Football Statistics I Wish I Could Find


Jan. 16, 2012 A man who is not me sits at a computer. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I think it’s fair to say that most readers of 12th Man Rising are aware a lot of what this blog focuses on is statistical analysis. That’s not all we do, but it’s a good portion.Keith often uses the term “data-driven” to describe his work. I like that term, and I’d like to think that applies to what I do as well.

To do statistical analysis there is a great deal of raw data required and something I have often found with football is that there just isn’t as much available as I would like. Compared to baseball for instance, there aren’t nearly as many numbers to crunch. That comparison is somewhat unfair in light of the nature of the two games, but there is a significant gap between the sports in this area.

Building off Keith’s post on good and bad metrics, I was thinking today about statistics I’d like to see kept that I’ve never seen. Just because I’ve never seen them it doesn’t mean they don’t exist, a lot of the good stuff is behind a pay wall. However, since 12th Man Rising doesn’t pay me the big bucks yet (take the hint Keith), I don’t have access to all of that. So forgive me if you have seen what I’m proposing already.

Also I’m sure there is a lot of I am potentially ignorant but not a plagiarist. Anyway, I decided for this article I would choose one statistic per position group that I haven’t seen kept by anyone that I think would be helpful. With your help perhaps we can get a few to catch on.


It’s difficult to think of a statistic to evaluate quarterbacks that isn’t already in wide circulation. There is a great deal of advanced statistical analysis of quarterbacks. One measure that jumps to mind is QBR, which I think about four people actually understand.

What I thought would be interesting would be a measure of what a quarterback produces in all facets of the game. It would include passing yards, rushing yards and sacks and look like this:

(Passing Yards + Rushing Yards-Yards lost from Sacks)/(Passing Attempts + Rushing Attempts+Sacks)

It would be called “Yards per Touch” and would be a precise indicator of how far the ball moves every time it is put in the quarterback’s hands. It is sometimes unfair to penalize quarterbacks for sacks against but avoiding the sack is definitely a skill and quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees demonstrate it regardless of who is on their offensive line.

This stat would also help rushing quarterbacks’ value from their rushing gains be inserted into their overall value neatly. Yards per Touch is basically football reference’s “Net Yards Per Attempt” but with rushing yardage included. With more and more dual threat read-option quarterbacks entering the league it might be an interesting gauge of how effectively these players move the ball.

Running Backs

Running and receiving stats are fairly straight forward and easy to keep, but I would like to see pass protection from running backs quantified better. Pass protection from running backs is often discussed as a major reason as to which back gets playing time, especially on third down. Yet I don’t see any data on this topic out there.

Very simply I would like to see the number of sacks and hurries allowed by running backs, the same way they do with offensive lineman, on a more consistent basis. Since the total numbers might not be that high, some running backs run more routes and others are glued to the bench on third down, it might be interesting to frame this stat as a rate or percentage.

Tight Ends

Given the amount of debate we’ve had about Zach Miller around here the statistic that I wanted to see for tight ends was immediately obvious to me. I’d like to see what a tight end’s Route% is, meaning how often they run a route compared to how often they stay in and block.

This would help us evaluate tight ends within the context of their roles as opposed to making blind generalizations. Instead of saying “Zach Miller doesn’t get enough receiving yards” you could say “Zach Miller doesn’t have as many receiving yards as Jimmy Graham but his Route% is 30% lower so that makes sense.” If I’m not mistaken they do keep a stat called “Yards per Route Run” which does give us some of the same data but I’m curious as to how frequently tight ends stay in to block.

Wide Receivers

Similar to tight ends I am curious about the role of wide receivers, not just their overall production. I would like to see the rates at which each receiver runs different routes, or even just different lengths of routes. I’m sure this is the sort of data that teams keep track of when studying the tendencies of opponents, but I’ve never seen it shown publically.

Offensive Line

Offensive line play is notoriously difficult to quantify, and often player pages consist of merely games and games started, which tells you very little about anything but durability. Sacks and hurries allowed are sometimes shown but once again I’m interested in usage. I think it would be neat to gets a Pull% on offensive lineman to get a sense of how often they are being asked to pull out and make plays in space.

Defensive Line

I would like to see defensive lineman be credited with offensive holdings forced. This is a beef that takes me back to playing defensive end in high school, and might be more personal than rational, but I do think there is some validity to it. When an offensive lineman holds a defensive lineman he does so because he has been beaten and it results in a penalty that is very good for the team on defense. Why shouldn’t that hard working defensive lineman get credit for achieving a positive result for his team by beating his man?


With linebackers, I find myself having a hard time evaluating pass rushing statistics because it is unclear how often they had a legitimate chance for the sack. As a result I think it would be great to see a linebacker’s Sack% or Hurry% on blitz attempts. That way we can be wowed by the linebacker who gets 7 sacks a year blitzing occasionally as opposed to the one who gets 10 by rushing virtually every down.

Defensive Backs

One thing that always bothered me when looking into defensive backs, cornerbacks specifically, was I never knew what to make of their tackle totals. It seemed to me that corners who had a lot of tackles could simply be allowing a lot of catches or getting targeted by opposing quarterbacks.On the other hand, there are corners who get a lot of tackles in run support, like Antoine Winfield, for whom all the tackles are definitely a plus.

As a result I would like a record of tackles made with 5 yards of the line of scrimmage by corners as that would indicate run support or YAC preventing tackles on short yardage passes. I suspect Winfield would be at the top of the list in this kind of tackling.

Perhaps I’m the only one unsatisfied with the data I’m able to find when I’m looking into all things football. However, I suspect you have your complaints as well. These are just my ideas and I’m sure they exist out there somewhere unbeknownst to me anyway.

I would love to hear other ideas in the comments because anything that increases our understanding of football makes our fan experience better in my view. Given that this website is all about the fan experience that’s something that both you and I ought to have an interest in.