Greetings beloved WDR readers. We have a special treat for you today. Rob Weintraub, one of the main men over at the excellent Football Outsiders and, more importantly, a huge Bengals fan graciously answered some of our questions about the Bengals (he even has his own WDR tag!). If you haven't done so already, I highly recommend heading over to the FO site and purchasing their 2010 FO Almanac. It will explode your head with football knowledge (note: Rob did not ask me to plug their almanac, I simply recommend it every year).
On with the questions! (WDR comments in bold)
With your supercomputers in the nerdery, have you ever looked at the correlations of the following:
1. front office size (personnel related only) to wins?
2. team market size to wins?
3. number of players with reality tv shows to wins?
4. Big Ben's alcohol consumption and sex crimes reported within a 5 mile radius
1) There has never been a study trying to correlate staff size with wins, mainly because the result is obvious: smaller doesn't equal better. 2) As for market size, there is no correlation. (hooray collective bargaining agreement) 3) Our WRs players are the entire sample. 4) Roethlisberger's alcohol consumption is incalculable by the current generation of microchips, but scientists are hard at work.
There will certainly be diminishing returns for WR catches in the cases of Chad, TO and Bryant. Has any study been done to see the effect of a WR's target #'s going significantly down with the addition of other elite talent WRs? On the flip side, is there any evidence of WR’s per catch numbers improving because of the difficulty defenses have defending three elite talents?
Generally speaking, target rates fluctuate due to scheme and QB. As Palmer and the run-first attack aren't going anywhere (until injury or losses mount), the # of throws to the WRs should remain roughly static. Remember, Owens wasn't targeted nearly as often last season as he had been in the past, in part because of age, in part because of Ryan Fitzpatrick. So all the talk about how he'll be trouble if he doesn't catch 75 balls is based on 2006 thinking. Bryant might actually make more waves, though that's depending on his knee, and how healthy it is (or how healthy he thinks it is, which is another matter).
Remember, Football Outsiders is all about measuring efficiency--the receivers could play much better collectively, leading to more wins, yet have their collectible numbers (catches, yards, TDs) go down--if anything, that is the preferred result. If Owens is catching a load of passes, it probably means the Bengals are trailing a lot.
Better Cincinnati aging superstar pick up: TO or Deion Sanders?
I would love to see Deion in stripes, but I heard a radio interview with him today and he seems to have mellowed far too much in his time away from the game, so we'll have to settle for TO.
Antwan Odom, even if that Green Bay game makes some overrate him, should be one of the biggest factors that determines if the Bengals' defense can go from very good to elite. I know FO has a big injury database; using it, can it be told how much performance loss, if any, DE's who suffered similar achilles injuries saw in the year following the injury?
I don't believe an injury-specific study has been done, mainly because there are so many other factors and teams are reticent about telling the truth in these matters. Generally, our injury-expert Will Carroll says that achilles injuries for DEs is bad news--regaining that burst is difficult, and seldom happens the next season.
From weeks 1-9 last season, the Bengals' passing game was actually fifth in the league but then, of course, plummeted in the second half of the season. Is there one particularly important explanation for this? Off the top of my head, some guesses for this would be: Palmer's elbow not holding up, Chris Henry getting injured, the offense getting more conservative because of more faith in Cedric Benson and less in the line's pass blocking skills, etc.
All of the reasons you note are accurate, along with the schedule. The offense got scared, because the line couldn't protect against the blitz, no one could get open deep, Palmer couldn't get the ball there, and the running game was working well enough. It was a good enough recipe to get to the playoffs, but as we all saw, you can only go so far without a deep passing game.
The FO projections for the Bengals for 2010 were not positive to say the least. The mean outcome was 5.5 wins for the entire season. What are the root causes of such a low projection? As a fan of the team, what are your expectations for the season and do they differ from your FO projections?
I would say the main factors in a low projection are the system, looking at Palmer's age and recent (lack of) productivity, the bad injury history, Cincy's historically poor play, the high rate of penalties, and of course the murderous schedule, led by the fact that the Ravens and Steelers are both projected so highly.
Now, since those came out, both Pitt and Balt have been hit with injuries, and I think the system is a bit prejudicial to "solid' franchises like them and not crappy ones like Cincy. But that doesn't mean we can't play with them again. I am more optimistic than KUBIAK, although not crazy-optimistic. A playoff berth is doable but beyond that would take a set of circumstances that I don't believe is likely. Long-term, I think the team is in good shape, especially if Zimmer takes over for Lewis and a replacement for CP is identified in the next couple of years. (ed note: I am less sanguine about the future, Zim taking over to me means Mikey Boy didn't give in to Marvin's demands and replacing Palmer is loaded with disaster potential)
In the same vein, expectations among fans are much higher with the addition of TO. How have the projections changed (if at all) with his addition?
The projections didn't change much by adding TO--it assumes he would replace Bryant for the most part, and TO and Bryant add similar value at this stage of their careers. All the hype over Owens is just that--he's an OK piece but hardly a game-changer.
We immensely dislike Offensive Coordinator Bob Bratkowski. Admittedly, at best the evidence we use for this hatred is mostly circumstantial. Is there any concrete data or analysis that shows how much our talent is misused or wasted from his overall strategy or tactical play calling so that we can hate him using science?
Bratkowski clearly stinks at creatively using his talent and adapting to it. He was married to the Indy-style 3-wide sets far beyond the stage when the offensive talent called for it, then overcorrected last season by not taking advantage of the power running game to at least throw some doubt into defenses. For example, the Bengals ran it 71% of the time in 1-back, 2-tight end sets, by far the most in the league. How about some more passing or play-fakes out of those sets?
And we know his predictability by now - the Bengals were first in the NFL last season in running it on 2nd and long, which they did a scandalous 50% of the time. No excuses this season with all the different types of weapons at his disposal--power back (CB), speed back (Scott), catching back (Leonard), pass catching TE (Gresham), deep WR (TO), possession WR (Shipley/Bryant/etc), multi-talented WR (COC).
Advanced statistically speaking, how does Cedric Benson rate? Because we personally think he's really slow.
Benson is slow--no need for stats to prove that. But he's effective in between the tackles, and has burst when he breaks free. He lacks top-end speed, but the Bengals want him to be a sledgehammer. He was a Top 20 back overall by our stats, not elite but good enough.
Dan Coats: worst pass catching TE of all time?
Coats isn't just the worst pass catching TE ever, he's the worst player ever.
Anything that is meaningful or important to the Bengals that most fans might overlook? Or are there any conventional wisdoms Bengals fans believe about the team that are just not true?
I think the penalty rate on offense is what surprised me the most - sure, it seemed like they were called for a lot of stupid stuff, but to be so far ahead of the NFL shocked me. Then again, I don't think any of the fans would call the team "disciplined."
The wrong assumptions fans have are more individual. JJ isn't as great a corner as you think, Hall is better. Crocker is better against the pass than you think. Maualuga is not as good against the run as you think (only a rookie, though). Huber wasn't as good as you think but after Kyle Larson he looked like Ray Guy. Chad is a little better overall than you think, though he still drops a lot of passes.
Otherwise, the team isn't hard to figure--we need to pass it better, rush the passer better, protect Palmer better. Snap it to the holder on field goals without sailing it into the third row. The basics, in essence.