Jerry Angelo Said Something Crazy

AngeloFormer Bears GM Jerry Angelo is on Twitter, and he’s an interesting follow thanks to his openness with regards to thoughts on current teams and players. Last night he answered a few questions from followers, and it turned into a sort of Best and Worst of Jerry.

In one answer, he outlined (in my opinion, accurately) why the Bears paid what they paid to secure the services of Jay Cutler. The Cutler trade was one of Angelo’s high points; it was an aggressive move to upgrade at the most important position, and it might have ensured his employment longer had he surrounded Cutler with competent offensive talent. (Drafting Matt Forte was his only contribution on that front; another great move, for sure, but not nearly enough.) His point with the Cutler deal was that the going rate for talented quarterbacks is a pricey one, but it’s what the Bears had to pay to avoid scrounging for scraps.

The “Worst” portion was this answer, which was in response to a question regarding the Bears defense falling off. If you want to feel a whole lot better about Phil Emery, continue reading:

“Their offense was great by Bear standards, but the bottom line is to win enough games and get into the playoffs. If you fall short of that, you didn’t accomplish your primary goal. You can’t win a championship unless you get into the playoffs. Stats are for baseball people. Football is measured in wins.”

That’s just…I can’t even…wow. First of all, that’s an incredibly reductive view of things, and just two years removed from being in charge, Jerry himself still bears some blame for the roster’s inefficiency. (The offensive cupboard was so bare when Emery took over, he couldn’t afford to do much defensively until he stabilized the offense.) The defense Angelo left behind was talented, for sure, but it was also aging and expensive. So any backhanded swipe Jerry was trying to make (both the stats element and the offense comment struck me as shots; maybe Angelo isn’t too happy that Emery has done for the offense two offseasons what Angelo failed to do his entire career in Chicago) is actually a partial shot at himself.

But beyond that, the final sentence is just plain bad. It’s endemic of an out of date view of the sport, and it’s exactly why I’m so excited that Phil Emery is in charge. That goes beyond Emery’s open-minded attitude toward the evolving world of football analytics, although I certainly appreciate Phil’s blend of analytics and scouting. I’ve praised Emery for his focus on process over results, (memorably detailed in this great Bill Barnwell profile of Emery) and the “Football is measured in wins” statement is totally and completely at odds with process-oriented thinking. It leads to very poor decisions. This isn’t an uncommon football attitude; listen for how many times the “he just wins games” or “it won’t matter if they don’t win” cliches get tossed around during the playoffs. It’s an outdated, unsophisticated way to view sports in general, not just football. (Heck, it’s an outdated way to view anything.)

And again, that’s to say nothing of the “Stats are for baseball people” side of the quote; that’s ignorance in its own fashion, and if I were looking for a GM in 2014 and saw that quote from a candidate, I’d laugh out loud. Of course, I’m not in that position, and the saddest element may be that executives, scouts, and coaches around the league might actually see that quote and nod in agreement.

The good news for the Bears, though, is that Phil Emery wouldn’t be one of them. Emery has made some questionable moves, to be sure. No executive is perfect. But I’m so happy to have someone in charge who gets it, because it sets the Bears apart for now. Look how quickly baseball thinking changed, post-Moneyball. The NBA is experiencing their own sea change, and through their SportVU camera system they’re actually doing some of the coolest stuff around. (If you’re interested in sports analytics in general, these Zach Lowe long read pieces for Grantland on the SportVU system are a must read, especially that first one.)

In a very short amount of time, there won’t be a GM around who wouldn’t shake their head upon seeing that quote from Angelo. For once the Bears are ahead of the curve, and we’re all the better for it.

Jay Rigdon is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and can also be found @BearsBN on Twitter.

12 responses to “Jerry Angelo Said Something Crazy”

  1. Jason

    I guess I’m not sure whether that statement is more indicative of Jerry or of what he thinks of his audience. Either way, it’s not a good answer.

  2. Chuck

    I have mixed opinions about stats in football. Football is not baseball in this regard. Stats are far more useful and indicative towards trends than in football, and they are also far easier to measure consistently, and are far less subjective. There are few stats in baseball where there is “gray area” as to what they are: Errors are one of them. While most are obvious, there are sometimes benefit of the doubt given to star players for not committing an error. Just about all other stats in baseball are rather concrete. Did the player hit the ball in play? Did they reach the base safely? Which base did they reach? Those simple concrete measurements can be used to generate all sorts of advanced statistics.

    That isn’t the case in football. Take offensive lineman stats for example. Unless you know which assignment an O-Lineman has, how can you tell accurately if he missed his block, or if the RB was supposed to come across and stop his guy? Sacks or Hurries can get assigned to the wrong player very easily. Or, a WR runs a bad route, and a play that’s designed to get the ball out in 2 seconds ends up not happening and a sack is given due to a WR making a mistake, but a lineman can get dinged for that as well. I even have issues with some of the QB metrics. Touchdowns to Interception ratios that the media loves to tout in regards to QBs is so useless. QBs aren’t completely responsible for TD passes — playcalling is. What if a WR is tackled at the 1 after a 60 yard pass, and then they punch it in on the ground? The QB gets one less TD pass, but he threw the prior ball that got them in scoring position. Frankly, even interceptions can happen with no fault to the QB: He throws a perfect ball, the WR lets it go through his hands, it’s tipped in the air, and someone else catches it. That’s not on the QB, it’s on the WR, but according to the stats the QB “threw” another INT, when in reality he threw a completion that just turned into an INT via bad luck.

    The good news is, that when coaches review game film, they look at things in the proper light. They would not fault the QB for that INT even though it ended up as one. They won’t blame a lineman for letting a guy get by when the RB was supposed to rotate over. They know what plays were called, they are in the huddle, they know the assignments. Fans and the media don’t know that or realize it, however, they just usually dwell on the final stats because that’s all most people can discuss and I think a lot of that came from discussing stats in baseball.

    A lot of the stats in football are subjective. The REAL problem that I am starting to see, is fans looking more and more at sites like Pro Football Focus, and considering what they see there as gospel and absolute. Some stats in football can be very useful, but they shouldn’t be considered the final word.

    I do think some stats and metrics in football can be useful, but less so when it comes to player evaluation. Situational stats may help a lot during a game: i.e. “What percentage of these sort of 4th and 2 plays from this part of the field are effective and how does it affect my chance to win”. My hope is that Emery and Trestman are using the proper blend of using some metrics combined with on the field player evaluations.

    Sorry for the long post, but I’ve been having a lot of conversations with friends on this topic lately and I’m curious as to what others feel, especially since this site has it’s roots in baseball. I’m NOT a Jerry Angelo fan. I think he did “some” good things here, but by and large wasn’t successful. That said, I really didn’t have a problem with his comment. Wins ARE all that matters in football. Having good stats doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win the game. Josh McCown had good stats in several games — better than Cutler — but he was still the 2nd best QB on the roster stats be damned. Smart coaches and GMs are able to combine the useful aspects of stats with knowledge of the game to be successful to get the only result that matters: A win. My feeling is that Emery and Trestman are two guys who get that.

    1. mdavis

      some definetly good points. I’ll mainly put my thoughts towards the offense.

      in terms of QB’s TD-INT ratio etc. while there is something to be said for that, i think over the course of a season, these numbers even themselves out. For every 60 yard pass stopped at the 1 and then punched in, i think theres a 7 play 55 yard drive of runs, ending in a 2 yard play action td pass. for every tipped pass INT, theres a ball thrown in triple covg, that the WR can knock down.

      Furthering that, most QB’s are consistent (relatviely) in terms of TDs and INTs. are these guys consistently lucky? consistently unlucky? going even further, a lot has to do with style of play. Guys like Cutler and Stafford will always throw a few more picks, because of the arm strength and their belief they can fit those windows. or for example Cutler is more likely to throw a ball to a double covered Marshall, than say Luck would to TY Hilton, due to Marshall being 6’4″ and Hilton being what, 5’11″? I know from my experience I had a 6’4″ receiver who could jump to the clouds (TE on the 49ers now actually) and if i’m running around i’m going to put it up for him. so there’s more opportunities for picks there as well, but also big plays.

      In terms of the O-Line i think when grading run blocking, the guys breaking it down (outside of the org im talking) have an idea of scheme. If its zone, base, power, whatever they can have a general sense in terms of assignments. and I tend to think the sacks even themselves out too.

      Good discussion points though Chuck, I like it. this blog i feel is gettin more and more talks going on, keep up the good work Jay!

      1. frank

        Agreed–good points. I also keep in mind the small sample sizes inherent with football stats due to the short length of the season.

      2. Chuck

        I do agree that things like TD’s and INT’s can tend to “even out” over time, but there are a few things to consider.

        First, as another poster said, even an NFL season is a very small sample set when you compare it to sports like Hockey, or of course Baseball. That’s another reason why stats tell more of a story in Baseball than in Football.

        I also don’t think that there should be a large amount of discussion on stats that have to “even out” over time. While there will always be a “luck” factor involved in some stats (such as interception) I’d rather see some of these news outlets turn to some more relevant stats to track instead of having readers like us do them ourselves. One example is TD to INT. You read about those numbers a LOT on many of the main sports media sites, and that’s what they always talk about regarding a QBs efficiency. As I said above, by and large I don’t like that stat at all and think it’s a very poor measuring stick. One thing I would like to see more of is “Interception Percent” for lack of a better term. Number of interceptions against number of pass attempts. To me this seems like a much better way to look at a QBs decision making, with the small caveat that sometimes INTs happen that aren’t on the QB. I think when you look at QBs in the NFL in this light, it tells an interesting story. Cutler’s for the record, has never been good. I’m really curious to see what it looks like though, in Year 2 of the Trestman offense hoping he plays the whole season. Even so, some of that is driven by scheme. Downfield passing systems like Mike Martz, whom Cutler played for during 2 seasons, are more high risk, so you will get interceptions. In fact, QBs under Martz are coached to make the throw to the spot and don’t worry about the occasional INT. QBs in that system will throw more picks, whereas QBs in a safe, check-down West Coast system will throw less. Completion percent is also affected by this. So stats still aren’t always JUST on the player or their decisions/accuracy, but sometimes due to their offensive systems.

        1. mdavis

          definetely a good point. and i think we’re starting to (slowly) see more and more of those stats. which is good for the advancement of the game. I haven’t gotten into much of the newer QBR rating but i think i’m going to start researching a bit more. supposedly a good way to gauge the total impact of the qb, which could be interesting.

          but you’re right, the media especially focuses far too much on the cookie cutter stats so to speak. hoping this changes moving forward and to be honest i think a guy like Trent Dilfer is going to help with that. I think he’s terrific as an analyst.

  3. Austin

    With football it is mainly about perspective. What happens within a play to either set the play up or result in a bad play. Wins won’t tell you everything and neither will stats when it comes to football. Football is just a sport of having to watch tape of players to get their true level of talent/contributions. Football is truly a sport where having an eye for talent and understanding the small stuff will tell you more than stats. (Very unlike baseball). Stats won’t tell you a player is lucky or unlucky in football but a coach or scout watching a players tape can see one way or another. Football has a long ways to go in terms of finding stats that can truly give you a good sense of how good or bad a player is. Which it may never get there as football has so many moving parts and if 1 player messes up it can mess up the player next to him and result in him unfairly getting penalized.

  4. Dan

    I think you are bashing Angelo’s answer out of spite. It’s not archaic, It’s factual. The team didnt win enough games, resulting in failure to compete for a title. As for the “stats” part, I think the interpretation is wrong; I think his point is having two great WRs and an all-world RB mean nothing if you don’t make the playoffs. I don’t like Angelo but I think the bashing of his off the cuff comment is more childish then journalistic.

    1. frank

      It’s factual to a point, but it is also reductionist. If all a GM looks at is wins and losses, that person will certainly miss some very important reasons and facts pertaining to both individual and team performance–that is, the “why”–hence the “great success” of the Angelo regime here.

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