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Wide receivers, quarterbacks, and consistency II

Posted by Doug on July 7, 2006

Following up on yesterday's post. . .

I decided it might make sense to open up the investigation a bit. What I plan to do is to consider each team's coach, their main quarterback, main running back, top two wide receivers and top pass-catching tight end (I'd like to include offensive linemen, too, but don't have sufficient data). Ideally, I'd like to see what happens to the team's offensive output when each of those factors is changed one at a time. For example, is a team's performance more consistent if they change only the coach or if they change only the quarterback? Is a team's offensive output more variable, ceteris paribus, when they switch running backs or when they switch wide receivers?

This is fairly easy to do, but it turns out that we're going to run into sample size problems. Only four teams since 1978, for instance, have kept the same main quarterback, running back, and tight end, and top two wide receivers, but changed coaches. (How many of those four can you name off the top of your head? Two of them were Super Bowl champs; you will figure those out if you give it a moment's thought. I'll be impressed if anyone can name the other two without looking it up.)

But in a lot of cases, the team's "top pass-catching tight end" is a very minor part of the offense. The same could even be said of the team's second wide receiver in a lot of cases and even of the running back in extreme cases. I'd like to make the question a little more flexible, allowing the tight end, for example, to change if he wasn't a big part of the offense in Year 1. In other words, I want to try to see what happens if three of the four most important (skill position) parts of the offense stay the same and one changes. It's not exactly clear how to best implement that, but once I get it figured out I should have some respectable sample sizes and still stay within the spirit of the original question.

I'll think about it and get back to you on it in about ten days.

That's right. I'm taking next week off. I'll be traveling a bit and internet access will be spotty. But fear not, I have deputized my friend Chase, who claims to have five full days of posts ready for you. I'll be around enough to monitor what's happening, but Chase will be running the show.