O-Zone: Sooner not later

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it ... Tom from Orlando, FL:
What do you think is the NFL's worst/most misleading statistic and why? Quarterback rating? "Total" defense? Pass/run balance? These three all bother me. The quarterback rating is just weird. Total defense is misleading, because it doesn't take into account turnovers, short fields, and defensive/special teams scoring. Finally, wanting the "balanced" offense is ridiculous when teams try to kill the clock by running over and over when they have a lead. Did I miss a statistic you find even worse?
John: I actually find most NFL statistics sometimes misleading in the sense that fans, media and other observers want to take the statistics and draw hard, fast conclusions. This is difficult if not impossible in a sport in which nearly everything that happens depends on far more than one factor. Whereas in baseball a player's batting average might be close to an accurate measure of his worth as a hitter, a wide receiver's number of receptions might not say much at all about his true value as a player. Statistics in the NFL can be used as a tool, but they are misleading without proper context. I actually find quarterback rating a relatively accurate gauge of the position – certainly as good as total yards and/or touchdowns passing, and I've always considered total defense just a so-so gauge because it's based solely on yards. I've never thought much about offensive balance, but I'd say the main issue with the total-defense statistic is total yardage isn't always a great gauge for a defense's effectiveness. It also can be so skewed by a possession or two late in the game. A defense can have a fantastic game and be holding a two-touchdown lead with four minutes to play and have its yardage total skewed by a meaningless drive during which the defense is essentially giving up yards to ensure it runs out the clock to win the game. I don't know if I consider any particular statistic catastrophically worse than any other, but the one I tend to value most are passing yards per attempt, turnover margin, red-zone efficiency, third-down efficiency and yards allowed per rush. If a team is strong in those areas it's usually doing OK.
Marc from Oceanway:
How otherworldly do you think Myles Garrett is? I know he will never fall to our No. 4 pick. However, it does seem like he would be an amazing fit and final piece for our defense. John, would you trade our first- and second-round selection to move up three spots and pick him? How about if it required our first three picks?
John: I would not do that, and I don't think any team would do that for a defensive end. Garrett looks like he will be a good player. Is he a can't-miss player on the level of Andrew Luck? Is he a quarterback? He is not. So …
Moron from Outer Space:
Ask a stupid question ...
John: Fit right in.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
O-Zone, are some defensive ends only asked to sack the quarterback whereas others are expected to respect the run? It seemed last year Dante Fowler Jr. would blast off the line for an outside rush, but would seem to stop – as if he were responsible for runners in his zone. Dante said something to the effect that he felt like a caged animal in the defensive scheme. Did he mean, "If I wasn't responsible for playing the run, I could've been smashing the quarterback all day long?" Did we ever get a fuller explanation on what he meant by being "caged."
John: I tend not to put a world of stock in things said by young players in the aftermath of frustrating seasons, perhaps because I've said things in the aftermath of frustrating things and realized later those things didn't have much merit, or that I didn't mean exactly what I'd said. I got the impression that what Fowler meant when he said he felt like a caged animal was that he was frustrated by his first season playing in the NFL – and that he felt he could have been used differently in a lot of situations. I think Fowler would like to stand up more and just chase the quarterback, but I also think he can improve overall as a pass rusher – and that he's really good at things other than just chasing the quarterback and still needs to be able to do those things.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
To add to your thoughts on quarterback accuracy, I believe that throwing to a player on your own team as opposed to one on the other team is considered to be a plus.
John: True that.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
What did you think when Barry Sanders retired? On one hand, he can decide for himself what he wants to do, and I surely won't consider his thoughts when/if I decide to change jobs. On the other hand, I was as big a fan of his as any and I immensely enjoyed watching him play. I felt like he was going to take the all-time rushing yardage mark and never look back. I was also convinced he was going to take the single-season rushing crown. I thought he had a lot of greatness left. I guess I felt like I wasn't finished with the story. That's selfish but that's how I felt.
John: That's fair, and it's how fans should feel. One thing fans, media and observers sometimes forget is while they feel passionately about athletes, the athletes' stories are more than "stories" to the athletes. For the athletes, it's their lives. One thing I've always been intrigued by, for example, is when media decide a player "needs" to retire at a certain time – with the reason often being that a player needs to "go out on top," "protect his legacy" or otherwise leave some image of himself for the viewing public. I remember when John Elway won his first Super Bowl title and even his second; many in the media clamored each time that he should go out on top and protect his legacy by not playing when he was perhaps past his peak. I always considered this a silly, selfish, short-sighted opinion. Here was a man who was one of the world's best at what he did – and still capable of doing what he loved to do. Why shouldn't he have done it for as long as he could? Wasn't it his decision to make? Once a player is done playing, he's done – and he has the rest of his life for retirement. Sanders' decision certainly was a tougher one for people to understand compared to that of Elway. Most people, to be sure, can relate to a player such as Elway or Peyton Manning wanting to continue to play even when their skills have diminished. But Sanders retired absolutely in his prime. I, like you, was surprised. I remember assuming for at least a season that he would return, but you know what? He went when he wanted to go and he was ready to leave the game. I've never heard or read that he regretted the timing. So, good for him. He did it his way.
Dave from Duval:
O-Zone, Patrick from Springfield asked, "What exactly is quarterback accuracy". Tell him to re-watch the Super Bowl of the Patriots versus the Falcons starting about mid-third quarter with the score 28-3. Watch Brady …
John: Good point.
Ed from Danvers, MA:
Zone, here's an idea: instead of putting a guy into the Pride, create an area where you can retire the number of a very good player (like Scobee or Rashean) for the same number of years that he played. At the end of that time, invite the player back to formally give his number to the new guy and he walks off to thunderous applause. Win-win.
John: I don't mind that idea. Then, again, I don't particularly see the harm in putting either of the two very good players you mentioned in the Pride, either. Both players played at a high level for this team for a very long time and mattered a lot to the community and the fans. They were identifiable and liked on and off the field for a lot of good reasons. I don't see where honoring them is a bad thing.
Strnbiker from Dothan, AL:
I understand wanting to host the draft, etc. That in mind, does Jacksonville still have the same major problem they encountered when hosting the Super Bowl? Lack of hotel rooms?
John: Jacksonville probably doesn't have the logistics downtown to host the Super Bowl, with hotel rooms being one of the issues. That's certainly Jaguars owner Shad Khan's thought – and he has said in recent seasons he won't likely encourage Jacksonville bidding on a Super Bowl for that reason. He also has said he wants the city to host something it can do well, and he believes the NFL Draft will fit that description once Daily's Place is complete. The infrastructure will be more than capable of handling that.

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