Monday, October 10, 2011

How Graham's offenses have fared initially

Rice (2006)
2005 record (before Graham) 1-10
2006 record  7-6

2005 total offense (before Graham)  337.5 yards/game
2006 total offense  345.1 yards/game

Lost to Houston 30-31
Total yards  304

Lost to UCLA  16-26
Total Yards   184

Lost to Texas  7-52
Total yards   168

Lost to Florida State  7-55
Total yards   241

Won over Army  48-14
Total yards  457

Lost to Tulane  24-38
Total yards  400

First Half  
292.3 yards/game
Record  1-5

Won over UAB  34-33
Total yards  421

Won over Central Florida  40-29
Total yards   420

Won over UTEP  37-31
Total yards  471

Won over  Tulsa  41-38
Total yards  356

Won over East Carolina  18-17
Total yards  458

Won over  SMU  31-27
Total yards  283

Lost to Troy 17-41
Total yards  344

Second Half
393.3 yards/game
Record  6-1

Tulsa  (2007)
2006 record (before Graham) 8-5
2007 record 10-4

2006 total yards (before Graham) 388.5 yards/game
2007 total yards  543.9 yards/game

Won over Louisiana-Monroe  35-17
Total yards  523

Won over  BYU  55-47
Total yards  595

Lost to Oklahoma  21-62
Total yards  398

Won over UAB  38-30
Total yards  695

Lost to UTEP  47-48
Total yards  648

Won over Marshall 38-31
Total yards  578

Lost against Central Florida  23-44
Total yards  379

First Half
545.1 yards/game
Record  4-3

Won over SMU 29-23
Total yards  438

Won over Tulane  49-25
Total yards  600

Won over Houston  56-7
Total yards  515

Won over Army 49-39
Total yards  622

Won over  Rice  48-43
Total yards  592

Lost against Central Florida  25-44
Total yards  470

Won over Bowling Green  63-7
Total yards  562

Second Half
542.7 yards/game
Record  6-1

Pittsburgh  (2011)
2010 record (before Graham 8-5)

2010 total yards (before Graham)  366.9 yards/game
2011 total yards through six games  379.2 yards/game

Won over Buffalo  35-16
Total yards  410

Won over Maine  35-29
Total yards  381

Lost to Iowa  27-31
Total yards  422

Lost to Notre Dame  12-15
Total yards  268

Won over South Florida  44-17
Total yards  523

Lost to Rutgers  10-34
Total yards  271

Total yards  
379.2 yards/game
Record  3-3

What do I take from all of this?  Well, the first thing is, if anybody thinks Graham can't coach offense then they are clueless.  He took a 1-10 wishbone Rice team and turned them into a 7-6 spread team.  Then in his first year at Tulsa, he took an 8-5 team to a 10-4 team while improving their total yards an amazing 155.4 yards a game.  Tulsa's offense catapulted from No. 24 in the country to No.1.

It's interesting to see how big of an improvement Rice made in the second half.  Not only did they win 6 out of their last 7, but they also accumulated over 100 yards a game more in the second half of the season.  Part of that was no doubt because their opponents became more in line with their own talent, but it also shows that it took the Owls a half of a season to get in rhythm with the new offense.

At Tulsa, the players Graham inherited were more in line with what he was doing as previous coach Steve Kragthorpe was also running a version of the spread offense.  It resulted in a team that was explosive immediately on offense and averaged well over 500 yards a game all season.

Even in Graham's one poor season (5-7 in 2009), his offense averaged 410.1 yards a game, good for No. 35 in the country that year.  By comparison, Pitt was No. 52 nationally in the same year.  Last year Pitt was No. 72.  In Dave Wannstedt's first year at Pitt, 2005, the Pitt offense finished No.85 nationally.  Pitt is currently No. 76 nationally in total offense.


  1. Why don't you look at Rice's 1st six games versus the last 6? Rice played Texas (national champion), FSU, and UCLA in their 1st 6 games. Is it a coincidence that those were the three worst games , in terms of yards by the offense? I doubt it.
    To use some numbers, if you use Sagarin's Final rankings, the average rank of the team in the 1st half of the season is 56, and the 2nd half 87. That's a world of difference and probably provides as good a reason on why Rice improved over the year. It's easier to put up better numbers against weaker teams, which the data shows Rice did.
    As for Tulsa, the difference is negligible. In terms of probability there is no difference in the production and what difference there is is most likely due to chance, not coaching or skill.
    When you are comparing Pitt's production this year to last year, you need to account for a couple of things. Pitt's schedule last year was tougher and , more importantly, Pitt's offense produced those numbers with far fewer plays per game. So Graham may have increased Pitt's total yards and points per game, but he is doing that by increasing the number of plays from 60 to 80 plus. I would hardly call a 14 yard increase per game in total offense an improvement given it takes 20 more plays to yield that. That just shows how inefficient our offense is compared to last year's.
    Graham may prove successful but these numbers are hardly a comfort to Pitt fans. It shows that just a little analysis yields how superficial the results have been.

  2. 1. I did look at Rice's first half and second half, and even wrote that the schedule is part of the reason they got much better, but you can't get on Graham for not putting up huge numbers at Rice when going against some of the most powerful teams in the country. Like I wrote, when Rice played teams with talent at their level, their offense went way up. In those final six games they had more total offense than Pitt did with or without Graham and that's very impressive for a wishbone team that was 1-10 the season before.

    2. You are seriously questioning the fact that Graham's first Tulsa didn't improve much? The reason is, they were a juggernaut from the beginning and ended up leading the country. I'm not even sure what you're saying with that.

    3. I'm not suggesting that Graham's offense at Pitt this year is significantly better this year than last. I merely showed the stats. In fact, so far, his first Pitt offense has not really been better than any Wannstedt offense.

    But I also feel that there is a real chance that eventually his offense at Pitt WILL be a lot better than any offense Wannstedt has had. And the reason is, whether people want to hear it or not, Graham has proven more than once that he can lead great offenses. You just don't forget how to run a great offense.

  3. I would guess that it's a lot easier to come in to places like Rice and Tulsa, rip out was had been there and get the players to buy in -- as opposed to replacing Wanny who had 6 seasons. Graham comes in looking at a team full of nothing but Wanny recruits -- used to his coddling. Also, Wanny got canned and things were pretty bitter.

    Kragthorpe has 3 seasons before Graham with a 29-22 record. Decent, but Graham wasn't really replacing an icon. And Kragthorpe left on his own (much to the chagrin of the Ville).

    Graham has a much tougher task in the short term. He has to excise the bad habits and attitudes, get recruits with real talent (can anyone believe this crew would thrive under ANY system?), and deal with a fan base who are out of patience -- since Wanny used it all up.

    If Graham is as good a coach as your evidence points to, CD, then Pitt is in good shape: great facilities, the money to compete, a soon-to-be stable and strong conference affiliation.

  4. 1) Rice improved but reason they improved the 1st year was mainly due to competition. There is a big difference between the schools they played early and later. I do not hold it against Graham they Rice struggled against those schools, but it makes it difficult to say they go better as the season progressed due to coaching. No, the schedule was the main reason.
    2) The Tulsa's numbers improved from the previous year, but there 1st half numbers to 2nd half numbers are identical. Again, if you subscribe to the coaching theory, then Tulsa in 2007 does not provide evidence. The 1st 6 games was 545 and the next 6 was 542 yards per game. The 3 yard difference is meaningless.
    3) This year's offense is worse. When you consider the yards per play, the number of sacks, the absences of plays over 10 yards, and the plethora of turnovers, Pit is a much worse offensive team this year. That's not surprising since Graham's offense requires much from the qb, and Tino has yet to prove he can do that. Pitt's scheme last year did not require as much from Tino and clearly protected him better. I think Pitt's most common formation this year has been a 1 back set and Pitt heavily uses an empty set with 5 receivers. Those formations but more pressure on the qb to recognize the blitz and make quick decisions. They can be brutally effective (Mike Leach made a killing in the Big 12 with a 1 back spread), but Tino struggles in it thus far. Last year, Tino has the luxury of a tight end and a fullback on many pass plays. The offense did not require immediate reads and that is why Tino looked better in it.
    I agree Graham did not forget to run an offense, but great coaches adjust their scheme to their talent. Pitt does not have the qb (and receivers in my opinion) to run a 1 back spread effectively. I would argue that given Tino's limitation, it's folly to put more responsibility on his shoulders, which is exactly what Magee and this offense did. So Graham is forced to either further adapt his offense (and maybe even change schemes) or change quarterbacks. Thus far, Graham picked the third option, which is go with what you have and hope it improves.

  5. The point isn't as much that he improved during the season at Rice, but that they improved as much as they did as a whole. I mean, they went from 1-10 to their first bowl game in almost 50 years. I don't see how anybody can doubt what a great job that it is.

    As for his first year at Tulsa he took an 8-5 team that was No. 24 in total offense to a 10-4 record that was No.1 in total offense in the country.

    There's no way anybody can say that he didn't succeed at Rice or Tulsa. Will he do the same at Pitt? Who knows? Time will tell. So far, he hasn't but it's only been a half of a season with players that don't fit his system. He's not going anywhere until at least three years anyway, so the fans are just going to have to suck it up and hope for the best.

  6. I am willing to write off this season to install this new offense of Graham's. He in turn has to go with the quarterback that can operate in this offense. It appears that he is sticking with Sunseri because Wannstedt's recruits look to Sunseri for leadership. Last week when Anderson was in the game it appeared as if the team did not give him the best support. Graham is going to have to break this team's connection to Sunseri if he is going to succeed in 2011 or 2012. Graham said as much today at his press conference when he admitted he is surprised how hard it has been to implement his offense here at Pitt. I personally do not think going with a true freshman next year is the answer.

  7. If Graham was so good at doing what he did with Rice, why isn't he doing the same at Pitt? It's just a whole bunch of excuses and data to try and make Graham look good. And, again, if turned Rice around in one year, why isn't he making the same jump with Pitt? The absolute best case scenario is to finish 8-4 and that won't get them to the BCS Game which is a failure. You don't fire Wanny to bring in another 8 win guy who doesnt go to the BCS.

  8. He turned Rice around but it came in the second half of the season. The second half of Pitt's season starts this weekend.

    As for making excuses, I don't have to make them for Graham. Any rational person would not call a coach a failure after six games.

  9. Chris,

    What do you think the QB and RB situation will look like next year? Do you see Voytik and Shell (hopefully) starting from day one? Am I right to think Ray is gone? Will we have to live with Tino for another year? Is the staff concerned about Voytik's performance this year?

  10. Voytik is doing fine. His team isn't very good this year, but he has all the tools to be a very good QB in college. I think he will compete heavily with Sunseri next season and I think it's obvious that Graham REALLY hopes he's good enough to win the job.

    As for Ray Graham, he won't be viewed as an every down back in the NFL, and he doesn't have the elite speed to make up for his size, so don't expect him to be drafted anywhere near the first round. For that reason, maybe he decides to stay. But running backs have a short shelf life which is why most leave early if they have any chance at all of making a roster.

    I can't see both Voytik and Shell beginning the season as starters. Two true freshman in the backfield may be too much to overcome. But both should play at least a good amount of time next season.