I had the pleasure of playing baseball with two phenomenal players. Both earned scholarships to major universities, had excellent careers and played professionally.
Both had the personality of baseball players; eerily calm, supremely confident and intense.
One of them could tell you the exact location of each pitch he saw our senior year, the speed, which window the pitcher came out of and exactly how he was set up. He could tell you choking up a little bit and looking to go to right field with two strikes added 50 points to his batting average and the the center fielder playing a few degrees left or right of dead center changed his entire strategy during his at-bat.
The other one? He'd never say anything more than he went up to the plate looking to "drill the pitcher in his bleeping face."
Clearly, two different philosophies. They both produced roughly the same results over the course of their careers.
Joe Starkey of the Tribune-Review makes a similar point as he lands what's sure to be the most often discussed quote of the weekend; Ben Roethlisberger said Todd Haley's offense is dink-and-dunk.
This is a year away from an offense led by Bruce Arians that aimed for big plays and resulted in more turnovers and sacks. While the Steelers are a bit stronger on third downs (NFL leading 51.9 percent), a misnomer is the amount if comparative difference this stat is from last year - when the Steelers were fourth in the NFL at 45.9 percent.
Time of possession, the key Haley stat, is up 1:48 from last year.
Or, one three-and out series off three in-bounds plays with an extra-long laydown.
In 2011, they averaged 63.7 plays per game. In 2011, that number has shot up all the way to 66.8 in 2011.
So, again, one more three-and-out series. And yardage in 2011, 373. In 2012, it's 360.
This isn't to knock the strategy Haley is employing. Quite the opposite, actually. Arians offense looked for more big plays, which we all enjoy. Maybe Haley's offense is "dink and dunk," and right now, has barely led to any significant improvement. In 2011, the offense was 21st in the NFL at 20.5 points per game. In 2012, it's 17th at 23.2.
For the sake of being thorough, Arians' offense averaged 6.3 penalties per game, Haley's, 8.1.
Granted it's only five games vs. 16, but taking just south of a third of the season and comparing it to the previous year should show more of a statistical difference. If there was any.
Let me repeat; if there was any.
And the constant in all of this? The players, perhaps Roethlisberger in particular. If Arians was a high-powered, successful juggernaut, and Haley is more refined, disciplined and smarter, neither of those philosophies seem to matter much in the one universal truth; neither of them create a particularly large amount of points.
Haley's offense controls the ball a little longer and is more friendly to the discipline of its quarterback. Arians offense scores a few more points while turning the ball over a little bit more. The difference is less than a field goal each game (while Haley's offense has failed to come up with 4th quarter drives to seal off or win in four of their five games) and turnovers (Roethlisberger is throwing a league-low .4 INTs per game under Haley while he threw a middle-of-the-pack .9 last season with Arians).
Back to the baseball analogy, the community newspaper guys came by before practice, doing a season preview, and I was asked how I'd describe the differences between those two star players.
My answer was pretty dumb and obvious, "there really isn't any. They're two completely different people, but they're both outstanding players."
With the exception of the "outstanding" part, that's how, statistically, we can describe Haley's offense vs. Arians' offense. They're both very different from each other, and otherwise, underwhelmingly mediocre.