Looking At Some Numbers Today

If you watched any of the Giants/Eagles game on Monday Night Football this week, you had to notice the repeated references to the fact that the winner of the NFC East this year might not have a winning record for the season.  That same fact has been the repeated subject of more than a few segments on sports-gab shows in TV and – at least here in the DC area – on sports radio.

I recall the Seahawks making the playoffs with a 7-9 record about 15 years ago; I do not recall any other “sub-.500 teams” ever since the NFL expanded the playoffs to 12 teams in the 90s.  However, the tut-tutting about the possibility of that happening again this year needs to be put into perspective.  Consider these two facts:

  1. This year’s NFC Champion must win a minimum of 7 games – unless the Eagles and Cowboys tie each other on December 22, and both lose their other remaining games.  So, the “worst record” for an NFC East team could be 6-9-1.
  2. It is possible – although the chances are vanishingly small – for a team with a 3-13 record to make the NFL playoffs as a division winner and host a playoff game.

Let me explain how a 3-13 team can win a division:

  • Suppose all four teams in a division lose every game they play outside the division.  Every team plays 10 games out of the division, so all the teams have an 0-10 record in those games
  • Suppose also that all four teams in a division split those division games such that each team has a 3-3 record there.
  • Now, all four teams will end the season at 3-13 and the NFL tiebreaker system will crown one of them as the Division Champion.
  • That winner will host a playoff game; and if they miraculously go on to win their next 4 games in the playoffs, they would be Super Bowl Champions with a season record of 7-13.

Suddenly, having an NFC East champ at 7-9 doesn’t look nearly as awful as one might portray it…

Some of the colleges that recently fired their head coaches have announced replacements.  Mike Norvill goes from Memphis to Florida State; Lane Kiffin goes from FAU to Ole Miss; Sam Pittman will take over in Arkansas.  Alums at those schools are brimming with enthusiasm today; thing are surely going to change for the better.  So, I decided to take a look at how last year’s “new hires” did in their first year on the job.  I do not have an exhaustive list of every college coaching change, but these are ones that I found quickly and easily.  In alphabetical order:

  • Gary Andersen – – Utah State:  His record was 7-5 this year.  Andersen is returning to Utah State after stints at “more visible programs” such as Wisconsin.  This season was not a great start but there is no embarrassment here.
  • Tom Arth – – Akron:  His record was 0-12 this year – – the only Division 1-A team not to win a game this year.  There is no spin-meister alive who can make that look good.
  • Walt Bell – – UMass:  His record was 1-11 this year and UMass had the worst scoring defense in the country by a wide margin.  Bell took over for Mark Whipple who had been at UMass for 5 years and had gone 4-8 in the previous 2 seasons.  This year is a giant step backwards.
  • Mack Brown – – UNC:  His record was 6-6 this season but that is a significant improvement over the previous two seasons where UNC won a total of only 5 games.  Moreover, the Tar Heels were competitive in every game; only twice did they lose by as many as 7 points.  This is a significant improvement.
  • Geoff Collins – – Ga Tech:  His record was 3-9 this season but he needs a longer leash than a year because he tried to run his offense with players recruited for and trained in the triple option offense favored by his predecessor, Paul Johnson.
  • Ryan Day – – Ohio State:  His record was 12-0 this season.  What more is there to say here…?
  • Manny Diaz – – Miami:  His record was 6-6 this season but that is a bit deceiving.  Two of those losses were to Ga Tech (see above) and then to Florida International.  I doubt that Miami alums and boosters saw 2019 as a “positive experience”.
  • Chris Klieman – – Kansas State:  His record was 8-4 this season which is plenty good.  He must live with the fact that he has replaced the Godfather of Football in Manhattan KS and it will take years for the K-State faithful to let Bill Snyder’s memory even begin to fade.
  • Mike Locksley – – Maryland:  His record was 3-9 this season.  After winning the first two games by a combined score of 142-20, reality set in.  After that, the only other win came at the expense of Rutgers.  Against ranked teams, Maryland was 0-4 losing by a combined score of 222-31.  If that is considered “progress” …
  • Jim McElwein – – C. Michigan:  His record was 8-4 this season.  He came to C. Michigan from Florida and showed here that he can coach a bit.  Last year, C. Michigan was a SHOE Tournament team that won only 1 game.  This year, they played for the MAC Championship.  He provided a huge turnaround there.
  • Les Miles – – Kansas:  His record was 3-9 this season; nonetheless, that is a small step forward from where Kansas football has been recently.  Their win over BC was a plus – – but there is still a looong way to go for the Jayhawks if they want to regain a semblance of respectability in the Big 12.
  • Scott Satterfield – – Louisville:  His record was 7-5 this season.  The previous year was a disaster for the Cardinals; the record was 2-10 and they fired Bobby Petrino in November.  Satterfield came to Louisville from Appalachian State where he had winning records for 5 consecutive years.  It would be hard to argue that this was a bad hire…

Finally, here is an entry in The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm that seems appropriate for this Holiday Season:

Dickens, Charles:  The man responsible for every lousy community-theater production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ that you ever had to sit through because your wife had a friend from work who was playing Bob Cratchit.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



6 thoughts on “Looking At Some Numbers Today”

  1. UNLV will have a new coach next year, and if the hard hats can meet their goals, a new stadium for the Rebels to play their home games. I know it is too early for predictions, but do you think they will finally turn the corner and head up in NCAA football-land?

    1. Rich:

      Nevada – traditionally – has not been a mother lode of football recruits, I think UNLV is swimming upstream here.

  2. You forgot the NFL has ties… Extremely unlikely, but possible that those 4 teams tie the head to head games, one wins a coin flip and goes in winless

    1. Ed:

      As I recall, the NHL had 6 teams then and 4 of them made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That means it was likely that a sub-.500 team was in tghe playoffs every year. Surprising it only happened once…

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