A short defense of Mike Bobo

In posting yesterday that I thought calls for Mike Bobo’s dismissal were unwarranted, I generated several comments that were critical of Bobo, particularly his playcalling.  I’m not going to argue that he’s been anywhere near flawless in that department this season.  I, like many others, couldn’t fathom what happened after the first drive of the Oklahoma State game, and there have certainly been head-scratching moments in almost every game this season.

But if the primary task of an offensive coordinator is to make sure that his team generates points, at least in the context of SEC play, it’s hard to fault Bobo for what he’s directed in 2009.  Let me show you what I mean.

I traveled over to the always invaluable cfbstats.com and looked at three things:  total number of plays in conference play, total number of points in conference play and turnover margin in conference play.  I wanted to get some measure of how efficient each school’s offense was in scoring and to see what impact turnovers might have on that efficiency.  I divided the point totals into the play totals to come up with a plays per point ratio.  The lower the PPP, the more efficient the offense.

Here’s how the SEC shapes up for 2009, based on the eight conference games each school played (I left out the non-conference games, seeing as the level of OOC competition each SEC school took on varied considerably), ranked in order of efficiency:

Georgia 488 234 -12 2.09
Arkansas 527 234 12 2.25
Florida 522 221 6 2.36
Alabama 523 208 12 2.51
Tennessee 530 199 6 2.66
Auburn 557 200 -4 2.79
LSU 499 178 4 2.8
Kentucky 534 180 0 2.97
Miss. State 537 180 -6 2.98
Ole Miss 540 180 -13 3
S. Carolina 545 144 -6 3.78
Vanderbilt 510 71 1 7.18
AVG 526 185.75 2.83

It’s not even close.  In SEC games, Bobo’s offense scored far more efficiently than any other team in the conference.  And before you start in with the argument that there are other ways to score (and keep in mind that doesn’t just go for Georgia, but equally for all schools on the list), even if you omit the Boykin TD kickoff returns and the Rambo pick six from the math, Georgia’s PPP still winds up a conference second-best 2.29.  I’m not saying the man’s perfect, but those numbers suggest pretty strongly that Bobo must have been doing a lot more right than wrong this season.

Looking at the conference overall, the weird part of this analysis for me is that while turnover margin has an effect on the numbers, it’s not the effect I anticipated.  I thought that there would be a direct relationship between turnover margin and the number of plays run, as it seemed logical that the more a team turned the ball over to its opponents, the fewer number of opportunities it would have to run offensive plays.  But that didn’t turn out to be the case at all.  The top four teams in the conference in terms of running plays (Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi and Mississippi State) all had negative turnover margins.  And of the seven schools ranked lowest in number of plays, only one had a negative turnover margin – Georgia.

There is more of a correlation between turnover margin and PPP, though.  Notice that of the top five teams in PPP (the ones that were significantly below the conference average), all but one – Georgia, again – all were in the black in turnover margin.  And of the five worst teams in PPP (the ones that were significantly above the conference average), only one had a positive turnover margin, and that was Vanderbilt’s modest plus-1.

Speaking of Vandy, if you didn’t realize it already, that is one bad offense.


Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Stats Geek!

50 responses to “A short defense of Mike Bobo

  1. Scorpio Jones, III

    Well, I guess it was the defense.

  2. heyberto

    My feeling on Bobo is not that he should be fired for bad playcalling, but maybe Richt needs to either remove that responsibility from him, or be more involved with that aspect, if he hasn’t been already. As an overall coordinator, I don’t have a problem with Bobo at all.

    • SicEm

      Go back and look at Bobo’s points per game compared to Richt. Bobo has been a better OC. He gets cute at times but the same could be said for about any OC. Having a really bad defense makes everything look like a problem.
      Also, its hilarious you dont hear the constant roar about red zone production which used to be worse than the kick off team complaints now. The reason you dont is because Bobo has been consistently in the top 5 in red zone offense. Thats a major improvment over Richt.

    • joe

      its turnovers and untimely head scratching play calling.

  3. Scorpio Jones, III

    OMG…slightly off topic (wide right?) but, if we are really going after Kirby Smart don’t we have to pull for Florida?

    What a quandry.

  4. writerdom

    The numbers are flawed because of how well we did against Arkansas and Tenn Tech. Look at the five games we lost. The offense was horrible.

  5. JP

    The numbers don’t lie. Thanks Senator.

  6. Merk

    They did good…remember guys:

    We did not have a running back until the Fla game. Our RBs were either fumbling or getting tackled at first contact. Of course that was not all the RBs fault…since the OL did not show up until the last 3-4 games. Of those 3-4 games Cox took the second half of the Kentucky game off.

    Bobo cannot call plays well when the running game is getting nothing and Cox is throwing as many picks as completions. Yet he still managed to make it through the season even though these problems maligned us until the end.

    Bobo gets credit for getting it done when he had to. Plus I am sure he is thinking “Richt just dropped 2 buddies from the Team after 9 yrs of service, I better make sure my crap is straight.”

    Which I am sure that if Ealey/King play all next season the way they did the last 4-5 games then our new QB next season will be able to get a good start off without all the pressure on him like Cox had to deal with.

    • Will (the other one)

      Also, the offense performed a bit better to a lot better once he moved to the sidelines (after the back-to-back eggs laid against LSU and eweT.)

  7. Bobo has always had potential as a play caller, but his mind numbing propensity to move away from what’s working or stick to what isn’t has been a problem. Let’s hope he corrects both.

    Defense wins championships. Georgia has struggled against ranked teams since 2005, going 8 – 12. Check the stats in those games. When you do, it becomes painfully obvious why we are a second tier SEC team. Padding your won/loss record against non ranked teams is nice, but I would prefer if the 8-12 was in reverse order. In 07 we went 3-1 against ranked teams…and I had the utmost confidence in that team’s ability to beat anybody, anytime, anyplace.

  8. DavetheDawg

    Great analysis. I’m wondering what the success rate for that insane left side fly pattern on first down is? Probably zero.

    • dawgfan17

      You mean the one that Troupe scored on against AU? There were others but that is the first one that comes to mind.

  9. Jim

    My favorite plays are the sweeps with Cox. What a waste of a down(s).

    So here are the stats from the Tenn game. Guess which ones are ours. We scored 19 points in that game but only 3 from the offense. Assuming we fix the defense, next year Bob will be clearly shown to be able to beat the CWM defenses of the world but against quality DCs, he is easily out matched. See Fla and Ala.

    1st Downs 13 24
    3rd down efficiency 3-13 5-11
    4th down efficiency 0-2 0-0
    Total Yards 241 472
    Passing 152 310
    Comp-Att 20-40 20-27
    Yards per pass 3.8 11.5
    Rushing 89 162
    Rushing Attempts 22 37
    Yards per rush 4.0 4.4
    Penalties 9-79 7-47
    Turnovers 3 1
    Fumbles lost 1 0
    Interceptions thrown 2 1
    Possession 25:55 34:05

    • dudetheplayer

      Except our offense was playing well against Florida until Joe Cox turned into an interception machine.

    • Hackerdog

      I remember the UT game. Our running game generated absolutely nothing until garbage time in the 4th quarter. I don’t know what you expect a play caller to do when a run on 1st down leaves 2nd and 9 every single time.

      On the other hand, I remember Crompton looking like he was all world in that game.

      Maybe our defense really was the problem after all?

  10. JP

    I think that a lot of folks who argue with play-calling either a) argue out of frustration rather than some truer sense of what “should” have been called or b) are stuck in the Dooley mindset: run, run, run, run, run, run, run, something that isn’t a pass, run (that may generate a comment or two).

    I tend to give those people who break down film and generating game plans for a living the benefit of the doubt, especially when, more often than not (and, in Bobo’s case, more often than his peers), they got the job done. Considering Bobo had to replace both a 1st round QB and RB and then lost his LT to injury, I think the man deserves props.

  11. unweaned lil pup

    I like Bobo … a DGD. But I think he maybe needs a shock collar that surges when it detects a brain pattern even slightly considering a toss sweep on 3rd and 12.

  12. Bryan Carver Dawg97

    First off, I think the difference is that Willie had 5 years and Bobo’s only had 3. And the fact that while incosistency is maddening, it isn’t like the gradual decline we saw in the defense.

    I’m sure Bobo selects what play is run, but I wonder how much Richt is on the headset telling him what type of play – go big, play conservative, let’s run it here, let’s pass it next – but then Bobo selects the specific play. I’m sure that happens on a limited basis.

    I know I wasn’t in the minority in saying “WTH?” when he called the toss against Florida (of course if I’m not mistaken it was going to be a 3rd and short until we had a PF call). But I almost wonder if the “conservative” call didn’t come directly from Richt. Having to obviously throw for it and the fear of a turnover, perhaps Richt told him to just call a run and swap field position.

  13. writerdom

    I don’t blame Bobo for the offense not being able to run the ball for most of the year. I’d just like to see us run a more pro type offensive and bring someone in from the NFL to run it. Of course though Stafford and Moreno put a lot of points up on people. They would have with any offense.

  14. Bryan Carver hit the nail on the head. I haven’t agreed with every call Bobo’s made, but our offense under him has been at worst inconsistent, while the defense got statistically worse every year under Martinez.

    And with a few obvious exceptions (I guess the Tennessee game would be one), Bobo’s errors have been of the single-play WTF-did-he-call-that-for type, while Martinez’s increasingly seemed to be of the entire-game, completely outschemed, never-ever-adapt-to-what-the-opponent-is-doing variety. With CWM, the writing was very much on the wall as far as how good our defense was ever going to be under his direction, but as Blutarsky’s chart shows, Bobo has been holding his own a lot better than he may have been given credit for. And he’s a young guy who will continue to adapt and improve.

  15. Dan A.

    You can’t really present facts and logic to the people that want Bobo fired, Senator. They are irrational people who can’t control their emotions.

  16. Bulldog Bry

    I’ve always wondered if Richt (and now Bobo) sometimes run plays just to see what tendencies the defense has. Every once in a while, you’ll see a play run that doesn’t seem to work because it looks like NO ONE did their job. It’s hard for me to believe that type of play doesn’t serve a particular purpose. Plus, when the clock rules changed, Richt made a bigger deal out of than any coach. Maybe because he has one or two fewer plays to “waste”.
    No, I don’t have tin foil on my head, but I fail to believe that web monger fans have figured out everything from the comfy confines of the stands or our living room. I’m convinced that every play serves a purpose for later down the road. I agree with Doug – Bobo may be only slightly inconsistent, but Martinez failed to show it would ever get better from game to game.

  17. Dawg85

    Bobo does make some strange calls from time to time (like the third down screen against Tech near the end of the game) but overall Georgia has put up good numbers under him. Last year he had to outrun the defense and this year he was saddled with a QB who was not up to the task. A weak QB really puts an OC in a bind and limits what you can do.

    Here’s something to consider though– you will never, ever get a play caller who will make the right call every time. Watch any game closely and you’ll see play calls that will make you scratch your head. Seen Meyer make some this year. It’s easy to sit in the stands and watch on TV and make calls. Doing it in the pressure cooker is a whole other deal.

    Titles are won with defense and solid special teams. Hopefully we’re on road to fixing those issues.

    • SCDawg

      That call against Tech was maddening, but overall I think he is a good OC. I had some problems with Richt’s play calling, too, as I bet most of us did. Remember how bad our red zone offense was at times? Bobo is going to get better. Calling for his head at this point is crazy.

  18. Julie

    As mentioned above, he did all this without a senior Stafford and Moreno and his best OT. Plus he’s got five kids at home who I don’t think are even in elementary school yet. You rock, CMB.

  19. No Kool-Aid

    Sorry to break up the love-fest. The phrase “lies, damned lies and then statistics” is especially applicable to this situation. Football, gentlemen, is a team game. And if UGA’s defense was the weak link of the outfit, then the offense did a damned poor job of protecting that unit. Whatever Bobo’s alleged “efficiency” was as a coordinator, you’ve glossed over the glaring deficiencies of just plain dumb plain-calling, along with turnovers that put their defense behind the eight-ball again and again. Against Tech, Bobo finally put together a coherent game plan which hurt the opposition and helped their defense out for a change, and he darned near screwed that up at the end. I would call Bobo’s propensity of going away from what is working and insisting at times on offensive balance for offensive balance’s sake is more than “head-scratching”. It helps lose football games. All this is not a brief for firing Bobo or excusing Martinez. Richt needed to make a change on defense. But doggone it, Bobo’s got to do better. Few coordinators in the country have better material to work with.

    • Double g

      Nail meets head here…

      Bobo’s propensity to try the pass just to do something “different” is infuriatingly stupid. I just wonder if he thinks, “Let’s see, 3 straight runs. Ooops!, time to throw a pass.”

    • Dan A.

      Exactly how are you laying turnovers at Bobo’s feet? Bobo doesn’t carry the football. Bobo doesn’t make the decision to throw a pass into triple coverage.

    • Hackerdog

      Statistics can be misleading, but exactly how does being at the top of the conference in scoring, and miles ahead in scoring efficiency mislead you?

      Do you expect Bobo to not only score more than the other SEC teams, but score twice as many points? If so, I think you’re misleading yourself.

      And Bobo got a little tight at the end of the Tech game because he was trying to milk the clock, and Tech had 9 in the box to stop the run. I would only give him credit for that game.

  20. paul westerdawg

    I think people get too hung up on a few high profile play calls that don’t work in a game. Like the screen call on 3rd and 3 near the end of the GT game. As someone else said….he called almost 60 plays in that one and I basically have a problem with 3 of them. That’s a teriffic ratio.

    Also remember that our Qb has the ability to change plays presnap.

    Is bobo perfect? No. But who is? Go watch UCLA and Norm Chow. You’ll see what a genius looks like without a top tier QB.

    • rbubp

      You know, regarding the GT 3rd down play…I’m sure no one noticed that Tech had run blitzed most of that series and that they had six down linemen on that play, none of who dropped back. The LB who made the tackle was the only defender within twenty yards, and Boling missed the block on the only defender anyone needed to get.

      What would we all be saying if Bobo had run an off-tackle into a six-man front that got stoned like the other two in that series had? Yes, we picked up the run blitz on King’s 22-yard run a few plays earlier, but on the 3rd down they sold out even more. That call was neither a bad call or an unsafe one, and like every other play the offense has run this year, it has resulted in variably in big gains and terrible losses or TOs. There is not a play this offense ran this season that didn’t work fantastically on some occasions and turn into absolute disaster on others. Joe Cox + youth, folks. Bobo did a good job in the Tech game, come on.

      • SCDawg

        There were two ways I would have gone on that play call. Run it out of the I, or throw it deep, maybe a fade route. It was a matter of field position to me. They intercept a fade route, maybe it’s like a punt. They stone us at the line of scrimmage, fine, let Blair kick it. We lost yardage and made that FG really hard, even for Walsh.

        I just didn’t like the screen, particularly after the nightmare screen against KY the week before. If we don’t lose those yards maybe Blair makes the kick and it’s game over.

        • rbubp

          I think you missed my point. Running the ball can result in lost yardage too, especially when a team is running gap blitzes to cause exactly that. Running the ball is not the smart play either when the defense is selling out to stop it!

          No play any team runs has a 100% chance of getting the exact desired result. Some fans feel that not losing yardage was at a premium in that spot, well, ok. Here’s a play that might not lose yardage: QB sneak (“oh yeah, that would have been a better call…”).

          Some of you just want a high school offense in there that takes no chances, and than you’ll b*tch about how vanilla it is. Trying to satisfy fans on play calls is a loser’s game, I can tell you that.

    • Dan A.

      I think you said it perfectly. People pick a couple of plays out of entire game that they don’t like and somehow it makes Bobo a terrible play caller. You can’t call the perfect play every single time. So many people complain about the sweeps… how many were complaining when that same sweep produced that long Branden Smith TD against USC? Too many armchair quarterbacks running their mouths here lately. The numbers don’t lie: Bobo is doing a nice job. With a return to championship-caliber defense, we will win championships again. We’ve got plenty on offense already.

      • SCDawg

        If you look at my first comment above, I think Bobo generally does a good job as OC. I am specifically and purposefully picking on that play call, and that play call only. I didn’t like that call, but I do generally like him as OC, and he came up with a great gameplan for Tech. Overall he called a very good game.

  21. Brian

    I hate sitting near the fan (usually right in front of him) that disagrees with every call. But when you say “OK, What should we run right now?” you get a “dubdedub a… ” Calling plays in the heat of the game is not easy and as said above just because a play does not work doesn’t mean it was not successful. A dive for two yards keeps the linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage, for example. Sets up the tight end across the middle on the play action pass later in the game type deal.

    Last year I sat next to a guy who whined because of a Knowshon dive. One play later they ball faked the dive (Knowshon got hammered) and Stafford hit a wide open tight end for a touchdown. I nicely told the guy “that dive you whined about set up that touchdown.”

  22. dhodawg77

    How is plays per point ratio effected by an offense that rushed overwhelmingly, vs. an offense that passes overwhelmingly, vs. a mostly balanced offense?

  23. Scott

    In our losses (where the offense struggled), we had horrible starting field position. Its amazing how many points you can score by starting at the 35 versus the 20. BTW, Florida led the SEC with the best average starting field position at th 36 yard line. Yet 7 of our opponents exceeded the 36 in average field position.


    Georgia Tech 30 – UGA 31
    Kentucky 39 – UGA 30
    Auburn 38 – UGA 24
    Tenn. Tech 22 – UGA 41
    FLORIDA 34 – UGA 20
    VANDY 24 – UGA 35
    Tenn 37 – UGA 26
    LSU 36 -UGA 22
    Ariz. St. 36 – UGA 26
    ARK 32 -UGA 36
    SC 37 – UGA 38
    OK ST 36 -UGA 18

  24. Anonymous

    A little too much reliance on the use of a metric focused on average rather than consistency. If you look at Arkansas and LSU and combine the averages, you’d think we’re an offensive juggernaut. But our highs were very high and our lows very low. That’s a formula that will lead to you getting beat. Sort of Texas Tech like in that you beat up on bad defenses and really struggle against good ones (more than other quality teams, as everyone should struggle a little against quality Ds). If you look at our offensive production over the last two years in some of our big games, we either struggled generally (UF in 2008, 2009) or struggled while the D was getting mauled (Bama in 2008). In fairness, as an OC, Bobo is pretty young and hasn’t had the benefit of working with a healthy, experienced OL for long stretches. But we have to be more consistent if we want to be playing for SECCs again soon. Everyone has bad games, but we can’t keep having stretches like we’ve had in our BIG games.

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  26. tdawgjenkins

    bobo is oc because he uses richts philosophy if youre going to be pro set run the ball and get back in the i-form if you want to be scatbackU then get a running qback and go shotgun GO DAWGS