Gary Doran

Red Zone Efficiency: Norvell vs Lindsey


One of the concerns many ASU fans had with the previous offensive coordinator Mike Norvell was the lack of success the Devils had in the red zone. Successful offensive teams are those that get red zone touchdowns rather than red zone field goals, or worse, being left with no points at all. With that in mind, we ran the numbers to compare red zone successes between Mike Norvell’s four-year tenure in Tempe with that of Chip Lindsey’s success in his first season calling plays for the Devils. We also added the success of Mike Norvell’s 2016 Memphis squad and Chip Lindsey’s 2015 Southern Mississippi team for additional comparison. Here’s what we found:


The first thing that jumps out at you is that the success of getting into the red zone over the last two years, started to drop off. It really struggled this past season with all the quarterback problems ASU experienced. However, when ASU did get into the red zone this season, it converted touchdowns at a higher rate than the previous four years.  In fact it exceeded Lindsey’s 2015 Southern Miss. squad.

It was also encouraging to see that Chip Lindsey’s 2015 Southern Miss. team was able to enter their opponents’ red zones just over 40-percent of the time. Will this same pattern happen once the quarterback situation becomes more stable and experienced? Time will tell.


One of the more important red zone stat lines is how productive the Devils were in conference play. Lindsey’s offense had the second highest percentage of red zone touchdowns behind only Mike Norvell’s South Division winning team of 2013, which had Marion Grice pounding the rock where the team score 33 rushing touchdowns. The only problem was that the other three years in the Norvell offensive system, the Devils red zone touchdown conversion rate hovered around 50-percent.  Chip Lindsey’s squad averaged scoring a touchdown almost two-out-of-every-three trips into the red zone this season in conference play.


The red zone touchdown conversion rate was higher for Chip Lindsey’s team compared to the previous four years, but the separation wasn’t that great. It’s interesting that Norvell’s 2013 Southern Division leading team was under 60-percent at home. That was due in part to poor conversion rates in its first two home game that season against Sac. State and Wisconsin. Even at home Lindsey’s team this season had trouble getting into the red zone, where his squad averaged only one drive out of every three getting into the red zone.


Are you kidding? Almost an 80-percent red zone conversion rate in road games for Lindsey’s team this past season? It’s just too bad the team had so much trouble getting into its opponents’ red zones in road games, where roughly four-out-of-every-five drives ended before reaching the red zone.  The road game results for this year’s team may not have been such an outlier, when you see that Lindsey’s  2015 team averaged converting roughly two-out-of-every-three red zone opportunities in games on the road.


Three of Norvell’s teams, and Lindsey’s 2016 team converted red zone opportunities at close to the same rates, with Lindsey’s team doing slightly better. The interesting item in the table is steady decline of the different ASU teams to get into their opponents’ red zones in games where they won. It appears that the 2012 and 2013 squads sure could move the ball down the field, where almost half of the drives got into their opponents’ red zones.


Even in losing causes, the Lindsey 2016 team converted 70-percent of their red zone chances into touchdowns. Again, the team just didn’t get into the red zone often enough. It’s interesting that when the 2013 squad lost, they didn’t do well getting into the red zone, nor did they do well once they got there when compared to the other ASU teams in the analysis.


The 2016 team was helped out significantly in its red zone efficiency in August by the Texas Tech and Cal defenses, however, many of the teams from the other years were helped by playing lower division teams during the first month of the season where the efficiency should have been higher too. It’s interesting that even in the early season games, the Lindsey team was not getting into the red zone with the same frequency as previous Norvell teams, with the exception of Berco’s 2015 squad.


Even with the Texas Tech and Cal defensive help in August, Chip Lindsey’s offense still converted red zone opportunities at a much higher rate than Mike Norvell’s squads in the month of October. Again, the team had trouble getting into opponents’ red zones during the middle of the season compared to the other four ASU teams.  Notice how Norvell’s 2014 and 2015 teams struggled scoring red zone touchdowns during the middle of the season.


Where three-out-of-four of Norvell’s offenses improved their red zone conversion rate from October to November, Chip Lindsey’s squad slipped slightly. However, it was still an impressive conversion rate of almost two-thirds of the chances being converted. It’s interesting to note that Lindsey’s 2015 Southern Mississippi team improved its red zone conversion rate in each month of the year. That could be a sign of a team developing through the season.

What the Numbers Mean

This specific summary is quick and to the point: Chip Lindsey’s 2016 team scored touchdowns at a darn good frequency once they reached the red zone.  The conversion rate somewhat matched the red zone performance of his successful 2015 Southern Mississippi team (which is something to be said considering the difference in opponents between the two teams).

The problem for his offense in 2016 was that it had trouble all year long (on many different occasions) in getting to the opponents red zone. The silver lining may be that the team he coached just prior to ASU got into the red zone at a good rate, and was then very successful at scoring touchdowns. That may be a good sign for future ASU offenses going forward.,,,

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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