Rationalization And Myth-Making: The Story Of The 2008 Chiefs' Improvement

From the FanPosts. -Chris

Throughout the season, commenters at Arrowhead Pride have gone back and forth at each other over the progress they feel the team did, or didn't, make under the direction of head coach, Herm Edwards.

Today, Martin Manley at "Upon Further Review" did a statistical breakdown showing that two of the oft-cited accomplishments for Herm's 2008 Chiefs were more smoke-and-mirrors than signs of actual improvement.

Take the oft-cited "close losses"

Of course, the main argument you hear from the Hermites is that we lost a bunch of close games we could have won… if … if …. if only…. Logic would dictate the Chiefs would win some of those the following year and, thus, have several more wins on that basis alone. The point being that Herm can’t be blamed for the unlucky bounce of the ball. In some situations I might agree. However, this certainly isn’t one of them.


Different reference sources give slightly different numbers, but historically, between 44%-46% of all NFL games are lost (or won) by seven points or less. One of the arguments you hear is that Kansas City lost a bunch of close games they could have won. They lost seven by seven points or less and they lost seven by eight points or more. So, that means 50% of their losses were “close”. The historical NFL average is 45%. I ran the numbers for 2008 and it was 47%. So, where is the basis for arguing the Chiefs had some unique corner on the close game market? Clearly they don’t!


If you want to argue you should have had a better record than you did, you need to be one of these teams. San Diego lost their eight games by 2, 1, 7, 9, 5, 1, 3, 6. Even the game they lost by 8+ was only nine! You want to argue you were better than your record? Ok, if you are San Diego, I can buy it. If you are KC, I can’t.

Fact is that the seven games that were close losses weren't in any way statistically significant or indicative of progress.  They were right in line with the average number of close games that every other team in the NFL has, and the Chiefs lost all but one of them (Oakland being the exception).  Add onto that, that the Chiefs lost almost half of their games by 10 points or more and all that points to is a really ugly season from a really bad team with not much in the way of hope for improvement in 2009 if they ran the same system.

And there's also an argument that the Chiefs were worse than their record indicated:

Kansas City was +5 and ranked #8 in the league in turnovers. Despite this advantage, they ended 2-14. Kansas City lost five close games (of the seven) in which they had less turnovers than their opponents. In fact, in those five losses, the average margin of defeat was by 3.2 points per game, yet they won the turnover battle 13-3! Clearly, the only logical explanation for why the games were as close as they were is because of the huge advantage KC enjoyed on interceptions and fumbles. Rather than winning those games next season as the Hermites would have you believe, they should be expected to lose them by an even greater margin!


The point is that when turnovers revert to the mean, the team has a worse record the following year (on average).

So even if the coaching staff were kept around to "finish what they started" a regression to league average on 2008's flukishly high turnover rate would actually make it more difficult to recreate even the minimal successes the team had this year...making yet another 4-12 or 2-14 season a distinct possibility.

Fortunately the Chiefs' new GM, Scott Pioli, strikes me as a man who's not prone to overlooking statistics like this that have a direct impact on a team's wins or losses, which is one of many reasons that I truly believe Herm Edwards will not be returning to Kansas City for the 2009 season.  Nor should Chiefs fans be particularly unhappy if that turns out to be the case as there aren't too many coaches that Pioli's likely to be considering who would create an output less hopeful than what the Chiefs did in 2008.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.