Statistically Speaking about the Skins loss of Clinton Portis

From RedskinsGab columnist – Steve Kerneklian

Brian Burke — creator of Advanced NFL Stats, a Web site about football, statistics and game theory and contributor to Redskins Insider — did a piece that delved into Portis’ career stats. I posted the chart that they used below:

I was hoping the chart they used would add insight to Portis’ contributions to the Redskins and help me answer the question about whether or not we’re going to be better, worse or about the same without him. But I think it just once against makes his play and worth to the Redskins more obscure. Here are definitions of some of the key terms that were used in the chart:

• (WPA) Win Probability Added measures a player’s direct contribution to his team’s chances of winning.
(EPA) Expected Points Added measures a player’s contribution to his team’s net point differential.
(SR) Success Rate counts how frequently a player makes a “successful” play, defined as a play that helps move the chains and scores points.

• WPA, EPA, and SR all include run plays, pass plays, turnovers, and penalties
• A perfectly average NFL player would net zero WPA and EPA
• The break-even SR for a running back is slightly over 41%.

This chart doesn’t make him look very valuable to the Redskins. But the main thing fans need to take away from these stats is that Portis’ contributions can not be measured by yards per carry and to say we’re better off without him is looking at the football field through a very narrow lens.

I don’t think stats can account for a players’ leadership, and doesn’t account for his unprecedented pass blocking ability and 110% hustle on every play. We’ve seen enough evidence of Portis’ ability when he doesn’t have the ball, but I don’t think Redskins fans can get images out of their head of running backs breaking big runs and scoring touchdowns from 20 and 30 yards out. And unfortunately, the backs that do that often seem to be wearing a different jersey.

For this reason, fans may be anxious for a change at running back, but I fear they will become more anxious when they see how much we miss Portis for all he does when he’s not carrying the ball.


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