clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Is Bob Bratkowski A Suitable Replacement For Mike Mularkey? An In-depth Look At Our QB Coach

New, comments

I bet some of you didn't think I was capable of taking an in-depth look at anything. Well, YOU'RE WRONG. In all of your faces. Har har har har har

I still marvel that his name is one switch of letters from being "The Great One's" last name.

Enough being silly. Bob Bratkowski is our current QB Coach and, amidst some speculation around the Falcoholic, may very well be our next OC WHEN Genius Mike Mularkey departs us this year. While people have been yelling for Andy Reid and Todd Haley and Norv Turner and this and that, I set out to find out whether a guy we already had was apt for the job.

I do recall Cincy having at least one really good offensive year within the past decade, and this man was the OC from 2001-2011 for the Bengals. He was also the Seahawks OC from '95 to '98, but nobody here remembers that far back so it doesn't count (kidding!).

After the jump, let's take a look at what this guy has done and the talent he's had at his disposal.

Edit: I apologize for the lack of spacing in this article. Something is wrong with the editor and I don't know a solution to the matter. I've alerted Dave to it. Thanks for understanding, guys.

As many of you know, I hate stats, more specifically advanced ones, because I feel like people pull them out of thin air and expect others to just go along with it because it sounds good, like "Win Probability Added" when there's no way to really know how they're calculated. Or at least, no one has shared how they're calculated with me and I either haven't found an answer in what little I've searched for it or haven't looked hard enough.

However, I am delving into advanced stats with this post and I'm going to take an educated guess as to how they're calculated without actually finding the formulas. Or I'm just going to try to figure out what they mean. So bear with me. I can't be the only one who isn't versed in these stats.

Good grief, Matt Ryan's WPA (However in the heck that's calculated) was 4th highest in 2008, according to advancednflstats.com. I don't know if this is calculated the same every year, but his WPA was 3.56.

Compared to Carson Palmer's.....He's not even in the top 18 that year.

To be fair, Chad Pennington was 5th highest that year, so take that how you want.

I'll assume that WPA is a number given to someone that shows how much better of a chance the team has to win when that person is in the game. It is either that or how many more wins someone would get in a season compared to the average. So in 2008, Matty was 3.5 wins better than the average QB. That sounds about right, I think. Sounds like WAR in baseball. Maybe they're the same.

In any case, Carson's best year was 2005 per WPA. I believe that was the year they went to the playoffs and Carson had his knee melted by the Steelers, and hasn't been the same since.

Carson's WPA that year was 3.64, good for 3rd best in the league.

A little background on BB's offensive history in this millenium:

2001: I don't care how many advanced stats you throw at me, when your offense has the fewest points per game in the league, it is bad. 14.1 points a game for BB's 2001 offense. Corey Dillon was on the team then, as was Akili Smith. Jon Kitna was the starting QB, but he had Housh and Ocho as receivers, as well as Peter Warrick, not that Warrick did anything in the league. He was reasonably okay in his short NFL tenure.

But still, 14 points a game? Yuck. Football Outsiders (Here on out called "FO") had CIN at #26 total DVOA, right behind us! :D

DVOA, in my best guess (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) sounds like a really long formula based on what defenses your offense played, how many yards/points they gathered (and how many yards/points per game the opposing D allowed over the whole season), did that for every game played, and then found an number to quantify that, the average, or "A" in DVOA. If I'm right, the average is what is represented at 0.0% and then the + or – in the percentage is how much better/worse the team is than the average, which would still represent how good/bad an offense is.

If I'm correct in my assumption of how it works (FO's link to their DVOA explanation was down at the time of this writing) then even I have to admit that it provides a better explanation of who is good and who is bad, but it looks more of a "Let's combine yards and points earned together for a team and then compare each game to each defense's yards/points allowed as a whole throughout the season and come up with a number to quantify that, then let's make an average and compare each team to that average."

Yeah, you know what, you can keep it. That seriously sounds like it would take hours to do. Maybe several days. But it makes sense, if I'm correct about it.

2002: Cincy was 21st in Offensive DVOA in '02. No Carson Palmer to this point. There doesn't appear to be much of a change in the roster. I should note that Corey Dillon (#1 RB) had 7 1000 yard seasons, 6 of which were with Cincy. His last year with Cincy, he didn't play in every game. He did have a 1600 yard season with NE.

So I think it's safe to say that their running game was at least decent. I don't have the stats in front of me, but I can't imagine there being that many 1000 yard backs every year. He received the bulk of the carries for Cincy starting in '98 (2nd year) through '02. He then had a down year, and then received most of NE's carries in '04.

Let's break away from the year-by-year for a moment and examine how he used his players. Let's start with the aforementioned Dillon and the other running backs.

Running Backs

It's safe to say Corey Dillon was a good running back. BUT there's more. While Dillon was the RB at Cincy, he averaged a little under two receptions a game, and that's just Dillon. In '01 and '02, they had Lorenzo Neal, the fullback who blocked for LT at some point or another. In two years, Neal had 40 receptions. So they were definitely throwing to him out of the backfield like we do to Ovie.

During Dillon's down year in '03 and after his departure, BB leaned on the legs of Rudi Johnson, who produced three straight 1300+ yard seasons from '04 to '06. Johnson had 957 yards in '03 on just 215 carries, a 4.5 YPC average.

The simple stats would suggest he was a capable running back, but the advanced stats tell a different story.

FO makes these RB rankings ridiculous. It looks like their main stat for RB is DYAR, which is yards above an average replacement level player. Dillon was ranked 22nd for that in '01, and 12th for that in '02. In Dillon's defense, the people above him in '02 are names like Faulk, Fred Taylor, Clinton Portis, LT, etc, so really that's some good company.

There are also many more 1,000 yard RB than I thought, not all of which belong to good teams. But Cincy was 6-10 in '01 and 2-14 in '02, and I'd venture to guess that when you lose that much, you're often playing from behind, so having a back that accrues that many yards is a good thing in our case. He knows how to run the ball. He also had his QB pass the ball to his RB. What a novel concept.

After Corey Dillon came Rudi Johnson, who, as I said previously, had three straight 1300 yard seasons from '04 to '06, which includes Cincy's super offense of '05, which I will cover in greater detail in a moment. Johnson's numbers are eerily simliar to Turner's, so really you're looking at someone who knows how to use Turner like Turner is already being used. Only about 18 catches a year or so.

In 2007, Rudi Johnson had a down year, and was assisted by Kenny Watson, who had 763 yards on 178 carries. What's better about that is that Kenny had three seasons of at least 20 receptions, and I don't believe he was ever the feature back in Cincy. In 2007, Watson had 52 receptions. Watson played in all 16 games, whereas Rudi Johnson did not, so Watson probably saw some time as the #1. However, he had 53 receptions. That right there should be a positive if you want screens. Johnson also had 13 receptions that year, so that's 66 receptions between the top two running backs. Way, way more than we would ever do, ever.

2008 was Cedric Benson's first year in Cincy. He split carries with Chris Perry (A first round bust) that year. Between the two of them, there were 40 receptions.

In comparison, in 2010, we had 69 receptions between Turner, Snelling, and Ovie. Snelling accounted for 44 of the receptions. Yeah, I would've never guessed he had that many.

While that is more than Cincy has done, that does not count Cincy's fullbacks (who also had some receptions, like Ovie) and their #1 RB has had more than our #1 has had in most, if not all, of their seasons.

However, when I think of Bengals, I think of Carson Palmer and that plethora of receivers he had down there, so let's look at those.

Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers

We'll start in 2004, Carson Palmer's first year accruing any kind of stats. He was on the team in '03, but didn't play that year.

In '04, Palmer was ranked 17th in DYAR. It was essentially his rookie year. He had 2800 yards, with 18 TD and 18 INT and a 62.4 Completion percentage. His DVOA was 16th, and it was 3.9% above average.

His top two receivers, Housh and 85, were 9th and 26th in DYAR, respectively. To compare, this year, Roddy is 23rd and Julio is 40th in DYAR, so Housh and 85 were pretty good back in '04. (Last year, Roddy was 4th, to give you another comparison)

So Carson had some good WR to work with, and they certainly performed well. I imagine BB had something to do with that. He was a WR coach previously in his coaching career.

However, Carson also threw 18 picks and only 18 touchdowns, so you can blame some of that on Carson learning the ropes.

Now, we jump into 2005, which was Cincy's best offensive year in the past decade, at least. Carson's DYAR was ranked #2, (DVOA #3) behind only Peyton. He had 32 touchdowns against 12 picks and had a 67.9% completion percentage. That's damn good.

Holy smokes, I sat here for like 5 minutes looking for 85 on the chart here and then realized he was #2.

85 and Housh were #2 and #8 in DYAR in '05, respectively. Larry Fitzgerald was #9, for perspective.

Cincy's offense that year was #5 in DVOA. To compare, the Falcons this year are 11th. In 2010, we were 10th. BB ran a good offense that year. That was also the year Palmer had his knee exploded and hasn't really been the same since.

That right there should be proof that BB is capable of running a good offense if he has the right tools.

And now that I look at it, Cincy had another good offensive year in '06, ranking 5th in DVOA again. 85 and Housh were #4 and #5 in DYAR, respectively. The top 7 had three pairs of receivers. That's ridiculous. (Harrison/Wayne, 85/Housh, Owens/Glenn from DAL) Lee Evans is the group ruiner, there.

Palmer was #3 in DYAR, behind only Brees and Peyton in 2006. That's a really good offense he had going on up there. 28 touchdowns versus 12 picks for Palmer with a 62.8% completion percentage.

Palmer dropped to #6 in DYAR in '07, with the team's offense as a whole dropping to 7th in DVOA. 85 and Housh were still pretty good, weighing in at #6 and #16 in DYAR, respectively. In 2008, the offense took a proverbial dump, but Carson was hurt and the backup was a pre-Bills Ryan Fitzpatrick, who wasn't any good. Hard to win with a backup in this league.

Palmer jumped back up to 15th in DYAR in '09, which was lower than Matty (13th), but Palmer wasn't exactly the same, if you ask me. Between the knee injury and then whatever knocked him out in '08 probably changed him somehow. I'm sure it happens. Their offense as a whole wasn't very good in '09, though it wasn't Benson's fault (13th in DYAR, compared to Turner's 16th, but Turner was hurt).

So we've seen that BB can run a good offense with the right tools, now let's look at Cincy's record from '01-'09.

In that time period, they had two winning seasons ('05/'09), four average seasons (8-8/7-9 -'03, '04, '06, '07), and two really bad seasons ('02/'08) and '01 was 6-10.

From what I've gone over thus far, it would seem that the offense hasn't had a huge impact on their record. So what could it be? Their defense? Let's take a quick look at the DVOA of their defense throughout the years.

2001 - #18

2002 - #28

2003 - #31

2004 - #11

2005 - #23

2006 - #26

2007 - #27 (ATL's was #28 that year. ha)

2008 - #16

2009 - #13

Now, let's compare it to the total offensive DVOA over the same time period. Remember, Carson's first year was '04.

2001 - #26

2002 - #21

2003 - #10

2004 - #11

2005 - #5

2006 - #5

2007 - #7

2008 - #28 (Palmer hurt in this season. Replaced by Pre-Bills Fitzpatrick)

2009 - #19

As you can see, the offense was clearly better than the defense for most of that time period, thanks in large part to BB.

Now that I have laid all of this out in front of you, I open the discussion to you all. Does this, in your mind, prove that Bob Bratkowski would be a suitable replacement for MM? Why or why not? I hope you've enjoyed reading my attempt at statistical analysis. I'd love to debate with you all, but I have two finals today and I'll be taking those and then driving home to my sweetheart tomorrow evening. I'll check in when I can, but feel free to discuss here. I'll be reading your opinions when I get home tomorrow night, and I look forward to them!