Mark Ingram 'Bust' Talk Rears Its Head Again

Will Coach Payton's return lead to a more effective use of Mark Ingram? - USA TODAY Sports

We've had our share of discussion of this topic already here on CSC this year, and this week it popped up in Pat Y's NFC South Blog on ESPN.com.

Is Mark Ingram a bust, or isn't he? That is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

Thanks, Bill, for adding an air of gravitas to this football discussion.

Canal Street Chronicles has been a bit divided on this issue, as is revealed in posts just over the last few months in which Dave has taken the "Ingram's not a bust, but the coaches need to use him more" stance, while Wallace has expressed belief that it's time to part ways with him.

More: Ingram's Magic Number | The Time to Part Ways Is Now | Most Maligned Saints Player

This week on ESPN.com, in the NFC South chat that Pat Y hosts, the same question came up there, and he decided it was provocative enough to feature it prominently in it's own post - CITATION.

Here's how it started:

Gabriel (baton rouge): Why is Ingram considered a bust while Richardson is the future of the Browns franchise? They have near identical stats. Ingram has had 278 attempts for 1,076 yards averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Richardson has had 267 attempts for 950 yards averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Ingram has rushed for 10 touchdowns vs Richardson 11 touchdowns.

Followed by...

Pat Yasinskas: I don't think Ingram's a bust, although a lot of Saints' fans seem to think so. Think he's a talented guy who just hasn't gotten a chance to show what he can really do you. Think he gets that chance this year.

Then, an acknowledged NFC South chat s***-stirrer responded:

CC (Atlanta): Or maybe Ingram has gotten the chance in camp and practice and just not performed well enough. Are you honestly saying the team that drafted him has "not given him a chance"? Nonsense. He hasn't been good enough to beat out Pierre Thomas or Chris Ivory in 2 seasons. As a first round pick, that sounds like *bust* to me.

So Pat was all...

PY: I think if Atlanta had drafted Ingram he'd be a stud by now. Saints have had a very cluttered backfield.

And then CC said, "oh yeah, prove it!"

CC (Atlanta): Name one thing about Ingram's game that says "stud" to you. He isn't fast, quick or a bulldozer. Adds nothing in the passing game. Maybe you're seeing something I'm not but at best I would compare him to Shonn Greene.

...so Pat restates his cluttered backfield and Falcons "if only...he woulda" stance.

PY: I'll say it again, if he was in Atlanta last year, he would have pushed Turner to the bench and been a 1,000-yard rusher. In New Orleans, it's tough to get on the field all the time because of Sproles and Thomas.

Pat closes by agreeing with Dave about Ingram needing more touches.

I'll add one other thing now. I don't think New Orleans has done a great job of putting Ingram in position to succeed. He's the kind of running back that needs more than a few touches a game to have a chance to excel. I suspect, with coach Sean Payton back this season, the Saints will do a better job of that.

So, what do you make of the Trent Richardson comparison? And what about Pat's belief that Atlanta would have used him enough to be a 1000-yard rusher in 2012?

Looking at the Ingram-Richardson comparison of having nearly the exact same stats despite Ingram playing two seasons, and Richardson only one, I'd say they are very comparable, only it's clear that Cleveland was very committed to running the ball with him. It also seems to support Pat's "cluttered backfield" theory of there being not enough carries to go around for all those prime backs.

In 2012, Ingram got 156 carries, Thomas 105, Sproles 48, and Ivory 40. So maybe it breaks down like this in 2013: the Saints run more and more effectively overall, and let's just go ahead and give most of Ivory's carries to Ingram. This would put him around 200, while PT bumps up to 130 and Sproles then gets 65. That would be 395 carries for those guys, plus another 30 or so scattered between Drew Brees and Jed Collins, and then the odd WR on end-around/reverse-type plays, to give the team about 425 total rushes.

I'd be very much ok with that. You know why? Because even though correlation does NOT imply causation (stats nerds like me, UNITE!!!), over the last five years, the Saints best success has come when they rush more than 400 times in a season. And I've got a spiffy chart that shows just that...

Year

Team Rushes

Rushing Yards

W-L Record

2008

398

1594

8-8

2009

468

2106

13-3

2010

380

1519

11-5

2011

431

2127

13-3

2012

370

1577

7-9

That's what I'm talking about! Now if that new defense can just show modest gain, then we're really talking high ceiling for this team, and I can't wait to see how it plays out.

And I totally drifted away from the 'Ingram as a 1000-yard rusher' or 'is he a bust' debate, because I am a firm believer in the rushing game as a whole, with the greater need being that everyone contributes their unique skills to make the team a better rushing (and victorious) team without worrying about individual stats.

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