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PFF Data Study: Using team clustering to forecast new HC-QB combinations

In our last article, we gave an introduction on how we leverage our data on routes run and the passing attack. Today we want to continue by investigating an annual offseason topic: How will the passing offense of a newly paired offensive coach-quarterback tandem look like?

Every year multiple teams change their play-caller or their quarterback. Some of these changes — like the Kingsbury-Murray pairing in Arizona — yields entirely new faces, while some others like the ones in Cincinnati or Nashville feature a known quarterback with a new coach who has been in the NFL but never called plays. In this case, we can use the coaches under whom he worked to get an idea of his style. The best case for the matter of projecting the offense’s look is when we already have NFL data on both members of a new pair. Prior to this season alone, this is the case for six tandems: Dirk Koetter and Matt Ryan, Darrell Bevell and Matt Stafford, Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers, John DeFilippo and Nick Foles, Adam Gase and Sam Darnold and Bruce Arians/Byron Leftwich and Jameis Winston.

We will point out general findings on how habits of play-callers and quarterbacks develop over time and will specifically focus on the example of the new coaching staff in Tampa. We have pointed out on several instances that the pairing of Arians and Winston is a good match. In this article, we will explain how our route data confirms this assertion. Technically speaking, Byron Leftwich will call the plays in Tampa, but we will still focus on Bruce Arians because we can’t separate these two as Leftwich has been mentored by Arians and Leftwich has already stated that last year’s Cardinals offense wasn’t his.

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