1. The long runs inflated the Read Option's yards-per-carry average.
First off, you are making a bad comparison between the RO and the Redskins/Adrian Peterson. The stats from ESPN are using 10yd+ plays to determine a "big play", while you are using the 15+yd plays to determine a "big play". If you are going to make a fair comparison then you would need to use 10+ yard RO plays. In 2012, the Panthers RO had 22 plays of 10+ yards for 514 yards. If you factor out those 22 attempts for 514 yards (from the team total 104 attempts for 765 yds) you get 82 attempts for 251 yards....that means the YPC without the big plays would be 3.1 YPC.
Change in YPC after Factoring out 10+ Yard runs
Panther's Read Option: 7.4 to 3.1
Panthers' 2012 Traditional Attack: 3.2 to 2.8
Adrian Peterson: 6.0 to 2.3
Redskins: 5.2 to 2.9
Decline by yardage lost:
Panthers' RO: -4.3 YPC
Adrian Peterson: -3.7 YPC
Redskins: -2.3 YPC
Panthers Traditional Attack: -0.4 YPC
When comparing the Panthers' RO YPC to the three other examples without factoring in 10+ yd plays, it was easily more "boom/bust" than all three other examples listed, and far more boom/bust than the traditional attack(of course, there was little "boom" from the traditional attack to begin with).
And you'll find that every team and every great runner is susceptible to this same test
I didn't do Alfred Morris because he plays for the Skins, which I did team-wide above.
Marshawn Lynch (3rd in NFL): 315 attempts 1590 yards 5.0 YPC on the season...39 attempts 717 yards came on 10+ yd runs....so that would be 873 yards on 276 attempts for non-10+ yard plays...that is a 3.2 YPC....a change of -1.8 yds....far less than the Panthers RO.
Jamaal Charles (4th in NFL): 285 attempts 1509 yards 5.3 YPC on the season...39 attempts 866 yards came on 10+ yard runs...so that would be 643 yards on 246 attempts for non-10+ yard plays...that is a 2.6 YPC...a change of -2.7 yds...far less than the Panthers RO. You could argue that even the "bust" end of
Doug Martin(5th in NFL): 319 attempts 1454 yds 4.6 YPC on the season...38 attempts 744 yds came on 10+ yd runs...so that would be281 attempts for 710 yards for non-10+ yard plays....that is a 2.5 YPC....a change of -2.1 yds...far less than the Panthers RO.
I stand by my opinion that the Panthers RO is far more boom/bust than your typical good RB. You could argue that because the lower YPC for the Panthers RO (3.1) is better than the lower YPC of the RBs listed above it is still the better call, though I'd disagree (I'll get to that later).
2. The chance of the Read Option going bust is too high and those plays kill drives.
My beef with this isn't rooted in statistics. I'll be the first to admit that the traditional attack was pretty terrible in 2012 (ok, really freaking terrible lol). Before you did this additional analysis I actually expected the RO to look better in this arena than the traditional attack. However, my beef is that I am of the opinion that our terrible OLine (for the 11 games without Kalil) hurt the traditional attack far more than the read option, which makes for a biased (and IMO ultimately flawed) comparison. This is something that James touched on in your last article. The RO (and I'm going off of memory here, maybe I'm wrong statistically) is generally used as an end-around type play...which I think lets it bypass (and mask) some of the glaring flaws of our OLine, flaws that aren't bypassed nearly as much when using the traditional attack. Many (probably even most) of the time when running the RO it went toward the left side, with Jordan Gross the outside lineman. Most of the time this renders the rest of the line (especially the RG and RT, two of our worst lineman) relatively meaningless in the play, as they are already running away from that side of the line as soon as the play starts. When the play was blown up it was usually by the read defender (or, misread lol) or a player that was already on that side of the field. However, when running the traditional attack the weakness of the line plays a much more important role when trying to run inside. For 11 games of the season, when using the traditional attack, we were depending on the following combinations to open up a running lane:
Garry Williams and Piggy.............literally Hitler (LITERALLY!)
Piggy and (the mostly horrible) rookie Amini Silatolu.......just shameful
Declining but stable Gross and (the mostly horrible) rookie Amini Silatolu....sub-par
For me personally I just don't see how one can argue that the line negatively affected the read option in any way, shape, or form as much as it negatively affected the traditional attack. I just don't think it is a good comparison to make because one was drastically affected by the terrible, patchwork OLine and the other one wasn't affected nearly as much.
3. The Read Option only worked against bad rush defenses and was shut down by good ones.
Ok, I have a few beefs with this one. First off, you counted wrong when you said this:
Only Seattle, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay (twice) held the Read Option for less than 4.5 yards-a-carry
According to that chart Chicago also held the read option to fewer than 4.5 YPC.
My other beef is that you mainly focus on one stat to make your case...YPC....when there are other stats that factor into how good/bad a runner is, or how good/bad a defense is. By focusing on solely the YPC when evaluating those defenses above you leave out key information:
Seattle- ranked 10th in fewest yards allowed per game, 5th in fewest rushing TDs allowed, and 7th in fewest 1st downs allowed.
Tampa Bay- ranked 1st in fewest yards allowed per game, 18th in fewest rushing TDs allowed, and tied for 3rd in fewest 1st downs allowed.
Chicago- ranked 8th in fewest yards allowed per game, 3rd in fewest rushing TDs allowed per game, and tied for 3rd in fewest 1st downs allowed.
Philly-ranked 23rd in fewest yards allowed per game, tied for 12th in fewest rushing TDs allowed per game, 28th in fewest 1st downs allowed.
By just focusing on YPC it makes it seem like the defenses that you listed by and large weren't really good....when in reality 75% of them were quite good against the run. And I don't see why you wouldn't include Denver in with the "shutdown" group. 4 attempts for 18 yards is being shutdown to me...just because it had a slightly higher YPC than the traditional attack doesn't mean that it wasn't shut down. To me Tampa(twice), Denver, Washington, Chicago, Seattle, and San Diego were the only good defenses that we played...all of them shut it down except for Washington and San Diego, San Diego being the game that we relied almost exclusively on the traditional attack to great success (and a win). They also shut down our traditional attack (except for San Diego), but again I think much of that has to do with how the line negatively affects the traditional attack more than the read option.
4. Determining our rushing identity going forward
I didn't do a good job of articulating this in my last comment so I will try to do it better now. The way that I view the debate about the read option vs. the traditional attack isn't about "which was better in 2012?", I view it as "which attack should we primarily focus on emulating going forward?" We are in the middle of rebuilding our offensive line...we drafted Amini in 2011, Kugbila in 2012, and we will have to find a long-term replacement for Gross soon AND determine if Bell is good enough to be a starter long term. While rebuilding we will have to determine what our rushing identity will be....should we try to build around the read option, or should we try to re-establish our traditional attack and limit the read option? In the context of determining which direction to go, focusing solely on 2012 is unfair to me. Why? Because the read-option had arguably its best year while the traditional attack easily had its worst year in the DWill/JStew era. I don't think it is fair to leave out just how dominant they were in a non-read option offense simply because of how bad it was in 2012(a year plagued by injuries)...if we are going to debate our identity going forward, and which rushing identity we should try to emulate as we rebuild our offensive line, I think it is better to compare the best years of the TA vs. the best years of the RO....2008-2009 vs. 2011-2012. When doing that, I don't see any reason to want to build towards the RO over the TA.
2008 Strong rushing performances against good rush defenses (in my opinion):
Week 2 vs. Chicago (top 10 rushing defense)...combined 25 attempts 108 yds 4.2 YPC 2 TDs.....won game
Week 15 vs. New York Giants (top 10 rushing defense)...combined 33 attempts 137 yds 3.9 YPC 4 TDs...lost game in overtime
2008 Strong rushing performances against above average rush defenses (in my opinion):
Week 1 vs San Diego (top 15 rushing defense)....combined 28 attempts 139 yds 5.05 YPC 0 TDs...won game
2009 Strong rushing performances against good rush defenses (in my opinion):
Week 2 vs. ATL (top 10 rushing defense)...combined 25 attempts 144 yds 6.1 YPC 1 TD....loss
Week 9 vs. ATL (top 10 rushing defense)....combined 30 attempts 174 yds 6.2 YPC 2 TD....win
Week 14 vs. Minn(top-5 rushing defense).....combined 31 attempts 122 yds 3.2 YPC 1 TD....win
2009 Strong rushing performances against above average to average rush defenses (in my opinion):
Week 15 vs. NYG (top-15 to 18th rushing defense)...28 attempts 206 yds 7.4 YPC 1 TD.....total destruction (aka win)
W/L record against good defenses from 2008-09 in which DWill/JStew had a strong game.....5-2
I don't have a breakdown of the read option plays for 2011, so I will list some good defenses that we had good rushing success against...
ATL (top-10 rush defense)......two losses
Chicago (top-10 rush defense).....loss
Jax (top-10 rush defense)....win
Houston (top 10 rush defense)....win
New Orleans (top-10 rush defense)...loss both times
Again, I don't know the ratio of read option/non-RO plays for these games.
2012 Strong rushing performances against good rush defenses (in my opinion):
Washington(top-10 defense)....10.8 YPC, 65 yards....win
-Please note, this is based off of your data. As I've pointed out before our other data guru Crawford Rundlett came up with much more subdued stats for this game...he came up with 5 attempts for 14 yards (with 10 of them coming on one play). That would be a 2.8 YPC (0.8 for the other 4 plays). However, for the sake of fairness, I'll go with your stats here.
W/L record against good rush defenses from 2011-12 in which our running game/RO had a strong day (not counting SD as that was won using traditional attack).....3-5
Obviously, no team/strategy is perfect. Even the best running games will be shut down by good rushing defenses. It happened on several occasions in 08-09. Also, obviously, most big games will come against poor defenses...that is the nature of the game. However, the real quality of a running game (IMO) is determined by how often it performs well against good defenses, and how often it leads to wins. To me it is clear that our rushing attack in 08-09 performed well against good defenses more consistently than in 11-12, and more importantly it led to wins. When I see how often it performed well against top-notch defenses in 08-09 compared to 11-12, that makes me trust it as a playoff-caliber system...I can't say the same about 11-12, and especially 2012. If I had to choose which approach I'd want to model while rebuilding our poor offensive line, I'm shooting for the traditional attack of 08-09.
Teams beaten with a winning record in 2008 (with their record at the time they played us):
New Orleans* (8-6)
Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
*both teams finished the season at 8-8, however they had a winning record when they faced us
Teams beaten with a winning record in 2009 (with their record at the time they played us):
* finished the season at 8-8, however they had a winning record when they faced us
**key starters did not play as they had already clinched a playoff spot and it was week 16
Teams beaten with a winning record in 2011 (with their record at the time they played us):
*Matt Shaub and Andre Johnson did not play due to injuries
Teams beaten with a winning record in 2012* (with their record at the time they played us):
*please note, I did not include the Washington Redskins in this despite the fact that they finished 10-6. They were 3-5 when they played us, which was obviously before their 7 game win streak.
Total teams with a winning record beaten in 08-09: 7
Total teams with a winning record beaten in 11-12: 2
Another way to look at this:
Overall win/loss record in 2008-2009: 20-12
Overall win/loss record in 2011-2012: 13-19
Now, before you yell at me "that is a team stat!"....think about it for a minute. In 2008, DWill/JStew carried us to the best record in franchise history despite inconsistent QB play from a struggling, post-injury Jake. I firmly believe that with a competent QB on that team the Panthers make it to the Super Bowl. I don't know if they win it or not, but I absolutely believe they make the Super Bowl. In 2009, our QB play was downright bad....not 2010 bad, but bad. DWill/JStew carried us to 8 wins despite the atrocious QB play. While I won't say that they were the SOLE reason why we won 20 games in that time period I don't think there is a way to argue that they weren't one of the main reasons why we won that many games. On the flip side of that, I won't argue that the decreased use of DWill/JStew and the increased use of the option/Newton running is the SOLE reason why we have lost nearly the same amount of games in 11-12 that we won in 08-09, but I will argue that it is one of the main reasons why. When DWill/JStew are heavily involved in the running game we win games.
I am of the opinion that when we drafted Cam Newton, aka Ace Boogie, aka SuperCam, we should have worked him in as a passer and let him be himself when the pass broke down. We should have continued to implement our running game in a similar way to 08-09, and simply insert the new QB. I think that throwing in the read option a few times a game would be great, as it is a good play to run every once in awhile. Despite playing in 3 more games in 2012 than 2009 DWill had 43 fewer carries. He had 100 fewer carries than he did in 2008. JStew had 79 fewer carries in 2011 than he did in 2009. I didn't have a problem with us re-tooling our passing offense, but the way that Chud drastically reduced the amount of times that DWill/JStew touched the ball was troubling to me.
I want to re-emphasize that I don't think we should eliminate the read option...what I want is for us to increase the usage of DWill/Jstew (and in the future, Barner if he pans out), lower the rushing attempts for Cam, and focus on modeling our rushing game on the traditional attack seen in 2008-2009...when we were not only putting up great stats......but when we were actually winning games.