Fans of the Seattle Seahawks have long lamented the team’s slow starts under Pete Carroll, under the premise that the offense probes to understand the opponent during the early portions of the game. Specifically, fans have long wanted to know how effective the scripting of the early plays in a contest are relative to the rest of the game. Thanks to NFLscrapR and analytics, we’re now able to take a look at this question from at least one angle.
Using all the play by play data for 2018, Twitter user Ryan Stimson pulled the Expected Points Added (EPA) numbers for the first fifteen plays of every offense in the NFL during the most recent season. He then found the average EPA per play for all subsequent plays in the game in order to be able to compare how every single team performed during the presumably scripted first 15 plays compared to plays sixteen and later.
The results, are, well, not exactly what some might hope for.
First, this is the change between a team's Expected Points Added per play during their first 15 scripted plays and those that come after. The arrow indicates how the value moved. pic.twitter.com/eM1hfGPmAo— Ryan Stimson (@RK_Stimp) June 25, 2019
Basically, during the 2018 season the Seahawks offense saw what appears to be the third largest drop in EPA per play after concluding the fifteen play script that coaches often talk about, trailing only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears. In short, the 2018 offense was good, but it appears that it may have been held down by playcalling. Specifically, it appears as though whoever is putting together the script the offense uses early in the game may be far superior at play selection relative to whoever is calling plays on the field for the team.
In any case, this is simply one way to look at how well the offense of the Seahawks adjusts in game to what they see from opponents. It’s obviously far from a full picture and would require a much deeper dive into the numbers to gain a true understanding of whether the offense is truly as poor at in game adjustments as this chart would seem to indicate. That said, it’s definitely noteworthy enough to make sure to put it on the list of things to explore in the future.
Author’s note: For those who may not be as familiar or comfortable with EPA, you can learn more about EPA in this article.