A Proposed Rule Change to Give Defense Its Due

Both the new BlogPoll and the updated MaxwellPundit standings are out, but I would like to take a moment to discuss something completely different.

As all of you are aware, I am a big believer in defensive football. I would rather watch a manly old school 7-3 slugfest than a finesse-driven innovative 45-42 shootout. That being the case, I would like to propose a rules change in college football which would affect offensive and defensive statistics in a way that represented more accurately the teams' performance on the field.

Scoring defense and scoring offense are computed simplistically. The final scores of all games in which a team participates are added up and divided by the number of games a team has played. The average of the total points scored by the team determines its ranking in scoring offense; the average of the total points scored against the team determines its ranking in scoring defense.

The problem, of course, is that this does not reflect with any degree of nuance the actual performance of a team's offensive and defensive units. If a team is ahead 17-3 in the waning moments of the game and the tailback of the team in the lead fumbles the ball in his own territory while trying to run out the clock, the trailing team may be able to pick up the ball and run it in for a trash touchdown to make the final margin 17-10, but this outcome reflects more poorly on the defense than actually is the case.

Consider this past Monday night's game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears. Statistically, the Bears are credited with 24 points in favor of their scoring offense but are saddled with 23 points to count against their scoring defense . . . when, in reality, the Chicago O was atrocious and the Bears' defense saved the game.

In an effort to correct this statistical anomaly, I propose a simple solution: subtraction rather than addition.

Let's say that a team holding a 7-3 lead pins the opposing squad in on a punt. When, on the ensuing possession, the defense records a safety, the two-point benefit thereby attained by the defense is not added to that team's offensive total (producing a 9-3 advantage), but is instead subtracted from the opposing team's offensive total (producing a 7-1 score).

Let's give credit where credit is due.

The same goes for an interception or a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. If a defensive player scores, the points count the same, but they are deducted from the opposing offense's total rather than included in the tally of an offensive unit that was as much a bystander to the score as the fans in the stands.

This paints a more genuine portrait of how a game went and sets a new standard for defensive achievement, as defenses now can do better than registering a shutout; by scoring more points than they allow, defenses actually have the opportunity to hang a negative score on an opponent.

Granted, even this solution is imperfect, as it makes no allowance for special teams scores. However, field goals come at the end of offensive drives, so it is only fair that they count towards offensive point totals. Perhaps kickoff returns for touchdowns (which are the result of the offense's having scored) could be added to the return team's point total and punt returns for touchdowns (which are the result of the defense's having stopped the opposing offense) could be subtracted from the punting team's total.

Likewise, extra points could count for the offense that produced the touchdown, whereas blocked extra points returned for scores could count against the team whose P.A.T. attempt was unsuccessful. Maybe some debatable judgment calls would be required, but no more so than those demanded of the official scorer in a baseball game when determining whether to charge a fielder with an error or credit a batter with a hit.

There still are some kinks to be worked out, but the result of this rule change would be to produce final scores (and resulting statistics) that painted a clearer picture of the roles each team's offensive and defensive units played in determining the outcome.

What do you think?

Go 'Dawgs!

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