Numbers lie. Stats are for losers. And other true clichés.
This is isn't going to break any new ground here, because the point I am going to make is something that most people already know. And that point is that people will find stats to support their opinions even when an isolated stat often doesn't really tell the full story we want it to tell.
Since 105.7's content seems to be a popular topic here today, that's the example I'll use.
Bob and Rob were making the case against Cam Cameron's play calling acumen. This was discussed in the context of Cam being fired and Norv Turner being an upgrade as O.C.
By the way, I also heard an interesting point made about how the organization seems to be just as intolerant and impatient about their mediocre offensive performances as the fans are. Only in Baltimore, they claimed, could you have an organization that:
- Didn't bring back the Super Bowl winning quarterback
- Cut his replacement after he took the team to the playoffs, despite losing his star running back before the season started and having no back up in place
- Firing the offensive coordinator after a 4-2 start
- Firing the offensive coordinator despite the team going to the playoffs all four years he was here, if indeed that happens to Cam in the offseason.
Compelling, although it glosses over some other facts that mostly center around the fact that the offense didn't do much to contribute to the level of winning during those seasons.
Which is kind of the point I'm making.
You can select some facts that at first glance seem to paint a pretty damning story, but if you consider all the evidence, maybe they don't really support your case at all.
The case this morning on 105.7 was Cam's stubborn insistence on throwing the ball with so much frequency when in fact a better play caller would simply give the ball to Ray Rice as often as possible.
In support of this claim they first trotted out the classic stat that correlates winning with running the ball. We've all seen the fact cited that the Ravens handed the ball off to Rice just 36 times in their four losses of the season. They ran it 45 times in a single game in beating the Browns in Week 13.
Damning on the surface. But of course it glosses over the fact that the Ravens found themselves in the second halves of those games down at least two scores because of turnovers and bad defensive play. So while Cam may not have been brilliant, he wasn't turning the ball over nor was he responsible for allowing the opponent to score.
Really, what that stat tells you is that getting leads causes the Ravens to run the ball and preserve wins; running doesn't really cause wins, it is an effect of winning.
The other stat that Rob Long threw out was a comparison between Flacco and Rogers. Funny, because Joe himself made a comparison last night to his red zone throwing attempts compared to Rogers. Long's stat had to do with overall attempts. He pointed out that Joe has 523 passing attempts this season compared to 502 passing attempts for Rogers. Long's point is that Cam is out of control and no way he should be calling for Flacco to throw the ball so often because no way Flacco is nearly as good as Rogers.
Until you put it in context with more facts. First fact being that the Packers only have one loss. They get the lead in a whole lot of games and don't need to throw the ball late in games. In fact, during their 19 game winning streak they only trailed in the fourth quarter one time, and that was recently when they came back against the Giants. In my minds' eye, I believe I can see Rogers flinging the ball a lot in that fourth-quarter comeback.
Point being if the Ravens were winning 19 in a row and never trailing in the fourth quarter I guarantee Joe would throw it less and Ray Rice run it more. Take the second Cleveland game for instance. Had they not given up the special teams score and the second half TD drive to make it a game again, no way Flacco is still throwing it in the fourth quarter.
The other mitigating facts in the Rogers v. Flacco comparison include the fact that the Packers move the ball down the field in big chunks and don't need to convert third downs nearly as often. Rogers' yards-per-attempt average is 50% higher than Joes'. They move the ball nearly at will and don't need as many snaps to score.
The Packers have 917 offensive snaps to the Ravens' 984. That alone is enough to explain the difference in Joe's throwing attempts.
The Packers also have run the ball 371 times compared to the Ravens' 427. So it's not like Joe's extra throws came at the expense of the running game. The case that is coming together is that the Packers offense is simply more efficient. They need fewer snaps to matriculate the ball downfield. That's not an indictment of Cam's balance between run and pass.
When you do the math, Rogers has fewer passing attempts than Joe, but Rogers throws 58% of the time to Joe's 55%.
Similarly, the Packers faced third down attempts just 177 times to the Ravens' 216. You can bet how many of those extra 39 third-down attempts for the Ravens were passing downs by necessity.
And finally, the Packers are +22 in turnover margin to the Ravens +1. The Packers offense is getting the ball in excellent field position, with less ground to cover, a hell of a lot more often than Flacco and the Ravens are. It makes sense that to cover longer ground there are going to be extra throws.
Okay, now that I've drilled the point into the ground, I feel better. But I know that I have not ended the debate. This really is not a thread in support of Cam's playcalling, because he deserves criticism. But what I hope this serves as is a reminder that it's never one factor that explains performance, or lack thereof. While we hate to hear coaches talk about a lack of execution, there is still a lot of truth to that claim.