By Kevin Meers
Last week, Kirk Goldsberry and I published an article on Grantland that effectively visualized how a team’s Expected Points change with the line of scrimmage, down, and distance. We wanted to highlight and analyze exactly how down and distance matter when we think about scoring position and focused on the idea of the red zone as a static entity across down and distance to hammer that point home.
A lot of the reaction to our article has centered on our argument against a static red zone. I understand that the red zone can mean “that part of the field where players become more dense,” but that was not the focus of our study. We critiqued the understanding that the red zone was the “place where the offense ‘should’ score.” As Schatz writes, having short phrases to refer to general concepts can be useful. However, the ability to move quickly from a general concept to specific situations is even more valuable, and our analysis helps do that effectively. The more accurate and precise we can be with our analysis, the better.
Most importantly, I want to stress our underlying argument: down and distance matter much more than many people fully understand. Incorporating that information into our thinking will only improve our understanding of the game.