NFL Summer 2017 ‘Tawk’

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Bill Simmons, Mike Lombardi, Joe House and Tate Fraiser covered NFL storylines in a podcast. Not much is happening, so, there’s not much to talk about. Unless you talk about the things other people have talked about. Let’s dig into the notes.

1/ Base rates.

“Charlie Casserly was proclaiming he (Andrew Luck) was the next John Elway, they both went to Stanford but he’s not the next John Elway.” – Lombardi

“I don’t think you can compare anyone’s stats from this decade to last decade. No one gets hit anymore. The interceptions are way down. Even bad quarterbacks have good stats. I grew up with Steve Grogan and he would have years where he threw nine touchdowns and seventeen interceptions.” – Simmons

“Playing in a dome is a huge advantage.” – Lombardi

Base rates are a great place to begin any decision-making process. Michael Lewis wrote that base rates are “what you would predict if you had no information at all.” But base rates must be accurate. Is Stanford University relevant for quarterback talent? Does it matter when and where players play?

Dan Carlin reframed base rates within a historical context. Sam Hinkie used them to (try to) build a basketball team.

2/ Odell Odell Odell. Beckham has been a summer storyline too. Most receivers, Simmons said, have a bit a diva in them and the guys wonder if Beckham is worth the resources to have on your team. Simmons would take him, “The guy’s fucking scary…he does have greatness in him.” “He puts the ball in the end zone, he makes plays,” added Lombardi who compared Beckham to Jarvis Landry:

“He (Beckham) has 288 catches in his career. Landry has 288 catches in his career. Both came out of LSU three years ago. Beckham has 14 yards per catch. Landry has 10. Landry is a solid player. Beckham gives you that dimension where if he’s open on the three line you hit him.”

Similar statistics but one is a much better player.

What made Moneyball successful is that output was cheap if you knew what to buy. Fancy figures like home runs and batting average were expensive while OPS was cheap. Billy Beane bought output cheap.

If we ranked players by OPS (rather than BA) we might have seen something that looked like this:

#29 .8200 OPS $15 million/ year
#30 .8000 OPS $2.5 million/year

The difference between player #29 and #30 for OBP was small while the cost was high. Does that hold for NFL wide receivers? I’m guessing no. During a Wharton Moneyball podcast, they mentioned that NFL analytics can improve but how much change will it bring to looking at this position? Again, probably not much. As coaches have said, you can’t teach height or speed. (Or hands)

3/ This is water?  We all exist within some system and see the world through the lens of that system. Fish live in water. Tigers have Umwelt (and so do you).

One system is your generation and “Beckham is symbolic of understanding millennials,” Simmons said.  “This is the hardest thing for my generation,” continued Lombardi, “if you’re evaluating talent. You can’t judge players through your eyes. You have to understand what Millennials do…If you’re going to cast a guy aside because you don’t relate to him from your generation, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes.”

Mistakes beyond sports. Business mistakes like hiring the wrong CEO just because they did well at Google. Investing mistakes like thinking someone is brilliant when really it was a bull market.

Warren Buffett wrote: “The rise and fall of the tide is hardly something for the duck to quack about.” Flip that around and the selfie culture doesn’t mean anything more than a sign of the tides.

4/ How to win a football game.

How do I win games? Let me count the ways.
I win games by skills, agility, and might.
My playbook is sharp, my depth just right.

Lombardi said about Seattle “It’s the complete opposite of New England. New England’s players say nothing, Seattle’s players are outspoken and they both work.”

Success comes from having a system and doing it as best you can. Cherry picking ideas, adopting best practices, and talking with other coaches are all good things but they can’t be the thing.

Charley Ellis and David Salem have both shared what they think David Swensen has done right at Yale and both have warned about mistakes they think people make. In his podcast with Patrick O’Shaughnessy, Leigh Drogen warned against any sort of bolting on.

You can’t copy and paste.

Rather, choose to be different. Create a decentralized spirit. Build culture. Do those things and you’ll win games. It’s worked for New England (see: Bill Belichick) and Seattle (see: Pete Carroll).


Thanks for reading. Don’t miss any posts, get links and see what else I listened to here

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