LaPolice: Solid turnover margin is key to winning in the CFL

By Paul LaPolice,
7/23/2014 5:49:09 PM
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One of the most important statistics that can be measured for a football team's success is their turnover margin.  Turnover margin is the combination of two things.  First it is how many takeaways the defence gets per game.  Takeaways are determined as an interception, a fumble recovery or a turnover on downs.  The combination of all three is called a team's takeaways.  How many takeaways it got against its opponent.  The other piece that makes up turnover margin is giveaways.  Giveaways are fumbles, interceptions and turnovers on downs by the offence.  You combine those and they will give you the team's turnover margin. 

Let's look at Week 1, using the Argonauts and Blue Bombers game as an example.  Toronto had three giveaways and two takeaways.   They finished with a turnover margin of -1.  Conversely the Bombers had two giveaways and three takeaways to finish with a turnover margin of +1.  That is how you measure what a team's turnover margin is by game. 

Since 2001, I have been charting the importance of protecting the football and how to teach it to players.  Charting the winning percentage by turnover margin is one of the first things we always do and talk about.  In 2001, while coaching the running backs for the Argonauts we did a number of things to have great ball security.  First we were not allowed to say the word "fumble", we didn't want to even mention it, so instead we called them "POOR BALL SECURITIES" or PBS.

I had a laminated action shot of every running back hanging in my office.  It said under the picture,   "________TOUCHES WITHOUT A PBS." The running backs would come in after the game and erase the old number and add to the total touches without a PBS for the season.  We were trying to really get the players to focus on protecting the ball and make sure they were always thinking about the fundamentals of good ball security. 

Let's take a look at how the turnover margin has affected teams in the CFL this year:

• +1 turnover margin: 6-2 record and a 75% winning percentage

• +2 turnover margin: 4-0 record and a 100% winning percentage

• +3 turnover margin: 2-0 record and a 100% winning percentage

• +4 turnover margin: 2-0 record and a 100% winning percentage

• Win the TO margin: 14-2 record and a 88% winning percentage

• Lose the TO margin: 2-14 record and a 12% winning percentage

Let's examine last year's turnover margin for a few teams.  Last year after four weeks, Saskatchewan had a second best 10 takeaways and a league best one giveaway, for a +9 turnover margin which was best in the CFL after four weeks.  Saskatchewan also sported a 4-0 record at the time.  This year they have five takeaways and seven giveaways for a -2 turnover margin and that has led to a 1-2 record to this point.

Winnipeg after four weeks last year had a league worst -9 turnover margin and a 1-3 record.  They have improved that to -2 turnover margin and have a 3-1 record. They are also the only team to win when losing the turnover margin which they have done twice.

Last year, Edmonton has a -2 turnover margin after four weeks and sported a 1-3 record. This season it has drastically changed for the Eskimos.  They have 15 takeaways and only five giveaways for a +10 turnover margin and a sparkling 4-0 record.  They have done a great job of taking the ball away on defence and have eliminated critical mistakes on offence.  They are six better than the second place Calgary Stampeders with a +4 turnover margin. 

The surest way to be successful as a team is to win the turnover margin on a consistent basis.

Adarius Bowman (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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