FanPost

Statistical Breakdown: Mariani's Year of Change

(This is the third in a series of four fanposts I will doing on our special teams returners. Go here for part one, and here for part two.)

Marc Mariani had a great season in 2010, making the Pro Bowl as a special teams returner. He was very fortunate to have that year in the season that he did, because it would be the last season that he could have it.

In the off-season of 2011, the NFL changed the kickoff rules, moving the kickoff position 5 yards closer to the opposite endzone. The change made it much easier to get touch-backs, if you were an NFL kicker. The rule change was controversial, but the NFL made it official regardless, claiming it was in the interests of player safety.

In the season of 2011, the Devin Hester's and Josh Cribbs' of football found their purpose in the NFL devalued by a rule change. Now, it didn't matter if you could field the ball at your goal line and return it 100 yards for the score. You had to have the speed and the shiftiness to run it out from the back of the endzone. A new era of kick returners was about to emerge.

Still, the "old" returners weren't going to give up their jobs without a fight. They were still going to go out and try to make it happen, even if the odds were against them. One of those returners was named Marc Mariani.

As we know now in 2013, his fight has a good chance of being in vain.

Let's look back on that fight now.

A fight in the 2011 season, where former Pro Bowl returners across the league had to adapt to the new era of kickoffs.

A few notes first:

  • I will not be including the penalty yardage, to better calculate the starting field position provided by the returner himself.
  • I will not be including touchdowns into the starting field position numbers, since there was no starting field position resulting from the play. The same goes for turnovers.
  • Touchbacks resulting from a kneel-down automatically count as the offense starting at the 20 yard line.
  • If you're only interested in the end comparisons, you can go ahead and skip down to the bottom.

Week 1 vs. Jaguars (Game 1):

Punts:

- M.Turk punts 34 yards to JAX 41, Center-J.Cain. M.Mariani to JAX 34 for 7 yards (W.Middleton).

Average starting position: Opp. 34 yard line

Kicks:

- J.Scobee kicks 74 yards from JAX 35 to TEN -9. M.Mariani, Touchback.

- J.Scobee kicks 74 yards from JAX 35 to TEN -9. M.Mariani, Touchback.

Average starting position: 20 yard line

Week 2 vs. Ravens:

Punts:

- (Punt formation) S.Koch punts 48 yards to TEN 46, Center-M.Cox. M.Mariani to BLT 47 for 7 yards (D.Ellerbe).

- (Punt formation) S.Koch punts 54 yards to TEN 13, Center-M.Cox. M.Mariani to TEN 19 for 6 yards (A.McClellan).

- (Punt formation) S.Koch punts 54 yards to TEN 16, Center-M.Cox. M.Mariani to TEN 20 for 4 yards (D.Reed).

Average starting position: 30.6 yard line

Kicks:

None

Week 3 vs. Broncos:

Punts:

- (Punt formation) B.Colquitt punts 62 yards to TEN 5, Center-L.Paxton. M.Mariani to TEN 11 for 6 yards (C.Harris).

- (Punt formation) B.Colquitt punts 46 yards to TEN 12, Center-L.Paxton. M.Mariani to TEN 15 for 3 yards (J.Mays).

- (Punt formation) B.Colquitt punts 47 yards to TEN 31, Center-L.Paxton. M.Mariani to TEN 43 for 12 yards (W.Woodyard).

- (Punt formation) B.Colquitt punts 45 yards to TEN 16, Center-L.Paxton, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- (Punt formation) B.Colquitt punts 46 yards to TEN 10, Center-L.Paxton. M.Mariani to TEN 10 for no gain (C.Harris).

Average starting position: 19 yard line

Kicks:

None

Week 4 vs. Browns:

Punts:

- B.Maynard punts 34 yards to TEN 7, Center-R.Pontbriand, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- B.Maynard punts 39 yards to TEN 14, Center-R.Pontbriand. M.Mariani to TEN 22 for 8 yards (O.Marecic).

- (Punt formation) B.Maynard punts 45 yards to TEN 34, Center-R.Pontbriand. M.Mariani to TEN 43 for 9 yards (U.Young).

Average starting position: 21.3 yard line

Kicks:

- P.Dawson kicks 69 yards from CLV 35 to TEN -4. M.Mariani to TEN 20 for 24 yards (B.Skrine).

- P.Dawson kicks 69 yards from CLV 35 to TEN -4. M.Mariani to TEN 20 for 24 yards (E.Stephens; O.Marecic).

Average starting position: 20 yard line

Week 5 vs. Steelers:

Punts:

- (Punt formation) D.Sepulveda punts 48 yards to TEN 9, Center-G.Warren. M.Mariani to TEN 19 for 10 yards (L.Foote; G.Warren).

Average starting position: 19 yard line

Kicks:

- S.Suisham kicks 73 yards from PIT 35 to TEN -8. M.Mariani to TEN 18 for 26 yards (I.Taylor; J.Dwyer).

- S.Suisham kicks 64 yards from PIT 35 to TEN 1. M.Mariani to TEN 43 for 42 yards (S.Suisham; S.Sylvester).

- S.Suisham kicks 67 yards from PIT 35 to TEN -2. M.Mariani to TEN 23 for 25 yards (J.Dwyer, S.Sylvester).

Average starting position: 28 yard line

Week 7 vs. Texans (Game 1):

Punts:

- (Punt formation) B.Hartmann punts 57 yards to TEN 16, Center-J.Weeks. M.Mariani pushed ob at TEN 34 for 18 yards (J.Dreessen).

- (Punt formation) B.Hartmann punts 39 yards to TEN 25, Center-J.Weeks. M.Mariani to TEN 45 for 20 yards (D.Sharpton).

Average starting position: 39.5 yard line

Kicks:

- N.Rackers kicks 70 yards from HST 35 to TEN -5. M.Mariani to TEN 9 for 14 yards (S.Keo).

- N.Rackers kicks 68 yards from HST 35 to TEN -3. M.Mariani to TEN 20 for 23 yards (J.Nading). FUMBLES (J.Nading), recovered by TEN-J.Harper at TEN 16. J.Harper to TEN 16 for no gain (L.Vickers).

- N.Rackers kicks 65 yards from HST 35 to TEN 0. M.Mariani to TEN 24 for 24 yards (B.Braman).

- N.Rackers kicks 69 yards from HST 35 to TEN -4. M.Mariani to TEN 25 for 29 yards (N.Rackers).

- N.Rackers kicks 67 yards from HST 35 to TEN -2. M.Mariani to TEN 15 for 17 yards (B.Braman).

Average starting position: 17.8 yard line

Week 8 vs. Colts (Game 1):

Punts:

- (Punt formation) P.McAfee punts 39 yards to TEN 15, Center-J.Snow, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- (Punt formation) P.McAfee punts 58 yards to TEN 25, Center-J.Snow. M.Mariani pushed ob at IND 49 for 26 yards (P.McAfee).

- (Punt formation) P.McAfee punts 37 yards to IND 48, Center-J.Snow, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- (Punt formation) P.McAfee punts 54 yards to TEN 19, Center-J.Snow. M.Mariani to TEN 32 for 13 yards (J.Snow).

- (Punt formation) P.McAfee punts 40 yards to TEN 14, Center-J.Snow, fair catch by M.Mariani.

Average starting position: 32.8 yard line

Kicks:

- P.McAfee kicks 73 yards from IND 35 to TEN -8. M.Mariani, Touchback.

Average starting position: 20 yard line

Week 9 vs. Bengals:

Punts:

- (Punt formation) K.Huber punts 45 yards to TEN 19, Center-C.Harris, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- (Punt formation) K.Huber punts 41 yards to TEN 8, Center-C.Harris, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- (Punt formation) K.Huber punts 46 yards to TEN 14, Center-C.Harris. M.Mariani pushed ob at TEN 22 for 8 yards (C.Peerman).

Average starting position: 16.3 yard line

Kicks:

- M.Nugent kicks 70 yards from CIN 35 to TEN -5. M.Mariani to TEN 22 for 27 yards (R.Nelson).

- M.Nugent kicks 71 yards from CIN 35 to TEN -6. M.Mariani, Touchback.

- M.Nugent kicks 70 yards from CIN 35 to TEN -5. M.Mariani, Touchback.

- M.Nugent kicks 72 yards from CIN 35 to TEN -7. M.Mariani, Touchback.

Average starting position: 20.5 yard line

Week 10 vs. Panthers:

Punts:

- J.Baker punts 56 yards to TEN 21, Center-J.Jansen. M.Mariani for 79 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

- J.Baker punts 36 yards to TEN 38, Center-J.Jansen. M.Mariani to TEN 43 for 5 yards (E.Norwood; J.Senn).

- J.Baker punts 36 yards to TEN 23, Center-J.Jansen, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- J.Baker punts 47 yards to TEN 18, Center-J.Jansen. M.Mariani to TEN 29 for 11 yards (J.Hines).

- J.Baker punts 41 yards to TEN 40, Center-J.Jansen. M.Mariani to TEN 38 for -2 yards (J.Williams).

- J.Baker punts 53 yards to TEN 17, Center-J.Jansen. M.Mariani to TEN 21 for 4 yards (C.Munnerlyn).

- J.Baker punts 49 yards to TEN 9, Center-J.Jansen. M.Mariani to TEN 15 for 6 yards (D.Connor).

- J.Baker punts 47 yards to TEN 24, Center-J.Jansen, fair catch by M.Mariani.

Average starting position: 27.5 yard line

Kicks:

None

Week 11 vs. Falcons:

Punts:

- M.Bosher punts 27 yards to TEN 10, Center-J.Zelenka, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- M.Bosher punts 39 yards to TEN 18, Center-J.Zelenka. M.Mariani to TEN 17 for -1 yards (E.Weems).

Average starting position: 22 yard line

Kicks:

- M.Bosher kicks 70 yards from ATL 35 to TEN -5. M.Mariani to TEN 33 for 38 yards (B.Grimes).

- M.Bosher kicks 70 yards from ATL 35 to TEN -5. M.Mariani to TEN 21 for 26 yards (S.Nicholas; A.Dent).

- M.Bosher kicks 67 yards from ATL 35 to TEN -2. M.Mariani to TEN 14 for 16 yards (A.Smith).

- M.Bosher kicks 66 yards from ATL 35 to TEN -1. M.Mariani to TEN 25 for 26 yards (A.Dent).

- M.Bosher kicks 62 yards from ATL 35 to TEN 3. M.Mariani pushed ob at ATL 48 for 49 yards (J.Rodgers).

Average starting position: 29 yard line

Week 12 vs. Buccaneers:

Punts:

- (Punt formation) M.Koenen punts 39 yards to TEN 19, Center-A.Economos, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- (Punt formation) M.Koenen punts 51 yards to TEN 28, Center-A.Economos. M.Mariani to TEN 31 for 3 yards (A.Hayward).

Average starting position: 25 yard line

Kicks:

- M.Koenen kicks 65 yards from TB 35 to TEN 0. M.Mariani to TEN 16 for 16 yards. Handoff to T.Campbell for 84 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

- M.Koenen kicks 65 yards from TB 35 to TEN 0. M.Mariani to TEN 18 for 18 yards (C.Lynch; E.Biggers).

- M.Koenen kicks 70 yards from TB 35 to TEN -5. M.Mariani to TEN 20 for 25 yards (L.Asante; S.Stroughter).

- M.Koenen kicks 68 yards from TB 35 to TEN -3. M.Mariani pushed ob at TEN 26 for 29 yards (E.Mack).

Average starting position: 21.3 yard line

Week 13 vs. Bills:

Punts:

- B.Moorman punts 46 yards to TEN 34, Center-G.Sanborn. M.Mariani to BUF 44 for 22 yards (J.White).

- B.Moorman punts 62 yards to TEN 13, Center-G.Sanborn. M.Mariani to TEN 39 for 26 yards (G.Sanborn).

- B.Moorman punts 61 yards to TEN 20, Center-G.Sanborn. M.Mariani pushed ob at TEN 44 for 24 yards (M.Caussin).

- B.Moorman punts 25 yards to TEN 17, Center-G.Sanborn, fair catch by M.Mariani.

Average starting position: 39 yard line

Kicks:

- D.Rayner kicks 61 yards from BUF 35 to TEN 4. M.Mariani to TEN 25 for 21 yards (D.Searcy).

- D.Rayner kicks 74 yards from BUF 35 to TEN -9. M.Mariani, Touchback.

- D.Rayner kicks 73 yards from BUF 35 to TEN -8. M.Mariani, Touchback.

Average starting position: 21.6 yard line

Week 14 vs. Saints:

Punts:

- (Punt formation) T.Morstead punts 40 yards to TEN 11, Center-J.Drescher, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- (Punt formation) T.Morstead punts 54 yards to TEN 33, Center-J.Drescher. M.Mariani to TEN 43 for 10 yards (C.Roby).

- (Punt formation) T.Morstead punts 54 yards to TEN 21, Center-J.Drescher. M.Mariani to TEN 29 for 8 yards (J.Amaya; J.Charleston).

- (Punt formation) T.Morstead punts 55 yards to TEN 26, Center-J.Drescher. M.Mariani to TEN 35 for 9 yards (C.Roby).

- (Punt formation) T.Morstead punts 46 yards to TEN 13, Center-J.Drescher. M.Mariani to TEN 20 for 7 yards (M.Wilson).

Average starting position: 27.6 yard line

Kicks:

- T.Morstead kicks 69 yards from NO 35 to TEN -4. M.Mariani to TEN 23 for 27 yards (K.Hall; C.Roby).

- T.Morstead kicks 62 yards from NO 35 to TEN 3. M.Mariani to TEN 20 for 17 yards (C.Roby).

- T.Morstead kicks 71 yards from NO 35 to TEN -6. M.Mariani to TEN 26 for 32 yards (M.Wilson).

- T.Morstead kicks 64 yards from NO 35 to TEN 1. M.Mariani to TEN 22 for 21 yards (C.Roby).

- T.Morstead kicks 60 yards from NO 35 to TEN 5. M.Mariani to TEN 35 for 30 yards (I.Abdul-Quddus; P.Robinson).

Average starting position: 25.2 yard line

Week 15 vs. Colts (Game 2):

Punts:

- P.McAfee punts 36 yards to TEN 29, Center-J.Snow, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- P.McAfee punts 51 yards to TEN 10, Center-J.Snow. M.Mariani to TEN 19 for 9 yards (D.Caldwell; B.King).

- P.McAfee punts 60 yards to TEN 18, Center-J.Snow. M.Mariani to TEN 38 for 20 yards (Z.Diles).

- P.McAfee punts 52 yards to TEN 35, Center-J.Snow. M.Mariani to IND 49 for 16 yards (S.Lutrus; J.Tamme).

- P.McAfee punts 44 yards to TEN 41, Center-J.Snow. M.Mariani to TEN 45 for 4 yards (K.Bentley; S.Lutrus).

- P.McAfee punts 42 yards to TEN 18, Center-J.Snow. M.Mariani to TEN 25 for 7 yards (S.Lutrus; J.Hughes).

- P.McAfee punts 43 yards to TEN 41, Center-J.Snow. M.Mariani pushed ob at IND 49 for 10 yards (Z.Diles).

Average starting position: 36.8 yard line

Kicks:

- P.McAfee kicks 74 yards from IND 35 to TEN -9. M.Mariani, Touchback.

- P.McAfee kicks 74 yards from IND 35 to TEN -9. M.Mariani, Touchback.

- P.McAfee kicks 74 yards from IND 35 to TEN -9. M.Mariani, Touchback.

- P.McAfee kicks 66 yards from IND 35 to TEN -1. M.Mariani MUFFS catch, ball out of bounds at TEN 1.

- P.McAfee kicks 72 yards from IND 35 to TEN -7. M.Mariani, Touchback.

- P.McAfee kicks 74 yards from IND 35 to TEN -9. M.Mariani, Touchback.

Average starting position: 16.8 yard line

Week 16 vs. Jaguars (Game 2):

Punts:

- (Punt formation) N.Harris punts 47 yards to TEN 43, Center-J.Cain, fair catch by M.Mariani.

- (Punt formation) N.Harris punts 43 yards to TEN 35, Center-J.Cain. M.Mariani to TEN 45 for 10 yards (C.Cloherty; S.Franklin).

Average starting position: 44 yard line

Kicks:

- R.Allen kicks 66 yards from JAX 35 to TEN -1. M.Mariani to TEN 25 for 26 yards (D.Coleman; D.Jones).

- R.Allen kicks 63 yards from JAX 35 to TEN 2. M.Mariani to TEN 24 for 22 yards (C.Brown; M.Owens).

Average starting position: 24.5 yard line

Week 17 vs. Texans (Game 2):

Punts:

- M.Turk punts 41 yards to TEN 16, Center-J.Weeks. M.Mariani pushed ob at TEN 28 for 12 yards (B.Braman).

Average starting position: 28 yard line

Kicks:

- N.Rackers kicks 71 yards from HST 35 to TEN -6. M.Mariani to TEN 17 for 23 yards (M.Alexander).

Average starting position: 17 yard line

Recap:

In 2011, our team averaged a starting field position of 22 on Mariani kick returns, and 28.9 on Mariani punt returns, with 1 total touchdown.

Comparatively, here are Mariani's averages from the 2010 post:

In 2010, our team averaged a starting field position of 28.3 on Mariani kick returns, and 29.4 on Mariani punt returns, with 2 total returned touchdowns and 2 turnovers.

and Reynaud's averages from the 2012 post:

In 2012, our team averaged a starting field position of 22.2 on Reynaud kick returns, and 21.9 on Reynaud punt returns, with 4 total returned touchdowns.

There are a few things to note here.

  • The average starting field position that Mariani gave us in 2010, prior to the rule change, was +5.8 yards per return more than in 2011.
  • Post-rule change, the average starting field position we received from Mariani and Reynaud on kickoff returns is almost completely identical.
  • Reynaud's aggressiveness in returning the ball from the back of the endzone really shows when comparing all three years. While it also lead to more instances of our offense being pinned deep, it also resulted in him scoring more special teams touchdowns in one season than Mariani did in two seasons.
  • Mariani still seems to do better on punt returns than Reynaud does.

On that last note, there is a new breakdown that I'm going to do here.

One of our newest MCMers, PanthersRoar, pointed out the statistical importance of where the punts are being caught, and requested that I calculate the average location of those.

Average catch position per year:

(2010) Marc Mariani: 23

(2011) Marc Mariani: 23.1

(2012) Darius Reynaud: 19.4

That means Mariani had a 3.6 yard advantage in average punt catch position. If Mariani had Reynaud's average catch position in 2010 and 2011, then difference in the average field position between them would go from +7 to +6.

A slight advantage goes to Mariani in his two seasons over Reynaud's one season, in regards to average punt catch position, but not enough of an advantage to really skew the starting field position numbers in his favor.'

Regardless, this is still an interesting indicator of how much our defense dropped off in 2012, compared to the past two seasons.

Now, like in the past two posts, here is the breakdown of where on the field Mariani put our offense in 2011, with comparisons to his 2010 campaign and Reynaud's 2012 campaign.

Gave offense good starting field position (30+ yard line):

Kicks:

Mariani (2010): 21/63 (33%)

Mariani (2011): 4/42 (9%)

Reynaud (2012): 10/62 (16%)

Punts:

Mariani (2010): 20/48 (41%)

Mariani (2011): 23/53 (43%)

Reynaud (2012): 21/45 (46%)

Gave offense decent starting field position (20-29 yard line):

Kicks:

Mariani (2010): 38/63 (60%)

Mariani (2011): 31/42 (73%)

Reynaud (2012): 35/62 (56%)

Punts:

Mariani (2010): 16/48 (33%)

Mariani (2011): 11/53 (20%)

Reynaud (2012): 6/45 (13%)

Gave offense bad starting field position (under 20 yard line):

Kicks:

Mariani (2010): 4/63 (6%)

Mariani (2011): 7/42 (16%)

Reynaud (2012): 17/62 (27%)

Punts:

Mariani (2010): 12/48 (25%)

Mariani (2011): 19/53 (35%)

Reynaud (2012): 18/45 (40%)

A few notes on this breakdown:

  • The kickoff rule change really hurt Mariani on kick returns. He gave our offense good starting field position on 21 kick returns in 2010, and only 4 times in 2011.
  • This really provides an idea of how much the rule change cut into the returnable kicks in 2011. During that season, kickers were still booming kicks like they still had to kick off from the 30, and as a result, Mariani had about 20 less returnable kickoffs. In 2012, kickers adjusted to kicking off from the 35, and the number of returnable kickoffs went back up to normal.
  • Speaking of that, the Colts' punter Pat McAfee must love the new kickoff rule. I've noticed in all of my breakdowns so far that nearly all of McAfee's kickoffs against us are instant touch-backs. So, in our two games against the Colts this year, I think we can count out the possibility of kick returns helping us out.
  • Reynaud gave our offense bad starting position more times on kickoffs in 2012 than Mariani did in two entire seasons.
  • That being said, Reynaud is also much more effective on kickoffs in the new-rule era than Mariani was. More evidence of Reynaud's "boom or bust" nature.
  • In 2010, Mariani ended up about even with Reynaud in terms of giving us good field position on punts.

Coming into this series of breakdowns, I was pessimistic about Reynaud taking over for Mariani. However, after having studied all of this for two days straight, I feel much better about Reynaud being our return-man in 2013.

Mariani and Reynaud are about equal in the return game now since the rule change, and they both have specific weaknesses. Mariani struggles to stay healthy and has a tendency to lose the ball. Reynaud is inconsistent in his returns to the point where nearly every return will either end in a big gain or put the team in a bad spot.

As a fan, it is simply a matter of which deficits in a player's game that you can tolerate the most.

Finding out which weaknesses are tolerable was not the main point in this breakdown, though.

The main point in this breakdown was to find out how much each man has helped our team in the past, so that we can decide who will help our team most in 2013. After all, this is the one season that will change the course of this entire franchise. For better, or worse.

So, after reading these posts, I ask you this in the poll.

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