As pre-season camps get ready to get underway around the NFL, we find it is time to get rolling on our Pre-Season Preview issue. In this issue, PossessionPoints.com examines all teams’ off-season moves and upcoming schedules. We use this information to make forecasting adjustments for the upcoming season.
Coaching continuity is one key factor we use for forecasting adjustments. For last season’s winning teams, we place greater weight on coaching continuity than we do on last season’s losing teams.
This season, we find ourselves more concerned about the Indianapolis Colts than we do about the St. Louis Rams. Although the Colts have replaced Tony Dungy with his appointed heir, Jim Caldwell is still an unknown commodity in the head coach position.
The question mark around the Colts' new coach makes it difficult to automatically keep the team at a high level of performance; it prompts us to give a neutral to negative adjustment to the Colts in our assessment.
Even though Caldwell has been with the Colts’ organization, it’s hard to quantify his leadership abilities, chemistry with players, and game-day decision in this new position until he performs as a head coach.
Conversely, the Rams hired Steve Spagnuolo, who comes in with a good reputation that was built as the Giants defensive coordinator. Since the Rams have struggled in the past seasons, their performance in the upcoming season will most likely improve. In our calculations, a new coach in this situation becomes a neutral to positive adjustment.
When we look to forecast the 49ers’ upcoming season, we need to decide if we want to base our calculations on their full season 2008 data or just the nine games Singletary coached, in which San Francisco went 5-4.
The chart below shows the 49ers’ season split into the pre-Singletary and post-Singletary periods:
Their overall PossessionPoints performance improved 109 percent under Singletary: that overall improvement was driven by the 40 percent improvement in their defense.
The other consideration that comes into play is the team’s '09 schedule. Based on last year’s “overall” PossessionPoints numbers, the 49ers’ '09 schedule is the 26th hardest or 7th easiest, depending on how you want to look at it.
We realize that when a coach takes over in the middle of the season, there is a limit of what he can change. For Mike Singletary to have the effect he had makes for some potentially high expectations next season.
Let’s face facts: the 49ers are not in the toughest division in football. If we get to December and they are contending with the Cardinals and Seahawks for the division title, we would not be surprised.