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Len Pasquarelli doesn't understand statistics, writes national column about them

According to Len Pasquarelli, Monte Kiffin's Tampa Bay Buccaneers defenses couldn't stop people from walking all over them. Too bad Pasquarelli's numbers are figments of the imagination.


Len Pasquarelli seems to have some trouble reading statistical tables, or maybe it's just his intern who's messing up some damn basic research. Pasquarelli, who's filling for Dan Pompei on the NFP Sunday Blitz, penned a column about former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The venerable old man is now the defensive coordinator of the hated Dallas Cowboys after four years of helping his spawn from hell convince college programs they can totally trust him.

Pasquarelli's main point? The Tampa 2 is more about preventing points than it is about yards. And Pasquarelli has lots and lots of statistics to back up his point. Unfortunately for Len, he doesn't seem to understand the whole concept of statistics, numbers or reality. Observe:

In his 15 seasons as an NFL coordinator, Kiffin units have ranked just once in the top 10 in total defense, and that was way back in 1995, with the New Orleans Saints. Somewhat stunningly, in his celebrated 13 seasons in Tampa Bay, the Bucs never statistically ranked higher than 16th in yards allowed and 11 times were 20th or worse.

Actually, the 1995 New Orleans Saints ranked 22nd in total defense. But that's not even the biggest mess in that first sentence, and it's just one sentence mind you. Here are the rankings, in order, for the Bucs' total yards allowed from 1996 to 2008 -- Monte Kiffin's tenure: 11th, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 6th, 1st, 5th, 5th, 1st, 17th, 2nd, 9th.

Kiffin's defenses have ranked in the top 10 in yards allowed in all but three seasons, and one of those seasons was cited by Pasquarelli as a top 10 defense. In fact, the Bucs allowed the fewest yards in the entire league twice during Kiffin's tenure. Twice!

Take the 2002 season for example. Tampa Bay ranked dead last statistically in the NFL in yards allowed.

Tot Yds & TO Passing Rushing
Pts Yds Ply Y/P TO FL 1stPy 1stD Cmp Att Yds TD Int NY/A 1stD Att Yds TD Y/A
Team Defense 196 4044 963 4.2 38 7 26 236 259 510 2490 10 31 4.5 131 410 1554 8 3.8
Lg Rank Defense 1 1 3 30 1 5 1 1 1 1 10 5 3 5

Okay, so, maybe Pro Football Reference is wrong? 2002stats_medium




Besides, how does his not mind not go "wait a minute, is that right?" when writing that sentence? How does he go "Last in yards, first in points, SOUNDS PERFECTLY REASONABLE TO ME."

In the eight years the Cowboys aligned in the 3-4, they never rated in the top 10 in defense against the rush, and just once were in the top half of the league. Six times, they were 20th or worse.

I thought he was going to be right for just a second, there. The Cowboys ranked 22nd against the run last year, after all. But nooooooooooooooope: 7th in 2011, 4th in 2009, 6th in 2007 and 10th in 2006. Oh, and that Wade Phillips defense was more similar to the Tampa 2 than to a traditional 3-4, but never mind even that.

Then again, Kiffin's defenses haven't ranked in the top 10 against the run since 1996, his first season in Tampa Bay.

1996 season:

Att Yds TD Y/A 1stD
Team Defense 438 1889 13 4.3 114
Lg Rank Defense 13 22 18 27
1997 season:

Att Yds TD Y/A 1stD
Team Defense 420 1617 10 3.9 96
Lg Rank Defense 7 6 6 13

In fact, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked in the top 10 in run defense from 1997 through 2000, and in 2005. Stop it, Len. You're embarrassing yourself. Quite badly, I might add.

Let's make it a little more embarrassing! Guess where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank over Monte Kiffin's tenure in total yards allowed.

Points Opp Tot Yds & TO
Rk Tm From To G W L T W-L% PF PA PD Tot TO
1 HOU 2002 2008 112 40 72 0 0.357 2049 2650 -601 38891 158
2 CLE 1999 2008 160 54 106 0 0.338 2641 3596 -955 54549 274
3 PIT 1996 2008 208 128 79 1 0.618 4513 3642 871 58922 400
4 TAM 1996 2008 208 111 97 0 0.534 3970 3619 351 59646 405
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/7/2013.

Yes, they rank fourth. And two of the three teams above the Bucs are only ranked that high because they're expansion teams.

I know what Pasquarelli did, though. He reversed the rankings for total defense, somewhere. I don't know where or how, but he did. He thought that being ranked 1st meant allowing more yards than the rest of the NFL. Because, fun fact, if you simply reverse Pasquarelli's numbers for league rankings, everything he says is true. Of course, we don't live in opposite world, so everything he says and his conclusions are a bunch of ignorant wankery instead of an interesting column.

Now, I get it, I do. We all make mistakes, and I've made plenty. But this...well, I don't think I've seen such a mess in ages. It wasn't just a mistake made once, either: the mistakes just kept piling up. And then he built a national column around those mistakes.

Word to the wise: check your numbers.

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