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Scoring the “sadness” of every Paul Chryst punt at Wisconsin

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Applying Chart Party’s “Surrender Index” to the Badgers

81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Western Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Earlier this year, SB Nation’s Jon Bois released an excellent video analyzing all 21st century NFL punts using his newly minted “Surrender Index.” The Chart Party video is completely worth every one of the 54 minutes of punt takes and explains the Surrender Index quite well.

Note that this index is less about whether or not punting is a good decision, but it is rather in indication of how “sad” Bois believes the punt to be. After viewing his video and several examples, I am quite confident that Bois and I share congruent emotional reactions to the cowardly punt.

If you’re looking for a condensed version of the formula, the Surrender Index assigns scores to punts based on four categories:

  • Field Position (1 if inside own 40, then increasing 20% for every yard past own 40)
  • First Down Distance (1 if 4th & 1, 0.8 if 4th & 2-3, 0.6 if 4th & 4-6, 0.4 if 4th & 7-9, 0.2 if 4th & 10+)
  • Score differential (1 if winning, 2 if tied, 3 if losing by 2+ scores, 4 if losing by 1 score)
  • Time remaining (1 if leading OR it’s before halftime, (((0.001t)^3)+1) where t = number of seconds since halftime if losing AND it’s after halftime)

Then, it multiplies these categories together to produce the surrender index.

For example, in Paul Chryst’s first game, he faced a 4th & 3 down 7 points to Alabama on the Bama 49 yard line in the second quarter. Chryst punted.

To evaluate this punt on the Surrender Index, it scores

  • 3.112 on the field position multiplier,
  • 0.8 on the first down distance multiplier (3 yards to go),
  • 4 on the score differential (losing by 1 score), and
  • 1 because it’s still before halftime.

Multiply these together, and we get a Surrender Index score of 9.96 for this punt.

To hear Bois’s synopsis of the Surrender Index, skip to 19:30 in his video embedded below.

To be clear:

Does the Surrender Index indicate if the decision was correct or incorrect? No.
Does it indicate whether punting hurts or helps the chances of winning? No.
Does it take into account the feel of the game, injuries, weather, or other intangibles? No.
Does it communicate how frustrated I am?

Hell to the yes.

To help contextualize this tool, here is my typical reaction to punts that score within the following Surrender Index ranges.

Surrender Index Reaction Chart

Surrender Index Range My Reaction
Surrender Index Range My Reaction
0-2 Obvious
2-4 Reasonable
4-7 Debatable
7-10 Frustrating
10-25 Text your friend
25-50 Angry Tweeting
50+ MAX RAGE

To give further meaning to the number, Bois states that the average NFL punt in 2018 was approximately 2.5 on the surrender index, which is down from around 4.0 at the beginning of the 21st century.

Given that I absolutely cannot help myself when presented with something like this, I decided to run every Wisconsin punt from 2018 through the surrender index formula. And then I was curious about how that compared to 2017. One thing led to another, and I scored every one of Paul Chryst’s 247 punts since he took over as Wisconsin’s head football coach in 2015.

General Data

The vast majority of Chryst punts were obvious (63%), and only 10.5% of all punts were worse than “Frustrating,” which is a surrender index above 10. That is to say I generally agree with Chryst’s punts, but that’s not what I recall. The availability heuristic is an incredible bias - I don’t remember a single obvious punt, which makes the “sad” punts seem more common.

Horizontal bar graph that shows all 247 punts Wisconsin punts under Paul Chryst from 2015-2018). 158 were Obvious (<2), 33 were Reasonable (2-4), 19 were Debatable (4-7), 11 were Frustrating (7-10), 13 were Text your friend (10-25), 5 were Angry Tweeti

That said, those eight punts that scored above 50 are real doozies. Let’s dive in a little, shall we?

8 Max Rage Punts

These are the punts that melt my soul and burn my toes. They make my inner twitter warrior want to burst forth and demand Barry Alvarez “fire everyone.” Take a look at the eight atrocities below to see what I mean:

Eight “Saddest” UW Punts 2015-2018

Surrender Index Season Opponent Score Deficit Field Position Down and Distance Game Clock
Surrender Index Season Opponent Score Deficit Field Position Down and Distance Game Clock
172.27 2015 vs Iowa Down 4 Iowa 33 4th & 8 14:05 Q4
110.49 2016 vs Minn Down 3 Minn 32 4th & 8 5:46 Q1
79.92 2017 OSU (B1G Title Game) Down 7 OSU 36 4th & 5 2:44 Q1
78.8 2015 USC (Bowl Game) Down 1 USC 41 4th & 9 6:51 Q4
65.87 2015 vs Iowa Down 4 Iowa 40 4th & 16 3:16 Q4
59.14 2018 @ Iowa Down 3 Iowa 44 4th & 3 11:25 Q4
57.55 2017 @ Illinois Tied Illinois 34 4th & 4 11:45 Q1
55.5 2017 OSU (B1G Title Game) Down 14 OSU 34 4th & 3 4:32 Q2

(UPDATED: this table was updated to fix a typo on the last line of the table. The previous version incorrectly said the punt had 4:32 left in the 4th quarter, but it was actually the 2nd quarter. The “Surrender Index” score was correct, however.)

Okay, okay, Rafael Gaglianone was injured for the 2016 game against Minnesota, which makes the surrender more understandable. Chryst may not have been as comfortable with Andrew Endicott making a 49 yard field goal. And there might be other factors going behind the scenes I am unaware of.

Well, I think it’s worthwhile to look at how these terrible decisions impacted the results of the game. That will validate my frustration, right?

Punting Results

Surrender Index Opponent Result
Surrender Index Opponent Result
172.27 vs Iowa L 10-6
110.49 vs Minn W 31-17
79.92 OSU (B1G Title Game) L 27-21
78.8 USC (Bowl Game) W 23-21
65.87 vs Iowa L 10-6
59.14 @ Iowa W 28-17
57.55 @ Illinois W 24-21
55.5 OSU (B1G Title Game) L 27-21

Ummm... well... so... these eight punts occurred in six different games. When they happened, the Badgers were trailing in five and tied in one.

And Wisconsin won four of the six games.

Year over Year Trends

Okay, so this metric is not particularly useful in predicting outcomes of games, but I remember being mad about each and every one of those punts. In fact, Chryst’s punts seem to get “sadder” each year.

On this, I’m wrong again.

I was expecting Wisconsin’s surrender index to increase from year to year. However, Wisconsin’s punting has been rather stable.

Average and Median Surrender Index

Season Average Surrender Median Surrender
Season Average Surrender Median Surrender
2015 7.09 1.2
2016 5.04 1.24
2017 5.61 0.8
2018 5.89 1.71

There is usually some sort of debate as to whether mean or median is a good measure of center, but I would argue that average is a better measure of center. Averages are sensitive to extreme results, which is the purpose of the surrender index. Because of this, I feel comfortable saying that Chryst’s first year was the worst for surrendering. However, 2018 was a little bit higher than 2017.

I would love to see the average surrender index to come down to 3-4 range, but I was quite pleased to see that it has fallen down from 7 in Chryst’s first year.

Conclusion

The surrender index is a rather useful in contextualizing Chryst’s punts, and the measure showed that Chryst generally makes wise decisions when punting. While I strongly disagree with several punts, my opinion of Chyrst’s punting decisions improved from writing this article. Further, even Chyrst’s most egregious punts turned out to not be a primary reason reason for wins or losses. Yes, there is some room to grow, but as long as the Badgers limit the number of 50+ surrender index punts, I think I can find some contentment.