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Wade Phillips has a pet peeve when it comes to stats

Posted Sep 19, 2013

When I asked about Brian Cushing’s number of tackles this season, the defensive coordinator took a few moments to let everyone in on his “pet peeve,” about defensive statistics, in particular tackle assist which vary widely from team to team.

The normally laidback and jovial Wade Phillips let off some steam duringThursday's post-practice press conference. When I asked about Brian Cushing’s number of tackles this season, the defensive coordinator took a few moments to let everyone in on his “pet peeve,” about defensive statistics, in particular tackle assist which vary widely from team to team.

“You’re getting into my pet peeve here about tackles because, when they show them in the league, they show this guy makes this many tackles, and Cushing’s 33rd in tackle or something like that,” Phillips said. “But those are press box stats, which really bothers me. We’ve played two games and they count individual tackles, which I think they’re pretty close on, but assists are so far off and the total tackles makes it look like one guys and another guy, it’s like Cush, he’s got two assists. He’s got more of that on our account.

"I’ll give you an example, one team in the league has 66 assists and we have 10 and another team has 60. There are two teams that have only two assists in two games. What I’m saying is the press box at whatever game, Indianapolis has played two games at home and they’ve had 77 tackles and 66 assists, and the teams they’ve played have had 80 tackles and 50 assists in those two games. It makes it look like those teams’ players are making a lot more plays and it also makes us look like we don’t have people running to the ball and getting to the ball. ”

Wade's rant ended something like this:

That’s bothers me that they put out yardage, touchdown passes and all of those things, and those are accurate," Phillips said. "But those assists are not accurate and, if I were a player, I would be upset about it because it looks like, wow, this guy is leading the league in tackling when you may have just as many tackles.”

In a nutshell, league awards are based on statistics and Phillips feels that his players are being shortchanged. Total tackles are being skewed by an inaccurate count of tackle assists.

I did some comparisons with a league-based statistical database (www.statspass.com) to see where the Texans defense and Cushing ranked. The coaches also watch film and grade their own tackles which vary from the pressbox statistics. Those are also included below. Either way, the conclusion is that Phillips has a point. There is a lot of variation in tackle assists between the pressbox and the coaches' review. This affects the total number of tackles which, in turn, ranks the defense and players like Cushing much lower.

Tackle Assists*
- Houston defense ranks 29th (12)
-Cushing ranks 149th (2)

*According to the coaches statistics, the defense has 47 tackle assists. Cushing has 8.

Total tackles
**
-Houston ranks 29th (93)
-Cushing ranks 32nd (16)

**According to the Texans' coaches statistics, the Texans defense has 98 total tackles and Cushing has 24.

After Sunday’s 30-24 overtime win against the Titans, even Cushing joked about variation in his tackle numbers, which increased from six to eleven in Week 1 after the coaches' review.

“You know I always keep count in my head,” Cushing said. “I know the number is always wrong, but I know what I have.  I always get jipped on a couple of tackles, but that’s OK.  Yeah, I count.  I’m a hungry football player.  I want to make all the plays.  I want to make all the tackles.”

With such wide discrepancies in tracking tackles, I asked Phillips what the solution should be. He wants either more accuracy or to eliminate assists altogether. He also feels that solo tackles are graded more accurately than assisted ones.

“Well, I don’t have the answer to that unless you go through the film and grade them all,” Phillips said. “I think the other part is don’t give any assists then. Just be accurate on the guy who makes the tackle because it’s so subjective. Like I said, we’ve got guys in the league right now who are way ahead of Cush (ILB Brian Cushing) and I know they’re not because he’s been in on assists when we look at our film.”

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