Daniel Jones fumbles in a game against the Eagles. | Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Analytics? We’ve got your analytics right here!
So, I have come up with a new way of counting turnovers and am calling it “Advanced Turnover Differential.” Of course, the traditional turnover differential is my starting point, a metric in which the Giants finished the 2019 season tied for last with the Chargers at -17. That was three turnovers (for the negative) more than any other team in the league.
But I am now taking it a step further. It has been a common theory that if an offense attempts a field goal and misses it, that, in reality, counts the same as a turnover. Think about it for a minute. What is the difference if on third down, a quarterback is sacked seven yards behind the line of scrimmage and a big defensive lineman falls on the ball as opposed to one play later if the kicker misses the kick on fourth down? Either way, you still hand the ball over to the opponent. Again, this has been in play for many football people for some time now.
But if that holds true, which I very much believe it does, shouldn’t an opponent’s missing a field goal count as a positive? Absolutely. This is the metric (and trust me, I am no analytics expert, but I do know how to add and subtract) in the overall equation that is almost entirely luck. Sure, some teams might have a better field goal block team or scheme or special teams coach than others. But for the most part, if the opponent misses a field goal, you got lucky.
Okay, so far, we have the traditional turnover differential minus the field goals we missed plus the field goals our opponents missed. Everyone on board?
But let’s take that yet one step further: Fourth down conversions. If an offense goes for it on fourth down and fails to convert, that is really the exact same thing as missing a field goal in terms of handing the ball back to the opponent. So, opposing fourth down failures also should then in turn count as a positive. For example, in Baltimore’s playoff loss to the Titans, the Ravens turned the ball over three times. But they also went for it on fourth down twice and failed to convert both times. So the reality of it is that Baltimore handed the ball to its opponent five times in a game where the Ravens ran 39 more plays than Tennessee and accumulated 230 more yards. But the Titans never turned the ball over while in reality, Baltimore gave it away five times and was eliminated after an outstanding regular season.
So this is my Advanced Turnover Differential, which is finally defined as: Traditional turnover differential minus the field goals we missed plus the field goals our opponents missed minus the fourth downs we failed to convert plus the fourth downs our opponents failed to convert. Here are those final results sorted from worst to first, since well, this is a Giants site after all.
As you can see, it wasn’t pretty for the Giants last year. You aren’t going to win many games being the worst in the league in Advanced Turnover Differential by four turnovers. But in a way, this should also bring some optimism for New York going forward. Are the Giants going to repeat as the worst in the league by a wide margin next year? It is certainly a huge concern that Daniel Jones puts the ball in harm’s way far too often and very well could continue to do so. But you also have to think that the Giants will not again lead the league in failed fourth down attempts and lose the fourth down attempts ratio by 11, also the worst in the league.
Lastly, as the 49ers proved last year when they intercepted just two passes during the entire 2018 season, but generated 27 takeaways this past year, the ability to take the ball away can greatly fluctuate from year to year in the NFL. Only the Raiders and Chargers took the ball away less than the Giants in 2019. New York is sure to create more turnovers in 2020.
Speaking of the Chargers, do you think they will be lucky enough again next year to have the most field goals missed by their opponents? And they still finished with a -18 Advanced Turnover Differential! There is obviously much more here to dig into that is non-Giants related, but such a stat for Los Angeles is quite concerning. Meanwhile, Buffalo and Seattle took much more advantage of the same 10 field goals missed by their opponent. But, they too, are highly unlikely to be so lucky going forward.
One other note: The Giants were terrible in one-score games in 2019. New York edged out the Buccaneers in Week 3 and the Redskins in an overtime game in Week 16, but lost every other game decided by a touchdown or less to bring their record to 2-5 in such contests. Having a rookie quarterback running the show could have a lot to do with those results, but history shows us that is likely to come back to the mean.
In the end, this data is all rather miserable for New York. But the chances it remains a constant is unlikely. There is nowhere to go but up.