Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
SIKKEMA’S STAT OF THE WEEK
Ah, Valentine’s Day.
The manufactured holiday that calls for couples everywhere to fight for reservations at one of their favorite restaurants only to find out the menu they love so much from the restaurant changes for such a special occasion and they’re not even serving anything you like for … double the price – I’m not they cynical, I promise. I’m half kidding. The occasion of Valentine’s Day can be fun as long as you’re doing things with the right person, but there are also some great (awful) stories on how people try to use Valentine’s Day to find such a right person.
Here’s my funny story to share.
There was this girl I knew back in high school. I went to a smaller school so everyone kind of knew each other, but through sharing classes I shot my shot and got her number at the beginning of the semester. We had been talking for a few weeks, and soon Valentine’s Day approached. We weren’t dating or anything, but I thought this would be a good way to feel out if there was anything more there.
So, I asked her if she wanted to go out, and she said yes. We went out to dinner at Carrabba’s because your boy was as basic as could be back in the day. The food was good – everything is bread, how could it not be? – and it’s not like anything went wrong, things just felt a little awkward; you could tell there just wasn’t that “click.”
After dinner we went and saw a movie she really want to see. It was some horror movie that I can’t even remember the name of because I hate horror movies more than anything in the world and just stared below the screen the whole time. After the movie I drove her back to her house and as we pulled up and said goodbye, I leaned in to kiss her, she leaned in to kiss me, and we knocked heads before it even happened – we actually kissed on the second attempt, just to be clear.
As I drove away, I was recapping how the entire night went and how we had been talking leading up to it, and though there were some nice moments (me making her laugh, her making me laugh and the second attempted kiss), once things got into a more serious, committed setting, you could just tell there wasn’t a future there (she agreed, by the way).
Doug Martin and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a similar situation.
I’m sure you’ve read everything there is to read about Martin, to this point. You know that he’s been a 1,400-yard Pro Bowl rusher twice in his five-year career, but you also know that he’s has three seasons where he’s rushed for less than 500 yards while failing to stay healthy. If you’re keeping score at home, that means he’s been a worthwhile “franchise back” less than 50 percent of his career. And all of that goes without mentioning that to end the 2016 season – his worst season yet health- and stat-wise – Martin was hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs that carries over into the first three games of next season.
The hardest thing to do in every relationship is realize when something is no longer working out and when to cut the cord. There are always going to be moments of happiness – you’re not in the relationship because you like being miserable – but there are definitely different kinds of happiness: ones that are short-lived, and ones you know can last a long time.
Even when Martin was running at his best in 2014, his Success Rate via 4for4 wasn’t as high as fellow running back, Charles Sims, and wasn’t even as high as the Buccaneers’ 50 percent Team Success Rate score.
The Success Rate formula is explained like this:
One of the best ways to quantify consistency is through something called Success Rate (SR). This advanced stat measures the percentage of “successful” plays for an offense based on down and distance. It also takes into consideration if the team is ahead or behind in the fourth quarter.
This is a much better measure of efficiency than Yards Per Carry (YPC) because it doesn’t penalize for short yardage situations like a 3-and-1 plunge or for running out the clock in the fourth quarter.
In the 2015 season, Sims scored a 57 percent rate as opposed to Martin who scored just a 48 percent. Taking into account that the Bucs’ total Team Success Rate score was right at 50 percent, Martin did not even hit the team’s average score when on the field. This was all during his best season as a runner in 2015.
But, I get it, advance stats can have their holes, and at the end of the day, Matin was the second-leading rusher in the NFL that year. That is true and I cannot take that away from him – nor am I trying to. But that was also when Martin was 26 years old, had 332 less carries on his body and was one less major hamstring injury into his career.
Because the entire topic of Martin has more to do with what he will be from this moment on, let’s look at some of the top running backs in the NFL from this past season as they appear moving forward.
Of the Top 10 running backs in the NFL last season (statistically), only two of them were older than Martin will be going into the 2017 season, DeMarco Murray and LeGarrette Blount. If you were to expand that to even the Top 15, the next two guys would be Mark Ingram, who is younger, and Frank Gore, who you can’t convince me physically ages like the rest of us mortals, followed by Melvin Gordon, Carlos Hyde and Isaiah Crowell who are 23, 26 and 24, respectively.
Age matters, people, especially when you realize two of the three players I mentioned in that Top 15 who are older than Martin had the worst yards-per-carry averages on the list. And it matters even more considering only four of those Top 10 running back are being paid among the Top 10 in running back contracts. Plus only one of them, LeSean McCoy, is making more than Martin on his current contract.
The running back position is a value position. Discounts come around ever year (the draft) so you better be sure you’re getting you money’s worth. Even under his rookie contract, Martin was 50-50 when it came to even being a dependable player. On two separate occasions, Sims in 2015 and Jacquizz Rodgers in 2016, a younger player proved to be more effective – key word: effective – than Martin on the field, which made them better value on the payroll as well.
On my less-than-deal date, there were some good moments. But when things got into a more serious setting, we could both tell it wasn’t going to workout long-term. Since the Buccaneers tried to get serious with Martin, signing him to that five-year, $35-million dollar deal, things just haven’t felt right.
I think this is the sign.
If Martin were to come back to the Buccaneers, it wouldn’t be under the contract he has now. What they would most likely do is release him from the contract he signed last year without any salary cap penalty due to his suspension, and sign him to a much smaller deal. But with the above evidence on running backs and age, and considering he won’t even be playing for the first three games, is a discounted Martin even worth it?
I saw short-term happiness with Martin in Tampa Bay. But five years and a lot of carries later, it’s getting more and more obvious that those moments weren’t foretelling of a serious commitment.