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Data Entry: Turning Over the Turnover Problem

| March 13th, 2017

This is the 3rd installment of a monthly offseason piece I’ll be doing here at DaBearsBlog, helping fill the content void of the long offseason. Each one will be a numbers-crunching look at something Bears related in which I attempt to earn the “Data” moniker so kindly bestowed on me by the comments section regulars and, more importantly, answer a Bears question that I’ve been wondering about. If you have anything you’d like me to look into, let me know in the comments or email me at woodjohnathan1@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can do.


Chicago’s defense has significantly improved in the last two years from the disaster that was the Mel Tucker era, but there is one area where they have actually regressed: forcing turnovers.

Tucker’s defenses in 2013 and 2014 actually forced turnovers at a slightly-above average rate (Tucker can probably thank the leftover Lovie Smith-trained players for that), while Vic Fangio’s defenses have forced fewer turnovers in the last 2 years than any other NFL defense. In fact, 13 defenses have forced as many turnovers in one season (28) as the Bears’ defense has the last two seasons combined.

The problem was particularly pronounced last year, when the Bears forced a measly 11 turnovers, tied for the fewest by any defense in the NFL in the last 10 years.

Given the strong and well-established relationship between winning the turnover battle and winning football games, this is a real problem for Chicago. All of this research looks at turnover differential, not just turnovers forced. But forcing turnovers is half of turnover differential and it’s the part I want to focus on today. Avoiding turnovers is largely a product of your quarterback (and luck for fumbles/fumble recoveries). That’s a separate issue that has already been discussed on here at length.

Setting it up

Here’s my question: What is the history for teams the year after they have forced as few turnovers as the Bears have recently? Does the defense continue to struggle generating turnovers, or does it improve quickly?

Here’s how I approached the study:

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Data Returns: Statistically Profiling the Ideal Quarterback

| February 12th, 2017

This is the 2nd installment of a monthly offseason piece I’ll be doing here at DaBearsBlog, helping fill the content void of the long offseason. Each one will be a numbers-crunching look at something Bears related in which I attempt to earn the “Data” moniker so kindly bestowed on me by the comments section regulars and, more importantly, answer a Bears question that I’ve been wondering about. If you have anything you’d like me to look into, let me know in the comments or email me at woodjohnathan1@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can do. 


By all accounts, it seems the Bears will be acquiring the man they hope will be their quarterback of the future this offseason. Ryan Pace was spotted scouting pretty much all of the top quarterbacks in person throughout last fall, and his end of the season press conference was centered around a discussion of what he’ll be looking for in a franchise quarterback.

With that in mind, it would be wise for any Bears fan to pay close attention to the quarterbacks at the top of the draft this year. I started doing just that back in November, when I looked at quarterbacks drafted between 2011 and 2015 and found teams looking for a starter should focus on the top of round 1 or round 2 (http://bit.ly/2lhS3t0). Luckily for the Bears that fits either of their first two picks.

Building an Ideal QB Profile

Now I want to focus on what they should be looking for with one of those picks (thanks to DBB’s Andrew Dannehy for giving me this idea). Here’s how I went about doing that:

  • I looked at all 1st and 2nd round QBs drafted between 2011 and 2015 and compiled a bunch of data about their physical measurements, passing stats from their last year in college, and team success in college. The full list can be seen here: http://bit.ly/2kQ8v2L.
  • I split the QBs into guys who are established starters (Newton, Luck, Mariota, Winston, Tannehill, Bridgewater, Dalton, Carr), guys who might be starters going forward (Kaepernick, Garoppolo, Bortles), and everybody else.
  • I averaged the data together for each group and especially compared starters vs. everybody else (non-starters). 6 traits were identified that were significantly different.
  • For each trait, I sorted the quarterbacks from best to worst and looked for a “benchmark” value, which most of the starters hit and most of the non-starters missed. This always fell such that 5 or 6 of the 8 starters were above the benchmark; there was typically a significant dropoff after this point such that this was a logical cutoff.

Based on this, here’s the ideal profile I found to look for in a highly drafted QB coming out of college:

  • He should win at least 77% of his college starts (6/8 starters hit, 3/9 nonstarters)
  • He should win a conference title (6/8 starters hit, 4/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature at least 8.7 yards per passing attempt (5/8 starters hit, 3/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature a touchdown on at least 7.3% of his throws (6/8 starters hit, 3/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature a TD/INT ratio of at least 3.7:1 (6/8 starters hit, 2/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature a college passer rating of at least 166 (5/8 starters hit, 2/9 nonstarters)

There didn’t seem to be any difference in the physical profiles of the QBs based on their height, weight, or hand size at the Combine. The important part of the Combine for QBs is their interviews, but we don’t get that data. Ignore the measurables; they are basically irrelevant for QBs.

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Data: Numbers Prove Pairing Cutler with Top Defense Will Yield Winning Team

| July 11th, 2016

Another guest column from the artist known as Data.

Every offseason (and throughout most seasons) there’s a lot of talk amongst Bears fans about whether or not the Bears can win with Jay Cutler as their quarterback. Today I’m going to attempt to answer that question by looking at Cutler’s peers around the league.

I identified five players who are, statistically speaking, Cutler’s peers: Carson Palmer, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, and Alex Smith. Including Cutler, these six quarterbacks all have started at least 90 games, thrown at least 3500 passes, and posted passer ratings between 83.5 and 88.1.

Basically, they’ve all been around for a while performing, as a whole, at an average to above average level.

Cutler is smack dab in the middle of the group with 134 starts (3rd), 4354 passes (3rd), and an 86.0 passer rating (2nd).

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Trench Warfare: Pace’s Roster Building Strategy Comes Into Focus

| June 6th, 2016

The following is a guest column by the artist known as Data, also going by the name Johnathan Wood. If you’d like to write a guest column for DBB, email jeff@dabearsblog.com.

General manager Ryan Pace has had 2 offseasons to shape the Bears roster the way he sees fit. There are a number of different ways you can look at his moves and draw conclusions about his priorities, many of which have been discussed in detail. Pace himself has talked repeatedly about wanting size, speed, length, and football junkies. He has shipped out locker room problems and replaced them with high character football players (Ray McDonald aside).

But when I’m looking at what a GM prioritizes, I look at how he allocates his resources. Who does he invest his high draft picks and big free agent contracts in? Looking at Chicago’s recent moves through this lens gives a clear answer: Ryan Pace wants to build a team that wins in the trenches.

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