What Bill Musgrave Means for the Raiders

What Bill Musgrave Means for the Raiders

By TJ Hernandez (Associate Editor), on Jul 24, 2015

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TJ is a former full-time poker player who has been playing fantasy football for more than a decade. After online poker was outlawed, TJ ended his poker career and dedicated himself to fantasy football. His background in poker statistics and analytics translates to success in both daily and season-long fantasy football.

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As draft season approaches, player analysis and projections will dominate the fantasy football landscape. While there is always plenty of discussion surrounding players moving to new teams, rarely is enough attention paid to teams that will have new play callers. When coaches are mentioned, the dialogue can be brief and littered with false narratives. Given proper context, understanding coaching tendencies can give fantasy football owners an edge in a game where the information gap between good and average players continues to decrease. 

This offseason, I have examined most of the offensive play callers with new homes in 2015. All of the articles to date can be found here. The series continues with a look at new Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Musgrave has spent six seasons in the NFL as an offensive coordinator, all under defensive-minded head coaches, so he has been the main play caller in all of his stops as an OC. Two of Musgrave's seasons as a coordinator were in Jacksonville under Oakland's new head coach, Jack Del Rio, making it reasonable to surmise that Del Rio is comfortable giving Musgrave full reign of the offense.

The Raiders are coming off of a 2014 campaign where they ranked 31st in points scored and 32nd in total yards. Oakland ranked last in rush attempts, but 4th in passing attempts. With a second year quarterback and likely all new starters at the skill positions, Bill Musgrave is in a situation to fully implement the offensive scheme he deems fit.

A Snapshot of Musgrave's History

Overall Rankings
Year Team Total Yards Points Scored
2000 CAR 20 21
2003 JAX 12 25
2004 JAX 21 29
2011 MIN 18 19
2012 MIN 20 14
2013 MIN 13 14
Rushing Rankings
Year Team Att Yds TD
2000 CAR 27 29 26
2003 JAX 10 8 16
2004 JAX 15 16 26
2011 MIN 13 4 3
2012 MIN 8 2 9
2013 MIN 18 8 1
Passing Rankings
Year Team Att Yds TD
2000 CAR 10 12 17
2003 JAX 17 15 20
2004 JAX 19 19 25
2011 MIN 24 28 18
2012 MIN 28 31 25
2013 MIN 20 23 27

Bill Musgrave's overall success as a play caller has been the epitome of average. His units have ranked in the top half of the league in total yards twice and outside the top 20 just once, with no finish higher than 12th or lower than 21st.

Musgrave has clearly favored the run as a play caller, despite coaching just two teams with winning records, which goes squarely against the common game flow narrative. Four of Musgrave's six offenses have finished in the top half of the league in rushing attempts, with two finishes in the top 10, while four of his teams ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards.

On the flip side, Musgrave-led offenses have ranked in the top half of the league in passing yards twice and passing attempts just once. Though it's convenient to put coaches in a nicely carved out pigeon hole, a review of Musgrave's past rosters might explain his run-heavy approach.

Positional Breakdown



QB Per Game Averages
Completions Attempts Yards TD Int FP/G
19.1 32.1 210.2 1.13 0.97 12.6
QB Per Game Averages, By Season
Year Team Completions Attempts Yards TD Int FP/G
2000 CAR 20.3 33.3 233.1 1.19 1.13 11.9
2003 JAX 18.3 31.3 206.4 1.00 1.00 11.4
2004 JAX 19.1 32.1 207.2 1.06 0.69 13.4
2011 MIN 17.9 31.9 203.4 1.25 1.06 13.1
2012 MIN 18.8 30.2 183.4 1.13 0.75 12.0
2013 MIN 20.3 34.1 227.8 1.13 1.19 13.8

On average, Bill Musgrave's quarterbacks have posted 12.6 fantasy points per game (FP/G), and the best collective season for Musgrave's signal callers was a 13.8 FP/G average in 2013. These point total would have ranked 29th and 27th, respectively, among fantasy quarterbacks in 2014. No single quarterback has ever finished a season as a QB1, in terms of FP/G, under Bill Musgrave, but he does have experience coaching young signal callers with varied results. 

In Byron Leftwich's age 23 season and rookie year, he finished 28th in FP/G, but improved to QB18 in his age 24 season. Christian Ponder was also a rookie in his age 23 season when he finished as the QB33 in 2011. Ponder's age 24 season saw little improvement under Musgrave, though, finishing as the QB30 in FP/G. Derek Carr happens to be entering his second year and age 24 season and is coming off of a QB31 finish in 2014.


Running Backs

RB1 Per Game Averages

Touches Receptions Total Yards PPR FP
21.6 2.4 111.2 16.9
RB1 Per Game Averages, By Season
Year Player Touches Rec Total Yards PPR FP
2000 Tim Biakabutuka 17.3 2.8 80.7 12.4
2003 Fred Taylor 24.6 3.0 121.4 17.3
2004 Fred Taylor 21.1 2.6 112.1 14.8
2011 Adrian Peterson 18.8 1.5 92.4 17.3
2012 Adrian Peterson 24.3 2.5 144.6 21.6
2013 Adrian Peterson 22.0 2.1 102.6 16.6

Maybe the most personnel-dependent coaching tendency of this entire series is Bill Musgrave's running back history. In five of Musgrave's six seasons as a play caller, his lead running back was a future Hall of Famer, namely, Fred Taylor or Adrian Peterson. Even with Tim Biakabutuka, though, Musgrave favored a workhorse approach.

Biakabutuka missed four games in 2000, causing him to account for just 54.3% of the backfield touches that season, but on a per game basis, the Panthers lead back saw 72.4% of all running back touches. Over his career as an offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave's lead running back has absorbed 77.3% of all backfield touches on a per game basis.

When it comes to the passing game, Musgrave has targeted his running backs sparingly. His lead back has averaged just 2.4 receptions per game, which would have tied for 20th at the position in 2014. As a collective unit, Musgrave's backs have combined for 4.3 receptions per game, a total that ranked 22nd among team running backs last season.


Wide Receivers

WR1 Per Game Averages
Receptions Rec Yards Rec TD PPR FPs
5.3 66.8 0.35 14.7
WR1 Per Game Averages, By Season
Year Name Receptions Rec Yards Rec TD PPR FP
2000 Muhsin Muhammad 6.4 73.9 0.38 16.1
2003 Jimmy Smith 4.5 67.1 0.33 13.2
2004 Jimmy Smith 4.6 73.3 0.38 14.1
2011 Percy Harvin 5.4 60.4 0.38 16.4
2012 Percy Harvin 6.9 75.2 0.33 17.9
2013 Greg Jennings 4.5 53.6 0.27 11.5
WR2 Per Game Averages
Receptions Rec Yards Rec TD PPR FPs
3.2 41.2 0.15 8.1
WR2 Per Game Averages, By Season
Year Name Receptions Rec Yards Rec TD PPR FP
2000 Donald Hayes 4.4 61.7 0.20 11.6
2003 Troy Edwards 2.7 37.5 0.23 7.8
2004 Troy Edwards 3.1 33.3 0.06 6.6
2011 Michael Jenkins 3.5 42.4 0.27 9.0
2012 Michael Jenkins 2.5 28.1 0.13 6.1
2013 Jerome Simpson 3.0 45.4 0.06 7.9

Despite mediocre quarterback play and a very run-heavy approach, Bill Musgrave's primary wide receiver has been surprisingly productive, averaging 14.7 PPR FP/G, or WR18 numbers in 2014. Mugrave's lead target has finished as a top 12 wide receiver in three of his six seasons as a play caller, and 2013 was the only season that Musgrave didn't have a receiver finish as a WR2 or better. The main target in a Musgrave-led offense has accounted for 27.5% of the team receptions per game. Only five players in 2014 accounted for a higher percentage of team receptions. 

Beyond the primary receiver in Musgrave's offense, the pass catchers have put up lackluster fantasy results. 2000 was the only season that the second receiver under Bill Musgrave finished as a top 25 fantasy wideout, and no other second option has finished better than WR58 overall. 

No tight end has ever finished as a TE1 in terms of FP/G under Bill Musgrave, and Kyle Rudolph in 2012 is the only tight end with over 50 receptions in a Musgrave offense.

What This Means for 2015

Due to superior talent at running back and mediocre quarterback play over his play calling career, Bill Musgrave may have the most personnel-dependent history of any play caller in this series. With the parallels between Oakland's current roster and Musgrave's past teams (mainly a young quarterback and likely clear number one wide receiver), there are some inferences that can be made about the Raiders 2015 outlook.

Whether his teams have been near the bottom of the standings or just slightly above average, Bill Musgrave has chosen to protect his young quarterbacks by leaning on a workhorse running back. When Musgrave has asked his young signal callers to throw, he has relied heavily on a clear number one wide receiver. 

Derek Carr will be the most efficient young passer that Musgrave has had the opportunity to work with. Carr's completion percentage in his rookie season was better than both Byron Leftwich and Christian Ponder, and Carr's touchdown to interception ratio bests Musgrave's other two rookie quarterbacks by a wide margin. Even during Adrian Peterson's historic 2012 run, Musgrave still dialed up 483 pass attempts for Ponder, a mark that would have been 15th in 2014. Considering that Carr is coming off of a 599 attempt season, 500+ passes for Carr in 2015 seems very reasonable. 

Based on Bill Musgrave's ball distribution tendencies, it's fair to expect Amari Cooper to lead the Raiders in receptions by a wide margin. Musgrave's WR1 has consistently been in the five reception per game range, which extrapolates to an 80 catch season. Assuming another 500+ attempt season for Carr, with a completion percentage around 60%, Musgrave's WR1 market share numbers tell us that Cooper should be in the 75-85 catch rage, solid PPR WR2 numbers. John Paulsen has Cooper projected for 76 catches.

If Bill Musgrave sticks to his guns, the Raiders are unlikely to utilize running backs heavily in the passing game, a trend that should discourage Roy Helu truthers. On a per game basis, no lead back in a Bill Musgrave offense has ever accounted for less than 72% of the backfield touches. At least early in the season, Latavius Murray should get every opportunity to be a workhorse back, and even if the Raiders find themselves in bad game scripts, Musgrave has a past of sticking to the run regardless of situation 

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