Measuring the Mankins Impact

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 25, 2011



By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts Carrier of Swine Flu
 
Logan Mankins will be back in the fold in New England, according to reports from trustworthy beat man Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston.
 
Reiss cites Mankins' agent Frank Bauer as the source of his information. The rough-and-tumble Pro Bowl guard is expected to sign a one-year franchise tender worth about $10.1 million and report to training camp with the rest of the team this week. The happy ending for Patriots fans comes just a year after an ugly holdout in which Mankins missed the first seven games of the 2010 season.
 
It's only a one-year deal. But the next question is an obvious one: is Mankins worth a top-five-at-his-position salary this year when money could be spent in other areas (namely, defensive line).
 
Mankins is widely considered one of the best guards in the league. We agree with the opinion. But the Cold, Hard Football Facts care little about reputation. We care only about the unassailable truth found in the data.
 
And with that said, we have a perfect case study to measure the Mankins Impact: it's the 2010 season. And the Mankins Impact, in a word, was minimal. Oh, it was there.  He did have an impact. But we're not sure if it was there in the $10 million range.
 
To put it most it simply: the Patriots offensive line was better with Mankins in the line up last season. But only slightly better. And it pays to remember that New England's offensive line dominated with Mankins sitting in his PJs.
 
We just looked at our Offensive Hog Index week by week from the 2010 season. It's our Quality Stat that measures the performance of each offensive line in football in three major categories: rushing the ball (as measured by YPA); protecting the passer (as measured by percent of Negative Pass Plays); and third-down conversion percentage.
 
(With the upcoming CHFF Insider, our Insiders will be able to see each team's rank in each stat week by week, dating back to the founding of CHFF in 2004.)
 
The Patriots shot to the top of the Offensive Hog Index right after Week 1. It was a 38-24 win over the Bengals that was an Offensive Hog tour de force: the Patriots averaged 5.13 YPA on the ground; they did not suffer a single Negative Pass Play (sack or INT), the only team in Week 1 that could make that claim; and they converted an incredible 69.2 percent of third downs (9 of 13), easily the best in the NFL in Week 1.
 
It's worth noting that Cincy's Defensive Hogs were not particularly stout: the ended the year No. 23 on our Defensive Hog Index. But no game was as ugly for the Bengals' defensive front as that Week 1 loss in Foxboro.
 
New England's Offensive Hogs were off and running and dominating – even with Mankins sitting at home watching the game on TV. The Patriots held the No. 1 spot on our Offensive Hog for the next several weeks, before dipping only slightly to No. 4, after their 23-20 win at San Diego in Week 7.
 
It's worth noting that San Diego ended the year tied with AFC champion Pittsburgh for the No. 1 spot on our Defensive Hog Index. So the Patriots more than held their own against one of the league's best defensive fronts – even with Mankins sitting at home, watching the game in his feety pajamas.
 
The Patriots regained the top spot on the Offensive Hog Index the following week, after a 28-18 win over the Vikings on Halloween. It was another dominant effort by New England's offensive line: the Patriots averaged 4.52 YPA on the ground, scored three rushing touchdowns, did not surrender a single Negative Pass Play and converted 54 percent of third downs (6 of 11).
 
Mankins abruptly ended his tense holdout after that game.
 
We believe it's no coincidence. The Cold, Hard Football Facts believe that Mankins looked at the dominance of New England's offensive line without him, looked at New England's history of moving on without what the public thought were key players, and decided it was time to return to reassert his value to the franchise before they kicked him and his big paycheck to the curb.
 
The rest of the season was still fairly dominant for New England's Offensive Hogs with Mankins back at guard. They jostled between No. 1 and No. 4 on the Offensive Hog Index, bouncing back and forth week to week. They finally wrested the No. 1 spot once and for all from Tampa after the Week 17, a 38-7 ass-kicking of Miami.
 
Here's a look at where the Patriots ranked after Week 8, after their first seven games without Mankins, and where they ranked at the end of the year, after playing the final nine games with Mankins, in each of the indicators that comprise our Offensive Hog Index:
 
 
Rank on OHI
YPA (rank)
NPP% (rank)
3down (rank)
Avg. rank
Before Mankins
1st
4.20 (12th)
6.75% (8th)
46.43% (2nd)
7.3
End of Year
1st
4.35 (10th)
5.64% (3rd)
48.22% (2nd)
5.0
 
So, like we said, there was some improvement in the New England offensive line when Mankins returned. But it was already the best in the business without him. The big statistical difference in New England's OHI rank with and without the guard might not have been Mankins himself – it might have been Tom Brady and Randy Moss. Brady, of course, had a historic season, throwing 36 TDs against just 4 picks.
 
All four of those INTs came early in the year – two against the Jets in Week 2 and two against the Ravens in Week 5 – before Brady set off on a record-setting pace of attempts without an interception. Was Mankins a huge factor in that streak? Well, he certainly didn't hurt. But a bigger factor might have been the fact that Brady stopped forcing the ball downfield to Moss after the receiver was hastily shipped out of town (perhaps like Mankins feared he would be).
 
In the win column? The Patriots were 6-1 without Mankins, including a big Quality Win over Baltimore. They were 8-2 with him (8-1 in the regular season).
 
The biggest Mankins Impact seems to be that the OL perservered despite tougher opposition. The Patriots enjoyed just one Quality Win (in overtime against Baltimore) when Mankins was at home eating bon-bons and watching NFL RedZone.

His first game back was New England's worst of the year: a 34-14 humiliation in Cleveland against the lowly Browns. But with Mankins on the roster, the Patriots enjoyed a string of big Quality Wins, many of them romps, over Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, N.Y. Jets, Chicago and Green Bay – knocking off a who's who of NFL powers week after week while looking unbeatable in the process. The Patriots beat all four conference title contenders during one of the more impressive runs in NFL regular-season history.
 
The Patriots not only faced tougher competition in the second half of the year. They were more prolific, too. The Patriots offense averaged:
  • 29.3 PPG without Mankins
  • 34.8 PPG with Mankins
  • 33.4 PPG with Mankins, if we include playoff loss to Jets.
So, yes, we can argue the Patriots were better with Mankins. But given the team's performance without him, you have to wonder if Mankins is worth the price tag, especially for a team that puts so much stock in "value" – i.e., if you pay twice as much for a guy, you better get twice as much production out of him.
 
We know Mankins is very good. We know he had an impact. We just don't know if the money was better spent elsewhere.

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