Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Big Bobo Question

Ok, this is most likely going to be a lengthy blog, as I put a few hours of research into it and I'm gonna make it worth all of that work. Well, that and the fact that I am the person writing it, and I tend to write lengthy blogs. Let me tell you what research I put into this blog-

I went back and picked up the statistics from every game since Bobo became the OC of record (GT 06) up through the bowl game against TA&M. I looked at the Rushing Yards, Passing Yards and Points scored by the offense and field goal units. Then, I compared those statistics to the annual statistical averages of every team we played. I threw out poll rankings, as I couldn't care any less about what the media or coaches think about the teams we play. I want to analyze our performance against the mean. I want to see where our offense stacks up against the other teams who are playing the teams we play. Also, I want to see where the defenses we play stack up on a national level, so I looked into the national defensive rankings of our opponents in each of those categories.

Now, I know many of you would be expecting a table here. BUT, I won't include a table. I won't include one because I really don't want to spend the hours that it would take for me to transfer all of the data I've compiled into a table on blogger. If I could nest an excel spreadsheet or copy-paste what I already did, I would...but so far, that appears to be an impossibility on Blogger. So, instead, I will summarize my findings.

Many UGA fans have been going after Bobo for years. They've been frustrated with his playcalling and with his lack of results in big football games. After the loss to USC two weeks ago, people blamed his lack of creativity in playcalling with our losing that game. I disagreed, because I saw distinct misses in execution which directly resulted in us not scoring points. But, after the Arkansas game, I felt I absolutely HAD to look into the issue more. The answer was non-execution in that game. The answer was that the coach didn't do a very good job of calling a game against a defense which wasn't as stout as we made it appear. Over the years I've heard the complaint that UGA beats only the teams we're supposed to beat, and fails to compete with the better teams on our schedule. I've been told we're not in the same league with Florida and Alabama. I've been told we have all the talent, and terrible coaching.

For years, the media praised Stacy Searels for "making the best of bad situations" when our offensive line was banged up. He rotated many players in attempts to find a working combination, and at times it looked like he'd done well. However, in 2010, we have a healthy offensive line, the same one that took over games at the end of the season, and we're terrible. So the question becomes - was Searels actually doing a good job of putting together a patchwork line - or was the play of stars like Moreno and Stafford really covering for a guy who didn't really have it all together?

Before the final whistle blew on UGA's 09 campaign, Richt had begun the process of fixing his defense. Many say he needs to to do the same this season for his offense, if he wants to bring a title of any kind to UGA. He has 3 seasons remaining on his contact, and at the moment he's in no danger of having that contract extended. If he doesn't right the ship, he'll be looking for work in 2013 at the latest. Is getting rid of Bobo/Searels the answer? Let's have a look:

In 2006, Bobo took over playcalling for the final two games - Georgia Tech, and the Chick Fil A bowl against Virginia Tech. He won both games. Against Georgia Tech, a defense that averaged a national rank of 31 in the four categories listed above, Bobo's offense performed below average in each category. But, we got the win. Bobo made some great playcalls at the end of the game to give us the win, and it wasn't a bad innaugural game. The next game, when Bobo had a month to create and install a gameplan, he faced a VA Tech team ranked #1 in scoring defense, #1 in Total defense, #1 in pass defense and #11 in Rushing defense. He bested the averages in 3/4 categories, with total yards being 19.46 yards shy and his offense's passing total only .7 yards greater than the average surrendered by VT throughout the year. UGA's offense scored 31 points, three touchdowns higher than VT's 11 point average. People felt good about Bobo as an OC.

Many people were very excited at the conclusion of the 2007 season, with the run the team went on to close the season. However, what people need to understand about 2007 was that it was a false season. UGA played only one team who, when all was said and done, had a top-15 type defense. That team was Auburn. The second-best defense we faced? Vanderbilt. Looking at the 12 games from that season, UGA scored lower than our opponent's average ppg four times. Only two of those games were losses. But, in those two losses, UGA was held to greater than two scores BELOW the opponent's average ppg surrendered. In our two sub-par victories, we were within 5 points of the opponent's season avg. Our Total Offense was held below par 5 times. Our rushing offense, 4 times..... and our passing offense was held in-check a whopping 7 times, with two others being right on-target with what the teams were surrendering on average. This was 2007. It was Matt Stafford's second season. He hadn't matured fully - but still, for 3/4 of the season our offense performed BELOW AVERAGE in the passing game? That's not what you want to hear. Also, that was the season with both Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown in the backfield. We had four games where we failed to hit par in the running game. Glaringly weak games against USC and TENN prevented an SEC E crown and possible national title berth. Against South Carolina, we were 81 yards shy of what they surrendered on average. Against TN, 105. This is with Stacy Searels, the offensive line coach who was said to be such the excellent tutor. By the way, USC finished the season ranked 110 against the run, giving up over 209 yards ON AVERAGE. We gained 128. Many UGA fans would like to beleive that in 2007 we should have had some kind of claim to the national title game. Negative. We faced one defense that was worth its salt. Now, to be fair - we DESTROYED that defense. Bobo's gameplan racked up 45 points against a defense that averaged 16.9 points surrendered. His yardage total was well over 100 yards higher than their average surrendered. Bobo's initial full season as an offensive coordinator put him at 12-2 all-time, and that looked pretty good. But again, the two games when our offense could do basically nothing were against two defenses which were ranked outside the top 40. That's not how you become a champion.

Then there was 2008. We were supposed to be all-world. Moreno, Stafford, Massaqoui, Green - the offensive weapons were there. Bobo had the kind talent at his disposal that seasoned offensive coordinators DREAM about. Then we lost Trinton Sturdivant, and the line had to be shuffled. People looked to Stacy Searels, hoping he could find the combination to bring success. We were told this schedule lined up much better for a title run than the previous year. In actuality, there were three defenses (FL, AL, TN) on the schedule in 2008 which would be top-10 defenses. There were two more (USC, AU) which were top-third as well. But, Stafford was a junior, and had weapons. Surely Bobo would do better. And in actuality, he did. Only three times did we score less than the average surrendered by the opposition, and only one of those was a loss. In total yards, we were sub-par only twice; in the pasing game, only once. But the running game - in five games, we were sub-par. Only one of those five was against the best competition (AL). In games against TN and FL, we did better running than the average team against them. Now, against GT when we picked up 40 yards less than their average, we also gained over 200 yards more than their average surrendered by passing. So, maybe we just stopped running....or maybe we had to pass because we COULDN'T run. Remember, they exploded for big points in the 2nd half, and we ended up losing that game. FL and AL dominated us, and we were never really in either game. 2008 became a season to forget as we were blown out twice, lost to Georgia Tech for the first time under Richt, and never really put it together fully on offense.

Massaquoi graduated. Stafford and Moreno were drafted. Our offense would have to find a new identity in 2009. We wouldn't have stars. We would have to adopt a team-first mentality and work together to get it done. 5th year Field General Joe Cox would have AJ Green at least, along with some top-flight young talent like Orson Charles and Washaun Ealy. Surely this team would have some success.

We were sub-par in scoring 4 times. Our total yardage was below average thrice, and only 8 yards above on another occassion. Our passing offense was sub-par 5 times. And, as I'm sure none will be surprised, the running game was sub-par 5 times and dead-on twice. Oh, and as for top-flight defenses, we really only faced one - Florida. None of the other teams on our schedule showed any kind of superior defensive ability. We finished with five losses. In three of those losses, we scored less than the average opponent did. Against FL, we scored 17, when the average opponent scored only 12.43 and against Kentucky we scored 27 when the average opponent scored 22.69. 8-5.

Now, people thought we would start this 2010 season being able to run the ball because of the way we finished. But, in our last four games, when we did so well running the ball, we faced the #78, #100, #68 and #90 rushing defenses. The sad part? Against #78 Auburn and #100 Kentucky, we only gained about 10 yards more than their average opponent.

Looking back over the entire Bobo OC career, I'm looking at 28-10 (I do not count wins over WCar, GSU and TTech). Against top defenses, Bobo is 3-3.

In 38 games, Bobo's offenses have scored significantly (at least a field goal) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 25 occasions, or 66% of the time.

In 38 games, Bobo's offenses have gained significantly (at least 10 yards) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 26 occasions, or 68% of the time.

In 38 games, Bobo's passing offenses have gained significantly (at least 10 yards) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 21 occasions, or 55% of the time.

In 38 games, Bobo's rushing offenses have gained significantly (at least 10 yards) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 18 occasions, or 47% of the time.

More importantly, for 12 straight games starting against FL in 2008 and lasting through Vandy in 2009, UGA failed to gain significantly more on the ground than our opponent's average surrendered.

Is Mike Bobo a passable offensive coordinator? It's hard to say he's gotten much better over the years. His defense hasn't helped him at times, but when you're scoring less than the opposition gives up on average, it ain't the defense's fault. If you score at least what the other team usually gives up, you should have a shot at victory. In fact, only 4 times in this period did UGA score greater than their opponent's average surrendered and lose the game. Those games were against AL in 2008, when UGA got into the game late but was scoring mostly garbage scores against reserves, GT in 2008, when the defense fell apart in the second half, FL in 2009 when we never had a chance, and Kentucky in 2009 when our offense turned the ball over too many times in the second half, giving Kentucky easy opportunities to score. In all other losses, our offense didn't even score what our opponents gave up ON AVERAGE. That means that in our losses, we weren't even an AVERAGE offense.

And we want to be champions?

In the SEC, you run to win. We all know it. Our running game is attrocious, and has been for some time. Even with Moreno in 2008, our running game was average to bad more often than it was good. Blame the offensive line injuries if you want, but that's what Searels is being paid for, right? He's being paid to put together guys who can block and create running lanes. He's being paid to be our RUNNING GAME COORDINATOR. That's a joke of a title.

Aside from that, if we got him to do that because Bobo was admitting a lack of understanding about the running game, you'd think that would mean his passing game would be good. He's better than average in the air only 55% of the time.
Now, all of this is performance-based analysis. But statistical performance isn't the only way to judge a coordinator. You also have to judge situational play selection. I'll be honest, I don't remember too many times thinking "Holy crap that was an amazing playcall." In the agme against Arkansas, I remember a number of times thinking his play selection and design was boneheaded. People have called him predictable, unimaginative. This is the worst thing for an Offensive Coordinator to be. Then again, what was so creative about Petrino? We knew he was going to have Mallett throwing - and he did. It's not creativity that's killing Bobo - it's his inability to see what is and what isn't working, and to adjust accordingly. Until he can do that, he's not going to be a great OC.
The buck stops at the coach. Last season, Richt made the moves he had to on defense. Yes, we're 0-2 right now, but both of the offenses we've faced this year are better than their previous versions, and our Defense has performed better against both. And also, the opposite...our offense has performed more poorly against both. We have an upgrade in talent and experience, and yet we've underperformed. There is no excuse. Do we miss AJ? Yes. But, it is the job of the coach to use what he has to win.
I understand that AJ Green practiced with the 1s and 2s going into the Arkansas game, because the coaches believed he'd win his appeal. That's dumb. He took reps from receivers who we KNEW would play, just in case he MIGHT play. How much would Aaron Murray have gained by having those extra reps with the other guys? How much would those receivers have gained by geting those reps? That's a poor coaching decision.
I'm not going to get into play design. I'm sure many people out there have noticed that our receivers rarely appear to be as open as receivers for let's say, Florida or Alabama or Tennessee. That comes down to play design. The failure of the Dawgs to pick up the much needed 1st down at the end of Saturday's game? Play design.
I love Mike Bobo. Though we haven't spoken in years, I consider him a friend. He was one of my coaches, and I will always appreciate what he did for me. But I don't know that he's a championship coordinator. I say with confidence that Searels is not a championship O-Line coach. The results of our running game over the past three seasons shows me that. But, let's be real for a moment. Richt will not fire anyone after three weeks. He will play the season out and reassess at the end of the year - as well he should. Why do I say that? Because there aren't alot of highly qualified coordinators who aren't working right now - and even less who will leave a good job for a new job at UGA mid-season. Bobo and Searels will have to figure it out, and if they don't, I firmly believe they will be show the door.
This team is a talented team. You can't watch them and not see that. Richt should know that he has a championship possibility with Aaron Murray. In order to produce a championship, you have to produce far better than average results on the field. Bobo hasn't done that enough. If he's able to turn it up this season (In actuality, his offense has been better than the opposition's average surrendered in every game so far - but that's why I don't include this season....all the games haven't been played), he might just grow enough to be really good. If he isn't able to improve drastically, we get rid of him and hire a proven pro-style playcaller who can dissect what a defense is doing on the run, and give these talented kids the tutelage they deserve.
Go Dawgs.


Holla said...

Mr. Dukes, since this is a long post (which is a-ok, one long-poster to another), let me quote the summary of your research before responding:

"In 38 games, Bobo's offenses have scored significantly (at least a field goal) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 25 occasions, or 66% of the time.

In 38 games, Bobo's offenses have gained significantly (at least 10 yards) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 26 occasions, or 68% of the time.

In 38 games, Bobo's passing offenses have gained significantly (at least 10 yards) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 21 occasions, or 55% of the time.

In 38 games, Bobo's rushing offenses have gained significantly (at least 10 yards) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 18 occasions, or 47% of the time."

I'll number my thoughts/questions in response:

1. The obvious limitations of this kind of analysis aside (we're comparing a lot of apples with other kinds of fruit, especially when it comes to non-conference opponents), I think this is definitely interesting and a good way to at least start collecting some actual, objective data that can be anlayzed to have a serious discussion about what is or isn't hampering the Dawgs.

2. The breakdown of passing O, rushing O, and total O illustrates UGA's balance on offense. We are basically only 50/50 on outperforming the average in running or passing (47% for rushing, 55% for passing), yet, when you add up our TOTAL yards, we outpace the average opponent 68% of the time! So, in other words, when it comes to what we do in total, we are at 68%.

Think of it this way. Apparently the "average" team that plays against our opponents either throws for the same yards as us but rushes for significantly less, or rushes for the same yards as us but passes for significantly less. In other words, we are a significantly better offense than the average team that our opponents play.

3. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, but you seem to think that 68% is a speaks-for-itself number that Bobo is doing poorly. But my impression is exactly the opposite. If we outperform the average 68% of the time, then that would seem to make us pretty darn good. What percentage are we supposed to be at, in your opinion?

Holla said...

4. We also need to compare our numbers under Bobo with our numbers under Richt's playcalling. I'll bet they are eerily similar. Richt also believes very much in balance, and our great QBs did not produce Heismanesque numbers (David Greene rarely threw for 300 yards...Shockley in 05 also averaged somewhere south of 250/game). There are a lot of pass-happy offenses that put up stats but lose games. We are not going to pass for more yards than those teams, but we are going to get more yards TOTAL than those teams, and of course we're going to win. It's the whole point of a pro-style offense running a lot of I-formation, right? You take what the defense gives you. You open up a consistent running game and you play action pass. You go for the occasional homerun. It's not flashy, but it's not three yards and a cloud of dust, either. You end up with around 180 on the ground/ 220 in the air, and you've got a 400 yards total offense team that is not going to impress anyone in EITHER of the particular categories. But 400 yards is 400 yards.

In the 9+ years of Richt's tenure, I often find myself surprised after a BIG win with how modest our offensive stats SEEM. No explosive wowser number for either rushing or passing. In the 2004 LSU game, for instance, Greene did not throw for 200 yards. But we played out of our mind, LSU was befuddled all day, we blew them out in a walk, and everybody was ready to anoint us national champs afterwards (and then we laid an egg against Tennessee the next week). Yet Greene had like 190 yards.

Florida 07, Stafford was in the same ballpark, or if he got 200 it was just barely. Same with the Auburn game that year. But were these weak, or underwhelming performances on offense? Was Bobo supposed to make fire fall out of heaven? I'm genuinely puzzled.

01-05 did not feature Georgia offenses vastly outperforming the "average" in 90% of their games. I guarantee that as much as a person can guarantee something statistical that they actually haven't researched at all. :-)

5. Finally, in your commentary you make a lot of statements that seem to indicate that you expect perfection. You draw our attention to the games where our offense sucked, really drawing out the fact that we ran for so much less than USC gave up that year, etc. But EVERY team has games like this. If you can record data on it and put that data into a chart, then there are outliers.

We underperformed against South Carolina, badly, in 2007 (My first response to that is, yeah, and? When does that NOT happen? Was the 02 team a poor offense b/c they scored no offensive TDs against Carolina? No, actually they were the best O in the SEC that year.)

There are always outliers in any set of data. Real life does not happen in the "average" way every time. The very idea of having an average means that you've got some way highs and some way lows, some kinda highs and some kinda lows, etc. You write like your jaw is on the floor at the very fact that we had some very lows. But so does anyone.

Despite my criticisms, don't misunderstand. It's thought-provoking, and I'm enjoying thinking about it all. Thanks for putting it up.

Holla said...

Also, one more point that I just can't resist.

In the two 08 blowouts to Bama and to Florida, I could be wrong about this, but I don't think so. Didn't we outperform their average opponent in total yards in both of those games? Significantly so? I KNOW we did in the Florida game, b/c we were neck-and-neck with Florida in total yards in that game (turnovers killed us, obviously). And in the Bama "funeral" game we scored and moved the ball a lot in the second half, making it 42-30 or whatever at the final gun. I'll bet we had 300 yards total offense, at least, which had to be well above that Bama D's average given up that year.

In those games, something was terribly, terribly wrong, but by this standard of outperforming the average opponent, we moved the ball almost at will. So, did Bobo call good games there, or bad ones?

Bob said...

Mike Bobo lost a lot of supporrt from the Bulldawg Nation when in his attempt to explain or excuse the Offense he threw his QB under the bus. As a former player I am sure you realize that the really great coaches and even the marginally good coaches especially at the high school and college level never ever blame the players directly. Never in the history of Bear Bryant, Bobby Dodd, Vince Dooley, Erk Russell was a loss or a failure put on a specific player. It was always the coaches fault end of statement next question. Mike is a big boy and he gets paid a big salary and he should be man enough to take the heat for what ever happens under his control. He apparently missed this lesson. We got beat it was the coaches fault (even if it was not) we will coach them up and they will do better. Want a kid to quit on you keep telling the press he is the problem. Mike Bobo lost me on this point and I don't care if he is the greatest OC in college football.

dcugaqb07 said...


Thanks for the insight and the time it took to put it together. If you wouldn't mind, I'd love to see you address one thing. You say with confidence that CSS isn't a championship caliber coach. But he was the O-line coach with LSU when Saban won the MNC in 2003. It would seem that he was a championship caliber coach then. One would assume that his coaching style hasn't changed that radically that he somehow is unable to produce the same quality offensive line that was championship material in '03? Logically, it would seem the reasons for this are limited: 1. there has been a change in coaching tactics (unrealistic given coaches are supposed to gain wisdom with years rather than lose it), 2. We're working with inferior talent (Given the play last year this seems unlikely), or 3. there is another intangible quality that I as a viewer am missing. The 3rd possibility seems most likely. What do you think?

Ben Dukes said...
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Ben Dukes said...

XON - A very good take, but I will have you understand that I haven't said I'm against Bobo...but rather that he must improve.

Do I expect perfection? No. And will there always be outliers? Indeed. I am sorry that my data is not deep and rich enough to explain away things like why the offenses against FL and AL in 2008 would be so skewed to the positive, and the scoring be skewed to the negative. Perhaps if we dive into it, we will find that GA racked up a bunch of yards in the 4th quarter against reserves. I'm not certain. I know that Bama in 2008 geared down after taking a 30-0 lead. Then, when they needed a drive, they shoved it straight down our throats again. But that's a defensive discussion.

Now, of course there are obvious limitations to any statistical analysis. I really wish I wasn't so limited in producing the table for your viewing in this blog. In fact, I'm going to look into a way to host it so that you could take a look. What strikes me isn't only that we performed worse than average competition as often as we do (and yes, I realize that 32% of the time, and 34% of the time and 45% of the time doesn't seem like that often), but that we're underperforming against less than top-notch defenses.

And yes, every team is going to have "those games" from time to time, but not if you want to be an elite program.

And THAT is my point. I'm not demanding perfection. But, I wonder if I did a similar analysis of Alabama and Florida over the past two years, what that would look like? Perhaps I will.

I love Georgia. I want us to be a top-flight SEC program. We currently are not. Take that stretch of 12 games in a row when our running game was at or sub-par to the competition. That's not champship football.

Also, this analysis can not take into account games like Ole Miss in 2007, when we threw only 144 yards, and they averaged 224 surrendered, but we ran for 328 and they averaged 199 surrendered.

I am not saying in this blog that Bobo is a bad OC, but I am saying that he is not a championship OC yet. I'm going to do the analysis on FL and Alabama, hell, I'll do it for both of FL's titles, AL's title, and LSU's title. That will get me all the way back through 2006. Then, we can talk further. Whatcha think?

Ben Dukes said...

Bob -

Alot of people are having a very negative reaction to Mike's comment regarding Murray on that play. I myself said he threw the kid under the bus. But, in retrospect, I think he was making a coaching point. He did it poorly, as that particular situation was a lose-lose for Murray, and Bobo should have known better. But, don't think Bobo was taking a shot at his young QB. I can promise you that he loves Murray and wants nothing but the best for him, he was simply stating that you have to make the read and get the ball out.

Bad timing, not bad tidings.

Ben Dukes said...

Xon - I've been tring to dig up more in-depth statistics for the early years of Richt, but it looks like has removed the game-by-game and season-total stat pages from the website. That infuriates me because I did a series back in March - April about "the thing" that produces championships under Mark Richt. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so. Admittedly, the first few blogs are a bit sparse, but they got better as I went along.

Anyway, you are right in your assumption that in the landscape of the SEC at the time, we weren't a dominating force on offense, racking up 500 and 600 yard performances and scoring 40 ppg. But, what bothers me is that we can do that, and don't. Look back at 2007 - Our offense scored over 40 five times that season. But against TN and SC, we scored 14 and 12 respectively. They averaged giving up 27 and 24ppg.

But I can't compare 2010 to 2002. The landscape has changed. Football has changed. AL and FL DOMINATE their opponents in general and if we want to be on top again, we'll need to do the same.

Ben Dukes said...

DC -

As for Searels, I honestly don't get it. I don't understand how our O-line isn't locking everyone down.

Cox rarely got sacked. I don't remember Stafford getting harrased too often either. But, looking at running game numbers, we've underperformed more often than we've super-performed, and the one thing that was supposed to be a huge strength for us this year has not even showed up.

I can't explain it.

Fulmer was a national championship calliber coach at one time.

Then he was a 5-7 coach.

Which one is the reality?

College Football is the king of "what have you done for me lately?"

Andy Coleman said...

I've said this before, and it's relevant to your post as well. Good offensive coordinators have good systems. Great offensive coordinators have good systems that they adapt to personnel, playmakers, and what is in front of them on a game-by-game/play-by-play basis.

At UGA, we stick to our same package of plays way too often. Do you think Steve Spurrier doesn't change his plays up every week? Hell, in the middle of games even!

Anonymous said...

Not to undercut any of your number-crunching but the biggest thing that hurts my perception of Bobo is that he wouldn't have the offensive coordinator job at any of our peer institutions. There's no way Bobo leaves here laterally. If he gets shown the door and still wants to stay in college coaching, he's either going to have to take a job as a position coach or a coordinator at a much smaller institution. I really like the guy and I think he's really smart but I also think he's in over his head here.

Ben Dukes said...

Dante -

To your point, when most coordinators are FIRED, they don't make lateral moves. With rare exception, if a OC or DC makes a lateral move, it's because he was hired AWAY from his current job. Not too many coaches take on the burden of an OC/DC who was seen as incompetent at his last job.

My analysis continues...many statistics to pour over. By Thursday, I should have Mark Richt's numbers as UGA's OC as well as the championship statistics for FL, LSU, FL and AL as previously mentioned.

Holla said...

Thanks for putting such work in, sir. I look forward to the results!

Anonymous said...

You're right. Firing was a bad example, but I stand by my original statement: There is no way Bobo leaves here laterally. Even if he wants to leave on his own terms, he's not finding another offensive coordinator position at a peer institution. And he's sure not getting hired away from us even if he wanted to leave.