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Just The Sports: 2009-10-25

Just The Sports

Friday, October 30, 2009

Meet Chris Petersen, Notre Dame's New Coach

After the end of the college football season, if Notre Dame is serious about returning to the college football elite, Charlie Weis will be fired. No matter how the rest of the season turns out for the Fighting Irish, it has become painfully obvious in the fifth season of Weis's tenure that he is a mediocre coach. His failures on the field are many while his successes, outside of outstanding recruiting, are nearly non-existent. Due to the fact Weis has failed on so many coaching fronts, Notre Dame will be looking for a new coach that is almost the exact opposite, and no coach exhibits those traits as strongly as Boise State's current head coach, Chris Petersen.

Unlike Weis, whose game planning advantages exist only in his head, Petersen's teams actually have a game planning advantage when they step on the field. Petersen has shown in games against nationally prominent teams such as Oklahoma and Oregon that when provided the opportunity, his teams can defeat anyone they face, no matter the perceived talent disparity. Those are two more signature wins than Weis will ever have.

In addition, Petersen has shown the ability to develop the talent he recruits instead of forcing his talented recruits to win despite his best efforts. Even though Boise State does not acquire all the five-star and four-star recruits a school like Notre Dame does, one would never know it from looking at the production on the field.

The career of Chris Petersen should also inspire confidence in all of Notre Dame's fans. Petersen is credited with having one of the most innovative offensive minds in college football and he has exhibited this during his nine years at Boise State (five as the offensive coordinator, four as the head coach), keeping Boise State near the top in every offensive category. However, before one thinks that Petersen is only an offensive genius and has no other coaching skills in his offensive repertoire, a look at how Boise State has fared since Dan Hawkins left for Colorado and Petersen took over the head coaching helm is necessary.

Boise State may have reached national prominence under Dan Hawkins, but it is Petersen who has sustained Boise State's elite level of play. It goes without saying that Boise State's offense has maintained their production between Hawkins's tenure and Petersen's since Petersen was the offensive coordinator under Hawkins and is still imprinting himself on the offense today. What is surprising is that it is the defense that has significantly improved under Petersen in terms of yards per pass attempt, decreasing from 6.3 yards per pass attempt in Hawkins's sixty-four games as head coach to 5.9 yards per pass attempt with Petersen as the head coach in forty-six games. Since yards per pass attempt is most closely correlated to points scored in football, this is the biggest improvement a team defense can make. Not only can Petersen coach an excellent offense, but he can oversee an entire football program and improve it in all areas.

Why Chris Petersen would go to Notre Dame is simple; Notre Dame can offer opportunities Boise State cannot. Right now, Petersen is being paid $850,000 yearly to amass a .913 winning percentage, making him one of the more vastly underpaid coaches in college football. To put that into perspective, Notre Dame is paying Charlie Weis more than $4 million for a .596 winning percentage. Also, Notre Dame will give Petersen a chance to win a national championship, something the poll voters will never let happen for a Boise State team no matter how good the team is.

Combining a market-value salary with the chance to win a national championship should provide Petersen with all the incentives he needs to move to Notre Dame. It is up to Notre Dame to make the smart move and try to hire him. Then Notre Dame can sit back and watch the wins pile up and the prestige return for such a historically rich college football program.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Not So Fast, Eli

For once, the majority of New York sports radio hosts were correct. After Jeremy Shockey was injured and the New York Giants went on to win the Super Bowl, the prevalent thinking was that without Shockey, quarterback Eli Manning was finally able to grow as a quarterback and leader without having to worry about Shockey heaping abuse on him at every turn and constantly demanding the ball. Without the pressure of having to appease Shockey, Manning was going to finally take his rightful place among the elite quarterbacks. There is certainly evidence to suggest that Manning's level of play has improved without Shockey on the field, but as far as Manning becoming one of the truly elite quarterbacks in the NFL, that day will never come.

Manning had to endure fifty-two games with Shockey and during those fifty-two games, he was atrocious. He only completed 54.5% of his passes for 6.3 yards per pass attempt, numbers that would warrant any regularly named or late draft round quarterback to be benched in favor of someone who can actually move his team's offense consistently. In the thirty-three games Manning did not have to throw to Shockey, he improved in a statistically significant way, increasing his completion percentage to 59.8% and his yards per pass attempt to 7.1.

Even with the increase in his statistics, Manning is still in the bottom half of the league when it comes to accuracy. Despite all the accolades he receives, Manning has never been in the top half of the league in completion percentage and never will be. The NFL has become a league that values accuracy for its quarterbacks with the average completion percentage increasing yearly; right now, it is around 63-64%. Manning lags far behind that and has never had a full season with a completion percentage above 60.3%. For an explanation on why Eli Manning gets treated and paid like he is one of the game's best quarterbacks, a trip to intro to psychology is necessary.

Manning is no doubt one of sports' biggest beneficiaries of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is an irrational tendency to search for, interpret, or remember information in a way that confirms preconceptions while avoiding information that contradicts the beliefs. Due to his Manning surname and the fact that Peyton, the best quarterback to ever play the game, is his brother, uneducated football enthusiasts naturally assumed that Manning would play up to Peyton's level. Therefore, they only focus on his game-winning drives and his Super Bowl MVP (extremely undeserved, by the way) and ignore his terrible passing games and his 1.4:1 TD-to-INT ratio. No matter how much evidence appears to undermine the conclusion of Manning being a good quarterback, we all must endure several more years of undeserved praise for Manning.