You cannot rely on close wins; playing down to your competition will catch up with you

Discussion in 'GarryP's Trojan Huddle' started by Arhedge, Oct 7, 2018.

  1. You cannot rely on close wins; playing down to your competition will catch up with you
    Arhedge

    Arhedge Junior Member


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    #1
    One of the frequent debates on this board concerns whether posters are right to be unhappy when USC plays poorly and wins a close game against an inferior team. A win is a win, right? Who cares what it looks like?

    The answer is that everybody should care, and for one very important reason: close games tend to even out over time. If you have a small sample size, it's possible for a team to be very good or very bad in close games. But the larger the sample size, the less likely this is.

    "This is notable, as we’ve mentioned before that every single team since 2006 that had a single-score (within seven points) record that was 2.5 games or more under .500 in a season has improved in record the next season. We’ve also noted that both winning games within a touchdown and losing games within a touchdown are very inconsistent. To make it short, close games are coin flips and multi-score wins are how good and bad franchises tend to separate themselves."

    http://settingedge.com/philip-rivers-and-the-chargers-exist-in-a-living-hell

    Now, some of you are saying that good teams win close games. You might even be arguing that this is what separates a good team from a bad team, a good QB from a bad one, a good coach from a bad one. But it's not true.

    "Teams that lose close games tend to be teams that are downgraded for unlucky stretches, rather than actual talent. No one wants to cape up for a 3-13 team because they had a bad record in close games and only got blown out in a handful of games. At the same time, maybe 1% of the football-viewing population would have guessed that the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans, at 3.5 games over .500, have been the best teams in close games since 2015, easily ahead of say the New England Patriots. We’ll punish “unclutch” teams as bad teams, but we don’t think of Houston or Miami as world-beaters. We attribute clutch and unclutch when we want to, no matter what the tangible data says."

    http://settingedge.com/philip-rivers-and-the-chargers-exist-in-a-living-hell

    So New England, with arguably the greatest QB and greatest coach of all-time, are not terribly successful in close games compared to other franchises. It's a coin flip even for them.

    But that's just the NFL, right? No. Nick Saban's record in one-score games at Alabama: 21-15 (58%). Pete Carroll's record at USC in one-score games: 20-16 (55%). So even the very best coaches at the best programs aren't much above 50%.

    Clay Helton is currently 8-2 in one-score games over the last 3 years. He's 24-8 over that stretch. If he had gone 5-5 in those one-score games, you're looking at 21-11. If he was slightly underwater in one-score games, he'd obviously be worse than that. And those other outcomes were just as statistically likely as what happened. It isn't skill that leads to wins in those one-score games; it's more often dumb luck, like the Utah QB not seeing a wide-open receiver on the final two-point conversion attempt in last year's game.

    What if Clay Helton were 21-11 over the last three years -- in other words, what if his winning percentage was only a tick better than Larry Smith's (65% to 63%) and he had racked up the same series of televised executions to Bama, ND, Ohio State, Texas, and Stanford? Pretty easy call, right? So the primary statistic that Clay Helton's defenders point to when people on this board are complaining about the poor quality of play (most wins of a USC coach in his first two years!) is based almost entirely on Clay Helton's success in one-score games, which is a matter of luck that will not last as the sample sizes grow larger.
     
       
  2. 13Perspective

    13Perspective Junior Member


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    #2
    Well done and enjoyable read. Love the professionally annotated Philip Rivers chart in the link!
     
  3. DaFireMedic

    DaFireMedic Junior Member


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    #3
    Some of PC’s players were defending their playing down to the competition in 2009, saying “we will win those games every time”. I knew that wasn’t true, and sure enough, it caught up with them quickly. You can’t continue to play down to the competition and expect to always win those games.

    That said, I’m not so sure that we are actually playing down to the competition so much this year. That would imply that we are significantly better than those teams, yet barely winning. We might have better talent, etc., but as a team, I’m not sure that we are significantly better right now than the teams we are beating in close games.

    I think we may be barely winning because we are simply not much better than those teams.
     
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  4. GoSC1

    GoSC1 Junior Member


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    #4
    These threads are getting old
     
  5. Arhedge

    Arhedge Junior Member


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    #5
    That could be. I don't remember any prior discussion of the randomness of the outcomes of close games, even for good teams, or how USC has gotten more than its expected number of W's in those games over the last few years. But I may have missed it. Sorry if I didn't add anything new or interesting to the board discussion.
     
  6. Sam Bam

    Sam Bam Junior Member


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    #6
    I'ld love to see those numbers correlated to turnover margin. There are some studies that say turnovers are somewhat random too. Not everyone believes that, not sure I do, but I bet it has a big impact on one score games.
     
  7. heyrev

    heyrev Junior Member


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    #7
    I think you've added something and appreciate your research. I've got to hand it to you: you do come up with new ways to say Clay Helton is not a good coach and dilute what success he's had. Now I guess it's winning isn't really winning--it's how you win. Gotta say, you're persistent.
    Here's another perspective: Clemson won the National Championship by beating Alabama in 2017. During that season (2016), they won seven games by less than 7 points, finishing 14-1. Anomaly? Perhaps. But winning can sometimes be just that: a bottom line product. Before you run, you walk, and inculcate a culture where you teach kids HOW to win, regardless of margin. They approach games expecting to win and that's a learned experience, not a given.

    Frankly, I don't know if that fully applies to USC and Clay (I also get frustrated at playing close games that shouldn't be), but it's worth considering here. Clay inherited a dysfunctional mess attitude-wise that had permeated the culture of the program from two highly dysfunctional coaches and one inept AD. A lot had to be relearned from the ground up. That might account for something, no? Just spitballing...
     
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  8. BuTrojan

    BuTrojan Junior Member


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    #8
    Some of the greatest USC alumns (also some of the greatest players and minds the game of football has seen), are critics of Helton. Some of the brightest football analysts are also in agreement of these players. That’s all you really need to know on his performance and the direction of the program.
     
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  9. Arhedge

    Arhedge Junior Member


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    #9
    Ha! New and creative ways to complain ... that does sound a little like me. That's a pretty decent summary, Rev.
     
  10. nvargas

    nvargas Junior Member


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    #10
    There's a plethora of metrics one could use to try and characterize the state of the program at the moment, and how we got here. Some will accuse you of skewing certain data sets to support your claim, or tell you the final chapter of Clay is yet unwritten; both may be true...or perhaps these are quotes from a fortune cookie.

    What I do know is what my eyes tell me when we win/lose these close games, and what's lacking....and whether it's fixable. What's glaring is the raw talent on the team, and what they're capable of when properly coached/motivated. What's also glaring is the lack of strength/power on the OL, and their inability to dictate a run game whenever they want...against inferior teams. If you simply graded on that metric, it would be a fail, we have to do better on that front!

    I firmly believe the team will show glimpses of this raw talent in the 2nd half of the season and players that have been mysteriously absent (Vaughns/Jones/Pittman/Rector/Iosefa/Falo/Cam), will begin to flash more. JT will get better and more consistent.

    The mystery lies in the poor tackling, lack of QB pressure, few turnovers caused, penalties and lack of discipline shown, offensive playcalling that doesn't seem to be the "perfect call at the perfect time" and in general...the talent is not shining through.

    Can there be a turnaround to fix most of this? I would say yes if I felt that practices were tough, coaches were holding players accountable, Asst. Coaches were proven tacticians, there was clear player leadership to will the team to victories and provide that peer-pressure. I don't think we have any of these, so where will the turnaround come from? Players just want it enough? Will Clay start being "tough", does he know how? How do you get there from here?
     
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  11. Troy70

    Troy70 Junior Member


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    #11
    Thanks for taking the time for the facts. Hoping for the lite to go on for the rest of the season
     
  12. oldtrojan93

    oldtrojan93 Junior Member


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    #12
    Worth repeating for the short bus kids in the back.

     
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  13. 101Coast

    101Coast Points Member


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    #14
    I'd take 13-0 winning by a total 13 points for the season.

    Will even take wins over Hawaii, San Jose State, Portland State, That State School up in the woods playing 8 man football, the 2 bye week games Alabami plays every year, and UCheeLA.
     
  14. Troy70

    Troy70 Junior Member


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    #15
    If domers beat up us again, only Pat will be happy
     
  15. JC SOXX

    JC SOXX Junior Member


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    #16
    I say just try another center, the team wont look so lost out there.
     
  16. flyfishintrojan

    flyfishintrojan Junior Member


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    #17
    Let me help with this supposed conundrum. As I have been saying for about 8 years now, in regards to the Chargers, is that Philip Rivers is “just good enough to break your heart.” The article quantified what I saw from the TV and the field.

    Thank you for proving that I am and remain by a geometric factor the most astute WEARESC poster extant. I see it years ahead of the pack and later it is quantified, when the lessers of you finally catch up.
     
  17. nvargas

    nvargas Junior Member


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    #18
    I don't actually mind the "nice guy" that's just good enough to flirt with success. He was the right "man" at the right time, when we were dealing with children for head coaches. I actually don't begrudge Haden for choosing CH at that time, I don't think SC was the desirable program it is now and that we would have had so many great options after Sark.

    What I do begrudge is the strategy that comes afterward. Helton is either:

    1. The whole package that will get you to the promise land
    2. A piece of the package that needs a bigtime staff to supplement him
    3. An interim at best that you cut loose once your program is stable (picking the right time for that is tough, have to allow him to fail)

    So where are we with that? He's clearly not the whole package, we can all agree on that. He hasn't assembled a top notch staff (whether by choice or limited budget - not sure). And he's now on the verge of imploding to get him on the path to hit the curb.

    The problem wasn't so much in choosing him in the first place, but the mismanagement that's happened since. After the '16 RB victory, it was assumed he had it all figured out and no adjustments/analysis of the program was needed. Helton is what he's always been, someone that needs supplementation. If not by his own doing, then by an AD.
     
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  18. heyrev

    heyrev Junior Member


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    #19
    Thank you for a measured, well-stated post. You've avoided the childish and vicious attacks on a coach that's busted his ass to get USC back to being taken seriously. Do we all realize what a national punch line we'd become? Kiffin and Sark were never anything but objects of mockery by the media. Amidst that, Orgeron gives the middle finger to USC, he and his ego leave in a huff only to have an AD throw water on a grease fire every time he opens his mouth. And we're complaining now because we think practices aren't hard enough!?!

    At any rate, I'm in Clay's corner because I'm grateful we're not a laughingstock anymore. No, he may not be the "whole package" but you're right Vargas, we have to allow him to fail before a decision is made. In light of all I've said above, he deserves not only more respect here but an opportunity to fix what ails us. If he can't, well, let's find someone else. But one thing's certain: whoever that next guy is gets handed a program in massively better shape than the one Clay got. We owe him that much.

    Btw, ALL coaches in America need to good staff to supplement them. If you don't think that's true, look what happened to our very best coach when he lost his "bigtime staff." He wasn't our very best coach anymore. I agree with this board: the staff needs to be turned over. They may be good enough coaches but it's gotten stale, predictable, and comfortable.
     
  19. xuscx

    xuscx Junior Member


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    #20
    I have said this before, lets be fair, Helton had done poorly in big games, but has done very well in closing out close games. Anyone who remembers Hackett, knew if there was a way to lose, he would find it. We have had a lot of close games, I recall loses to Utah and Wash St, but the rest have all been wins and there were a lot of close games and we win them.
     

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