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Differences Between Jason Garrett, Sean Payton

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At ABC, I wrote on the differences between Jason Garrett and the “coach who could have been” in Sean Payton:

Meanwhile, Garrett’s offenses have been above-average in terms of total yards, ranking as high as second in 2009. His average rank from 2007 to 2012 was 9.2.

Garrett’s offense has been notoriously poor at getting the ball into the end zone, though—a problem that isn’t just a sample size fluke since we have six years of data on him. Check out how Garrett stacks up with Payton in terms of scoring.

Payton’s offenses have ranked first in the NFL in scoring twice and in the top two in three out of his six seasons calling plays. His average scoring rank has been 5.3. Meanwhile, Garret has ranked in the top six in scoring just once, and his average rank has been 11.8.

Playing Aggressively

One of the reasons Payton has found more success than Garrett is that he embraces analytics to a stronger degree, which has led to more aggressive decision-making. That’s reflected in the coaches’ first down play-calling.

Looking at first down play-calling in the first half of games (when they’re still about point-maximization instead of running out the clock), both Garrett and Payton have been more aggressive than the average team.

That’s important because statisticians are unanimous in their view that NFL teams run the ball way, way too much on first down. While Garrett has shown a near-balance in early first down play-calling, Payton has passed the ball nearly 59 percent of the time.

We can also look at fourth down decisions to measure aggressiveness.

I removed fourth quarter plays because that skews the results to favor weak teams that are trailing in the fourth quarter. Through three quarters, Garrett has attempted fewer fourth down plays than the average NFL team, while Payton is far ahead.

We obviously can’t know for sure how the Cowboys’ fate would have been altered had Payton stayed in Dallas, but his embracement of analytics and the dominance of his offense in New Orleans suggests perhaps more than a single playoff win might have been in store.

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