Analyzing Offense VS Defense and Player Position Value
I have always liked American football it’s the best sport IMO even when in my native country "Fútbol" (Soccer) it’s clearly the most popular choice. I think that I like it so much due to the complexity and strategy that brings. It has always remembered me the board game of "Chess" which I also like a lot. So now that we are close to enter the NFL Draft and start thinking all the possibilities every team has to improve their teams the question of which players to select or which players to sign in FA becomes more common every day and there are no clear answers. The objective of this post is to collectively discuss and breakdown football as a game in order to have a clearer vision of the importance of each component in order to achieve victory. So before analyze players and positions let’s start with the most common discussion regarding building team strategy: Offense VS Defense
Offense VS Defense - Which one is better?
This topic has always brought controversy no matter what age you have. At this moment I have 27 years old and as a former QB in High school and hard core offensive mind guy I would like to answer in a hearth bit offense. A mighty offense that always scores is unbeatable, right? Well if you break down the game just a bit you may find as I have that offense it’s not the correct answer at least IMO. To understand what I’m trying to say let’s first think about the different possible scenarios for each one on a big picture perspective:
1. Score a touchdown (Good scenario)
2. March close enough to score a field goal (Good Scenario)
3. Not score points and leave field (Bad scenario)
4. Make a turnover (potentially giving good field position to your opponent and losing offense opportunity to stay on field) (Bad scenario)
5. Make a turnover and allow a TD (Bad scenario)
This means that the offense has potential 2 good scenarios, and 3 negative
1. Make a turnover and score a touchdown (Good scenario)
2. Make a turnover (Good scenario)
3. Stop opposing offense with no need for turnover (Good scenario)
4. Let them advance in order to score a field goal (Bad scenario)
5. Let offense to score a touchdown (Bad scenario)
This means that the defense has 3 potential good scenarios, and 2 negative
On this first approach we can see that defenses have the edge by one good scenario and one less bad scenario. Defenses have the edge by this line of thinking but let’s not stop here and analyze closer each side capabilities.
The offense has to move the ball from one side to the other side of the field that means in general that the level of difficult of this task will increase with the distance between them and the opponent touchdown. Longer distance between offense and opponents score = More difficulty to end in a good scenario.
What is the main objective for the offense? Score TDs, they can mainly do this obtaining first downs. How many first downs? As much as needed normally MORE THAN ONE
What is the main objective for the defense? Stop offenses, they can do this by making turnovers, or forcing a 3 and out. How many turnovers or 3 and out? JUST ONE
This one is a little bit blurrier but IMO the Edge is again for the defense regarding field position
Impact on the game
Let’s imagine for a moment the best offensive players in the NFL history. Imagine J. Montana, Jerry Rice, Megatron, AP, Barry Sanders, Randy Moss, etc all on their prime on the same team. What would be their best performance? Well, they should score on each and every drive against almost any opponent. But what if this great offense had at the same time the worst defense in the NFL? How a game between this team and another average team would end? It will come down as a close game but probably won by this dream offensive team, right? Why this hypothetical game with a team with all those stars came close? It was close because the offense is limited compared with defense. Offenses can’t prevent opponents to score no matter how good they are so they could end up in relative "close games".
Now let’s think on the best defense on the NFL history with at the same time the worst offense. What would be their best performance? They should prevent any points generated by their opponent offense but not only that right? The best defense of all times should also score one or more TDs made by turnovers AND also letting their worst offense to be in relative easy field goal situations thanks to field position.
This means that defenses have more capabilities than offenses because they can prevent you from scoring BUT ALSO they can score and allow their offenses easier tasks thanks to field position. Meanwhile Offenses are limited to only score. This conclusion make sense with the Good/ Bad scenarios mentioned before. So if you want to build a winning team there are MORE chances to do so if you have a great defense; I don’t know maybe this could be the real reason for Roger Goodell trying to favor offenses with the late Safety rules and not just to make more spectacle for fans. At the end in order to have a good and joyful game you need a balanced game.
Player’s position value
As I mentioned before the game of Chess has some similitude with the game of football. In particular both games have different pieces and specific functions for each piece of the game. You can’t value the Knight figurine as equal to the Queen figurine. There are values associate for each piece and knowing their value it’s critical for the player in order to win games. Same happens in football when a team has to select a player in the draft or signs a FA you must know the real value of the position the player plays and the impact it generates in your football team as a system (and of course also the quality of the player). Now if we agree that a great defense is better than a great offense does this mean that the QB should not be the most important piece of any team? I think the QB position still ranks at the top of all positions in football because it is the position with biggest responsibility on the game; he manages the football in almost all plays, makes constantly significant decisions while performing their role and requires high and rare skill sets from an individual.
Now since teams in the NFL have limited resources they should spend wisely each and every dollar to achieve success. I will show you my top 5 list of value per position for the game of football. As defense IMO is more important than offense I have 3 of 5 critical players on the defensive side. I believe that a football team that has a great player on the following 5 positions, and the rest of their player’s just average should be on playoffs every season.
1- QB: Has the biggest responsibility on the game; he manages the football in almost all plays, makes constantly significant decisions while performing their role and requires high and rare skill sets from an individual.
2- LB: Good linebackers have many impacts in every game by: rushing the passer, stopping run and covering pass. If you have a quality starter in this position it will be critical for your defense. Even more important on a 4-3 defense
3- DE: There main objective it’s to disturb the passer. Meaning take out the best piece of the other team.
4- WR: Your high paid QB its worth nothing if your receivers can’t get open.
5- Safety: A great Safety like Earl Thomas, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu type of players change games by making turnovers and flying all over the field . They also limit the big plays therefore the offense has to make more plays increasing the risk of a turnover or a 3 and out result.
With this composition you have in the three levels of your defense an impact player.
Hope you can comment your top 5 in order to discuss and between all members identify the top 5 critical positions in football. I believe a team should only spend big money on players that end up in that list otherwise just as in chess it would be very difficult to achieve victory if you don’t understand positional value and act according it.
Thanks for reading and comment!