Last year we rolled out our Ultimate22 platform, a way of critically looking at Giants’ game film and quantifying it through an individual player grading system. While there was certainly plenty of value in using the data to support our views, the system was not without its fair share of flaws.
We struggled to present the data in a timely fashion for several reasons, mainly because the All-22 film would not be released until some point on the Tuesday following that week’s game,. In an ideal world, we would have been able to post all of our grades, notes and comments by Tuesday night. However, our team of 10-12 graders, while extremely dedicated, all understandably had other obligations such as college, work (this blog is not our day job) and family. Grading a single position group (anywhere from 2-6 players) can take up to four or five hours. By the time we were able to present our data (sometimes Wed, but often on Thursday or Friday) most readers were more interested in looking ahead to next week’s game.
Our 2013-14 “Ultimate22 Version 2.0” will reference Pro Football Focus’ premium stats. While they do offer plenty of quality data and analysis free of charge, you are required to have an account with PFF in order to access all of their premium content (a bargain at $26.99 for the season). While we will not be able to rake all of their data (they assess every single offensive/defensive snap for all 32 teams, much like last years's U22) we do have a working relationship with the guys at PFF where we are permitted to use and cite their data in our posts.
The PFF site offers a detailed explanation of what exactly they look for when evaluating on a play-to-play basis. While much of the concepts are similar to those used in the 2012-13 version of Ultimate22, several fundamental differences allow PFF’s data to differentiate itself (as taken from PFF’s grading page):
The understanding that zero is the average grade–Grades are given for plays which are reasonably considered to be better or worse than the average or expected play. So for example, if the linebacker were to then force a fumble on that tackle, that would constitute a positive play and a positive grade. If the tight end were to in fact drop the wide-open pass, that would constitute a negative play and a negative grade.
Normalization/Player Participation-Once we’ve got the raw grades we could leave it there, but this would lead to a number of problems. For example, because an offensive lineman can only be negatively graded in pass protection, the perfect score in the raw data is 0. However, what if a lineman plays half the number of passing plays of another guy and they both score 0? What allows you to understand the second has done the better job? This is where Player Participation comes in: To fully understand how a player has performed, we need to know how many plays he’s participated in and what role he performed…. We therefore can also provide breakdowns of where each player played on each play and the role he performed (blitzing, blocking, coverage etc.).
Grading strictly based on RESULTS- We aren’t looking for (or grading) style or technique, merely the result of the play. We are looking for the result of that poor technique, not the poor technique itself. If poor technique results in a positive play, that is graded at the same level as good technique yielding a positive play. Did the lineman make the block he attempted, by whatever means?
So as you will quickly come to learn, the PFF data is much of the same of what you saw last year (the grading scale goes from +2 to -2, but in intervals of .5 rather than 1) only a bit more refined and accurate. Not only will this go a long way in providing you with the best data out there (that of PFF), but it will allow us to dedicate our time to posting content to the site, rather than doing the "backroom work" of analyzing film ,providing numerical data, sorting and ultimately presenting the data.
Check back for some more on the new format and an early look at some data. We look forward to hearing your comments here or on Twitter.