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Analyzing Urban Meyer’s worst offenses: While We’re Waiting

USA TODAY

As usual, I like to write The Boots as a way to assign thumbs up and thumbs down to random musings from the sports world, with an Ohio-centric focus. Today’s edition of The Boots covers Urban Meyer, Baker Mayfield, the 2018 NBA Draft and LeBron’s all-time scoring pace.

Boot Down: Urban Meyer

Despite the 9-1 record, it’s been a frustrating season as an Ohio State Buckeyes football fan. Beyond just the blowout at night in Purdue, the team has underwhelmed on numerous occasions throughout the season so far. That still may lead to a double-digit win season and the opportunity to beat Michigan for a spot in the Big Ten championship … but things just feel different.

I ran some of the numbers on Urban Meyer’s offenses throughout his coaching career. As many have pointed out, this is his first full season without a rushing-style quarterback since 2010 and 2005 at Florida, his only two years in Gainesville sans Tim Tebow. Those also happened to be his two least successful seasons with the Gators, his first and his last in town.

Without the ability for the quarterback to gain multiple yards on the ground consistently, the Buckeyes are leading themselves into far too many third-and-long situations. Haskins has been incredible passing-wise! It may not seem like it on the surface. His recent inconsistencies make him appear to be an incomplete quarterback who could still use more seasoning. But he’ll easily destroy every passing record in school history. The offense just feels funny because of the rushing attack and the inability to gain short yards on the ground.

This ultimately does fall back on Urban Meyer’s coaching abilities. On the flip side, starting 9-1 and ultimately losing to Michigan for the Big Ten East division … may be the worst we see of Urban Meyer? It’s just a terrible game of expectations, at that point. No other program besides Alabama and maybe now Clemson at this point is expected to make the playoff every single season! With all of the drama surrounding the program, the unpalatable nature of the 2018 offense may just add up to another strike on the scorebooks for Meyer’s long-term future.

Boot Up: Baker Mayfield

Don’t get me wrong, Baker Mayfield has been solid! As our own Scott Sargent shared with ESPN, the excitement level he immediately brought to football in Cleveland was surreal. It’s a pretty drastically different season now that Baker is around and Hue Jackson is gone compared to the Tyrod Taylor era. It feels like that was ages ago. But the decent nature of Baker’s play also goes to illustrate just how awful Browns quarterbacks have been for the last decade-plus.

Through 7.5 games, Mayfield is passing 176-for-285 (61.8 percent) for 1,984 yards, 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Those are pretty decent statistics! Let’s compare his per-full-game averages to the league-wide per-team NFL game averages:

Baker Mayfield: 23.5-for-38 for 264.5 yards (61.8), 1.7 TDs, 0.9 INTs

NFL Team Average: 23-for-35.4 for 249.6 yards (65.1), 1.8 TDs, 0.8 INTs

Baker is slightly above average in total yards per game, but he’s also passing slightly more times per game than the league-wide average. Thus, the yards per attempt rate is maybe as expected, the touchdown rate is bit lower and the interception rate seems about right. Mostly, the numbers are average! And for the Browns, that’s a hell of an accomplishment.

There have been six- or seven-game stretches in the past where quarterbacks like Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer and even Brandon Weeden looked like mostly functional players. But things then spiraled downhill quickly. For the first time in ages, really since that lone magical 2007 season with Derek Anderson, the Browns have reason for optimism. The quarterback play is average! There is long-term hope with a young star! This is a miracle on its own.

Boot Down: Cavs drafting

When a team has initial playoff hopes and then starts 2-12, every personnel decision deserves to be second-guessed. One of the main ones for the Cleveland Cavaliers that could haunt them for years is their selection at No. 8 in this June’s NBA Draft.

Rumored available candidates, at the time, were Alabama guard Collin Sexton, Kentucky forward Kevin Knox, Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Missouri forward Michael Porter, among others. Yes, it was a top-heavy draft where there was known drop-off unfortunately after the top seven. But there were some options from there that had been connected to the Cavaliers on the rumor mill at different points in time. Second-guessing here is far more realistic than any revisionist history ideas of the Cavs ever considering Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 1 in 2013.

Porter is the easy one to discuss here as he may miss most or all of his rookie season with continuing health issues. That was a giant red flag, a la players like Nerlens Noel in the past. The Cavs were hoping to contend for a playoff spot in 2018-19, hence a long-term play was never really in the cards. But at this point … why would it have hurt? If there was a decent optimistic chance that Porter would eventually be fully healthy, it’s not like this season could’ve gone any worse, anyway.

Absent Porter, that then leads to Knox, who was drafted by the New York Knicks, and Gilgeous-Alexander, who ended up with the Los Angeles Clippers in some draft-night trades. Knox has also missed some time so far, too. In his eight games played, he’s only playing 18.6 minutes per game and shooting 32.5 percent from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander is the one who is turning heads in LA. His defense and stamina (he’s fourth among rookies in minutes per game) have elevated the Clippers to playoff contention territory.

Jealously reading Clippers Twitter has made me really bummed out. This could be a long, long haul for the Cavs back to relevance.

Boot Up: LeBron’s scoring

On Wednesday, LeBron James surpassed Wilt Chamberlain to claim the No. 5 spot in the NBA’s all-time scoring leaderboard. This leads to a good opportunity to update my interactive Tableau dashboard where you can project where LeBron will finish in his career:

Click here to view interactive Tableau dashboard on Tableau Public

LeBron’s career average is 27.2 points per game in 38.7 minutes per contest. Say, eventually, that that points-per-game rate slows down just a bit to 25.5, which is how the dashboard auto-defaults. Then, from there, it’s just a matter of how many seasons or games you think LeBron James has left in his NBA regular-season tank.

One potential estimate could be, say, 290 games. The Lakers have played 14 games thus far in 2018-19, meaning there 314 regular season total games remaining in LeBron’s four-year contract. Say he misses six games per season and voila. Toggle the projection to look by “Games” and type in 290 and you’d see that LeBron James takes the No. 1 spot all time.

At a 25.5 points per game pace … LeBron would need only 274 games to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

At 24.5 points per game … 284 games are necessary.

At 26.5 points per game … only 263 games get to the goal.

Diving into the details here, it’s going to take somewhere into that fourth season of LeBron’s current Lakers contract for him to have a legitimate shot at the title. He’s almost 7,000 points away. LeBron posted 2,251 points in the 2017-18 season thanks to playing all 82 games and leading the league in minutes per game, which isn’t a guarantee going forward. Playing the remaining 232 games through the next three seasons would require an astronomical scoring average. Thus, it’ll take three full seasons and some change from there for this to be a legitimate possibility. Then, we’ll see!