Over the last few years I’ve noticed multiple web sites, blogs, and other publications state their case as to why total yards gained don’t matter. The usual argument goes something like this: “It doesn’t matter how you score, as long as you score. A team doesn’t get any yards for scoring on defense or special teams, so yards aren’t important – scoring is”.
While that statement is true, at least to a point, the real answer is of course yards matter. Gaining yards does not guarantee points, but it sure increases the odds of scoring. Sure teams score in all kinds of ways every year, some of them not involving offense. But the vast majority of the time touchdowns are scored by offenses and the way offenses score is by gaining yards. It may be a few yards or it may be a lot of yards, but the offense has to gain yards in the large majority of cases for the team to score.
Just because it’s not a one-to-one relationship or a relationship that can be easily defined (i.e. 400 yards = 30 points, for example), doesn’t mean that yards aren’t important.
If you need further evidence that yards matter, the chart below will help clarify the relationship between yards gained (total offense) and scoring. 8 of the top 11 scoring teams are in the top 10 in total offense (total yards gained) and 9 of the top 10 in total offense are in the top 13 in scoring. That’s not a coincidence.
|Team||Total Offense||Scoring Offense|
There are absolutely outliers and exceptions to this rule, but that doesn’t mean that yards don’t matter statistically speaking. Naysayers can point to a game or perhaps even a team, such as LSU, where yards really don’t matter, but those are few and far in between.
Still not convinced? Even with all of their defense and Tyrann Mathieu seemingly returning a fumble or punt every week LSU still scored 86% of their touchdowns on offense and all of those involved gaining some number of yards. For all of the talk about Oklahoma State’s “opportunistic” defense, 93% of their touchdowns were scored on offense. 94% of Clemson’s touchdowns were scored on offense.
The point is that in the vast majority of cases (90%+) touchdowns are scored by the offense and the only way for an offense to score a touchdown is to gain yards.
Yes, yards matter.