Why NFL Coaches Don't Know What They Are Saying

Christian Petersen

What is it with "coach speak" that has fantasy owners every year overreact to quotes from NFL coaches? I take a look at how you can turn these absurd quotes into something useful, and not overreact in the process.

Each year during the offseason, one of my biggest pet peeves is always brought back from the coaches in the NFL.  There is a tradition that lends itself to almost all sports, especially baseball and football, and it irritates me because I know the coaches mean well, but they just make quotes that make me cringe each and every time.

Remember this famous quote from Nathaniel Hackett last year, the offensive coordinator of the Bills, "We're going to give him the ball until he throws up. So he's either got to tap out or throw up on the field. Let's just put it that way."  That quote got fantasy owners salivating over him, and slotting him up even higher in drafts than he was before.  I saw him go as high as the second overall pick last season, which might have been fine if Hackett had stayed true to his word.  What ended up happening last year though?  With the combination of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, they accumulated 488 touches.  That is quite a few touches to be going towards Running Backs in today’s NFL.  The problem that arose in the 2013 season though, was that Fred Jackson had more touches than C.J. Spiller with 253 to 235.  Now either Spiller has terrible stamina and was unable to take any extra workload, or fantasy owners fell victim to "coach speak" during the preseason.  Does any player being run till they throw up sound like a good idea?  It may seem like a good idea in theory from a coach’s standpoint, since that would give their best player as many touches as they can handle, but this just isn’t plausible.

Coaches are trained in speaking to the media and talking up the players they like.  The problem is that fans and especially fantasy owners, hang on to every word they say that is a glowing report about a guy.  How many times during Spring Training for the MLB have you heard a manager or a player referred to as being, in the best shape of their life?  The football version of that all too familiar quote from baseball, is the coach praising a guy and saying he will touch the ball X amount of times, even though that number will never happen.

These quotes are still useful, if you take the time to understand fully what the underlying message is to the quote.  Look at two instances that I have found so far this offseason that apply to the "coach speak" I alluded to above, and what the true message may be of those quotes.

Adam Green of Arizona Sports, reported this quote from Bruce Arians, "I would love to get him 25-30 touches a game."  Does Bruce Arians know how many touches 25 per game equates to over a full season?  If you take the low end of his quote and do 25 touches a game, which comes out to 400 touches over a full season.  The last player to get over 400 touches in a season was Chris Johnson all the way back in 2009.  The entire backfield for the Cardinals accumulated just over 460 touches.  Ellington was responsible for below 35 percent of those touches last year.  Let’s say he flips that number around to 65% this year of 460 touches and you get 299 touches for him.  That number still seems high, considering Jonathan Dwyer and Stepfan Taylor are also in the backfield.  I think the number of touches that Andre Ellington will receive should be projected to be around 275, as that would be about 60 percent of the total touches coming from Cardinal Running Backs based on 460 total touches.  That is not enough to vault him into top 15 consideration at the position, but does give him borderline top 20 status for now.

According to NFL.com on February 23rd, Norv Turner’s first order of business was to implement 10 new plays that were designed for Patterson, since he is a special talent, according to Rick Spielman at the scouting combine.  This news is also one that should be scoured to find out the true implications of it.  This news sounds great for the value of Cordarrelle Patterson, but do not be fooled by the statement and immediately slot him in as a top 15 option.  In our writer’s mock draft, Patterson was the 21st receiver taken, which is the value that is just about right for him.  In a ten team league, this is a guy you want to take as a FLEX option, and not one you should have to rely on as the main production out of your receiving core.  For a 12 team league, like our mock draft, he can then be taken as a number two wide receiver for your team, but be sure to back that pick up with one shortly after on a "safer" WR.  It is hard to design plays specifically for WRs that will work for them each and every game.  Cordarrelle Patterson does have the ability to run the football, like he showed during December last year, so if some of those plays he has created are designed runs, then they will be better suited to get him those extra touches.  He is by no stretch of the imagination a safe option to have starting for your roster, but the upside of what he could become does lend himself to be a very intriguing option to take around the top 20 WR’s.

A plethora of quotes will continue to pour out from coaches, and even some from players, between now and all throughout the preseason.  I am telling you that if you hear something that sounds great, like the few that I have listed above, you shouldn’t automatically change your ranking of that player.  Take a deeper look at the quote and try to figure out first if what the coach said is plausible.  If it isn’t, then think about what the coach said, and try to make a reasonable projection based off of it, unless that quote is, "player X is in the best shape of his life."  That is the one quote you are better off ignoring and not changing any rankings or projections.  I may be the only person who is bothered by quotes like this, so if you are like me and share this feeling, please let me know I'm not alone.

Sources:

Arizona Sports

NFL.com

Sporting News

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