games in the second half. Herm pounded this point for days in the early part of camp, claiming the first halves of 2007 a victory and the second halves a disaster. Many members of the media picked this notion up as scripture and passed it along as truth with little questioning or counter analysis (e.g. KC Chiefs.com). But does this notion hold any water, or is it just selective memory?
First let us quickly review the evidence for this notion as presented by Herm and then paraphrased by Bob Gretz:
“In 16 games last year, the Chiefs either led, were tied, or trailed by 10 points or less 14 times (in the first half)… If they had split (those) 14 games with stronger second half efforts, they would have been 8-8.”
Am I the only one who sees a serious flaw in the chosen statistic? I’m sorry, but I do not consider being down 10 points at half time a ‘success’ or a close game by any stretch of the imagination. The only thing a 10-point half-time deficit gives you is a pace to lose by 20. So let me present some actual numbers and analysis that might actually have some meaning.
First let’s look at the defense, the only part of the team Herm seems to pay attention to. Ignoring the fact that you’d expect our defense to wear down and perform more poorly in the second half because our poor offense couldn’t stay on the field, let’s just go ahead and compare first and second half defensive performance. Some quick hits:
- First half points given up: 164. Second half: 168. That’s pretty much the same. So remarkably, the defense was pretty consistent, even after being on the field all game.
- Number of times defense gave up 10+ points: First Half = 10, Second Half = 10. Hmm, also gave up the same number of “big-ish” halves on both sides of the game. So games were equally “blown” in both halves.
Ok, so the defense seemed relatively consistent across both halves. I suppose most of Herm’s blame must fall on the second half offense then. Quick offensive hits:
- Chiefs 1st half average: 7.4 points. Chiefs 2nd half average: 6.8. Ok, a small drop-off, but nothing to write home about. Both stink.
- The NFL average scoring by a team in one half was 11 points last year. The Chiefs only accomplished 11+ points three times in the first half. They scored 11+ in the second half two times. Again, this is not a statistically significant drop off between the halves.
Ok, so maybe it’s just that things happened to average out, but that the Chiefs failed in the second half when it counted. Well, how many 1st halves did the Chiefs win, i.e. how many games were they leading at half time? Just six. Considering we won four games, this number isn’t surprising. Most teams (especially struggling ones) will blow a few half time leads over the course of the season.
Or, let’s expand the definition to be more like Herm’s definition of a successful half. How many games were we at least within three points (or winning) at half time? Eight games. For comparison, how many second halves were we within three points of our opponents 2nd half points? Seven games. Again, the halves are pretty consistent.
So in the end, I cannot find any supporting evidence for Herm’s “second half collapse” theory. This is surprising to me, since when Herm first said it, I thought it sounded correct. But it turns out that it was only due to some very memorable poor second halves that happened later in the season and are fresher in my memory. If we couple that with the fact that Herm has our expectations so low that some of us consider a 10-point deficit at half time a “competitive half”, and we begin to see the problem. Somehow losing a game by 20 points seems worse than losing at halftime by 10… but it’s really not.
You want to know the primary reason for our 4-12 season last year? I think you already know: An offense that averaged 14 points a game. That’s over seven points lower than the league average. No amount of defense can erase the fact that scoring three points in a half is a huge offensive failure. Herm fails to acknowledge this and believes three points are perfectly acceptable as long as you hold the opponent to six points or less. He seems to completely misunderstand the offensive side of football and why it even exists. Sometimes it’s almost as if he believes the offense’s only purpose is to keep the defense off the field. Our only hope is that he lets Chan Gailey have the amount of freedom he needs to turn this unit around and give us the well balanced team we’ve been needing for a long time.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a recent Herm quote that is loaded with telling bits of Herm’s psyche. When asked why he waited until this year to coach to the players instead of the system, he responded:
“I don’t know if so much if we didn’t do that last year or the year before. The year before we got in the playoffs. I think we lose sight of some of the things we have done well around here. We always look at one season and say, ‘well, they were horrible.’ Record-wise, yeah, it wasn’t very good. But I thought the players tried to do what we wanted them to do last year. They were well-coached. Our inability to finish games was our Achilles Heel, that and the turnovers and our inability to run the ball and our inability towards the later part of the season to stop the run.”
Ignoring this strange beast with four different Achilles “Heels” (does he know what that saying means?) and his incessant passing of the blame to the players (the “well coached” players “tried”), it’s good to see that Herm has since learned that there were more problems last year than just “not finishing”. Maybe there is hope for him yet. After all, acknowledging a problem is the first step. If only he could realize that “scoring points” was our biggest problem area of all.
P.S. If you disagree with me, I kindly request that you post facts and ideas. Please stop the mindless name-calling I sometimes see from posters. I put a lot of time into gathering statistics for my commentaries, please show the same respect in crafting your responses.
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