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Dirk Koetter’s love-hate relationship with statistics

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NFL: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Do you recall in November of 2015 in a press conference with Dirk Koetter being asked a question about using stats to drive his decision on game play and then was mocked because of to his answer? The question was about play calling, not about neglecting all stats. Here is a snippet of incident from Pro Football Talk:

Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was asked today if he uses statistical research to prepare the plays he calls. Koetter took umbrage with the question.

"No. I trust my eyes," Koetter said. "I trust my eyes, OK? I watch the tape. I watch a lot of tape and I trust what my eyes tell me. So I don’t need a freaking piece of paper with a bunch of numbers on there to tell me something my eyes can see. I mean, not to get pissed off, but that whole thing of looking at a piece of paper and telling you how to call a football game is a freaking joke in my opinion. That’s why I watch tape. Half the stuff on that paper, you can sort those stats out any way you want to. But I’m sticking by eyes. It’s worked OK for me so far."

Koetter has always stated he loves analytics and poked fun at himself at the following press conference. I do not comprehend why the stigma of not using stats stuck with Koetter.

Koetter in Jacksonville

In an article online from Jacksonville.com, we see that Koetter already has been using stats two organizations before Tampa Bay and the aforementioned presser. There are a lot of nuggets of information in there. You should give it a read during this slow off-season where we talk about a kicker, an aggressive defense, a kicker, PFF hating on Buc players, and, oh, a kicker.

Aspects that could help win the game:

Koetter said, "I hope we have an offense that's very explosive and scores a lot of points, doesn't turn it over, protects the quarterback."

and

What got overlooked was the fact that the Jaguars still managed to be 11th in the league in explosive plays — 16-yard passes and 12-yard runs — with a total of 120.

Explosive plays are important because the 10 offenses that had more than 120 last year all had winning seasons, with an average of 11 wins. Seven qualified for the playoffs, and six teams were division champions.

And teams that had two explosive plays in a drive scored touchdowns 53 percent of the time and field goals 23 percent of the time.

Here, we notice that Koetter talks about explosive plays, scoring points, turnovers, and protect the quarterback. These are the top priorities on this list of 10 items that help determine a win.

About playcalling:

"I'm absolutely more comfortable in the passing game, but one guy, one coach doesn't just dictate that," Koetter said. "That depends on the philosophy of your general manager, the philosophy of your head coach. How good is your defense? How good is your kicking game? How good is your quarterback? Can you protect the quarterback? There are a lot of things that go into whether you can run or pass the ball besides my preference.

And

"So on run downs, our goal is to be balanced. Now, as the game unfolds, you're not going to have many runs on third-and-10. You're not going to have as many runs in the fourth quarter when you're down two touchdowns. On the flip side of that, if you're in the four-minute offense [protecting the lead], you're going to run it on every play at the end of the game. So we want to be balanced because we believe that's the hardest thing to defense and also because we have one of the best running backs in the league. But the bottom line is you have to move the chains and you have to score points," Koetter said.

Fast Forward to Feb 10, 2015

From the official Bucs website, senior writer Scott Smith illuminated his readers about Koetter’s Critical Factors on Offense:

1. Turnovers

2. Creating explosive plays

3. Reduce getting sacked

4. Be great on third downs

From 2007-11, with Koetter calling plays, the Jaguars ranked 10th in the NFL in third-down percentage, converting on 40.9% of their tries. The 2012-14 Falcons were even better in that regard, ranking third in the league with a conversion rate of 44.1%. Despite a rash of offensive line injuries over the past two seasons, Koetter's Falcons were also 11th in the league from 2012-14 in fewest sacks allowed.

December 2015

Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds discovered that the list extends past four factors. In fact it is 10 factors that help determine a win in a ball game.

"Yeah, it is [important]," Koetter said about the QB rating system. "In fact it ranks about number nine as far as most important things. It’s about number nine as far as winning and losing football. I wish I could explain why, but one of those guys that is way smarter than me figures out the order. It starts with turnovers, number one. Number two is explosive plays and I’m not going to go through them all, so don’t ask me. Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, number nine – passer rating.

Here are Koetter’s definition of explosive plays and the amount of factors to win.

"Those same guys that figured out the 10 ways to win – I copied it from them," Koetter said. "To me, explosive plays are 12-yard runs and 16-yard passes. The NFL uses 20-yard passes, but somebody way smarter than me figured out the correlation to winning is 12-yard runs and 16-yard passes."

January 2016

MMQB inquired more about the November press conference. The stigma carried on into the new year as Koetter was asked about that incident.

Oh, that whole analytics thing got so blown out of proportion this year.

It's so much a part of the NFL. Your guy Andy Benoit [The MMQB's tape-studier and game-reviewer] is a perfect example. There's so much out there to know. Pro Football Focus has added a lot. It's such a broad topic. But absolutely we'll use it. The very first day after I was hired, when I saw our head of analytics, I gave him a 25-page list of what I wanted. Actually, I am very fired up about it. I am a huge believer in it. As an assistant, I never had the power to say, "This is what I want." Now I do, and I'm really going to work with it. For instance, this season we were the most penalized team in the league. Every coach can say to plays, "Don't jump offside!" I need to find a way to educate our players. Now I need to tell them, "This is the way it affects us winning and losing games." So I want to know the numbers on that.

Stats outside the 10 factors for Winning a game

Not only did Koetter have a 10 step hierarchy for winning games on offense, his analytics spread onto other aspects of the game now that he is the head coach.

NFL.com – Dirk Koetter will have game-mgmt coach

"Because I'm going to stay as the play-caller, and there are plenty of guys in the NFL who stay as play-callers as head coaches," Koetter said in a Q&A with Bleacher Report. "There are just so many situations that come up in an NFL game, whether it's clock management or just game-ending situations, to have someone that they're fully dedicated to that preparation in leading up to the game and on game day made sense."

He added: "When I was the offensive coordinator, if I was up in the box, we always had a designated coach on the field that if I said, 'This situation is up' and the head coach was on the other side of the phones talking to the defensive staff, that coach on the field would go remind the head coach about this or that. There is so much pressure when that clock is ticking, you have to have somebody who is on top of that and looking ahead."

Tampa bay.com – Morning practices will keep Bucs fresher

"Last 10 years I've been coaching in the South, and I really do believe there's a cumulative effect over the course of the season, from August until the end of the year," Koetter said. "When you're out here, even if it's for walk-through and it's 12, 1, 2 (p.m.) and it's 95 degrees and the sun's beating on you. I just think there's a cumulative effect, and we're going to try to do everything we can to chip away at that."

Tampa Bay online – Line of Scrimmage on Kickoffs

A report by Roy Cummings.

"When the league put that rule in, they put that rule in thinking everybody was just going to kick it out and take the ball on the 25. But the analytics say that (by taking the ball at) the 25, there’s a 3-percent (increase) in scoring — 2 percent touchdowns, 1 percent field goals.

"So I think what you’re going to see is a lot of people experimenting in preseason. But when the season comes along I’ll bet you more teams are trying to kick it out. And the great thing is, we have a guy that can do both.

"I mean, I never thought I’d be sitting in my office watching kickoff after kickoff and Combine kickoff tape – but this guy can kick it out of the end zone pretty much when he wants to. And Florida State did a lot of mortar kicks, where they tried to pin teams inside the 20, and he was excellent at that.’’

Any advantage to win that new Tampa Bay Bucs’ head coach Koetter can take he will take it, including newer statistics that we fans do not normally think about such as weather and performance efficiency. While he does not come up with the statistics himself, he does refer to those who do. Koetter is a stats guy. I just hope that November press conference does not continue to propagate the notion that Koetter is not a stats guys because he may actually be at the forefront of using stats. Dirk Koetter, not "the" Rain Man, but can definitely be a "Rain maker". Tampa sure hopes he showers them with plenty of wins.